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Bitless Bridle

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  • Bitless Bridle

    Thinking of trying one. I'm a been there done that type and really have no more interest in showing. With that I think my horse may love a bitless bridle since he can be fussy with his bit. I would love to here from other dressage riders on this.

    We are moving to a farm with 100 miles of trails (yay!) but I also want to of course keep riding dressage in the arena.

    TIA!
    Proud Member of the Opinionated Redhead Club! RIP my dear Avery ~3/21/1995-9/21/2011~

    Extreme Cat!!! 2006 OTTB
    Magic Cat - Final Demand

  • #2
    On trails or for casual hacking, you can use (in ascending order of whoaa power) a rope halter, a sidepull (basically a noseband with reins), one of the crossover Dr. Cooks bridles (I don't think they release quick enough and don't like them for that reason), or a mechanical hackamore (which is a Western leverage bit with a lot of power, but no reason you can't just ride on a very loose rein and never fully engage the leverage).

    Only the mechanical hackamore makes it difficult to use a direct or opening rein, and really needs neck reining.

    Or of course you can use a bosal.

    My experience is that you cannot ride on contact in a bitless bridle. Contact is just a meaningless concept bitless. Also you cannot finetune the things that require a horse to have contact and carry himself. So even if you end up going primarily bitless, there are moments when you will want to put a snaffle back in to review lateral work or giving the poll or flexions.

    If your horse is fussy with a bit, going bitless will help both of you. He will learn to move along without fussing, and you will learn to move along without micromanaging or tweaking him constantly, since you really can't *do* that much bitless. Going bitless does help horses (and riders)relax and get more forward. The big thing is that the rider has the confidence to ride on a loose draped rein. You can certainly teach a horse to balk, rear, and fuss in a hackamore if you are handsy.

    Going bitless on a draped rein will also give you and the horse a chance to see how much communication you can do with weight and voice.

    I rode my own mare quite happily in a rope halter and then a sidepull .... until the spring grass came in. Then I needed to switch to a mechanical hackamore to keep her from diving into the ditches for grass. But the nice thing about bitless is, you can go for a grass walk in the saddle and let horse take grazing breaks. I ride another more advanced older dressage mare in a bosal on the trails. I don't know anything much about California reining training, but she goes along nice and relaxed in it. In a snaffle, after about 45 minutes of power walking on the trails, she will start fussing with the bit. She's fine in the arena, because we keep her mind busy!

    Comment


    • #3
      I went bitless about a year ago. I have to admit, the contact and her responsiveness feel exactly the same from my end of the reins. Apparently not to her though. She used to walk away when I pulled out the bridle. Now she walks over to me and puts her nose in it. Full disclosure, there are treats involved in both scenarios.

      I started with the Thinline noseband since it was cheap and just attaches to your current headstall. I tried two different Dr. Cooks, but she tended to curl BTV in those. So, I have stayed with the Thinline and we are both very happy with it. If I show, I will move back over to a bit or just ride hors concours.

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      • Original Poster

        #4
        THANK YOU BOTH! This is the kind of info I was needing. Snowdenfarm, does the Thinline have a pulley effect?
        Proud Member of the Opinionated Redhead Club! RIP my dear Avery ~3/21/1995-9/21/2011~

        Extreme Cat!!! 2006 OTTB
        Magic Cat - Final Demand

        Comment

        • Original Poster

          #5
          Another question. It seems obvious but.... between a side pull and the Thinline, which will have more power? My horse can be a little sensitive but he is a straight up good boy. Kind of a typical puppy dog type OTTB. I don't want overkill.
          Proud Member of the Opinionated Redhead Club! RIP my dear Avery ~3/21/1995-9/21/2011~

          Extreme Cat!!! 2006 OTTB
          Magic Cat - Final Demand

          Comment


          • #6
            Well, this thinline noseband just looks like a type of sidepull, a noseband with rein attachments on the sides.

            https://thinlinecanada.ca/shop/horse...and-converter/

            There are sidepull bridles that come as one unit. The advantage here is that they have some stabilizing straps to prevent the noseband from getting pulled around and the cheek straps from going in the eye. But in this case you'd need to get the whole bridle to fit.

            https://www.horseloverz.com/western-...ngle-side-pull


            A lot will depend on what the top of the noseband is actually made of. I rode my mare fine in a kind of macrame yacht rope thingy I bought from a fundraiser for a horse rescue for $20, and also fine in a rope halter, but I did feel both slipped around. She stopped fine, and I felt that i could take her head away from her in a one-rein stop if necessary. But she learned that when she dove for grass, once her head was down I had no leverage or power to get it back up.

