The Inevitable Freedom

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After analyzing from a philosophical point of view what bitless riding really is, I have the relief that there is nothing to change at all. There is no conflict, this is not a battle between riding the traditional way with a bit and riding bitless. Let me explain this further. Bitless riding seems to be something real, but it is not, because bitless does not mean anything. This is not about two objects; this is about one object, the bit. The battle is just happening in our mind, because it is impossible for an object to fight something that does not exist. This may sound very tricky and like a rhetorical game, but it is not. We assume that everything starts with horses being ridden with a bit first, and that bitless emerged like a new riding style to replace it. This is the distorted way of how our brain perceives this conflict. We think: do I now have to replace the bit for bitless riding?

But bitless riding is just a concept, and not material at all. If we reflect on the though of bitless riding, bitless comes before the bit by default, because we do not replace the bit for a different object. Every horse is born bitless, so there is nothing to change. More than that, even if a horse is ridden with a bit, it is intrinsically bitless at the same time. For instance, in the same way, when we walk with shoes we are shoeless at the same time, even if our feet are inside the shoes. So bitless riding is part of the horse’s nature, whereas the bit is not. Horses and bitless riding is one, as we are human and shoeless naturally. Bitless riding is to let the horse be a horse, which is the essence of the principle. Under this criteria, to ride with a bit is the same as if we pretend to ignite a fire by throwing cold water on it.

Let’s do an exercise to understand this abstract concept. I am sure you have a watch, imagine that the watch is the bit for a horse. Now you have the watch on your arm, like when horses are ridden with a bit. Now take off your watch. We can now state that you are watchless, right? But what is watchless? It is your arm without a watch, but nothing more than that, being watchless is your nature as bitless means horse nature; you are born watchless, as horses are bitless, and even if you do use a watch, you are still watchless by nature. So now I ask you, is there any conflict at all? Do we have choice?

Horses are not aware of this concept, they are just horses. But we are under a mind game that our own brain plays with us which makes us think of the duality of choices we face in life. Black or white, good or bad, cold or hot, etc. This is not a duality, this is not bit or bitless, but our mind splitseverything. In fact, we perceive our body separately from our being; even our image of ourselves is separate from us (our ego). In this case we have seen bitless separated from the horse, instead of understand that bitless is part of it.

“This is not a pipe” is a famous and provocative painting of René Magritte, a Belgian surrealist artist. In this piece, he painted a pipe and wrote on it the legendary phrase “this is not a pipe”, referring to the point that it was not a pipe, but a drawing of a pipe, whereas many people would reply with the first listed. Simple but brilliant, he plays with our minds and shows us how our brain assumes things and we accept concepts as real, when they are just an illusion. Sometimes, these illusions have no a real importance in our life, yet sometimes it can have a huge impact in our behavior, and in this case, in the horse’s welfare. We have been blinded by the illusion that bitless riding is something separate from the horse, like any implement to ride, and we have been riding with a bit for hundreds of years.

According to my experience, training horses bitlessly is one of the reasons why horses respond so fast to the commands, which is because the horse connects with his “bitless nature”. After all this, it looks like we have been fighting with a phantom, now we ask ourselves why we do not ride bitless, but bitless has been there since the beginning of horse riding history, even before the horse started to be ridden, and it is up to us to use it in our horses favor.

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About the author

Ishbak Shehadeh

Horse Behaviorist, creator of Ishbak Bitless System, Founder of Bitless Racing Movement.

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