Bridleless Wyatt is a racetrack wonder

Donna Keen, president of Thoroughbred charity Remember Me Rescue, rides Bridleless Wyatt on the track. Photo by Maggie Kimmitt

Donna Keen, president of Thoroughbred charity Remember Me Rescue, rides Bridleless Wyatt on the track. Photo by Maggie Kimmitt

No matter how famous the racehorse or esteemed the racecourse, when the pretty bridleless gelding of unknown origin steps onto the track, he steals the show.

That’s right, Wyatt the white gelding, ridden without bridle by Thoroughbred racehorse owner and rescuer Donna Keen, even stops to pose for pictures, just like the big stars.

And in the universe of the social media world, where fans follow him, he is a star.
Rescued from a kill buyer when he was 2, and taught to go bridleless, even while working alongside frisky racehorses, Wyatt is a wonder wherever he goes.

In this week’s Clubhouse Q&A, Keen, the president of Texas-based Thoroughbred charityRemember Me Rescue, explains how she came to be ponying Thoroughbreds and chasing down runaways on a mysterious gray horse who knows his job cold, and can quell even the spookiest racehorse with a curled lip and a look.

And he does it all without being yanked by reins and a bit.

Q: How did Bridleless Wyatt come into your life?

On the job, Wyatt can quell a young upstart with a look and a curled lip.

On the job, Wyatt can quell a young upstart with a look and a curled lip.

I bought him from a killer auction, when he was an unbroken two-year old colt. I was told he was a Paint, and he was such a pretty horse I didn’t want him to go on to slaughter.

I don’t know anything about his background. He has an oval brand on the side of his face, and another brand, a V, on his hip. But we never did figure out how he got to that auction.

Q: You broke him at age 2 and started working with him on the track at age 3. Why did you decide to go bridleless with him?

He’s a really handy horse and learned really easily. I taught him to make basic dressage moves, like the half pass, from my seat. So going bridleless just made sense to me. You can teach a horse to move off your leg in a matter of minutes. It’s not hard to teach a horse what we’ve taught Wyatt. And they like it. Their gait is more natural, because they move more freely, the way they would if they didn’t have a rider.

Q: But what about when you have to spring into action to catch a loose horse or “pony” a recalcitrant racer?


Wyatt is indulged with a little snack—he’ll eat anything!

We were at Santa Anita two years ago and I was sitting there gabbing with some people, when a horse spooked and started running backwards toward the crowd. I wasn’t paying attention, but Wyatt was. The next thing I knew, Wyatt just jumped toward him, and I had the (spooking) horse in my hands. Wyatt really knows his job.
We’ve also assisted in catching runaways. We’ve done everything. Wyatt is not afraid.

Q: You’ve said he even seems to communicate with other horses better without the bridle.

If a horse is acting up, he looks over at them and squints his eyes, curls his lip and flares his nostrils. I don’t know what he’s saying, but whatever they’re doing, they stop.

Q: Where can people see Wyatt, and what do you hope to show by riding him bridleless?

He works mostly at Lone Star Park right now, but he’s been everywhere, including Santa Anita, Del Mar and Keeneland. He’s well traveled.

What I want people to understand is that horses are not dumb animals. We want to show people how smart they are. And people notice him. Wherever we go, he draws a crowd. And he stops and pricks his ears and poses for the camera. —This interview was originally published on April 8, 2014. #TBT

12 responses to “Bridleless Wyatt is a racetrack wonder”

  1. Sue Walls

    Perhaps he is a descendant of Snowman, the $80 dollar champion from the 1950s!

  2. Evelyn

    For all interested i suggest you look up the facebook page : bittless believers, ask there and never be rude it’s a nice gathering of people from all over the world exchanging all the knowledge of succesful Bitless riding . Enjoy .

  3. Rebecca Amy

    Great work Donna, whyatt sounds like a wonderful horse and he’s most definitely a beauty. I would be greatly interested though if it would be just as easy to re-educate an actual x-race horse into the same bridleless riding style. And if you know anyone who’s successfully done so? Maybe that could be your next challenge? What a statement that would make on not only re-homing the often “bad named” x-race horse but could possibly impact future training methods with them. 🙂

    1. Leanne

      I have a purebred Arabian gelding in his mid 20s He went through a rough patch (I wont go into details)in his late teens. And was difficult to ride because of what had happened. I knew I had to show him I whole heartedly trusted him, so I jumped on him bareback and bridleless with just that rope over the shoulders and I got his trust virtually straight away and even did jumps with him. He can be high strung, he is an arab but it shows them your trust and vise versa.

  4. Margaret Bethea McHenry

    LOVE this. I ride both of my horses bitless and am working on a neck ring. I promised both that I would never put a piece of hard, cold metal in their mouths!! More should go this route.

  5. Heather Pastrana

    I love this article. Great story and find it fascinating that you can see improvement of communication with other horses without a bit:) I have two off the truck thoroughbreds and they both love going to bit less.

  6. 2hayburners

    A neck rope does not compress the trachea. BRAVO to this gal for doing away with a bit, which is a piece of metal sitting on soft tissue covering bone. (How can that not cause pain, even with the slightest pressure?) This smart rider has discovered riding from your seat and legs is more effective… and comfortable for the horse!

  7. Lmaris

    Ridden properly, a horse isn’t “yanked” by a bit, and he certainly doesn’t have a strap compressing his trachea like this horse does.

    1. Justine

      Seriously? If that strap was tight to compress his trachea, his skin would have a pinched look. You can see how loose the strap is. My hat is off to the trainer that saved this horse and they are able to work as a coordinated team in one of the most stimulating environments that a horse can be exposed.

  8. paintedsky1959cindy

    far out,another rescued horse goes to show we do loose thousands a day to kill buyers.What a waste. Thank you for your kindness and compassion to save one of them Wyatt is awesome

  9. Elizabeth

    What a stunner of a horse – and horsewoman! I’d love to have that sort of connection with my horse, something to aspire to.

  10. Mary Darden McLeod

    What a gorgeous, intelligent horse. Thank you, Donna, for realizing and working with his talents!! BTW, what is he eating as a snack? Love to All, Mary in Boone

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