THE BITLESS BRIDLE USER MANUAL
This manual is also available in a downloadable, printable PDF format.
AVOIDANCE OF ACCIDENTS
Sound physiological arguments and users' experience with the bridle indicate that the Bitless Bridle is safer than the bit method of control. Nevertheless, equitation is an inherently risky activity, thus
When first introduced to the Bitless Bridle, it sometimes revives a horse's spirits with a feeling of "free at last". Such a display of exuberance will eventually pass, but be prepared for the possibility even though it occurs in less than 1% of horses. Begin in a covered school or a small paddock rather than an open area. Consider preliminary longeing or a short workout in the horse's normal tack. These and other strategies familiar to horse people can be used to reduce the small risk of boisterous behavior.
The diagram above right is a view of the underside of the horse's head, seen from below.
Most horses (and riders) take to the bridle on the very first day. They do not require weeks of adjustment. A few riders have reported that, at first, the horse feels a little heavier in the hand than with a bit but this impression passes. In effect, the horse becomes lighter on the forehand and most riders sense that the horse becomes more collected.
If a rider wishes to introduce a horse in stages to the feel of the Bitless Bridle™, the horse could first be longed in the bridle before being mounted. Most riders do not feel it necessary to do this but it is, nevertheless, of interest that a horse can be longed in the bridle and this facility has, in any case, some advantages for training purposes.
Riders should strive for light contact and an independent seat. The reins should not normally be used as a safety harness and the means whereby riders retain their seat or restore their balance. Nevertheless, if it should become necessary, the reins can be used in this way without hurting the horse.
The Bitless Bridle™ provides 'brakes' that are better than a bit. Unlike the bit method of control which the horse can disable by placing the bit between its teeth, at no time can the rider be left without any brakes at all.
Horses bolt because of fear or pain. By removing the bit, the rider has eliminated one of the most common sources of fear and pain. Pain in regions other than the mouth can still be responsible for bolting. For example, pain in the back or feet (from saddle or shoes) should be considered.
It is not recommended that riders attempt to stop a runaway horse by simply hauling on both reins at the same time. If equitation ever comes to a trial of strength, the horse is going to win.
If, when using the Bitless Bridle™, a horse should ever show signs of bolting, the rider can regain control by steering the horse into a circle. If this is not possible because of the surroundings then the rider can 'saw' the reins to bring the horse back into control. Unlike the situation when using a bit, this rapid alternate traction on left and right reins can be practiced without hurting the horse. Apply this aid vigorously and with authority, to get your horse's attention. Remember also to sit back, deep in the saddle. Finally, all horses should be trained to respond to a verbal WHOA!
We receive occasional reports from riders that the bridle does not seeem to be effective on their particular horse. Issues include problems with steering, problems with stopping and headshaking or other indications of discomfort. These issues can be caused by the following:
1. The chinstrap may be too loose. Tighten the chin strap so that only one flat finger can be comfortably inserted between the underside of the jaw and the chin strap. The chin strap should be sufficiently snug so that the headstall does not slide when rein traction is applied. If this happens, leverage will be lost and skin abrasion could develop. One sign of the noseband being too loose is that the cheek straps of the headstall (item A at left) bow-out prominently when traction is applied to the reins. Some slight bowing is normal, but if the bowing extends out two inches or more from the face, an adjustment to the chinstrap is needed.
2. The noseband may not be low enough. The correct placement of the noseband is lower than most other bridles. Placing the noseband too high will result in some loss of communication, which can cause problems with steering and stopping. We recommend placing the noseband 1.5 to 2 inches above the corner of the mouth.
3. The noseband may be too low. Occasionally a horse will show discomfort when the noseband is placed at the recommended position of 1.5 to 2 inches above the corners of the mouth. If this occurs, first try using less rein pressure. Secondly, try moving the noseband up a little. Your level of communication is reduced as the noseband is raised, but this may be just what the horse needs. It is important to make sure that the noseband is supported by bone and not placed so low that it is supported by the soft fleshy part of the nose. If placed too low, the noseband will obstruct the nostrils and could cause head shaking or even rearing.
