Bitless bridles...where to start.
I guess I'll just tell you some of my+Lacey's story and see where that goes.
When I first got Lacey, she was fussy about the bit. She'd go fine, most of the time, but in the event of human/horse disagreement, she would would pretty much explode when any sort of bit pressure was engaged.
I had no idea what was going on so I basically stopped riding her for a time and just worked on our groundwork, while staying away from touchy "subjects".
One day I decided to hop on bareback (the first time I had ever ridden her bareback) with her just in her nylon halter and she was lighter+more responsive to my rein cues that she had EVER been before.
That led me to think that perhaps something was up in her mouth, causing these issues.
So I started riding her in an "Indian Hackamore".
As we progressed along, it turned out that she has melanomas in the corners of her mouth, due to being a gray. A snaffle/any broken bit first cues the corners of the mouth, then moves to collapsing in the middle, but the melanomas had/have robbed the corners of her mouth of feeling+therefore she wasn't getting the pre-cue, just the collapse after she "didn't respond". That was panicking her and causing the blowups.
I happily decided that bitless was best, for us, and continued along like that. But, my mare, being the relatively high powered creature she is, eventually got wind of the fact that there was little I could do to stop her, in the bitless, if she wanted to bolt.
She would go along fine, most of the time, but put her in an intense situation where she's a bit excited and watch me have no control.
I tried and tried to retrain her, soften her up to the bitless, replace her "stop" button, etc etc, but nothing worked. She'd be perfect in low key situations or in the arena, but get her a bit excited and BAM, no control.
Obviously, that's extremely dangerous and after one particularly scary ride (we were miles from home and the only way I was able to get us home in one piece was to ORS every couple of feet+have a vise-like grip on the reins+tight hold on her nose) I knew I couldn't just let it go if I wanted to be able to really ride my horse.
Anyway, I ended up having to do some SERIOUS reschooling on her with her in a low ported pelham (apparently solid bits are fine for her to use+don't cause her issues) and it took me months of riding her in places/situations that cause bolts+really surprising her with the pelham's curb "power", to get her over it. She had learned that she could bolt so why not, right?
Now she's pretty much better but bolting is one of those things that once it's learned, it's hard to 100% eradicate. At least now she doesn't need a curb to stop her, she stops fine in the snaffle portion of the pelham.
I even ride her bitless upon an occasion which she loves. Apparently the reschooling in a bit somewhat transferred to bitless as well. However, when we're riding bitless, I don't go places that'll cause her to challenge her training and I don't let her get too excited in it, but we do ride in it quite often with few issues.
And this, I'll add, is a well trained horse. She wasn't when we first went bitless but by the time she started bolting, she was well versed in most matters concerning the ridden horse. She stops on vocal commands, she moves off my leg nicely, I can control her with my seat, the whole deal.
She knew bolting was wrong but she also knew I couldn't stop her.
I had tried every retraining option I could think of but for her, she needs something in her mouth telling her things. I wish we could have stayed bitless 24/7 but she just couldn't handle it.
Basically, my thinking is that horses should be well versed in both. I think bitless definitely has it's place but I think bitless is probably not the best longterm solution.
All it takes is one bad incident for things to really go south or a bunch of little incidents (my mare had been being ridden bitless for 2 years before the bolting started), then that horse is basically ruined for bitless riding.
just my thoughts. :)
ETA: Geesh, sorry about the length, talk about a novel!!...and any weird typos. I don't have time to proof read...