Horses have a vote. Bitless works pretty good with Trooper, although we usually use a bit. I may try switching Cowboy to bitless. He is a former lesson horse, and I think some of his problems (all in an arena - does fine on a trail) are caused by beginning riders teaching him bits mean pain instead of bits mean communication. Mia does not do well bitless...having ridden her that way for several years. She is very focused about everything, to the point of being a bit anal. 'Relax' isn't in her vocabulary.
Just as there are a lot of bits, there are also a lot of bitless designs. We used a rope sidepull. It is a very simple design, but a horse who didn't do well in it might do well in the Lightrider mentioned above, or a Dr Cook (although I despise the guy so I wouldn't buy one of his products) or even a leather sidepull designed to prevent it from riding up the horse's face.
Mia is currently in a western curb bit, and doing very well. I'll continue using it for at least another year, but may then try her in a simple hackamore.
Originally Posted by disastercupcake
A lot of people would argue that you can achieve a horse that is 'on the bit' and collected with no bit. Albeit it requires more time and training- but it can be done :)
For show purposes, that is irrelevant. Shows set up rules based on the more poorly trained competitors, since they don't want people or horses to get hurt. The rules are about 'what could go wrong', not 'what might go right'.
For non-show purposes, that depends on how you define 'on the bit' and how much 'collection' you desire. In many cases, some training with a bit would be required. That was why we first put Trooper into a bit...he was unbalanced in turns, falling in with the shoulder and tipping his head to the outside for balance. A rope halter won't fix that. You need more control of the tip of the nose. I suppose we could have spent months trying to teach him, but it was much kinder to Trooper to stick a bit in his mouth and teach him in a couple of rides.
Bits are for communication, not pain. When you are trying to teach a horse something new, communication is a good thing. I don't desire to ride our horses 'on the bit', but it would be hard on the horse to teach them more advanced collection without using a bit. It would be like using Shakespeare to teach a young child how to read. Not impossible, perhaps, but not fair either.