Bitless Riding


Have you thought of trying a bitless bridle or are you in the process of making the transition?

Jumping Bitless

Maddie jumping Whimsy bitless

I’m not a trainer who feels you must go bitless. I do believe that everyone should try it out and see if it works. If your horse can safely and happily work in a bitless bridle then it’s another step you can take to help your horse feel more comfortable in your ridden work.

I’m currently making the transition with my mare, Extra. She’s going well in the bitless, and I’m finding it’s excellent for keeping me honest about riding her body and not her mouth to give her cues.

Whimsy has been bitless for about a 1.5 years now and I’ve helped a number of students make the switch with their horses.

Bitless close up

I recommend trying out different bitless options. My favourite bitless solution is simply a halter or sidepull. Whimsy is ridden in a noseband which connects to her regular bridle cheek pieces. This noseband has rings built into it for the reins to attach.

I choose the sidepull most frequently because the average horse already understands how to steer well in a halter. Also I’ve found some horses have objections to the bitless bridles which provide pressure with a squeezing action on their faces. I also know horses that go very well in the head squeezers, so try a few options and see what works.

To prepare for the bitless make sure you practice steering and driving from the ground first.  It’s not a good idea to introduce new tack and then to ride off into the sunset.  Take the time to prepare carefully by checking that your horse understands how to turn, halt and back up without a bit.

Danna rides Lacey bitless on the trail

Danna rides Lacey bitless on the trail

Practice your initial bitless riding in a safe, quiet, enclosed space.  As with all training, once you’ve mastered the basics then you can gradually increase the level of difficulty and distractions.

I see a lot of posts on forums about horses in severe bits and also people seeking the ultimate bit solution.  If your horse is out of control or unhappy in a snaffle or bitless bridle then it’s time to check their teeth or see if they have other physical problems.  Once you’ve determined that your horse’s body is healthy then it’s time to put more effort into the basic training of your horse.  Any horse can go well in a simple bit or bitless bridle with the appropriate amount of schooling.

As with all bridle options, keep working on your balance, aids and timing so that regardless of what tack you use, you’re providing the mildest and most effective signals possible when training.