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Types of bitless bridles

So you’ve decided to go bitless or maybe change bitless bridle? That’s awesome! This blog post will walk you through the different types of bitless bridles available to get you started.

A Foreword on Going Bitless

The decision to go bitless is personal to you and your horse. Let me be clear: not every horse or rider can go bitless. As you embark on your bitless journey, be kind to yourself and your horse. Remember that it will be a learning experience for both of you, and arm yourself with patience. This will be the key to your success.

You may have heard your coach and other horse people say that there are several types of bits in the world, and it can take some trial-and-error to find the right bit. The same can be said about bitless bridles.

The list below is not meant to be exhaustive but a guide to help you in your choice; however, ultimately, you and your horse have the final say on whether it works or not.

One last note on bitless: Bitless bridles are not necessarily kinder. Some can be just as harsh and painful as a bit. Awareness as a rider of how your horse interprets your cues is the key to keeping communication open between you.

Bitless bridle types

Side pulls

Example of a side pull on a horse

Side pulls act like direct reins on a plain snaffle bit, and they are intended to make the horse move towards the tension. The most straightforward kind resembles a rope halter with rings to attach the reins. This is the best for riders with unstable hands or for staring a horse in bitless riding.

Fit

Its intended position is just under the facial bones.

Cross-under

Nurtural bridle

The cross-under bitless bridles put pressure all around the head and focus on even pressure without pain. A tug on the reins tightens the bridle around the poll and jaw. It is also another great alternative to starting a horse bitless or just starting a new horse.

Fit

This type of bitless bridle is designed to have the noseband sit above the nose’s delicate cartilage.

Photo credit of Circle-X Bitless Bridles

Mechanical Hackamore

Example of an English Hackamore

The mechanical hackamore operates on the principle of the horse seeking comfort by moving away from pressure. It has excellent stopping power as it squeezes the horse’s jaw. It can be too intense for the horse in the wrong hands. It has varying degrees of severity based on the length of the arms: The shorter leverage arms are less severe versus the longer ones. Because of the hackamore’s design, directional aids come from the seat and legs and neck reining. This type of bitless option is not ideal for young horses as there is no lateral action.

Furthermore, you typically do not ride with contact.  

Fit

This type of bitless option must have the noseband sit above the nose’s delicate cartilage.

Bosal

Example of a Bosal

The mechanical hackamore operates on the principle of the horse seeking comfort by moving away from pressure. It has excellent stopping power as it squeezes the horse’s jaw. It can be too intense for the horse in the wrong hands. It has varying degrees of severity based on the length of the arms: The shorter leverage arms are less severe versus the longer ones. Because of the hackamore’s design, directional aids come from the seat and legs and neck reining. This type of bitless option is not ideal for young horses as there is no lateral action.

Furthermore, you typically do not ride with contact.  

Fit

This type of bitless option must have the noseband sit above the nose’s delicate cartilage.

Photo credit: Wikipedia

This is a summary of the different bitless options. There are more and more on the market these days; however, this brief list gives you a good overview and highlights the different options.

Conclusion

Regardless of which type of bitless bridle you choose, fit is critical to ensure that your horse doesn’t get annoyed at the constant pressure or rub. And, of course, there is no substitute for learning to ride with the correct aids. Make sure to ride with an independent seat and kind hands while ensuring that you have all the cues in place. This remains whether you ride your horse in a bit or not!


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