Side pull or cross-under bitless bridle? - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 9 Old 07-10-2019, 08:27 AM Thread Starter
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Side pull or cross-under bitless bridle?

Hello!
I'm looking for a bitless bridle for my 8yo gelding due to mouth trauma. He has only ever been ridden with a bit and I'm a complete newbie when it comes to bitless bridles. We ride English and I mostly do showjumping. Bitless bridles aren't used much in my country so I don't have anyone to turn to for advice, all of my knowledge about them is from the internet.
I've searched around for available(and affordable) bitless bridles in my country. I decided to opt out hackamores, because they can be quite harsh in the wrong hands(or so I've read) and like I said, I'm a newbie. Side pulls and cross-unders were pretty much the only other option in my country's stores. I did some reading on them as well.
I read that the side pull works similarly to a halter. I tried riding my horse in a halter and it worked... sort of. My horse can get rather stubborn at times and when he does he doesn't react to any kind of pressure from the halter. I feel like the same thing might happen with a side pull. Also, since the side pull only applies pressure on the nose, the horse might develop a sore nose.
The cross-unders apply pressure to the whole head and seems like that would make getting my horse's head under control easier. This new type of pressure will be very unexpected for the horse and we will probably spend a lot of time getting used to this new feeling. A lady in a video said that cross-under bridles tend to have a bit of a ''delay'' when it comes to pressure and release, which makes it seem a little uninviting...
I really am like a horse between two piles of hay, haha. I really want to make the best decision for my horse, so I'd love to hear advice from someone who has more experience in this matter. Also I apologize for any grammar errors/broken English, I'm not a native speaker.
Thank you in advance!
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post #2 of 9 Old 07-10-2019, 12:20 PM
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Your English is superb!

I have about 12 years x two horses experience with the Dr. Cook Bitless cross under bridle. Both horses had mouth trauma.
One horse had a long, low neck and the bridle was excellent for him. The other horse had higher neck set and she tended to pull her nose in and twist her neck a bit in the bridle. I eventually put her in a sidepull, and she was much better. I had good control with both horses.

The cross under bridle must have a fairly tight noseband to keep it in place. And yes, the release is slow, and sometimes insufficient. The action on the whole head can be more confusing than a simple rein signal. It depends on the horse. I think they're great for horses with mouth trauma.

The horse that went into the side pull was excellent. A side pull usually has a stiff noseband for action on the bridge of the nose, so it is more powerful than a halter. The noseband is looser than the cross under bridle. Release is instant.

I think both options are great for horses with mouth trauma. Each has good and bad points. Like bits, it will come down to the horse's preference. Horses may experience confusion at the new signals, so an adjustment period in a safe enclosure is a good idea.
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post #3 of 9 Old 07-10-2019, 01:16 PM
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I have used the Dr. Cooks bridle and found it gave sufficient pressure to "control" my horse but also found a delay in pressure release and that to my sensitive horse was my feeling of no release of pressure = no reward for complying.
I don't use this bridle very often and my horse will carry a bit which to me riding with loose rein or gentle cues is kinder when the release is as fast as I can respond to his compliance.

I have no experience with the flower hackamore but it really intrigues me..
I know some here have used this equipment, but no first-hand knowledge of it myself.
This is what it looks like...and on a horses head...

I found it listed in several places of business from $53.95 - $29.99 so a vast cost difference for same design different manufacturer.
I gave you 2 links below where high and low price were seen so you can access and read about this as a possible option to consider of cross-unders and is still "bitless".
https://www.statelinetack.com/item/z...1-d3b32fee7ea4
https://www.chicksaddlery.com/tough-...ower-hackamore
...

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post #4 of 9 Old 07-10-2019, 01:25 PM
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My daughter had to move from using a bitless bridle to an "S" hackamore. The bitless bridle did not release enough for her sensitive mare. The
"S" hackamore has been great
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post #5 of 9 Old 07-10-2019, 02:34 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks for the replies! I'm glad to hear from people who have actual experience, unlike store clerks who just try to sell me the most expensive item. I might try out the cross-under.
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post #6 of 9 Old 07-10-2019, 02:55 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by horseyboys View Post
Thanks for the replies! I'm glad to hear from people who have actual experience, unlike store clerks who just try to sell me the most expensive item. I might try out the cross-under.
I have been using a mechanical hackamore for years on my peruvian paso. It is only harsh if you are heavy handed on the reins. My horse has always been super responsive with a light touch. He also does well in just a halter. I tried the bitless bridle that puts pressure on the poll but he was confused and just tossed his head and was not comfortable so I went back to the hack and he loves it.

