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A step by step guide on how to fit a bridle correctly

How do you ensure you have a bridle that correctly fits your horse? Our guide on how to fit a bridle, will take you step-by-step through the process.

A quick search on the internet reveals numerous articles, videos, and discussions on the importance of a correctly fitted saddle, and the potential problems a poorly fitting saddle can cause. However, the issue’s caused by ill-fitting bridles can be just as problematic for the horse and rider.

Modern riders are becoming more conscious of the benefits of a well-fitting bit and bridle, and the impact it can have on horse welfare, as well as performance. After all the consequences of a poorly fitting bridle and bit can at best be discomfort for the horse. At worst, it can cause sores, and the horse to develop resentment or behavioural problems, such as becoming bridle shy (an issue when you attempt to put the bridle on).

What is a horse bridle?

Before we look at the steps you should take to ensure a correctly fitting bridle, we need to understand what the purpose of a horse or pony bridle is, and what it actually does.

A horse bridle is a type of headgear that fits over the horse’s head and is made up of seven individual parts, the headpiece, browband, noseband (there are many different types of nose bands for horses, drop nosebands for example), two cheekpieces, the bit (the part that fits into the horse’s mouth), and the reins. These pieces fit together to form the bridle. The main purpose of a bridle is to control the horse’s movement, steering, and influence movement, not to mention braking. (See parts of a bridle for more detailed information). As you can imagine bridle fit is extremely important.

What are Horse Bridle sizes?

There are many different style of bridle. Most English horse bridle parts are available in Small Pony, Pony, Cob, Full, and Extra Full. Although there is no definitive industry standard for what size each piece of the bridle will be, any competent seller should provide a bridle size chart, illustrate how to measure a bridle, and provide measurements for parts of a bridle.

If you have just purchased a horse or pony, then chances are they will already have a bridle. However, it is still important that you check the fit of your horse’s bridle before you ride. For those that have no idea what size bridle their horse or pony will need, below is a very rough guide. This is not definitive and should be used only as a starting point.

  1. Small Pony Bridles – Shetlands or a small-faced ponies.
  2. Pony Bridles – Standard ponies up to 13.2hh.
  3. Cob Bridles – Cobs up to 14.2hh.
  4. Full Bridles – The most common bridle used for warmbloods and horses up to 17.2hh.
  5. Extra Full – Horses over 17.2hh, for example, Draft or Shire horses. 

Whilst the size of your horse is relevant, the shape and features of your horse’s head also play a factor and you may find that you need to swap different parts of a bridle to ensure the best fit for your horse. For example, you may have a horse with a slightly longer face, that is primarily cob size, but requires longer cheekpieces.

Unfortunately, most retailers only sell complete bridles. At Pink Equine we offer a completely custom bridle, allowing you to mix and match a combination of pieces and sizes.  

There are many different types of bridle, (such as double bridle, snaffle bridles hanoverian style bridle, and grackle bridle to name a few), and horse bits depending on your riding discipline and the desired control you need over your horse. In our step-by-step guide how to fit a bridle, we will use an English style bridle because the English bridle is the most widely used type of bridle.

How to fit a bridle in eight steps.

These are the steps you should take to make sure you have a correctly fitting bridle.

Step 1. Assembling the bridle.

Assemble the entire Bridle without the bit to the approximate size of your current bridle, if you don’t have one make up the bridle to the center holes but do not put the keepers through, so you can adjust them when the bridle is on the horse.

Step 2. Initial Sizing.

If you are concerned about how your horse may react, have an assistant with you and make the initial sizing over a headcollar first, which you can then remove to make smaller final adjustments. Once you are happy with the size, fit the bridle loosely over the horse’s head.

Step 3. Fitting the head piece.

The horse head piece sits on top of the head behind the horse’s ears. At each end of the headpiece are the splits. If fitted correctly the splits should sit just below the browband.

Step 4. Fitting the browband.

