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Which bitless do you like best?

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  • Which bitless do you like best?

    I think I have to go to this for one of my horses. I'm actually thinking of not trying dressage with him anymore.

    Long story short, the horse hates contact. He'll tolerate hunter type contact, but that's pretty much his comfort level.

    I've had his teeth checked by a dentist (nothing remarkable found), tried a bunch of different bits and bridles. He will only carry the bit under his tongue.

    It's suspected to be a past training issue when he was started. He was ridden in a harsh bit with his head tied and I really don't think he's going to get over it.

    So, what bitless bridle do you like best? I've tried a few homemade sidepulls, but I felt didn't have much steering or finesse at all. That is all I've tried in the bitless realm and am open to suggestions.
    Last edited by Serigraph; Jul. 5, 2011, 05:42 PM.

  • #2

    A properly fitted, properly used bosal


    • #3
      Originally posted by Serigraph View Post
      It's suspected to be a past training issue when he was started. He was ridden in a harsh bit with his head tied and I really don't think he's going to get over it.
      So, ride him with the hunter contact, or less. If there's a lot of bad baggage there, it will take lots of time to get over. If it was done incorrectly 100 times, it will take at least 101 times before he trusts it.

      I have one of these. Granted, I had some soundness issues to deal with in addition to a lot of mental garbage, trust issues, etc. It's taken an embarassingly long time, but he does finally seek proper contact. Fragile, and a lot of responsibility on my end, but, finally, he can tolerate it. He's even developing a sense of humor about it!
      "One person's cowboy is another person's blooming idiot" -- katarine

      Spay and neuter. Please.


      • #4
        Um, I know this horse and I know everything the OP has tried and no, more time probably isnt going to really help the situation. He is actually a very lucky horse that she is willing to work around this issue as it is ingrained in him... She just wants him to be happy and comfortable in his work. If a bitless bridle does the trick, more power to her, she has his best interest in mind.
        "Kindness is free" ~ Eurofoal
        The CoTH CYA - please consult w/your veterinarian under any and all circumstances.


        • #5
          I'm no dressage rider, but have a 17.3 Percheron who was, once upon a time, severely and harshly overbitted. Her elephant-like memory kicks in if she even sees a bit and turns in 22.3 hands.

          A mechanical english short-shank hackamore suits her just fine. I like the Herm Sprenger version, with its padded noseband and soft leather. New, it would have been out of my price range, but I found a barely used one on Bits and Barter.

          Did try a Dr. Cook's Bitless Bridle but she was NOT amused at the poll pressure. (Note: don't not to make 17.3 hh, 2,000 lb Percheron angry. )
          <>< Sorrow Looks Back. Worry Looks Around. Faith Looks Up! -- Being negative only makes a difficult journey more difficult. You may be given a cactus, but you don't have to sit on it.


          • #6
            I've ridden in a couple different bitless bridles, and I can not say I was a fan. The ones I tried had crossing action under the jaw, and put pressure on the poll, nose, chin, and jaw. They give you a fairly good amount of control, but the horses felt trapped in my opinion and I promptly moved them to different bits/bridles.

            In your case, I would recommend a hackamore, either the short shanked english ones or the mechanical long shank western ones depending on how sensitive your horse is.


            • Original Poster

              Originally posted by *Liz* View Post
              They give you a fairly good amount of control, but the horses felt trapped in my opinion and I promptly moved them to different bits/bridles.
              Yeah, I don't think he'll go with feeling trapped at all. I'm not really interested in the crossing under the jaw ones.

              He's not a strong horse so I don't need something with major control, but when I used a sidepull (basically halter w/reins) I got very little response at all. Maybe the english hackamore is more what he needs.


