Normally I ride my horse with a basic English hunter bridle and a D-ring snaffle. I am really interested in natural horsemanship so I decided that I want to try hacking in a bitless bridle. Does anyone have advice on how to make the transition go as smooth as possible? Is there anything important I should know about the difference in giving commands/contact? The bitless bridle I am going to be using is a rope hackamore: https://ny-image2.etsy.com/000/0/525....201259666.jpg (I think it's an Indian style bosal?)
Note: I have already okayed trying a hackamore with my trainer. My horse is a hunter/jumper ex-racehorse Thoroughbred. He has a very good mind, but can be a little "happy" sometimes (don't know if that makes a difference).
Welcome to the Forum! Great question, I just went through the billions of forums on here on bitless bridles and settled on which one fit me and my horse best too.
Here's a sum up of what I've learned.
The rope bridle you posted is a cross under, same concepts as Dr. Cook's or Nutural, I would recommend you go with either of those two before going with a rope alternative. The rope one in your photo has many knots which each lay on pressure points - this makes this bridle VERY strong (too strong IMO). I'd personally prefer to put a milder piece of tack on and teach the horse properly how to respond to it. Being an English rider you may be looking for something with a more 'classic' look? Dr. Cooks and Nutural both look like a regular bridle, it takes a minute to notice you don't have a bit ;)
My personal choice was an Indian Hackamore which is similar to what you've got in that photo but not quite.
This is just a nose band that attaches to any head stall (so it can look as classic or as crazy as you like) :) It crosses under, just under the chin rather than across the whole face. I preferred this because, to me, it had more clear turning and stopping power. I own one just like in the photo. Pros were, it's fantastic my mare responds perfectly to it. The part the reins clip to, crossing under the chin, runs through metal rings (as opposed to rope loops) so the release is more immediate. The only con I found is that the material was a little rough, I was afraid of it rubbing her fur (it didn't I was just afraid) so I put fleece on it and it's been perfect ever since :)
Of all the bitless option Dr.Cooks/Nutural and Indian Hackamores are my favorite for direct reining. :) I've also seen some where it's just a rope noseband with rings on the sides - this is probably the nicest I've seen, but may not have the strength you may need?
Good luck - have fun!
Its lovely that you are thinking of a kinder way to ride your horse. I think the photo shows a bridle that would tighten up way too much for my liking.
In my opinion...... if you want to ride safely in a natural horsemanship type halter/hackamore then may I suggest you get yourself into a training programme such as Parelli or Quantum Savvy and learn how to do this from the basics on.
My pony was ridden in a gag by her previous owners, both dutch and running. If I had transitioned straight to riding in halter I think things may have gone very badly for me, she is spooky runaway....
I have never ridden her in a bit.
You may disagree with my opinion and I would not be upset.
The placement of those knots on his nose can damage the nerves that run up his face to both sides of his eyes. It wouldn't take much to damage those nerves. Best to go with something with a flat noseband. I don't know where people get the idea that riding without a bit then switching to something with a scissor action is "natural". Try riding with just a rope around his neck. That's more natural or better yet, no rope. And bareback to boot.
Thanks everyone for the advice. I didn't realize that the knots were so harsh, and unfortunately I have already paid for it, however I have asked the person who is making the hackamore to not include the knots, this way it will be more just like a regular rope halter.
I will look into Dr. Cook's bitless bridles to try before riding in the rope hackamore. This sounds look a good option because I want to eventually be able to ride with a halter or with just a rope, but I need to be safe and learn first.
Saddlebag: I appreciate your concern for the horse, I would never ever want to do anything that would hurt him or damage his nerves. I'm not at the point where riding him with just rope or completely without anything wouldn't be safe yet. However, I am working with him so hopefully I can get to that point.
Oh my.. I would try a rawhide core bosal and mecate OR a double rope side pull if I wanted to go "bitless."
FWIW a properly fitted bit and bridle is not cruel.. it is the way anything is used that can be cruel. A horses that travels happily and correctly for you in the tack you are using is just that.. happy.
There is a good lot of truth in the saying, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it."
Yes, proper bits and bridles are perfect for what they're designed to do. But if you're interested in bitless options I agree with Saddlebag that going for something more severe than a bit is silly - which I think what you've got is more severe unless those nose knots are gotten rid of.
Look up Dr.Cooks or Nutural (they're the same concept, different companies) They're worth it. I like the Indian hackamore for my mare because it IS stronger, it gives me a little more control when she spooks or if she were to throw a tantrum (which she hasn't done mounted yet *knock on wood*)
If you want to eventually ride with just a halter or a rope around their neck I would suggest an Indian Hackamore, as it's closer to a halter. I would suggest not riding in a rope halter, this is my preference. The knots are good for moving pressure(like wiggling for backing up), but not for constant pressure like we use with reins. I would also suggest working on getting your horse more focused on leg cues and responding better to the rest of your body before transitioning lower than a mild bitless option.