Catalogs and online retailers multiply your options, as do boutique bridal makers with small, typically handcrafted lines. Choosing the right bridle boils down to fit, style, your own preferences and budget.
If you have flexibility in your funds, keep in mind that the quality of leather and craftsmanship are keys to how long a bridle will last. In these cases, shopping is a quick trip to the local tack store where staff sends the shopper home with her trainer's favorite bridle.
Wider nose bands are a current trend in the hunter ring, but don't be a blind band wagoner. This look is typically accomplished with relatively wide nose- and brow bands and/or padding that adds depth and sometimes width to these pieces.
For horses with smaller, more refined heads, the padding can add a nice dimension, but you probably want a thinner nose- and brow band to minimize bulk. It has clinchers (a row of silver or brass pieces) on the nose band instead of more traditional placement on the brow band, a nice way to offset a heavy forelock.
“A good, clean fit is critical to showing off your horse's head,” says Jul's. One rule of thumb is having the buckles of the nose band hanger, cheek piece and throat latch near each other, but not overlapping.
Borrowing bridles from barn mates is a great way to figure out which manufacturers make the best fit for your horse. The circumference of his nose where the nose band sits, the width of the brow between the two points where the brow band will connect with the headstall, the entire length of the headstall, starting at the bit on one side, up over the poll and down to the bit on the other side and the throat latch length, starting behind one ear, down under the throat and up to a spot behind the other ear.
Expect that the bridle leather may stretch a little over time, and factor in how tightly you usually fasten the nose band and throat latch. An Innovation Award winner at the British Equestrian Trade Association show in 2008, the Mickey is designed to prevent pressure on facial nerves, the poll and the cheek and upper-jaw bones.
Alleviating poll pressure is accomplished with a wider, padded and single-piece crown that does not have a separate caves son strap running under it. Variations on that design dominate the poll-oriented comfort craze in today's offerings from most manufacturers.
Horses who don't like to be handled near their ears, poll or the top of their mane may benefit from these new designs. Head shaking and other signs of general discomfort while being ridden are indicators that the new styles are worth a try.
“I don't think a (hunter or ?equitation) judge is going to pin you higher or lower because you use one of these designs,” Jamie says. “Mono,” “single,” “integrated,” “recessed,” “padded,” “comfort” and “contoured” are prefixes for the crown piece (headstall) in most of today's bridles.
These styles require a special caves son with two short straps, which is critical if you need to replace it. “Comfort” usually means the headpiece is padded on the side that lays against the horse, and “contoured” usually refers to slight curves behind the ears.
Decreasing demand for red meat is one of many factors that have reduced the cow population and the hides that come from it, resulting in higher prices for top-quality leather. Some leathers are named for their place of origin: for example, Sidekick carriers in England, English and American.
Leathers are often sourced in one place and finished in another and labeled in ways that don't correspond to either. Jamie finds that companies who put their name on their leather can generally be counted on for consistent quality.
In this process, the color of the leather permeates the entire fiber structure, Jamie explains. Dyes applied in this less-expensive method are likely to bleed when wet from sweat or rain, and fade over time.
(One of the most popular high-end lines at Mary's, Had fields Bridle works, features 12 stitches per inch.) Lesser techniques often split the entire length of the band, making the whole piece more prone to breakage.
“In a lot of the higher-end bridles, the leather is already finished with a good amount of waxes and tannins in them,” Jul's continues. “A higher quality bridle will undergo this process without any obvious signs of destruction, but down the road it won't last as long,” Jul's says.
Over-oiling can break down the fibers in the leather and the stitching, especially in bridles in the lower price ranges. Get Help Knowledge is a great source of confidence in the bridle -buying process, but it's not a substitute for working with a trustworthy tack supplier with a reasonable return policy.
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