Calling all horse riders: there’s nothing more important than connecting with your horse. And the best way to do that? Through a horse bridle.
A horse bridle is what you use to communicate with your equine companion, through gentle pressure on the horse’s mouth. It lets that majestic beast know where it’s supposed to head next.
So, the question that follows is, which bridle is best for your horse? This is our guide on the different types of bridles for your horse, so let’s grab that information by the reins!
The Main Two Horse Bridles
There are two main horse bridles, English and Western, and both serve different purposes. Let’s break them down!
English bridles are made to fit the horse’s head, as well as the horse’s neck, comfortably and securely. They usually come with a noseband, which keeps the horse’s mouth closed and makes communicating with your horse a little easier. The browband holds the bridle safe and sound and keeps it from sliding over the horse’s ears.
English bridles are mainly used for dressage, jumping, and trail riding. They can also be used for saddle seat riding, a type of English riding which centres around the rider’s seat and posture.
The bridle consists of a lot of different pieces such as the headpiece, cheekpiece, noseband, and browband. The most important of these? The headpiece, which goes around your horse’s head.
The cheekpieces connect the headpiece to the bit and help keep that bit in the right place. The noseband is a strap that wraps around the horse’s nose and helps keep the horse’s mouth closed. The browband is a strap that goes over the horse’s brow and generally keeps the bridle in place.
Western horse bridles are pretty light and perfect for long-distance Western riding. Western bridles are also quite different from English bridles because they usually don’t have a noseband or browband. That’s because Western riders communicate with their horses by using weight and neck reining instead of using their hands.
A Western bridle is used for a bunch of different things like trail riding, rodeos, and reining. Did someone say yeehaw? That might have been the cowboys and ranchers, because these bridles are pretty popular amongst them for Western riding, too!
Riders have better control over their horses’ heads and necks because Western bridles have long, split reins. This gives you the control to direct your horse around easily.
Types of English Bridles
The Snaffle bridle is a favourite for horse owners competing in English events like dressage or casual trail rides. What makes it so great is that it’s adaptable and super practical. You can pop on a curb, snaffle bit or Pelham bit. The choice is yours! The basic snaffle bridle has one bit and one pair of reins. Snaffle bridles have a noseband that sits just under the horse’s cheekbones.
This snaffle bridle noseband helps keep the right jaw alignment around your horse’s mouth and stops it from skirting the bit. Make sure this is properly adjusted around your horse’s head – not too tight or too loose. The Cavesson noseband moves the tension from the bit around the horse’s mouth to its nasal bone.
Don’t let its name catch you off guard, either; the English snaffle bridle is not just for snaffle bits. It can take on a wide variety of bits.
The Pelham bridle has a pretty great balance between control and comfort. It has one bit and a pair of reins.
The Pelham bit (though some riders call it a curb bit) uses parts from both a curb bit and a snaffle bit. It gives riders control of two reins without needing two separate bits. Polo riders usually use a Pelham bridle for better control. Polo bridles usually have a wide, flat leather noseband with not much cushioning.
One of the great things about Pelham bridles is that they make transitioning between a single bridle to a double bridle a lot easier!
The double bridle (some riders call it a Weymouth bridle) is a unique one. It’s customisable, and a pretty special choice, usually used as a competitive dressage bridle. This bridle’s two bits and two reins are the best of the best. It’s the ultimate way to communicate with your horse.
Double bridles use two bits at the same time: a bradoon and a curb. These two bits work together well, along with two sets of reins. Double bridles can improve your performance in dressage and saddle seat riding. Pretty fancy, but let’s get fancier!
Dressage bridles are usually black, stylish, and chic. Although, sometimes you see a brown one out in the wild! Dressage bridles usually have super-padded black dressage saddles with flash nosebands that are either a crank type or can be buckled.
The anatomic dressage bridle has become incredibly popular lately because it has tons of patterns to choose from. It allows unique riders like yourself to show off their style and personality when riding.
Hunter Jumper Bridle
Hunter jumper bridles have a pretty classic look to them. These traditional-looking bridles are usually used to compete in the hunter show ring or the show jumping ring. It’s right there in the name!
Hunter jumper bridles also have a stylish edge to them, if you’re looking for some decorative stitching outside of the traditional look that is.
Bitless bridles are a different way of managing horses that you might not have considered yet. First of all, as the name suggests, it doesn’t use a bit, but sometimes a noseband.
A bitless bridle is often used temporarily, as a way to retrain a horse that’s been ridden too harshly or has a mouth wound.
Horses with dental problems or horses who struggle to handle bits can also benefit from these bridles. It also helps keep their behaviour in check. Besides, by removing the bit, you’ll find an almost harmonious connection with your horse.
Drop Noseband Bridle
The drop-noseband bridle is another great option for premium riding events. The main goal is to keep a horse’s mouth closed when riding. Although, drop-nosebands are not allowed in some competitions. The lower band (that is, the drop band), is useful for keeping constant contact with the bit.
This bridle can even be changed into a snaffle bridle by removing the drop-noseband. This means you can switch up the adjustments to suit your horse’s needs. The combination of a snaffle bridle with a drop noseband can also give you more control in dressage and eventing.
To make sure you and your horse get the most out of this bridle, you need to make sure that it fits properly and is adjusted for your specific horse, taking into account the horse’s teeth and chin.
The working bridle is an industry standard for ranch riding, cattle handling, and trail rides. But don’t throw it out as a country-only option just yet; it also has some show-ring-appropriate styles. One very noticeable thing about working bridles is that it doesn’t have a Cavesson noseband.
The throat latch, on the other hand, is super important for this bridle. The throat latch holds the bridle in place on the horse’s face. This creates a sense of stability and comfort during any kind of ride. Most working bridles have a curb chain to go with a Western curb bit. This gives you some much-needed control of your horse!
One Ear Bridle
A one-ear bridle, as you could probably guess, covers the horse’s head by wrapping only one of its ears. It has a little slot that keeps the bridle in place, similar to a browband.
You can use these bridles in everyday riding around the field or for an important show. One-ear bridles are incredibly helpful when it comes to horses who get irritated by browbands, which can really bother a horse’s forehead.
Two Ear Bridle
The two-ear bridle is not that different from a one-ear bridle, except that it has two ear slots instead of one. It also doesn’t have a throat latch. You can usually catch these fashionable bridles in the show ring.
Western Bitless Bridle
Western bitless bridles work a lot like a hackamore bridle in that they depend on pressure on parts of the horse’s face rather than the mouth. The mechanical hackamore does not have a mouthpiece, which means you can get more control without even needing a bit.
A Western bitless bridle is best for horses with sensitive lips. They are usually not allowed in the arena, but you’re welcome to try them out at home (if your backyard is big enough!).
What is a horse bridle?
A bridle is a piece of equipment used to guide and control a horse while riding. There are many different types of bridles, falling under the categories of Western and English.
What is the purpose of a noseband on a bridle?
The noseband helps to keep the horse’s mouth properly closed. It also adds another layer of control and stability.
Can I use the same bridle for different riding disciplines?
Yes, some bridles are adaptable and can be used for multiple disciplines. However, some bridles are specifically designed for certain activities such as dressage and show jumping.