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Are Bitless Bridles Better

author
Maria Garcia
• Tuesday, 19 January, 2021
• 7 min read

A curb chain or strap creates additional pressure on the chin groove and lower jaw. Traditional witless options include the Sycamore, side pull and basal, with the cross-under design gaining popularity recently.

bridle bitless horse lg micklem bit bridles equine pull side simple bits hackamore ink less equineink 2008 comparison usef competitions
(Source: equineink.com)

Contents

Often seen in barrel racing and jumping, the Sycamore provides tremendous control, but must be used with a light hand as it can be quite severe. The basal and side pull, commonly seen in Western riding, work by applying direct pressure to the nose and are great witless options for neck reining.

Most horses tend to be more relaxed and free moving when ridden without a bit, and evasive behaviors such as head shaking, bucking, and bolting are reduced in a witless bridle. As a training device, a witless bridle can be used to retrain a horse who has learned to fear and evade a bit contact.

For horses with dental issues such as mouth, tongue or jaw injuries, the witless is a great solution to ease discomfort while they heal. While increasingly commonplace in trail, endurance, jumping and cross-country disciplines, they’re prohibited under US and Canadian dressage rules, are considered “unconventional” in the hunter ring, and not allowed in English pleasure classes.

When used properly, an experienced rider can achieve a level of finesse and refinement with a bit which is usually not possible with a bitless. This is a real concern for upper level dressage riders, many of whom find collection is more difficult to attain and maintain without a bit to guide the horse.

As with introducing any new piece of equipment, start off in a secure and controlled area, such as a round pen or ring. Begin with groundwork at a walk, adding plenty of transitions to allow the horse to get a feel for the new bridle before executing any moves at speed.

bridle english bitless bridles
(Source: www.bridlesandreins.com)

Dust off those 20 m circles and serpentine exercises too, so the horse learns how pressure on her face, instead of her mouth, feels. When you see undesirable behaviors like head tossing, rearing or evading the bit, remember to give your horse the benefit of the doubt.

If you suspect your horse isn’t as comfortable as he could be, or you just want to mix up your usual tack routine, give witless a try. When not researching or writing, she likes to spend time with a too-smart-for-her-own-good Morgan/Arabian cross mare named Bedouin.

This post contains affiliate links to direct you to some of the products that our research has found to be most helpful to your horse riding activities. Your purchases will help us to diminish the costs that we incur in the process of building this site.

First we are going to take a look at what a bridle is, what it does, and in doing so we can unearth why some people today would very much like horse owners to switch to bitlessbridles. Driving Bridles are used on horses, ponies, mules, or donkeys, in cohesion with a harness for pulling wagons, carts, carriages, or sleighs.

You could also include draft horse events in the use of driving bridles. The design is a halter with additional quick release cheek-pieces that hold a bit and reins.

bitless bridle micklem side pull multibridle equine configuration horses bitted configurations both
(Source: equineink.com)

Variations of the halter bridle are used in North America by the famous Canadian Mounted Police. At this point in the article we have talked mostly about bridles that use bits in the horse’s mouth for the most part.

Side one favors and sees nothing wrong with the normalcy of using all the old standby bridles that have been used for the last couple of hundred years and at least many much longer. A discussion of bitlessbridles for horses must involve, Dr. Robert Cook.

This witless bridle was refined in 1997 by an extremely experienced and published author. Dr. Cook graduated in 1952 from the Royal Veterinary College, London, and is a Professor of Surgery Emeritus of Tufts University, Massachusetts.

He is the author of two books for horsemen, Specifications for Speed in the Racehorse: The Airflow Factors”, and Metal in the Mouth: The Abusive Effects of Fitted Bridles.” So as you can see, Dr. Cook brings much experience and professional opinions to the table on this discussion.

Many fitted bridle users, simply like them because of their effectiveness in controlling the horse. Dr. Cook has studied this out through his studies, he has actually come up with over 120 different ways the bits in the mouth effect the horses' performance through pain caused by the use of bits.

bitless bridle leather ranchman horse circle bridles
(Source: nurturalhorse.com)

So why not go for the less painful way, if it can be shown to be as effective with using Dr. Cooks Witless Bridle. The good doctor shows us how effective the witless bridle is, and just how much less pain is inflicted on the horse, while using it.

