Dr. Cook bitless bridle for driving?

Miniature Horse Talk Forums

Help Support Miniature Horse Talk Forums:

This site may earn a commission from merchant affiliate links, including eBay, Amazon, and others.


Well-Known Member
Apr 23, 2012
Reaction score
Is anyone using or has used the Dr Cook bitless bridle for their mini? I recently switched my big horse to it as he was in sheer panic everytime he saw his bitted bridle (French link snaffle bit) and always seemed bothered by the bit in his mouth. He now willingly puts on his bridle and responds better than with a bit in his mouth. I'd like to get one for my mini once I start ground driving her and wanted to see what your experiences and thoughts are?
General consensus is that bitless bridles are not safe when hooked to a vehicle. You have to remember that when you ride, your reins are shorter and held in a different position, and you have the benefit of communicating to your horse with your seat and legs when you ride. It is possible that your horse didn't have the right bit (my pony can be extremely particular about his bit) or there are dental or mouth issues going on)...
I had his teeth checked and tried other bits. I did a ton of research on bitless before ordering it. The Dr Cook one works different than a side pull or hackamore. I've asked other riders, dressage etc and everyone that has used it loves it. They make one for minis for driving so I'd like to get opinions from someone who has used it. In big horses you have better co trol with this bridle than with a bit, hard to believe for someone who hasn't used it but I've seen it.
I would not use it, sorry. I would not use it for riding either, although I did have a mare who would not willingly go in a bit. I rode her in a drop noseband, adjusted high with reins attached to the side, no pulley action at all, She was great and then I added a bit with no reins, then attached reins and rode with two reins, then quietly removed the reins from the noseband. This mare would ride without a bridle, safely, but a horse is at a huge disadvantage if it will not accept a bit, and when I eventually sold her I was very glad I had taught her to go in a bit. Circumstances change from day to day and you never know when you might have to sell an animal.

I would not consider a horse safe to drive in a bitless bridle, you are a lot further away from the horses head when driving. I am afraid I see all these funny contraptions as just another gimmick.

Incidentally the whole problem with the big mare was that she hated jointed bits of any sort. When I put a half moon nylon bit in her mouth she was OK.
Personally, I don't trust bitless bridles. Riding and certainly not driving. There are so many things that could go wrong while driving anyway, I would like to have as much control as possible. My horses don't respond we'll to pressure in the noseband ( not sure on a bitless that's where the pressure is, but still ) so I don't trust bitless, sorry, that's just my opinion. But, it's not to say I know what I'm talking about, im just basing this off my friends experience, who tried bitless on her riding horse. The horse didnt feel the bit, so she thought she was free to do as she pleases. She tried calming her down but the horse got confused by the new pressure and bucked her off. I can't imagine what would happen if that we're to occur while I was in the cart!! P.S , sorry in advance if there are typos, in posting off of my iPhone 5 and autocorrect can be crazy sometimes!!!
. Keep us posted on how the bitless bridle works! I would like to see how this works out:)
Last edited by a moderator:
A bitless bridle may be fine for some horses, but I would not trust it to work great on every horse.  Some people thought/think the sidepulls were/are the most wonderful thing ever, but personally I never had any use for them.  Yes, I have ridden many miles without a bit on my horses—I loved my bosal, but again, not every horse is meant to be a “hackamore horse” and there were certain horses I did not use a bosal on, because they didn’t work well in one. 

The Dr. Cook bitless bridle will put some pressure around the horse’s nose, but it also puts pressure on the poll—I’ve always considered it a glorified “war bridle”—fashion a war bridle on your horse & you will get much the same effect as you get from this bitless bridle (though I know supporters of the bitless bridle do not like that comparison!!)—the bitless bridle just looks more fashionable.    Put a nerve line or war bridle on a horse and he will generally become compliant, but I knew one big mare one time—she was absolutely impossible to load, so her owner put a war bridle on her-- she would hang her tongue out the side of her mouth because of the nerve  pressure but she would not give in and comply with what her owner was trying to make her do.  I was surprised when I saw that—I have never seen a horse resist that way!  You couldn’t have paid me to put a bitless bridle on that mare & ride her—yet in a simple snaffle bit she was a wonderful ride.  Same with driving—she was a safe driving horse but I would never have taken her out in the cart if she were wearing a bitless bridle instead of a bit—not after I had seen her response to a nerve line!

Driving a horse in harness puts the lines in a different location than they are in when you are riding that horse, and I simply do not see the bitless bridle as being appropriate for harness horses.  I once tried to drive a Morgan gelding in the bit I usually rode him in.  It did not work at all, because with the driving lines run through the terrets, the bit took on a different action than it had when I was riding the horse, and he simply did not respond well to it that way.    In my view the bitless bridle is not appropriate for driving, though I know some people use it for that purpose.  You will surely get away with it on some horses, but I would not consider it safe for any and every horse.
I walked by a stall once, and noticed a lady icing her horses nose, so I stopped and asked her what was wrong. Her Canadian mare, who she rode in a Dr. Cook's Bitless Bridle all the time, was much more forward away from home, and by the time she finished riding had a huge welt across the bridge of her nose. She was going to use a snaffle for the rest of the weekend, and re-evaluate her use of the bitless bridle at all.
I have tried the bitless bridle for a mini I started training. It did work to get her to move out in front of me and was intended as a gentle means to encourage her to ground drive, less forceful than a bit, more forceful than a halter with ropes attatched.

