The moment you think you have mastered something is the moment you cease to learn.
I consider myself highly educated in equine health, training methods, and riding; but I am a master of none of it. When I converse with an elder who has been in the horse world far longer than myself, I take into consideration every hidden tip and trick they speak of; which brings me into my desire to continue learning about the subject.
The war bridle was something I stumbled upon while scrolling on my newsfeed on the World Wide Web. At first glance, I was blown away by its simplicity. I’m a huge fan of the minimalist lifestyle; I carry that philosophy into my home, parenting, and out to my barn! Thank you, Marie Kondo, for putting into words how I feel about excessive clutter.
My initial thought when I saw a simple rope as a bit, with a set of reins attached and no headstall was “I cannot wait to try this!”. Of course, since it was something unfamiliar to me, I researched it. I’m one of those people that should never google anything because I automatically only hear the worst-case scenarios. Does this happen to anyone else? No WedMD for me or else my basic cough will lead me to believe I’m dying from an incurable disease. Anyways, I found the good, the bad, and the ugly on this new and fascinating piece of tack I had yet to ride with.
The largest con I found was that in the wrong hands the war bridle could cause irreversible damage to the mouth and possible breaking of the lower jaw. As I sat there and thought about it more, basically every bit, bridle, headstall, and even hackamore could cause damage in the wrong hands or with an inexperienced rider. Since the war bridle consists of such a basic method the only pressure the horse feels is in her mouth; consisting of the tongue, bars, lips, and chin groove. Without a headstall, the horse feels no pressure on its poll, hard palate, or nose (depending on what sort of headstall you typically use).
I’m not a heavy-handed rider; the majority of my direction in riding comes from my legs, that’s how I start my horses, in return that is how they respond best. It is that single thought that led me to believe my mares and I would make the perfect candidates to try a war bridle.
On a pleasantly warm summer day in June, I decided to try my new bridle. My best friend had come over that Saturday to ride with me. She was a beginner rider yearning to learn more about horses and an equestrian lifestyle. I had been teaching her the importance of riding bareback before ever stepping foot into a saddle. (In my opinion, learning to ride bareback is an essential technique to know so you can truly understand the horses’ movement and succeed in the saddle).
When we began our ride I started my mare off in her original bridle that consisted of a D ring snaffle bit with a copper roller. After a few laps around the arena, both she and I were comfortable enough to expand our knowledge in uncharted territory.
I jumped off, ran to the tack room, and came back with my war bridle in hand. I slid it in her mouth to let her play with it and get a feel for this new foreign object. While I remained on the ground, she maneuvered it around quite a bit but was extremely accepting of my new idea. I led her in a few small circles (in each direction) to get her familiar with the pressure. She was willing to move forward, right, left, and back up with this new contraption in her mouth. As she stood there basically half asleep because this had seemed humdrum for her, I decided it was time to swing a leg over.
After my girlfriend gave me a lending leg up on my mare (since we were still bareback), we proceeded to walk around the area. Unsure of how tight to make my new war bridle underneath my mares chin, she nonchalantly spits it out… twice! After she spits it out I proceeded to sit back on my seat and just with the bridle sitting around her chest and reins in my hands, her slow walk soon halted. The second time it happened I snugged my knot down underneath her chin tight enough to where it couldn’t be spat out, but also not tight enough to pinch.
As I jumped back on her I finally found that place, mentally and spiritually that I search for on a daily basis; I have a constant desire to be one with any and all nature around me. There was no bareback pad, blanket, or anything in between us; simply my Ariat jeans against her warm, slick summer coat and nothing, but a rope in her mouth, and cotton reins in my hand. As our bodies became one and my thoughts to make an inside turn, became her actions, I realized once again, we have a bond on another frequency that is unexplainable. A bond that many equestrians, once find it, cannot explain.
I interpreted her actions throughout this entire learning experience to be that as much as I thought I was teaching her something new, she was actually teaching me; continuing to build my confidence to mold me into the equestrian I am designed to be.
The war bridle is something I will continue to use. I am absolutely intrigued by its purity and how connected you can become to your horse with such little tack between you two.
If you have experience with any variation of the war bridle or an inspiring story of crushing new goals with your equine family member, I would love to hear from you! Comment on this article or reach out to me on my personal Instagram @unbridledmama. Thank you!