Side pull and bosal

Hi, my horse is not a huge fan of bits in general (I believe because previous owner rode him with very harsh ones). I usually ride him in a snaffle, he doesn’t react badly to It (neither did with harsh ones to be honest) but he’ so much relaxed and confident and responsive if ridden without a bit. So usually I ride him in a rope halter. No problems while we are indoor but we trail ride and a little voice inside my head keeps telling me : what of he spooks in an halter? I rode him on trails with halter and snaffle and I never touched the snaffle rein but…
What about side pulls? Never met anyone here in Italy who uses or knows it…could It be good for my guy? And what about bosal? Is it effective? Does It require a specific training?
Thank you!

I see plenty here that use these little S mechanical hackamores for trail riding with older, gentle horses where they don’t expect any problems:

We use mostly the old grass rope nose “loping bosals” Pine Johnson made popular to train cutting horses way over 50 years ago.
Horses need to be trained to them, with a very light hand and understanding hackamore use concepts, never pull on the reins, it is a light touch way of communicating.
If used roughly, horses learn to “run thru the hackamore” and ignore it.
One of those is what I use most on my now older ranch horse, that used to be a working cow horse competitor that was started on a hackamore, so works very well with one, responds to all aids, not just reins:

If your horse is riding well in a rope halter, a side pull would be an easy step up – but keep in mind there is a bit more “bite” to a rope halter than most side pulls. If you’re not 100% confirmed, I’d stick to a hackamore versus a side pull.

Sidepulls generally are glorified halters, with the reins connecting to clips near or around the mouth. They are downright powerless if a horse drops its head, and they typically don’t have leverage – while hackamores are bridles with a metal cheek-piece that usually has some degree of leverage and a whole lot of different metal hackamore designs out there with varying degrees of stopping power.

The bosal is the western rider’s answer to sidepulls with a bit more power. It’s not a set up I would use casually, and I typically only see them on very well broke horses.

Last fall I purchased this bitless bridle on the recommendation of a fellow COTHer, and have been very happy with it:

My guy seems to like it, and it has plenty of stop - if your horse is going well in a rope halter this is a very seamless transition.


I agree with the above: bosals do need some additional training as they can be harsh and they also don’t have as direct a mechanism for lateral cues (turning). I do like side pulls, and you can find ones with rope nosebands for a little more control similar to a rope halter. Side pulls offer reasonably good lateral control, which is typically what gets you out of trouble on a spooked horse anyway. Mechanical hackmores offer good longitudinal control, but not as good lateral control: I don’t advise a mechanical hackmore if your horse tends to curl under, but I do have a couple clients that use them for trail riding and for show jumping.

1 Like

Thank you for your advice! I’ll give bitless bridle a chance, I have one but I was a bit reluctant because he’s quite a claustrophobic horse and I believed that the fact that bitless tightens the whole head would scare him. I’ll try it and see what happens otherwise I’ll try a S hackmore, the sidepull seems too mild and bosal not very intuictive

quote "I’ll give bitless bridle a chance, I have one but I was a bit reluctant because he’s quite a claustrophobic horse and I believed that the fact that bitless tightens the whole head would scare him. " unquote

Do you have one of those Dr. Cook Bitless Bridles with the straps that cross under the jaw? My trainer and I thought that was counter intuitive so we just clipped the reins to the rings on the noseband.

Yes it’s one of those, my DH’s mare immediately understood how it works (western trainer, she neck reins). If you clip the reins to the noseband you basically have an halter I guess