What Are the Pros and Cons of Bitless Bridles?

Bitless bridles have many pros and cons. How does a bitless bridle work? Are bitless bridles better?

They have become more mainstream in recent years due to controversy surrounding bits and the potential harm they can do to horses when placed in the wrong hands, but both styles can be used for effective riding.

This article will highlight all of the major benefits and drawbacks of the most common bitless bridles for horses – as well as answer related questions- to help you decide if they would be a good fit for your horse.

Pros of Bitless Bridles 

Bitless bridles are, as the name suggests, bridles made without bits.  Horses will experience chin pressure, poll pressure, nose pressure, or a combination, rather than mouth pressure when being led in a direction.

lady riding a horse with bitless bridle

Common bitless bridle types include hackamores and bosals. Below are some reasons why equestrians would choose the bitless bridle over a bitted one.

  • Greater comfort for the horse 
  • Horses often display more relaxation and move more freely when ridden bitless 
  • Horses cannot learn to avoid the pressure from a bitless bridle 
  • Your horse will have more focus because they are not chewing on the bit 
  • Encourages horses to get off their forehand and use the hind, reducing strain on the bones, ligaments, and joints 
  • Improved balance of the horse
  • Riding bitless can provide healthy variety to your horse’s routine 
  • Horses will have more energy because they are not fighting the bit 
  • The bitless bridle frees the horse’s neck

Cons of Bitless Bridles 

There are negative traits associated with every piece of riding equipment, and bitless bridles are no exception.

The following are some reasons why equestrians would not opt for a bitless option. 

dappled horse with bitless bridle

  • Not approved for use at most competitions 
  • Not suited for beginner rider that needs to learn good contact or has  rough hands 
  • More difficult to achieve collection with
  • Can be harsher than bitted bridles if misused because a horse’s face is extremely sensitive 
  • A horse can become dull to cues that would be noticed with a bit 
  • Less control and stopping power than bits 
  • They fit exactly to the horse, leaving no growing room

Every horse is different, and as such the needs of your horse vary from that of others. Only you as their owner will know whether bitted or bitless options are better. Use the discussion above to guide you in your decision-making.  

Check: Hackamore Vs Bosal Differences

Pros and Cons of Sidepull Bitless Bridles 

A sidepull is a bitless alternative made of flat leather and rope that uses direct reining to allow communication with the horse.

Reins are attached to rings on either side of the bridle, and the least complicated ones look and feel similar to a halter.

When the rider pulls the reins, the horse feels pressure on its nasal bone and the facial nerves surrounding it.

Pulling the left rein tells the horse to turn left, pulling the right rein tells the horse to turn right, and pulling back gently tells them to stop. Sidepulls can also be designed to place pressure on the chin groove or under the poll.

Now that we know a bit about sidepulls, let’s discuss the pros and cons of these bitless bridles. 


  • Best suited for sensitive horses
  • Horses that are uncomfortable with bits may respond well to sidepulls
  • Subjects the horse to less discomfort from riders with harsh hands
  • Helps stop head tossing, rooting, shaking, balking, and other behaviors that could be harmful
  • Easier for horses to eat and drink with 


  • Less contact available with the horse 
  • Cannot be used in most shows
  • Can cause severe pain to a horse if not used correctly 

Check: Best Hackamore for Trail Riding

American War Bridle Pros and Cons 

An American war bridle is two metal rings connected by a piece of rope that goes in the horse’s mouth.

There is no browband, no cheekpiece, no throatlatch, or any other element you would find on a modern bridle.

Instead, war bridles are modified versions of what Native Americans would use when riding their horses. It is one of the simplest pieces of riding equipment out there.


  • Perfect for the minimalist rider 
  • Is less complex than traditional bridles and other bitless options
  • Ideal for horses with a sensitive head and or nose 
  • Horses are relaxed and willing in it 


  • Can cause a horse pain in the wrong hands or break their jaw
  • It may take a long time for a horse to adjust because this tack is seldom used by riders 


What is a bitless bridle?

lady smiling at the horse with bitless bridle

A bitless bridle is a bridle that does not have a bit. Although they have been around for hundreds of years, they became popularized after a large group of equestrians created a popular belief that a regular bridle would cause their horse more harm than good.

How do bitless bridles work?

Bitless bridles apply gentle pressure to different areas of a horse’s head, instead of their mouth, The head areas that can experience the pressure are the poll, chin, and nose. When the rider pulls on the reins, the horse responds to the pressure by turning in the direction of the pull.

Are bitless bridles harsh?

Bitless bridles are not inherently harsh for a horse. However, they can become harsh when used inappropriately or given to harsh hands, just like any other piece of riding equipment.

Is it safe to ride bitless?

lady riding a horse with bitless bridle

It is generally accepted that bitless riding is safer and more controlled than riding with a bit. A study completed by the Certified Horseman’s Association found that horses that had never been ridden bitless were calmer and performed better than they did with a conventional bridle.


Bitless bridles are a bit-free alternative to the traditional bridle, and they work by placing pressure on areas other than the mouth.

They have many positives including allowing the horse to have greater freedom of movement and encouraging them to use the hind end more, but any type of bitless bridle can cause pain when used inappropriately. 


  • “(Bit)Less Is More: Bitless Horseback Riding for Beginners.” 2019. Horse Rookie. February 10, 2019. https://horserookie.com/bitless-is-more-bitless-horseback-riding-for-beginners/.
  • “Choosing a Bridle for Your Horse | Local Riding.” 2020. Localriding.com. 2020. https://www.localriding.com/choosing-a-bridle.html.
  • “FAQs – the Bitless Bridle by Dr. Robert Cook.” 2018. The Bitless Bridle by Dr. Robert Cook. July 17, 2018. https://bitlessbridle.com/faqs/#q2.
  • https://www.facebook.com/thespruceofficial. 2019. “Is a Bitless Side Pull Bridle Right for You and Your Horse?” The Spruce Pets. 2019. https://www.thesprucepets.com/what-is-a-side-pull-bridle-1886065.
  • “Is It Possible to Find Peace by Using a War Bridle?” 2021. Horse Canada. Horse Canada. January 27, 2021. https://horse-canada.com/magazine/tack-equipment/possible-find-peace-using-war-bridle/.
  • Neubert, Kelli. 2015. “Riding with a War Bridle – Western Horseman.” Western Horseman. December 2015. https://westernhorseman.com/horsemanship/neu-perspectives/riding-in-a-war-bridle/.
  • The Cheshire Horse. 2020. “A Bit Different: A Look at Bitless Bridles and Hackamores – the Cheshire Horse.” Cheshirehorse.com. February 20, 2020. https://blog.cheshirehorse.com/2020/02/20/a-bit-different-a-look-at-bitless-bridles-and-hackamores/.
lady beside tow horses without bitless bridles

For you, what are the pros and cons of bitless bridles? Let us know in the comments below!

Andreea J.
Andreea J.

Andreea is a very passionate content creator and her purpose is to provide you with the most interesting articles, while constantly discovering new facts. She’s been freelance writing for the past five years and has created numerous articles and educational materials while managing her own mom blog.
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