Bitless Bridle

Crossunder Bitless Bridles: fad - or stroke of genius?

Here are a few thoughts to consider

You and I weren’t around at the time, but the invention of the stirrup changed horsemanship (and warfare) forever.

So what about Dr. Cook’s Crossunder Bitless Bridle? Will it improve your horsemanship or not? For that matter, how will horses feel about it?

Let’s start with a simple question. How would your horse rather stop? With a hug to the head, or a jolt to the teeth?

Dr. Cook says that his crossunder bitless bridle is “the only bridle that is painless, compatible with the physiology of the exercising horse and universally suited to all disciplines”.

You can almost hear our horses shout “amen” to the news.

They’ve been ridden bitted since the Bronze Age (approximately 3000BC). It’s a crude method of control that inflicts pain. The horse is told to steer and brake through concentrated, sharp pressure, directed at sensitive, soft tissues within the mouth.

What’s more, the damage is proven. Supporters of the jointed snaffle might blame their horse’s deep tongue and mouth lacerations on other factors. But there’s no ignoring Dr. Cook’s study of horses’ skulls. Only 12% of domestic examples were free of bit related tooth damage.

And defending 5000-year-old technology is probably even worse for the rider – perhaps fatal. Your horse doesn’t scream or cry with pain. It simply changes its behaviour. This could mean bolting or bucking (putting you at extreme risk), but also restraining.

So how could your horsemanship improve after fitting this new kind of bridle?

Dr. Cook says, “It is common for a horse to exhibit 50 side effects and for 90% of these to be resolved within two weeks of using the crossunder bitless bridle”.

If you don’t believe that, believe the tests. Four horses (who’d never ridden bitless before) ran two, four-minute dressage exercises. Bitted, their score average was 37%. Running bitless they scored 64%.

So ends the debate of whether inflicting unnecessary pain equals more control.

By the way, nobody knows who invented the stirrup. There were variations on the idea a good 2,500 years ago.
But when the Goths used it against the Romans it was a major factor in the collapse of the Roman Empire


  1. Lena

    Actually, a bit should not inflict pain if used correctly. Contact with the mouth should be light, steady and elastic, not pulling on the mouth, and should encourage the horse to reach forwards and take the bit. Downward transitions and cues to slow down are dominated by the seat, not the hands of the rider. This means that to achieve a slower pace the seat is used mainly instead of yanking the mouth. And steering is mainly in the legs; the reins are an aid for balancing and bending. Yes, a bitless bridle may help and yes, a bit can be used to inflict pain. But the point is, a bit is not a terribly horrible and inhumane torture device used to abuse horses like you make it sound.

    1. C.S

      @Lena…This is true, but it takes an experienced rider to know how much pressure to use and to have this kind of knowledge about proper use of the bit.
      But, there are thousands of people that think “hey I should buy a horse!” without knowing anything about horses and riding. And they unknowingly cause pain out of ignorance/lazy riding because they don’t know any better.
      In the right hands a bit can be useful, but a bitless bridle can be just as effective.
      I have a handful of horses, I used to ride with a bit, but after switching to a bitless bridle (with proper training to do the switch, and a tree-less saddle) my horses are now more sensitive to light touch and are extremely easily manouverable.
      Plus they are happier due to no pain at all, and are much more willing to do whatever!

  2. Sadie

    I agree with Lena. Jerking or pulling to quickly may cause the horse to dislike the bit, but if used along with leg, seat, or voice commands the bit will not hurt a horse. Also, what if your horse doesn’t stop when you use a bitless bridle? Should you try with a bit?

  3. kelly

    Hi yes bits can be used “nicley” in the right hands but how many bad hands is there out there? millions! every jumping day pony club day ect is full of yanking pulling see sawing on horses mouths. I have a dr cook bit less bridle and love my arab took to it straight away and for any one worried i have the same amount of control as i did with a bit as i do now. my horse collects up beautifully in it no problems at all. People always stop me saying oh you dont have a bit and he is going so well . um yes my horse is happy so of course he goes well. give it a try please every one. Why do we need double bridles in dressage and showing is my big question ? is one bit not enough just so cruel then you often see a blue tongue sticking out the side that cant be nice.

