"There are many different ways to ride horses and many different equestrian arts. I have been practicing classical dressage, jumping, hiking, western, doma vaquera and freeriding.
Many people think that its more safe to ride with a bit, but this is not true. The control comes from the training and the relationship you have with the horse. You should be in control of the horse, not the bit.
The same goes if I ask my horse to do something with its head, like bending left and right or lower the head or collect. When the horse is doing the right thing I give the horse loose reins, all pressure of. And when all pressure is of it should be comfortable for the horse and you. This will motivate the horse to do the right thing and you will teach the horse to stay in collection by itself. The horse will learn to be light, soft and very comfortable to ride.
Photo: Tara riding "Nelly" a five year old she started under saddle.