For Hunter Holloway, riding with a bridle is an optional part of her training routine. The WIHS Equitation Champion and 2016 ASPCA Maclay Finals Champion (learn how she won here) made a splash with her recent post on Instagram which showed her riding flawlessly (per usual) but this time, without a bridle.

When it comes to riding bridleless, the 21-year-old credits her mom and trainer, Brandie Holloway, for teaching her to develop a base in the saddle that helps her excel in the jumper ring.

“My mom taught me to ride bridleless when I was younger and it was just something I always loved doing,” says Hunter. “It helps you ride with your leg aids instead of your hands, as well as being something fun that helps you get to know your horse better.”

To those of you who are still confused as to how it’s possible to ride without a bridle, we asked Hunter how she gets her horses to cooperate when let loose.

Had to bring a little bit of KS to FL 🌻🌾🌽➡️🌴☀️🌊

A post shared by Hunter Holloway (@hunterholloway) on

“Teaching the horses is actually easier than you would think as long as you already do proper flat work. They should listen to your legs and your seat well enough that you don’t need a bridle,” says Hunter. The catch? “That being said, it does take a well-behaved horse to do it with.”

The bridle is an integral part in equestrian tack. In combination with the bit, noseband, and reins, bridles provides assisted control of the horse’s speed, stride, and direction. So what’s the point of going bridleless? To learn how to use/ develop your other aids such your leg and seat instead of simply relying on the hands.

But before you head to the ring and leave your bridle in the tack room, it’s important to slowly progress away from the bridle in small steps—not full rodeo style.

“Start with teaching your horse proper flat work and making sure they listen to your seat and your leg. They have to be focused and aware of what you’re asking them to do from your legs and seat, not just your hands,” explains Hunter. “Then from there, start adding a piece of leather such as reins or a martingale around the neck and getting them used to responding to it with the bridle on. Once you feel comfortable take the bridle off. I suggest trying it for the first time in a small round pen or indoor.”

More with Hunter and her bridleless work here with Chicago Equestrian:

Photos via Hunter’s Instagram