The Bitless Bridle
 By Valkyrie   •   21st Dec 2009   •   12,495 views   •   8 comments
Let's face it guys, what could be more unnatural than having a finger-sized piece of cold metal shoved into our mouths and strapped to our heads so that we couldn't get it out? Not to mention being steered by it, often by rough hands so that the metal rubs at our mouths and sometimes causes us to froth and bleed. There are many kinds of bits, from the gentle snaffle to harsh curbs and gags, and everything in between. Every horse starts out with an unruined mouth, and the way we bit them decides whether or not they'll stay that way or develop a hard one.

Thankfully, there is an effective solution!

The bitless bridle isn't a new invention. In fact, horses were first ridden in them because their prehistoric riders didn't know what a bit was! It has been around for centuries, but isn't quite as popular as the bitted bridle. There are several different kinds of styles, each with its pros and cons, just like bits. They work by applying pressure to the horse's face, instead of its mouth. In the right hands they can be better than a bitted bridle, in the wrong hands they can cause swelling and rubbing and may even break delicate bones.

The most heard of style is undoubtedly the hackamore. There is a myth saying that these bitless bridles are cruel, and they can be, but it depends on who is using them. They are one of the oldest kinds of bitless bridle, and work off weight.

Another style is the cross-under. It was invented in 1988 by Rev. Edward Allan Buck. They are also called Spirit Bridles. The reins connect to a strap that passes between rings attached to the bridle, and go under the horse's jaw. It works by applying pressure to the nose, jaw and poll.

Riding halters looks much like a normal rope halter, but has rings that the reins can attach to. Control is acquired by putting pressure on the horse's nose. It does not use leverage or any type of restriction, and is thus considered one of the mildest bitless bridles to use. However, they are not allowed in most organised competitions, except for trail riding and endurance riding.

Bitless bridles are used all over the world, for many different reasons. Some use them to break in young horses. Others use them when their mount is suffering dental problems or has a sore mouth. They are banned from some types of competition, such as professional dressage, but are commonly seen in many disciplines such as endurance, Western and sometimes even three-day-events for cross-country and show-jumping.

Bitless bridles cost around the same amount as a normal bridle, and in the right hands they are a tool of natural horsemanship. In the wrong hands, just as a normal bitted bridle, they can be instruments of torture used to inflict pain. Unfortunately there are people out there like that. But I hope, by reading this article, my fellow PBers will realise the benefits in using such a bridle properly, and save their equine friends the injustice and embarrassment of having cold, hard metal shoved into their sensitive mouths.
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I believe it depends alot on the horse, some horses do better with a bit, others do better without. I have ridden a horse, a hunter, which was doing great with a bit, but then his owner changed to a hackamore, because the horses mouth was very sensitive... I couldnt ride the horse with the hackamore, I couldnt hold him, he was too strong - a shame, cause he was so soft to handle with the bit... So its not for all horses.
  Dec 21, 2009  •  9,999 views
Comanche Ranch  
I don't really like those, i have a mustang i'm training and she is very strong headed. She needs the bit in her mouth, or she doesn't understand correctly how to turn and stop with a bridle.
  Dec 21, 2009  •  10,095 views
All of my horse ride with a bit and a hackamore depending on what activity we are doing. If we are doing serious riding like working cattle i use a bit and if pleasure riding generally i use a hackamore
  Dec 21, 2009  •  10,011 views
Painted Skip  
I train my horse barrel racing and other speed events in a hackamore aka bitless bridle. I think she likes it more but i heard that if i want to do jumping with her too, there are some shows that dont allow bits,so i will probaly work with the bit and her after i get it down with the hackamore.
  Dec 21, 2009  •  10,121 views
I believe any horse can work in a hackamore if trained properly. A horse can pull on a bit too if their mouth gets hard enough. And another thing about bits. Depending on the horse and rider, a snaffle can be more disastrous than a curb bit because of the direct contact on the mouth. A curb bit uses leverage to push a chain, strap of leather or a pad covered chain to the horse's chin. There are also hackamores designed like this. All in all, there's no fact that says that either hackamores, curbs or snaffles are more humane, however naturally a hackamore would be more comfortable for most.
  Dec 21, 2009  •  10,040 views
I have tyed to convince my mom of this froever, but she says that I am lucky I have an English hackamore, and that other bitless bridles do not work. She thinks bits are way better. I think it depends on the horse, but I like the bitless bridles the best! I wish they were allowed in some more shows!
  Dec 22, 2009  •  9,998 views
I disagree! let's say you have a very spirted horse that's gonna run the barrel pattern. how are you planning to use a hackamore aka bitless bridle on that horse?? Some times hackamores are the best thing for that horse, but sometimes it's not, if you horse rears at the gate, I definately would NOT use a hack you would never be able to control that horse and you could get hurt!! But on my horse miles i DO use a hack because my chain bit bugs him and he works really well in a hack, Now if i tryed a hack with by other horse woody that would be the biggest mistake of my life!! Wody is very spirted and gets a little chargie on the barrels and if i used a hack it would be absolutely horrible!! Thats what i think....that not always are hacks the best for your horse :)
  Dec 26, 2009  •  10,053 views
Ebony Acres  
I use a Hackamore on a gelding at my stable. I went to a Halter-bridle show and I did english, so I needed a bridle. BIG MISTAKE! I trained in a BB! He HATES the bridle and trying to get him in it.... YA!
  Feb 19, 2010  •  10,000 views
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