Bridles & Bitless Riding

Frequently asked questions about our bridles and bitless riding

In our opinion yes.
A bit is already problematic for a horse if nobody is holding the reins in their hands. The bit always leads to a reflex conflict in the horse. Having something in your mouth, chewing, salivating means eating and thus reduced breathing and a closed epiglottis when swallowing to protect the trachea. You may know that feeling from your last visit to the dentist. You salivate the dentist’s instruments whether you like it or not. You cannot turn it off at will.
When the horse is running, it normally has a dry, closed mouth and a wide open epiglottis for maximum oxygenation. When riding with a bit, the horse faces the paradox of having to eat and walk at the same time. It solves this problem by pulling back the root of the tongue, pushing the epiglottis up a little. This narrows the pharynx. Now the horse does not choke on its own saliva as often, but it has difficulty breathing and has difficulty exhaling stale air. The oxygen supply is reduced to the point of acute oxygen deficiency. This explains, among other things, the stressed faces of dressage horses in competitions, which are constantly struggling not to choke, not to choke and at the same time to perform.
In our opinion, switching to bitless riding is always a win for the horse.

Prepare for bitless riding. Ultimately, we only do things that we feel safe doing.

Small checklist:

o Check with your insurance company to be sure bitless riding is covered. If necessary, change insurance.
o Read books about bitless riding.
o Look for role models. In every branch of horsemanship we find people who ride bitless. Read these people’s books, take their classes, etc.
o Find a bitless trainer or class if it makes you feel safe.
o Choose a bitless bridle that suits your riding style.
o Start in a protected environment. First ride in the well-known hall or on the square.

There are two proven options here.

1. You can start right away with a purely bitless headpiece and simply omit the bit. Most of the time, the transition goes smoothly and the horse gratefully accepts the new aids.

2. If you don’t trust yourself or your horse to switch directly to a completely bitless bridle , it is ideal to start with a bridle that can be used with or without a bit (e.g. Barefoot bridle 2-in-1). Here you initially ride with a double pair of reins – one attached to the bit and one to the noseband of the 2-in-1 headpiece. In this way, whenever your horse does not understand the new aid, you can use the bit to signal it with the usual aids.

Riders are often afraid to ride without a bit. There is a widespread belief that the only way to stop a panicking horse is with a bit. That’s wrong: You can’t stop a runaway horse with force. On the contrary, it frightens the horse even more in stressful situations when the rider causes him pain, for example by violently tugging on the reins, because the bit that rises up as a result presses hard on the palate and squeezes the tongue. This strengthens the escape instinct! A runaway horse is AFRAID, so off any pressure! Remain calm, sit still, never yell…. distract him from what is happening and, for example, into a volte to the side.

trust = security

You can largely eliminate dangerous situations such as uncontrolled runaway if you first gain the horse’s trust on the ground. Then it will also stay with you when it sees “little green monsters”. Horses are prey animals: If your horse jumps to the side, you don’t immediately react with panic yourself, but remain much more relaxed because you know your horse and can rely on each other and don’t pull the reins in fear “forsaken up there”. .

In general, when dealing with bitless bridles, you should be aware that these can also have a strong effect. Therefore, you should always be careful with it. There are also “instruments” for making a horse docile that do not require a bit, but can still have a tormenting effect, such as the Serreta, which is widespread in southern Europe. We would like to clearly distance ourselves from such bridles.

You will find a wide variety of bitless bridles with different modes of action. Choose the bitless bridle that suits your riding style.
Sidepull (Barefoot headpiece: Syringa, Amber, Acon, Seneca, Contour Trail, Contour Wellington, Contour Physio with Shape-it Nose/Soft)
The side pull is best known from western riding. The lateral influence on the horse is very good with the side pull, especially if the direction-pointing rein hand is moved a little to the side of the horse to steer. It is not so well suited for constant contact with the rider’s hand – as is required for classic dressage – since the bridge of the horse’s nose would become sore over time, despite the soft materials. The differentiated aids that would be necessary for demanding dressage work are hardly possible. However, if you ride with a lot of passivity on the reins, similar to western riding, the side pull is very well suited.
Bitless Bridle (Barefoot Headjoint: Syringa, Walnut, Contour Jewels)
The bitless bridle works similar to the sidepull. It also has a crossover of the extended throat strap. This gives the horse an impulse on the opposite cheek when accepting the reins. Since horses are used to giving way under pressure, they easily follow the lateral impact. As with the side pull, you ride the bitless bridle with great rein passivity.
Cavesson: (Barefoot headpiece: Contour Physio with Shape-it Cavesson)
The Cavesson can be used as a sidepull and also as a cavesson. It is also suitable for riding with 4 reins.
Hackamore Flower/ Bitless Bit: (Contour Physio, Amber, Oaklet, Acorn, Missoula Nut, Devon with Flower or Bitless Bit buckled)
The hackamore from our range is particularly well suited for classic dressage and for the transition from bit to bitless riding.
How it works: Taking a rein on one side causes the wheel to turn, shortening the nose piece, the chin strap and the poll piece. As a result, pressure builds up over the nose, chin and neck. In its own interest, the horse yields to this pressure and gives in.
With the hackamore, the help can be given very finely and in a differentiated manner and is very logical for the horse, especially if it has been ridden with a bit up to now.
The adjustment options are very versatile with this bridle. You can specifically respond to the head shape of your horse. Because you can ride with or without leverage, the bridle is also good for beginners who are still working on the rein-independent seat.
Even with the bitless bridle, you should always try to influence the horse as little as possible with the reins and concentrate on riding from the center of the body, using weight, thigh and tuning aids.

It is important to ensure that the noseband is fastened optimally. A horse’s nasal bone narrows and tapers forward towards the nostrils. This can easily be determined by palpating the horse’s head. The noseband should rest on the base of the nasal bone and not on the narrow “tail” in front. For many horses it works well if the noseband sits about 2 finger widths below the cheekbone.