Bit vs. Bitless? It depends!

Bitted or bitless is idle chatter if there is no horse in the conversation.

via Bit or Bitless? You Won’t Like the Answer. — Relaxed

I love this posting by Anna Blake, probably because it reinforces my own experiences in the Bit vs. Bitless debate. Which is better? It depends! I’ve had horses that loved going bitless — like my Trakehner — although he hated the cross under bridle designs. When I

Barefoot, Bitless and Treeless
Freedom going Barefoot, Bitless and Treeless. However, he’s not the easiest horse to ride in a bitless bridle unless you want to really move along! He gets very strong and reverts to race horse mode, leaning into the contact. I prefer to ride him in a Micklem Short Shank.

finally found the Happy Wheel style hackamore, he let me know right away that it was a winner. Without a bit he was willing to come into my hand and really work through his back. I also foxhunted with one and never had any trouble controlling him.

I restarted an OTTB for CANTER who also loved going bitless. He had a lot of anxiety with a bit in his mouth that really disappeared when that was taken out of the equation.

My current horses have chosen different solutions. While I still hack them out bitless, I find they both go better (at least for now) in their preferred bits. Zelda likes the PeeWee bit, which is a thin mullen mouth. Freedom likes his Mickmar short shank bit that has a roller in the mouthpiece. When he gets nervous I can hear that roller spinning! Maybe it’s time to try them bitless again, but I think as Anna Blake says, it’s important to ask your horse what he likes!




Austrian rider banned from competition; highlights bigger issues in show jumping

This video has been making the rounds on social media for the past week. In short, Austrian rider Bernhard Maier, was banned from competition for three months after this round on a Paddy’s Darco, a 10-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding. Maier bought Paddy’s Darco earlier this year, ostensibly for his daughter  (now that’s a scary thought).

Paddy's Darco
Bernard Maier’s round on Paddy’s Darco hit the show jumping wall of shame last week.

The round is grim. It’s hard to believe that someone with FEI experience level (Maier’s has competed at this level since 2006) on a horse that has jumped around courses like this before could be so, well appalling. From the very first fence, where the pair crash through (rather than over) the jump, it’s painfully obvious that this pair is having more than just a bad day. It is terrible, scary and dangerous. Certainly not the kind of round that you want to go viral.

The video has sparked outrage. And also some very interesting observations. Most people — myself included — are appalled that the ground jury didn’t put an end to this travesty after the first few jumps. In fact, Maier wasn’t sanctioned until the next day (after the video had gone viral).

A lot people who watch the round blame the poor performance on Maier. Certainly, his aggressive ride only riles up a horse that looks tricky right from the start. His approach of gunning the horse at fences and then getting left behind and hanging on his mouth made my eyeballs bleed.

But the other thing I saw was that a horse doesn’t like his job. Before they’ve even started jumping, the horse starts backing up, unwilling to go forward. This well-bred horse has been bounced around a lot in the past couple of years — five different riders in five countries (Ireland, Columbia, Quatar, Italy and now Austria). That’s a red flag right there. A horse of this caliber doesn’t generally get passed around unless there are issues.  Take a peek at his FEI Record and it’s spotty.

Looking at past videos of the horse jumping around you can see the beginnings of the problems that are in full display with Maier in the saddle: he gets behind the leg, jumps up but not over, then lands in a heap. He fights his rider to the fences, getting flat. And he looks for that escape hatch coming into the jumps. Sometimes, just because a horse can jump, doesn’t mean he should become a jumper.

Here’s the horse at the very beginning of his career, training with Mark Duffy

You can see some of the issues that surface later. This is not an easy horse to ride but he has the scope and the step that show the promise of greatness.

Paddy’s Darco works better with a quiet, tactful ride. There’s some footage of Stephen Moore competing him at the beginning of his FEI career that’s quite nice (although you can see how much the rider influences his performance).

After the video of his round went viral, Maier made this statement to the press.

“Paddy was the best show jumping horse in Ireland as a five-year-old and eventually was sold to the USA. There the horse lost his confidence.”

