At Elevator Equestrian, the comfort of horses is at the heart of everything we do. It’s why the business was founded in the first place (you can read more about that here), and it’s the starting point whenever we’ve designed new bridles and other tack. The importance of saddle fit on the comfort and performance of horses has been widely understood for decades, but the impact of a poorly fitting bridle is a lesser-known idea. When you consider the delicate physiology of a horse or pony’s head, including the nerves running just below the skin, it makes perfect sense that every rider should ensure their horse’s bridle fits them perfectly every single time they are ridden.
With that in mind, we’ve gathered our top bridle fitting tips for you below, and we’ve added some notes to help you make introducing a new noseband type to your horse a calm and easy experience. Let’s take a look:
- It is very important that the headpiece of your bridle is shaped so that it isn’t putting pressure on the horse’s ears and poll. Padding is also useful to ensure any pressure from the bridle isn’t transferred to the horse but be wary of bridle designs with excessive or poorly shaped padding, as this can actually increase the risk of the headpiece being so large it pushes on the ears and poll!
- The browband needs to sit comfortably on the flat area just underneath their ears, not sagging but easily big enough that it doesn’t pull the headpiece forward onto the ears. The throatlash should be done up so that you can fit four fingers sideways underneath it. Over tightening it will interfere with the horse’s breathing.
- Check the bit is at the right height – both sides should be perfectly level and there should be one or two wrinkles at the corner of the horse’s mouth (though this will slightly depend on the type of bit being used).
- If you are using a cavesson noseband, it should sit two finger widths below the bottom of the cheekbones. The buckle for the noseband should be positioned so that it’s not putting pressure on the jawbones, ideally fastening in the gap between them or away from sensitive areas.
- Ensure that the buckles for the cheekpieces and noseband (when adjusted to be the right height for both elements to fit!) sit in line with or slightly below the eye level. This is because if they are higher or lower, they risk putting pressure on very sensitive areas of the face. They should also lie behind the horse’s cheekbones, not sitting on top of them.
Introducing new nosebands
Did you know that the Cavesson noseband (when it’s correctly fitted!) has no impact on the horse at all? It doesn’t stop them opening their mouth nor does it help stabilise the bit in their mouth – it’s purely decorative. The reason we’re reminding you is because if you need to change nosebands for any reason, the change will have an impact on your horse. Whether you need to stop them evading the bit or something else, it’s important to be sympathetic when you change nosebands.
If you’re changing a plain cavesson for a flash or grackle, why not pop it on loosely and then lunge or long rein them in it? That way they get used to the new noseband gradually and you have a front-row seat to see how they cope? The same goes for introducing a drop noseband or a crank fastening. A little bit of time will allow you to see how they react and let them get used to it! Remember that licking, chewing and mouthing are all totally normal horse behaviours and are not a sign that the horse is evading the bit!
We always remember the ‘why’ when it comes to nosebands. If you only ride in a flash or grackle for that little bit of extra control when going across country or showjumping, why not try riding without it for schooling sessions? Or maybe your horse was ridden in a flash when you first got them, and you’ve never tried them without it? We’ve even come across owners who used a certain noseband because their bridle came with it! If that’s the case, try a simple cavesson and see how you get on…