              • #8
                LOVE IT you have so much refinement unlike a regular sidepull, or the claustrophobic tendancies of "the bitless bridle"
                Trouble is finding one for sale.... I have one my mom bought over 20 years ago stashed away for when I encounter horses that need a hard wired reboot to the concept of contact.
                chaque pas est fait ensemble


                • #9
                  A couple of things that have worked for us in the past - *flame suit zipped as these are not necessarily super popular*

                  A Kenington Noseband might be an option. We have one from the late 80's/early 90's and it was super on a horse (for XC) when a hackamore wasn't refined enough and a bit wasn't quite working either. (of course it was like $30 back then but maybe you can ask around to try it before shelling out the $).

                  For just hacking/exercising with no bit - and truly going on the buckle 99% of the time - a hackamore is what I'd use. But I'd search some Western catalogs or shops for a better price than the Sprenger - too rich for my wallet. The longer shanks make it more severe than the one below...but it is a super option if you can find one to try to see if it works for you.

                  A friend competes Advanced (SJ) in this hackamore with excellent results.
                  Watermark Farm
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                  • #10
                    My horse broke his jaw six weeks ago so I've been riding him with a Dr. Cook's bitless bridle. Someone else had one so it was the easy option.

                    He kind of resented the fact that it always seemed to be "on" as it were and the steering was odd--sometimes it felt like the reins were crossed as if I got right rein action when I applied the left rein. So I re-rigged it by attaching a snaffle rein to the nose rings and a curb rein to the ring where you're supposed to attach the rein. Kind of like adding a snaffle rein to a gag? The idea was to use the "snaffle" for steering and most day-to-day operations and the "curb"/gag/hackamore for brakes. That allowed me to ride mostly off the snaffle and things were OK for a bit. Then he got to the point where he would not bend to the left (which is kind of an issue, normally, but not to this point). I think it felt worse than it looked. In any event the trainer got one him and felt what I was feeling and fixed it. Horse now bends left.

                    We jump, do sets of flying changes (not as many as I can manage with a bit), leg yields, turns on the haunches, counter canter, etc. Shoulder-in and haunches in are kind of problematic.

                    Overall, not something I would pick if there were a bitted option, at least for this horse. But it's only for another week.

                    I compared the Sprenger hackamore to western ones at Broken Horn. The shanks were superimposable with respect to dimensions and placement of holes where you attached straps. The only difference was that the noseband was, depending on whether you wanted to spend $20 or $25, either nylon with a fuzzy inside or cheap leather with a fuzzy inside as opposed to a nice padded leather in the Sprenger and the Sprenger had a curb strap strap, whereas the western ones had what I think of as a western curb chain--leather on the sides with buckles and chain in the middle.
                    The Evil Chem Prof


                    • #11
                      Well gosh, is the good "reverend" not here to hock his "original bitless bridle"? Color me shocked.


                      • #12


                        • #13
                          I like Dr. Cook's bitless bridle and haven't yet had a horse who dislikes it (used it on 5 horses now). I trail ride in it, school dressage, ride XC in it, ride stadium in it... I've ordered a Micklem to try as a regular bridle but will also try the bitless option.
                          "A horse's face always conveys clearly whether it is loved by its owner or simply used." - Anja Beran


                          • #14
                            I ride my Arab in a rope sidepull from these folks on a regular basis. http://www.handcraftedjewls.com/Hand...de%20Pulls.htm I have just the plain sidepull option. I went galloping on trails with my friends in it last week. They have another version kind of like the Dr. Cook's, but it just crosses under the chin instead of crossing under the whole head.


                            • #15
                              I'm sold on bitless bridles if you're not intending on showing or competing in a venue that requires it. The first time I used one was on my Arabian gelding, Jordan.

                              A schoolmaster, he was carrying a western curb bit when I bought him. He was extremely mouth shy and would take the bit only after an argument. He would toss his head, root, stargaze, anything to get away from the bit. I put him in a nice soft snaffle with no improvement.
                              Then I tried a mechanical hackamore, then a shorter shanked mechanical, and finally hit the jackpot with an English hackamore, which is basically a thick rolled cavesson.
                              He loved it. Only when I had him floated did we discover why he was so mouth shy: sometime in his past, he'd had the entire left tush ripped out of his jaw. The scar tissue went from the bar almost to the bottom of the jaw, and there was a divot and scarred gum tissue where the tush had been. I never put a bit in his mouth again, and I never had his head issues again. In fact, he lost a lot of his mouth shyness once he understood he wasn't going to be bitted. I never had problems with him again.

