Other Riding

Western FAQ: What Exactly Is a Bridle Horse?

Horse with a bridle
Written by Natalie Gasper

Vaquero Method Training for Top-Notch Ranching Horses

The term “bridle horse” doesn’t just mean any horse that wears a bridle. A bridle horse dates back to the 1500s and involves a lengthy training process. The result? A polished, responsive cattle and ranching horse.

Bridle horses date back hundreds of years to when vaqueros (Spanish cowboys) arrived in North America. Creating a proper bridle horse takes years of training. These horses are finely tuned and can be ridden with one hand. They were originally trained to be all-around stock and working ranch horses.

Nowadays, other disciplines have adopted the Vaquero approach.

The Bridle Horse Defined

A bridle horse has its roots in the Spanish cowboys and their horses when they came to North America more than 500 years ago.

Multiple bridles and years of training are involved, leaving you with the perfect range partner.

What does a finished bridle horse mean?

A bridle horse can be ridden with one hand. You don’t have to pull to control them, as they are highly responsive and can complete complex maneuvers on their own.

What is the Vaquero method?

The Vaquero method is a many-year process that utilizes three bit/bridle types. Trainers start with a hackamore, work up to a two-rein bridle, then finish the horse in a spade bit.


Photo Cred: Canva

Pros and Cons

Like most things, these horses have their good and bad points, depending on what you need in your next riding partner.

Benefits to a Bridle Horse

  • Slow training over many years
  • Highly responsive
  • Loves challenges
  • Reliable
  • Can ride with one hand

Drawbacks to a Bridle Horse

  • Correct training takes years
  • More about art than sport
  • Requires more expensive tack and multiple bridles to train

What types of riding is a bridle horse for?

Traditionally, bridle horses were trained to be all-around ranch horses. Nowadays, trainers across all disciplines are branching out into this method.

What breeds of horses make good bridle horses?

The heart of bridle training is to mold a horse that excels at ranch work, which means being comfortable around cattle. Quarter Horses and mustangs are great choices, as are appendixes and even some Thoroughbreds.

This training is more about the right temperament than the best breed.

How long does it take to train a bridle horse?

Years! Some horses may move quicker, others may take longer. Good Vaquero trainers take as long as the horse needs. Check out this video that shows what a Vaquero horse can do.

Horse on a ranch

Photo Cred: Canva

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What is a Vaquero bridle horse?

A Vaquero bridle horse is a very well-trained, all-around stock and range horse.

Q: What is Vaquero training?

Vaquero training is how bridle horses are made. It’s an ancient tradition dating back to the Spanish cowboys (vaqueros) who had such finely-tuned mounts they only needed one hand to ride.

Q: How do you ride like a Vaquero?

To ride like a Vaquero is to shift your perspective on training. The key is to focus on what’s best for the horse, moving at their speed, and learning to communicate effectively with one another. The best way to learn how to ride like one is to learn from one.

Cowboy at sunset

Photo Cred: Canva

Parting Thoughts

Vaquero horses can be invaluable to a working ranch. Though they take many years to train properly, the result is unbeatable. If you’re looking for a reliable, immaculately trained horse that can be ridden with one (or no) hands, then a Vaquero bridle horse may be for you.

P.S. Enjoy this article? Trot on over to:


Continuing the Bridle Horse Tradition | Horse Journals

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About the author


Nancy loves retraining off the track Thoroughbreds and working with her dogs!