This is him wearing the hack on a trail ride--
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post #7 of 9 Old 07-10-2019, 03:48 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by horselovinguy View Post
I have used the Dr. Cooks bridle and found it gave sufficient pressure to "control" my horse but also found a delay in pressure release and that to my sensitive horse was my feeling of no release of pressure = no reward for complying.
I don't use this bridle very often and my horse will carry a bit which to me riding with loose rein or gentle cues is kinder when the release is as fast as I can respond to his compliance.

I have no experience with the flower hackamore but it really intrigues me..
I know some here have used this equipment, but no first-hand knowledge of it myself.
This is what it looks like...and on a horses head...

I found it listed in several places of business from $53.95 - $29.99 so a vast cost difference for same design different manufacturer.
I gave you 2 links below where high and low price were seen so you can access and read about this as a possible option to consider of cross-unders and is still "bitless".
https://www.statelinetack.com/item/z...1-d3b32fee7ea4
https://www.chicksaddlery.com/tough-...ower-hackamore
...
Zilco, the more expensive hack, has an excellent reputation in the carriage driving world, and also makes a lot of endurance tack. Tough 1 seems to make a lot of inexpensive stuff. I wouldn't hesitate to choose the Zilco.
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post #8 of 9 Old 07-10-2019, 04:21 PM
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I have used the Zilco flower for hacking out with my (now retired) mare. She did not do well in the Dr. Cook's/cross-under style- she basically just learned to throw her nose straight up in the air and dive for the center of the arena with it on. I did not try it outside the arena.

The flower hackamore does have a small amount of leverage, but if you look at the picture closely, you'll see that the "shank" is very short, and you can rotate it slightly to increase or decrease leverage based on where you set the reins. I had mine set on the mild leverage option, and it gave us enough steering communication to do very basic dressage in the arena as well as hack out at all paces with no concerns about communication.

I'm going to try to attach some instructions about fitting it but sorry it's displaying fairly small- maybe you can download and make it larger


My horse on the way out for a ride:



Editing because the fitting picture looks too small- this is the link, but when you click on it, rather than opening web content it will download an Adobe PDF to computer if you are able to access that type of file: https://www.thehorseshoof.com/ZilcoFitting.pdf

Last edited by egrogan; 07-10-2019 at 04:31 PM.
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post #9 of 9 Old 07-10-2019, 07:26 PM
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I personally love my Dr. Cook's, and my mare does as well! When I first bought her, she was incredibly sensitive to the bit. She would back up dramatically when bridling, toss her head around, and refused even the slightest contact. She now happily drops her head into her bridle, and accepts contact with ease! I have ridden with a bit all my life, but her obvious discomfort with the bit really pushed me to find an option that worked for her.

I think with bitless, it is really about trying out what is right for you and your horse. My mare has taken to her cross-under Dr. Cook's really well, but many have said it causes their horses to lift their heads, it does not allow a quick enough release, etc. There is no "best" bitless bridle...the best one will be what your horse prefers and what allows you to feel safe and like you are able to effectively communicate with him. You may have to try a couple different styles to see which one is the right fit.

There is a style we have here in Canada called the "Nurtural" which you can Google. Not sure where you live, but it is a cross-under style with a piece that helps with the release issues that some have with the Dr. Cook's. There may be something similar for you to check out wherever you live as an option. I have also heard positive responses to using the Micklem style bridles in their sidepull setting.

No matter what, listen to your horse, and don't give up on bitless if one type doesn't end up working. It might be a process, but I think it is really worth it in the end. You know your horse better than anyone, so if you are feeling he would do well in a bitless, then it will be well worth the effort to find him the right fit:)
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