Tack for horse riding

Owning a horse that’s to be ridden requires you to have horse tack. Here we run through the key items including, the bridle, saddle and more.

The Bridle

Browband: The part of the bridle isn’t adjustable so it’s important that you have the right size – it should be big enough to allow the headpiece to lie comfortably behind the ears. The browband should also lie just below the base of the ears, without cutting into them - a tight browband can pull the whole bridle forward onto the sensitive area at the back of your horse’s ear. As a general rule of thumb you should be able to comfortably run a finger around the inside edge of your browband.

chestnut horse in bridle

Cheekpieces: These play an important role – they determine the level of communication between you and your horse. Ideally, the cheekpiece should fasten half way down the strap on the headpiece, or in line with edge of your horse’s eye. So if your headpiece has 10 billet holes, you’d want the cheekpiece to fasten on hole five. If your bit is fitted correctly and the cheekpieces finish high up into the pressure zone near the browband, it’ll be more comfortable for your horse to change them to shorter ones moving the buckles away from this pressure point.

Throatlash: When it’s done up you should be able to fit the width of four fingers between the throatlash and your horse’s jawbone. If the throatlash is too tight it will put pressure on his windpipe when he flexes to the bit.

Noseband: A standard cavesson noseband needs sufficient clearance (two fingers width) below the bottom ends of your horse’s cheekbones. There are a number of arteries where the cheekbones finish, so for greater comfort, this will help you to make sure that your cavesson misses them. Flash nosebands are also popular – the flash strap fastens below the bit and prevents your horse from opening his mouth and evading the bit. The flash strap shouldn’t be fitted too tightly and should only come into play if your horse opens his mouth.

The bit

Bit: A correctly fitting bit can often be over looked and, as bitting expert Heather Hyde from Neue Schule reveals, there’s more to consider than you might have thought. Your bit is one of the lines of communication between you and your horse and so taking time to check the fit of your bit will go a long way to improving the performance of your horse. When assessing the fit of your horse’s bit, you should check it both with and without rein contact as many bits change position once you have a contact on your reins.

Did you know?
Having a symmetrical bridle is likely to make your horse more comfortable and improve his freedom of movement. So opt for a bridle where the elements fasten on both sides (not just the left) and make sure that the buckles are done up evenly on both sides.

The girth

A properly fitting girth will not only hold your saddle securely in place it should be comfortable for your horse to wear and allow him to move freely. As it’s used with your saddle, when you’re saddle fitter is out, ask him to have a look at your girth too. Girths are made out of a variety of different materials and most are shaped for greater comfort.

The saddlecloth

As well as having your saddle correctly fitted, it’s just as important to consider the fit or your numnah or saddlecloth too. The impact of a poorly fitting saddlecloth can have a big effect on your horse, potentially rubbing and causing discomfort.

  1. Choosing the right size and shape (dressage, jump, GP) of saddlecloth to suit your saddle will help you get a good fit. Using the wrong shape and size may result in your saddle sitting on the binding of the saddlecloth causing pressure points and rubbing.
  2. For comfort the saddlecloth should follow the contours of your horse’s back and sit up into the gullet of your saddle. If it’s cut in a straight line it will press down on his withers and back causing discomfort.
  3. Once fitted there should be approximately one inch visible around the whole of your saddle to ensure it’s not sitting on the binding causing sore points.
  4. Fasten the straps to your saddle to hold the saddlecloth in place.
  5.  If you’re not sure which pad is right to use ask your saddle fitter for advice.

Top Tip
Have your saddlecloth to hand when your saddle fitter is checking your saddle.
He’ll be able to consider the pad you’re using when he’s checking the fit.

The saddle

Expert advice from a saddle fitter is vital when buying a new saddle

Expert advice from a saddle fitter is vital when buying a new saddle

A correctly fitting saddle is not only more comfortable for you and your horse; it makes riding much easier too. We’d always recommend that a registered qualified saddle fitter (to find one local to you visit www.mastersaddlers.co.uk) comes to check your saddle to ensure it’s fitting well at least twice a year.






