From Endurance to Dressage
I am no expert, so don't expect a real answer. There are many good books written on this subject that speak to the topic far better than I can. It's a great topic for discussion, especially for lower level riders like myself.
The question was raised when I wrote about taking a lesson bit-less and bareback. While riding, my trainer kept pointing out how much Speedy was moving his mouth. He acted as though he was carrying a bit. He was chewing, gaping his mouth, and sliding his jaw around.
Without an actual bit in his mouth, it's hard to think that he was resisting the contact. Was he just going through the motions from muscle memory? Or, is this how he thinks and processes? Since my lesson, I've been watching and noticed that he is still moving his jaw and mouth without a bit.
The USDF Member Guide has a glossary of judging terms that I find quite useful. Here are some relevant definitions:
What I find interesting in these definitions is that they do not refer to a bit, only contact. With the riding halter, the contact is across the nose and not in his mouth. Many of our bridles use nose pressure as part of the bit's function. The Micklem does that, not to the same degree that the riding halter does, but still.
I know there are many people who use bit-less bridles successfully. Given that the USDF does make rule changes, however slowly, I can foresee bit-less bridles being permitted in the show ring someday.
What are your thoughts on contact and being on the bit without a bit?
About the Writer and Rider
I am a lifelong rider.
I began endurance riding in 1996 where I ultimately completed five, one-day 100 mile races, the 200-mile Death Valley Encounter, and numerous other 50, 65, and 75 mile races. I began showing dressage in 2010.
Welcome to my dressage journey.
About Speedy G
Speedy went from endurance horse to dressage horse. After helping me earn a USDF Bronze medal in the summer of 2020, he is now semi-retired. Speedy is a 2004, 15'1 hand, purebred Arabian gelding. His Arabian Horse Registry name is G Ima Starr FA.
Izzy was started as a four-year old and then spent the next 18 months in pasture growing up. I bought him as a six-year old, and together, we are showing at the lower levels. He is a 2008, 16'3 hand warmblood gelding. His Rheinland Pfalz-saar International (RPSI) name is Imperioso.
National Rider Awards
State Rider Awards
State Horse Awards
CDS Sapphire Rider Award
Third Level: 63.514%
Third Level: 62.105%
2023 Show Season
(r) Ride-a-Test Clinic
2023 Show Schedule
2023 Completed …
2023 Qualifying Scores
Regional Adult Amateur Competition (RAAC)
Qualifying Training Level
3 Scores/2 Judges/60%: