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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Thanks so much. Today I returned the bridle....I wasn't happy with the fact that it was steel, wrapped or not.....I instead looked at the Nurtural bitless....might try that instead. It is more what I am looking for I think. And I will also try it on my dressage horse as well - I think the results from that would be really interesting and beneficial, to her and to me.
I only use bitless bridles. I have one Dr. Cook and a few homemade jobs that are similar. My one complaint is that in order for my horses to eat while out on trail (I ride competitive distance, so they need to eat), the noseband has to be quite loose and higher on the nose than recommended. When the noseband is in that position, I get some twisting of the headpiece, and the side pieces (right behind the eye) pop out.

That said, I love the whole concept; I think it has great potential in all the disciplines, hopefully someday the ring world will recognize that; it requires thinking of the headpiece as communication instead of control, which in my opinion is a better approach to your relationship with the horse.
Mary, you should try the Light Rider bitless bridle. It was developed by an endurance rider for use on endurance races--www.naturalhorseworld.com/LightRiderBitlessBridle.htm. The way it works, the only action takes place on the chin strap and noseband, and the bridle does not twist on the horse's head. You do not have to loosen the noseband for grazing since the noseband itself is made to have 2-3 verticle fingers clearance, the noseband itself fits more like a halter. The control comes from a very soft chin strap that slides through rings right in front of the noseband. They also make a rope halter version with which you can even tie up your horse.
Thanks Jackie. I read most of your previous posts and had already made a mental note to check it out, but providing the link was very thoughtful of you!
Mary
Jackie, this looks like a good option, except that my favorite reins are probably too heavy for a good release on the chin strap. Will have to rethink why they are my favorite, I guess. Also, I can't quite wrap my mind around pressure applied on the chin strap being felt first on the noseband. I'm thinking at least one of my horses would put her nose up in the air, to move away from the chin strap pressure. And one more thing, in an earlier post you said the crossunder gives the ears uneven horizontal movement? Did I understand that correctly? Because it seems to me with the pressure being distributed over nose, jawbone, and poll, that it would be just the opposite, with the Light Rider moving the head in this fashion. Haha...I hope you can interpret that question, I can't think of another way to phrase it. :-)
Thanks for any feedback.
I use regular plain English reins (5/8"), and they are sort of heavy since I work a lot of lard into them. I just love supple reins! The Light Rider company sells light weight marine nylon reins that you can clip onto the rings of the chin strap, that again, are made with endurance riders in mind.
I think the horse notices the chin strap first. The chin strap is made of very soft nylon, and it slides through the rings attached to the noseband. Personally I do not keep constant contact with this bitless, and I give the rein aid sort of softly and gradually. Usually the horse is reacting to the rein aid before I have reached the hard pull stage. If you just keep heavy contact with the reins I am sure most horses would not like it, but with prompt release of the hand aids even fussy Arabs seem to do well in it if you do not keep constant contact. Of course in an emergency you have to be stronger, just be sure to release the reins as the horse settles down, reapplying the hand aid if needed.
The cross-under pulls from under the jaw, across the opposite jaw bone, and up to the poll. This is a minutia thing for dressage riders, it is just that the rein aid for the turns works differently on the horse's head than with a bit, and with a STRONG turning rein aid the nose tends to go up with a little upward twist to the side of the aid since it feels a pull from the outside from underneath. I tend to notice little picky details of things, if you do not pull with POUNDS of pressure I doubt that you will notice anything. The way the Light Rider bitless works the horse reacts almost just like it does to a rein aid to the bit.
As I said earlier I am not really happy with keeping constant contact with the bitless bridles, though a few minutes should be all right. The cross-unders push up some on the lower jaw bones, and the Light Rider pulls up some on the chin groove. I have found that some horses do not like a constant pull on their nose, but will go fine on a slightly loose rein, releasing the hand aids as soon as possible. The best thing about the Light Rider is that when you loosen the rein ALL pressure releases immediately and the horse no longer feels its head being squeezed. The cross-unders release, but not as completely as the Light Rider.
Both bitless bridle designs are absolutely wonderful for horses whose riders do not have steady hands. BUT, just like a bit, I have never ridden a horse who enjoys strong contact with a bitless bridle all the time. Save the STRONG contact for emergencies, and don't just pull, use give and take.
I would have recommended trying an English Jumping Cavesson bridle, but they are not longer made. The Jumping cavesson noseband now sold just works as a side-pull, and while there is no pressure coming from underneath the horses can pull REALLY HARD in a side pull, so hard that I personally would not use a side-pull on the trail (and I used to trail ride with the Jumping Cavesson bridle a lot, it was a side pull with more play.) Plus, with most side-pulls the noseband is so tight that the horse cannot graze without loosening it, and this bothers some horses more that a bit.
If I was endurance riding, I would pick the Light Rider. The horse can graze and drink comfortably without having to loosen any straps. If I had to tie the horse up a lot I would get their rope halter version, you can't tie the horse safely in the biothane version.
When I introduce any bitless I give the horse a quickie lesson from the ground--two reins pulled means stop, and a turn on each side. That is all I have needed, when I get up on the horse's back everything seems clear to them.
I really like my Light Rider. My riding teacher really likes the Light Rider. The horses I ride in it like it fine so long as I do not use constant, strong contact. The horses really appreciate the release of the Light Rider, and that helps keep them light in hand.
I hope this helps!
Thank you for this comment. I haen't yet tried your bridle, and now it sounds like I may like it. Afraid I won't be able to get it until next year, got all my tack budget spent this year!
I have looked at your site many times, and I have been thinking about getting one, but I did not realize that your rein/cross-under attachment was so different. I know I have spent quite a few minutes trying to get the ring at the ends of the cross-unders in the right place so I would have a straight feeling connection. Sounds like your design might have fixed the problem I was feeling in contact (I do have good, supple hands, when my MS is not too bad horses willingly keep light contact with a bit.)
Thanks again!
Allan, I was re-reading your comment here. I got some questions.
Your "shake, hold, release", is this for keeping constant contact or is it just for giving hand aids?
If it is for contact do you work both reins at once or do you alternate?
Do you time the shake, hold, release segment to any particular part of the horse's stride, or to the movements of the horses head or backs?
Thanks, I had not been introduced to this method of contact. I will have to remember it the next time I ride bitless trying to keep contact.
Allan, was this horse trained this way? If so, would you consider the results typical?
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DgolyvVjO5k
So I returned the first bitless bridle that I bought that was similar to a bosal....wanted something more like the style that I ride (english) and bought a Nurtural.....I have to say that today I had the best trot that the mare has produced! She is just so happy with it and so am I. I wish I knew what happened to her before I got her, but what ever it was, her attitude has changed significantly toward working in the bitless.....no chomping/dropping the head to the ground/snatching the reins, etc., etc., She just goes along, trying everything that I ask in a calm and respectful way and I am so grateful ....thanks for all your stories and comments and the wealth of information!
I have just ordered the Light Rider Noseband (bridle converter) ...... post my thoughts about it after it arrives. This has been a great discussion topic!

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