How to choose the right riding helmet

Your riding hat is the most important piece of equestrian kit you’ll buy so, if yours is damaged or you’re in the market for a new one use our helpful buyer’s guide to choose the right riding helmet.

If your riding hat no longer meets the required standards, or if it's damaged, you'll need to get shopping for a new one

If your riding hat no longer meets the required standards, or if it's damaged, you'll need to get shopping for a new one

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Riding hat safety standards

When you’re deciding on a new hat, first and foremost consider what activities you do with your horse. If you compete you’ll need to check the rules of each governing body (e.g. British Eventing or British Showjumping) to ensure that the hat you want to buy is allowed. In addition you must be up to date on hat standards. Here’s what’s

EN1384 1996 / BSEN 1384 1997/ BSEN1384 2012 (with or without Kitemark mark)
This range of standards can still be worn for hacking and hunting but as of 2016, most riding bodies no longer allow you to compete wearing this standard of hat.

VG1 (with or without Kitemark or IC Mark)
Developed by Vertical Group 1, who test and certify hats around Europe, this testing specification is based on the EN1384, but with additional requirements and testing procedures to bring it up to a level similar to PAS015.

A well-fitting riding hat will keep you safe and comfortable, every time you ride

A well-fitting riding hat will keep you safe and comfortable, every time you ride

PAS015: 2011 (with or without Kitemark mark or IC Mark)
This stands for Product Approval Specification (PAS) and was developed by the British Standards Institute (BSI). This standard was revised in 2011 to include testing at an increased drop height and several other amendments to improve the performance of this standard.

Snell E2001
This standard was developed in America by the Snell Institute. It’s a higher performance standard which includes all aspects of the American Society for testing and Materials (ASTM) and PAS 015 but with the addition of testing with a sharper horseshoe anvil (to replicate a horse kick or impact with a sharp surface). It’s also been tested for higher impacts and with an additional hemispherical anvil to represent an uneven but not a sharp surface such as a fence or tree.

Ensure your riding hat fits

Comfort and fit are essential and, as different brands offer varying styles and fittings, it’s vital to use a qualified hat fitter to help you find a hat that suits your head. After all, only a properly fitted riding hat will provide you with the maximum level of protection in the event of a fall. Your hat should fit your head snugly with the front sitting no more than about 11/2in or two fingers above your eyebrows. If your hat can be easily dislodged when the chinstrap is fastened, it’s too big. It’s also important to note that there’s no guarantee a second hand hat comes damage free so always buy new.

Choosing the right horse rug for winter

With a huge choice of rugs available it can be pretty daunting choosing the right one for your horse. If you're struggling to know which rug to spend your hard earned cash on follow our useful guide.

Choosing the right rug for your horse will keep him comfortable sand dry

Choosing the right rug for your horse will keep him comfortable sand dry

The first thing to consider is your horse’s routine to establish what type of turnout or stable rugs your horse is going to need for winter. If your horse lives in a lot over the winter you’ll probably only need to buy a lightweight and medium weight stable rugs to see you through the months he’s in. If he’s turned out for part of the day, or for 24 hours a day you’ll need to invest in a several turnout rugs to use. Most horses even with a basic clip, such as a trace or blanket clip will be more than warm enough in a medium weight turnout rug with a neck.

The amount of turnout time and your horse's shape will all influence which rug will suit your horse best

The amount of turnout time and your horse's shape will all influence which rug will suit your horse best

Next, take a look at your horse’s shape – if he has a deep girth, or is round, he’ll need a rug that’s extra deep to cover his body well. If he’s more of a lightweight type, a deep cut rug may drown him.

If you clip your horse, you’ll need to compensate for the hair you’ve taken off. It’s also worth considering your horse’s breed – for example, a thoroughbred may feel the cold more than a native type, who’s evolved to live out in all weathers. This is where you’ll need to decide what weight of rug is going to work best for your and your horse.

You’ll also need to consider how hard your horse is on his rugs, or how boisterous his field mates are. If he’s likely to give his rugs a hard time, choose one with a higher denier outer material and secure fastenings so he’s less likely to damage it. 

