by Cynthia Cooper
Over the past 5 or 6 years bitless bridles have increased in popularity and so have the number of available styles.
Like bits, they can have very different actions and levels of comfort for the horse, so choosing a bitless bridle comes down to knowing how the various designs work and what may be best for your individual horse.
In some cases, even the activity/event you participate in, will indicate a design that is more suited, eg. a rope bridle would not be accepted in the show ring but it suits training, endurance and trail riding very well.
So first we need to know how bitless bridles work in general.
All bitless bridles apply pressure somewhere on the horse’s head, and often in more than one place.
The top of the nose, side of the nose, cheeks, poll and under the jaw are the main areas contacted when a rider uses the rein, so lets look at the affect this has on the horse.
Top of the nose pressure is generally well accepted due to the training a horse receives in a halter, but great care must be taken to ensure the pressure is not applied too low on the nose or the fragile split nose bone can be damaged, and with severe actions (repeated downward jerking) possibly broken.
The nostrils can also be affected by a low noseband which in turn affects the horse’s breathing ability.
As a general guide a noseband is best positioned above the area where soft tissue ends and hard bone can be felt around the entire nose. (top arrow). This is also in line with the start of the pre-molars and 3-4 fingers below the cheekbones (side arrow).