A bitless bridle uses pressure points on the nose instead of the mouth to control a horse’s steering, slowing, and stopping. There are three traditional varieties, and they are often used on horses with mouth injuries or tooth problems, young horses, and for endurance and trail riding. The controversy over bitless bridles is left to rider preference and experience. Novice riders experiment with different types of bridles, while experienced riders rely less on bridle control.
A bitless bridle is a horse bridle that does not have a traditional mouthpiece or bit. A bridle works by using pressure to point or signal a horse for the rider to control steering, slowing, and stopping. Rather than relying on the pressure points in the mouth, as a bitless bridle does, a bitless bridle works with the pressure points on the nose. As with all bridles, the bitless bridle is made from various materials including rawhide and occasionally metal.
A bitless bridle has three main traditional varieties: the bosal hackamore, the mechanical hackamore, and the sidepull. How a bitless bridle fits a horse and provides control varies by type. There are several circumstances that may justify a rider choosing one type of bitless bridle over another.
Primarily, regardless of type, the bitless bridle provides control using sensitive pressure points on a horse’s head rather than in the mouth. For this reason, many riders will use a bitless bridle on a horse that has suffered a mouth injury or has tooth problems. Similarly, some riders choose to start a young horse with a bitless bridle. The bitless bridle is often used for endurance and trail riding. While some equestrian events, such as rodeos and show jumping, allow most types of tack, many events do not allow bitless bridles.
While there is much controversy among riders regarding the use of a bitless bridle over a bit bridle, much is left to rider preference and experience along with riding circumstances. Some people argue that bitless bridles are more humane than bits, although others believe that all bridles are humane when used by an experienced rider.
Most novice riders prefer to experiment with different types of bridles until they learn to gauge their own and their horse’s responses. Experienced riders tend to rely less on bridle control as they learn to ride with their legs and body instead of relying on a bridle.