Good question! First you have to know what a ‘bridle’ is! (I know, I know – if you are here then you, more than likely, know what a bridle is!) Bear with me now, some people do not know!
It’s that piece of equipment you usually see that holds something (most often it is metal) in the mouth of the animal to give the rider the illusion of control. We say ‘the illusion of control’ because, let’s face it, the only control you have is what the animal grants! Goes back to the old adage: where does an elephant sit? Answer: wherever he wants!
Wikipedia says a bitless bridle is: A bitless bridle is a general term describing a wide range of headgear for horses or other animals that controls the animal without using a bit. Direction control may also be via a noseband or cavesson, if one is used. The term hackamore is the most historically accurate word for most common forms of bitless headgear.
But a hackamore is still based on the leverage type of pressure to create a sensation the horse wants to avoid. See? I didn’t say there was pain or discomfort but there might be…there is a significant amount of research that proves many many diseases and disorders are caused by bitting. The hackamore still depends on metal at the sides of the face and possibly a metal curb chain behind the chin although some nowadays are made of leather or rope. It still uses a leverage, vice-like, pressure on the nose and chin with poll involvement. In the social groups we frequent we are seeing a tendency toward training methods that discourage the use of fear and pain – which is a great thing. We are also seeing a strange trend to only training as the horse allows, but that is a subject for another day. Clearly, you want your horse to want to be with you instead of happily grazing in the field.
Zoe’s story starts with this very situation – Hazel was all in when it came to the games and joining up. Hazel became all out when it came time to submit to the metal in her mouth! You can read all about Hazel & Zoe here.So the definition of a bitless bridle, for us, is the Nurtural.
Zoe found the crossunder to be the bridle that made the most sense to her but there were some things she didn’t like. Like, the rein straps would twist and prevent an instant release. Like, the rein straps would become uneven. Like, the noseband would ride up into Hazel’s eyes. Like, the crossunder allowed direct poll pressure to which Hazel vehemently objected. Like, the bridle would twist and move when Zoe needed to do a one rein stop. That led Zoe to invent the Circle-X and add a textured rubber to the inside of the noseband. The Circle-X makes it possible to fit the bridle loose enough to easily slide your flat hand under every strap. It teaches absolute pressure is ask and release is reward. It keeps the bridle stable even in a one-rein stop.
We have many many testimonies of people going bitless and it causing their horses to be happier, healthier, more relaxed and therefore more attentive and teachable. Try it, you’ll like it!