The headstall is one of the most essential parts of a horse bridle set. It holds the browband and crownpiece together while putting pressure on the poll via the bit. The headstall also helps the rider communicate with the horse through reining and lateral cues. It is important that a headstall fits the horse correctly to keep it secure and comfortable.
A good fit means the browband sits across the forehead below the base of the ears in a position that does not cut into them or droop down. You should be able to place no more than two fingers underneath it. The browband can be decorated with beads, leatherwork and bling to add a stylish touch of elegance to the bridle.
Another part of the headstall is the throatlatch. This is attached to the headstall either above or below the browband and prevents the crownpiece from slipping too far back onto the horse’s head. The throatlatch is commonly decorated with rhinestones and beading to make the headstall stand out in the show ring.
Next is the cheekpiece. It is often decorated with rhinestones and leatherwork as well to match the browband in style and design. Some browbands are adjustable so you can have more or less tension on the poll. Finally, the crownpiece connects the browband and cheekpiece to the halter and provides the most amount of pressure on the poll.
There are several different types of headstall sets available to Western riders. They can be designed to perform a variety of tasks, but they are most commonly used in the arena or on the trail. A browband headstall is ideal for young horses or those who still need to learn the basic reining movements. This type of bridle is worn in disciplines like western pleasure, barrel racing, ranch work and roping.
The snaffle headstall is usually worn in competitions where hand-to-mouth control of the horse is required. It is most common in roping, reined cowhorse and barrel racing. Snaffle headstalls can also be used in trail riding and ranch work. The bridle is a little more fancy in appearance and has a decorative browband and metal bling to catch the eye of the judges in the show ring.
Some bridles do not have a browband and instead use a bosal to hold a bitless bridle or hackamore on the nose. These bridles can be ridden in the same way as a snaffle bridle but can provide a more direct reining feel and are commonly used by cutters, cowhorses and ranchers to train their colts. They are also popular for riders who prefer to take a break from bits outside the arena, and as an alternative if your horse has mouth issues.