There is the die hard "bitless brigade", there are those who dislike the idea of metal bits in horses' mouths, there are people who are trying bitless riding to benefit their skills and the horse's responsiveness to the hand and there are many who do not yet know the benefits of a bitless bridle.
As a Classical trainer and instructor, I am actively encouraging my students to be soft with their horses and to work towards riding in a true partnership. I teach that the horse's mouth is sacred - as it has been taught for many, many centuries. Before the bitless bridle was invented, many Masters would train their horses in a cavesson, before graduating to the bit. By the time the bit was used (often many years later), the riders would be soft, the horses responsive and communication would be clear and considered.
But with science, comes knowledge. With knowledge, comes change. It appears that there is somewhat a divide within the horse world - those who ride with a bit and those without. It can be argued that the bit has been used for so long and if in the correct hands, it can be used kindly. Unfortunately, in many cases, true softness has never been felt by the rider. Due to fashions in equestrian sports, riding styles have sometimes compromised the horse's best interests and in turn, equipment used is selected because of popularity or misinformed teachings.
In my first session with students, I encourage them to try a bitless bridle. At least whilst they are learning ground and ridden exercises. This way I can ensure they do not hurt their horse's mouth; they learn to not lean on the reins and begin to understand how responsive a horse can be without a bit in the mouth. Most of the time, when I give people the option of going back to a bit, they choose not to. With correct training, the horse is willing, happy and agreeable with the bitless bridle - this can be an incredible confidence giver to any equestrian!
What I have found is that the bitless bridle is a great modern day alternative to the cavesson. I choose to ride, train and teach with the Ultimate Bitless Bridle - a bridle which does not twist with single rein use, can be used across a range of disciplines, kindly mimics the bit without interfering with the mouth and breathing. It also has a reliable quick release thanks to elasticated fixtures within the structure of the bridle and applies less poll pressure than many other brands on the market.
So, as a rider, is it limiting to use a bitless bridle for anything more than training? In my opinion, absolutely not!
My bitless bridle has allowed a deeper level of communication with my horse. We are able to carry out all of our exercises as well as any bitted partnership, and arguably, with a heightened level of responsiveness. It has allowed my horse to show me flaws in training, thus improving our learning and relationship. We now play bridle-less as an extension to the training with the bitless bridle and if a bit is ever used, my horse does not evade it and carries himself.
I have tried to keep this post as unbiased as possible. In truth, the benefits of bitless riding are second to none. It is undoubtedly an exceptional piece of tack and a great training tool for so many riders, whatever their aims for the future.
I wish for a horse world where people aren't afraid to try.
To book your horse for a bitless session - click here!