The Micklem Multibridle offers three bitless configurations that offer increasing levels of control. To accomplish this, the bridle uses different pressure points on the horse’s head, rather than simply increasing the pressure on a single area (for example, a hackamore is more or less harsh depending on the length of the shanks).
As I wrote previously, the side pull configuration controls the horse using pressure on the bridge of the nose.
The greatest difficulty with the Micklem Multibridle is that for any configuration more complex than the side pull, you need an engineering degree! My bridle came with no directions and the photos on the Web site were not clear enough to make it immediately obvious. Luckily, my husband IS an engineer and he figured out the two other configurations. To me, this is a real flaw: if it’s not intuitive how to use a product, it really should come with clear instructions.
The “medium” setting is achieved by inserting a leather strap under the cavesson so that it adds pressure to the chin groove. The pressure here is not much; the leather strap is attached to the outside of the cavesson by sliding it through an elastic slot. This is a good way to make sure that it stays in place but it also means that any pressure it applies is distributed over a larger area and is not as direct as it would be had the strap been placed under the noseband. The rings on the leather strap are then passed through the rings on the cavesson. You attach the reins to the rings on the strap.
Here’s where I ran into an unexpected problem. When you attach your reins to the rings on the strap you essentially lengthen the overall length of your reins by about four inches on each side. I ride with rubber reins, but the rubber portion ends and the rein on the other side of the connection is smooth. With the reins attached to the rings, it made my reins so long that I was forced to hold either the area where they transitioned from rubber to smooth, or hold the smooth part of the rein. In either case, it was not comfortable. If I used the bridle in this configuration regularly, I would have to buy a shorter pair of reins.
In terms of control, I did not find that this configuration offered any difference in control as compared to the side pull. In fact, I think my horse respects the pressure on his nose better than the pressure from the chin groove. By attaching the reins in this way, you effectively remove the direct pressure on the nose. Turning aids are still direct in that when you pull on the left rein, it applies pressure directly to the left side of the horse’s head. Of my two horses, my Trakehner responded better to this configuration than my TB; Freedom simply leaned on my hands and ignored the bridle. I believe that his response could have been fine tuned with a lot of transitions, but I didn’t have a compelling reason to keep using it in this set up.
Next, I tried the bridle in the “strongest” setting, which is a cross under configuration along the lines of the Dr. Cook’s Bitless bridle or the Nurtural bridle. Using the bridle in this way, the main pressure point is over the poll. To set up the bridle, you take the second, longer strap and thread it through an elasticized holder over the poll. As with the chin strap, the attachment point is on the outside of the bridle, so it effectively reduces the amount of poll pressure that the bridle applies. The strap crosses under the horse’s jaw and is then threaded through the rings on the bridle. The reins attach to rings just like in the medium setting. When riding with any cross under bridle, the aids to the horse are transmitted differently than with a side pull because the pressure is not direct; when you pull on a rein there is pressure both to the poll and to the jaw. The Dr. Cook’s web site describes this feeling as a “hug”.
I’ve written in my review of the Dr. Cook’s bridle that my Trakehner responds dramatically to poll pressure, and not in a good way! I was concerned about using this configuration of the bridle with him because of that, but I found that the placement of the strap on the outside of the cavesson mitigated the pressure enough so that it did not cause him to rear. I wouldn’t use the bridle in this configuration for hacking or schooling on the flat as I found it had too much bite, but I did foxhunt him in this set up and it worked very well. When foxhunting I tend to need a bit more control once the adrenalin kicks in and this worked well.
I had the same problem with the straps increasing the length of the reins. It’s a strange problem to have with this horse because his neck is so long that I’ve always had to buy extra long reins!
The other problem I had with the bridle is that when I used it frequently, it did rub my horse’s face. I have similar problems with the LG bridle and it may be that this horse just has particularly sensitive skin.
In conclusion: when used bitless, this bridle gives riders the chance to experiment with different pressure points as a method of control. I think that because of this the bridle does offer a lot of flexibility. I don’t necessarily agree with their mild/medium/strong definitions because I really think that it depends on how your horse reacts to pressure.