Choosing your next Bridle
How do you pick which bridle will best fit your horse’s needs and, let’s be honest, your needs too?
Of course, there are certain attributes your bridle will have to have, but there’s a huge amount of choice and variety within each element. Here, we give you a whistle stop tour of some of the key areas you need to consider when buying a bridle. We hope it helps you decide which bridle is for you!
Snaffle bridle or Weymouth bridle?
When we talk about bridles, we tend to talk about snaffle bridles and Weymouth bridles. But as you’ll see as you read, there’s huge variation with each. Simply put, the snaffle bridle has been designed for use with one bit (snaffle or whatever else) and the Weymouth is designed for two – it’s a double bridle. So don’t let that put you off.
First up, let’s talk about ‘legal’ bridles for competition. What might be ‘legal’ for one sport might not be for another. Nosebands are a particular point that differs between the equestrian sports, so if you’re buying a competition bridle, be really clear on the rules before you get too carried away.
Now, speaking of nosebands, these are one of the main differences between bridles, and often the most obvious from a visual point of view. Generally you’ll see:
- Cavesson nosebands – basic nosebands that don’t have a huge amount of ‘action’ when used alone, but are traditional and visually break up the face. They can also be used to attach standing martingales to.
- Hunter noseband – very similar to a cavesson but always made using a flat piece of leather rather than padded or lined.
- Crank nosebands – these can be as part of a cavesson or flash and have a separate padded element to the noseband that sits on the horse’s lower jaw.
- Flash noseband – which have an additional strap that fastens around the mouth coming down from a cavesson style noseband.
- Drop noseband – sometimes called a dropped noseband – which sits lower than a cavesson and fastens in front of the bit around the horse’s mouth.
- Grackle noseband – also known as a figure of eight noseband- which has a central point where the straps cross on the horse’s nose and then fastens down in front of the bit.
Nosebands can be bought on their own and switched and changed as needed, but if you’re buying your dream bridle, getting this part right is a good place to start.
Should you go for a padded headpiece?
Now we move onto the headpiece. These come in a few variations but have the same function, so this is more down to comfort and personal preference rather than action. That is, unless you need a slip as you ride in a double bridle.
All of the headpieces we sell are padded and shaped, so you could call them comfort headpieces. You can buy plain, straight headpieces without any padding but over the years we have developed and refined ours and now offer two variations of the padded headpiece – Competition and Super. Both of these have additional padding over the horse’s poll and have shaping that removes pressure from behind the horse’s ears. Fitting is so important in this area too, but when fitted correctly a padded headpiece should help to improve comfort for the horse that, in our experience, allows him to work better… which is what we all want!
The cheekpieces are generally to do with size more than anything else, and this will depend on both the size of your horse and the type of bit you’re planning to use. If you use something like a gag or a hanging cheek snaffle, for example, the cheekpiece may well need to be shorter than if you ride with a loose ring snaffle. If you switch between bits for different disciplines, you might need to invest in a second pair of cheekpieces to make the switch (and the bits) as effective as possible.
Browbands are a great place to express your personal taste as these are functional in that they help the headpiece to maintain optimum positioning, but don’t have an action beyond that. It’s the place where you’re likely to see sparkle and shine on a bridle (if that’s what you like!) and is a lovely way to connect to your colours in whatever you do. Or you can pick something classic that works with everything, it’s up to you!
And the last ‘option’ you have is the reins. Again, a lot of this is down to personal preference, but the particular equestrian sport you participate in does have a bearing too. Rubber grip reins, in whatever form, are universally popular but people have preferences in the exact type of grip. Something like the Biogrip is a lot more flexible in the hand and has less bulk too, for example. There are also more traditional reins like plain leather, continental, laced and nubuck, and again, these are down to personal preference and the combination you feel would best suit you.
We mentioned that fitting was really important, and although this is something that needs a lot more explanation, we just wanted to touch on it here. The most beautiful bridle in the world won’t help you and your horse unless it fits correctly. Because horses are all different shapes and sizes, we allow you to pick the size of each part of your bridle when you buy online, which can make fitting a whole lot easier (and a whole lot cheaper too) as you don’t need to buy extra parts.