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What Are The Different Types Of Bitless Bridles?

different types of bitless bridles


Bitless bridles have become a more popular choice for owners and riders over the last few years. The idea is a bitless bridle eliminates the discomfort that a bitted bridle can cause to a horse's mouth, especially in inexperienced hands.

Different bitless bridle types cater to various riding styles, providing horse riders with ample bitless options for their journey.

Below we look at the main types of bitless bridles, their features, and their suitability for different riding needs. Also see our article on bridle sizing.

The table below outlines the types of bitless bridle, use, and features:



Type of Bridle Features Best for
Mechanical Hackamore Shanks, curb chain Trail riding, experienced riders
Bosal Hackamore Stiff noseband, mecate reins Western riding, neck reining
Side Pull Bridle Direct rein control Young horses, novice riders
Cross-under Bitless Bridle Gentle pressure, two straps Sensitive horses, bitless journey




Hackamore bitless bridle
a standard hackamore for a bitless bridle

Introduction to Bitless Bridles


Bitless bridles differ from the traditional bitted bridle in that they don’t use a bit to control the horse, potentially avoiding discomfort to the horse's mouth, a sensitive and responsive area.

Instead, they rely on nose pressure and the horse’s chin for gentle communication. This allows riders to engage with the horse’s nose and jaw area more humanely and effectively.



Benefits of Bitless Bridles



  • Bitless Options: Offer multiple types of bitless bridles to suit different horses.

  • Bitless Riding: Promotes gentle pressure and humane communication, making it ideal for sensitive horses.

  • Trained Horse Compatibility: Effective for both trained horses and young horses undergoing training.


Below is an interesting video explaining the concepts:



Mechanical Hackamore


The mechanical hackamore bitless bridle features shanks and a curb chain that offer significant leverage and control, making it ideal for experienced riders.

Specifically, it applies pressure to the horse's jaw as a means of control, focusing on how the design impacts pressure distribution across the horse's head. This stronger bridle is frequently used in trail riding and by western riders who require enhanced control over the horse’s head.

Key Features

  • Shanks: Create leverage for extra control.

  • Curb Chain: Applies pressure to the horse's chin.

  • Chin Strap: Helps secure the bridle on the horse's head.

Best for:

  • Trail Riding: Offers control during long rides.

  • Western Riders: Suitable for those who require a stronger bridle.

  • Showjumping: Experienced jumping rider regularly use this option.


Bosal Hackamore


The bosal hackamore relies on a stiff noseband and mecate reins for neck reining. It is widely used in Western disciplines and allows riders to guide horses using just the nose.

Key Features

  • Stiff Noseband: Sits securely on the horse's muzzle.

  • Mecate Reins: Provide direct communication for neck reining.

  • Nose Pressure: Applied directly through the noseband.

Best for:

  • Training Young Horses: Ideal for training due to its gentle pressure.

  • Western Riders: Enables effective neck reining.


Side Pull Bridle


The side pull bitless bridle allows direct rein control for riders. This type of bitless bridle is a versatile option that attaches reins to the side of the headstall, offering simple communication. It applies pressure to the horse's nose to guide and control the horse, making it an effective choice for sensitive or young horses.

Key Features

  • Direct Rein Control: Offers clear communication through rein aids.

  • Headstall Attachment: Secures the bridle comfortably.

  • Versatile: Suitable for novice and experienced riders.

Best for:

  • Training Young Horses: Ideal for introducing young horses to bitless bridles.

  • Novice Riders: Offers a simple transition to bitless riding.


Cross-under Bitless Bridle


Cross under bitless bridles have two straps that cross under the horse’s jaw, exerting gentle pressure on the nose, jaw, and indirectly affecting the horse's head.

This design ensures an even distribution of pressure across these areas, making it crucial to consider the fit to avoid unnecessary pressure points on the horse's head. It's one of the best bitless bridle types for sensitive horses, offering gentle hands and control while minimizing discomfort by focusing on areas other than the mouth.

Key Features

Gentle Pressure: Provides humane control without harsh rein pressure.

Two Straps: Cross under the horse’s jaw for effective communication.

Comfortable Fit: Sits comfortably on the horse’s head.

Rope halter and rope halters are also types of bitless bridles that offer gentle pressure, similar to the cross-under design, suitable for everyday hacking and requiring a skilled rider for effective use.

Best for:

  • Sensitive Horses: Ensures humane communication without harsh bits.

  • Transitioning to Bitless: Ideal for horses moving away from bitted bridles.


Image source:

Bitless Bridle Safety and Training


Riders transitioning to bitless bridles need to prioritize safety and proper training for their horses. Here's how to ensure a safe and effective transition:

Training Tips

  • Groundwork: Begin with groundwork to familiarize the horse with rein pressure.

  • Rein Aids: Reinforce rein aids alongside leg aids to help the horse understand the signals.

  • Gradual Introduction: Slowly introduce the horse to the new bridle to prevent resistance.

Safety Considerations

  • Fit and Adjustment: Ensure the noseband sits properly on the horse's nose.

  • Horse's Temperament: Choose a type of bitless bridle that matches the horse's behavior.

  • Rider Skill: Be mindful of the horse's response to different types of bitless bridles.


Choosing the Right Bitless Bridle


Choosing the best bitless bridle involves understanding your specific needs and the horse’s temperament. Additionally, considering a scawbrig bitless bridle could be beneficial, as it suits various disciplines and underscores the necessity for a skilled rider to ensure proper fit and use.


  • Riding Discipline: Different bitless bridle types are suited for specific disciplines like Western riding or dressage.

  • Horse's Needs: Consider the horse's head shape, sensitivity, and training level.

  • Rider Skill: Experienced riders might opt for stronger control like the mechanical hackamore.


Transitioning to Bitless Bridles


Step-by-Step Guide

  1. Start with Familiarization: Introduce the horse to the bitless bridle gently.

  2. Groundwork Training: Use groundwork to build rein aids and leg aids.

  3. Short Rides: Begin with short rides to get the horse used to rein pressure.

  4. Gradual Increase: Gradually extend the riding time to acclimate the horse.


Common Misconceptions About Bitless Bridles


Myths and Facts

  • Myth: Bitless bridles lack control.

  • Fact: Bitless bridles work well with proper training, offering humane control.

  • Myth: Only for experienced riders.

  • Fact: Bitless bridles are suitable for all rider levels, from novice to experienced.

Addressing Concerns

  • Safety: Proper fit ensures safety and comfort for the horse.

  • Effectiveness: Consistent training ensures the horse responds well to bitless bridles.


Chris Durkan

Chris is an enthusiastic horse rider and enthusiast and lives with his wife and 2 kids , just outside of Brisbane in QLD. He is a self confessed horse obsessed father, and says he makes too many horse and equestrian gear purchases for his wife and kids, which he says, makes him "qualified" to have an opinion on many of the products he buys. While he jokes he's a poor horse dad, he spends his time between his family, his small horse property, working at a local IT firm, and writing for The Equestrian.

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