Choosing the right bridle for your horse can be a difficult task. There are many factors to consider such as what type of riding you will be doing, your discipline (dressage, jumping, eventing), and the size and shape of your horse’s head. This blog post discusses how to choose the best snaffle based on these considerations.
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This is How the Bridle is Arranged
The bridle consists of a headstall, bit, and reins. The headstall is the part that fits around your horse’s face and has holes for you to attach the bit. There are two types of bits: snaffle or curb. Snaffles have jointed mouthpieces that can be pulled through from either side depending on whether it’s a loose-jaw version or not. This means that if one side becomes damaged, there isn’t any need to purchase a whole new piece as long as one rein remains intact. Curbs do not have this option since both sides will forever remain connected to each other should they break apart somehow – making them more expensive in terms of replacement costs but also safer due to their decreased risks of becoming detached during a ride.
The right Bridle is So Important
Since the headstall, or bridle, fulfills the core function of a bridle and thus bears almost the entire weight of the sensitive region behind the horse’s ears, an optimal fit is a basic prerequisite for a happy horse. The four-legged friends react very differently to the different characteristics of the bridles. There are also horses that are more sensitive in the neck than others. This can even lead to horses completely resisting the rider’s aids, as important nerve tracts cross behind the ears. It is not uncommon for this to be interpreted as disobedience, however, the horse may just be trying to avoid the pain. Should this be the case or your beloved quadruped shakes his head relatively often, even without flies, try an anatomically differently shaped bridle or an additional neck protector.
For example, the manufacturers offer a neck protector for this purpose, which you can simply attach to your snaffle and thus provide your horse with additional relief. Other manufacturers have also recognized the importance of a well-fitting neckpiece. There are several styles available with padding, ear cutouts, or even wider cut ones that are designed to better distribute pressure over a larger area.
If you do not have direct problems with your horse or the bridle, make sure that the bridle fits perfectly, as pressure points can develop first. In addition, no horse has anything against a higher comfort when riding.
The Different Bridles and Their Effect on Throat Comfort
Each halter is designed to achieve a certain goal. The most important thing for bridles, however, is that they sit well on the horse’s head and are not too tight or loose. Many horses do not even feel it when you tighten some of these models because their anatomy does not support pressure points in the throat area. This also applies to more advanced forms of training where many riders rely on direct rein action during riding.
Some designs have already been mentioned: Snaffle bits with ear cutouts and padding along the sides provide additional comfort and safety by distributing pressure evenly over a large surface area so as not to cause pain at any point and bitless bridle types.
The English Combined Bridle
This bridle is the most widespread and is mainly used in dressage work. Without the locking strap, the variant is only called an English bridle. Whether the rider wants to ride his horse with or without the additional strap is up to him. With the correct applications, however, nothing speaks against the use and can even offer advantages. This bridle combination distributes the force on two components: the bridge of the nose and the horse’s mouth. The bridle prevents the lower jaw from shifting and the locking strap prevents the mouth from opening and also provides additional stabilization of the bit. In various studies and x-rays on the position of the bit when pulled, it was found that with the help of the locking strap, the bit slipped less. However, correct and not too tight buckling plays an essential role in order not to restrict breathing and chewing activity as well. A correctly positioned noseband is buckled about two finger widths below the cheekbone. The locking strap is connected to the noseband and is fastened under the bit around the horse’s mouth. For both straps, the clearance between the strap and the horse’s head should be two fingers wide.
The Swedish Combined Bridle
The Swedish Combined Bridle differs from the English Combined Bridle only in the buckling of the bridle. The effect and also positioning is otherwise identical. The noseband is closed with the help of a deflection buckle, comparable to the way a pulley works. Less force is required here, which anyone who has ever used a pulley can understand. However, this also bears the risk that the noseband is buckled much too tightly. Therefore, with this bridle, be especially careful not to tie your horse too tightly.
The Mexican Bridle
his type of bridle consists of two bridles crossing on the bridge of the nose, which are buckled under the bit. The effect and also the look is very close to the Combined Bridle, but it is a little gentler because it has less influence on the nostrils, breathing, and mouth activity when used correctly. For this reason, the Mexican Bridle is very popular in show jumping and eventing, as it offers the best freedom of breath of all halters. In addition, the course of the bridle allows more leeway in terms of bit selection, as there are no straps above the mouth.
When buckling the bit, you should make sure that it is buckled loosely enough so that the straps, connecting rings, or even cheek pieces do not press on the cheekbone. This can cause chafing for many horses. Furthermore, a halter that is buckled too tightly can affect breathing and mouth action.
The Hanoverian Bridle
The Hanoverian bridle is different from the versions presented so far. The bridle is buckled low on the tip of the nasal bone and should be about 4 finger-widths above the nostrils. The chinstrap is fastened more like a locking strap under the bit. Due to the impact on the horse’s mouth, chin pit, and nose bone, this bridle is classified as rather sharper. When using the Hanoverian version, be sure to pay extra attention to the correct buckling and position of the bridle. Improper use can have really fatal consequences and can lead to tensions of the jaw joint, impaired breathing and chewing activity, and in the worst case even to fractures of the nose bone.
The advantages are, under the condition of a correct buckling, that jamming of the mouth angle between bit and bridle as well as lateral compensating movements of the horse’s mouth is prevented and thus the rein aids arrive better. Especially for horses with a long mouth gap or high sensitivity at the mouth, this bridle is an option worth considering.
The Micklem Bridle
The so-called Micklem Bridle has an appearance that admittedly takes some getting used to. It is supposed to combine the advantages of all bridles and offer the horse the best comfort by leaving out the sensitive areas. For example, the noseband is higher than the Hanoverian noseband but also prevents the corners of the mouth from being pinched.
There is also no pressure on the cheekbone, nostrils, nape of the neck, or sensitive facial nerves. Therefore, according to the inventor, the horse should feel particularly comfortable. For an even gentler application, the bit can be connected to the side rings with the so-called bridle clips. Especially young horses like to accept the Micklem Bridle because of the high comfort and good pressure distribution.
The basic construction of a curb bit is very similar to that of a regular snaffle. The difference, however, is that the addition of the curb bit requires four cheek pieces and two pairs of reins.
The noseband is buckled either in English or Swedish without a locking strap. Since a wide cheekpiece is also necessary for the second bit, the round-stitched version is often used. On the one hand, this has optical reasons, but on the other hand, it also avoids that fur and skin are pinched or chafed between the many straps. Everything worth knowing about the curb bit you can read in an extra blog article.