Does anyone have any experience with bitless bridles?  I am interested in buying one, and would like to know of any experiences that any of you might have had with them - successful and unsuccessful.....thanks.  I tried one out on my  Welsh/Standardbred this morning - tremendous difference in her way of going....hard to get used to but once I caught on, and she caught on, great things started happening.  The trot slowed, she started carrying herself, she wasn't pulling on the reins, she stayed straighter, she was less anxious and far more attentive.  I have only owned her for about 1 1/2 years - don't know anything about how she was broke out and/or trained (I use the terms loosley), but she has always jerked the reins out of my hands, whether standing or going.  I've experimented with a couple of bits on her, but she still seems nervous, and chomps continuously causing mega foam !!!! but almost putting herself into a trance, from which she jerks herself out of  and then gets anxious again.  She has a wonderful temperament, looks like a Friesian, and trys very hard to do the right thing.  I hope the bitless bridle will allow her to relax, go on a looser rein, and concentrate on what I am asking her to do.  She was quite happy today with those lips of hers flopping around.  In a few months I hope to get her back into a  bridle and see how things go.

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I ride my recently gelded PRE in a Dr Cooks bitless, after he threw a complete fit one day (he was a very angry and upset boy but we have fixed that now) and I was riding with a snaffle. I felt completely out of control and decided that if I couldn't control him a bit in, then why bother with one at all.. a bit of reverse thinking I guess but I just didn't see the point of having one to 'stop' him.

Dr Cooks bitless is a bit fiddly to put on sometimes, but other than that, great. I did loads of research on what to get and rode in different bitless before settling for the DC one. I rode in the DC one before I changed everything for the better for my boy, he was a lot better with it even though he was still highly angry and upset.

I live in Spain so most at the Spanish livery thought I was bonkers but I felt safer with it. I would never go back to riding with a bit at all now and am happy to ride any horse without. Sometimes I ride him with just a rope headcollar as well and in the picardo, tackless.

Now we have that lightness I didn't get before with the bit, due to my lack of experience I'm sure and we can get ooo so much lighter I know.. but we're both learning.

I have introduced others to the Dr cooks ones, one being a Friesian mare and another a large mare but very well schooled, but she chomped and messed with her bit all the time.. one solution was to put a nose band on so tight she was breathing through her ears! Mine was take the bit away, you don't need it :)

As you say, your girl went so well in it, so why use a bit :o)

From a human personal trainer point of view, as well, it confuses me why you would want an animal to have something in its mouth, which instigates a chewing action (therefore preparing the stomach for food?) and then ask it to work.. it's like me giving someone chewing gum and asking them to work out.. doesn't seem logical to me.

Less is more :)
I use a Nurtural bitless bridle on my appy gelding. He's quite a handful and has alot of attitude but when we ride with the bitless bridle he's amazing. He loves it and I love it.
If she's happy with the bitless, why not stay with the bitless?
I have a lot of experience with bitless bridles, starting with an English jumping cavesson bridle over 30 years ago. I like most of them, I currently use Dr. Cook's and the Nurtural cross-unders (the Nurtural is more fidly to adjust but once on right is more forgiving), and the Light Rider bitless (a modified scawbrig). I get great results. I did not have as good results with the LG bridle, but I suspect the horse might have had to have its teeth seen to (not my horse.) I tried the bitless options of the Micklem Multibridle but it did not work as well as the dedicated bitless bridles (the bridle did not fit exactly right.) For the summer I am using the bit-clip option of the Micklem, where the bit rings are attached to the nose piece, which can reduce the severity of the bit's action if your hands are not real good. So far this has worked well.
All in all I prefer riding with bits (Dr. Bristol snaffle, Mullen mouth snaffle, and the Wellep bit.) I have MS and my hands are not always steady. For the past few years I needed to use the bitless when my hands got too shaky in the summer heat, but with the Wellep bit this year I seem to be doing all right.
I never had a big difference between the bitted and bitless bridles, but I was taught how to use my hands correctly decades ago. My aim is to have the horse travelling with the same head carriage with a bit on contact, on loose reins, and in a bitless bridle. I succeed, usually.
When I use the bitless it can be fun--except I miss the "conversations" I can have with the horse with the bit. The past few years at the end of summer my hands were having day-dreams of riding in a bit. Most people are never taught HOW to have light hands and end up severely abusing their horses' mouths. If your horse is not happy with you using a bit, by all means go bitless, it is more humane for the horse and the riders can relax since they are not hurting the horse. If you have good hands it really does not make that much difference except for the subtlety of the conversation that is possible with the bit.
I do not ride dressage, and I suspect that is why I have good hands. The first commandment of my "horsie moral code" is that my hands belong to the horse's mouth. Since I ride Forward Seat I do not worry about collection, and I do not hurt my horse's mouth by insisting on a certain head set. My contact is usually very light, and I let the horse determine the strength of the contact with the bit.
Other that the English jumping cavesson bridle, I have yet to find a bitless that I can keep a good contact with. With the bitless if your hands are too hard you can easily end up with the horse "behind the bit" if you insist on full contact, it just does not hurt the horse as much as a bit, but the face of the horse is still behind verticle. This is something to watch for, because if the horse's face is behind verticle the rider really has no control for stopping if the horse wants to run away (which they rarely do in a bitless, it hurts less.)
Have fun with your experiments! Riding bitless can be great fun, and I highly recommend occasional bitless riding even if your hands are good with the bit, it gives variety for the horse and it is a nice break from the usual work. If your hands are not real good (your horse WILL tell you) bitless is by all means the best way to go.
WOW !!! Thanks for all your comments. I might try my dressage horse in the bitless too.....just for something different. The more I use it the bettter I will be with it, and with the horses....I was almost dumbstruck this morning when that mare just suddenly went into a nice frame and a wonderful cadenced trot....and finally a real rhythm. I can get her to do it with a bit and lots of slow posting, encouragement, halt-halts, etc. etc., but this bitless did it right from the beginning. She seemed quite happy with it and when she's happy, I'm happy !
I've used both the Dr. Cooks and the Nurtural.......they are fairly similar I guess, but I preferred the Nurtural. I am now looking at the Light Rider bridle converter (the Noseband)