                              My current horse, a leased Arabian gelding, has wolf teeth. His owner had the same sort of issues when she bought him a year ago. He was carrying a snaffle at the time. He would root and stargaze, and throw his head around.

                              She put him in a side pull and he improved a LOT, although he still shakes his head sometimes, especially when he's doing something that requires concentration. I think that is merely learned behaviour, not a real issue.

                              I find him responsive in it. He gives me no problems at all in the side pull. True, you're not going to have contact in a sidepull, but you are going to have a horse that is listening to you because you're not hurting his mouth.

                              I've used bitless bridles on three horses. In each case, the horse had never had a bitless bridle before. When I put it on them for the first time, I handled him from the ground, rather than just pop up onto his back. After a few minutes of confusion, which was manifested by backing up! the horse realizes that the commands are the same, but without the bit.
                              They all seem to appreciate having nothing in their mouths.
                              I am a firm believer in less is more when it comes to bitting. I went this route as I had been out of riding for a long time. I thought, if I ride without a bit, I won't have to worry about inadvertantly leaning or supporting myself on a bit. I'm getting much better in my balance (because I'm riding bareback, to develop my seat) and am forced to use my seat, rather than a bit, to ride.
                              And I'm riding a well trained, amenable horse who doesn't throw hissy fits when something doesn't suit him.

                              If you don't need the bit, don't use one.
                              The only downside I found was in Jordan's case. Once he discovered that his mouth was his to do with as he chose, he played with his lower lip. It was harmless, but it was still wierd to be able to hear his trotting rhythym by the blup blup blup sound of his lip. It wasn't very pretty, either...but he was still a great, great horse.
                              Last edited by hrsmstr; Jul. 6, 2011, 06:54 PM. Reason: needed to add a word.
                              The best thing to do on a golf course is a GALLOP!


                              • #16
                                Originally posted by dressurpferd01 View Post
                                Well gosh, is the good "reverend" not here to hock his "original bitless bridle"? Color me shocked.
                                Wait a second --

                                Dr. Cook's bridle diagram:



                                • #17
                                  S Hack.

                                  With this you can isolate the shoulder, turn the head left and right. In a regular hack you can not. My gaited horse does MORE than just go forward. I ride with two hands always. She is light as a feather, and I can just lightly touch the reins and she responds, yes I use my legs and seat alot too. She has a really low palate and is not overly fond of a bit either. No I do not really neck rein but have on other horses. I have to ride with both hands or my shoulder hurts if I use one hand. God gave me two hands, so by golly I use both.

                                  I also have the nose band covered in a real piece of sheepskin. And I have a flat dressage type chain for the chin chain. Jeffersequine.com has them.

                                  Some horses hate the arena, and contact in their mouth.
                                  Last edited by rmh_rider; Jul. 6, 2011, 08:53 PM. Reason: more info


                                  • #18
                                    Some horses are allergic to metal. Have you tried a plastic bit?
                                    "Where knowledge ends violence begins." B. Ljundquist


                                    • #19
                                      The Micklem Bridle can be used with a bit or without. It was designed by William Micklem. I believe that SmartPak carries them.
                                      When in Doubt, let your horse do the Thinking!


                                      • #20
                                        If you felt like the sidepull would work but that you just need a little more oomph or control you could try a western type that comes with waxed rope as the nose, very stiff but only really comes into play when you use the reins. I started my first colt in a double-rope nose one and put a wrap of Vetrap over it to soften it a bit and was very pleased with it. Usually $30 or less through western retailers, I'm pretty sure Weaver makes them.
                                        It's a small world -- unless you gotta walk home.