A Western bridle is a critical piece of tack. Through the bridle a rider can control their horse’s movements. In fact, the bridle is the connection that the rider relies on to properly use his legs, seat, and hands to tell their horse how to move, where to move, and what pace he should take. Whether you have a new horse or a new bridle, getting the right fit is as important as a long distance runner who needs to buy a new pair of shoes. The following step by step guide is designed to help riders of all levels properly fit a Western bridle to any sized horse or pony.
Step #1: Measure Your Horse’s Head.
The first step in properly fitting a bridle is to measure your horse’s head. You should measure the length of his head from the top of his skull straight down to the corner of his mouth. This measurement will later be compared to the cheek piece of the bridle that you are planning on using. You should also measure the bottom of your horses chin, so you can have a better idea regarding the size of the bit and chin strap that you will need. Finally, you should measure from the corner of your horse’s mouth straight back to his withers. The latter measurement will come in handy as you decide what length of reins you want to use.
Step #2: Find The Right Western Bridle.
Once you have measured your horse it is time to decide whether you need a pony, cob, Arabian, horse, Warmblood, or draft-sized bridle. You will also need to determine what type of Western headstall style you want to use. There are four common types of Western headstalls:
- One Ear Headstall — This type of headstall features a small leather loop on the crown portion of the bridle; this loop fits nicely around one ear.
- Two Ear Headstall — As the name suggests, the two ear headstall features two small leather loops on the crown of the bridle; the two loops will fit nicely around each ear, respectively.
- Browband Headstall — This type of headstall has a leather strap (browband) that will go straight across the forehead of the horse. The browband replaces the leather loops that are found in either the one ear or two ear headstalls.
- Bosal Headstall — This type of headstall is used to hold a hackamore (or bit-less bridle) on the horse’s head. Unlike traditional one ear, two ear, or browband headstalls, the bosal headstall is not designed for use with a bit.
Step #3: Decide What Type Of Reins, Bit, And Chin Strap You Want To Use.
After you choose the headstall, it is time for you to pick out your reins, bit, and chin strap. You can choose between three types of reins:
- Split Reins — These types of reins are used with snaffle and curb bits.
- Romel Reins — The romel reins can be used with curb bits.
- Mecate Reins — These types of reins are used with a bosal headstall (or a bit-less bridle).
When choosing the bit for your horse, make sure that it fits securely, but not too snugly in your horse’s mouth. The edge of the bit should rest against the corner of your horse’s mouth without hanging too far past the edge or pinching. The chin strap should be chosen to fit loosely beneath your horse’s chin; its style and length will depend on your horse’s needs, as well as your chosen discipline.
- Hang the bridle over your shoulder while you remove the halter from your horse.
- Position the bit in your horse’s mouth, by standing to the left of your horse, placing your right arm over your horse’s nose, and using your left hand to encourage him to pick up the bit. As your horse picks up the bit, keep your palm and fingers flat as you encourage him to take the bit all the way into his mouth.
- As your horse picks up the bit you will also need to simultaneously place the headstall over his ear(s).
- Next, secure the chin strap below his chin.
- Double check that the bit fits properly in his mouth. If it is too small, it will appear to pinch the corners of your horse’s mouth. If it is too big, then it will appear to be too loose. Finally, it should sit on the bars of his mouth, not too low on his teeth.
- Double check the fit of the bridle with the one or two fingers. In other words, you should be able to easily slide one or two fingers along the headstall, browband, cheek pieces, and chin strap.
By following the above steps you will be able to fit a Western bridle to your horse and enjoy your Western trail riding experience. Remember that if you run into any difficulties you should ask a more experienced rider or professional for help. The safety of you and your horse depends, in part, on a properly fitted bridle.