After you’ve worked your way through our checklist you should have a clearer idea of what winter horse rug will be suitable for your horse.

Know your rug jargon

If you're confused and struggle to know your denier from your taped seams our easy to understand jargon buster will help you understand all those commonly used rug terms you’ll come across when you’re choosing a winter horse rug.

Understanding commonly used rug terms will help you select to right rug for your horse's needs

Understanding commonly used rug terms will help you select to right rug for your horse's needs

Rip-stop - This is the fabric’s ability to contain rips and tears. It doesn’t mean your rug wont’ rip but the thread pattern runs in two directions that helps prevent a rip from spreading once it starts.

Ballistic nylon - Similar to rip-stop, ballistic nylon fabric is very strong, durable and more resistant to tearing.

Denier - This tells you how durable the rug is likely to be. The higher the denier, the tougher and heavier the fabric. For example, 1200 denier and above is very strong. 600 denier is everyday strength.

Waterproof - This refers to the outer material’s ability to stop water passing through the run and on to your horse. The outer fabric is treated to be waterproof and this will diminish with use, but with correct cleaning and re-proofing you rug will keep its waterproof properties.

Breathable - This is the rug’s ability to allow sweat to wick away, passing through the fabric to the outside, to keep your horse dry and comfortable.

Taped seams - When two pieces of material are sewn together the needle leaves holes in the fabric which allow water to seep in. Taping seams is when a waterproof tape is applied and sealed to ensure the seam is watertight.

Filling - This is usually referred to in grams. The higher the gram of fill, the warmer the rug will be.

Standard neck - The neck of the rug stops at your horse’s withers, leaving his neck uncovered.

High neck - The neck extend beyond the withers, but doesn’t cover all of your horse’s neck.

Combo style - This style of rug has an integral neck cover that cannot be removed.

Detachable neck - This rug comes with (or sometimes has to be bought separately) a neck cover that can be removed, giving you the versatility of having two rugs in one.


Choosing the right weight winter horse rug

A lightweight rug, like this one are a good choice for simply keeping your horse clean and dry

A lightweight rug, like this one are a good choice for simply keeping your horse clean and dry

Turnout and stable rugs are available in different weight. Similar to a tog rating we look at when we’re buying a duvet, weight refers to the amount of filling inside a rug and how warm it’ll keep your horse. Consider how your horse copes in different temperatures to help you choose the best weight rug for him.

Lightweight rugs usually have 0-80g of filling. Stable rugs may have up to 150g. Lightweight turnout rugs (or rain sheets) keep your horse clean and dry, making them a good option for damp spring and autumn days or cool summer nights. Most horses who aren’t clipped or have a small clip will be more than warm enough in a lightweight rug.

A medium weight rug will provide added warmth if your horse is clipped

A medium weight rug will provide added warmth if your horse is clipped

Medium weight rugs tend to have between 100-250g of filling. For many horses this will be all they need to keep them warm and dry through the winter months.

Heavyweight rugs are just that, and contain over 300g of filling. These are suitable for very cold weather or if your horse is fully clipped. 

A horse rider’s guide to buying a saddle

Finding the right saddle that fits your horse well will give you peace of mind

Finding the right saddle that fits your horse well will give you peace of mind

The choice of saddles for horses is huge and it can be quite confusing too. So, before you buy a new saddle take a bit of time to consider exactly what it is you want.

Ultimately it won’t be until you actually ride in the saddle that you’ll know whether it’s the one, but here we have some useful advice that should put you on the right path towards your perfect saddle. 

Before you continue we strongly recommend that you set your budget now, then stick to it - it’s so easy to get carried away in the moment and end up spending far more than you want to.

Budget decided, you then need to decide what type of saddle you’d like. Here's a run through of what's available.

General purpose saddles

General purpose are designed so you can do most disciplines in them from hacking to jumping. Most leisure riders will go for this option, you only need one saddle, but if you compete regularly you may be better looking at a discipline specific saddle to give you the support and security you need.

