Ever thought about how to put on a snaffle bridle? If you’re new to the world of horseback riding, figuring out how to properly fit the bridle on the horse’s head might feel like a bit of a puzzle. But no worries – we’re here to guide you through the process!
You see, a snaffle bridle is an important piece of equipment that helps you communicate with your horse while riding. It consists of various parts like the snaffle bit, cheekpieces, noseband, and reins that all need to be adjusted just right for your horse’s comfort and your control.
Let’s take the reins and get the answer, as it were, straight from the horse’s mouth.
The Anatomy Of A Snaffle Bridle
Bridles with a snaffle are made up of the following parts:
- The snaffle bit and two snaffle bit rings
- The browband
- The headpiece
- The noseband
- The two cheekpieces
- The throat latch
- The chin strap (optional)
- The reins
The snaffle bit goes into the horse’s mouth. There is a ring on each side of the bit. The reins and the cheekpieces are attached to the rings. The browband is attached to the headpiece, which is attached to the cheekpieces, which, in turn, are attached to the rings. It works on the concept of direct pressure, which is applied when you pull the reins.
Fitting The Snaffle: Step-by-Step Guide
Remember that preparation is key and safety for both you and the horses is paramount. Ensure that you have the bridle ready before you begin. Also, inspecting the bridle to ensure it is clean and free from any debris would be a good idea. You should check the horse’s face and neck areas. There should be no dirt or debris that can cause chafing or discomfort to the horse when the bridle is fitted.
The most important thing to remember when fitting the bridle is the comfort of the horse. Do regular checks at each point to make sure that it is fitted correctly. Also, check that the horse is not uncomfortable or getting hurt at any time or in any way.
A good way to start is to bring one hand up over the horse’s neck and place it between its ears. The other hand should bring the bridle up, past the horse’s nose, and pass it to the first hand.
This plays a dual role. Firstly, with an arm on the back of the horse’s neck and your hand over the horse’s crown, lying between the horse’s ears, the horse won’t be able to retreat much. It gives you more control. Secondly, once you have passed the bridle to your upper hand, it leaves your second hand free to continue to the next step.
Using your fingers, part the horse’s lips so that you can access the horse’s mouth. Now, gently slide the bit into the horse’s mouth and slowly pull it up. It is good to check that you are not scraping the teeth as you go because you do not want to hurt the horse or frighten it in any way.
For the perfect bit placement, the bit should sit snugly in the corners of the horse’s mouth. When you are riding, the horse will react to the pressure you apply to the reins, which is felt through the bit.
It is best to have one or two small wrinkles at the side of the horse’s mouth. As the bit is a tad tighter, the horse cannot stick its tongue over the bit, which could be uncomfortable or even hurt. It also gives the horse a chance to get used to the feel of the snaffle bit in its mouth.
The browband and headpiece
Next, you need to bring the headpiece over the horse’s ears and position the browband comfortably on the horse’s forehead. Make sure that the straps are the correct length so that you can easily accomplish this. If they are not loose enough, unbuckle them so that you can manoeuvre them without hurting the horse.
Gently pull the ears back or push them forward so that you can pull the headpiece into position. Again, you will need to check to see if your horse is comfortable or not. The brow piece should rest on the horse’s forehead. It should not be positioned too close to the eyes, as this could cause discomfort. Rather, it should fit neatly between the eye bone and the bottom of the ears.
The noseband must not be too tight. Leave a little bit of room for manoeuvrability. Here, you need to check that there is space for three fingers to fit comfortably under the noseband. There should be one to two fingers of space between the horse’s cheekbones and the noseband (if it is a Cavesson noseband). If positioned correctly, the noseband will not hinder the horse’s breathing.
There are different types of nosebands that can be used with a snaffle bride, including:
- Cavesson noseband: A Cavesson noseband is a popular noseband that consists of a strip of leather that goes over the horse’s nose, and the buckle rests under the horse’s chin.
