A correctly sized bridle that is adjusted correctly, kept in good repair and that is well taken care of will function as an indispensable aid to your riding. It will also be comfortable for your horse to wear during the long hours of riding, training and competition, eliminating the development of pressure spots and pinching around the sensitive areas of the horse’s face and poll.
Following below are useful steps and tips for adjusting a snaffle bridle to correctly fit your horse.
With the bridle correctly positioned on your horse’s head and the reins looped over his neck as shown in the picture above, adjust the cheek pieces to position the bit at the correct height in the horse’s mouth. In general, with the cheek pieces correctly buckled and the bit correctly sized, you should see one to two soft wrinkles appearing at the corners of your horse’s mouth. Use this as a starting point for adjusting the bit height to the individual horse’s needs. All horses are different and some might prefer a higher or lower bit setting according to their mouth conformation and the thickness of their lips and tongues. It is therefore important when following these cheek piece adjustment guidelines, to take into account your horse’s preferences. Closely observe your horse’s behaviour and his response to the bit, and make any necessary adjustments accordingly.
If your poll piece and cheek pieces are appropriately sized, you will be able to use the same holes on both sides of your horse’s face so that the buckles are positioned evenly. Ideally you should also have at least one to two holes left above the buckles in case the leather stretches over time or you need to change your horse’s bit.
If the poll piece and/or cheek pieces are too long for your horse’s face, you may not be able to adjust the height of the bit in the horse’s mouth correctly. It could hang too low in your horse’s mouth, bang against his teeth, and become an ineffective riding aid. Some horses may require a horse/full size bridle with cob size cheek pieces to ensure a good fit. If the poll piece and cheek pieces are too short, the bit could pull up too high in the horse’s mouth, which may cause discomfort or behavioural issues.
Tip: If you change your horse’s bit at any stage, differently sized bit rings may require an adjustment of the cheek pieces.
Check the browband.
The browband should rest lightly across the horse’s forehead, about 1.25cm to 2cm below the front of his ears. Always ensure that the browband is long enough, this will stop the poll piece pulling into the back of your horse’s ears. Conversely, if it sticks out too far and forms a large gap in front of the horse’s forehead or bounces up and down when the horse is being ridden, the browband is too long.
Tip: Various styles of browbands are available for sale separately. You can swop out your browband any time you wish to update or refresh the look of your bridle, or simply if your horse’s bridle fits but you’d like a different size browband.
Adjust the noseband.
The placement and fit of the noseband varies slightly depending on the type used. A standard cavesson noseband should sit level at a point about 1.25cm to 2cm below the horse’s cheekbone. As a general guideline, you can use one finger’s width to measure the space from the bottom of the cheekbone to the top of the noseband.
Some nosebands come with integrated cheek pieces that adjust on both sides of the horse’s face. Buckle the cheek pieces on this type of noseband in the same hole on each side to ensure that the noseband sits level on the horse’s face.
If the noseband is positioned correctly it will not interfere with the movement of the bit rings, pinch the horse’s lips or press on the sensitive tissue of the horse’s nose in such a way as to hinder the horse’s breathing. You should be able to fit a finger inside the buckled/closed noseband underneath the horse’s jaw, and yet it should be fastened snugly enough to prevent it from flapping loosely during riding.
Flash Noseband – The cavesson part of the flash noseband should sit just underneath the horse’s cheekbones without pressing on them. The flash attachment will then rest on the nasal bone and will not press on the sensitive soft tissue of the horse’s nose. The flash should fit comfortably down and around the horse’s lower jaw, just in front of the bit. Many riders prefer to position the flash attachment so that the buckle rests near the loop attachment for the flash rather than on the soft tissue near the lips. The keeper for the flash can be positioned in such a way as to not cause any discomfort to the horse.
Crank Noseband – The cavesson part of the flash noseband should sit just underneath the horse’s cheekbones without pressing on them. The buckle of this type of noseband is padded and is designed to be tightened as needed according to the requirements of the individual horse. The buckling system fitted to a crank noseband allows tightening with an even pressure on both sides of the noseband. If the crank has a flash attachment it should be fastened as described for a flash noseband.
Grackle Noseband / Mexican Noseband – It is essential that the straps of this type of noseband are adjusted correctly in order for the noseband to be effective and to avoid hindering the horse’s breathing. The padded disk, fitted to the center of the noseband should rest on the nasal bone of the horse so that its straps cross at this point. The lower strap stretches down and around over the horse’s lower jaw in front of the bit. The upper strap may be positioned just under the cheekbones or on top of the cheekbones, depending on both the type of noseband used and rider preference. In general, if the straps of the noseband attach to small metal rings, many riders prefer to position the rings on top of the cheekbones to ensure that the hardware does not press against the sensitive end of the horse’s cheekbone. If the noseband is not fitted with metal rings, but rather has adjustable leather slides, many riders position the upper strap just under the horse’s cheekbone.
Drop Noseband – The nosepiece of a drop noseband should sit on the bony part of the horse’s nose, about four finger’s width above the nostrils. The metal rings on which the chin strap portions of the noseband are attached should not come into contact with the bit. The chin strap should stretch down in front of the bit and be buckled under the horse’s lower jaw – snug enough that the rider can slip two fingers between the noseband and the horse’s jaw bones. Take special care to ensure that this type of noseband will not hinder the horse’s breathing after it is buckled into place.
Note: Nosebands function differently and produce varied results on individual horses. Always consult an instructor or a knowledgeable friend if you are unsure about the way a specific style of noseband could influence your particular horse.
Adjust the throatlatch.
Buckle the throatlatch to allow you to fit four fingers between the closed strap and the underside of the horse’s jaw. The throatlatch is designed to keep the bridle from slipping over the horse’s ears during a ride. If it is adjusted too loosely, the throatlatch cannot perform its function when needed. If it is adjusted too tightly, it can hinder the horse’s breathing.
If you’re using a bit with a curb chain, such as a Kimblewick or Pelham, adjust the curb chain.
Untwist any kinks in the curb chain to ensure that it will lie flat against the horse’s chin groove when it is brought into action during a ride. As a general guideline, fasten the curb chain at a length that allows you to put two fingers between the chain and your horse’s chin. This guideline can be adjusted according to your horse’s needs. Some horses require a very loose curb chain setting, while others need a more snug adjustment.