Adjust the browband so that it sits about 1.5 cm on each side, below the base of the ear. The browband sits atop several facial nerves and blood vessels, so the fit must be correct. Too large a browband and the bridle may slip out of place. Too tight and the browband will put unnecessary pressure on nerves and pull the headpiece into the back of the ears. Ideally, you should be able to get two fingers (one on top of the other) to fit comfortably under your browband.

Step 5. Adjusting the Throatlatch.

The throatlatch is one part of the split (the other part holds the cheekpieces) and is the strap that goes under the chin (chin strap). The throatlatch helps maintain the bridles equilibrium and should be tightened until you are still able to fit four fingers on top of each other between the throatlatch and the throat and four fingers sideways between the strap and the cheekbone.

Step 6. Fitting the Noseband.

The noseband should sit two fingers or 3 – 4 cm below the facial crest (shown in the images below). Any higher and the noseband will touch the facial crest (commonly referred to as the cheekbones) and cause the horse discomfort. Adjust and fasten the noseband so that the noseband is neither too tight nor too loose around the horse’s nose. You should be able to fit two fingers in between the horse’s nose and the noseband.

Front view of a horses face

fitting a bridle side view of horses face

Step 7. Fitting the Flash Strap.

If your horse’s bridle has an additional flash strap, secure this around the horse’s nose so that the buckle rests a few centimetres under the tab that attaches it to the main part of the noseband. This is to ensure that the buckle doesn’t pinch the sensitive area around the mouth.

Step 8. Fitting cheekpieces.

The cheekpieces for horses (one on either side) are attached to the headpiece and ultimately support the bit when it is in the horse’s mouth. Horse cheek pieces must be level on both sides and the length of the cheekpieces will be determined by the type of bit that you are using and whether your horse prefers a bit that sits higher or lower in the mouth. The cheekpieces should sit below the facial crest and you should have a minimum of one hole spare in case you need to shorten the cheekpieces.  

Symmetry is extremely important when it comes to fitting a bridle. If the buckles do not sit in identical holes on either side of your bridle, then something is wrong. Once your bridle is in place, follow this simple checklist to ensure it fits correctly.

Final Checklist

  • Does the browband look too small, tight across the horse’s forehead, or pull the headpiece inwards so that it pinches the horse’s ears? If yes consider changing sizes.
  • Does the browband look too large? Can you fit more than two fingers underneath? If yes consider changing sizes.
  • Can you fit 4 fingers (sideways on) underneath the throatlatch when it’s done up around the second or third hole? If you cannot achieve this with the headpiece you have, consider changing sizes.
  • Do the bridle cheek pieces sit straight along the top edge of the horse’s cheekbones, without cutting into the cheeks or interfering with the eyes?
  • Does the bit sit in the horse’s mouth with no more than a couple of wrinkles? If the bit sits too low or too high, then you may need to change this part.
  • Does the noseband go under the bit?
  • Does the noseband sit on the nose as it is designed (described above) and are the straps that come down the side of the face, in line with the cheekpieces and with the end of the strap sitting neatly inside the keepers? If not then you should consider changing this part.
  • Does the Flash strap (if you have one) do up so that there is around 5cm or less left on the end of the strap once tightened? If not then you may need to consider changing this part.

Any strap of a bridle that can be adjusted via a buckle, should ideally sit in the middle hole. A horse bridle strap that sits on the last or first hole, leaves very little room for adjustment.

Once you are happy with the bridle fit, you may add the horse bridle bit and the reins, then proceed with putting the complete bridle on your horse. (see how to put a bridle on a horse) Ride your horse and make a mental note of any issues with the bridle, and make any adjustments necessary.

We hope that you have found this guide useful. If you are finding measuring a little tricky or would like a second opinion on the fit, you can always email us a picture of your horse wearing the bridle (front and side shots and close-ups preferable) and ask our thoughts on it. We’re more than happy to advise. You can call us on 01386833050, email us at [email protected] or fill out our contact form.

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