Horse Bridles for Beginners

Start shopping for horse bridles, and you’ll soon discover that there’s a baffling array to choose from. While all bridles help you to direct your horse while riding, there are many different configurations. This quick guide will help you learn more about the parts of a bridle and the functions that they perform.

What’s in a Bridle?

The basic bridle is made up of three parts: a headstall, a bit, and at least one set of reins. If you’re brand new to riding, your instructor will choose the bridle that’s best for you – probably the same one the lesson horse wears most of the time. Whether you’re riding English or Western, you’ll probably start out with English reins or roping reins, which are configured as all one loop. You can keep this rein style later if you like, or you can transition to split reins if you prefer. The reins are vital to your success with any type of riding, as they help you to communicate with your horse.

Headstalls come in many different configurations and with different types of decoration that complements the rest of the tack the horse wears during activities. The basic parts of the headstall include:

  • Crownpiece: This is the main strap that holds the rest of the bridle in place. It rests behind the horse’s ears. In the simplest of styles, the crownpiece is all there is to a bit.
  • Cheekpieces: These straps connect the bit to the crownpiece. Some bridle styles have only one cheekpiece, usually on the left, and others simply have an adjustable crownpiece instead of cheekpieces. The advantage of cheekpieces is that you can easily fine-tune the bridle’s fit to your horse’s face for maximum comfort and responsiveness.
  • Throatlatch: Often split from the same piece of leather as the crownpiece, the throatlatch (US) or throatlash (UK) extends from the base of the horse’s right ear, under his throat, and buckles on the left side of the jaw. The advantage of a throatlatch is that when properly adjusted, it prevents the bridle from slipping over the horse’s head.
  • Browband: Most bridles have a browband that connects the crownpiece across the front of the horse’s forehead. A browband may be mostly decorative or it may serve the function of holding complex bridle elements together, especially in English disciplines that call for the use of cavessons or double bits.
  • Noseband: Most English bridles are equipped with nosebands, while the majority of Western ones leave the horse’s nose uncovered. The noseband helps hold the bit in place and some riders use it to help keep their horses’ mouths closed. Cranking the noseband too tightly will cause pain and prevent your horse from doing his best.
  • Curb strap: A curb strap or curb chain is used with a curb bit, and is designed to place pressure on the chin groove when the reins are tightened. A similar apparatus called a bit hobble can be used to help hold a snaffle bit in place. Like the noseband, this strap should not be tightened too much.

The less pieces your bridle has, the easier it should be to put on your horse. Most horses do well in simple bridles and some excel in bitless ones. Once you choose your bridle, fit it carefully to your horse’s face. Get help from a riding instructor or knowledgeable friend the first time you adjust the bridle. Once you know what proper fit looks like, you’ll find it very easy to make adjustments in the future.

Different Bridles for Different Events

If you and your horse participate in different activities, or if you ride both English and Western style, you may need more than one bridle. Still not sure what to choose? Ask the friendly experts at SaddleOnline. It’s always free and easy to chat!