I normally train for dressage and hunters in my O-Ring French Snaffle. We have had excellent progress since I got this horse in February. We are bending, collecting, streching, and flexing. Every once in awhile I'll hop on bareback with just a halter and a lead rope, just to work on my balance. I've come to realize my horse has a 10000% better attitude when I ride with her halter. So I decided to get brave and ride out on the trails this weekend in my western saddle and a halter with clip on reins. We had one of the best trail rides ever! She was extreamly relaxed. I can tell you that I will not be putting her bridle on anytime soon.
My question is...How many of you have ever used your halter as a bridle? Do you use a bridless bride? If you do how do you like it? Would you use your halter as a bridle out on trails?
What worries me is that a halter was not made to be used as a bridle. With so many scary objects while trail riding, is this going to be safe? What would you do?
I use a halter as a bridle from time to time. I would hack out my old eventer in a snug fitting halter with leather reins attached to the side rings, worked great – I could even do gallop sets with this configuration. This is a horse that came to me with a dead mouth – and VERY heavy on the hands, liked to lean lean lean, riding in a halter worked well for him, and got him lighter in the bridle when we returned to it.
I started my filly in a halter with reins, and rode out with this during her first few months.
Used to ride in just a halter a lot, around the property, but I used a lead rope attached to the bottom ring, direct reining for one way and neck reining for the other. How Apps has it set up is much safer.
I've used a halter in a pinch (forgot my bridle at a trail ride) but I'd ridden that horse in a halter many times at home. I don't like the way halter rings work with reins, so I bought a bitless bridle.
I've had several horses that went really well in a bitless bridle, and several horses that I wouldn't try it on in a million years. It all depends on the horse.
My horse was the same way - fine in a bridle with a bit, but fantastic without a bit. I now ride all of mine in riding halters. They all adjusted easily, respond as well or better than with a bit, and it's easier for me.
I've witnessed ugly wrecks caused by bolting or unruly horses in rope halters or side pulls. Of course as a kid I spent a lot of time between lessons wandering around using a halter and lead rode (as reSomething describes) but I'm older and my horses are younger. You know your horse.
I train my endurance pony in a rope halter with clip-on reins, but for actual races I use an English mechanical hackamore, which has rather more leverage, which I need because she loves to race.
Otherwise she is totally biddable in the halter.
I ride my Arab on trails in a bright blue beta sidepull. It's a glorified halter with a neoprene padded noseband. I also have a Tory 'jumping hackamore' that is a rolled leather noseband that turns a leather bridle into a sidepull as well. I do hunt paces and stuff like that where I want to look somewhat traditional in it.
I also ride in a rope halter sidepull (rope halter with rings tied into the side knots).
I actually foxhunt in a snaffle, but mainly because I'm new and was going for the traditional look. Next year we may go the sidepull route though.
My Arab is a thousand times happier bitless when we're not doing arena work.
It's often funny how it comes as such a nice surprise to riders that an educated horse can respond so well without metal in it's mouth. I think we forget sometimes that we tend to "nag" a bit when a horse is bridled, and don't when we ride bitless. I think the horse feels both physically and emotionally better without that horrid metal thing in it's mouth, which tends to translate to a more relaxed body, and more in sync with the rider on it's back.
A bit isn't used to move a horse forward, which is why bitless is a very accepted method of riding in endurance; it is more of a "brakes" object used on the sensitive areas of the mouth, but when riding bitless one relies more on the pressure of the head collar on the sensitive areas of the face (above the nose, under the jaw) for the "whoa" power. So is it safe? Well, personally, I think it is very safe. I've found face pressure to be easier for the horse to "listen to" than mouth pressure, and even my hard headed endurance horse was more biddable in a simple halter/bridle than in a bitted bridle. I know of a few people that foxhunt in a bitless bridle, if that says anything to ya. I hunted with double reins - one set to just the rings on my "foxhunt traditional looking" halter/bridle; the other set of reins on the Waterford bit my horse wore. 99% of the time he was perfect with just the halter reins. It was rare I had to use the bit reins, but they were there in case I needed them.
