Hi all!  I'm considering trying a bitless bridle - and am wondering a few things!  What are your thoughts on this:  What level of control do they provide?  Is this something to use on a somewhat less experienced horse out on the trail?  Can you use a running martingale with this bridle?  How does it affect head carriage?  I'd love to hear from people who use them ...before I go out and buy one it's great to get opinions from those who've used them!  Thanks all!

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Hopefully you have checked out the other thread on this topic. To my comment I would add wrt to your questions: My Arab is mostly ridden on trails, he is experienced (11 years young),we've only been ridiing together consistently for the last about six months, but he's often spooky. Anything new on the trail, windy day, a little too much alfalfa, or if he just feels like heading back to his mate at home, I need good control because he sometimes tries avoidance tactics.. The crossunder works as well or better than a snaffle. I usually keep very light contact so that I can feel what he's up to, and he can feel that I'm not asleep at the switch. He is not the type to bolt, but he does act up on the spot if he's really upset, so I can't say how this bridle would work for that type. In fact somewhere he has learned this backing up habit when he feels spooky, so I like that the bitless helps him think more forward (I believe), and be a little more relaxed (If ever an Arab is relaxed on a trail?). For trail the bitless is great because after a couple of hours I like to take a rest, let him graze a little, no green gunk on his bit. If it's cold, I hate putting a cold bit in a horse's mouth. And if we end up on a really tricky trail, or climbing through brush, or if I want to walk downhill a while to rest my achy hips, I like that I can unsnap one side of the reins, attach to both rings under his chin in a second, and I've got a nice long lead.To me the crossunder works just the same as a snaffle, so unless I was showing where they require a bit, it works great. If I badly wanted to show, I guess I'd have to go western and go back to a bosal, but that would require training him (and me) more to it. The crossunder was an immediate transition with no problem from a snaffle.
Hi Marlene! Mine's an arabian too ...6 yr old gelding. I'm very fortunate as he's totally independent - never looks for home when I leave solo. Very calm, pretty much goes anywhere but dislikes WATER!! Ha - how can you tell they come from the land of the sand!! Anyways - he's not spooky, so that's a plus. He doesn't bolt. But his problems may lie in being in a big crowd out in the open fields - he has pranced it up a bit and may like to join those who run by at times - and can have a high head carriage, as most do - at this point I use a type of martingale and never had a control problem. Thanks so much for you advice below - he's a super sensitive and very compliant boy - so I think I shall try one! Anyone else out there ever use a martingale device with these types of bridles?
Have a great day all!
Hi Holly,
There are two other discussions where you can find more information. They are http://www.barnmice.com/forum/topics/bitless-bridles, and http://www.barnmice.com/forum/topics/bitless-bridles-1.
E. Allen Buck's Spirit bridle (a cross-under) is/can be/has been used with a running martingle. He is a member here.
Personally I prefer bits but I have been using various bitless bridles for over 30 years. I prefer cross-under bitless bridles whenever I think I will have a "discussion" with a horse, usually the first few times I ride, or like on extra windy days. With the cross-unders I have all the control I need for these "discussions". This has included "discussions" with an 18.2 hand half draft horse down to Arabs and ponies. For these "discussions" bitless is clearly superior, both me and the horse do not have to worry about hurt mouths. If I could still train horses I would definitely start off with a bitless, probably a cross-under, both for work on the ground, under saddle, in the ring or pasture or on the trail. Yes, I like bitless bridles, it is just on a well trained horse I prefer bits when my hands are steady enough (I have MS.)
From my own experiences and from watching videos the cross-unders and the Lite Riders encourage the horse to travel with his nose stuck out--ie. it encourages the horses to be calm. The horses stride out in calmness, and since the horse does not have to worry about the rider's hands the horse is both calmer and more observant about what is going on around him. This means that fewer things surprise the horse (usually), and if the horse does get startled the rider does not have to worry about the pain from the bit adding to the horse's panic and confusion.
I haven't tried the Spirit bridle yet, I hope to get one this year. I have several Nurturals (probably the most idiot proof one) and I have given Nurturals to the stables where I ride. I also have a Dr. Cook cross-under, Lite Rider Bitless (a modified scawbrig), LG bridle, and my ancient beloved Jumping Cavesson bridle.
I've never had to spend more time teaching the bitless to an already trained horse than it takes me to walk from the barn to the riding ring. Try any bitless out in the ring before you hit the trails, just to make sure that you and the horse understand each other.
An Arab who carries his head up (inverted) to avoid the bit will generally lower their head carriage in a bitless, even without a running martingle. As I said above, the Spirit bridle was made to be used with a running martingle, the reins attach differently. I would worry about a running martingle interfering with the rein rings on the other types of cross-unders, but I've never felt like I needed a martingle while riding bitless so I have no experience with that combination--bitless and martingle.
Have fun!!!!
