If you regularly read our blog and our social media posts then you’ll know that here at Elevator Equestrian, we’re spreading the word about how important it is that your horse’s bridle is comfortable and fitted correctly. It’s now wisely understood that a badly fitting bridle can have a significant negative impact on a horse’s wellbeing and performance and happily, there are lots of fantastic anatomically designed bridles and nosebands out there to choose from.
If you want to assess the fit of your current bridle or ensure that when you fit a new bridle to your horse you get it spot on the first time, where do you start? With new styles of bridle being released all the time – including our exciting new Elevator Elite collection – it’s not always as simple as ‘the noseband should sit two fingers below the cheekbone’. That’s why we’ve put together this guide to help you learn how to detect a badly fitting bridle and hopefully point you in the right direction when you go to fit a new one! Let’s work from top to bottom and get started with the headpiece.
A badly fitted headpiece may be too big for the horse’s poll, so it’s putting pressure on the back of the horse’s ears, or too short, narrow and tight so it impinges on the poll itself. That’s why you will see anatomical headpieces, such as the ones on all Elevator bridles, all have shaped headpieces to keep them away from the ears, and they are gently padded to ensure there’s not excessive pressure on the poll.
The splits (where the leather of the headpiece splits into the cheek pieces and the throatlash) need to be below the browband. You’ll notice that if they are above it, the throatlash will pull the browband tighter against the horse’s face even when it’s buckled loosely, just because of the angle it’s at. A throatlash helps to stabilise the bridle, but it should never be done up tightly – if you can see it pressing into the horse’s skin, it’s way too tight! You should be able to fit four stacked fingers underneath the throatlash so that the horse’s throat can expand when it’s working on a contact
The cheekpieces on a bridle attach to the headpiece and are there to support the bit as it sits in the horse’s mouth. Firstly, you need to adjust the cheekpieces to ensure the bit is sitting correctly but be aware that the ‘one to one-and-a-half wrinkles in the horse’s lips’ rule isn’t necessarily correct anymore. Some horses have chunky lips which won’t wrinkle as easily, or their mouth confirmation means they have a short distance from the corner of the lip to the muzzle. It’s better to open their mouth and check that the bit is sitting centrally on the bars of the mouth and that it doesn’t hit the teeth when a contact is taken up. When you know the bit is at the right height, you can see if the cheekpiece buckles are in the correct position. A badly fitted bridle might see them too low, high or pressing the zygomatic ridge (cheekbones), and you need to change bridle size for them to sit at the right height.
As we mentioned at the beginning of this blog, our new bridles feature noseband designs which aim to give riders the same control as some classic choices (flash, drop and grackle) but with improved comfort for the horse. They feature padding to relieve pressure on the face and nose and are cut to avoid sensitive areas where nerves run very close to the surface of the skin. That means they are fitted slightly differently, so keep a close eye out for a blog all about fitting our new nosebands, coming soon. If your bridle has a cavesson noseband or any of those other three styles, this Elevator Equestrian blog is the place to head.