Best Bitless Bridle

Hi all,

I am in the market for a bitless bridle for my 17H TB. He is a very anxious guy who chomps the bit and is very anticipatory. Sometimes we like to take a day a week to just hack around the farm bareback and relax a little. Thus far, I have been using just his halter with two lead ropes attached to it but the crownpiece slips back down his head as we ride.

I have looked into Micklem, Dr. Cook, etc. but I really want a bridle that is loose enough for him to graze in because we frequently make stops just to hangout and graze a little. At this point in time, I will not be competing or anything in this bridle. We may do some ring work on occasion but nothing fancy. I don’t want anything severe because like I said, the whole point it to encourage him to relax and enjoy himself. He responds very well to his halter, I just want something that fits a little better and doesn’t slide down his head.


I have an old bridle I bought from Millers, has a padded noseband with a ring on each side to attach reins to. No bit and no sliding parts to put pressure on anything. I’ve used it for many years. I would caution that on a strong horse you might not have a lot of stopping power but if you are currently using a halter, it’s basically the same principle. You might look at a side pull, it’s popular with western riders for starting horses, some of them have bits, some don’t.

If riding in a halter is working for you, some of the side pull design bridles will give you slightly more refined control. I tried a number of different styles on my horses and could never get them comfortable in the Dr. Cook’s design, although I know several people who like them.

I like the LG bridle which offers a bit more control but without the leverage of a true hackamore. I wrote this several years ago, but it still holds true:…-a-comparison/

Note: there are several alternatives now to the LG design. Some of which are a lot less expensive. The Orbitless bridle and the Zilco Flower hackamore are two.

These are bit substitutes so you can use them with your regular bridle. I used to foxhunt my last horse in the LG.

99% of the time I ride in a Little S hackamore and it works very well. I did modify the one I got a bit- the nosepiece was padded already but it had a chain for the chin. I replace the chain with a flat 1" wide piece of biothane wrapped in athletic tape to make it softer. It works very well for being able to eat and drink on trail. Edited to add a pic of my mare in her Little S (the rein set up looks a little weird but it’s because there’s actually another horse right behind her that’s hidden by her head and the angle of the camera lol)

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When you say “chomps the bit” what do you mean? Many horses “worry” their bit. It’s a way of relieving tension. It also serves to stimulate saliva flow and keep the mouth “softer.”

I’m not a fan of “bitless bridles.” I’ve seen quite a few in action over the years and they all had the same vice in that when they got wet (sweat, rain, slobber, etc.) the leather pieces that were supposed to slide didn’t and that meant that the pressure being put on either the face or pole was never released (or was never put). Since all good horsemanship requires the application and RELEASE of pressure I’ve never seen them as positive devices.

Hackamores, sidepulls, or just a halter with reins can function as “bitless bridles” but have the benefit of always applying pressure when the rider applies it and releasing when the rider releases. Their limitation is that they don’t always provide sufficient communication. The bit, properly used, can be a high quality, digital communication channel that can transmit anything from a whisper to a shout as the situation requires. Bitless devices are like using two tin cans and a string. Sometimes that’s enough; sometimes it isn’t.

Before I spent any money on leather or iron I’d check the mouth and ensure you’re not dealing with any pathologies or conformational issues or dentition issues.

Good luck as you go forward.


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@Guilherme I was thinking more of a sidepull rather than a “bitless bridle” I suppose. He has been seen by a dentist just in the last couple months and nothing unusual or problematic was found. I agree that a halter or sidepull doesn’t always provide enough communication and I think that for jumping, dressage, etc, for my guy, it wouldn’t be enough. I just want it to walk around the farm’s fields and woods and let him graze and whatnot. I found a nice padded sidepull I may try. Thanks for the response!

I really like just a plain jumping hackamore for what you are describing. I have a couple of these for my horses and I like them, easy to switch onto different headstalls as needed

I’ve seen this style too but haven’t tried it yet

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I would also recommend the jumping hackamore mentioned above

Bitless bridles are horrible. Many are much more harsh than a bit! I’d recommend a hackamore, or just punch a few holes in the crown piece of your halter.

Well, that’s a pretty broad statement. There are multiple bitless bridle designs out there. You have to figure out what will work for your horse. Some horses don’t like poll pressure so the cross under designs create resistance.