            I had been considering moving onto a one unit sidepull bridle for more stability, but I ended up going for a mechanical hackamore because of the diving for grass issue.

            Comment


            • #7
              Not all fussy with the bit horses like bitless.

              I rode a mare that was super, super, super fussy with her mouth. I have MS, with a hand tremor, bad balance and bad coordination so I decided she might prefer bitless. Well I had at that time 6-7 bitless systems, and I tried them all on her.

              One of the systems was the Micklem bridle with a Scawbrig, side-pull and cross-under alternatives. Well the mare HATED each and every one of them, would not let me keep contact and slung her head around whenever I tried.

              The Nurtural cross-under bridle--basically OK until I tried to keep contact, then she would go behind the vertical after a few steps. Turning was fine if I was subtle.

              The Dr. Cook--well, every single time I tried to keep contact she went behind the vertical--to me a BIG NO-NO. Turning was fine unless my hand felt too harsh to her, then she "cussed me out."

              The LG bitless system (like the flower wheel bitless), no contact allowed. I tried changing the nose and chin straps on the wheel and I never found one that she would keep contact with. Turning was not as good as with the Dr. Cook or Nurtural cross-under bridles.

              My old fashioned Jumping Cavesson bridle (basically a side pull) was basically fine except for contact. Head slinging resulted if I tried to keep contact with it more than a minute or two.

              The Spirit cross-under bitless bridle, the release of the cross-under round "straps" was much, much better than my other cross-under bridles, but she did not like contact with it.

              The best bitless with her was the Light Rider bitless bridle, a modified Scawbrig. She would let me keep contact for a short while, then she would cuss me out.

              I went back to using snaffle bits on this mare. The last few years I rode her (retired now, age 34 or 35) she never told me to stop riding with the bit, just to be careful about it at times.

              I came to the conclusion that this mare's nose was MUCH more sensitive than her sensitive mouth. I could get MUCH better contact with the bit than I ever could with the bitless. She would willingly reach out for contact with the bit, she never went behind the vertical, she would keep contact just fine with the bit, and she "cussed me out" a lot less with the bit than with the bitless bridles I tried.

              I had started riding bitless 35 years earlier with the old-fashioned Jumping Cavesson bridle. My first horse, and most horses thereafter would keep contact fine with it, but I did have some exciting rides when the horse wanted to GO!

              Most of the horses I tried the cross-under bridles on were fine with them for halting and turning, and most of them would let me keep contact with their nose at least for a little while before telling me that it was too much for them.

              If my hands got bad enough so the horses were obviously very unhappy with them and I went back to bitless for a while it would probably be the Light Rider Bitless bridle, though if the horse was super iffy about stopping I would use the cross-under Spirit bridle first. With both of them I would not keep the horse on contact except for brief periods of time.

              This long story is to tell you that not all horses with fussy mouths like being ridden on contact in a bitless bridle.

              I have recently had very good results with fussy mouthed horses (including one who was trying to chew the stainless steel snaffle bit into microscopic pieces) when I changed to the titanium coated "rainbow" bits which are MUCH CHEAPER than the pure titanium bits. You can find various titanium coated "rainbow" snaffle bits on Ebay, just be sure to type in titanium snaffle bit or you will get page after page of the bits for drills. Not all "rainbow" bits are titanium coated, the cheaper "rainbow" bits tend to be stainless steel. I have found titanium coated "rainbow" snaffles-single-joint, double jointed with a lozenge, mullen mouth and elevator bits, plus some Kimberwicks and Pelhams.

              One of my sons suggested that some horses may not like the taste of the chromium in the stainless steel and that may make them fussier than usual. All I know is that I can often get better contact and better results with the titanium coated bits than I can with the stainless steel bits.

              Good luck in finding the perfect bitless bridle for your horse. It can be great fun to go bitless trail riding.

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by Snowdenfarm View Post
                If I show, I will move back over to a bit or just ride hors concours.
                If you ride hors concours at a rated show, you still must follow USEF rules. You cannot show bitless.

                Many schooling shows also follow USEF rules, you would have to check with show management.

                Comment


                • #9
                  My mare hated bits and went in a Dr. cook’s for years, but I modified it slightly. First, I rode with two reins, one attached straight to the noseband like a side pull and one attached to the cross under straps. With this, I had a “snaffle” rein I could use for most of my riding and cues, and a “curb” rein that mainly came into play for jumping.

                  I also got some halter fuzzies and wrapped the nose band in those which seemed to make her more comfortable.