Dressage saddles

As the name suggests these are designed for dressage and flatwork. The saddle flap is longer and straighter encouraging you to ride with a long leg position and the seat tends to be deeper to help you maintain a correct position. There’s the option of having large fixed knee blocks through to smaller moveable blocks so you can find the most comfortable position for you. To allow you to have a closer leg contact the girth straps are long and you use a short girth to remove any bulk under your leg so there are no buckles under your leg.

Jump saddles

These are more forward cut so you can ride with shorter stirrups. They’ll normally have knee and thigh blocks are positioned to help you stay secure and supported when you’re jumping. Often they have a flatter seat allowing you a little more freedom if you’re riding cross-country.

Showing saddles

These are designed to complement your horse’s conformation. They tend to be straight cut and basic in design so they allow total freedom of movement and show your horse off at his best.

Leather or synthetic saddles?

There are many types of saddle to choose from

There are many types of saddle to choose from

The next step is to decide what material you want your saddle to be made of, leather or synthetic.

Leather saddles: These would be most people’s first choice. You can’t really beat the look, feel and smell of leather. It may take a little more looking after, but many would say it’s worth it. Traditionally most English saddles are made in Walsall - the town has long been the home of the English saddle manufacturing industry and is famous for being one of the only places in the world to have the expertise and skills to produce the very best handmade English saddles.

Synthetic saddles: These have improved massively in recent years making them much more desirable – in fact, some have become so good that they can easily be mistaken as leather. What’s more, there are a number of benefits to synthetic saddles - the biggest being the price. They are considerably cheaper than leather saddles and so if you’re on a budget they’re definitely worth a look. In addition, they tend to be lighter and much easier to clean.

Saddle accessories

Changeable gullets: A fairly new addition to some saddles is the option to alter the gullet width of your saddle, a great idea if you own a young horse as you can have your saddle altered as he matures.

Flair saddle panels: These air panels are extremely adjustable – this is a system of four air bags, which replaces flocking. There are two air bags at the front and two at the rear. You can have flair air bags that provide a soft, flexible and event bearing surface. Flair can be fitted to all conventional saddles and each individual air bag can be adjusted allowing you to add or remove air to give a customise fit for you and your horse. This is done via two valves that are fitted under the skirt of the saddle.

Flair gives your saddle a constant flexible layer of air that’s great at absorbing shock allowing your horse to move more naturally as the muscles of his back and shoulder aren’t restricted.

Cair saddle panels: These are another type of air filled panel that are found in the range of saddles. The Cair Cushion System replaces the traditional filling in your saddle with air. There are two independently sealed air cushions within each saddle panel – the air in the panels can’t be adjusted. The concept behind this system is the air within the panels constantly adapts to your horse’s working muscles allowing your weight to be more evenly spread across the saddle, virtually eliminating pressure points so your horse is more comfortable.

Traditional saddle flocking

Traditionally saddle panels are flocked with wool and this is still the most common choice today. Your saddle is a shock absorber between you and your horse and wool is used as flocking because it’s a natural fibre that breathes and maintains its elasticity. Also, your saddler can add or take flocking out of the panels to alter the fit of your saddle if your horse changes shape. There are a number of types of wool used as flocking but a popular choice is Jacob wool - it has good recovery properties and remains soft helping to keep your horse comfortable. A flocked saddle still needs regular maintenance, over time and with use wool becomes hard and lumpy – regular checks by a qualified saddler will help to keep your saddle in good condition.

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Does your horse's saddle fit?

Enlisting the help of a qualified saddle fitter is vital when it comes to saddle fit, but there are a few things you can keep an eye on yourself

Enlisting the help of a qualified saddle fitter is vital when it comes to saddle fit, but there are a few things you can keep an eye on yourself

It goes without saying that we would always recommend you use a qualified saddle fitter whether you’re buying a new or second-hand saddle or checking your current saddle fits your horse well.

Whenever you see the Society of Master Saddles (SMS) logo you can be confident that you’re going to receive a professional and knowledgeable service, whether you’re buying a new saddle or need one altering. Members of the SMS are the best in the industry, and a SMS retailer will stock at least three different English-manufactured saddles and have at least 50 saddles in stock.

