What is a Bitless Bridle?

What is a Bitless Bridle? 

The bitless bridle, also known as a Side-pull halter, works alot like riding in a halter and is favored among the Natural Horseman.  Similar to a bosal or headstall, the Bitless bridle features more comfort in the noseband and rings on the cheek pieces for rein attachment.  We will be using the name bitless bridle and side-pull as the same reference in this article.

Fitting similarly to a halter, the side-pull is a more secure option for riding simply because of the closer fitting style that is stabilized so as not to twist around the nose or be tugged into the horse’s eye.

Commonly used in natural horsemanship practices that believe in pain-free, stress free riding. The horse is guided through gentle pressure on nose and neck reining from the rings on the cheek pieces. Many side-pulls feature leather, rope, nylon, or comfort padded nosebands.  Many will notice a profound difference in the pleasantry of a ride when switching from a bit to a side pull. The horse is noticeably more relaxed which in turn makes a more relaxed rider.

Rider benefits will be noticed as well. Bitless riding will ultimately make a stronger rider that will learn to use leg and seat aids as the way to guide and control rather than using only a strong hand. Encourages rein aids as well without the anticipation or nervousness of a painful bit.

Why use a side-pull?

There are many reasons one may want to try it out.  Some for fun, some for safey, some for the comfort of the horse.

  • For young or new riders that may not have developed yet the softness of the hand or leg aids. Most new riders will have a heavy hand that pulls on the bit to guide.
  • Horses with sensitive mouths or horses who have become hardened to the bit.
  • Horses that have a fear of the bit whether from harsh training or riders that tend to be too heavy on the bit.
  • Anxiety of a bit- some horses suffer from mental and physical pain from a bit. Using a bitless bridle can allow trust and provide a gentler way of riding.
  • Horses that have mouth injuries or malformations that cause extreme pain when the bit is used.
  • Training of young horses
  • Lesson horses that are ridden by new riders or that are used throughout the day.
  • Trail horses- for easy on and off riding

How to introduce.

The side-pull fits just like a bridle , they are worn the same way.  Reins attach to the rings on the side of each cheek piece which will be used to guide through neck reining, along with leg and seat aids .

Now one of the cons of using a bit-less bridle would be lack of immediate control, so obviously they should only be used by or under the supervision of a trained or experienced rider.  Starting out slowly, in an enclosed arena, will ensure a great start to a new way of riding!

What features to look for

  • Fit- generally the sizing will match your halter or bridle size. It will fit snug like a bridle.
  • Lined nylon or leather for comfort


What does a Bit-less bridle look like?







With patience and time, many horses of all disciplines have been shown to successfully perform without a bit.


Ready to try your horse in a side-pull but not ready to make the commitment to an expensive leather one?  Try this one from LuckyPony, available in sizes pony to large horse in a variety of colors!


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