To bit, or not to bit. I have a question. - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 24 Old 01-28-2009, 06:43 PM Thread Starter
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To bit, or not to bit. I have a question.

I have read of people teaching there horses to ride in just a halter, and even just a string. I wanna know how to teach my horse to ride bitless, and tackless, can you tell me how. Show me a site that does, something.
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post #2 of 24 Old 01-28-2009, 06:51 PM
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That is something that tends to be done more on the more versatile and trained horses. Generally many of these people use bits or hacks on theirs, and with more practice and understanding of whats being asked by rein pressure or other cues, then its done a little more often in the halter or on just a circled line.

Some of the more well known NH demonstrators use these techniques and you can find it either on the net or through their programs. Ones to look at are Parelli and so on.

If you currently ride with a bit, then its something to consider in using a hackamore and practicing with that. Once your horse becomes comfortable with the hack, then you should have no problems using just the halter and lead rope.

As for the circled string around the neck, its like any other technique you woud teach. Often, the rider will have a hack or halter already on, but as a reinforcer while training the horse to respond to the line. But this is something that unless you are confident and comfortable, it can have unpredictable results and takes experience.

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post #3 of 24 Old 01-28-2009, 06:52 PM
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You should type it in via google. They do have Dr. Cook's Bitless bridles new and used. has many of them for sale. Wikipedia is a good search engine too to search for "bitless horse riding". I ride my Arabian in a halter/clip reins and he does great. But of course you have to know your horse inside and out, make sure they're lunged, and that you do it in an arena/wear a helmet for sure. Good luck! :) It can be quite fun.

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post #4 of 24 Old 01-28-2009, 07:08 PM
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My old horses I used to ride in a halter a lot. My first pony I used to just gallop around paddocks bareback with no helmet, no shoes and a halter. He was fine being ridden in a halter with a saddle and stuff but whenever I went to pony club or something I would use a bridle. It took a little while for him to be okay with it. He was an ex polocrosse pony and could be pretty flighty and when we bought him they had this bit, forgot what its called but its like an unjointed bar with a D ring and a ring or two on top. Anyway I just did lots of handling on the ground. In theory halter riding is just like commands on the ground. Like pulling on the ropes to make them stop is pretty much the same with stopping them on the ground. I would just get them really good with leading and turning on the ground and it should be similar on horseback. You could even start pulling back in a direction to turn them rather than out.

I've never ridden a horse with just a rope, but I imagine that if you rode with both a halter and a rope for a while and gradually used the rope more and more you could end up using just the rope. You would need a well behaved horse though, just because a horse knows the commands does not mean he will obey them, and you are in a much worse position to enforce your commands if you have just a rope around their neck.
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post #5 of 24 Old 01-29-2009, 12:07 AM
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I would take a good look at the negatives and the positives to both the bit and hackamore. When you have a bit, you generally have more control over the horse. Hackamores are good but be sure that you realize that you have less control over the horse. My horse uses a hackamore and she does good, but when she acts up, it can be challenging to control her. I am currently in the process of switching my Nana to a bit. When I first tried her out in a D-ring eggbutt jointed snaffle bit, she did VERY WELL; Nana responded to the lightest pressure and stopped on a dime with harly any effort on my part.

I would suggest trial and error.. this is just my opinion though, you may do what you like with your horse..

Good luck

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post #6 of 24 Old 01-29-2009, 01:04 PM
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Most horses can be ridden in what is called a rope hackamore. Almost exactly like a rope halter, but with reins. I do it all the time on horses in for training, and when I am riding on the trail, especially in the winter, when it is cold. I start by making sure they obey all my commands on the ground, and then progress to under saddle. Make sure you can stop, back, and bend their head before getting into the saddle. Start out in a safe and calm area and then slowly progress to more difficult places. I like it, especially, knowing I won't hurt their mouth.
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post #7 of 24 Old 01-30-2009, 06:56 AM
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Originally Posted by Midwest Paint View Post
That is something that tends to be done more on the more versatile and trained horses. Generally many of these people use bits or hacks on theirs, and with more practice and understanding of whats being asked by rein pressure or other cues, then its done a little more often in the halter or on just a circled line.
Regarding halters, this is back to front from a lot of NH philosophy, as well as some conventional ones. The horse is started in a halter, and only moves on to a bit when it is educated enough for it to be used for communication rather than to force control. *True* hackamores(principally the same as a rope halter were actually designed for starting horses.

I believe in the above principles and think it's important to teach a horse well before attempting to use something potentially painful on it. There is virtually no chance of the horse avoiding painful bit pressure(and it causing other negative effects) if they are bitted before they've learned how to yield to pressure in the first place.

