Tuesday Tip – Open Bridle versus Blinders

Some people drive using blinders, others like to drive in an open bridle. My rule of thumb is, I drive in whichever bridle my PONY (or horse or donkey or mule) prefers.

Sometimes a pony can become more and more spooky as you drive them in the blinders and it turns out, they would like to be able to see more. That’s when I take the time to put them in the open bridle, go back to some ground driving, hitch them to the travois again and then hitch them to the cart. If they settle and become calmer in the open bridle then yay!

Sometimes a pony goes very well in an open bridle, isn’t spooky at all and is very confident BUT they are a lookie lou. They are gawking at everything around them or seem to be looking behind them more than they are looking ahead. In this case it’s less about using the blinders to block the cart behind them and more about using them to help the pony focus on going forward.

I have a friend that has two minis that were driving beautifully. Heading out and putting in the miles with very little issues, other than the normal spooking at scary rocks… LOL! They were both very confident minis so she wanted to try them in the open bridle again. She had started them both in the open bridle and knew they were fine with seeing the cart behind them. After a few drives she started to have trouble with them, in that they would balk, sometimes rear a little, try to turn around, basically refusing to go forward after they had driven a certain distance.

I had just attended a driving lesson where the clinician was looking at my harness and Zorro (who I drive in an open bridle) and said that he likes blinders because it keeps the horse focused on their job and also helps them be nice and forward. He also said I didn’t seem to have the problem with Zorro. He is very focused on his job and is VERY forward. But this made me think about my friend and the issues that had started cropping up with her mares. I texted her right away (after my lesson) and told her what he said. So she decided to put the blinders back on. The mares went back to being forward and agreeable. They were focused and quit acting out. I found that very interesting! In her case it was more about them being able to look around and worry about what was behind them (home and the other horses) than it was about being unconfident about the cart behind them.

I would also like to share that if your horse goes well in an open bridle that is wonderful. If your horse goes well in a bitless bridle that is wonderful. If your horse goes well in a bit that is wonderful. If your horse goes well in blinders that is wonderful.

Not one way is better than the other. They are just different. And being sensitive to what is best for our individual horses should be more important than what others are saying about you and your horse…

unless you are doing something that is putting others at risk!! Always use your common sense of course 😉

2 thoughts on “Tuesday Tip – Open Bridle versus Blinders

  1. Nan Hassey says:

    I love this article. Years ago I trained my mother/son pair to pull a commercial carriage. It was my first (and only) experience training horses to drive. The harnesses I bought came with blinders, and I could tell from the moment I put the bridle on that my mare, Easter, was tense. She was nervous because she could see neither me nor the thing that was rolling behind her. As soon as I removed the blinders she relaxed.

    Her son Jet, on the other hand, was a looky-loo who would trip on a crack right in front of him because he couldn’t stay focused on the job at hand. The blinders helped him remember to look ahead and pay attention. They also eliminated a lot of unnecessary spooks that young horses inevitably deal with when first going into training. He felt much more confident with the blinders on and was able to focus on learning and working rather than on the numerous distractions in town.

    But a thing happened during my second year in business that made me want to work with Jet to remove the blinders. A careless father set his two-year-old son on the ground right next to the horses. The child took off and ran right into Jet’s hind leg, which was cocked in a resting position. Jet could not see what hit him and lifted his leg in self-defense. I spoke to Jet and he lowered his leg without lashing out, but it scared the heck out of me. Jet would never intentionally kick a child, but he didn’t know what had “attacked” him from behind!

    That weekend I practiced driving him in an open bridle, and for the first few minutes he trotted with his tail tucked under and his hind feet almost stepping on his front feet. He was very worried that the carriage was going to run over him! But within a few minutes he settled down and realized that the carriage wasn’t chasing him and that it would stop when he stopped. I felt much better after that because I knew that my horses would be able to fully understand what was around them and would have no need to act defensively.

    I love that your article promotes using the tack your horse prefers (or in my case, what seemed safer under the circumstances) rather than following a set of rigid rules.

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