There are a wide variety of bitless bridles available. Here we look at some of the main types and how each of them works:
The Bosal Hackamore is a traditional Western Bridle brought to America in the 1700s by the Spanish Vaqueros. It consists of the bosal nosepiece, hanger and 22’ mecate reins, which are traditionally made from horsehair. A bosal is made from rawhide braided around a rawhide core. Used as a signal device, it applies contact on the nose, chin and jaw.
This type of bitless bridle is a combination of a high-quality braided rope halter and mecate reins wrapped around the fiador knot of the halter. The mecate reins allow you to adjust the length of the rein to that which is most suitable for your horse before finishing the wrap to give a ground line that is tied to the saddle when riding.
Defined by two rings on either side of the noseband to which the reins attach, the sidepull is one of the gentlest forms of bitless bridle around. Working on direct rein aids, the contact points are clearly presented on the sides of the noseband when the reins are applied individually and on the nose when both reins are applied simultaneously. There is no leverage effect. This makes the communication from the sidepull very clear.
This is commonly referred to as the Dr Cook bridle. It distributes pressure over a larger surface area than many other bitless bridles and the pressure is applied on the opposite side to the rein used (i.e. the indirect rein). Creating an ‘x’ under the horse’s chin, it makes contact points under the jaw, across the cheek, and up to the poll with a single rein. Downward contact on the nose is produced when both reins are applied at the same time.
The Scrawbrig is a noseband with a ring on each side, with a strap that loops under the chin through the two rings. The reins attach to two further rings, one on each end of the strap. When the rein is applied, the curb strap applies pressure primarily in the chin groove but also downwards on the nose. This creates a constricting effect.
The Jaquima is more commonly known as the Paso Fino bridle because it is the bridle traditionally used for this breed of Spanish-gaited horse. The Jaquima is a dual bridle that can be used with single or double reins. Each bridle has a side-pull option, with two separate rings located underneath on the curb strap to form a curb-ring hackamore effect.
This type of bitless bridle allows the use of either a single or double rein. Dual bridles are available in a variety of designs, most commonly featuring a side-pull and curb combination.
Multi-bridles and attachments
Some bridles feature multiple options. Multi-bridles have three or more interchangeable settings that often come with various attachments and accessories. Noseband attachments are also available to add to existing bridles to convert them to bitless bridles. This avoids having to purchase a brand-new bridle.
This is defined by the presence of shanks in varying lengths and designs, acting via leverage with the contact points on the face, primarily the nose, chin groove and poll. The amount of leverage varies according to the length and shape of the shank. The smaller the shank, the lower the leverage forces applied.
Note: You need to choose a correctly fitting bridle based on your horse’s facial conformation and responses to the points of contact of the bridle.