Get to Know Your Horse’s Saddlery – The Horse Bridle

The Horse Bridle
Get to Know Your Horse’s Saddlery – The Horse Bridle

The English Bridle

Building an English bridle from the top-down, we start at the crown piece. Traditional crown pieces are a piece of wider leather holding straps that connect to other parts of the bridle. Modern mono-crown designs include a single molded leather band. The crownpiece loops over the poll, behind the ears, and is connected to the cheek pieces, resting alongside your horse’s cheeks. The throat latch also stems from the crown piece, latching behind the horse’s jaw. 

Attached to the cheek pieces is the English bit, or in the case of dressage bridle, the bits. When this bit is a single snaffle in the horse’s mouth, the entire bridle and reins are called a snaffle bridle. For the double bridles, there is a bradoon bit paired with a curb bit.  

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Both snaffle bridles and double bridles have a browband, connecting the cheekpieces above your horse’s eyes, below the forelock. It’s popular to have browbands with bling or stones for the show ring.  Both of these English bridles have a noseband, or cavesson as it’s sometimes called, above the bit. The noseband helps keep the bit in place and encourages your horse to softly chew the bit. 

In the English jumper and eventing disciplines, you will see a figure 8 bridle. These bridles have a noseband shaped like a large X. Many horse supplies prefer the feel of this criss-cross design. 

Attached to the bit is a set of reins. There are various colors and styles available. Hunter disciplines use a laced rein, while many dressage riders prefer a rein with leather stoppers. Eventers might prefer a rubber rain for splashing through the water obstacle. 

Bitless bridles are available, too. The Micklem bridle has options for an English bit, or no bit at all.  

The Western bridle

The crown piece and cheek pieces of the Western tack bridle are referred to as headstall. Some Western headstalls are also browband headstalls, and others have a single loop of leather that creates the one-ear headstall. 

Many Western bridles do not have cavessons, and many do not have bits. Bosals and hackamore bridles are bitless options. Both are similar to nosebands in appearance, but the reins are attached to bosal or hackamore. When using the reins on a bosal, the nose is influenced to move with direct pressure. With a hackamore, the nose is influenced by leverage. The side pull bitless bridle is similar to the bosal, with different rein attachments which influence the horse’s sideways movement differently.  The side pull styles are similar to a halter bridle; one piece of tack with two functions. 

Related horse tack

While the bridle rests on the horse’s head, there are other pieces of tack that relate to it. Martingales in the English tack category attach from the girth or breastplate to the noseband or reins to influence the horse. In Western tack, tie-downs perform a similar function and may be attached to a breast collar or cinch and the cavesson. 

Other bridle options

Thank goodness the equestrian is so versatile – there are lots of options for your horse’s bridle needs.  You can purchase something simple, or opt for the full deluxe show bridle that’s beaded and blinged out. Of course, pick colors to match your horse’s EasyCare hoof boots and saddle pads! 

Personalized plates can adorn your tack, too. These brass plates, usually with your horse’s name, can be popped on bridles, halters, Western saddles and English saddles, and even the toughest of rawhide tack.  

You should not be limited by your horse’s size, all quality tack is available in sizes ranging from foal to cob to even oversize or draft horse size!