In this article, I wish to give you some insight into the various types of bridles you will find and their applications.
The hackamore: The hackamore is a bridle without a bit. It is a very effective way to control your horse by application of pressure points on the face and head of your horse. Hackamores come with reins attached to a nose band or nose piece. This rather large leather bridle is eminently suited for horses that have sensitive mouths. Unfortunately, though, most show organizers do not allow contestants to use hackamore bridles.
The Pelham: Generally used with one pelhon bit, the Pelham is an English style bridle that allows you to use a curb rein or a snaffle rein.
The Double: As you can gather from the name, this is a bridle with 2 bits: a Weymouth and a Bradon. Each bit has its own set of reins. This bridle can be pretty severe, and it also needs a rider with a lot of skill. Because of this, it is used mostly by riders with very highly developed riding skills.
The Western bit; It should come as no surprise to you to know that these bits are usually worn in scenarios that have a “western” flavor to them. They come without nosebands and often, without brow bands. In this kind of bit, the missing brow band can often be replaced by a band of single ear design that can be wrapped around one of the horse’s ears for security, thus helping keep the bridle on.
The Gag: The gag bridle is intended to be used with ‘Gag’ bits. The bit comes with rounded cheek pieces, and is sent through both the top and the bottom holes in the bit, thus directly attaching to the reins. The bit slides up and down the horse’s cheek pieces in response to pressure on the reins and the corners of the horse’s mouth. The gag bridle can have a very severe action unless it is used with the greatest of caution. This kind of bridle is most used in polo games, show jumping and rodeo.
The Halter: The halter is in common use with trail riders. It is also used extensively on ranches and for endurance riding. This bridle comes in a ‘halter’ type of design. It has quick release cheek pieces – a rather brilliant security feature for riders wanting to tie their horses up. This bridle provides relief to the horse from the bit, and this is done without actually removing the bridle fully.
The Snaffle: Possibly the bridle that is in most common use with English style riders. This bridle uses only one bit, usually of the snaffle type, and one set of reins. It is fine for usage with other bits using single reins.
Bridles come in a great many shapes, sizes and designs. Most of them have been designed for a single purpose. Some bridles are designed such that they actually relieve some areas of a horse’s head of tension. Some bridles are designed to apply pressures on the horse’s head in certain positions like poll or lips; this can be of great help in controlling a horse.
Here is a description of bridle parts going from the top to the bottom.
The Headpiece: The headpiece is a leather strip that fits right behind a horse’s ears. The straps at each end are the cheek pieces. The leather strip on the off side is called throat lash and on the near side is called throat lash attachment.
The Brow Band: The brow band makes for extra security that prevents slipping back of the cheek pieces. The nose band attachment and the headpiece go through each of the brow band’s ends. Brow bands are often decorated with jewellery or ribbon in colors that often match the rider’s attire.
The Cheek pieces: These are to be found at the end of the headpiece on either side of the face. Their primary function is to attach the bridle to the bit.
The Nose band: The nose band gets attached at the brow band’s ends. It follows the headpiece over the head of the horse. It is used to keep the jaws and mouth closed. It is also used for attaching martingales.
The Throat lash: The throat lash is a strap fitted under the horse’s throat to give extra security. It should not be fastened very tightly.
The Reins: The reins are attached to the bit just beneath the cheek pieces. They constitute a means of contact to the horse’s head for the rider. They are usually made of plain leather, rubber, laced or braided leather or other material of a non-slip type that is useful for wet condition riding.
You can also use other attachments and accessories in conjunction with the basics named above, like bit guards, lip straps, curb straps and blinkers. These are items used as and when required. You also get a whole range of bridles for pony shows.
You should never tie up horses with the reins. This can cause serious injury to the head and jaw if the horse tugs back.
Bridles that are fitted right are comfortable for the horse; they also allow better rider control. They are almost indispensable for boosting the quality of relationship between the rider and his horse.