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  • Writer's pictureSuzy Maloney B.Eq.Sc.

Stopping a Horse in a Bitless Bridle

Mounted policeman riding in a bitless bridle.
Bitless Bridles are Safe and Effective

One of the first things people will say to you when they find out you ride without a bit is ‘How do you stop them?’. I understand this comment because I too grew up in the traditional horse world and was indoctrinated with the idea that you had to have a bit to stop your horse and be safe. These days I would never get on a horse that required a bit in order to stop. To me it sounds incredibly dangerous to sit on a large flight animal that doesn’t know how to stop. Back then it was normal, in fact I and many of my fellow equestrians spent a lot of time fighting our horses in order to stop them. What we were doing obviously wasn’t working, but we kept using the bits in the belief that it was the only way to ride a horse safely. Then if the bit we were using wasn’t stopping the horse effectively, it was time to change to a stronger one.

When I first transitioned to bit-free I still had this little voice in my head saying, ‘It’s not safe’, ‘How will you stop’, You’re crazy’ etc. But luckily the louder voice was saying it was safe, I could stop my horse, and that it was a better form of communication than a bit, so I kept going. Then one day I was at work at a trail riding establishment, and I was taking out a group of experienced riders. This was always fun as we could go faster, and I didn’t need to help the riders as much.

I was riding a thoroughbred and so was one of the male clients. I was riding bit-free, and he had a bit. We were cantering up a hill when the two thoroughbreds decided they were back at the racetrack and started galloping, trying to go faster than the other and win. I was able to stop my horse in a bitless bridle, before the client. He did stop further on and was ok, so it had a happy ending, but this experience completely changed me internally. All those little doubting voices went away instantly. There could never be a better test of whether you can stop a horse in a bitless bridle or not. I can state absolutely that you can. So why and how does it work?

One of the primary advantages of stopping a horse in a bitless bridle is the absence of discomfort or pain often associated with traditional bits. I know most people will say they are gentle with their hands so don’t cause mouth pain. However, that is how a bit works, by causing pain, so it’s not possible to completely avoid it. I challenge any equestrian to say they have never once gotten stronger with their hands. We have all at some point used a stronger rein aid when a horse suddenly shies, takes off, or some other unexpected event. It’s human nature to want to take control in these situations to ensure our own survival. In a bitless bridle we can still take control, without causing pain. By eliminating the risk of causing discomfort to the horse's mouth, teeth, or jaw, we can avoid creating resistance or evasion resulting from the horse’s reaction to pain. Instead, the pressure exerted by a bitless bridle is distributed around the horse's head, providing clear and gentle cues without causing physical discomfort. Horses become more relaxed and willing to respond to their rider's cues. This can lead to improved performance, as the horse is better able to focus on the task at hand without the distraction of pain or discomfort.

Using a bitless bridle can foster a stronger bond between horse and rider. Without the barrier of a bit between them, riders must rely more on their communication skills, body language, and understanding of the horse's natural responses. This increased reliance on non-verbal cues encourages a deeper level of trust and partnership between horse and rider. Without the distraction of the bit horses communicate better. We as the riders can then feel and see the smallest nuances of communication from the horse, resulting in smoother transitions and more responsive stops as the conversation between rider and horse reaches new levels.

Stopping a horse in a bitless bridle can be both easy and effective when approached with the right mindset and technique. By prioritizing communication, comfort, and trust, we can achieve smooth and responsive stops without the need for traditional bits. After over 20 years of riding numerous horses in a bitless bridle both at work and for pleasure, I could never feel safe using pain in the mouth to stop a horse again. I’m sure the horses are as happy about this as I am. 


Suzy Maloney B.Eq.Sc.Dip.Couns.

Happy Horses Bitless

Considerate Horsemanship


Ph: 0401 249 263


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