Side Pulls - The Good and The Bad
I've been riding forever in snaffles or rope halters. I've done compeditive trail and I primarily trail ride and ride in the mountains. I don't love the idea of my horse having a bit in its mouth for 8 hours, or having to exchange the bridle for a halter during breaks, So I started riding in a rope halter. I find it takes a couple sessions to get them sensitive and flexible bitless(just as you would train in a snaffle) But that they like it just fine. Not very nice looking mind you.
Then last year I had a paint mare who had a very shallow pallet(could not stand a regular snaffle, it poked the roof of her mouth) and her previous owners just kept riding her in the wrong bit, getting rougher and rougher. I thought she would be much happier bitless(and I wanted somthing that looked like a bridle, not just a halter), so I started looking for bitless bridles. Both her and I HATED the dr.cook/natural style bitess. I'm not a fan of mechanical hackamores, so I ended up getting a local guy to make me a side pull. It looks fantastic and worked great on her.
Lately I've been using it on all sorts of horses, and after a session of flexing with it on, they seem to work as well or better than with a bit. I'm not going to stop using bits altogether, but I do see myself using the side pull the majority of the time. I even found an article about a very compeditive event rider who prefered to use one cross country.
For those of you who have used them, What do you like and what do you dislike??
I started both my horses in sidepull, and later switched to bit. Surprisingly enough they liked bit more: both didn't like the pressure on nose much. I used a very mild one: just a wide leather noseband with reins attached. I don't see anything bad about it, it's just up to the horse, rider, and discipline.
I love side pulls. As long as you have a horse who is not prone to be a freakazoid, I have no reason to put a bit in a horse's mouth. I do know some horses who just feel more comfortable with a bit, like my Shaman, so he gets a bit. Otherwise, I always start new horses bitless and only if I have to do we go to a bit.
My daughter's first horse, a very well trained ex-show horse Arab gelding, went everywhere with her in his side pull. I didn't have to worry about a seven year old not having soft hands, as the side pull didnt have a corrective portion to it, just informational - let's go THAT way! They did great. Someone stole it. :(
My 15 year old mare goes in a bosal (which I like the looks of better then a side pull). Hates a bit so why stress her.
I have a 6 year old mustang that was started 2 years ago then left alone. I put her in a snaffle and she is throwing her head all over the place as well as trying to get her tongue over the bit. I'm putting her in a side pull today to see if it makes a difference.
If you are riding Western, try a bosal but it's good to try in an enclosed area until you and your horse get used to it.
This is a pic of my horse and I from this past Sunday just before heading out on the trails.
I like the sidepull but sometimes you have to make more of an exaggerated cue with your hands. Nothing bad, but nothing hugely refined either. I personally would use one on a colt, then up to the snaffle, or if they didn't like bits go and show in a bosal (I don't know if you're showing at all). I trail ride my mare in one and she likes it.
EDIT: I should probably add that if you don't know how to adjust and cue in a bosal you should have someone teach you...
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