Bridles & Headstalls for Large Horses

Written by leigh nichol
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Bridles & Headstalls for Large Horses
Clydesdales and other draft horses have extra large heads, which takes some special equipment. (Clydesdale image by sonya etchison from

The larger breeds of horses are becoming increasingly more popular. There are the typical draft horses, such as Clydesdales, Belgiums and Percherons, who are known for being gentle. These large breeds are known for being quieter and when crossed with a thoroughbred, they become the athletic, agile breed we know as warmbloods. Even though these breeds are becoming very popular lately, finding equipment for them is still very hard to do.

Driving Bridle

Larger horses were mostly used for draft purposes only, hence the name of the category draft horses. These horses were used in fields to plough or to pull major freight. Finding large bridles for driving purposes should not be very hard. The best place to look is around Amish communities, who still use the large draft horses to farm. If you do not have an Amish community around you, look online at places such as Chicks Saddlery and Walsh Harness.

English Bridle

Warmbloods have become popular as dressage horses and hunter/jumpers. This has created an increased demand for English bridles to be made for the larger horses. English bridles are for disciplines that have derived from the English form of fox hunting. The saddles do not have horns like a western saddle and the bridles are very conservative, made mostly from just leather.

The average sized horse will generally wear a cob-sized bridle. This size was originally made for a cob horse, which is one of the largest breeds of Welsh ponies, and is very stout. Now it is a common name for a size of bridle. Larger horses, such as warmbloods, can fit into a horse-sized bridle, which is the next size up from a cob bridle.


A headstall is a the part of the bridle that goes over the horse's head, behind its ears, and comes down to attach to the cheek pieces, that will attach to the bit. Many times, western bridles are made up of just the headstalls and cheek pieces, and are referred to as headstalls. Headstalls are harder to find because they are used for western riding. Western riding is developed mostly around the quarter horse and smaller scaled horses. However, mules are known for their larger heads and are also used for western riding. These bridles should be ideal for a large horse as well.

Fitting the Bridle or Headstall

When you purchase a bridle or headstall for a large horse, immediately take it home and try it on the horse with a bit. Bits and bridles are bought separately, so if you do not have a bit to test with, purchase a bit as well.

On a good fit, you only want there to be two wrinkles of skin in the corners of the horse's mouth at most. These wrinkles are created by the bit and are just like smile wrinkles on a human. Also check the noseband. Place it two or three finger-widths below the cheekbone and see if it can snugly be placed around your horse's nose. Check all parts of the bridle once you have put it on and make sure you have at least two holes up and two holes down on all buckles for adjustability.

Custom Fit

If you are unable to find a bridle or headstall from a tack store, there is always the option of getting a bridle custom made. The Amish do a great job with this but if you do not live near the Amish, Antares, Beval or even Walsh Harness can work with you to create a bridle that fits your horse. This will cost more, sometimes twice as much for a custom bridle. However, a custom made bridle generally lasts many years if taken care of properly.

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