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The bridle comes in a large number of different models. They are adapted to discipline and effect. Most bridles are made from leather, but there are also synthetic versions.
There are six different bridle sizes: mini, shetland, pony, cob, full and extra full. Ponies in section B and smaller ones in C can normally wear a pony bridle, while larger ponies in sections C and D can wear a cob. However, certain breeds of pony have very small noses and a wide forehead. If this is the case, you can buy the smaller size bridle along with a larger size browband.
The four most common types of noseband
The four most common types of noseband for an English bridle are the drop noseband, the plain/English cavesson, the flash noseband and the figure-eight noseband.
The drop noseband is sometimes also referred to as a remont, after the old military designation for a young horse. It is an excellent choice for young horses, as it is fastened underneath the snaffle, which means it does not pinch any of the teeth that may be tender, for example, when changing over from the primary teeth.
This noseband is fairly lenient, as it does not need to be tightened very hard to prevent the horse from opening its mouth. It also works just as well on an adult horse.
The cavesson runs underneath the cheek pieces of the bridle, approximately two centimetres below the cheekbone. This is a simple noseband, which comes in thinner or slightly wider versions. When fastened correctly, you should be able to place two fingers between the nasal bone and the band. Never pull it tighter than this.
If you have a young horse (younger than six years old) it is important that you look out for chafing caused by the noseband on the inside of the cheek, in connection to teeth changes.
The flash noseband is similar to the English cavesson, but it has an additional strap that you fasten underneath the snaffle to prevent the horse from opening its mouth.
When you fasten this noseband, it is important to start with the upper strap and then the lower, so that the noseband is not pulled downwards. The lower strap prevents the horse from opening its mouth.
This noseband is suitable for a more energetic horse. It may also be a good fit for a young horse, since the straps do not cause pressure on the teeth in the same way that the cavesson and the flash do.
The figure-eight noseband consists of two straps that cross over on the nasal bone. The top strap should be placed a bit up the horse's cheek, and the lower one should lie just underneath the snaffle.
In later years, new models have been developed based on these four, but with a few extra details.
How to fit the bridle
The browband should lie flat against the forehead. It must not be too short, so that it pulls on and pinches the area behind the ears. You should be able to fit an open hand between the throatlatch and the horse's cheek, to ensure that the strap is not obstructing its breathing. The flash/cavesson should be placed around two fingers down from the horse's cheekbone to avoid chafing. It must not be placed too far down either, as this can cause pinching between the snaffle and the noseband. You should be able to fit two fingers under the noseband.
There are also bitless bridles where the piece that looks like the noseband has straps for fastening the reins. These straps cross over under the chin/cheek. When you pull on the rein, it creates pressure on the opposite cheek piece, which allows you to steer the horse as it moves away from the pressure.
The sidepull is a bitless bridle that guides the horse through pressure on the nasal bone and cheek pieces. The sidepull allows for better neck control compared to the hackamore.
The double bridle is primarily used in dressage. This bridle has double cheek pieces, to allow you to fasten a bradoon bit as well as a curb bit. It is usually combined with an English cavesson. This bridle requires double reins.
Choice of reins
The choice of reins is normally a matter of taste. There are reins completely make from leather, with or without stops, laced or plain. There are also leather reins with one part made from rubber to provide the best possible grip. The most common rein is probably the rubber weave reins with stops. When you select your reins, you should test and compare a great variety to find the one that fits your hand best. If you are jumping or riding in rough terrain, reins with a good grip, such as a rubber rein or one with many stops, will be preferable. If you do more dressage, you may want a completely smooth leather rein or one with very small stops.
The browband is the jewel of the bridle. There is a great variety of choice; from completely plain and discrete to generously decorated ones with beads and bling. It is important to ensure that the browband is not too short, which causes it to pull the head and cheek pieces forward and causes discomfort as well as chafing and pressure on the horse's ears.
The bridle for an Icelandic horse will normally consist of a headpiece, cheek pieces and a noseband. Many opt out of using a browband, and the Icelandic bridle rarely has a throatlock. The nosebands are often drop models, but more and more flash nosebands for Icelandic horses have appeared. The reins are most often fastened to the snaffle with snap hook.
Western bridles often have plenty of decorations and hardly ever use a noseband. If, on the other hand, you are using a sidepull, there is no bit, but the horse is steered and controlled through pressure on the nasal bone and sides of the face.