Before buying a bridle, you should know that there are different bridle types (hackamore, split ear bridle, and common western bridle). Your choice will depend on the event, the discipline, and the level of your riding skills.
Bridles are essential equipment for horses, as they give handlers better control over the horse’s neck, mouth, and face. A bridle is practically a headgear that is made up of buckled straps, and it is where the browband or single ear headstall and the reins are attached.
When choosing a bridle, you need to know your options.
Attached to the bridle is the bit, a type of tack placed in the mouth of the horse so that the rider can direct it. The hackamore bridle, however, does not include any bit. Instead of controlling the horse by the mouth through the reins attached to a bit, the rider controls the horse by its nose when a hackamore bridle is used. It helps put pressure on the bridge of the horse’s nose and chin, while the headstall of a hackamore also exerts pressure behind the horse’s head.
A hackamore is the first bridle you want to use when training your colts, although you may also see riders using them in some western shows. There are also several variations of a hackamore, such as a mechanical hackamore and one that includes a bosal that goes around the nose of the horse.
This type of bridle is the most common of all types. They are the default bridles used in any western riding events, whether they are races, shows, or trail riding. It is simply made up of a headstall that has a throatlatch and one bit. The bit is almost always a curb, although there are times when a snaffle is used.
As for the reins used in common western bridles, they can either be closed or split, depending on the riding event. For instance, riding shows, ranches, and most pleasure riders use split reins, while most racers use closed reins.
One Ear Bridle
This type of western bridle can be considered a variant of the common western bridle described above. It differs from the common western bridle mainly in the placement of the leather strap. In common western bridles, the leather strap goes behind the horse’s ears. With the one ear bridle, the strap is split and goes in front of only one ear, which is why it is called one ear bridle or split ear bridle. This type of bridle is commonly used in pleasure horse riding and is rarely seen in racing events.
While we are on the subject of bridle types, let’s also skim over the different types of English bridles.
- Snaffle: The snaffle bridle is the simplest type of English bridle, as it only consists of one bit and one rein. Despite its name, the snaffle bridle can be used with any type of bit, not just the snaffle bit. Riders can use it with the gag bit, the curb bit, and kimberwicks.
- Weymouth: This type of bridle has two bits (a bradoon and a curb bit) and four reins, and it is commonly used by advanced riders in racing and other formal events. It is also commonly referred to as a full or double bridle.
- Pelham: This type of bridle has one bit and two sets of reins. The Pelham is commonly used in place of the Weymouth, especially by riders who are not yet confident about their skills.
Not all bridles are created equal. Knowing the different types will help you choose one that suits your level of expertise and the riding discipline you are accustomed to.