trail riding with no bit? - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 51 Old 02-13-2013, 05:38 PM Thread Starter
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trail riding with no bit?

Anyone here trail ride with a bitless bridle or maybe just a halter and reins or a sidepull? Blossom (my new to me 16 yr. old KMSH) seems to hate every bit I try on her. She rides in the round pen and around the farm with a halter and lead rope, but I'm hesitant to try this on the trail.

At her pre-purchase vet check, the vet rode her around in just a halter and gave her a great report. (I never expected him to ride her!) I've had no issues with her as long as we go out with other horses, but I know she's nervous when alone. I never, ever ride alone. She's just constantly mouthing the bit and dropping her head like she's trying to avoid it. Her mouth clamps shut like a vise when I go to put the bit in. Other than that, she's never refused to do anything asked of her and she's really, really kind.

She's had her teeth checked and floated so it's not a tooth issue and my hands aren't an issue. Her previous owner said she really liked a rider with light hands, and watched us carefully when I tried her out. She stops like a champ on a verbal whoa and is really sensitive to leg pressure. Would I be nuts to try this???

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post #2 of 51 Old 02-13-2013, 05:49 PM
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I would be concerned about riding in just a halter and lead rope with a nervous horse on a trail...especially one new to you. My first suggestion would be to make sure you have done lots of ground work with her to establish respect between the 2 of you if you haven't already.

Second, I would suggest trying either a bosal or hackamore on her to see which she is most comfortable in. I understand Myler bits have some good bits for horses with anxiety issues with bits, but I ride in a bosal currently for tuning up with my horse on the trail and it still gives me good control. Its my understanding that you need to have soft hands with the bosal too in order to be sure you don't do damage to any nerves, etc. I haven't rode my mare in a hackamore but I'm going to try it this weekend. I have a friend who has a mare that can only be rode in a hackamore due to someone tearing up her mouth in her past...she even barrel races that way. Hope this helps!
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post #3 of 51 Old 02-13-2013, 05:53 PM
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I posted a message in your profile about my experiences, w/a similar problem. Have you retired yet?
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post #4 of 51 Old 02-13-2013, 05:56 PM
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If you just want to trail ride and your horse is fairly bomb-proof and your communication with her is fine this way, then go for it. As for bits, there could be numerous things since it isn't her teeth - so many in fact that you'd have to just jump in and try things. She could have a shallow mouth, narrow - wide - need a particular type of bit to be comfy - she might like mullens, snaffles or dogbones - you'd just have to beg/borrow/steal from friends and try different things. Meanwhile, keep riding in your halter if it is working - no real reason not to!

As for hacks, I like the reinsman little S hacks when riding with groups especially when someone brings a horse that is a little 'off' that day 'between the ears' - horses feed off each others energy and the option to have control if needed is nice- the little S hack works with curb action and depending on how tight you make the chin strap, well - it can have plenty of 'whoa' down to 'nothing' depending on what your horse prefers. I put something on the nose part of the reinsman hack tho - a thin layer of neoprene - it is rough by itself - but a great addition to your tack collection for casual riding with friends.
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post #5 of 51 Old 02-13-2013, 05:59 PM
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I have a hot, foward seven-year-old SSH I ride in a rope halter excusively. In fact, I complete in endurance with rope halter. If it works, it works.

I've never had control issues in a rope halter. Rope halters are actually "harsher" than a normal snaffle bit. The pressure is just put on a different location. Some horses like nose pressure; some horses like mouth pressure. It's all pressure though, so soft hands apply. Bit doesn't equal control just as much as bitless doesn't equal "kind" or "easy."

I ride in a rope halter because my mare is "claustrophobic". She doesn't like having pressure on her mouth, and riding in a bit makes her feel "trapped." She locks her jaw, tenses up, and acts out. Nose pressure allows her to move her jaw more freely, making her less anxious. She's a whole new horse bitless. Still a handful, but so much better.

If you want to try a rope halter or sidepull, I encourage you. Make sure your cues are solid in the arena. Master the one-rein stop in your bitless setup before heading outside.
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Last edited by Brighteyes; 02-13-2013 at 06:01 PM.
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post #6 of 51 Old 02-13-2013, 06:08 PM
Join Date: Sep 2012
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Anyone here trail ride with a bitless bridle or maybe just a halter and reins or a sidepull?

Yes to your question.
I prefer to ride without a bit and so does my horse. Every horse is different and every rider is different.
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post #7 of 51 Old 02-13-2013, 06:29 PM
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I have ridden my horse in several snaffles to find his prefered mouth/cheek piece, a mechanical hackamore, an "Indian rope hackamore", a "haltamore", a little S hack, and several styles of rope halters.

He works best in either a simple, thick rope halter or a little S. I too have a reinsman little S hackamore and I have tried it on all of our horses and they all go pretty well in it. Rope halters too.

I haven't had any problems trail riding in rope halters or hackamore. I rode my guy on a 6-7 mile trail through the mountains and he was great. Control wasn't an issue for me but Skip is my steady-eddy. My mom's gelding is pretty forward and after a few rides in a rope halter he was fine. Didn't have a single problem on that same trail ride through steep, narrow mountain trails with quite a few other horses even though it was his first trail ride since we moved 4 years ago!
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post #8 of 51 Old 02-13-2013, 06:48 PM
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I have thought of riding with both a bit and a bitless bridle on the trail until I know how it works. Just have 2 sets of reins. Haven't tried it yet, but I have thought of it.
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post #9 of 51 Old 02-13-2013, 10:27 PM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by Cacowgirl View Post
I posted a message in your profile about my experiences, w/a similar problem. Have you retired yet?
Friday is my last day!!!! It can't come soon enough!
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I'm not a complete idiot--there are parts missing!

What you have become is the price you paid to get what you used to want.
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post #10 of 51 Old 02-13-2013, 10:41 PM
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I trail ride bitless!

I used to use an "Indian Hackamore" but that eventually led to my mare just running straight through any and all pressure I applied on the reins.

After retraining her to pressure, I discovered that she actually goes super well in a rope halter so I made one specifically for her, with rings between the nose knots and the chin knot. It's not great for any sort of "collection" type work but it's perfect for just about everything else.
I do avoid using it in tense or high stakes situations, just because of her history with the Indian Hackamore, but I'm sure she would be fine - I'm the one who's nervous! haha

Here's a picture of what I use (you can see the rings for reins, I had the reins connected to the chin loop for this picture :) )

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