  4. Lena

    Of course there are ‘bad hands’ out there, and I am most definitely NOT against bitless bridles. I do think they are a wonderful idea; however, I am not against bits either. I personally do not believe that there is any need whatsoever for stronger bits, and the same effects can (and should) be achieved with a simple snaffle as could be achieved with a strong dressage bit. My point is simply that I do not think the bit itself is cruel, it is the hands of the rider that can be cruel. And I quote, “It’s a crude method of control that inflicts pain”… this I do not agree with. Used correctly, a bit should not inflict pain at all. If it did, why do well trained horses learn to seek contact 100% willingly?

  5. Julia

    The bit is only hurting the horse because her reins are way to short. If she would have a softer hand and give the horse a little more rein the horse would be fine.I think the bitless is a good idea but they both feel okay to the horse in the right hands.

  6. Kenady

    Well in the video you can tell right away that the rider has their reins to short & could have been using their body more to cue the horse. I am 14 & have broke three horses befor using a bit & leg cues. I have never had a problem with them throwing their heads or anything. I have a bit less bridle that I use on my Reining horse but my Working horse hates it. But the many thing is bits aren’t as bad as you make them to be & in the right hands are not harsh at all to the horse.

  7. Riley

    Are you even allowed to show your horse in a bitless bridle? I don’t think you are, & that’d be a huge concern for me switching to bitless..

  8. Maz

    I’m interested in endurance. What do you think about going with a hackamore? ❓ Any tips on training? My horse never saw a bit in her life! I don’t want to mess her up with introducing it, so I thought to go without it. She is a very trustworthy, no nonsense filly.

  9. Mark Hoole

    What a setup! poorly trained horse and rider.

    I don’t ride that short to jump, therefore the rider has no!! seat and is a hand reliant rider.

  10. Brendon

    stumbled apon your website awesome ! can you direct me to more of your info on bitless.the things i see being said make a lot of good sense. we have a fantastic horse who is a pleasure to ride…looks like things are about to get better !

  11. Magan

    That has way more to do with that horse not knowing how to flex than anything. But i agree my off the track quarter horse would always put the bit under her tounge, she hated it. As soon as i switched her to a Hackmore she completely changed. She would also put her head down init on her own she liked it so much! I also ride my stallion with a Bosal and he is great, put a bit in his mouth though and he will throw a fit. 😉

  12. Caitlin

    I’m trying to decide if i should switch to a bitless bridle, but i keep hearing different things- I have hear that it can break a horses nose and do damage and that bitless bridles can be just as harsh as bits. also I want to do barrel racing- would i be alloed to with a bitless bridle and would it still work for the sport?
    I care about my horse and dont want to hurt him…
    if a bitless bridle is a good idea, what type/brand is a good, safe option?

    1. Lily

      bit less bridles can be cruel, at my old stable i was unlucky enough to see a horse ridden bit less by a cruel rider. the horse didn’t stop when the rider asked so after she forced the gelding to a halt she tightened the bridle. this continued going for over an hour the horse was in deep pain when i became to horrified to watch. later walking by the horses stall i stopped to see if he was OK. i could see where the bridle was, in dried blood.
      be careful when using any bridle on your horse

  13. sally

    I think that a bitless bridle works with some horses not with others, I have several horses, only a few I could safely say are great with or with out a bit, however I have a few, OTT’s, that are way too headstrong to be able to ride safely with a bitless bridle, one spooks and would bolt easily away on me with a bitless bridle, the other is just a very determined gentleman that would walk all over my son if there were not a bit in his mouths. A bit should not inflict pain on a horse but rather be used as a guidance. I wish all my horses were educated enough to understand leg cues and voice commands easily so that were the only guidance they needed and I did not have to use a bit, but not all horses come to us in such a manner, especially if they’re OTT’s.

  14. Mel

    Obviously the rider and horse with the bit are poorly trained in that video, which proves nothing about a bit. A horse tossing its head like that was never trained properly, showing a complete lack of trust in the rider!!! You can make any video prove any point YOU might think is valid, but that doesn’t make it right . Alot of miscues and useful info in this video.

  15. Frederick Booth

    I use a bitless bridle on our farm stallion as he prefers it to a bitted one especially on cold days!I have found that a bitless bridle has excellent braking and stopping power.It is less effective for turning and cornering on an evasive and smart horse as our stallion is!I use both depending on what kind of riding I am doing.Our farm stallion is a thoroughbred who is bred to race and for soundness to be passed on to his progeny with great speed! Fred

  16. neil

    I just started leasing a national show horse and the owner uses this kind of bridle. it was a complete failure the horse would pull constantly and even darted out into oncoming traffic on a busy road, he pulled so hard that it rubbed him almost raw and pulled his head up when i tried to stop. i switched to a gentle fat copper snaffle and it works great , to the point where he is a different horse , very relaxed and i can be very gentle with my hands .

