You can ride a horse without a saddle, although it isn’t that safe for the novice rider, but few riders can effectively control their horse without a bridle.
The bridle is such an essential part of your horse tack, that you should make sure that you purchase the right type and size of bridle for your horse and the work you want your horse to do.
The horse bridle is designed to connect the bit in your horse’s mouth with the reins in your hands.
The bit & reins combination allows you to send signals to your horse. To signal when it should turn, stop and even speed up.
There is a wide range of leather and synthetic bridles that will fit your horse or pony, including snaffle bridles, in-hand bridles, flash bridles, competition bridles, bitless bridles, double bridles etc and most all consist of the following parts – headpiece, cheek pieces, throat lash, browband, noseband and the reins.
Without reins a bridle, like a bit, is just decoration.
Most bridles are fully adjustable, and few horses have problems with a bridle unless it is too small or too large.
- Too Small – and the bridle will be too tight making your horse or pony feel constricted
- Too Large – and the bridle will move around preventing it operating as it should and limiting the riders control
The horse bridle is attached to a bit which is placed in your horses mouth and attached to your reins.
The bridle fits over your horses head and helps you, the rider, exert control over the direction and speed of your horse.
- The headpiece which goes over the top of the head at the poll, runs just behind the ears. It can be a plain piece of leather or come with comfort padding. Some bridles also shape the headpiece to go around the ears.
- The cheekpieces of the bridle attach to the headpiece at one end and the bit at the other end. They can be adjusted to suit different face lengths.
- The noseband runs is fitted around your horses face and is used to keep your horses jaw closed.
- The browband runs horizontally from just under one ear to just under the other ear and is used to prevent the bridle from slipping back from the poll.
- The reins attach to the bit and are held by the rider. Most bridles come with reins, however there is a wide variety of reins ranging from plain leather, plaited leather, rubber covered, half rubber covered, etc, which can be fitted based on the riders preference.
Example Horse Bridle Types
Bridles also come in a variety of different colours, the most popular being Black and Havana (Dark Brown).
Other colours include Oak, Australian Nut and Tan to name a few.
Although it makes no difference to your riding which colour bridle you choose nearly everyone chooses to match it as closely as possible to their horses saddle and other leather work they use.
Different saddlery manufacturers colours can vary by shades, sometimes vary slightly; and this can be due to the way that manufacturer dyes the leather or the colour of dye they happen to use.
If you want to ensure all your saddlery matches, you should source all parts from the same manufacturer and from the same range.
Horse Owners who ride solely for pleasure will normally use the traditional snaffle bridle
However, if your horse is hard to control, you may require a different type of bridle, such as a snaffle bridle with a flash noseband or a snaffle bridle with a drop noseband.
These bridles make it difficult for your horse to manipulate the bit and / or to get their tongue over the bit.
If you want to compete in dressage competitions, you can begin training your horse in a snaffle bridle, but competition rules may insist you eventually use a double bridle.
If you ride side-saddle, which is becoming more and more popular, you will need a double bridle.
The Working Bridle in English and Western Riding
A double bridle is a bridle with two bits and not two bridles as some riders suppose.
It has two headpieces and two pairs of reins. The extra headpiece, known as a slip head, is really two straps connected by a buckle with cheek attachments for a bit on each end. The double bridle is a sophisticated riding aid and like any other complicated device has no place in the hands of a novice rider or on the head of a novice horse.
For Western Riding, there are several very different bridle choices.
The traditional Western bridle is fairly similar to a standard English snaffle bridle, except that it does not have a noseband. However, both of the other common Western bridle styles, the bosal and mechanical hackamore bridles, have no browbands and no bits.
Instead of using a bit to control the horse, Western riders control their horses by applying pressure to the noseband.
If you are interested in using a hackamore bridle, keep in mind that the bosal model is used to train horses to use a hackamore, while the mechanical hackamore is the model you will want for your horse.