Bridle Basics for Finding the Perfect Fit
If you’ve been searching for a bridle, you know that there are a bazillion different options out there. Ok, maybe not a bazillion, but tack shopping can be a confusing mess of unfamiliar terms, features, and sales gimmicks.
At the end of the day, you want a safe, functional bridle that looks great on your horse. We’ve got you covered! Keep reading and we’ll break down all the details you need when shopping for this crucial piece of tack.
|Category||Bridle||Price Point||Key Feature|
|Best English Bridle||Dover Saddlery Suffolk Hunter Bridle||$||
|Best Double Bridle||Horze Vienna Weymouth Dressage Bridle||$$$||
|Best Western Bridle||Weaver Leather Latigo Leather Flat Sliding Ear Headstall||$||
|Best Bitless Bridle||Justin Dunn Bitless Bridle||$$||
|Best Pony Bridle||Tahoe Double Stitched Browband Headstall||$||
|Best Trail Bridle||Tough 1 Australian Combo Halter/Bridle||$||
|Best Dressage Bridle||Henri de Rivel Dressage Bridle with Web Reins||$||
|Best Anatomical Bridle||Horseware Ireland Rambo Micklem Bridle||$$$||
Bridles generally come in 4 different sizes: pony, cob, full, and oversize. Halter size usually correlates well with bridle size; you can measure your horse if you’re still unsure.
There are 4 measurements to aid in correct bridle sizing.
- Crownpiece: This is the distance from one corner of the mouth, up over the top of the horse’s head, and down to the other corner of the mouth.
- Browband: This is measured from behind one ear, across the forehead, to behind the other ear. Western-style bridles often don’t utilize browbands, but this is important for most English and/or dressage bridles.
- Noseband: To measure for the noseband, find your horse’s cheekbones and navigate about an inch below this point. From there, measure all the way around his nose. This is another bridle part that is likely not included in Western-type bridles.
- Throatlatch: The last part to measure for correct bridle fit is the throatlatch length. Measure from the base of one ear, under the throat, and up to the base of the other ear.
If your horse doesn’t fit standard sizing, you may need to mix and match different parts to ensure an appropriate bridle fit.
Bridle style generally varies depending upon your saddle. Many riders want the color of their bridle to match the color of the saddle. If you’re in the market for both, buy your saddle first and then match the bridle to it.
Bridle color varies depending upon the individual discipline. For example, dressage has been historically dominated by black saddles and bridles. Today, many riders maintain the tradition of simplicity in the sport but opt to add a little bling to their browbands.
These have have a tradition of simplicity. Still, many offer subtle accents in delicate stitching to the noseband and browband. English bridles used for disciplines other than dressage are generally various shades of brown.
These differ from that of English bridles in that most do not have nosebands. Some Western bridles don’t have browbands, either. Many Western disciplines require less contact between the rider’s hands and the horse’s mouth. This translates to very different pressure points from sports such as dressage, where there is a constant flow of information between horse and rider via the reins.
Keep your horse’s overall head size and shape in mind when shopping for a new bridle.
If your horse has a petite head, avoid a bridle that looks bulky. And similarly, if your horse has a larger head, you can consider a bridle with wider parts.
What to Look for in a Bridle
Most disciplines have a rule book outlining appropriate tack, including bridles. Even if you’re not considering formal competition, it’s a good idea to check out the rule book because most rules originate as a way to protect horses and riders from adverse outcomes.
Note: Unfortunately, there are a variety of bits and bridles out there that were not created to foster positive communication between horse and rider. Using this type of equipment can result in serious injury for you or the horse.
Even bridles that are considered legal for your sport require adjustments to optimize comfort and function. Some bridles are designed to work with (or without) a specific type of bit. Since bits don’t come with the bridle, they will need to be purchased separately.
Typically English-style bridles include reins, and Western-style bridles don’t. You may need to consider buying reins to complete your ensemble.
