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Help with Bridles/Halters

655 Views 17 Replies 11 Participants Last post by  HarmonywithHorses
Just for a quick backstory, so I ride horses at my barn who have owners who don't necessarily seem to care for their horses. It seems like people tend to come and dump them there, as my barn has rates fairly cheap compared to other places around.
My latest project is a small QH. I've only used her bit twice, but it looks very similar to a curb bit, I'm assuming low to medium port. When I was trying to use it, she would toss her head a lot if I would try to keep her speed down, so I stopped using it. I don't have any of my own bits, but I'm thinking I might end up buying one if I have to.
Lately, I've just been using a halter to ride her. I ride in an enclosed arena. I have no issues with her if I use a halter, none with her going too fast, or getting upset if I try to slow her down. I do want to do trail rides, in which case I would likely have to use a bit.
So I guess I'm wondering two things: 1) Is it really ethical to be riding in a halter? - I've even been jumping her in it without issues, but I just want to make sure that there's no health issues that this could cause. 2) When I do decide to whip out the bit, what bits should I shy away from, and what might be good ones to try out?
Thanks for taking the time to read this :)
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Could you have her teeth checked as well to make sure there aren't any problems there?
She isn't mine so I'd have to ask the owner for that but that would be a good idea, I'll def bring that up!
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I know someone who trail rides all the time in just a halter. It is done sometimes, and mostly successfully. Also, if she goes nicely in a halter, couldn't you try a bitless bridle or a hackamore?
For sure! I was going to buy one a while back, but they didn't have any options for it under $80... but my $30 halter was already quite versatile in terms of size so it can fit any horse I wanted to put it on. It's definitely in my plans at some point!
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If she's happy in the halter, I don't see why not. Just be sure it fits her correctly. I have jumped my Pony in only a halter and clip-on reins. The horse I'm currently starting, I've introduced him to the bit but I'm only riding in the halter right now.
That's what I'm using right now, the halter and clip on reins. She just seems so much happier in it! I think it's so much better than the bit.
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I ride in halters (especially rope halters) often and keep super soft hands with them. I’ve never had any issues at all. I would just watch for signs of discomfort from your horse more than anything. She seems like a pony who lets you know if she’s uncomfortable. As for bits, I’d try soft ones… curb bits definitely aren’t usually too comfy for the horse so I’d try a Mullen mouth bit. They’re very gentle compared to a lot of bits out there! There are happy mouth bits that have been good as long as she’s not a bit chewer. Hope this helps! :)
Yeahhh, she's definitely communicative. She didn't do any head shaking since I switched, which has been so, so good to see.
Thanks for the suggestion on the bit! I'll look into one of those.
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Just continuing with riding with the halter.
One of my horses, I also ride with just a halter.
And I do everything with her on the halter, also outdoor rides and jumping.
She is always fine to ride and under control.
Why should you use a bridle, when the horse likes it with a halter much better?
Honestly that's how I feel! If any competitions require it, I'm DEFINITELY going to get myself a new softer bit because upon finding out more about it, I hate hers and I'm so glad I stopped using it. I was honestly just trying at this point to find out if there is anything exactly wrong with a halter, anything I should look out for health wise. So far, nothing, and I'm so happy about it!
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A lot of horses ridden in a curb are done so without contact. So, my feeling is that she was shaking her head because she was irritated with having you in her mouth. I only think that because she is so good and kind in the halter, where it would be less offensive and she likely wouldn’t have a lot of experience to make her feel negative about contact.

So, my feeling is that maybe you should just trail ride in the halter. People ride in hackamores all of the time. If you feel you don’t have the control you might need, you could two rein her with the halter and the bridle, just leave the bridle reins hanging unless you needed them.
Yeahhh, I have ridden several horses with the curb, but it's not generally a bit I use... I don't like the mouthpiece being just straight like that and not so flexible in the mouth. Most of the horses I ride already have snaffles, which is nice. Lately though I'm starting to get to the point where I'm buying my own equipment to ride other people's horses because their owners just aren't trying to get to know them enough to know their needs in terms of riding and equipment. It's so sad to see, honestly.
I've thought of doing the double rein idea, but she does have some pretty long reins on her bridle and I'd be scared of it getting caught on something 😅 for sure something to try though. Thank you!
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Since you said you were jumping her, I would think you are riding the horse English. Curb bits are not designed to ride with any kind of contact. The reins are long so they can have a nice curve at the bottom and be ridden super loose.

If teeth issues are ruled out, then I would guess she does not like contact in a bit that is designed to have very little contact. The slightest movement of the wrist (1/4-1/2") creates enough contact in a curb to tell the horse to slow down or drop their head. Expecially if the reins are weighted (double stitched and doubled over leather for at least 6" from where they connect to the bit) they give tiny cues and are better used for neck reining.

If you are wanting to ride with contact (and shorter reins), I would totally agree with getting a mullen mouth, a 3-piece snaffle, a regular snaffle, a side-pull, a hackamore, or continue using the halter. There is no written rule (that I know of) that says you can't ride in the whatever the heck you want. haha. I know people (much braver than me) who ride tackless on the trails and their horse is totally tuned in and they feel safe. When I was young and I bounced, I rode bareback in a halter everywhere except lessons and the show ring. Was it safe? Sure! I survived. lol. Keep yourself safe and the horse comfortable.

One last thing to consider is that while you are riding the horse and keeping her exercised, she does belong to someone one else. You don't want to undo anything they have done. You don't want to change the horse they bought for whatever reasons they had, into something that no longer serves the purpose they bought her for. If they wanted a horse they could hop on once a year in a standard western get-up and take off on a trail ride and you ride in completely different gear that changes the way the horse responds to the gear the owner is comfortable in, there can be an unintended problems. That being said, for your own safety (and comfort), it's always smart to have your own gear and clean it well between horses.
Thank you for your response!
In terms of your final part of the post, for sure, that totally makes sense! I'm jumping her but we def don't do jumping every week. Once March is over, I'm planning for either 1-2 jumping sessions per month, and then 2-3 western rides per month. I don't trail ride alone but especially as the weather gets warmer, more people will be willing to head out with me haha. But thank you so much for thinking of that aspect of it, I hadn't really thought about it that way!
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