Why I ride bitless.

So. Since posting my simple little post on winning my Dr. Cook (which I'm eagerly awaiting....) I had a few people on Instagram yell at me for hating bits.


I wanted to do a post here, even though I know y'all know most of my reasons, just to clear things up. I do not hate bits at all, but as I've researched, used different things, been on different horses, I've come to the conclusion that they aren't as necessary as people seem to think. For instance, I was talking to a follower of my instagram account that I've ended up being fairly good friends with, she has a horse that gets uncontrollable in the saddle and asked me what we did for Spirit. The answer was, circles, don't take the horse out for runs until you have them settled down, stay calm in the saddle, when you mount, don't just "GO!" but sit and walk and wait so the horse doesn't think saddle time=running time. We switched Spirit from a typical barrel racing bit (I have no idea what it was called or even looked like, mom dealt with that, but from what I understand, it was a pretty strong bit) and put him on a snaffle because he's sensitive on his face and can't handle a hack. After time, my mom barely has to touch her reins and use the bit, it's just kind of there. She on the other hand turned to severe bits, crops, spurs and etc. In my opinion (and you can all debate with me on this, haha) a severe bit and other forms of metal is never the answer. I actually directed her to Mare's post on bits and told her to read the comments because a lot of them were amazing and they put the facts into better words than I could've. The girl doesn't show, so she doesn't HAVE to use a bit (more on that later....) so I sent her a link to some bitless bridle sites and showed her the comments and articles. Yes, bitless bridles work on hard to handle horses. In fact, they tend to make those horses even better. With the bitless, you control the head and with a bit, you control less. So if we look at it that way, we shouldn't be shoving painful bits in their mouths but the opposite.

The other day, I watched a video on the effects of the bit and I wanted to post it before I continue. Even though I'm NOT 100% against bits and I don't expect you all to jump on my bandwagon, it's a very interesting video (even if you hate bitless, lol) and it teaches us a lot.

And that's just part one, but I don't feel like part two is necessary.

Whether we notice it or not, bits, a lot of the time, cause pain. If we were to put a metal bit in our mouths and have someone pull on it in our sensitive mouths, having to do what the horse does, jump, go through trails, walk/trot/canter, we probably wouldn't enjoy it as much.

 The only reason I started riding bitless is because Red came with a hackamore. I didn't necessarily think about bits at all. Foolishly, I put a bit in Red's mouth, a simple snaffle bit and he told me that I wasn't listening enough. He freaked out and I went back to the hack. When I got my English tack, I put my spare hack on the bridle, just a rubber hack, and he was obviously in pain because of it. I hopped off in the barn and put my finger where his cheeks were and the rubber hack started pinching my fingers when I tugged the reins, this would hurt me a lot if someone was constantly pulling on the reins like I had just been. So I went back to my leather hack that had been fitted to him and noticed it was better, but not painless. And it got me thinking...if I don't like bits as much as I say I do, why do I like hackamores? They have the ability to cause pain, just like a bit, if not more than a bit. The pain is just in a less sensitive place.  A lot of my fellow natural horsemanship lovers claim that hacks are natural, more natural than bits, but in all honesty, when you dig down deep, they aren't at all. If we believe bits don't have a place in natural horsemanship, the hackamore shouldn't either.

Winning this giveaway has made me research a lot more, not only on what goes in my horse's mouth, but what goes on his head. I think most people just say, "people have been doing it for years, so it's fine!" or "horse's are strong, they can deal with it." but they don't seem to grasp that while people have been doing it for years, we've developed different methods that may not work as well with a bit..and maybe those horse's in history were in pain? While the horse's are one of the strongest animals out there, they can still feel pain.

Now, onto the whole "well bitless bridles are banned in shows so we can't do it." thing, honestly, this is my main reason that I don't show. If I did, I'd have to put a bit in Red's mouth that I know he hates and make him do something he dislikes. But really..why are they banned? Why can't I go to a show in a bitless bridle? You helmet wearers get mad when helmets aren't a must at shows because you think of the rider's safety, which is awesome, but I don't understand why we aren't mad about the bit thing? A bitless horse can do anything a bitted horse can.
They can jump. (From Dr. Cook's site)

They can barrel race. (From Dr. Cook's website)

They can drive. (From Dr. Cook's facebook page)

They can event. (From Dr. Cook's facebook page)

They can do dressage. (From Dr. Cook's facebook page)

Red has been able to successfully dabble in dressage, trails, western pleasure and etc at the farm...all bitless. I'd love to know why we don't have the ability to ride bitless in shows because there is no possible good reason that we can't.