What to expect when your saddle fitter arrives

Your saddle fitter will take templates of your horse’s withers, back and spine using a flexicurve

Your saddle fitter will take templates of your horse’s withers, back and spine using a flexicurve

When you first speak to your saddler they will ask you a series of questions – be completely honest with your answers, especially if they are coming out to you, as there are only so many saddles they can fit in their van. Questions will include what you do with your horse, his age, breed and fitness, you may also be asked what your budget is. Be honest with all your answers - these questions help them build a picture of you and your horse and to decide which saddles may be most suitable for you to try.

When the saddle fitter arrives they’ll spend some time taking templates of your horse’s withers, back and spine using a flexicurve. They’ll also take your horse’s girth measurement. Your saddle fitter will refer to these when he comes back and checks your saddle in the future. This gives your fitter valuable information about where your horse might have changed shape. These templates also help a fitter to decide what width of saddle will more than likely fit your horse.

Trying a new saddle

Then it’s time to try a few saddles – your fitter will check to see that the saddle panels sit evenly along your horse’s back, whether there is adequate clearance at the wither and that it allows the shoulder to move freely, once he’s happy with these first few checks it’s time to get you on board. The saddle fitter will want to see you ride in walk, trot and canter on both reins. While you’re riding he’ll be making assessments on how the saddle is fitting now you are on the move.

Once you’ve ridden in all the saddles it’s time to give your feedback and generally discuss the feel and fit of each saddle. When you’re completely happy it’s decision time – it may mean they can leave the saddle with you there and then, sometimes you may have to wait for your saddle to be made but your saddle fitter will be able to advise you on all of this.

Saddle fit tips

While you should always get a qualified saddle fitter to check or fit your saddle, there are a few things you can keen an eye on yourself. 

In the following video SMS Qualified saddle fitter Diane Fisher shows you what checks to make to ensure your horse's bridle and saddle are as comfortable as possible, or when it's time to call your fitter.

Now find your saddle

Click the article below to take a look at a range of saddles, tried and tested by Your Horse readers.

How to look after your riding hat

Riding hats aren’t cheap so make sure you take good care of yours and it’ll take good care of you. Here are our 7 top care tips:

If your hat suffers an impact due to a fall, it will no longer provide the protection it should

If your hat suffers an impact due to a fall, it will no longer provide the protection it should

  1. The protection your hat offers diminishes over time as the padding becomes compressed, so you should replace your hat every three to four years.
  2. If your hat suffers a severe impact such as a fall or is dropped onto a hard surface, even if there’s no sign of damage, you should replace it, as it might not provide the protection it should.
  3. Try not to leave your hat lying around at the yard where it can be easily damaged.
  4. Buy a padded hat bag to store your hat in and to keep it well protected. Investing in something like this is money well spent!
  5. Don’t expose your hat to extremes of temperature by leaving it out in the sun or in an unheated tack room in freezing conditions. This damages the materials your hat is made from so it may not protect you when you need it to.
  6. If your hat gets wet allow it to dry out naturally and slowly – never put your hat on a radiator to dry as this can damage the integrity of the helmet.

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Horse licks - which one to choose

Horslyx original

Thinking of a buying your horse a lick? Licks aren’t always the best way of providing your horse with a balanced diet, but they can be useful in certain situations. Read on to find out which are best for when.

Vitamin and mineral licks

These can be very useful if you have a number of horses sharing a paddock. In this situation it may not be possible to feed them individually because of bullying or fighting, but a vitamin and mineral lick is a practical way of helping to ensure they get a balanced diet.

You'll find many different brands available in your local feed shop including Orignal Horslyx which contains vitamins, minerals and trace elelments to balance any deficieinces in your horse’s grazing and forage. When fed alongside good quality forage it can remove the need to feed hard food. 