Hackamores with long shanks are quite severe and need to be used with a light hand. They really aren’t made for riders who want to maintain contact with their horse’s mouth.

Ultimately, that’s why I went with a side-pull style set up. The jumping hackamore (a nose band with rein loops) didn’t offer enough control for me out hunting, but the LG style hackamores offered just enough more control along with an instant release. At the milder settings, you can easily put your horse “on the bit” so to speak, and maintain contact.


Let S be the set of all bridles designed to be used without a bit; then we can define a subset of S (let’s call it T) whose elements are crossunder bitless bridles. T is therefore a proper subset of S, since there are elements of S that are not also elements of T. The set T is not equal to the set S. To phrase it differently, there exists a bridle that operates via a crossunder mechanism without a bit, making it an element of T, which implies that it is also an element of S. There also exists a bridle without a bit that does not operate via a crossunder mechanism, which makes it an element of S, but not an element of T.

Seriously, it rustles my jimmies when people say that “all bitless bridles release poorly” when in reality they only mean crossunder bridles. Figured I might try formalizing the relationships a bit.


I’ve never personally inspected every bitless bridle offered so I limit my comments to those I have seen that use any sort of sliding leather construction. They all had the same problem.


I’ve been using this one for years and really like it:

I also use an Orbitless and my horse goes very well in it.

My horse had nothing but “Are you &#%#**** kidding me?” responses to the cross-under bridles that relied on squeezing or on poll pressure. But, she was one who seemed to find her bit to be something of a security blanket in her working days. In her dotage, we rode in a sidepull that looked like an English bridle. She had only moderate respect for it, but, we weren’t doing anything that required a “Yes Ma’am!” level of respect, as we were just two older ladies out for a change of scenery by then and spooking was not really on anyone’s agenda. So a sidepull worked well for us and looked pretty.

Someone above posted a Tory Leather jumping hackamore… I think I have one gathering dust. Horse hated it; she found it too bulky and insulting to her delicate-flower-like Arab head. If anyone wants me to check into it and possibly send it to them, PM me.

Mine too. It was a recipe for rearing.

I have a “rescue” horse mare that came to our Impound where I volunteered & adopted her with no history, name, no health records, unknown breed & no age. She was a HOT mess. One of the many problems she came with were missing teeth. After having her 5 yrs. she is now in very good shape. I ride her with a Dr. Cook’s Bitless bridle & she loves it. I just recently started her with a very kind, gentle trainer just to help her become more balanced & get some muscle in the correct places who decided I should get a bit just to try my horse did not feel comfortable with the bit - nixed that idea. I did a lot of research on the gentlest tack around & decided on the Dr. Cook’ s Bitless bridle I have not regretted my decision & am now going to purchase a second all leather one. I will not ride her w/a bit & have asked that her trainer doesn’t either. I do not graze in the Dr. Cook’s though & never grazed any horse I’ve had in over 30 + any type of bridle only their halters. If you can find a friend or someone that has a Dr.Cooks it would be worth a try. There are some very good U tube videos out there about the different bitless bridles.

My mare goes fine in a simple side pull, but it might not be safe on a hotter or faster horse. We do lack some level of subtle communication for arena work that we have with a snaffle but it is also a good break for her.

As a kid I rode my fast little horse in a mechanical hackamore which is a stronger leverage bit but she learned quickly to respond to just a hint of hand.

I looked at all the sliding straps type bridles online and didn’t like how they worked. One brand even said the slow release wasn’t a problem. Fail.

If a noseband or sidepull or jumping hackamore which are all the same basic idea was too mild I think I would go up to a mechanical hackamore before a cross strap style.

I’ve also always been fascinated by bosals but realize you need some instruction in them.

I ride in a rope halter from time to time. Reins attached to the bottom (where the lead rope would attach to). Doesn’t give much lateral control, but if your horse has enough training, it might work for you too.

I have had students ride in it from time to time, to convince them to give up relying on inside rein so much. I haven’t found a horse that doesn’t respond well to the rope halter as of yet.

This is a very nice side pull. I find that reins attached to the side to be much more effective for direct rein turning if you need it. I have also attached a bit to this via a spur strap to start to introduce a bit to a young horse. I start horses in this kind of side pull then gradually switch to a bit.

But I am weird that way! Ha!