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A throatlatch is one of two things: It's either the part of a horse where the head and windpipe meet at the base of the jaw, or it's the piece of a bridle that attaches at that point of the animal. It's a strap that helps keep the bridle in place.
As a part of the horse's anatomy, the throatlatch plays a big role in his athletic ability. It is a critical point in equine conformation because it affects his flexibility, his athleticism and his beauty. A good anatomical throatlatch, referred to as "refined," is tight, trim and clean. A thick throatlatch, or one with too much fat or muscle, is undesirable. It not only detracts from the horse's appearance but prevents him from turning his head easily.
On a bridle, the throatlatch is a strap attached to the crown piece. It runs just behind the horse's cheek and buckles underneath the jaw. It keeps the bridle in place if the horse pulls back while tied or rubs against an object. It prevents the bridle from slipping if you have to pull hard on a single rein. Not every bridle has a throatlatch. For example, Western one-ear bridles don't usually include a throatlatch or a place to attach one. Some throatlatches are permanently attached to the bridle, while others are removable. If attached, it is typically connected in two places near where the browband joins with the crown piece at the base of the ears.
Assembly and Use
Secure a throatlatch tight enough to keep the bridle from coming off the horse's head but not so tight that it restricts his breathing when he moves. You should be able to slip two or three fingers between the throatlatch and your horse's neck. The strap attaches to the bridle by sliding through loops on the crown piece, just behind the browband -- the strap that goes across the horse's forehead, just in front of the ears. The loops the throatlatch slips through are usually made of the same material as the bridle, commonly leather or nylon. Make sure the strap is flat and not twisted so it doesn't irritate your horse.
A horse's throatlatch is often the first place that the symptoms of "strangles," a serious illness, appears. A swollen throatlatch or one that appears to have large bumps is an indication that his lymph nodes are swollen and infected. In strangles, the lymph nodes fill with pus and block the throat. This causes difficulty eating and swallowing. More important, it affects breathing. The horse with an improperly fitting throatlatch feels as if he's strangling. Most horses recover from strangles, either on their own or with antibiotic treatment.
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