I was looking into bitless bridles. Do they work? What's your opinion of them? Do you know where I can find an affordable one?
You should do a search on Bitless options. There has been quite a few older threads with the info you're probably looking for. Otherwise I'm sure you'll get some answers here. :-)
In my experience, horses either do really well with them or they hate them. May I ask why you're looking to switch to bitless?
Here are my feelings on bitless bridles:
- They are misunderstood. Many people want to switch to bitless because a bit is "unkind" to the horse - which is untrue, if you're using a bit correctly. In the wrong hands, even a halter is harsh. In the right hands, the most "severe" bit you can think of is just a communication tool.
- They are not a miracle. Horses still need to be schooled, it won't fix your problems. If your ("your" being used as a universal term, I'm not speaking directly to anyone) horse tosses its head and resists the bit, I would suggest looking at the horse's teeth, the type of bit, and saddle and bridle fit. By checking and correcting those four things, most problems are alleviated. For example, if your horses teeth are sharp and in need of dental care, and he's tossing his head and avoiding the bit and you put a bitless bridle on, he might act better for a little while, but all you've done is mask the problem. *note: some horses genuinely can't carry a bit comfortably - those with odd dental conformation, or a deformity. Also, I would like to point out that a horse with a saddle fit problem is unlikely to be changed much by a bitless bridle.
- Because of the point above, I am leery about looking at horses to buy that have been "switched to bitless." Usually the horse has/had something wrong that wasn't corrected, but rather masked by taking the bit away. Often my first question will be "why is the horse not being ridden in a bit?" and I get answers that lead me to think that there's an underlying problem that wasn't addressed.
- As I said before, some horses are fine/do better in a bitless bridle, and some hate them. Denny (my horse) is of the latter group.
Those are my opinions, and mine alone :) I come from a showing background, so that's partly where my opinions come from as well, where a bit is required to show.
I do not like them and do not use them. Mostly b/c I show and you can not use them in a show but even more then that I want to use as little movement of my hand as possible and using the correct bit will give you that.
My BO uses Dr. Cooks on the majority of his riding horses, including his stallion. People say it's better than a bit but they constrict the entire head and put pressure in a relatively narrow portion of the nose. I have ridden my horse in a bitless, a hackamore, a halter, and a snaffle, of all of them, the bit has the best response from my horse.
The bitless made him really "wiggly" in the body and I had to use a lot more leg aids. I found I had less of a contact and less communication.
The two biggest bitless brands:
I ride in a bitless regularly only cuz my horse fights with the bit. I like them
I agree with JDI's post that some horses love them and others hate them. The only thing that I will add is that you may want to find someone who is willing to loan it to you so that you can try it out on your horse before you buy. That way, you won't spend that money only to find out that he hates it.
I ride bitless regularly. I use a hackamore, one of those mild English types, and my TB actually drops his head/puts his nose in to it. He did not do this with a bit. If I could manage to get it on between tossing his head, he would stop frequently while riding to gape his mouth and try to push it out with his tongue or rub his face on his legs. It was only a d-ring snaffle and his teeth had just been floated, so one day I just decided to try him with his halter on in the round pen, and he responded quite nicely. After that I went out and bought the hackamore and haven't had any problems.
I don't like the Dr Cook design of the bitless bridle--it seems to place too much stress on the bridge of the nose/face area if you were to ask for a reined stop/back. (it looks like when pressure is applied, the reins tighten up under the jaw and bring the two o-rings together) On the wrong horse or in the wrong circumstance, that could serious injury. I like the LG type a little bit better.
I use an "indian hackamore/bosal" on Lacey. She really likes it, but I agree with JDI and smrobs, it depends on the horse for sure.
Mine attaches to your headstall where you'd attach a bit so it actually ends up being really cheap, since you're only buying the noseband. I got it for about $15 on ebay.
The only complaint I have with my bitless contraption is that it's difficult to direct rein in. Direct reining can happen, it's not impossible, it's just more difficult, imo. However, that has forced me to work on my neckreining skills which is good.
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