So you have decided you need a bridle for your horse and you have chosen to go for a snaffle bridle.
A snaffle bridle is a single rein bridle which holds a snaffle bit. The snaffle bit is the most popular and simplest bit and used by all levels of riders. This sounds easy, however with so many choices of snaffle bridles on the market it can be hard to make an informed decision for the first horse owner.
Here are some guidelines on how to choose your bridle to best suit you.
When choosing your snaffle bridle it is not just a matter of what is in fashion. Over the years equestrian disciplines have evolved with different styles of bridles to best suit.
For example, Show and Dressage bridles can be light weight leather. While bridles for show jumping, eventing and hunting should be heavier leather. This is why in show horse classes, bridles in the hunter ring are sturdier than those used in the hack ring.
Synthetic are generally cheaper, hard wearing and do not require the care that leather bridles do. For this reason, they are popular with racing horses, endurance and everyday riding when tack cleaning is not such a high a priority.
Good quality leather bridles are still the most popular, and when choosing your leather bridle there are reasons why you should try and invest in the best you can afford. Horses are a big animal and they can break even the best quality bridles if they step on a rein or catch it on something. The better quality the leather the less it will stretch, so generally the longer it will last.
A good quality leather bridle can be worn for everyday use and then with a clean can be used in the competition arena without looking worn. This is also an advantage as it is always better to compete in the same gear you train in. This is why professional riders invest in the best quality bridles they can afford. In the leather industry a product market “genuine leather” is the lowest quality of leather. It is considered not suitable for everyday use as it will not last. Full Grain leather however is the most expensive, it is hard as nails leather and develops a rich patina as it ages, looking more beautiful the more it is used. The irony is most consumers tend to use the lowest priced product (which is usually the lowest quality) for everyday use, and leave the better quality and more expensive products that are made to last for “best”.
While the price of the bridle can provide a guide towards its quality, bridle quality, and therefore strength and longevity, is a result of the following:
- Using the best cuts of leather,
- The quality of the stitching and hardware
- The sizing of the bridle pieces
- The experience and reputation of the manufacturer
- The processes they use.
Years ago, the term “Indian leather” had a bad name. This was due to the hides being sourced from across Asia. Many of the animals were undernourished and therefore the hides were thinner and not as strong. English leather was sourced from better fed animals so their hides were stronger. Nowadays 90% of the worlds leather is manufactured in India. While the animals are still often sourced from Asia they are healthier, so their hides produce better leather goods. Often comparable to “English Leather”.
The processes to tan the leather are based on English practices. They have become more experienced and have some of the most sophisticated tanneries in the world. This is why we do not get so worried anymore about whether the leather is English or Indian, but look for the qualities spoken about above.
Choosing your bridle should also be a safety issue. You are literally putting your safety in your hands when you hold onto the reins. Poor quality leather and buckles are much more likely to break when pressure is applied. Unfortunately, with horses it is exactly when the pressure is applied that you need your bridle to stay in one piece.
So, if you are a parent and are choosing which bridle to buy, and a good quality leather bridle is not in the budget, the safest option is a synthetic bridle. We know they can stand up to the pressures of racing so there is a very good chance it will not break in the hands of your child should they need to hang on tight.
There are a number of different nosebands that are available to use on snaffle bridles, including flash, cavesson, grackle and drop. There are also anatomical nosebands which have become popular. Most snaffle bridles come with either a cavesson or flash noseband.