In pictures, you see the horse's mouth opened to relieve itself of the bit more often than not, but with the bitless bridle...I have yet to see an uncomfortable horse. There are almost always new cases of injuries from a hack or bit, but there is never an injury from a bitless bridle because, unless it's the riders fault and we just jerk their head around, the bridle isn't capable of hurting them. (we could also fit it too tightly, obviously. But once again..rider fault.)

No matter how gentle your hands are, it's easy to cause your horse pain with a hack or a bit. I'm not saying this because I believe you bit users are evil and should stop your cruel ways, I know so many people who use bits that care for their horse and love them to death, but when there is something on the horse's head, there is a chance for pain and our eyes should all be opened whether we like it or not. And I'll continue trying to get bitless bridles okay'd by shows in my area. ;)


  1. I think the biggest problem with any bit/hackamore/whatever is that fact that people tend think of these things as a means of control. But that's not it, they are intended to complete the line of COMMUNICATION between horse in rider, not to control them. It's only when you realize this that you also realize that a lot of hardware on a horse's face isn't going to get you anywhere.

    While I don't have a problem with bits, I do have a problem with bitting horses up. It can take blood, sweat, and tears (quite literally) to refine the act of communication between horse and rider to the the point that it's soft and fluid and accurate. If you need a crazy contraption (bit or bitless) to "control" your horse, there are holes and flaws in the training somewhere. Period.

    I also roll my eyes at "bitless" people who say bits are "cruel" but then immediately tell me that hacks are so much kinder. Ummm no. Just like a bit, they can be VERY severe (perhaps even more so than the bit) in crappy hands. Hacks are a leverage device, so how ever much you pull, that pressure is multiplied. That being said, in descent hands, some horse do just fine in them.

    At the end of the day we have to do what is best for our horses on a case by case basis. NO one should be pulling anything in their horse's mouth or on their face until the understand how exactly that device works and the effects in will have biomechanically.

    P.S. Thanks for reminding me that I need to write a follow-up to that post...I completely forgot!

    1. Exactly! My mom had an old Arabian stud, crazy crazy crazy horse that hated everyone but my mom and tried to kill everyone he saw, his mouth had been torn apart by a bit (well, we'll say it was torn apart because of the stupid rider..) and so the person used a hack and bruised his face so bad he hated having anything or anyone touch his face. Hacks can be just as damaging as the most severe bit there is! Honestly, and I used to consider myself one wrongly, I don't believe that "hackamore people" are truly bitless riders. Obviously, a hack isn't a bit, but honestly, if they go bitless for the reason that they say, I don't understand why they'd use a hack. Luckily with Red, I barely have to touch my reins because he responds better to leg pressure and vocal cues so the hack doesn't touch him as much, but I'm still happy to get it off his face and go with a gentler route.

      Looking forward to reading the follow-up! ;)

  2. I think part of the problem with bits or hacks or bitless or any other tool we use is that the owner/rider doesn't investigate and test to find the best option for their particular horse. They either grab what came with the horse, use something they've used before or jump on the bandwagon for the newest thing. Bitless bridles apply pressure to the horse's head in areas other than the mouth, but they still apply pressure. Just like hacks or bits. A tool is only as good as it's user.

    1. They apply pressure but it's less likely for them to cause *pain* (I wish I could use italics in comments...ROFL) pressure doesn't =pain.

    2. I ordered one of those bitless bridles and it didn't fit my horse's head, for starters, and two, he hated the pressure behind his ears. I tried a sidepull, but had no control. I tried two different bits before settling on the one that we use now. I did research on what the different bits do, how they react in the horse's mouth and what I thought would be the best option for Ashke. I ended up buying a bit online that has been the second most significant purchase I've made. And then I got a dressage trainer to help me figure out how to use contact correctly.

      Sometimes pressure does equal pain.

      I hope this Dr Cook bitless bridle works for you.

