Hello, all: What are your opinions on "bitless" bridles? I now have a 15-year old horse that's not been ridden for years and I have no idea of his tack history. I'm looking for general opinions on whether or not it's a good idea to re-start him this way or go with a snaffle. He was used for camping and trail riding, and is generally mellow.
If you want to ride him bitless, then there is no reason why you shouldn't at least give it a try. Whatever kind of bitless you choose to use, you'll want to make sure you can bend him to each side with the rein before you ever get on though. Also, make sure you're first few rides are in an enclosed area where the risk is minimized if he doesn't respond to it.
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.
you can always try seeing if he will pick up a bit, if he seems apprehensive you could try putting a little molasses on it to make it taste yummy to him!! and if you want to definitely go bitless i agree that you should make sure he responds to the rein aids on the ground. good luck!!
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