Recently I got this comment/question from Valerie L. It’s a good one so I thought I’d answer it in a post rather than in the comments.
I’m new to all this but have been thinking of using a bitless bridle on my 10 year old as the idea of having a steel bar in the mouth doesn’t really appeal to me. I’m a novice happy hacker/small jumps but my son loves to hunt him. I’ve been advised that if i make the change it has to be complete. Is there an issue with loss of control in hunting conditions as safety is my main concern.
Valerie, good question!
Riding bitless can be rewarding and it’s a whole lot easier in the winter. I wouldn’t worry about changing between bitless and bitted. It’s no different from changing bits (many people “bit up” to hunt or event).
My experience with riding bitless is that horses either “get it” within a couple of rides . . . or it just isn’t that appropriate for them. Even then, you sometimes do need to increase your level of control for more exciting activities such as hunting.
My Trakehner gelding loved being ridden bitless. For most activities all I needed was a simple side pull bridle. I also hunt and can tell you that it wasn’t enough control for riding first flight. You might look into the bitless bridles that offer different levels of control. I’ve used both the Micklem Multibridle and the LG bridle with success. My Trakehner got pretty exuberant out in the hunt field and I appreciated that extra bit of control!
Not all horses do well bitless, however. I’ve tried riding my TB bitless numerous times (with several different bitless solutions). He’s made it pretty clear to me that he prefers his loose ring snaffle.