To find out more about the Horslyx range visit www.horslyx.co.uk

Salt licks

NAF salt lick

These can be useful for horses in hard work who need extra salt in their diet to replenish salt lost through sweating. However, one disadvantage of providing a self-help salt lick is that it’s difficult to tell how much the horse consumes each day. 

However, it’s often better and easier to simply feed a suitable concentrate feed. The best feed will obviously depend on your horse’s individual needs, but there are products available to cater for every type of horse, from a very good-doer to a top class competition horse. The right feed will provide your horse with a fully balanced diet and many already contain added herbs such as garlic. It will usually contain enough salt if your horse is only in light work, but if he’s working harder you may need to add some extra salt or a specific electrolyte supplement. 

Himalayan Salt Licks are a popular choice with horse owners as they're the purest form of salt you can give your horse. NAF Himalayan salt lick is as natural and pure as the day it was mined high up in the Himalayan mountains. Horses and ponies require supplementary salt on a daily basis. Research shows that salt is the one nutrient that horses will self-supplement to balance their diet. Himalayan Salt Licks hung in the stable and field allow access to the purest form of salt, without unnatural flavours that can encourage greediness!

To find out more visit  www.naf-equine.eu/uk



Training aids - the Pessoa


A system of ropes and pulleys that run along the sides of the horse, with an elastic tensioner positioned behind the quarters. The tensioner is attached to the top of lunging roller. Then two lines run from the tensioner, along either side of the horse, through rings on the roller positioned half way up the horse’s body. They then continue to clip on to the bit rings via a small pulley, before being run to one of several positions on the roller.

A pessoa creates a connection between the hindquarters and the bit

A pessoa creates a connection between the hindquarters and the bit


It’s designed to be used during lungeing only.


In effect it creates a connection between the hindquarters and the bit. The tensioner and its supporting lines put gentle pressure on the quarters, encouraging the horse to step further under, and so stretch and lift the back muscles. At the same time the lines running through the bit discourage the horse from raising his head too far by exerting pressure on the mouth. As soon as the horse lowers his head the pressure is removed.


  • Suppleness of the back via a rounder outline
  • Looser paces due to increased suppleness
  • Developing topline muscle
  • Improving the connection from hindquarters to bridle by forming the correct outline
  • Improving engagement of the hindquarters, so transferring weight onto the hindquarters and improving balance

“By creating greater engagement and connection, the Pessoa can help improve muscle development in weak or young horses,” says training expert Tara Osborn. “Those who are difficult to motivate or who find engagement of their quarters difficult will also benefit.” By improving the back muscles, it can also improve horses who are tense or hollow, encouraging relaxation and the lowering and stretching of neck and topline.


Fitted too tightly, it will restrict the horse’s forward movement and bring his nose behind the vertical, putting him onto the forehand. The horse must be driven forward to achieve the correct frame. Too loose and the quarters won’t engage, so there’ll be no connection from the hindquarters to the bridle.

Double bridles explained

The design of double bridles can vary and it's important to recognise the different features and fixtures they can have. Different designs can have a huge effect on the way each bridle works. Here are some key features explained:

The Shank
The shank of the curb can be fixed or sliding and of varying lengths. A sliding shank allows the curb to move slightly as the bit is tipped when the rider takes up the contact. This is less precise than a fixed shank but a much milder action. Shanks that are shorter in length also have a milder action.

The curb and port
The action of the curb asks the horse to flex, while the thickness of the mouthpiece varies from bit to bit, as does the port in the centre. A forward-slanting port can provide more room for the two bits to sit together nicely in the mouth, be comfier on the tounge (especially in a more fleshy mouth) and should not touch the roof of the mouth. Ultimately the type of curb you need depends entirely on the make-up of your horse. Generally, the thicker the curb mouthpiece the milder the bit, and a high port makes the bit more devere, but it really depends on your horse. A smaller mouth may require a thinner curb and smaller port, while a larger mouth may benefit from a thicker mouthpiece and a wider port.

