Western bitless bridles comes in a range of different designs - Ideal for western breeds, cutting, pleasure, trail and reining. Western tack differs slightly from english bridles - western usually has silver conchos detailing with either stainless steel hardware or brass hardware. Some of the top brands around the world have started investing more into western bitless bridles and new designs are popping up every year. More traditional bitless bridles include the sidepull and the cross-under. Checkout some of the most common western bitless bridles below used by horse owners all over the world.
Photo: SS Tack
People refer to 'bosal' and traditional style 'hackamore' as the same thing these days however these used to be very different things. A true hackamore is made up of a bosal (braided nose band with rawhide), western headstall and mecate reins with a heel butt. Its important to properly fit the headstall with plenty of adjustment for the heel butt to get the right amount of pressure when turning/stopping. The noseband is quite stiff (similar to garden hose). Less severe than any kind of bit as it goes directly to their nose. As the heel knot hangs heavy under the horse's face the horse feels any slighest movements from the reins - hence lose reins can be used when riding in a bosal. The horse will learn to listen to the weight of the heel knot moving. The noseband drops when the reins come up. After that the heel butt will touch the bottom of the chin if reins are pulled all the way back. If you can make your horse go well in a bosal with small pressure then you should be able to ride it in any kind of headstall as its learnt to become so response to small pressure. This is one of the reasons a lot of horse breakers use traditional hackamore's. Its all about timing and technique when training horse so make sure you work with an experienced coach when learning.
Make sure you adjust each bosal depending on what horse you ride, there needs to be enough adjustment between the jaw and nose as you can rub the hair off pretty quickly in an ill fitting bosal.
Western Style Sidepull bridle
A sidepull bridle is a failry simple design with a headstall that connects to a noseband that has buckles on each side of the horse's nose that allows reins to clip on.
Side pulls can be great when working young horses as they are quite gentle with a painless pressure on the horse's nose. Western sidepulls are an ideal choice for trail riding or on older horses.
Its a different concept than the hackamore as the hackamore works with a curb chain effect. A side pull only connects on the side of the face with no curb chain effect.
Its a more traditional bitless bridle similar to a halter bitless bridle. Please note side pull bridle should not be used when tying up the horse as it may break if tied solid. Its a wonderful bridle that is very popular all over the world.
Rope Halter Bridle
Another type of western bitless bridle is a rope halter bridle. Its a bit different from a heavy-duty headstall as its made of rope only (no leather). Its still as effective though for stopping and turning.
It pressure points are are at the very top of the poll. The rein clips onto each side of the horse's muzzle allowing for easy stering and lateral movements. Make sure you work with an experienced coach the first time you introduce a rope halter bridle to your horse as its quite different from a normal bitted headstall.
A mechanical hackamores is a hackamore Bridle with long shank ends and a curb strap toleverage of the pivoting shanks. Depending on the shank ends length the shank ends the bridle can be
made more/less harsh. A gentle pressure should be used when stopping or turning and it may not suit sensitive horses as the curb chain can be quite harsh on the horse especially if the rider has a heavy hand. The horse has very sensitive tissues under its jaw which can easily become numb to pressure if a strong hackamore is used daily. In saying that it stil la very versatile bridle and effective tool in the right hands.
A Western bitted bridle is still great options for some horses. A regular bit can be just as gentle or harsh as a western bitless bridle all depending on which design you go for and the softness of the riders hands. There is a big debate in the horse world whether bits or bitless bridles are better. Truth is both bridles that can cause pain to the horse. Bitless bridles doesn't have any pressure on their face or poll region, but instead has straps around its nose and mouth which may still be uncomfortable for them at times as they move in different ways. And then the old fashioned bridle e with metal bits digging into sensitive areas like corners of their mouths if the rider is not gentle.
Which Western Bitless Bridle should I Choose?
At the end of the time it doesn't matter if you ride in regular bridles or bitless western bridles - it all comes down to the true partnership between the rider and the horse. Its all about personal preference and where you feel you get better communication with the horse. If your horse has a very sensitive mouth the a bitless alternative might be best for your horse. Western breeds such as quarter horses and paints tends to be pretty easy going and relaxed in most headstalls though due to their calm nature.
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