I'm going to go ahead and jump in here...I currently own two horses and one pony. I grew up the daughter of a ranch-hand and have ridden horses my entire life. I certainly don't claim to know everything but I would be more than happy to answer questions or offer clarification if I can. I don't want to start an argument, but I read on here a lot about educating people so that's what I would like to do if I can. (and with what knowledge I have)
First of all, let me assure you, if a horse doesn't want to do something, they won't. And they have plenty of ways to let you know their likes and dislikes. When you wonder whether or not a horse "likes" something, you have to understand their body language. Horses give you clues in their eyes, ears, and general body position. For example, a horse who is licking its lips is relaxed. That's a good sign. A horse with its ears pinned back is angry and you want to make sure you are nowhere near their back feet because they can kick. Hard.
As far as a bit, well, there are other options such as a hackamore or bosal. I've always used a bit because that's what I'm used to and what my horses are used to. They don't have teeth where the bit goes, so it actually sits behind their back teeth. And, if it's clanking their teeth, it isn't properly fitted. When I go to bridle my horses, they will put their heads down and into the bridle which is nice. There is so much more that goes into bridling than just the bit...you have to build that trust with your horse. They have to be ok with their ears being touched and the bridle going on their head in the first place.
My oldest horse is 25 and has been a member of my family since the day he was born. As a matter of fact, I rode his mother too. My other horse is 18 and has been in the family since he was 5. (he was my daughter's 5th birthday present, so they've grown up together) My pony is 10 and I've owned her since she was a yearling. She doesn't get ridden much, but she is broke to pull a cart. I don't know how to describe the bond between a horse and rider. If you have any animals, you might understand, but it's very hard to describe. I also don't have to ride my horses to appreciate them. (but I enjoy riding them) Sometimes, I just go out and pet them or brush them. There have even been times where they were laying down and let me sit with them. (if a horse lets you near it while it's laying down, you have its trust) Those are the kinds of moments I wouldn't trade for anything.
As far as riding goes, I like to trail ride and I also barrel race. I don't barrel race in rodeos, but I do it locally with the NBHA. I ran my older horse last year, but have since retired him. My plan was to run the other one this year but it didn't work out so I might think about it again next year.
I hope I didn't just buy myself a one-way ticket off the forums, but I said in my introduction that I believe in honesty and that's what I'm presenting to you all now. I also believe in education and that's what I hope I have done just a little bit. I'm sure many of you have horseback riding lumped into the category of what you see on TV with cowboys and bucking horses. I can promise you it isn't all like that. A true horseman wouldn't let it get that far. There are many trainers out there who help people learn to communicate better with their horses and I know they have done a lot to change the way horses are trained. (Pat Parelli, Clinton Anderson, John Lyons, and Buck Brannaman...just to name a few)
If there is anything else I can help with or clarify, I would happy to give it my best shot. Like I said, I didn't post this to start a fight but I was more hoping to give you a little bit of insight into my own personal experiences.
ÂListen to the mustn'ts, child. Listen to the don'ts. Listen to the shouldn'ts, the impossibles, the won'ts. Listen to the never haves, then listen close to me... Anything can happen, child. Anything can be.Â ~ Shel Silverstein