Growing up, I attended the local riding school, where bridles were usually of the snaffle bridle type.
A traditional bridle made from black or brown leather with a single bit, usually a snaffle bit, hence the name.
Some bridles included brass clincher browband’s and others displayed a decorative stitching.
Some ponies wore bridles with cavesson nosebands and some did not.
As the years passed, I was taught about the different bridles and the various bits
20 years later, bridles have improved and changed in many ways.
Thanks to advanced research and owners becoming more concerned for their horses, we now have anatomical headpieces; rolled leather; bitless options; and a huge array of different bits that is enough to blow anyone’s mind.
Are you looking to learn more about bridles? If so, then this brief description may be of some use to you.
The Snaffle bridle is what I always remember to be the ‘traditional’ bridle.
Originally constructed of five parts:-
- Headpiece (including the throatlash)
- Cheek pieces
- Pair of reins.
Traditionally, snaffle bridles have a plain cavesson noseband. However, these days most nosebands have an additional loop in the centre of the noseband to form a ‘flash’ noseband.
Snaffle bridles are usually paired up with a snaffle bit (hence the name). However, with so many alternative types of bits available on the market today, these bridles could be renamed the ‘single bit bridle‘.
The double bridle is similar to that of a snaffle (single bit) bridle.
However, it holds two bits with two pairs of reins and an additional narrow leather headpiece known as a slip head that lies directly under the main headpiece.
Also known as a Weymouth bridle due to the name of the most common bits used.
The snaffle bit, known as a bradoon bit, is smaller in diameter and bit rings to the traditional snaffle. It is connected to the bridle using the additional slip head under the main headpiece.
Traditionally it is normal to have a pair of plaited reins connected to the bradoon bit but I have seen laced reins becoming more and more popular these days.
The second bit used with a double bridle is called a Weymouth bit or alternatively known as a curb bit.
This bit is connected to the bridle headpiece via the cheek pieces and used with a thinner plain pair of reins, known as the curb rein.
The correct way to fit a bradoon bit is above and behind the Weymouth bit.
Double bridles predominantly have a cavesson style noseband. A padded headpiece is also desired due to the pressure a Weymouth bit creates on the
In-hand bridles tend to have brass clinchers on the browband and a decorative stitch on the noseband.
The noseband fits directly onto the cheek pieces and therefore, does not require its own headpiece strap.
Usually a brass ring vulcanite straight bar bit is used with this type of bridle but alternatives are available, if desired.
This bridles purpose is to show the horse’s face and bone structure off without it being covered up with a standard bridle.
By using a leather butterfly lead or a lead with a Newmarket chain connected to the bit rings it provides a more centralised contact allowing greater control during a show; perfect when showing stallions.
Bitless bridles are just that, bitless. Theref
As a child, I remember showjumpers on TV using a bridle called a hackamore, which was a type of bitless bridle.
These days there has been so much development in this area with adjustable nosebands becoming more popular, particularly one with straps that cross under the jaw which applies pressure around the whole head that the hackamore bridle is less seen.
Another example of a bitless bridle is a side pull noseband. This has reins attached to side rings which applies pressure to just the nose when control is taken.
I have only ever seen a western bridle on horses when watching an American film, but today there are many horse owners in the UK who ride ‘western‘ and there are now clubs and associations available that support and promote those who wish to ride western too.
The Western bridle is similar to the snaffle ‘single bit’ bridle in that it has a headpiece, browband, cheek pieces, and a throatlash.
Normally nosebands are not present on a western bridle and the bit is usually similar to that of a Weymouth bit we use on a double bridle, with just one set of reins.
Western bridles are very often shaped and decorated on the browband and cheek pieces and sometimes the browband is not the traditional sort that goes across the horse’s forehead but instead there is just one strap that loops one ear.
So there you have it, a brief description of the bridles commonly used in the UK.
There are many types of bridles on the market today. Often called fancy names and sport a fancy price tag too, but remember, a bridle is only as good as it’s fits and as good as the rider uses.
Be mindful that the most expensive bridle is not always the best. If its linked to a well-known brand of company then it is usually a marketing strategy you are paying for and not always a quality product.
In my experience, I see a lot of the ‘off the shelf’ bridles not adequately fitting many of today’s shaped horses, so sometimes it’s worth getting some advice.
Therefore if you are going to pay hundreds of pounds, you might as well buy a made to measure one so that you know it is a perfect fit for your horse.
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