Regardless of your sport, stick to the following criteria when evaluating a bridle:
- Safety is always the top priority in choosing tack for your horse.
- Comfort should be a close second because your horse won’t be happy with his job if he’s not comfortable.
- Discipline-specific features found in the rule book for your sport are there for a reason and should be considered when purchasing a bridle.
- Durability is also important! I don’t know about you, but my horse has a tendency to be tough on his gear.
- Aesthetics should also be considered—who doesn’t want their horse to look great?!
Top Bridle Options
There are thousands of bridles in a wide range of styles and price points. Fortunately, I’ve done the legwork to find you the best in each category!
Best English Bridle:
Dover Saddlery Suffolk Hunter Bridle
Snaffle bridles are the most common English bridle and can be used for eventing, jumping, and equitation classes. Snaffle bridles have both a browband and noseband.
This type of bridle works with a snaffle bit and exerts pressure at various points of a horse’s mouth to influence their movement.
Depending upon the color of the bridle and the quality of its construction, you will find a wide range of price points. Some bridles are less than $50 while others are over $200.
- Padded browband and noseband for horse comfort
- Stylish stitching makes it attractive enough for showing
- 36 reviewers on Amazon rate this bridle a 4.2 out of 5 stars
- Stunning bridle at a very reasonable price
- This bridle only comes in the color brown
Best Double Bridle:
Horze Vienna Weymouth Dressage Bridle
Double bridles, also known as Weymouth bridles, are used in the upper levels of dressage.
This type of bridle allows for two bits and two sets of reins.
Given their use in advanced dressage and the extra leather involved in its construction, this type of bridle falls on the higher end of the price spectrum. You should expect to pay more than $200 for this bridle, unless you can find one used.
- The embellished browband adds a touch of color to the otherwise simplistic design
- Ergonomically engineered to enhance horse comfort
- Adjustable so it can be used as a snaffle bridle
- Only comes in color black
- Reviewers note that the sizes for this bridle tend to run large
Best Western Bridle:
Weaver Leather Latigo Leather Flat Sliding Ear Headstall
Western bridles offer diversity in terms of design. You can find bridles with or without browbands. Some are designed to fit over one ear (these are referred to as “split-ear” headstalls).
Many come with silver or other bling to show off the eye-catching charm of your perfect pleasure steed!
Depending upon its construction and presence of extra aesthetic features, Western bridles come in a range of prices but are typically less than dressage and even some English bridles. For a leather headstall, expect to spend anywhere from$30-100. Some Western-style show bridles (blinged out in silver!) are in the $250-750 range.
- According to reviewers, this bridle fits ANY horse.
- The simple yet elegant design is appropriate for a wide range of applications, including the show ring or on the trail.
- The one-ear headstall design may not make this bridle ideal for higher impact sports where you may want more stability in the bridle, such as working cattle or contesting classes.
Best Bitless Bridle:
Justin Dunn Bitless Bridle
So far, we’ve covered bridles that work with bits. There are a range of bitless bridles available as well. Bitless bridles function by using a pressure and release technique along the horse’s face, without anything in their mouth.
- This bridle is designed by Justin Dunn, a horse trainer whose specialty is Mustangs and horses with behavioral challenges.
- The bridle is fairly adjustable to fit a variety of horse sizes.
- Leather is soft and pliable.
- 87 Amazon reviewers gave this bridle a 4.7 out of 5.
- Several reviewers remarked that the buckles on this bridle ended up close to their horse’s eyes.
Best Pony Bridle:
Tahoe Double Stitched Leather Browband Western Headstall
Many bridles also come in pony sizes. Overall, you won’t find much difference in function when bridles are sized down. Style and function really depend upon your riding discipline.
- This bridle comes in various pony sizes to ensure fit for even the smallest equines.
- The browband is removable, so you can mix and match it for added aesthetic appeal.
- 237 Amazon reviewers gave this bridle a 4.5 out of 5 stars.