The snaffle or bridoon
The bridoon is a smaller version of a snaffle bit and its action asks the horse to lift his head. Commonly a single-jointed, loose-ring snaffle is used, but an eggbutt version can also be used. A double-jointed bit with a lozenge will sit neatly in the port of the curb for a more comfortable fit

Curb Chain
The curb chain should lie flat in the chin groove and a padded chain cover can be used for extra comfort. Curb chains can have forward- or backward-facing hooks, but Claire advises that forward-facing hooks are a better choice, as backward-facing hooks can become caught in the horse's lip when putting the bridle on.


1. Start by holding the bridle up against the side of your horse's head to see whether it's roughly the right size.

2. It's important to treat the double bridle as a single bridle, and the two bits as one, as you put it on. Put the reins over your horse’s neck and undo the curb chain. Hold the two bits in your hand, as you normally would, ensuring that the snaffle sits behind the curb. If you don't do this, the snaffle can sit in the wrong place or twist.

Fitting a double bridle for the first time should be done with care.

Fitting a double bridle for the first time should be done with care.

3. It's also essential that the curb chain is secured at the right length as it controls the severity of the curb bit. If it's too loose and would allow the curb to rotate too far in the horse's mouth, causing a lot of pressure on the tongue as the bit rotates forwards.

4. The curb chain should be fitted so that it acts when the lower cheek of the curb rotates to 45 degrees. If the curb chain is too short, the action of the curb bit is very severe and puts great pressure on the poll and the lower jar - a rough rider may even break the jaw bone.

A double bridle will only work if used correctly. Holding the reins incorrectly will mean you're likely to cause your horse to overbend, or you'll feel some strong resistance to the contact.

To use a double bridle most effectively, you must hold the snaffle rein as you would normally between your third and little finger. The curb rein should sit between your second and third finger, while your thumbs should sit on top of both reins, keeping them secure.

A double bridle will only work if used correctly

A double bridle will only work if used correctly

To begin with, ride your horse on a 20m circle in walk, but ensure that the curb rein is slack so that you can first get used to the feeling of holding two reins. When you do take up the curb rein and walk on the circle, your seat bones should follow the movement, as normal. You don't follow the movement of your horse with your hands, you follow it with your hips.

When you’re ready to shorten the curb rein remember that your seat and legs will continue to work your horse into an outline, your hands are to feel with the rein, not fiddle. Remind yourself that the double bridle is only for fine tuning, it's a very subtle action.


  • Hold the snaffle rein between your third and little finger
  • Hold the curb rein between your second and third finger
  • Keep your thumbs on top

Top Tip - before you ride in a double bridle for the first time, it's a good idea to have a play with the action of the two bits from the ground - this gives you the opportunity to check that the horse is OK with this feeling.






Training Aids - the De Gogue

By encouraging the neck to be lowered and the nose to be brought in, the back comes up and the quarters engage. “Like the chambon, the de Gogue is good for hollow horses,” says expert Tara Osborn, “but it has the benefit of being used for ridden work, too. Also, as the nose is encouraged to be brought in, it tends to develop a rounder way of going and improves the topline and muscling of the quarters.”


A De Gogue acts upon the poll and the bit, putting pressure on the corners of the mouth when the horse raises his head higher than desired.

A De Gogue acts upon the poll and the bit, putting pressure on the corners of the mouth when the horse raises his head higher than desired.

What is it?

Similar in look to a chambon, the cords pass through the bit rings instead of clipping to them, and attach either to specially adapted reins or back onto the breast strap that passes between the horse’s forelegs to form a triangular shape.


When should it be used?

For in-hand work, loose schooling, lungeing or ridden work. For non-ridden training it’s used in the triangular shape and is under the direct control of the horse. For ridden work, the de Gogue can be brought into action by the special reins, but should be used alongside reins fitted directly to the bit.

How does it work?

It acts upon the poll and the bit, putting pressure on the corners of the mouth when the horse raises his head higher than desired. Downward pressure is placed on the poll and backwards pressure on the mouth, which releases when the horse brings his head down and nose in.

What is it good for?

  • Developing suppleness through the back
  • Encouraging a longer, lower frame while being ridden
  • Developing muscle across the back and loins - particularly those needed for show jumping
  • Strengthening the hindquarters
  • Develops looseness in the paces due to greater suppleness in the back

What can go wrong?

