The English bridle is a communication tool that allows a rider to direct the horse's course and regulate its speed. It is worn upon the horse's head, holding the bit in the horse's mouth. While there are several different styles of bridle, the English bridle is primarily used for the disciplines of jumping, hunting and dressage. It is used in conjunction with the English saddle.
According to Gerhard Politz, master dressage trainer, the earliest record of equestrians using a bridle for enhanced control dates back to the eighth century BC in the region of Luristan, in Mesopotamia. These bridles incorporated metal bits similar in size and shape to the ones used today. It was not until the end of the 18th century, however, before the English bridle evolved into its present day appearance.
Types of English Bridles
There are two common types of English bridles. First, there is the single bridle, which consists of a single bit and a single set of reins. This popular type of English bridle can be used by any rider regardless of his skill level. The double Weymouth bridle, which consists of two bits and two separate sets of reins, is used by more advanced riders who possess greater skills, as the horse's mouth is more sensitive to the larger Weymouth bit.
Parts of an English Bridle
The United States Pony Club classifies the basic single bridle into the following seven pieces: Crownpiece--strap that rests across the poll, behind the horse's ears; Browband--strap that crosses the forehead of the horse; Noseband--strap that circles the horses nose; Bit--there are many different types, the most common being the snaffle; Cheekpieces--straps that attach the crownpiece to the bit; Throatlatch--strap that loosely crosses under the horse's throat; Reins--long leather straps that go from the bit to the rider's hands.
Fitting an English Bridle
Properly fitting the English bridle to the horse ensures maximum comfort and safety. Chris George, owner of Show Sports farm, in Magnolia, Texas, offers the following suggestions for a proper fit: Adjust the cheekpieces so that the bit creates one wrinkle on each side of the horse's mouth. Attach the throatlatch loosely, allowing enough room to fit a fist under the strap. Rest the noseband about one finger-width below the horse's cheekbone, tight enough to fit two fingers beneath it. Lay the browband in a straight line across the forehead, ending in the natural hollows below the horse's ears.
Caring for an English Bridle
The United States Pony Club recommends wiping down the English bridle after each use, as dirt and sweat will corrode leather very quickly. It should be "stripped down" and thoroughly cleaned weekly, or monthly. The leather should be conditioned using vegetable oil or a leather conditioning product after the thorough cleaning. It is important to keep an English bridle hanging in a clean, dry area. It should be checked for wear or loose stitching before each use.