English Horse Bridles
English horse bridles are used to direct horses in English style riding disciplines. Choosing the right type and size of bridle is extremely important both for your riding and your horse's welfare.
Modern English-style riding is descended from the mounted military traditions of Europe and includes competitive disciplines such as jumping and dressage. Unlike Western riding, English-style riders use the reins as well as the legs to direct the horse, holding a rein in each hand for greater control and keeping them tighter throughout. An English bridle features a noseband that wraps around the horse's nose and helps to keep its mouth close, unlike Western bridles which lack these feature. Bridles are traditionally made from leather, but synthetic versions are also widely available.
Types of English Bridles
There are three major types of English horse bridle, distinguished by the type of English horse bit that they use. The snaffle bridle is the standard for beginners but can be used at all levels of riding, depending on the event. It includes a single jointed snaffle bit and can be fitted with various types of noseband. Double bridles, also known as full or Weymouth bridles, are usually only used by more advanced riders, particularly in dressage. They use two bits, a larger curb bit and a small snaffle bit called a bradoon, connected to two sets of reins. This is harder to use than a snaffle bridle but gives the rider finer control over the horse. Bitless bridles remove the bit entirely and rely on the head pieces to direct the horse. Some riders prefer bitless bridles as they are more comfortable for the horse, and greater freedom of movement for the head and neck also makes it easier for the horse to jump.
English Bridle Nosebands
One of the most important English horse bridle parts is the noseband. These have a few important functions: they keep your horse's mouth closed, anchor the rest of the bridle and help to keep the bit in place. Cavesson and crank nosebands are the most common, and the only ones that should be used with a double bridle. Flash nosebands can be added to a crank or cavesson to help keep the mouth closed and drop nosebands achieve the same function as a stand-alone piece. The correct noseband to use depends on the rest of your bridle setup, the shape of your horse's face and the event in which you are competing. For example, grackle or figure-eight nosebands are banned from some dressage competitions.
Sizing English Bridles
Getting the right size of bridle makes the horse more comfortable and easier to direct. Typically, bridles are sized in four categories. From smallest to largest these are pony, cob, full and oversize. However, these sizes are not standardised, so a horse that wears a full size bridle from one manufacturer might wear a cob bridle from a different brand. Bridle parts can also be chosen individually. Depending on the shape of your horse's head, it might need different sizes of noseband and browband. English horse bridles are adjustable, so as long as you have the right size you can fit it to your horse's head easily. Generally pieces should be snug but not tight.