Julia Andrews, Managing Director of Kate Negus Saddlery, is an authority on all things related to bridles
. Here, she offers her three top tips when it comes to buying a bridle for your horse.
- FIT. It doesn’t matter whether it’s made from the most beautiful leather in the world, packed full of blingy crystals or in a stunning colour, if it doesn’t fit your horse properly, it’s not the right bridle for you. The problem is that, nowadays, you rarely get a horse that’s a true cob, full or extra full. If you have a look at your own horse’s bridle, you’ll probably realise that it’s a blend of sizes to ensure a good fit. In fact, we actively encourage our customers to mix and match the bridle components (at no extra cost) to get a bespoke fit for their horse. Having an ill fitting bridle can cause a lot of problems. It can increase pressure on sensitive parts of the face, increase poll pressure which can cause pain, it can pinch and rub and actually turn a rather lovely, cooperative horse into something that’s dangerous. People spend a lot of time talking about saddle fit, but bridle fit is just as important. Quick tips to check bridle fit:
- Traditionally, we’ve been taught that we should be able to fit two fingers between the noseband and the horse’s face but this doesn’t apply with all the different types of noseband.
- With grackles, it’s important that the cross-over pad is not too low to restrict the horse’s breathing – it should sit on the boney part at the front of the nose and not the soft cartilage part.
- With a crank noseband, it should be secured more firmly than a traditional noseband, but not over tightened. A pad at the back will help prevent any rubbing.
- With drop nosebands, it’s important that they are not fitted too low at the front and that the horse’s lips are not pinched between the straps and the bit.
- A flash or cavesson should sit between two fingers and a thumb’s width below the cheekbone, depending on the size of the horse’s head.
- Cheekpieces should be equal on both sides and should be buckled up in the middle of the headpiece…extremes in either direction aren’t ideal as there’s no room to adjust if you change bit.
- A browband is better to be on the big side rather than too small. Look to see that it does not pull the headpiece forward. You should be able to slide your little finger easily under the browband.
- QUALITY. Always buy the best quality you can afford. There are a lot of different bridles available and a huge range of prices. In some cases this is because of the name or a funky finish, but in a number of cases it’s because the quality of leather is superior and it’ll last for years and years with the correct care. Of course, hand in hand with quality goes the care aspect, and it really is important to look after your tack. We recommend that bridles are cleaned regularly by wiping mud, grease and dirt off with a warm wrung out cloth, letting the leather dry, and then applying a leather balsam.
- COST. Yes, the cost is a consideration when buying a bridle…but don’t just think about the initial outlay. If you buy a cheap bridle and it lasts you a year, but a more expensive bridle could last you 10 years, the more expensive bridle will be much more economical. Also think about the adaptability of the product you’re buying – if you do dressage and event, having a bridle that’s easy to convert from a flash or grackle noseband bridle for cross country to a double for when you’re strutting your stuff in the dressage arena could save you from having to buy two bridles. Also look at the option to buy replacement pieces. What if your horse kindly breaks a buckle, or you change bits…or what if you change horse? Can you buy the relevant pieces to adapt your bridle, or do you need to buy the whole thing from scratch? Cost is more than just the price on the label, really think about it…it could save you a lot of money!
Kate Negus Saddlery specialises in bespoke British bridlework that’s made to fit the horse first time. There’s also an excellent range of breastplates, girths and more available, a made to measure range and more usual products can be created to fit the needs of the horse…even if they’re not available as a standard line. The company attends many events during the season, and advice is always available on the phone with regard to fitting and more. To find out more about Kate Negus Saddlery, see www.katenegus.com or call Julia on 0780 115 0571.