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We all know the importance of a correctly-fitting saddle, but how much attention do we pay to the fit of a bridle?

Bridle parts on a bridle for horses

A badly-fitting bridle can cause discomfort and prevent your horse from concentrating and understanding your aids clearly. The design of bridles has changed in recent years with more attention focused on the horse’s comfort. Read on for our guide on choosing the right bridle for you and your horse, as well as making sure it's a great fit.
 
To know what it is you're buying, you need to know the different parts of the bridle - the browband, the cheekpieces, the throatlash and the noseband.
 
The browband
Browband on a bridle for horse ridingThe browband isn’t adjustable so it’s important that you have the right size – it should be big enough to allow the headpiece to lie comfortably behind the ears. The browband should also lie just below the base of the ears, without cutting into them.
 





The cheekpieces
Cheek Pieces on a bridle for horse ridingThe cheekpieces play an important role – they determine the level of communication between you and your horse. A properly fitted cheekpiece will allow the bit to just wrinkle the corners of his mouth. It’s also worth checking your horse’s bit is the right size – it should stick out about a quarter of an inch at each side of his mouth. Cheekpieces that are too loose will position the bit too low in his mouth, causing the bit to hit his front teeth and put uncomfortable pressure on his tongue. Cheekpieces that are tight place the bit too high in his mouth, digging into the cheeks, causing pinching.
 




The throatlash
The throatlash on a bridle for horse ridingWhen it’s done up you should be able to fit the width of four fingers between the throatlash and your horse’s jawbone. If the throatlash is too tight it will put pressure on his windpipe when he flexes to the bit.
 






The noseband
Noseband on a bridle for horse ridingA cavesson noseband should lie about two fingers’ width below your horse’s cheekbone – the hard bone that juts out on the side of his face. When fastened you should be able to insert two fingers between the noseband and your horse. Cavesson nosebands are really there for cosmetic rather than functional purposes. Flash nosebands are also popular – the flash strap fastens below the bit and prevents your horse from opening his mouth and evading the bit. The flash strap shouldn’t be fitted too tightly and should only come into play if your horse opens his mouth.

Traditionally, bridles are made of leather but there are increasingly large numbers of synthetic nylon and leather-look styles available, which can be cheaper and easier to care for. It’s always worth bearing in mind when buying a new bridle that synthetic tack has a much higher breaking point than leather.  
Leather alternative in bridle head gear for horsesAnother consideration is the shape and type of head your horse has. A chunky, cob-type horse tends to have a large, broad head, which is best suited to a bridle with wide straps and noseband. Similarly, a fine arab or show horse’s head will look better in a more delicate bridle with thinner, more detailed leather.
 
Leather tack needs to be regularly cleaned and oiled to keep it supple, while synthetic nylon tack should be routinely washed to prevent deterioration of the material. There are a wide range of products available to care for your tack, from convenient wipes that are great for day-to-day cleaning, to saddle soaps and tack conditioners for a more thorough clean. Specialist synthetic tack cleaners are also available for leather-look tack.
 



Comfort concept
Designed with the horse’s comfort in mind, the elevator bridle was created by lorraine green of horsesense saddlers after her talented horse wasn’t performing as well as she hoped. The elevator bridle relieves pressure to the horse’s sensitive poll area. Nerves and blood vessels that feed the brain are located in this area. It’s also where meridian lines run – one of the areas to which they connect is the kidney area, exactly where the saddle and rider sit.
Horsesense has produced a bridle that features a cushioned underpad on the headpiece and a shaped headpiece to allow room for your horse’s ears to move freely. To reduce pressure on the poll area the headpiece has crew holes either side to allow a thinner noseband strap to thread through and over the top of the poll.
 
 
Leather alternatives
Synthetic bridle for horsesThere was a time when leather was the only material all tack was made from, but webbing headcollars are now considered normal and it wasn’t too long before synthetic bridles appeared on the market. Some traditionalists won’t entertain using a synthetic bridle on their horses but there is definitely a place for them whether they’re made from webbing or a leather-look material.
Libbys makes synthetic tack - the concept was to produce a range of washable, easy-care, english tack. One of the benefits of using webbing is that regular washing can reduce the risk of skin diseases and infection. Libbys makes a full range of products in a variety of different styles to suit all sizes and types from shetlands to shires. High quality webbing is used, which is hard wearing and good value for money. Its most popular product is the standard bridle, which is fully adjustable with a cavesson noseband.
 
Wintec produces a leather-look bridle made from equileather, which is lightweight, durable and waterproof. The wintec flash bridle has a nylon webbing core for extra strength and is made from a non-stretch material that simply needs wiping clean. It’s available in pony, cob and full size.
 
Animal magnetism
magnets used in bridles for horsesAnother relatively new concept is using magnets in the headpiece of your bridle. Magnets are used on other areas of the body and known for their benefits of relaxing and calming as well as boosting circulation. Barnsby makes a magnetic headpiece, which you can quickly and easily attach to your bridle or headcollar, held securely in place by two velcro straps. Many riders who use them and say their horses are calmer and more relaxed.


Barnsby also makes a calming bridle – the magnetic 
crownpiece of the barnsby fts calming bridle incorporates a series of magnets into the leatherwork, which then sits on your horse’s poll and directly affects the axis vertebrae at the top of the spine. This allows the crownpiece to positively affect the whole horse, helping him to relax and work in a calmer, softer way.
 
You’ll already use a bridle, but when did you last check that it’s a really good fit for your horse? Like us, no two horses are the same, and even horses of a similar size and build can have very different sized and shaped heads.
Here’s a quick guide to checking the fit of a bridle:
           
The headpiece
Check it’s not digging into the backs of his ears, and make sure his mane is lying flat underneath. You can cut a small bridlepath into his mane at the poll to stop his hair getting caught.
           
The browband
You should be able to fit two fingers in the front, to make sure that it doesn’t dig in to the front of his head.
           
The throatlash
You should be able to fit your hand into his throat lash sideways. This means it’s snug enough to prevent the bridle being pulled over the ears, but loose enough to allow your horse to flex freely at the poll.
           
The noseband
You must be able to fit a finger behind the noseband – never over-tighten it as you’ll hurt your horse and could impair his breathing. If your horse opens his mouth, look for the root cause and don’t just try to cover it up.
           
The bit
There should be a quarter of an inch between the side of his mouth and the bit ring. The bit should sit high enough to wrinkle the corner of his mouth but not so high that you can see more than two wrinkles.
 

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