A western bridle is a vital piece of tack; it helps you control your horse’s giddy-up, turns and whoa. Like horses, bridles vary in size and consist of headstalls and bits which connect to reins. If you have a new horse or a bridle, getting the right fit is as important as an athlete getting the right shoe. In fact, your horse will protest if his bridle is uncomfortable.
Size up your horse’s head. Measure his head length from the top of his skull down to the corner of his mouth. Compare this to the length of the crown to the cheek piece of the bridle you have or plan to buy.
Find the right size western bridle. Once you know your horse’s measurement, you can buy one in the appropriate size range. Bridle sizes typically come in pony, cob, Arabian and horse. You may find smaller and larger sizes.
Work with your tack supplier. Use your horse’s head measurements to buy a bridle and ask if you can return it if the new bridle does not fit. Once you have the bridle, it is important to verify the fit before you begin using it.
Fitting the Bridle
Secure your horse. Halter your horse with the lead tied in a bowline knot, or other quick-release system you use. Remove the halter from his nose but loosely secure it around his neck.
Have the bridle ready. Hang the bridle on your shoulder or within your reach. Do not leave your horse unattended once you have removed the halter to its temporary position.
Position the bit. Stand to the left of your horse and hold the bit under his mouth in your left hand. Your right arm will be under your horse’s head with your right hand reaching around to the front of his nose.
Keep your fingers out of the way. As your horse opens his mouth to receive the bit, drop your left hand away from his open mouth and pull up on the headstall in your right hand until the bit is secure.
Secure the chin strap. Once the bit is in your horse’s mouth, flip the chin strap behind his chin. You can adjust the chin strap on most western bridles.
Check the bit for fit. Once the bridle is on, see how the bit fits in your horse’s mouth. It will pinch if it is too small or be loose if it is too big.
Use the two-finger rule. Once the bridle is in place you should be able to slide two fingers between your horse and any strap of the bridle. You can remove the halter from your horse’s neck or rehalter him if you remove the bridle.
- If you want your horse to eagerly anticipate the western bridle bit, sweeten the deal. You can feed him a sugar cube as you slip in the bit, and he will naturally open his mouth for a sweet treat. Always feed a treat to your horse with the flat palm of your hand, never with your fingers as they can easily be nipped.
- Stay in control. Whenever you approach a horse’s head, remain calm and move slowly but deliberately. Even a gentle horse might spook if you approach his head too quickly. If you are working with a new or unfamiliar horse, stand in his view and carefully reach out to stroke his muzzle, then his head. Start low and gently move upwards, gaining your horse’s trust. If he does shy his head away, stay calm and speak reassuringly to him, and start petting again. Do not fit a western bridle to a horse if you are unfamiliar with bits.
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Charli Mills has covered the natural food industry since 2001 as a marketing communications manager for a highly successful retail cooperative. She built teams, brands and strategies. She is a writer and editor of "This is Living Naturally," a consultant for Carrot Ranch Communications and a Master Cooperative Communicator.