Hi Jackie! Thanks so much for all this info - I am confident this will be great for my guy - it's not that he has any trouble with a bit or anything - I just think he doesn't need it and why not be a little more natural, huh? You've got lots experience using them - and your feedback is SO much appreciated!! There's obviously a few types of bitless bridles ...I'll have to research which I can get in my area. Thanks again!
I agree with Jackie's comments, and got a chuckle because I also use the term "discussions" when working things out with my Guy. If you do a little introductory practice so your horse understands your signals and has a low key opportunity to get used to the different feel of the crossunder, I think you could start without the martingale and see how it goes. Even if he tosses his head a little at first,just at the change, there is a good chance he will settle and work with a better head carriage when he finds he doesn't have to do girations in order to deal with the bit. My Guy will sometimes get his head in the air when he's unsure of what's ahead (he always seems to know when there are deer before I do), but lowers it once he's figured out there's no threat. After an hour or two hour of climbing rocky trails he generally relaxes anyway, it really doesn't have much to do with equipmen for himt, it's his state of mind.
Hi! Thanks again for your help too! Chuckle yes "discussions" .... lol lol Yes they ALWAYS know what's ahead before we do - and that's a GOOD thing in the case of bears or others you don't want to meet! I would certainly practice at home for a couple of sessions before I'd go out on the trail, and also take my bitted bridle just in case!! I'm anxious to give this a try ...I think about this now and realize that IF he raises his head, it is of course upon use of bit when you pull ...and if there is NO bit perhaps the nice low head carriage he typically has will remain. Makes sense. Thanks again!
keep in mind, what I find with the crossunder, and this is my Arab so YMMV, he is just as sensitive to a very small change in tension in the rein as if he had a bit. The one rein flexion and practice for stop from walk, then trot etc, is very effective and important to teach. A light signal before using a stronger signal as you would do using a light hand on the bit is the way to go. Starting in a secure location will help you feel confident using the least amount of pressure necessary. I would bet that some horses would fight too much tension on a cross under same as on a bit.
Another question ...(actually 2 - what's YMMV? lol lol brain not computing that one) and then I just thought of this - as "cross-under" then - is there no "direct" rein ie: more like a neck rein effect? I totally get the give and take, light warning aid message you're explaining, like "half-halts" idea, I ride very light handed and always with that in mind, and my horse is extremely light and observant to the slightest rein or leg aids - but now I'm thinking ok, with cross-under, is the effect on a right "half-halt" tugging on the left, and vice versa, you know, like the old fashioned way of teaching neck reining. I will figure this out quickly once I begin using it - won't be hard to see that! But just curious to know now.
From the horse's perspective, I don't think it would seem like neck reining, although I vaguely remember you do a "cross under" with your reins when you are teaching a direct reining horse to switch to neck reining (or not, it was so long ago I don't remember,lol). Really it just feels like a snaffle to me, but I'm sure it feels totally different to the horse. I'm not sure how a neck reining horse responds to the cross under, but if they were ever trained to direct rein, or if they are used to switching, I think they'd figure it out pretty quickly. There is a video on youtube I think showing a test of four horses who never had a crossunder before and switched immediately. Of course they were probably angels(trained) before hand.
YMMV=your mileage may vary
lol lol Like that YMMV! Thanks again! I will have a look at the video and snoop for more pictures of these bridles cause that will tell me! Just the cross under part might "cross" and then reins could still be attached to each cheek piece, thus being more like direct reining, which all horses would know - or those reins could be linked to each "cross" thus acting as a neck rein. And yes, in the old days, some would cross their reins to teach neck reining. But really it's that combination of leg aids, rein aids, seat aids and fading exageration of touching neck with outside rein and tugging inside, etc. etc. that gets that job done all in good time. I'm going to try to find that video on Youtube when I get to someone's house who has HIGHSPEED internet - unfortunately I don't!!! Imagine anyone still on dialup?? That's me ......
The cool thing on this video is you do see a difference in the horses way of going once on bitless. A little more relaxed, nicer movement. Honestly though an Arab that is already willing to work with you (or any other good horse) will just go with the flow. I joke that you could put a bag on some horses heads and they would still work if their favorite human asked. One of the Internet cowboys (can't remember if it's Clinton Anderson) does a demo where he puts various strange contraptions, bits made of sticks etc. in his horse's mouth to demonstrate that it doesn't matter what bit or none you use, a well trained horse handled gently will go about the same.
Love it! He/You are so right ....they work for US, for their favorite human, and it seems you too are an arabian lover as am I. Any breed of horse I agree can be a great horse ...totally ....but I love my loyal arabs. So sensitive, so smart, so bonded and so faithful. And unlike what many think, they can be super quiet as well ....so much has to do with how they are handled - but this holds true for ANY horse doesn't it! Good and bad in ALL breeds. Some are so unfairly "labelled" huh! That would be super cool to see that other video too .... Have a great day. Hey - check out the Fiske's Cares group ....just brand new ...


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