- Flash noseband: Flash nosebands are added to Cavesson nosebands. They loop around below the rings of the bit and under the chin. Flash nosebands are used to keep the horse’s mouth closed.
- Drop noseband: Drop nosebands are worn lower than other nosebands. A drop noseband will sit on the nasal bone and fit under the horse’s chin.
You should check where the cheek pieces lay in relation to the horse’s cheeks and eyes. The two cheekpieces should be of even length, and they should not hinder the horse’s eyesight or pinch its cheeks. If they are pinching the cheeks, then the straps are too tight, and you will need to adjust them accordingly.
The cheekpieces are very important because they tie to the rings on the snaffle bit. This keeps the bit in place so that it is not hanging too low or causing too much pressure.
The throat latch
The purpose of the throat latch is to stabilise the bridle so that it does not come off the horse’s head. The throat latch is attached to the cheek pieces, and it runs under the horse’s jaw bones.
Tighten the throat latch, but leave a little room here. If it is correctly fitted, there will preferably be space for four fingers or a fist to fit between the throat and the lower strap.
The chin strap
Chin straps are used to stop bit rings from being pulled through the horse’s mouth. This can happen if one rein is being pulled or if the bridle has small rings. However, if you have the correct size bridle with large enough bit rings, you will find that chin straps are not necessary.
If you do use chin straps, make sure that you can fit one to two fingers between the horse’s chin and the chin strap.
Final Checks When Fitting a Snaffle Bridle
- The bit: When positioning the bit, make sure that it is not dangling by the front teeth. It also should not be pushing against the back teeth. There should be no more than two wrinkles at the corners of the mouth.
- The crown piece and browband: Check that the crown piece and the browband lie flat and comfortably on the horse. If they pinch or rub the horse’s head, they could cause discomfort.
- The headpiece: When pulling the headpiece over the horse’s head, make sure the ears do not get pulled with the crown piece. Also, check that there is no hair caught in the straps.
- The noseband: The noseband should sit about two fingers under the cheekbone. You should be able to fit a finger or two between the noseband and the horse’s nose.
- The throat latch: You should be able to fit four fingers between the throat latch and the horse’s cheek.
- The chin straps: You should be able to fit one to two fingers between the strap and the chin.
- Spare holes: All straps should have a minimum of two spare holes. The reasoning behind this is that if a strap snaps, you can tighten it to the next hole and ride your horse home safely.
- Buckles: Make sure all the buckles are correctly tightened and that they are not hurting the horse.
The one-finger rule
If your horse is feeling comfortable, it will be a happier ride. Comfort and safety are both of paramount importance. If you cannot fit at least one finger comfortably at any point between the horse and the bridle, the bridle is too tight. A well-fitting bridle will make for a happier horse ride.
Watch your horse’s reactions. If your horse is shaking his head, biting at the bit, or becoming resistant, you know that the bridle may be hurting him. This is why it is essential to constantly check that each part of the bridle correctly fits the horse.
Should the snaffle bit be pulled tighter?
When positioning the bit, there should be a maximum of two wrinkles at the corners of the horse’s mouth so that the bridle is not over-tightened. Over-tightening the bridle can cause the bit to hurt the horse’s mouth. It can also confuse the horse because it is sending him the wrong pressure signal. This can cause frustration and irritation. Rather, make sure that the bit fits comfortably.
What happens if the horse’s tongue goes over the bit?
If the horse’s tongue goes over the top of the bit, it can cause discomfort or even pain. It could also affect the horse’s breathing. This is why the bit should form two wrinkles on the horse’s mouth. Then you know the bit is correctly positioned.
Can I use the same bridle for different horses?
Horses are all different. The size of their mouths and noses differ. It is highly recommended to have different bridles for different horses. Especially when it comes to the bits. The bits need to fit properly and comfortably; what suits one of your horses may not suit another.