When I Was Young
When I was young and attended the local riding school, the only type of bridle I was familiar with was the snaffle bridle.
A traditional sort of bridle made from black or brown leather with a single bit, usually a snaffle bit, hence the bridle’s name.
Some bridles had brass clincher browbands and others had a decorative stitch but that was the fanciest it got. Some ponies wore cavesson nosebands and some wore nothing at all.
As the years passed and I progressed from riding school ponies to loan ponies, I learned about the different bridles as well as the various bits
Another 20 years later and bridles have further adapted in so many ways.
Thanks to advanced research and owners becoming more aware of their own 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.
So, if you are a beginner or even a regular horse rider then this brief description of each bridle 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, the snaffle bridle did have a plain cavesson noseband, but these days the nosebands mostly have an additional loop in the centre of the noseband to form a ‘flash’ noseband.
Snaffle bridles traditionally use a snaffle bit (hence the name), but today there are so many different varieties of bits available to the horse owner that these bridles should ideally 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.
This bridle is also known as a Weymouth bridle due to the name of one of the most common bits used with this type of bridle.
The snaffle bit (known as a bradoon bit) is smaller in diameter and bit rings to a traditional snaffle and is connected to the bridle using the additional slip head under the main headpiece.
It is traditional 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 (also known as a curb bit) is called a Weymouth 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 should always have a cavesson style noseband and not any of the other fancy styles, a padded crown piece (headpiece) is normally desired too due to the pressure a Weymouth bit can cause on the
In my experience, an in-hand bridle is made with brass clinchers on the browband and a decorative stitch on the noseband.
The noseband is fitted directly onto the cheek pieces, therefore, does not require its own headpiece strap.
This bridle is normally used with a brass ring vulcanite straight bar bit but an alternative bit can be used, if desired.
The purpose of this bridle 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.
A bitless bridle is just that, a bridle without a bit and theref
As a child, I remember watching showjumpers on TV using a bridle called a hackamore which was the bitless bridle of it’s day.
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 is a side pull noseband that has reins attached to side rings which applies pressure to just the nose when control is taken.
The Western bridle is similar to the snaffle ‘single bit’ bridle in that it has a headpiece, browband, cheek pieces, and a throatlash.
There is normally no noseband and the bit that is used is usually similar to the Weymouth bit we use on a double bridle, with just one set of reins.
A Western bridle is 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 adaptations of these bridles on the market and called various fancy names, with a fancy price tag to go with it.
Just be mindful that the most expensive is not always the best, if attached to a well-known label then it is usually a marketing strategy and a Brand name you are paying for and not always the best quality.
In my experience, I find a lot of the ‘off the shelf’ bridles are not adequately sized for many of today’s shaped horses.
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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If you are within the Staffordshire, Shropshire, Worcestershire and The Black Country counties and wish to discuss having a bridle made to measure for your horse or pony, then contact me directly using the contact form below: