There are a ton of variables in play with your question. I started all of our horses in a Dr. Cooks, but I never had any intention of keeping them in it. We ride western and the ultimate end product is to have a horse that will indirect rein.
That aside, if you have a horse you trust not to run off under any
circumstances, then sure ride in a piece of string. There aren't many horses like that, so ride in what you are comfortable with and what you feel safe
in. On a trail, anything can happen. You need to be able to control your horse.
I would never go off on a lone unfamiliar trail ride in one of my Dr. Cooks. Some will say that your horse just isn't trained properly. I say come home safe and in one piece
Humane, pain free, bit-less head gear can stay in the tack barn.
He was absolutely fine when I first started using the bitless, a bit confused about the different pressure but completely fine. He was even getting to the point where he would put his head down, relax and go in search of the pressure. But how, it's like that one bad experience has ruined it all. I figure I might get a bit, something easy on his mouth and see how it goes. I would really like to not feel as if at any moment he could so running off all because I don't have control. I had other people with me and one very green horse and I didn't want to cause them any harm either. To be honest, I just didn't feel all that safe the whole ride.
Oh that's ok, my colt used to do the same, it's just that he's not accepting the aids as cues but as some sort of punishment or intrusion. Can't you take some time to train him to the reins in-hand? Use treats if need be just till he understands pressure on the reins is nothing to worry about. When he's happy in-hand try the same under saddle in a safe area and when that's settled, go out. But if you aren't sure, take someone on foot with you that you trust. My colt whent out hacking on his 3rd ridden lesson but I put a trusted friend on him and I whent on foot to help out if needed (like get him away from a car or something). If you can, also hack him in-hand. ~
I feel safe on a halter because I've done everything else with him from the ground (including hacking out) on a halter. He actually likes it better when I'm on top cos that means he doesn't have to move so slow, LOL!
My cousin's stallion was trained on a snaffle but when she found she could control him on a loose lead rope and halter from the ground she also started riding on a halter and it worked as well as with mine who never saw a bit. So I'm thinking what matters is mainly groundwork.
One thing on the Dr. Cook though: some horses get a tad confused with the crossover action (wich puts pressure on the cheeck from the oposite side) plus it has some leverage action. Practice in hand. If he gets used to it (should take no more than a week) fine, if not, try other bitless models, there many. Personally I preffer the snug fitting halter but it's best to try and see what works best on each horse.
And for safety reasons, practice the emergecy breaks (one rein halt). I've learnt to distrust any piece of tack that suposedly works as breaks since I found myself on a panicked horse with a double bridle that stressed even worse the more pressure I put on the reins! Eventually he was running nose-to-chest full speed not even seeing where he was going! So from then on, I rely on a sturdy halter and a sturdy reins I made myself that I can use to put that head werever I wish without inficting pain but giving the horse no option of escape. One broken arm is enough... (this happened with my mare, she's afraid of everything)
Oh, try and copy paste the links. Maybe the server doesn't allow direct link, I dunno...
i've been using it for over a year and he was accepting it perfectly fine. He's all of a sudden just decided he hates it. I've been long lining him in it, to build his confidence and change up his routine and he was doing okay, not so great with the steering as he tends to get distracted by anything shiny.
I really wanted to take him out in hand but there were other people/horses there and I didn't want to inconvenience everyone. He has an emergency stop noise that works really well. I just want to be able to feel like I have a little more control of him when i'm riding, not only on trail but in the arena too. He gets bored really easily and stops listening. So I circle and do transitions. All well and good in the arena but trying to circle on trail while his buddies are getting away just leads to madness.
I'm either going to look into a bitted bridle or check out some of the other bitless models.
If I remember right, the Dr. Cooks is meant to be used with one rein only not with both at the same time. If you are working on stopping, do a left/right pulling motion not straight back with both reins. Also make sure you are not just relying on the head. Use your voice "whoa", your legs and seat first then if no response use your hands.
Its been several years since my girls were at that stage so I may be wrong. You might go to their web site and check it out.
I did all that and more. The two rein stop is a lie, he just shook his head and pulled me around until he started to jig again. I tried the one rein after another, I tried sitting really deep, I was even throwing half halts in every few steps. I was saying "whoa" and "easy" and still I felt like I had no control. He jigged so much I couldn't walk the next day (i have scoliosis and am seeing a chiropractor) all because I couldn't get him under control.