Bridles- bits, sidepulls, hackamores (Oh my!)
Now, I imagine my real answer to my question will be, as usual, "Whatever works for you and your horse." BUT the question I have is: is there any real advantage or reason in endurance riding specifically to choose a typical bridle and bit or a sidepull or a bosal or a XYZ over any of the others?
I am hoping to do a limited distance ride (our first real ride!) some time summer 2013, and I am beginning to think about what I need aside from a fit horse and a fit me. I know people ride in every combination under the sun, and saw that when I crewed a ride a while ago.
Is there really an advantage in having a bridle that doesn't place something in the horse's mouth? Is it really that difficult to bridle/halter switch and back during rests assuming your horse is normally good for that anyway? My horse is happy to eat and drink with his french link bit, and while I would take it out at rests, it doesn't seem to phase him when there's a tasty trail side snacking opportunity, nor has he ever seemed to have difficulty chewing or choked doing so. I ride him in a flat halter and lead rope near home and he's not much of a bolter, so I imagine I could train him to some other mouth-free gadget if there was a real reason to.
Some people think that it's more comfortable for the horse to travel long distances without metal in their mouth. They also think it will be easier for the horse to eat, drink, and chew with no bit.
And they may be right in some cases. Some horses take better care of themselves without a bit to interfere. (My horse is among them; she rides in a rope halter.) Depending on the horse and their mouth conformation, carrying a bit may be bulky and make it uncomfortable to eat and drink.
I've also found that some horses just genuinely like nose pressure better than mouth pressure. (On the flip, some horses hate nose pressure and do better on mouth pressure.)
I hate to tell you... But it depends on your horse whether trying bitless would be worth your wild. :lol: Friends on mine have attempted to go bitless for the comfort of their horses and failed; their horses just didn't like it! They went back to a bit and the horses were just fine with it. If it isn't broken, sometimes you just don't need to fix it.
depends on your horse, use what works, some riders will use a bit on the first loop, then switch to a hackamore on the second for better eating and drinking. I see "South Texas" in your profile, I dont think Id pick summer as a first ride, either get in shape and head out before it gets hot or wait till fall. Im not a fan of super mild controls like rope on a halter, a horse that can travel like that can travel in a bit. Big difference on race day than on training days. You may need the brakes.
I just wanted to make sure that if my guy was comfortable in his tack, there wasn't some big advantage to bitless I was missing. I will be moving, so while I am hoping to make our first ride this summer I can't say yet which it will be, but it definitely won't be down here!
Did 9 miles today at a nice easy pace (5.5mph) and everyone ended happy and comfy. Still working on finding a 'long' trail.
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It's really personal preference. My horse is more relaxed bit less and less worried about the bit - I'm finally figuring out that his mouth is so darn tiny he's actually in pain with any bit I've tried so far. No wonder he goes better bit less. I've actually never had a bit on him at ANY ride - but I'm very lucky that I have a horse that thrives at rides and doesn't loose his mind like some people's horses do. Plus, he is much more free to eat and drink, and you really need to do whatever you can to make sure your horse takes care of himself. For me, this is my solution.
I'd recommend a halter/bridle combo regardless of whether you decide to use a bit. I actually have a halter/bridle/sidepull combo - I make and sell custom tack, and I'd be happy to help you out with your own piece whatever you decide. Otherwise, I purchased a Zilco one originally, but I found I like mine much better because I can use it as a true side pull, whereas Zilco's must be used as a headstall for some sort of hackamore or bit.
It may not seam like much work to switch back and forth.... but you can't imagine how much that little bit will help until you've endured an actual ride. If you want to use a bit, I really do recommend getting a combination bridle so you don't have to take things off and on. Plus, I really like being able to get off and lead without having to lead by the reins and pulling on a bit in his mouth. I've seen a lot of people ride with halters under their bridle, but that can lead to rubs since they weren't made to work that way, often interfere with pressure points, and can cause rubs. Over the course of 25 or more miles, those can become pretty bad (I do also make a halter specifically designed to go under bridles)
In sum, do what works best for you and your horse at all times. And make your life as easy as possible at a ride - you'll be glad you did.
My bridle is one that is easy to snap the bit right off when we take a break so she can eat.
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