There are a few checks you can make to ensure your bridle fits correctly. Master Saddler and Qualified Bridle Fitter Frances Roche runs through the basic things you need to know.
The correct bridle fit is very important and riders are now much more aware as to how fit can impact on their horse’s comfort, welfare and performance. You can seek advice from a Society of Master Saddlers (SMS) Qualified Bridle Fitter who has the knowledge and expertise to ensure that your bridle is the best possible fit. There are also some simple checks you can make yourself…
This should sit comfortably behind the bulbs of the ears and over the poll. Slide your hand under the crown of the headpiece to check that it isn’t tight. Many headpieces are anatomically shaped around the ears and other facial features with the aim of improving comfort and reducing peak pressures.
It is important to remember, however, that horses’ head shapes are all different and headpieces should be checked accordingly, as the cut-out part can be in the wrong place for some horses, thus causing more pressure.
This should not be so short that it pulls the headpiece forward against the bulbs of the ears, nor too long so that it gapes at the front.
Shaped browbands are becoming increasingly popular, but you need to check that it doesn’t apply pressure around the temporomandibular joint (TMJ).
A cavesson, or crank noseband, should be fitted with two fingers’ space below the facial crest. If you use a noseband that sits below the bit, the front shouldn’t sit so low that it impedes the soft part of the nostrils. Horses can only breathe through their nose, so if you interfere with the nostrils you will restrict their breathing and ability to perform.
The cheek straps shouldn’t cross the facial crest (ie, the prominent cheek bones), and any buckles should be clear of the lips and the bony area under the jaw.
A noseband shouldn’t be used to keep the horse’s mouth closed — sadly, over-tight nosebands are a common sight. On a correctly fitting noseband you should be able to get at least two adult fingers under the noseband on the front of the nasal bone whatever style of noseband you are using.
These should run parallel with the facial crest and the buckles should sit roughly level with the corner of the eye. If the cheek pieces are too long, the buckles will be fastened up near the browband which creates pressure on the TMJ and can cause discomfort and behavioural and performance issues.
Meet the expert: Frances Roche is a Society of Master Saddlers (SMS) Master Saddler and Qualified Bridle Fitter, and a former Master Saddler at the Royal Mews. Visit windsorandhenleybridles.co.uk