Revisiting bitless

I have looked at going bitless with Ben before now. I have tried a Dr Cook’s bridle, quite a while ago at home, which produced such a dramatic reaction that I dismounted sooner than I thought I would. I have tried a lightrider bridle in-hand and concluded from Ben’s reaction on release that his issue is with any restraint around his head rather than a bit as such.

So I have continued with my Myler comfort snaffle.

However, Ben has continued to produce large yawns prior to bridling and before a recent ride I paused, suddenly reluctant to put that bit into his mouth. We have had such nice rides recently. I have felt complimented by his coming up to me each time he sees me arriving at Sandra’s, even though it is always with a headcollar in hand. Sandra, of course, had bitless options for me and produced a simple sidepull, no more than a well-padded leather headcollar with rings at the side of the noseband.


We went straight out for our hack. During the ride I let Sandra and Cassie ride away from us and asked Ben to stay back. He required no more restraint than he would with a bit, and the bridle made me more conscious of how I used my body as I rode. My verdict at the end? It really felt no different to riding Ben with bit and it must have been nice for him to be able to eat some grass without being impeded by a bit.

The next day, I tried the lightrider bridle again. I had bought the rope version, as the English leather version was too expensive and the supplier was out of the beta model.


I don’t like it. It is fiddly to put on, requiring some fussing around the ears which Ben does not like. And in my hands it feels duller than the simple sidepull for some reason. When we stopped to talk to someone on the road, keeping Ben’s head up from the grass felt like a tug of war which I did not like. Also, the sliding piece under the jaw does not seem to slide very easily. (He possibly needs a bigger size – he is in the cob size here.) And visually, of no interest to Ben I know, I do not like the rope version on him.

After these two rides, my daughter came out to ride Ben. I put the sidepull on and she walked, trotted, cantered and popped a small jump and said that she forgot he had no bit.

(I have just returned to this post having been lured once again by the many choices of bitless bridle available on the internet – and, even worse, the many differing opinions.)

I am tempted to revisit Dr Cook’s bridle again. Since I tried it, Ben has had two craniosacral treatments which have definitely helped his sensitivity around his poll area and our relationship has continued to grow in mutual trust, so we may both relax more now with this bridle. I have been reading all the articles on Dr Cook’s website and they are very convincing.



Filed under riding, tack

6 responses to “Revisiting bitless

  1. june

    I’m looking at bitless options too – I’m sort of happy with the cheap one I got for Rose (and she is much happier than with a bitted bridled), but it has drawbacks, so I’m still looking.

    I’ll be interested to hear your updates.

  2. I have the Rambo Micklem multibridle that I use in the bitless configuration. I alternate it with Keil Bay’s regular bitted bridle (which had the flash removed years ago and more recently (about a year ago) I took the entire cavesson off. He seems freer in the shoulder with the bitless but sometimes goes better with the bit.

    I am wanting to go here and get this sidepull for Cody and for the pony (unfortunately we need 3 different sizes for Keil, Cody, and the pony so I can’t afford them all at once!):

    • Billie, thanks for that link. I like the look of that bridle. I have read Diana Thompson’s article about her bridle and appreciate the reasoning behind the jowl straps – need for stability. Her bridle is very expensive. I like that the buckaroo gives optional jowl straps and I also like the simple leather noseband – rather than a rope one.

  3. I think sometimes…..whether you ride bitless or with a bit — it takes a little experimentation to find out what works the best. Unfortunately with bitless, it usually means you have to buy an entire bridle to change something (unlike with a bit, where you just change the bit on the headstall).
    When I first started riding Grif bitless, we just used a rope halter and leadrope. It worked ok, but wasn’t fantastic and I felt my cues often got vague – which confused poor Grif. I went back to riding in a bit.
    Then– I used a padded, jumping hackamore that I traded for a rear girth for a western saddle (it was on odd trade, but it worked out because it was something we both wanted). I used that for awhile (longer than the halter),
    but didn’t always like it for bending and turning — the shanks would get in the way and rub on Griffin’s face and frustrate him. I went back to riding in a bit.
    My niece actually uses the hackamore when she rides (either Grif or another older horse that lives at the farm) and it works great for her — but then she’s just riding for fun and doesn’t do any bending or anything.
    Then a friend of mine gave me a Nurtural (crossunder) bitless that she had gotten for her horse (and said her horse didn’t like it). ….and so I tried that. Grif and I have now been riding bitless for 9-10 months and he is doing well in the crossunder. The only issue I have with it, is that sometimes the straps don’t give as “quick” of a release as I would like.
    I would still like to try an Indian bridle one of these days to see how it compares to the full crossunder (and Indian Bridle is similar to a crossunder but it only works on the nose on not the whole face) but at this time I don’t want to spend the money to buy one when what I have seems to work ok.
    Oh– and I almost forgot, I did also try a halter-type bitless with rings on the sides (similar to what you used), but Grif didn’t respond well to that at ALL. He just leaned into the halter and ignored my requests and I ended up with sore arms. It would have been easier just leading him with the darned thing. I ended up selling it at a used tack sale at a horse fair. The funny thing is – I’ve actually SEEN quite a few horses work beautifully in that kind of set-up….and seen other horses totally HATE the crossunder bridles. I think it all just depends on the horse and finding what you both like. The really great thing is that since more people are showing interest in riding bitless — more styles of bridles are being developed. It used to be that the only option you had was a long shanked mechanical hackamore…and now there are several options to choose from 🙂

    • Carol, you have obviously tried quite a variety. That is the problem – as with bits, there are so many to choose from. Well it is good that there are options now but it can all get rather expensive. And as you say, horses vary so much in what they like. Of course most bridle manufacturers sell theirs as the only option.