Simple Rope Halter
There are many styles of bitless bridles available for horse and rider. Selecting which works best for you can be a challenge. Having a few different bitless bridles around is a great idea for training a more versatile horse. Below are the pros and cons of a few styles of bridles.
Simple Rope Halter
Many riders choose to ride their horse in a simple rope halter. Any rope halter can be used as a bridle simply by clipping reins to the noseband or the lead rope loops below. A rope halter applies pressure to the top of the horse’s nose, and some pressure to the poll. This is an excellent choice for experienced horses, who understand bitless riding. It is also an excellent choice for starting young horses. This is because it feels similar to how a rope halter works on the ground. You cannot beat a good rope halter for ground work. However, a rope halter is not the easiest way to communicate with a horse from their back. Other styles of bitless bridles offer more refined cues and better pressure distribution.
The bosal has probably been around longer than any other style of bitless bridle. Most riders are familiar with a thick and heavy rawhide braided bosal. While these are useful tools for training in the right hands, they can be very hard on a horse’s nose. Soft, flexible bosals offer kinder communication. A bosal is a great bitless bridle if you are looking for something with a good amount of pressure, and quick release. Bosals distribute pressure over a wide area on the nose, giving the rider lots of control for stopping and quite a bit for turning. When the rider releases pressure on the reins, the horse feels nothing on his face. This quick release is why bosals are favored for starting and retraining horses. The bosal does not give quite as much pressure for turning.
A sidepull is a commonly used bitless bridle. It is a simple bridle with no moving or sliding parts like a chin slip or cross jaw. It works very similarly to a full check or "D" ring bit because of the pressure it applies to the side of a horse’s face and top of the nose. This gives a perfect cue for refining turns. When applying pressure for a stop, side pulls do not distribute the pressure quite as nicely as other styles. It is best to get a custom fit side-pull for your horse. One that is too large will slide around on your horse’s face. One that is too small will not release pressure as well.
Chin Slip/Indian Hackamore
Chin slips and Indian hackamores work similarly to a sidepull, but have a quicker release. A chin slip has a strap under the horse’s chin that tightens when pressure is applied, and an Indian hackamore has two straps under the chin that cross. When the horse is cued for a right turn, the left side of the horse's nose receives pressure and vice versa. Both chin slips and Indian hackamores can also be used as side pulls when reins are attached to a different location.
The cross jaw bitless bridle distributes pressure better than any other style. This bridle is designed with long straps crisscrossing under the horse's jaw. When pressure is applied, these straps tighten. This pressure is spread over the poll, under the entire jaw, and on the top of the nose. Because of the evenly distributed weight, stopping and turning cues are more refined. Since the pressure feels so different from a bridle or other style bitless bridle, it takes some horses a little while longer to get used to this. However, if you are looking for a bitless bridle for riding and training with more collected and refined movements, this bridle is the best choice.