Bridle and reins are the main means of communication between a horse and rider. When the bridle is properly fitted and adjusted, it holds the bit in the horse’s mouth correctly and transports the pressure from the rider’s hand to the horse’s head. In turn, the horse responds to this pressure by moving its head in a particular direction, which is then reinforced by the rider’s other riding aids, such as leg and voice commands.
The bridle is composed of several parts, including the headpiece, cheek pieces and noseband. Often, the bridle may also feature a fancy browband or other ornamentation. Some bridles are designed for specific disciplines such as Dressage, Hunter, Jumper, Eventing or endurance. The bridle may be a single piece of equipment or it may consist of two bridles, one on each side of the head. Some bridles have a throat latch while others use snaps or clips.
To fit the bridle to your horse, you must first fasten the throat latch. However, you should not do so tightly that it restricts your horse’s breathing and it must be loose enough to flex when the horse’s neck is flexed. A good measurement is to leave a finger width of slack between the throat latch and the horse’s neck.
After the bridle is fastened, the next step is to fit the noseband. The noseband can be a cavesson or a Hanoverian noseband and it must be fitted to the horse’s nose at an appropriate point, which is not too high or too low on the nose. Then, the browband is fitted and it can be styled in many different ways. Some browbands are made of shiny material, while others have rosettes and other decorative elements.
Once all the other bridle parts are in place, you must connect the reins. The reins are attached to the bridle below the attachment for the cheek pieces. Depending on the discipline, English reins can be laced or braided and they are typically made of leather or a combination of leather and rubber. A hunter or jumper bridle will likely have a set of laced black matching reins, while a dressage bridle is most commonly worn with a narrower matching pelham rein.
The reins are used to give subtle cues to the horse, such as asking for a turn or requesting a halt. When the rider applies pressure on both sides of the reins, the horse will move its head in a particular direction. This pressure is then reinforced by the other riding aids from the rider’s legs and seat, and the horse will follow the command. Generally, applying pressure to the left reins pulls the horse to the right, while applying pressure on the right reins pushes the horse to the left. Reins are long straps of leather, nylon or other materials and they attach to the bridle via either the bit or its noseband. The reins can also be laced, braided or have stops to control the amount of tension applied.