Choosing the right bridle for your horse

Date: 12 September 2013

When choosing a bridle for your horse there is now more choice than ever. But with so much choice, where do you start?

The bridles

Bridles usually come in fairly standard pony, cob and full sizes. But with a bit of extra thought it is possible to select a bridle that not only fits, but also improves the appearance of your horse's head. If you are competing you need to check your bridle complies with competition rules. For example grackle nosebands are not allowed in pure dressage, but are acceptable in the dressage phase of eventing, while double bridles are only allowed from elementary dressage upwards.

Snaffle bridle: the "English-type" snaffle bridle is most commonly seen in English riding. It is a basic bridle that carries one bit and usually has one set of reins. Despite the name, a snaffle bridle may be used not only with a snaffle bit, but also with almost other types of single rein bits, including Kimblewicksgag bits, and single curb bits.

Pelham bridle: The Pelham is another English type bridle that carries a single bit, in this case a Pelham bit, but two sets of reins, one for snaffle action and one for curb action.

Double bridle: Also called a Weymouth bridle, double bridles use two bits at once, a small snaffle called a bradoon and a curb or Weymouth bit, and require the use of two sets of reins. Double bridles are usually only seen used in upper level dressage.

The right reins

Some bridles come complete with reins, but they may not be of your preferred style so always check before you make your purchase. Some shops may be prepared to sell you a bridle without reins or swap the reins for a small additional charge, so it's worth checking.

Which noseband?

While there are some competition rules to consider regarding nosebands, in general they should be chosen based on your horse's needs. It is currently common for new bridles to come with flash nosebands as standard. Padded head pieces that allow room for the horse's ears are a popular choice.

The western bridle

It is used for American-style western riding, this bridle usually does not have a noseband. Many western bridles also lack browbands, sometimes replaced by a "one ear" (variations called "split ear," "shaped ear," and "slip ear") design where a small strap encircles one or both ears to provide extra security to keep the bridle on. Some horse show styles do not have a throatlatch, most working styles do.

Gag bridle: a bridle with rounded cheekpieces that pass through the top and bottom holes in the bit ring of a gag bit and attach directly to the reins. Tension on the reins rotates the bit and slides it up the cheekpieces and into the corners of the lips. In some styles, the bit is sewn into the bridle and slides, but is not interchangeable, other styles have detachable cheekpieces that allow bits to be changed. Gag bridles have the potential for severe action. They are often seen in polo, rodeo speed events, and occasionally show jumping.

Halter bridle, also known as a "trail bridle" or "endurance" bridle, this design is a halter with additional quick release cheekpieces that hold a bit and reins. They are an alternative to using a bitted bridle over the top of a halter. During rest stops, instead of removing the bridle, the rider only needs to remove the bit and reins.

Horse & Hound 

Bridles in our product range 
English bridles 
Brad Ren's western bridles 
Natowa western bridles