Now with that said, two things I noticed, they run VERY SMALL and sit very low across the bridge above the muzzle, she was tiny, like 27" and I only had the intent of hooking her to a small wagon. Second, It was counter productive when I tried to move onto a bit. Just as teaching a green horse to neckrein in hopes of driving them would be a counteractive measure, using the bitless bridle in hopes of graduating to a regular headstall is counterproductive. For those that do not know the concept of these bridles, the rein is connected to the opposing side of the bridle. When pulled, it pulls on the opposing side of the headstall, and applies force on that side of the head to turn it (as if someone was applying force from the opposite side, as if pushing the head in the direction it needs to go.)

Is it possible it was never your actual mouth piece on your bit, but rather where it blended into the side of the bit at the corners of the mouth? My trainer was extremely cautious of this when choosing bits for a horse in training. It does not have to be an extremely expensive bit, but one that allows a good distance at the corners of the mouth before it joins to the side pieced of the bit. Looks like almost all of these bits, for example, join in close to the corners of the mouth, having joints that may pinch when used. The second link shows a bit with an adequate area that is joint free, preventing pinching. These are just examples, not any specific mouth piece, just shown to demonstrate how a bit is joined to the cheekpieces.


Last edited by a moderator:
While I asked for opinions and experiences, I'd like to get those from people who have actually USED the Dr Cook (NOT any other bitless). So far I believe only one of the responding has, I appreciate your insight, but the dr cook is far from being a war bridle and different from other bitless.

Read more why here : http://www.horse-sense.org/archives/20041219114549.php

I agree, not every bit is for every horse and not ever bitless (or bitless at all) is for every horse or rider either. Unless you've seen the reaction of my horse to the bitted or bitless bridle you can't judge or determine what's better for him.

Also, if someone rode in the dr cook to the point of her horse having a swollen nose, I would have hated to see the horses mouth if this person had ridden with a bit - if you don't know how to ride with soft contact you shouldn't even have reins in your hand in the forst place and be put on a longe line with a trainer for some lessons. Sorry but that's just my opinion.
I have used the bitless bridle on both minis and larger equine. I use one on my stallion and he is wonderful. Then tried it on a mare and no thanks she didn't care for it. The bitless isn't for every horse. It's like everything else when your training patience consistency,and knowing your horse.

Everyone has their own training style if you will. It's hard to really say if you will like it. I was curious myself about it so I bought them and I am glad I did.

Good Luck!
The bitless bridle puts pressure on the poll and around the horse’s muzzle—exactly like a war bridle (and I am not meaning the thin cord sort of war bridle that people put the cord in the mouth over the horse’s gums)  The war bridle I was taught to rig up is a lariet looped over the poll (like an ordinary nerve line) and then wrapped around the jaw & back through itself….more of a “halter” than a “bridle” really, but still referred to as a war bridle.  Granted the bitless bridle, made of leather, is less extreme than the rope version, but the two do still operate on the same principle, even if you choose not to see that.

As for the horse with the swollen nose being “abused” by the use of a bit instead of the bitless bridle—I have to point out that a horse properly trained to go on the bit will work on a very light rein even when fresh or on the muscle, while that same horse may not go well at all in a bitless bridle.   It is the same as my saying earlier that some horses just don’t make good hackamore horses—a horse that goes well on a bit could very well be “heavy” in a bosal & end up with a raw jaw from it.  That doesn't mean the rider is heavy handed or doesn't know how to ride on light contact.
The only people I've heard wanting to use a bitless bridle are horses that they have troubles finding the corrrect bit. I too have had that with one of our horses. In my search and finding the most comfortable bit and checking teeth, and giving her every benefit, decided she needed to "learn" to wear a bit. I had someone suggest a bitless bridle and I didint' want to use it just to for-go training or taking a shortcut. Yes, she was more difficult, but we finally got through it. After going through a cart wreck with another pony, I really want that control if I ever needed it in an emergency. If you have a run-a-way, would a bitless allow for direct rein pressure if needed? My feeling in examining those is if they wanted to muscle into it, you physically could not use direct rein. And I agree, a horse that hasn't learned to use a bit, isn't trained...IMO. If ever wanted to show or compete, do they allow bitless? On the other hand, whatever works best on any horse is what should be used and of course if there is a physical reason the horse is unable to wear a bit, then of course find something else. I've had well trained riding horses that I have used a side pull or something very mild for a relaxing short ride. But I would never use it if I thought there was any chance I needed extra control. Going through a run-away cart wreck...I want the most control I can get in an emergency.
I was just wondering about this topic myself as I prepare my mini for driving lessons. I got a harness for her and it came with a half-cheek driving snaffle which she should do well in I would think since she goes nicely in a loose ring snaffle under saddle with my kids. But she also does great in just a halter and lead rope when they jump on her bareback and ride her in from the paddock or just want to hop on quick and tool around. My big horse rides in a french link when we are schooling but when we are just goofing off bareback I use a Dr. Cook style bitless. I've been using it more lately just because it's so darn cold and throwing it on is easier than warming up a freezing bit, and I was curious about bitless and driving.

But it sounds like we would be best to just stick to the snaffle for driving, especially since I have done very little since the days of moving piles of wood for the stove in winter with my big buddy Buck the Perch and a sled when I was a kid. At least I still remember how to put the harness on lol!
Lucky is going as well or better in his improvised bitless. It's just 2 rings where the bit was attached. He can graze all harnessed and hooked up, which means we can go much forther by having rest/munch breaks. Done about 20 miles so far, could probably go much futher if I had time. Thanks for the inspiration!

Latest posts