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 😉