Join Date: Dec 2010
Location: southern Arizona
Try putting a bit in his mouth and see if he responds to it from the ground. If not, I'd teach him to respond to a bit on the ground prior to riding him with or without a bit.
FWIW, out of my 3 horses, one prefers bitless, one does best with a bit, and one doesn't seem to care either way. The one who does better with a bit does so because when he gets excited about something (in his case, anticipating cantering), it is easier to calm him down with a bit. With a bit, I can alternate slight pressure with my little finger in time with his shoulder, and he'll slow and relax in 3 strides. Without it, he'll fight the halter and get pissy. Given his personality, I think he just doesn't understand the cues as well bitless because he is, by nature, a very submissive horse.
With all of them, I find a bit can help for training...for example, if they tip their head out in a turn, then a bit makes it easier to teach them to tip their nose in and turn more from their rear end.
The only bitless bridle I've used is a side-pull rope halter. Some of the bitless bridles I've seen scare me far more than a bit does.
... Energy is an admirable thing, but the energy of stupidity seldom avails much..." - On Seats and Saddles (1868), Francis Dwyer, Major of Hussars (light cavalry)