Horse bridles and bitless bridles
A horse bridle is a piece of equipment used to direct and guide the horse while riding.
A bridle is generally made up of the headstall, which holds a bit that goes in the mouth of the horse, with reins that attach. Generally all bridles use a noseband that is designed to put pressure on the sensitive areas of the horses face to provide direction and control from the rider.
Bitless bridle are also available. Bitless bridles differ from standard bridles in that they do not include a ‘bit’ and instead apply pressure to parts of the horse's face and head, but not to the mouth.
At Mustad Saddleworld we have many different types of horse bit and horse bridles, including bitless bridles, that you can choose from. Each bridle design is chosen to suit the size of the horse or the purpose for the horses bridle.
A standard ‘bitted’ bridle includes both the headstall that holds a bit that goes in the mouth of a horse, and the reins that are attached to the bit.
Bitted bridles are known for providing the rider with more control over the horse’s movement and are commonly used in dressage.
Types of Bitted Bridles
Snaffle bridles are the most basic bridles and contrary to what the name suggests, can fit with both snaffle as well as curb bits.
Double bridles are setup with two bits in use together – a curb bit called the Weymouth and a snaffle bit called a bradoon. As mentioned earlier these are usually used for shows.
Pelham bridle comes with one bit but two reins – one for curb action and the other for snaffle action.
Western bridle do not have a noseband and are better suited to western style riding. They may also lack browbands.
Barcoo bridle are usually used for Australian stock horses and can be used for competitions as well as for work. In this style there’s one ring into which is sewn the throat latch, browband and crown piece.
Gag bridles allow for severe action. They contain rounded cheek pieces that are passed through the holes on the bit ring.
Halter bridle are also called ‘endurance’ bridle or ‘trail bridle’. These allow you to remove the bit and reins while the cheek pieces stay in place. This allows you to quickly release these when taking a break on the trail.
The term bitless bridle describes a wide range of headgear for horses that help control the animal without using a bit. Many bitless bridles will use noseband or cavesson in place of a bit to apply pressure to other parts of the horse’s head to help control its movements.
Bitless bridles are commonly seen today in western riding for starting young horses. They are also seen on mature horses with dental issues that make using a metal bit painful, and on horses with mouth or tongue injuries that would be aggravated by a bit. Some riders also like to use them in the winter to avoid putting a frozen metal bit into a horse's mouth.
Bitless bridles are sometimes used in endurance and trail riding but are rarely seen competitively in other disciplines.
Bitless bridles are limited in the level of direction control and equestrian sports such as dressage require constant fine-tuned control of the horse’s movement, making bitless bridles unusable.
Many riders prefer a bit less bridle, asserting that traditional bridle’s with a metal can cause injury and discomfort for the horse. However, if used incorrectly bitless bridles are also capable of inflicting pain.
Types of Bitless Bridle
Hackamore Bitless Bridle
A bitless bridle is sometimes known colloquially as a hackamore.
However, the hackamore is just one traditional style of bitless bridle. The hackamore and its modern variants use a noseband of a set diameter to use tension to pressure points on the horse’s face, nose, and chin in order to provide control.
Cross-under Bitless Bridle
Cross-under bridles control the horse primarily through poll pressure. When you put pressure on one – or both – reins, it squeezes the horse’s entire head, but the most pressure is applied to the poll. When the pressure on the reins is lessened, the pressure on the horse’s head is released.
Click the following links to learn more about bitted horse bridles and bitless bridles.