                  She was always willing to maintain contact, but before I added the second rein was prone to falling behind the vertical.
                  The Procrastinators Anonymous meeting has been postponed again.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by good booie View Post
                    THANK YOU BOTH! This is the kind of info I was needing. Snowdenfarm, does the Thinline have a pulley effect?
                    No pulley effect. I ride with it loose enough that she can open her mouth (two upright fingers between her nose and the band), yet it does not move out of position. Well, except when I do groundwork and lift the reins, that can cause it to move. But, nothing I have done from the saddle has caused it to move and I videotape my rides so I would see it.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      I had a horse that did very well bitless. I rode him in the LG bridle (similar to the orbitless or daisy wheel). He hated, hated, hated any of the cross under designs. They put some pressure on the poll and he would rear. I still ride my horses bitless on occasion and most definitely prefer either a side pull or a wheeled attachment where I can add a tiny bit of leverage.
                      Equine Ink - My soapbox for equestrian writings & reviews.
                      EquestrianHow2 - Operating instructions for your horse.

                      Comment

                      • Original Poster

                        #12
                        Going with the Herm Springer short shank. We shall see!! thanks to all that contributed to this discussion
                        Proud Member of the Opinionated Redhead Club! RIP my dear Avery ~3/21/1995-9/21/2011~

                        Extreme Cat!!! 2006 OTTB
                        Magic Cat - Final Demand

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          sorry I'm late to the party.... below is what I use and get excellent results with, including a soft round connection
                          https://shop.dressagenaturally.net/c...bitless-bridle
                          My favorite girl! http://monicaadams.com/ASC-1.jpg

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            My horse just had a mass taken out of his mouth, so no bit for awhile until the stitches heal up. Tried him in a cross-under sidepull bridle today, and it was kind of fun! He was much better at keeping his head down than with the bit, and we could do pretty much anything we do with a bit - shoulder in, bend, half pass, collection (from seat and legs), flying changes, and even piaffe and passage!

                            Can’t wait to do it again tomorrow!

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by good booie View Post
                              Going with the Herm Springer short shank. We shall see!! thanks to all that contributed to this discussion
                              I switched my OTTB to this when I couldn't get him to stop leaning on my hands (after trying 8+ different bits). Changed our relationship completely. One word of advice - try riding in the hackamore 6-8 times before deciding whether or not you like it. My horse felt lame, yes lame, the first two rides in the hack since he couldn't lean on my hands and his balance was so affected by it. Once he got used to it, he was more responsive, easier to steer and spooked less (and boy, my arms and hands got a lot less wear & tear). It taught me that "control" via the bit was an illusion and taught my horse that he had to carry himself. Never did get him "put together" in a nice dressage frame as he decided he only wanted to be a hunter, but the hackamore made us much happier partners.

                              Comment


                              • #16
                                Bitless is more about seat and legs and weight than hand control. A trained light horse should be willing in a bitless.
                                We see so many throw their heads when asked to stop.
                                Proud member of People Who Hate to Kill Wildlife clique

                                Comment

                                • Original Poster

                                  #17
                                  Originally posted by Juxtapoze View Post

                                  I switched my OTTB to this when I couldn't get him to stop leaning on my hands (after trying 8+ different bits). Changed our relationship completely. One word of advice - try riding in the hackamore 6-8 times before deciding whether or not you like it. My horse felt lame, yes lame, the first two rides in the hack since he couldn't lean on my hands and his balance was so affected by it. Once he got used to it, he was more responsive, easier to steer and spooked less (and boy, my arms and hands got a lot less wear & tear). It taught me that "control" via the bit was an illusion and taught my horse that he had to carry himself. Never did get him "put together" in a nice dressage frame as he decided he only wanted to be a hunter, but the hackamore made us much happier partners.
                                  THIS is my goal!!! He got hurt about a year ago by a horse running him to death basically for about a month+ when I moved him. Although he was never really lame he was uncomfortable, Vet came out and even said while flexing him "he looks fine to me" until she flexed his stifle. ding ding ding! Long story short, I swear he is associating that past pain in the arena now. I also think he is cranky because all we have is an arena and not other land to change it up while riding. I am moving him September 1st to a farm with oodles of land and trails plus a polo field and working track around the polo field. We both miss riding out terribly. I just want my guy to be happy, oh and me too! We are both bored beyond belief,
                                  Proud Member of the Opinionated Redhead Club! RIP my dear Avery ~3/21/1995-9/21/2011~

                                  Extreme Cat!!! 2006 OTTB
                                  Magic Cat - Final Demand

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