The effectiveness will be dramatically reduced if the de Gogue isn’t fitted correctly. “If it’s too tight, it will pull the horse’s neck down and back, making him overbent and unable to work up from the hindquarters into the bridle,” explains Tara. “Too loose and there will be little effect as the horse can maintain a head-up and nose-out way of going. It’s vital the horse is worked forward into the contact otherwise he’ll be put onto the forehand.”

Training Aids - the Chambon

A chambon can be used for lungeing or loose schooling on the flat.

A chambon can be used for lungeing or loose schooling on the flat.

The chambon is used to encourage the horse to work in a longer, lower outline, using the muscles over the back, quarters and neck. It’s ideal for the early stages of a horse’s education or in retraining. “It’s effective for horses who go in a hollow outline, with their head up, back dropped and quarters trailing,” explains expert instructor and dressage trainer Tara Osborn. “By encouraging the longer, lower frame, the horse will learn to use his back muscles and engage his quarters. It must be introduced slowly and the horse must be encouraged forward into the contact to get the best results.”


What is it?

A cord clips to each bit ring and then passes upwards and through a loop on each side of a poll strap. From here, the cords drop downwards to attach to a single strap that passes between the horse’s forelegs and loops onto the girth or roller.

When should it be used?

For lungeing or loose schooling on the flat.

How does it work?

The chambon acts on the poll and, via the bit, on the corners of the mouth. When the horse raises his head higher than desired, the bit is raised in the mouth and poll pressure is applied. As soon as he lowers his head the pressure is removed. In effect, the horse works the chambon.

What is it good for

  • Developing suppleness of the back
  • Encouraging a longer, lower frame
  • Developing muscle over the back and loins - particularly good for strengthening those used for show jumping
  • Strengthening the hindquarters
  • Developing looseness in the paces through suppleness in the back
  • Developing topline muscle

What can go wrong?

If fitted too tightly, the horse will draw his neck back and become overbent. If the chambon is too loose, the horse will trail his quarters and little muscle development will be achieved. Finally, the horse shouldn’t be allowed to slop along so no connection to the contact is made. Any of these mistakes will lead to the horse working on his forehand.

Tips for choosing summer breeches

Even though the English summer isn't quite as sunny as we'd hoped, it is starting to hot up! If you're looking to find yourself a new pair of summer breeches, take a look at our advice on what you should be looking out for.

What material?

A lightweight, breathable and stretchy material is very important when choosing summer breeches. You need maximum movement and to be able to stay as cool as possible while riding – and of course, you want them to look as flattering as possible. Cotton and Lycra/elastane mixes are great, particularly for slightly bigger thighs as the fabric skims straight over. The modern stretch 100% polyester fabrics are great technical breeches but they tend to show every lump and bump!

What style?

• High-waisted breeches are ideal for a curvy shape or anyone with a larger waist, as they tend to hold you in a little more.

• Hipster styles are good for those with a boyish figure or those with a longer body.

• Pleated front breeches (although quite hard to get hold of these days) can hide a multitude of sins.

• Jeans-style are now available from lots of brands in stretch denim. These look great and can also be worn as a fashion look away from horses as well.

What about colours and patterns?

When it comes to patterns, if you want to look slimmer, small patterns like checks are great. 
Go for a darker colour with a darker coloured full seat. The full seat in a dark shade cuts away the inner thigh and makes your legs look slimmer and your bottom look smaller, like a miracle diet – hurrah we hear you cry!

Rather than bright or pale colours, go for strong colours if you want to brighten up your wardrobe – strong tan, green, blue, purple and cerise can all look really stylish and flattering on any age as long as you tone in another piece of your clothing.

Wash advice – keep your breeches brighter for longer

When you wash bright colours, remember to turn them inside out to stop the colour from running and wash them on a cool wash. If you get marks or stains, put neat fabric wash on them and leave it to soak for a few hours rather than washing them on a hot wash straight away.