"Breaking" a horse in a bitless bridle? - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 12 Old 02-02-2013, 08:55 PM Thread Starter
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"Breaking" a horse in a bitless bridle?

I have a three year old arabian colt (love him to death) who is being broken in by my trainer with the help of me. We currently have him in a skinny little gag bit (we attach it as a snaffle) but we want something even less harsh. It needs to have a curve with segments, and copper so he likes the taste. Any suggestions?

Also, I really want to get him in a bitless bridle. First of all, I am not sure if that is a good idea this early on? Or if it is fine, do you have any recommendations?
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post #2 of 12 Old 02-02-2013, 09:28 PM
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I honestly would suggest starting a young horse in anything bitless. You want the horse to respond to light pressure on the face well and be willing to bend and stop without having to have the added force of a bit.
I believe that many horses should be trained up into a bit so that very little pressure is required and the horse already knows how to bend and move off of body pressure, but many people do it the other way around because they feel that it is easier.
You cannot get much softer than a snaffle - even "rubber coated" bits are still steel underneight and can apply just as much pressure & pounds of force as one that is not coated, so the only step down would be no bit at all if you want softness.
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post #3 of 12 Old 02-02-2013, 10:23 PM
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Old-School Horse Training Approach

I think a lot of bitless bridles are harder on a horse than many bits.

I haven't started a horse, just watched a pro do it with two of my horses. She felt that a full cheek snaffle gave clearer cues to a horse than most bitless bridles. From my very limited experience, I agree.

"Make the right thing easy and the wrong thing...well, ignore it mostly."
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post #4 of 12 Old 02-03-2013, 12:17 PM
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When my Arab gelding was taught to carry a bit, it was a half cheek driving snaffle with the mouth wrapped in latex.

He is now a coming four year old and is in a loose ring snaffle with copper inlay. He likes the copper. It has a more narrow mouth piece since his mouth is rather small.

I tried a french link on him and he did not care for that at all. I ride him in his halter sometimes, but only when we aren't "doing" anything. Just plodding around. He seems to get frustrated with how vague the cues are. He likes me to be precise about what I am asking him.

Listen to your guy and he will tell you what he is most comfortable in. We love the idea of being as noninvasive as possible with bitless, but the horses have other ideas sometimes.
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post #5 of 12 Old 02-03-2013, 01:23 PM
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I start all of mine bit less for the first couple rides. I use the Aussie hackmore. They learn how to respond off face pressure early on in a halter and if you do the ground work right - the aussie hackmore is easy as pie. Then once they are comfortable with the idea of a rider on their back and getting the concept of leg cues I then switch them to a mild snaffle.

The only horse I've trained that did not follow this progression was my husband's. Despite my feelings that every horse should learn to carry a bit he decided he wanted his horse completely bitless. We tried several options out there but found his horse responds best in the Indian Bosal and that is all he rides in and he is going on 9 years old.
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post #6 of 12 Old 02-03-2013, 11:30 PM
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Bosals are a great start.you can get a handle on a horse like no other in a bosal. I started a thread on hackamore horses in the training section of this forum, I would quote it, but I'm on my phone. It's called The Hackamore Horse. I wouldn't recommend other bitless options. You gotta know how to use a bosal hackamore though. So research needs to be extensive. And a thin gag bit?? Not mild at all! That is one of the most severe bits you can find, remember the larger the diameter, the more mild the bit...
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post #7 of 12 Old 02-04-2013, 07:02 AM
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I start a horse in a small diameter snaffle, as on a loose ring or D ring to be sure the palate has room for it. A young horse may not be able to carry an eggbutt. Lots of riders "advance" to rope halters without regard to the pain or nerve damage the knots can inflict when asking the horse to turn or stop. There's no fat, and only the thinnest amount of muscle covering the bone. With bitless bridles, the squeeze effect doesn't release as quickly as it should. Because of the action I've seen horses put their nose in the air and become difficult to control.
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post #8 of 12 Old 02-04-2013, 09:17 AM
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I was honestly taught to believe that no horse needs a bit in its mouth if its trained right from the start. Give a horse a good chance, never set him up to fail, and it won't need that bar in his mouth. The second horse I ever got was the first horse I ever trained. No one else has ever done anything with her except ground work. I'm a little thing, not much of a powerhouse and I'm not too forceful with any of my horses.

But she's never had a bit in her mouth, has been ridden for a year now, and nor will she ever have a bit. Mind you, I don't show. I don't enjoy doing that. I do trails and endurance, but she gives me no more trouble than any youngster would, and normally a lot less. Often times she's behaving better than the older horses in a big group.

My other mare, my first one, is about 15. Got her a few years ago when she was 11-12, and she was bit trained. She absolutely hates them; shies away and always chomps on them. But when I started riding her without one, she was a totally different horse. She went from a spycho to a good, trustable horse. I'm not afraid to stick my niece and nephew up on her bareback with just a halter anymore.

This is just me, but I hate bits. My little 4 month old will never have one in her mouth either! So... yes, starting a horse in something bitless is good, good, and good. And unless you're going to be showing, let your horse relax and use a hackomore or a bosal. Or even a halter! Just be gentle, because those suckers can be as unforgiving as any bit.
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post #9 of 12 Old 02-04-2013, 09:37 AM
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Originally Posted by Freelance Cowgirl View Post
I was honestly taught to believe that no horse needs a bit in its mouth if its trained right from the start...
Guess all the top trainers in the world are wrong, as are almost all of the top riders in the world.

I've ridden bitless many times, and it works fine for some horses and some needs. I'd prefer it, if I had a choice. But at least 2 of my 3 horses prefer having a bit in their mouth - based on calmness, a relaxed back, eagerness, confidence on the trail, etc.

I don't object to anyone riding bitless, if they are still gentle about it and it works for their horse. I do think every horse should be trained to ride with a bit, because many horses aren't going to be owned by the same owner for their entire life. And unless they have been taught and ridden both ways, you won't know which the HORSE prefers. And the horse's preference is not always bitless...

"Make the right thing easy and the wrong thing...well, ignore it mostly."
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post #10 of 12 Old 02-04-2013, 09:43 AM
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I rode a mare that had been ridden with unforgiving hands. She fought being bridled. When we were first walking I touched the rein so see how responsive she was. She immediately tried to fight me so I gave her lots of rein. When she was finished I asked again. This time she responded. The third time I asked she was now so light she almost left me on the ground as she turned so quick. What was I doing? I'd merely tickle the rein with my pinky. I trained my shetland like that and my good trail horse.
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