How do you use a bitless bridle?
First do some ground work to teach your horse about the new bridle. Lead them in the bitless bridle as you would in a head collar in your usual arena or space where you and your horse feel safe. Over several training sessions ask your horse to turn, slow, speed up, stop and back up to a light pressure from the reins. When your horse is consistently responding to your requests then repeat the exercises when riding - at walk in the same environment.
Most riding instructors and coaches train riders whatever their preferred equipment. If you are concerned and would like some support in making the transition to using a bitless bridle, your coach can support you with usual coaching as you gain confidence. There is an excellent guide to starting your horse in a bitless bridle here.
How do you control a horse in a bitless bridle?
In cases where the rider struggles to control the horse it is often the bit that is causing the problem whether the training is good or bad. Many riders have found that once they take the bit away that the horse starts to relax, listens and responds better than when ridden with a bit. Horses should understand light signals from the hand, seat and leg of the rider because they have been well trained, not because they are responding to excessive force. Force puts pressure on the horse physically, which can lead to pain. Horses may try to escape from pain or even fight against it - excessive force has no place in the training of horses.
Do you need a specialist trainer to ride in a bitless bridle?
No. All good coaches and trainers should be able to coach you in either a bitted or bitless bridle. The important issue is how the horse is trained and that he is comfortable and responsive to light aids and cues.
Frequently asked questions
Can I ride my horse in a bitless or a bitted bridle at different times?
Yes, as long as the horse accepts both bridles. As an owner you may find that performance, communication or safety is better with one bridle in different situations. That could be either the bitless or bitted one.
Thinking of going bitless?
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Would you like to find out more about the pros and cons of going bitless? Have a look at our list of recommended resources here.
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Can bitless bridles help horses with behavioural or training problems like bolting, bucking or running out of jumps?
Yes in some cases. A bit can be the cause of behavioural problems even after the horse has been trained extensively in a bitted bridle. Some horses may find the presence of a bit in their mouth to be stressful, invasive or painful.
Which bitless bridle should I try first?
All horses are individuals and may prefer a different style of bitless bridle. There is a variety of good bridles on the market. Go to our resources page for information.
Is it true that bitless bridles have to be tightly fastened on the horse's nose ?
No. The noseband should be fitted correctly with at least 2 fingers gap between the bridle and the horses's face.
Can I be insured in a bitless bridle on the roads?
Yes. You can also take your British Horse Society Riding and Road safety test in a bitless bridle. Check with your insurer in writing - but the Highway laws do not dictate that you must ride in a bridle with a bit.
Are bitless bridles safe for juniors and ponies?
Yes. The evidence shows that the bridles are no less safe than a bitted bridle for children. Please go to our resources page for more information.
What is the difference between a modern bitless bridle and a Hackamore?
The Hackamore is a 'mechanical' leverage bridle, which we do not recommend as it relies upon force rather than good training. Modern bitless bridles and bitted bridles are not mechanical bridles.
Will a bitless bridle hurt my horse's nose or will it rub his teeth against his cheeks?
A correctly fitted bitless bridle used with lightness will not damage cheeks or noses. All horses should be regularly checked by a registered equine dentist for sharp edges on their teeth so that any chaffing or ulceration cannot take place in any bridle.
What competitions can I use a bitless bridle in?
Currently there are some competitions that you can ride in a bitless bridle 'legally', but unfortunately some disciplines do not allow the rider to compete in a bitless bridle. Check with the competition organisers before entering if you want to compete bitless.
Is there scientific evidence to support the use of bitless bridles?
Yes on the grounds of welfare, ethics and safety, please see the links to scientific studies on the resources page.
Are there any bitless bridles that are not recommended?
We do not recommend mechanical hackamores, pressure halters or rope halters because they can be severe and cause pain. Rope halters are not accepted as bridles as their function is primarily for leading and ground work and the central loop to attach the reins does not give a clear signal - the thin cord can also be used excessively and cause injury when used with force.
Why can't I compete bitless in competition?
You can compete bitless in some unaffiliated competitions. But in affiliated competitions run by some equestrian organisations you cannot compete in a bitless bridle.
Why is it important to have choice in competitions?