Teeth with sharp edges: The cross-under straps of the Bitless Bridle put pressure along the horse's cheek, which may press against the sharp edges of teeth. This problem can be solved by having the teeth floated.
Other pain or discomfort: With the pain of the bit removed, your horse may become more aware of other painful problems such as a poorly fitted saddle or shoeing/hoof trim problems. Try riding or longeing your horse bareback to determine if your saddle is a source of trouble. You may want to consider switching to a barefoot trim for your horse to eliminate metal from your horse's feet as well as the mouth.
Habitual behavior: Your horse may be accustomed to using any one of a number of bit-aversion techniques to override your ability to communicate your commands. The Bitless Bridle's communication cannot be evaded, and some horses may become frustrated and throw a bit of a temper tantrum when they realize they no longer control the show. Patience and groundwork will eventually teach your horse to accept your cues.
There are numerous other less common reasons why your horse may not respond correctly to the Bitless Bridle. If you have problems with your horse in the Bitless Bridle, please contact our customer service department at (866) 235-0938 or firstname.lastname@example.org. We will work with you to try to find a solution.
TYING (Reins removed):
IMPORTANT: Do not tie your horse using the cross-under straps.
To tie your horse you can either snap your lead to one of the O-rings on the noseband, or fasten a third scissor snap to the loosened chinstrap then attach your lead to the other end of that scissor snap. Don't forget to fasten your lead with a quick-release knot or, better still, by using a pressure-release device.
TYING (Reins attached):
IMPORTANT: Do not tie your horse using the cross-under straps.
You may want to experiment with other ways to tie. If the snap on your lead rope is big enough, you may just want to hook it directly to the loosened chinstrap (being careful not to pinch!)
It's always best to tie your horse using some type of 'quick release' snap so you can easily and quickly free your horse if necessary.
LONGEING (Reins removed):
Convert into a halter using the 'reins removed' instructions above, then attach your longe line as you normally would to the O-ring on the noseband.
LONGEING (Reins attached):
Fit the bridle as you normally would for riding. Attach the reins to the saddle or surcingle with bungee cords to simulate gentle hand pressure, then clip the longe line to the O-ring on the noseband.
Beta: Beta bridles are the simplest to maintain. To remove mud, drop them in a bucket of water. To remove grease, add a little detergent to the water.
HOW TO ASSEMBLE THE BITLESS BRIDLE:
The Bitless Bridle™ comes fully assembled, but if you disassemble it for cleaning or conditioning, follow the steps below to ensure proper reassembly:
1. With the cross-under straps removed, put the bridle on your horse and buckle the chinstrap.
2. Make sure the O-rings on the noseband are pushed down and lying flat against the chinstrap.
3. Take the buckle end of the cross-under strap (not the end with the O-ring) and feed it from the outside through the O-ring on the noseband, under the chin, up the opposite side of the face to the crown piece and fasten. (See photos below)
4. Repeat the process on the other side with the second cross-under strap.
5. Attach your reins (or lines, if you are a driver) to the O-rings on the ends of the cross-under straps.
Dr. Cook's research concerning the effects of bitted and bitless riding is on-going. You can participate by requesting a questionnaire from our office. Returning the questionnaire to Dr. Cook will help his research and may enable him to offer further advice. The questionnaire may also be used as a diagnostic tool, prior to adopting the bridle, as a means of recognizing the nature and source of unacceptable behavior.
We also welcome your feedback, both positive and negative, since we use this information to improve our product and literature. Feel free to contact us via any of the methods shown on the front cover.
If you would like to help The Bitless Bridle gain acceptance in equine disciplines such as dressage, hunter-jumper and racing, you may contact the governing organizations for those disciplines: