My paint loves his bitless bridle out on the trail. Somehow hes just way more relaxed and easygoing. But hes got GREAT response in halter on the ground. Instant reaction. And he neck reins great which also helps. He can get upset when he gets excited in a bit . Seems a person goes for the bit right away for control in that situation.... well us less experienced seem to. The bitless encourages your leg and seat aids and thoughtful riding.
My other laid back horse has little response in the bitless which is funny cause thats who I bought the bridle for in the first place, lol.
My horse was started on the bitless bridle by dr cook. This was because a man who tried to force a bit in her mouth and smacked her teeth, I wouldn't want to take a bit after that! I have very little respect for that trainer :P
Either way, it gives me great control. I have more "whoa" than bits I use on other horses. However she is still very green (despite her 11 years) and we haven't even attempted leg yielding. It's a great bridle for basic riding and trails. I haven't tried it on other horses, so I can't give you a full review, sorry. I do find that she is much more pleasant about slowing down and halting that horses I ride with a bit. Winter rides are also much nicer, no cold bit!
I ride a 17.3 hh Clydesdale in a Nurtural bitless bridle, I bought mine at the Royal last year.
It is a cross under bridle. The rein is still direct, as I understand it, first the pressure is applied at the cheek ring, then if more pressure is applied it translates under the jaw and up the far side of the face and eventually to the pole. I have never had to use much pressure other than a light squeeze of the direct rein.
Clyde does not respond to the bitless any differently than to the full cheek snaffle he was riding in. He does w/t/c and jumps as well as trail riding. Transition to the bitless was a few minutes in the arena prior to riding in a lesson.
As mentioned above I also enjoy the fact there is no cold bit in the winter (or bit warmer to remember) and if out and you want to let them graze it is not a problem (no dirty bit to clean). I have not used a martingale ever on him so that is not an issue either way for me.
Hope you find the bridle that works for you :)
I was a bitless bridle skeptic but decided to try a Dr. Cooks cross under type on my 18 year old Paint mare. She's a been there, done it type of horse but with a lot of fire in her. She bucked me off about a month ago - true rodeo, heels over the riders head -buck off. b52 bombing horse eating horse fly got between her back legs =(
She has always avoided contact with a bit, would keep her head high or use evade tricks. I put the bitless on and she is so relaxed at all three gaits that she moves into the contact and her lower lip flops when she trots and ears are a bit floppy. I love it. I never use a martingale so no idea if it can be used with a bitless.