Bitless Riding

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Here are a few tips to help with transitioning your horse from riding with a bit to bitless!  No matter whether you ride English or Western, a halter is all you need to get started.  Chances are it will be a lot easier than you anticipated!

Start with groundwork

The best way to check that your horse responds to the bitless bridle is where you are safely on the ground.

Start by asking your horse to yield to pressure on one rein, first to the left while you are standing at the girth, then do the same on the right side.  When your horse responds to the pressure and moves their nose towards the girth, instantly release the rein by opening your hand.  Stroke their neck and verbally praise them.   Never reprimand them for getting it wrong, simply help them to understand what you are asking by breaking it down into smaller steps if needed.   Try to make this a similar angle to what it would be if you were riding.  This will help with your steering.

Remember you are using a new piece of equipment which may put pressure on a different part of the head, so accept a small response first, making sure to give an instant release once the horse turns their head towards you.

You will also need to make sure your horse understands that they should stop when both reins are pulled, the best way to do this is long reining with a bitless bridle.  But if you don’t have the equipment to long rein your horse you can simply lead them forwards at a walk, applying pressure to both reins when you want them to stop, then release once they have stopped.

While riding

Once you have taught this on the ground, you are ready to translate that under saddle, most horses will respond straight away, but if you’re worried you can use a regular bridle underneath the bitless one, in an enclosed space, until you’re confident your horse responds to the bitless bridle.

Repeat the yielding exercises while riding, then try a walk and stop, if your horse responds well, and you feel confident, try a trot and canter.

Good luck!