    3. Sometimes you do have to fit them, just like any other piece of tack. A friend of mine got hers fitted and the fitter had to remove some parts to remove pressure in certain areas and add pressure in others. Like I said, I'm not saying bits are 100% evil and that no one should use them, I'm just saying that I personally would rather not use them, just like some riders would rather not use spurs and some would, etc.

  3. The bit featured in this video only hurts horses on the roof of their mouth if they have a shallow pallet. There are hundreds of different kinds of bits out there - including ones to prevent this problem.

    My only other thing to add is that a bitless bridle or a hackamore (especially a mechanical hackamore) can be just as unforgiving (or moreso) than a bit in the wrong hands. It's not "nicer" by definition.

    1. Oh, absoloutly. That's exactly what I'm saying, a hackamore can be extremely abusive just like bits, but even if you use a different bit from the one in the video, it can cause pain and chances are, no matter how soft your hands are, there is a possibility for pain all the time. :) But like I said, I have nothing against bit users at all, just something that I've been thinking about for awhile. :)

  4. I agree with Mare. You have to find what works for your horse and you. I had a snaffle with only one joint in it and knew that Dani wasn't liking the nutcracker action of the bit. I've since moved to a loose ring double jointed bit that doesn't cause that nutcracker action and she is much more receptive. I could see us trying a hackamore or bitless as some point. I think it's crazy how up in arms people get about it all. Some bits are pretty harsh and really only experts should use them. I applaud the bitless and bridleless work you are doing.

  5. The problem with bits is people always look at the bit alone, and do not include their horses mouth in the search for the right bit. A small mouth, high pallet, low pallet, little lips, etc all effect the mouth and what bit will sit comfortably. Most horses can go in a simple bit with correct training, but we know how hard that is to come across these days. If your horse is happy - who cares.

  6. Any tool used improperly can be hurtful and dangerous. Any tool that doesn't fit, even if used properly, can cause discomfort or pain. Because of those facts, I think it's very difficult to make generalizations.

  7. I saw that the Dr. Cook website showed horses eventing and doing dressage without a bit. It's true you can do the jump phases without a bit, but you can't do the dressage phase without a bit (idk why) so it must be unrated dressage shows. Not that I necessarily agree with that.

    I did look at the mechanism of the Dr Cook bridle and I'm still skeptical when they say "painlessly." You have a mechanism that wraps around the horses nose, basically pulling from both sides, while also putting pressure on the pole. And some of the horse's most sensitive nerves run through it's nose, where the hackmores etc. put pressure- and why a lot of people think hackamores actually are harsher. But the point being, with the claim of it being "painless," there's no escaping some amount of "pain" in training. Sadly, that's just the nature of the beast. Hopefully, though, if you're an educated individual- with a bit or with something else- you start the horse slow and teach them to release to pressure, so that while they feel pressure it never gets to the level of real "pain" as we would think of it, just an inconvenience. But being realistic, it's still pain to a certain degree. So really if that's the case then we should just let horses sit in a pasture and not ride them. Which probably is the most humane. BUT, at the same time, my horse gets crazy when not worked, and horses would go extinct if they weren't used for competition. It's just the nature of the beast. I'm not sure what's the right answer you know :\ I know there are times I wonder if what I'm doing is actually ethical. At the same time, there's no way Wiz would jump the stuff he does unless he wanted to- I've never had to whip him or anything over anything (and I don't believe you should force horses to do jobs they seem to hate).

    Anyway, pointless ramble over! Just thinking outloud :) I don't know the answers I do hope you like the bridle though, let us know how it works!

    1. I did some reading on the showing thing, apparently some shows in places like England and etc allow the bitless bridles in higher rated shows.

      They can definitely cause pain, anything we put or use on our horse can cause pain, it just depends on the rider and horse. It's their job to decide what works best for them and while the bitless may work painlessly for some people, it may be a painful thing in another riders hand, just like a bit.

      Luckily, with Red, he was trained since he was around 4 with a hack and other bitless things so he knows his cues without me having to put too much pressure on him, with a bit, he's awful and I'd end up almost having to hurt him to get him to calm down. Spirit's the exact opposite, which is why I don't think bits are just evil, lol! And honestly, a lot of people think that way, just put them in a pasture, but honestly...when Red was off for 4 weeks, I saw him go into depression, haha! Red loves his job, even if there is a twinge of pain. (shoot, his canter hurts me but I still like it, haha!)