Jackie.....have you had any experience with this one?
Hi Nora, I was just riding with the Light Rider Bitless bridle the other day (the stock horse biothane model). I got my first one over a year ago, and my riding teacher REALLY liked that from a distance it looks like a regular bridle, and she ordered one of her own. She hasn't used it much, but its what I use when I forget my bridle.
I like this bitless bridle. If your horse does not mind the noseband it is a great bridle. I often "forget" that I am riding bitless with this one. The release is immediate when the rider relaxes the hand, there is no poll pressure, and the horse does not feel all bound up with its head. I LOVE that I don't have to make the noseband tight, the horses are perfectly free to gently chew on the non-existent bit, this just relaxes them sooo much more.
I haven't tried just the noseband, but adjusted correctly I see no reason why this would not work just as well.
Have fun with this one. It works best with light hands which immediately relax after giving a rein aid. I can keep LIGHT contact with this one without altering the horse's head carriage. Of course if you put pounds of pressure on your reins the horse will then feel bound up and you will loose the wonderful immediate release that this system provides the horse. Learn how to ride lightly in this bitless and I think that your hands can improve and learn to be light enough so your horse won't mind it when you switch back to a bit.
Oh, I prefer the Nurtural too, just because it is a little more idiot proof (I am NOT saying you are an idiot.) When I introduced the Nurturals to my riding teachers one switched immediately to using just Nurturals for beginners, and my other riding teacher uses them for beginners on Arabs. I appreciate the Nurtural's qualities, but the Light Rider's release is both quicker and more complete than that of the Nurtural or Dr. Cooks.
Thanks Jackie......good to know that the product is a good one! I'm definitley going to give it a try. I have been riding in a halter and cotton reins lately, and my horse is much happier and my riding has gotten way lighter in the hands. That makes both of us very happy!
Can someone please explain, in detail, the correct use of the bitless bridle. It has been fitted to her, but I need to know how I am to use it so I know that I am getting the correct response. I am not a novice rider, but do not know anything about the bitless bridle, other than one of my mares seems to really enjoy it and she has stopped running through my aids. She chews and bumbles her lips around - she seems happier. I must say that I am riding 2nd level dressage and am used to the horse working into my hand, so this seems more like a western pleasure way of riding......mechanics please someone? Thanks.
This is sort of hard to describe so please be patient.
If you are using a cross-under, the crossed straps press up on the lower jaw-bone. Light rein pressure seems to be pretty evenly divided between pressure on the nose (downward and back) and the pressure on the jaw-bones (upward and forward), with maybe a little poll pressure. With harder contact? For one the poll pressure starts operating. I started to get resistance (at which point I eased the contact), and from what I've seen in videos, with continued strong contact the horses seem to go right to being "behind the bit" (face behind vertical.) I think it would take exceptionally good hands to get poll flexion (the occipital bump is the highest point of the horse), I can't, and I've gotten poll flexion with the bit. There are several videos on YouTube and on the Nurtural site that you can look at. If you do not mind your horse's face behind vertical this will not bother you (I tend to be a purist on this subject.)
As for turning, the action of the cross-under straps tends to move the lower part of the horse's head differently than with a bit, in such a way that with a strong pull the ears will not be on the same horizontal plane (something that is a no-no in upper level dressage work.)
The one time I got full collection using the Nurtural I had NO tension on the reins, the mare was reacting to my leg and seat aids.
With the cross-unders I have found it best to use really light contact and aids. This way the horse does not offer resistances to the hands. The horse feels the straps just fine, and the horse also feels the lightest hand aids. When you send the horse into the bitless bridle with your legs, the full strength contact will be felt as a "head hug", and the horse will probably think you are telling him to SLOW DOWN or halt because this is the signal that this bridle is designed to deliver.
