Last week in our “Where’s the Bit?” series, Lindsay Rausch introduced us to the concept of the side pull bitless option. This week, she shows us a variation on that theme.
Top: Wikimedia Commons
As we learned last week, the basic side pull operates by applying pressure across the nose and under the chin by direct pressure from the reins. The most simple variant is a side pull that includes a jowl strap. This is a second piece that goes under the horses head around the cheeks to stabilize the side pull and prevent it from rotating. This video shows how to put on and adjust one of these side pulls:
There are many different cross-under bridles on the market today. Here are a few of the most popular models:
From a comment on an earlier post I was asked to consider the Diana Thompson side pull variant when I got to this point in the series. This side pull operates on all of the same principals as the video above with the exception of how the noseband is laid out. She uses a composite noseband where the center section is made from lariat (a rope-type noseband), and then the side sections are covered to make them softer; this allows the side pull to act on the top of the nose and protect the rest of the face.
The Dr. Cook Bitless Bridle is based upon the cross-under style and the idea of the whole head hug.
This picture below helps to illustrate the concept. When the left rein is pulled it applies pressure on a diagonal from the left side of the nose up to the right side of the poll. This literally creates a hug around the horse’s head so that when a rein is used the horse’s full head is guided to move away from the poll pressure and towards the pull from the rein, which in this case is on the left side. This is a benefit to horses that might not respond well to pressure on their nose and chin by providing them a bitless option.
This versatile bridle offers four different configurations–a bridle, a lunge cavesson, halter and bitless bridle with three fitting variations ranging from mild to strong in effect. For our purpose, we’ll focus on the latter, which features a long strap that runs over the poll, crosses under the jaw and attaches to the reins.
The design of the bridle itself is molded to the shape of the skull itself, avoiding any pressure on the facial nerves, projecting cheek bones or the upper jaw molar teeth.
The Nurtural is a variant on the cross under style but is differentiated by what they call the “Circle-X.”
This allows the cross-under actions but keeps all of the straps in position for quick contact and release as well as preventing slip and twist. Other than that this bridle is conceptually a cross-under.
There are many different cross-unders available now and each one offers a different way to balance nose, chin and poll pressure to best fit the needs of the horse and rider. Many of these are also made with English or western styling to fit the rider’s preference and tack. Stay tuned from next time when I will look at the LG and Orbital methodologies to the bitless world.
Lindsay Rausch learned to ride at a young age from her mom who had been a trainer and horsemanship instructor in a previous life. Lindsay has always been a western trail rider, and even though she has not owned a horse of her own she has always looked for any chance to get a leg in the saddle. She is currently setting up a 10-acre farm for cattle and horses. Lindsay would love to hear questions that readers have about the western world that she could research for the Horse Nation.
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