  17. Carla

    I used to be a strong believer in a bit but I have changed my mind when I tried the BB Bridle, unless the horse does not like the bit I will never again use a bitted bridle. It was the best thing that I have ever done. I have much better control and my horses are happy! If you havnt tried a BB Bit the I don’t see why you should comment because you have nothing to compare with.

  18. I’ve returned to riding after many years being horseless and after studying learning theory. Most trainers (of horses) have no understanding of learning theory, so they frankly ‘make it up as they go along’ and/or franchise their ‘methods’ to make money. But Learning theory is just the cost of one or two books, or a good website; it is not ‘owned’ by anyone.

    I still can’t see why anyone would want to hammer nails into a horses’ feet, or put lumps of metal in there mouths as a default practice. Lena, (first post above) actually makes the case for NOT having a bit. If as she says, downward transitions are mainly by the seat and the legs are used for steering, then why have a bit at all? We can do all our “balancing and bending” without a bit anyway, so why have one? What’s the advasntage to the horse of havig a bit?

    The problem with a bit is *anyone* can (and does) use it. So some pain will always be inflicted on some horses, by some riders using the bit, as the mouth is so delicate and sensitive to pain. Also, I think bits are often dangerous as they risk the horse getting behind them, and not being able to breathe or even swallow at will; this induces stress. Stress increases the risk of your loss of control as the rider and this is dangerous. But a horse cannot ‘get behind’ a Dr Cooks bridle. So, if the horse is trained bitless, using habituation, positive reinforcement and minimal negative reinforcement, then they are far more reliable bitless, as stress levels are reduced.

    My 4yo Arab is recently backed, bitless and barefoot. He’s a pleasure to ride already!

    I do think bits belong in the dark ages where they were ‘perfected’ to inflict painful wounds if the horse resisted an aid. They are used by default by many rather than byintention. New risers like me were told to ‘get one’; like shoeing, I asked why? and no one came up with a convincing case for either practice.



    I started using Dr. Cook’s bitless bridle after I got him and he seemed uncomfortable with his bit. He is a 5 year old reg. Tennessee Walking Horse. I could not believe the way he relaxed and worked so much better with the bitless bridle. As far as I could see he did not act any different, as far as control. He just was a happier big guy! I am still thrilled. No more bits for my horse. A happy horse makes me happy!

  20. carolyn

    I have an 8 yr old QH/draft gelding that has only been in formal training for 1 year. I loved the idea of “iron-free” for my horse, so he is barefoot and recently tried Dr Cooks bitless bridle. He was confused by the pressure and was leaning into the pressure, so we removed the cross over straps and seems fine now, although without the pressure to his pole I am not as confident in the control I have in his forward motion. Any suggestions?

  21. Ray

    I don’t think what you put on the horse’s head or in the horse’s mouth is as important as training of the horse, the rider and saddle fit. If the horse has been correctly brought along using a method that respects the horse and properly introduced him to a bit or a bitless bridle then he is going to be reasonably willing and cooperative. No horse is 100% safe and all can be dangerous put in the right situation. If the horse has been correctly trained, my next thoughts are of the rider’s abilities. Is the rider’s seat independent so he isn’t a burden to the horse, doesn’t interfere with the horse’s movements or need the reins for balance? Has the rider learned to influence the horse by correctly apply the aids? If the answer to those questions is yes my next question would be, does the saddle truly fit this particular horse and second does it fit the rider? In many cases the answer is no. If the rider needs to improve then I believe the horse is better off without a bit in his mouth. Or better yet, the rider should stay on a longe line until his seat is independent. If the saddle doesn’t truly fit the horse and/or rider then the horse is going to suffer with or without a bit.


    I use a light rider bit less bridle on my ex racehorse . He loves it . I recommend the website natural horse world. The lady who invented it lives in Australia, the brilliant thing is you can use it at the same time as having a bit- like a double rein until you feel confident. You can also buy the part that is bit less and fit it to your existing bridle. Please give it ago for your horses sake . Most people haven’t got good hands all the time and the times I’ve seen people yank at the mouth to deliver punishment. When people are learning they will pull and pull on the reins. Horses deserve better

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