This will be a wonderful time for you to work on the independence of your seat. The cross-under is unrivaled in learning how to softly establish contact and keep soft contact, because when you mess up it won't hurt the horse much. Experiment with your contact, sometimes real light (yes, it might feel like Western), to a little stronger contact, then back light. Work up to full strength contact (the horse working into your hand) SLOWLY. You will probably find that with light contact in the bitless the horse will be much more responsive than the heavier contact in the bit. In fact you may be so pleased with the responsiveness of your horse on lighter contact that you won't want to go back to heavy contact, whether bitless or in the bit. That is what happened to me oh so long ago.
Have fun. I have never felt insecure or out of control when using a cross-under bridle. Just don't pull hard on the reins all the time.
Yes...thank you. My bitless bridle is not a cross-under - it resembles a bosal - wrapped noseband and the reins are connected underneath, together.....are you able to picture that? My mare is very responsive, but perhaps because I am so conditioned to reins - one on each side of the bit - I am finding it very different with the reins together, and underneath the chin......and yes, the feeling is truly wonderful when your horse happily piaffes with almost no rein contact...just like bouncing on a yoga ball....! Someone wanted to know why I would return to a bit.....I guess because, to my knowledge, you cannot show dressage or hunt seat in a bosal-like bitless bridle, or perhaps in a bitless bridle at all....???
Bosals have been used for centuries in the old California system, first the bosals, and then after several years of work increasing lightness graduating to the spade bit. As you noted the bosal is more of a one handed system. However the modern imitations of the bosal may be more severe, especially if there is metal bearing upon the nasal bone or lower jaw bones, and unless the metal parts are extremely padded it really does not matter if the metal is covered, it still does not flex.
I suspect that your mare is so sensitive in it because your system MAY be designed to work on surface nerves of the head. This requires extremely light hands, and if you work up to the strength of your contact with the bit it may be painful for the horse (the nose does not have a tongue to use for cushioning.) I can't tell for sure since I do not know specifically which system you are using and how it fits the horse's face. The old fashioned rawhide core bosal was meant to be used with loose (slightly sagging) reins, using the neck rein for turns. The direct rein aids were given lightly and immediately released. These horsemen rode with EXTREMELY light hands. I think that most bosal horses now are started in the snaffle (for direct reining) until the horse learns how to neck rein.
The old California bosal-spade bit horsemen rode their horses in full collection with slightly sagging reins. Constant direct contact would deaden the nerves and make the horse unresponsive, but by using the bosal &/or spade bit correctly they could get results that are compareable to dressage riders (as you apparantly have found out!)
Just a suggestion, when you go back to the bit, ride with the same amount of contact with which you got results with your present bitless set-up. You obviously know what you are doing, the mare obviously knows what she is doing, the big change is that the "bosal" forces you to take lighter contact, and your mare may be giving you spectacular results as a way of thanking you for lightening the contact and giving her the room she needs to move. Full contact with just a snaffle is really pretty modern in dressage, a few centuries ago the high school dressage riders rode only in curbs, very long shanked curbs at that (over 12" shank.) You can bet that THOSE riders used light contact!
Dr. Cook has been working at getting his cross-under bridle accepted for dressage competitions, but who knows how long it will take. Hunt seat competition used to allow the Jumping Cavessons (the ones you attach to your bridle) in the local shows, but I don't think you can use them for recognized shows. Open Jumpers can use any head gear they like as long as it controls the horse humanely. As far as I know there is no English type competition that allows bosals like the one you use except Open Show Jumping.
I hope this helps you some. I've never ridden in what you are using, but I have read a good bit of the theory and practice of Western bosal riding (the old California system), just on the off chance that someday I might have to ride a horse in a bosal.


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