“We knew Paddy’s Darco was to difficult for her [Johanna Sixt] to ride, therefore I initially took over the reins,” states Maier. “I want to give the horse’s confidence back. Bring it back on an international level.”

“Although the video shows our disturbing round in Wiener Neustadt, I am convinced the work and training is developing positively,” explains Maier.

Is Maier the rider that’s going to turn this horse around. My money says not. One of the best statements I’ve seen about this situation was on the Chronicle of the Horse forums where someone wrote,

The issue with these horses is often people dump so much money into them they literally cannot even conceive of selling them cheap to someone who will take more time and/or do something else with them.

Too many people have spent too much money believing that they are the ones who can tap into this horse’s potential. It’s just a shame that no one asked Paddy’s Darco what he wanted to be when he grew up.

Check out this camera work!

Lexington, Kentucky proves that it is the horse capitol of the world with an innovative advertising campaign . . . shot by horses!

“We found a harness that was meant for a dog and it just so happened to fit perfectly on a horse’s head,” he adds. “We didn’t really know what to expect going into this. Would it work? Would the footage be usable or too shaky? I think the most unexpected thing that happened was that it did work. We were able to make fun commercials that were actually filmed by horses. There are now commercials in the wild that have horses listed as the videographers in the credits.”

– Cornett creative chief Whit Hiler

GoPro for horse head
Here’s how the ads were shot. In fact, that cute ad of the foal was shot by his mother.

Hunter Pacing


It was a hot, steamy early summer day. But a great time to be out riding with friends. Today was our hunt club’s Spring Hunter Pace. In case you’ve never been to one, teams Great Brook.PNGof riders go out and follow a prescribed course trying to approximate a hunting pace. The team that comes closest to the ideal time wins. Today, my team was second!  The ideal time was 1:20:17 and our time was 1:21:40. Not too shabby.

I rode Zelda. Both horses had a bit more than two weeks off as I was caught up with family activities and traveling to California and she seemed the most controllable. Of course, she was a star but the fact it was 80 degrees and very humid certainly didn’t hurt. Great Brook Farm State park is a fabulous place to ride with wonderful trails and a full complement of cross country jumps. We rode a bit more than 6 miles and came tired and ready for a bath!



Great Brook Farm
Great Brook Farm has some lovely ponds. They looked particularly inviting today.





A field of dreams

IMG_1290 (1).jpg

Spring is the reward we get in New England for suffering through winter. This past week, after two days of 90 degree humidity we were blessed with perfect spring days. Freedom and I went out for a long walk, aiming for calmness. We didn’t quite achieve that goal (if you saw the live version of this photo you would see how fidgety he is) but we did enjoy the crisp, clear day, the contrails streaking across the cloudless sky, and endless constellation of flowers across the meadow.


Maybe Zelda has talent

I really like the idea that a horse could earn its keep through painting. My guess is that Zelda would pick up painting pretty quickly. If she didn’t eat the brush.

According to his website, Metro Meteor earned nearly $300,000 on the track before his knees did him in.

Once one of the fastest Turf Sprinters at Belmont and Saratoga, crippling knee injuries end ended Metro Meteor’s racing career. With no chance at a second career as a pleasure horse, Metro was adopted of the track by Ron & Wendy Krajewski. Ron noticing that Metro liked to bob is head to get attention, thought Metro might enjoy painting. With brush in teeth, Metro now paints bold colorful abstracts. The sales of Metro’s paintings help other horse in need.

Metro painting
Metro painting one of his abstract works.

I have to say, that gelding has a real talent for color. Proceeds from Metro’s paintings pay for his treatment and to support the New Vocations Racehorse Adoption Program — to the tun of nearly $45,000!

Metro’s paintings are currently sold out on his website but you can buy a few in this Etsy store. 

Prints of Metro’s paintings are also available on

Here’s one of the “mini” paintings on Etsy.
Print by Metro
This is one of the prints available through Fine Art America.