There’s a movement that has encouraged riders to go “bitless”. They suggest it’s kinder on the horse and their mouth. Essentially, less damage can be done by the rider’s hands. It’s important to consider the benefits of switching bridles and eliminating your bit. Are you really doing your horse a favor?
Many riders consider hackamores, side pulls, cross-unders, and bosals to be bitless bridles. Some may ride even ride in rope halters. It’s important to note that these bridles don’t use a metal or rubber bit like a shank or snaffle, but they do apply pressure on the face.
When you pull on the reins of a bitless bridle, the response will be similar to that of a bitted bridle. The pressure on their face with act like the pressure in their mouth.
In the wrong hands, a bitless bridle can be just as damaging as riding with a bit.
The most important thing about riding bitless or with a bit is the rider’s hands and how soft they are. A rider can do damage under both setups.
Check out this video by Warwick Schiller. He explains how cross-unders can actually be harmful, since the pressure doesn’t release.
Ultimately, it’ll have to be a decision you and your trainer make. Riders must learn to be soft with their hands no matter what setup they use.