Then again, foxhunting is an extreme sport, not your average hack down the trail!
As long as you feel comfortable, just ride in a simple halter. Or if you want options, then buy an endurance halter/bridle which comes with removable bit holders. Just keep the holders attached to your bit which you can carry in your pocket so if you feel the need to use the bit, you have it ready for easy attachment to your halter for instant conversion to a full bridle. The endurance halter/bridle is much easier to use with reins attached to the side rings as well.
The photo below of me and my horse at an endurance ride, used by the AERC for a full page ad in an Arabian magazine, shows him in a simple endurance halter/bridle (not a sidepull, just a simple halter) without a bit.
I can ride my fairly hot Paso Fino in the indoor our outdoor ring with a halter and clip on reins. (I did it last night because I forgot my bridle at home.) Haven't tried it on the trail where he is much hotter and probably never will.
Armando del Fuego, Best Boy Ever (almost always)
Member of the Not Too Klassy For Boxed Wine Clique
Proud owner of The Roadkill Cafe
I honestly don't think I am in her mouth much. I've always had very soft hands. (I was taught to think I'm holding a wet sponge and when I ask for a cue I only squeeze enough to get 1 drop of water out of the sponge) And I usually depend on leg pressure and use my hands as last resort.
I almost think she responds better to the noseband pressure than mouth pressure.
I might try out my rope halter this week. (awesome idea!) I'm not too sure about the mechanical hackamore. I don't want that much leverage on her nose.
I'm so glad to know that I am not the only one who rides in a halter!
Under a rock, up in the hills of Sage, So. Calif, southeast of Hemet & north east of Temecula
I have ridden with a rope halter with the reins tied underneath the jaw to make it like a hackamore. I've also used a rope halter set up like a side pull. Both are ok but I found that the halter slipped around the horse's head too much.
Recently I got a Natural Horse Light Rider Bitless Bridle. I got just the working parts as I have plenty of headstalls. Unlike the Dr Cook bitless, which I do not like, there is no cross over. The cavesson has two rings on it, one on either side, and the chin strap floats thru those rings. It has been brilliant for my horse & me. If I need to firm up, it does so but not too much. And I can use very light aids with it the rest of the time. It does not slip around the head at all. I like it so much, I just ordered another one for my other horses (I'm too lazy to change the headstall settings moving from one horse to another). The only downside to it is paying the shipping from Australia. But I should have it forever as it is very well made. I got the biothane, but it also comes in leather. They also have good customer service.
There is no such thing as "bad" horsemanship or "good" horsemanship. There is simply Horsemanship or the absence thereof.
I'm not too sure about the chin strap on what your talking about. It looks like all the pressure goes to the chin, which I find Athena is not a huge fan of. I apply my reins to the ring under her chin so all of my rein pressure is at the top of her nose.
I'm thinking about investing in a bosal. That kind of gives the same affect of pressure that I am applying when I put her halter on. Have any of you used a bosal? What's your thoughts? I'm thinking one like this.
I've always had good luck with hackamores like Bearcat posted. I grew up knowing them as Hunting Hackamores and knew quite a few people who did fox hunt in them. I prefer them over a bosal or Dr. Cook's type bridle because you still have your traditional steering, there is not excessive leverage like with a mechanical but maybe adds a little extra "oomph" if needed versus a halter. Dover carries them at a fairly reasonable price.
I have ridden in a halter on one particular horse I owned.
I will never do that again with any of my horses.......on principle.
Don't get me wrong - my mare behaved perfectly.
But in our trail riding club - there are a fair number of OTHER riders - who ALSO ride in a halter - I think because they like to puff themselves up with feelings of "oh my my horse and I are so good - we can ride in a halter"
And yet a portion of them have a death grip and are constantly fighting to slow the horse down....or turn him - or whatever. Meanwhile OTHER people on the trail are getting bumped into or otherwise bothered by the ineptitude.
We are always sure that the person I've just described is "not me"
But it might be..............so..........
Remember that your choices may in fact be affecting other people.
Ride in a bridle - have control - and stay off the horse's face.