A bitless bridle allows a rider to control a horse without the use of bit. Horses with teeth problems benefit from the use of a bitless bridle because the actual bridle does not go in the mouth. Many trainers of young horses use bitless bridles when starting colts. Some riders have heavy hands and prefer to have something soft on their hands. Other riders simply want to use something less harsh to feel more united with their horse, however, in the wrong hands a bitless bridle can be harsher than a bit. Whatever the case may be, a bitless bridle may be the answer for you and your horse.
Types of Bitless Bridles
A bosal hackamore is the oldest and most traditional bitless bridle. For years, many people have started young colts on this style of bridle and today more and more mature western show and pleasure horses utilize this style. Historians have noticed that the term hackamore has been around for longer than 150 years. They believe the design has changed over the years. Todays bosal consists of a braided rawhide noseband attached to a headstall or bosal hanger. Mecate reins tie under the horse's chin in a fiador knot connecting them to the braided noseband. The bosal hackamore applies pressure to the bridge of the horse's nose. Because the rawhide can be rough on the horse's nose, it is best that experienced riders or riders under the supervision of an experienced instructor use a bosal.
Like the bosal, a sidepull bitless bridle is famed for training young horses but is also gaining popularity amongst riders of mature horses and trail riders. The side pull consists of a headstall with a noseband made of leather, rope, or braided rawhide. The side pull has rings or loops on the sides of the noseband to connect the reins. Some sidepulls are simply a rope halter with rings tied into it. The reins apply direct contact to the side of the noseband giving considerable turning control but, unlike the bosal, limited stoping control. Use a sidepull only on horses that fully understand the command whoa. Always use a sidepull in a safe and enclosed area.
Cross Under Bridle
A cross under bridle is a complicated design with the purpose of applying pressure to the horse's poll area. Like the sidepull, the bridle is a leather or nylon headstall with rings on the sides of the noseband. The reins thread through the rings cross under the horse's chin and jaw and connect to the other rein at the point of the poll. This style applies pressure to the pole, bridge of the nose, and jaw giving the rider more control and contact. English riders often use this style of bitless bridle in the show ring and on the trail.
Tips for Using a Bitless Bridle
Pick the Right One
Be sure to pick the correct bitless bridle. If you are not sure what bitless bridle to use, ask a local trainer or riding instructor for advice. If you are not confident you can control your horse without a bit, do not switch to a bitless bridle immediately.
Remember: Pressure and Release
Horses feel rewarded with a release of pressure. This applies to the use of a bitless bridle. Even when there is not a bit in their mouth, a horse still feels pressure. Nervous riders using a bitless bridle tend to rely on reins for balance or are constantly holding their horse's back. If this is the case, the horse often becomes annoyed and may develop unhealthy habits.
Don't Lose Your Confidence
Many riders get excited and anxious to ride in a bitless bridle and automatically assume it will change the horse for the better. This normally leads to a rider moving along too quickly with training. The horse does not learn to respect the rider. In the end, the rider will loose his/her confidence. This problem can be prevented with proper horse and rider training. Be sure you and your horse are ready to use a bitless bridle. Talk to another horse person or instructor for advice if you have rushed training.