Some horses can be controlled more easily in a bit, especially if they haven't been taught to yield properly. But by the same token, using pain, or fear of pain to control can backfire, if it all gets too much for the horse, if he's confused & constantly fighting the pain, refuses or 'evades' the bit, if he wasn't desensitised to it properly & becomes a head shaker.... etc. While a horse that has only been ridden in a bit may need a few lessons before understanding the halter, I've had success 'rehabilitating' 'problem' horses purely by removing the bit, and I'm by far not the only one. It seems the pain or fear of it was their biggest problem & when that was gone, they were suddenly 'well behaved'.

However, riding with just a string around the horse's neck is generally a demonstration of more advanced work. There aren't so many who start horses free or with only a string(look up Nevzorov for one) but they progress to there.

Very basically, you are teaching the horse the same behaviour(yielding to pressure) but the pressure is on the nose rather than the much more sensitive mouth. The riding & cues can be essentially the same. You should be teaching the horse to yield to your body, legs, then rein generally, so that they begin to anticipate & you can do less. Obviously you want to start in an enclosed area, for safety, but also to give the horse a chance - you can *ask* for something, back it up *politely* with your reins & persist until you get the behaviour, rather than having to attempt to use force to control the horse. Once the horse is reliably responding to your body cues & you don't really need reins, then you can start(again in safe area, perhaps with halter as well for emergency) with the string around the neck... or nothing at all.
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post #8 of 24 Old 01-30-2009, 08:20 AM
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Actually, depending on the hackamore, they can be fairly harsh. There are very gentle ones, but others have just as much potential for harming the horse's delicate nerves and facial structure as bits to for causing pain and discomfort in their mouth.

I am familiar with having dramatic changes in a "bad" horse's behavior after switching from a bit. If however the horse has been introduced to the bit correctly and the riders have been riding appropriately, bits are perfectly accecptable.

How can you tell whether the bit contact you have with your horse is good or bad? Tack him up and ride as you normally might in the arena, moving through the three gaits and doing a few exercises. Then, get your horse into a nice, smooth and relaxed trot. As you're trotting, allow the reins to slip very very gradually through your fingers. If, as the reins become longer your horse begins to reach his head farther and farther down, this is a very good sign that he is perfectly fine with the bit. Of course, it's not a guaranteed 100% thing, but it's a useful tool and it's very good for stretching out their neck muscles. Another important thing is to keep the trot at the same pace throughout the exercise.

How can you tell whether you're anywhere near being able to ride bridleless? If you have a calm and fairly dependable horse (which you should if you're even considering riding around without the bridle). While you're in the arena sometime, let your reins out fairly long and loose. They'll be there as an emergency brake or steering if you don't make it, but try not to do much of anything with them unless you have to. Attempt to use your seat and leg pressure to direct your horse. It's important more than ever to look where you want to go. Start at the walk, try getting your horse to turn off the rail without your reins. If it works, try turning a few more times at random intervals in differing directions. If that's working out okay, see if you can ride a fairly precise large circle. Then try a figure eight... then a serpentine. If none of this is working out, you probably have a long way to go. If your horse is getting irritated with you, it's probably because you're doing something incorrectly and need to take a few more lessons from an instructor on really using your seat and legs. As always, be safe trying any of this.

As a side note, I've managed to get to the point where I can trot a three-loop serpentine without rein contact. It's pretty cool. I'd trust my pony in a hackamore or rope halter, but my mom doesn't so we stick with the bit. :P
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post #9 of 24 Old 01-30-2009, 01:06 PM
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One thing you need to remember is to ride as if you don't have reins...only use your reins of the horse doesn't respond to your energy, seat or legs. Play a game of "Don't make me pick up the reins" with your horse.

When I was still riding my appy, before he went blind, I was able to ride with just a string around his neck. But I didn't use it unless I had to. I was able to back up, turn on the haunches/forehand, sideways, downward transitions, stop, etc. with nothing at all. It's a great feeling! That's when you know you have a true seat connection with your horse. Now my warmblood, well, he was ridden on a tight/short rein before I got him so learning this kind of Freestyle work is challenging for him. But he's getting better. Just takes time. I know once he understands completely he will be phenominal.
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post #10 of 24 Old 01-30-2009, 04:15 PM Thread Starter
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I read in one of my old HI mag. that the use of the hackamore was to prepare the young horse for the harsher bit. The step after the snaffle.

Do any of you know of a GOOD riding halter/bitless bridle
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