- Western-style limits versatility.
- Does not come with reins.
Best Trail Bridle:
Tough 1 Australian Outrider Collection Leather Halter/Bridle
Depending upon the duration of the trail ride, using the same bridle as other types of riding is generally acceptable. But if you’re trailing riding for long distances, you may want to give your horse a periodic break from the bit.
Because of this, trail riding enthusiasts often look for a bridle specifically designed with this feature in mind.
- Effortless transition from bridle to halter.
- Designed to break under severe stress in an emergency to minimize harm to your horse (example: horse rearing while tied).
- Does not come with reins.
- It may not fit horses with smaller heads.
Best Dressage Bridle:
Henri de Rivel Dressage Bridle with Web Reins
Lower-level dressage bridles are similar to double bridles but designed for only one bit. Most bridles come in black, but you can find a few in brown. Prices for this type of bridle are generally in the $50-$175 range.
- Comes in 3 different sizes for maximum fit for your horse.
- Leather is soft and durable.
- Classic design.
- Ships unassembled, so it is a bit of a DIY project.
Best Anatomical Bridle:
Horseware Ireland Rambo Micklem Competition Bridle
Anatomical bridles take a horse’s natural anatomy into account. They are designed to avoid irritating facial nerves and other sensitive areas. If your horse shakes their head, avoids contact, or rubs its face after wearing its bridle, consider switching to an anatomical bridle.
- Gorgeous, deep brown color.
- Specifically designed to facilitate the comfort of the horse.
- 11 reviewers on Amazon gave the bridle 5 out of 5 stars.
- Also endorsed by Horse and Hound Magazine.
- More expensive than other bridle options.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: How should you store a bridle?
If you are storing your leather bridle for any length of time, make sure to clean and condition it first. It should be kept away from dust, so ideally you’ll zip it up safe in a case or bridle bag.
Try to store it in a place that’s neither too hot nor too cold and away from sunlight and mice (or other rodents).
Q: What bridle is best for a strong horse?
Bridle selection depends upon your sport as there is quite a bit of variety between the disciplines. Make sure to match the bridle construction to your horse’s size—if your horse has a large head, go for thicker leather.
Always inspect your bridle for wear and tear before riding to avoid equipment failure and possible injury. If these tips aren’t effective, consult a trainer for guidance on working through issues with resistance from your horse.
Q: How do I choose a bridle for my horse?
Start by deciding the discipline in which you will be participating. Consider the color of your saddle and your own style preferences. Decide on your price point and start shopping!
Talk with fellow riders about their bridles, including what they like, don’t like, and what they would recommend if they were buying a new bridle.
Q: What’s the best bridle for a cob?
Regardless of your sport, most bridles come in a cob size, which is slightly larger than a pony but smaller than a horse. To ensure the best fit, you may need to measure your horse as discussed above.
Q: How do you swap out a browband?
Swapping out the browband may be done for either practical or aesthetic purposes. If your horse has a broad head, you may need to purchase a separate browband to ensure a comfortable fit.
You can also swap the browband out to add a touch of sparkle to your tack. Either way, most bridles accommodate a fairly straightforward switch of browbands.
Simply unhook both the throatlatch and the cheekpieces and slide the previous browband off. You can then slip the new browband on and re-attach the cheekpieces and throatlatch. Some tack companies also make browbands that snap in place, making swapping out this piece of the bridle even easier.
Shopping for a new bridle comes with its fair share of research and, perhaps, a touch of stress. Hopefully, this post has alleviated any anxiety you have about the process. Happy shopping!
P.S. Enjoy this article? Trot on over to:
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Proper fitting of a bridle – MSU Extension
Bridle Sizes & How to Measure for a Bridle | Dover Saddlery
Overview of English Bridles | Dover Saddlery
Horse Therapy | American Mustang School | United States (justindunnhorsemanship.com)
Best anatomical bridles for all budgets | Horse & Hound (horseandhound.co.uk)