While were were at Equine Affaire this year, I made it a point to look for bitless bridles. I was hoping to talk to people about them, check out how they’re working for them, and see what types of bridles were on the market these days.
Cinco was started in a Dr. Cook’s bitless bridle upon recommendation from Buck’s sister and Cinco’s former owner, Patti. In fact, Cinco has never had a bit in his mouth in his whole life.
Patti had me start in a bitless bridle for a few reasons. I think the first was because I was a novice rider and she didn’t want anyone yanking on bits inside her horses’ mouths. Now, a much more experienced rider than I was then, I feel sure I have much more quiet hands that I would have back then, but still have had no use to transition to a bit.
The type of riding we do is super casual. We don’t show. We ride around the house; we trail ride. I’m not concerned about collection with Cinco. That information might be relevant to some horse people.
Lucy, our mare, was started in a bit with Patti but when she came to us she arrived with a Dr. Cook’s bridle as well and hasn’t had a bit in her mouth since living with us.
Buck and I, having not ridden significantly using bits in horses in general OR our horses, cannot really compare bitless riding to bitted riding. We know our horses turn left, turn right, and stop. They “give to the bit” although there is no bit, and they flex their heads left and right when asked.
Life long learner that I am, though, I couldn’t resist checking out Doug Rank and his bridles at the Equine Affaire expo. He was the only bitless bridle booth present other than Dr. Cook’s. The difference, though, is that Doug designs and makes his bridles – the original Dr. Cook was not present at its booth.
I informed Doug that he didn’t need to convert me to a no-bit riding style, as he probably has to do for most customers, and that I just wanted to know why his bridle was better than what I currently use. He piqued my interest enough that we bought bridles for both Lucy and Cinco. Doug happily even made Lucy’s custom to fit her smaller Arab face.
My review is going to be divided into three parts: Doug and his craftsmanship, the bridle while riding, and a strict comparison to Dr. Cook’s.
Doug is awesome. He is genuine and honest. He cares about horses. I watched him hand-tie these bridles and he does a meticulous job. The craftsmanship is sound and there are no secrets. He patiently gives people his rationalization for developing this type of bridle and his progression from other bitless bridles (novals, bosals, Dr. Cook’s).
Cinco transitioned into the Rank bridle easily from the Dr. Cook’s. The bridle is extremely adjustable.
There are two knots on the sides of his face with nice ropekeepers for keeping the tails tucked in. Doug instructs you to adjust the bridle so that the noseband is about 2″ from the corner of the horse’s mouth. The throat-latch is also adjustable and my bridle has a handy clip that makes it easy to connect and disconnect. The brow band is optional and we opted for it. It is a little baggy on Lucy’s smaller head but fits Cinco perfectly.
The nose band has a spring-release action to it. When pressure is released by the rider, the nose band literally pops open, relieving the horse of any signal or pressure. The reins ride through a metal lined ring on the noseband so that there is little friction or delay when giving or releasing signals.
These two options (spring release and the metal lined rings) are upgrades on the bridle and I highly recommend them. I haven’t ridden without them but they make total sense.
The noseband stays put and is not pulled up the face of the horse as Dr. Cook’s was when I would ask the horse to whoah. Cinco’s stop is much cleaner with this bridle and I’m able to use less pressure and aid with the Rank bridle. The signals must be so clear to the horse – there’s no confusion or fighting.
The appearance of this bridle is much more casual than the Dr. Cook’s. Doug did say, however, that he is developing a leather bridle for sale in the future. Since we are not showing and I’m not a showy person anyway, I don’t mind the casual appearance of the rope bridle. The Rank Bridle looks distinctly western while Dr. Cook’s looks sleek and English. These are just facts – not opinions on whether one is better than the other in terms of looks.
The Rank Bridle can be converted easily to a rope halter by running the rein rings through the back of the throat latch (hard to explain but check it out on Doug’s site linked above!) which is handy as well.
All in all, Cinco and I were very happy with the switch. I grab for my Rank No Bit Bridle before grabbing for the Dr. Cook’s, so there’s my opinion, loud and clear!
Buck likes his Rank Bridle with Lucy as well. Lucy is a fussy girl, so in full disclosure, she had a lot of head tossing the first few times she rode in her new bridle, but she is now over her fit and happily plodding along in her new no bit bridle.