One of the largest things Dr. Cook has found during his years of research are that just putting a bit in a horse’s mouth causing fear in the animal. Fear can cause the animal to do such things, as bolting, rearing, bucking, head-shaking, stumbling etc.

Horse Leather Sycamore Bridle A bit Witless TackCoronet English Horse Tack Company Sycamore The mouth is one of the most highly sensitive parts of the horse’s anatomy.

Dr. Cook studied horse skulls from a museum and found that at least 75% of them had bone spurs on the bars of their mouths. Reasons why the Dr. Cooks witless bridle is effective is that the pressure applied to the horse for the control is applied to allow the rider to communicate by painless pressure that is distributed around the whole of the head.

“ The Witless Bridle distributes its gentle pressure to far less sensitive tissues and distributes even this amount of pressure over a wide area. Essentially, it gives the rider an inoffensive and benevolent method of communication by applying a nudge to one half of the head (for steering) or a hug to the whole of the head (for stopping).

bridle bitless dr cook sercadia cooks
(Source: sercadia.wordpress.com)

Because the Witless Bridle exerts minimal pressure and spreads this over a large and less critical area, it is more humane than a bit. “ It provides better communication, promotes a true partnership between horse and rider, and does not interfere with either breathing or striding.

It can be a no-brainer to some, which side is better, but then others, have very strong opinions and reasons for their views. All horse lovers, and all western riding style lovers, will make their own decisions on bridles and bits, or bridles and no bits, when they purchase their horse equipment.

Controversy surrounds the use of horse bridles with bits, and the use of bitlessbridles. Recently witless riding has grown in popularity among knowledgeable, competitive equestrians.

Riders from all disciplines can benefit from using a witless bridle, even if it isn’t a permanent option. Depending on the type, bits are designed to put pressure on various parts of the horse’s mouth.

In these instances, or simply if you feel the need to explore a different approach, witless may be for you. There are many benefits of going bitless, and it can easily be used as a schooling style to complement your fitted work.

bits horse horses mouthpieces western bridles tack bridle types head different english popular saddles riding training parts saddle gear anatomy
(Source: www.pinterest.com)

These sensitive areas can easily become painful, especially when a harsh bit is used in conjunction with a badly fitting nose band. When a rider believes that the mouth is the primary channel of communication, the other aids become neglected.

Riders who want to take the step to witless may worry that they don’t have ‘brakes’ without a bit. This concern can be allayed with some professional lunge lessons, focusing on using the seat for speed control.

Better breathability Standard nose bands can obstruct a horse’s breathing, especially when done up too tightly or if badly positioned. Many normal bridles also create poll flexion, which can ultimately obstruct the airway at the throat.

More freedom of movement When a horse experiences discomfort in his mouth, he can’t help but to try to resist and get away from the pain. Other side effects of discomfort include tension, stiff movement, an unwillingness to move forward and head shaking.

Now he can work towards true collection, and natural self-carriage will develop as he advances in athletic fitness, hind-end impulsion and roundness of the spine. It features a nose band with a fulcrum plate underneath the jaw, which is also attached to the throat lash to create three pressure points, instead of one.

bitless bridle cook dr
(Source: www.facebook.com)

It features two straps which cross from the just below the ears, under the jaw, to the nose on the opposite side of the horse’s face. The actions that these bridles exert have been described as ‘head-hugs’ as they distribute gentle pressure around the horse’s head instead of in isolated areas.

Sycamores should only be used by skilled riders with gentle hands, as they have the potential to damage a horse’s nasal bones. It is a unique bridle which is designed ‘from the inside out’ as it avoids all sensitive areas on the horse’s head.

The most noticeable difference is that the cheek piece features a diagonal strap that attaches to the nose band, to avoid any pressure on the protruding molars. Witless riding often compels you to develop your aids more fully as you learn to use your seat and legs correctly, rather than relying on your hands to turn, slow down and collect your horse.

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Sources
1 globe.msasafety.com - https://globe.msasafety.com/selecting-your-gear/understanding-standards
2 globe.msasafety.com - https://globe.msasafety.com/standards-testing/nfpa
3 www.thebigredguide.com - https://www.thebigredguide.com/turnout-bunker-gear/approvals--nfpa.html