For this month’s blog we’re taking a closer look at the key points of fitting a bridle and examining how each part of the bridle should sit on your horse’s face to ensure they are totally comfortable. Some people just look at whether the bit and noseband are the right height and that the throat latch is an OK length and think that means the bridle fits the horse well. We now know that a horse’s head and muzzle is covered with nerve endings which run very close to the skin, and pressure in the wrong place can be incredibly uncomfortable. Ensuring buckles and straps are in the right place is just as important as the tightness of the bridle.
So, let’s take a closer look at the different parts of the bridle, working from top to bottom, and learn more about how they should fit!
The confirmation of every horse’s head is slightly different, and that means one size definitely doesn’t fit all when it comes to the headpiece. The poll is the area directly behind the horse’s ears, and that’s where the headpiece sits. Some horses have a small poll area, others have more space, and for some horses, the poll is super sensitive. Remember the mare Elevator who wouldn’t tolerate a traditional bridle at all, leading to our first ever comfort bridle? Now there are lots of anatomical headpieces out there to try, including our own Elevator Performance Bridle, which is designed to relieve pressure on the poll. They are also shaped to stop excessive pressure on the back of the ears, but there is something to be wary of. A chunky anatomical headpiece with lots of padding might not suit a horse with a small poll space, as it would put pressure on the back of the ears.
Next, it’s important to check that the split is in the right place for the horse or pony wearing it. The split is where the headpiece divides into two to become the ends for the bit straps and the throat latch. The split should be the right length on your bridle so that the side buckles all sit in line with the horse’s eye when fitted to the middle adjustment holes. That means the buckles aren’t too high and near the ears or too low, both of which can put pressure on sensitive nerve endings.
The throatlatch is there to stabilise the bridle and help keep it in place if there’s an accident while you are out riding. You should be able to fit four fingers underneath it when it’s done up, and when your fingers are removed it should hang and just slightly graze their jawbones. If it’s any tighter, the throatlatch can impede the horse’ breathing, if it’s any looser then it won’t help keep the bridle in place if the worst happens and it’s needed!
The most common noseband, a cavesson, should sit 2cm (or two finger widths) below the protruding cheekbones of the horse and be done up so that you can fit a thumb width underneath it. You should be able to fit a thumb under a cavesson noseband when it’s done up, and if they open their mouth to resist the bit then attention should be paid to dentistry and bitting before a new noseband style is tried. Other popular styles of noseband, such as a flash, grackle or drop noseband, all fit differently but have one thing in common – there’s no need for them to be too tight. Given that one of the aims of a good rider is to encourage the horse to accept contact with a relaxed mouth and jaw, how can a tight noseband ever help?
Traditionally, a bit was said to be the right height when there are two ‘wrinkles’ in the corner of the mouth, but as there are more bit designs than ever before, it is now accepted that’s not the case for all horses. The number of wrinkles seen will depend on the confirmation of the mouth and lips, so it’s worth opening their mouth and checking if the bit is sitting in the right place rather than relying on wrinkles!
We hope these tips help you make sure your bridle fits your horse or pony correctly, ensuring they can enjoy their ridden work free from discomfort and pressure. If you have any questions about bridle parts and fitting, or the Elevator product range, please feel free to drop us a line.