Horse with English bridle

English Bridles — The Ultimate Rider’s Guide

The bridle is one of the most important pieces of riding gear since it’s the rider’s primary communication tool for providing instruction to her horse. There are various types of English bridles, each designed for a specific purpose or riding discipline. This guide will cover the basics of English bridles, including the different types to choose from, how to measure for a bridle, how to assemble it, and how to put it on your horse.

What Is an English Bridle? 

An English bridle is the part of a horse’s headgear that’s used to communicate with and direct a horse. Bridles consist of a number of different parts, which can vary based on the type of bridle. There are several different bridle styles; the most common are snaffle, Weymouth, and bitless bridles. 

  1. Snaffle bridle — The snaffle bridle has one set of reins and one bit. It can be used with many types of bits, including snaffle bits and pelham bits. It’s the most commonly used type of bridle, due to its functionality and versatility, so you’ll see it in most English riding disciplines. 
  2. Weymouth bridle — Also called a double bridle or a full bridle, this is used in upper dressage levels. There are two bits — a bradoon and a pelham or Weymouth bit — and two sets of reins. 
  3. Bitless bridle — Also called a Hackamore bridle, this is sometimes used for a horse with a mouth injury or one being retrained due to behavioral issues or from working with a heavy-handed rider. Bitless bridles are not always allowed in competition. Check out our guide to learn more about Bitless bridles.
  4. Figure 8 bridle — This type of bridle is often used for jumpers and eventing horses. The crossed noseband resembles a number 8.
  5. Fox hunting bridle — Fox hunting bridles are flat and devoid of any ornamentation. Depending on the horse and bit needed, it can go in a snaffle or pelham bit.

Parts of an English Bridle

A bridle is one piece of equipment made up of many parts. Here are the different parts of a bridle:

  • Browband — This piece is designed to prevent the bridle from sliding back towards the horse’s neck. It runs from under the horse’s ear, over the forehead, to below the other ear.
  • Crown piece — The main strap that holds the bottom of the bridle in place behind the ears. It fits within the browband.
  • Throatlatch — This piece runs from the horse’s right ear and attaches below the left ear on the left side of the jaw. It’s generally part of the crown piece leather and prevents the bridle from slipping over the horse’s head.
  • Noseband — The noseband is a long, thin strap placed under the bridle headpiece with a loop that goes around the nose.
  • Cheekpieces — These are straps that connect the bit to the crown piece, used to adjust the bridle’s fit for comfort and to maximize responsiveness. 

When people refer to a bridle, they generally mean the bridlebit, and reins. A bit goes inside a horse’s mouth and is used to communicate with the horse. It works together with the reins: long, narrow straps that attach to the bit and help the rider guide the horse while riding. 

Types of Reins To Use with an English Bridle

The reins are what the rider holds in their hands while riding to communicate with the horse. Generally speaking, reins are styled to match the bridle they come with. There are different types of reins available, in a variety of styles and materials.

  • Pelham reins — Pelham reins are the proper choice for the hunter/ jumper ring when using a bit that requires two reins, Pelham or otherwise. They are narrow plain reins complete with hookstud connections at the bit and a buckled center. These reins are always more narrow then the snaffle rein so the rider can tell the difference without looking at the hands.
  • Curb reins — Curb Reins, sometimes referred to as Butterfly reins, are commonly used in dressage. They can vary in width and can attach via buckle or hook studs. They are often sewn in the middle as opposed to the buckle, but the buckle is also common.
  • Web reins — Web reins are leather reins with a cotton webbing inlay, along with leather grip stops placed strategically along the webbing. They are typically connected to the bridle with buckles or hook studs, with a traditional buckle in the middle. Web reins are often used by eventers and jumpers for the soft touch feel they offer with the horse’s mouth.
  • Laced reins — Laced leather reins that provide a better grip than plain rains. They have a classic look and are often used for schooling. You’ll see these often in the United States for hunters and jumpers.
  • Rubber reins — Made of a grippy rubber material, these reins are easy to use. They’re often seen in Europe and the United Kingdom, and sometimes in the US for cross country.

How To Measure for a Bridle

To determine the right size for your horse’s bridle, you’ll take four measurements with a soft measuring tape. Once you have these measurements, you are ready to determine if your horse wears a pony, cob, full or warmblood. Alternatively you can bring these measurements in and let us help you find the perfect fit.

  1. Measure the horse for the crown piece and cheek pieces. Start by measuring from the corner of the horse’s mouth along the line the cheek pieces would follow. Then, continue up over the ears and around to the opposite corner of the mouth.
  2. Measure for the browband. Measure starting at the back edge of the horse’s ear, around the forehead, to the back edge of the opposite ear.
  3. Measure for the noseband. Measure a circle around the horse’s nose, roughly one inch down from the cheekbone.
  4. Measure for the throat latch. Last, measure from behind the horse’s ear, running under the throat to the back of the other ear.

How To Assemble an English Bridle 

You’ll need to know how to assemble an English bridle, as you’ll have to take it apart to clean it properly. Here are the steps you’ll take to put this fun puzzle back together. 

  1. Take the crown piece with the throatlatch facing away from you. When you connect it, the buckle should be on the left side of the horse.
  2. Grab the browband and thread each side through a side of the crown piece, pushing the browband through to where the leather splits.
  3. Attach the noseband by its long side to the crown piece, starting with the side of the crown piece that has the throatlatch. Thread the noseband up through the crown piece and back down through the other side.
  4. Take the far side of the noseband and buckle it to the same piece you threaded it through. 
  5. Add the cheekpieces by buckling them onto the front strap of the crown piece on both sides.
  6. Attach the bit to the cheekpieces, making sure it’s curved to the shape of the horse’s mouth, so it’s facing the right direction.
  7. Attach the reins by looping both ends through and buckling them, making sure the reins aren’t twisted.

How To Put an English Bridle on Your Horse 

Once you’re done putting your bridle together, you’re ready to put it on your horse. You’ll want to first secure your horse with a halter and cross-ties or with a lead rope

  1. Undo the halter, sliding the noseband down, and slip the crown piece back over the horse’s ears. Also, slip the reins over your horse’s neck to secure it.
  2. Hold the bridle over your horse’s nose and slide the bit into your horse’s mouth. 
  3. Pull the crown piece over the left ear and then the right.
  4. Fasten the throatlatch, leaving a few inches of slack so you can slip your hand between it and the horse’s jaw.
  5. If you use a special noseband, such as a Figure 8 or Cavesson, attach it next. 
  6. Adjust the bridle to make sure the fit isn’t too loose or too tight, as either may cause discomfort.

11 of the Best English Bridles

Here’s a list of some of our favorite bridles in a variety of styles to cover all English riding disciplines. 

Check out the full selection of bridles we offer at the Farm House. 

This English bridle guide has walked you through the most important aspects of a bridle. It may seem like a lot, but you’ll learn how to do this in no time, and then it’ll be as easy as saddling your horse!

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