At the stable yard, it’s painful to see new horse owners trying to make a cob-size bridle fit a large thoroughbred. Finding the best horse bridle is often a challenge that many people face. I know because I’ve been there a few times.
I will also go through the “fitting pains” (again) with my two-year-old, that will soon need a bridle. No two horses are the same size, and while bridles come in standard pony, cob, and full sizes, it’s no guarantee that your pony-size bridle will fit your pony.
While size is a consideration, it’s not the only one for finding the best horse bridle for your horse, your needs, and your budget. Luckily, I’ve discovered how to streamline the possible bridle choices to make the best possible decision for my young horse (that’s getting her first bridle soon).
Bottom Line Up Front: The Best Horse Bridles by Category
Now, if you’re like me, you don’t want to read through a lengthy article and not know for sure that the person writing it has the information you really want. That’s okay! When you’ve got horses to groom, events to attend, and feeding to take care of, time is precious, so here’s the ultra-lean version of what I’m about to share.
When you have decided on the best horse bridle for your needs, you may choose one of the following stunning horse bridles on the market:
- Most Popular Horse Bridle for Showing and Competition: Rambo® Micklem® Competition Bridle – The quality and appearance of the Rambo Micklem bridle makes it a real winner.
- Best Quality Horse Bridle: Acavallo® Maesta Bridle – Avavallo’s bridles are all stunning choices; however, there is a much larger price tag.
- Best Performance Horse Bridle: Schockemöhle Montreal Select Anatomic Hunter Bridle – The Schockemöhle bridles are ideal for softness and performance. Their anatomic hunter bridle is an excellent performance booster and perfect for the competitive rider.
- Best Budget Horse Bridle: Suffolk™ Hunter Bridle – When you want quality and performance at a low price on a tight budget, the Suffolk hunter bridle is ideal for the beginner rider.
- Best Western Horse Bridle: Weaver Texas Star Browband Headstall – Invest in quality Western craftsmanship with this gem of a bridle by the famous Weaver leather company. Ideal for pleasure classes, roping, and Western games.
How to Find the Best Horse Bridle
I have refined my selection process to encompass three ways or avenues for buying a horse bridle: online, in the shop, and on the horse. Many of us shop online for all of our tack requirements. It’s easy and often cheaper, and you can compare so many more products without driving from saddlery to saddlery or shop to shop.
However, if you have a well-stocked saddle shop near you, it may be the best place to browse, and as a bonus, you can feel and touch the goods (unlike with an online purchase).
The other way to choose a bridle is to use the services of a saddle fitter or rep for a tack company to try out different bridles on the horse. Then you can check whether the horse’s bridle fits well.
For each of these three ways to choose the best bridle, knowing what you are looking for is essential.
The Online Bridle Buy
Choose a reputable merchant as internet scams abound if you buy online, especially with second-hand tack. Even when working with a top tack company or e-merchant, it is vital to ask the right questions to ensure you don’t buy a bridle you will regret.
I once made the mistake of purchasing a bridle on special, believing it would be an ideal Western bridle when I ordered it. Unpacking the bridle, I instantly felt buyer’s remorse.
The leather was stiff as cardboard, thin, uneven thicknesses, poorly dyed, and ugly! Luckily, I was able to request a refund, though it cost me postage fees to send the item back to the merchant.
Now I know to ask questions such as:
- What type of leather is used in the bridle?
- What is the leather thickness?
- Is the bridle colorfast?
- Are there replacement accessories such as cheekpieces, browbands, and nosebands available?
- What is the length of each cheek piece, the browband, and the noseband?
- Does the bridle come with reins? What type of reins are included?
- What is the best cleaner for this type of bridle?
- Is this bridle dressage legal or jumping legal?
- If the bridle doesn’t fit my horse, do you have an exchange policy?
When I look at the photos of the bridles, I am careful to keep some considerations in mind for my horse. Usually, the images are of thoroughbred horses for full-size bridles and smaller ponies for pony-size bridles. My horse is neither.
My youngster is a rising two-year-old, a mix of warmblood and some mystery sprinkles. As a result, she has a fine muzzle, long face, delicate ears, and a broad brow area. Quite the mix, right?
I need to look for the correct size browband, adjustable noseband, and longer cheekpieces for her. With her delicate ears, I need to be careful that the headstall of the bridle won’t cut into her ears or flip over them if it’s too big.
So I keep an eye on the fitment of the bridles in the pictures I consider. I look for a headstall that’s thinner or cut away from the ears, while some extra padding will support her narrow poll area. I find that putting together a bridle by ordering a separate headstall, cheekpieces, browband, and noseband may be more effective as I can scale to her dimensions.
However, with the online route, there are many questions I won’t know until I order and fit the bridle. It’s a hit-and-miss process.
The Saddlery Shop Purchase
I love shopping at actual brick-and-mortar shops. There’s a magical feeling about walking past rows and rows of bridles, saddles, and all things horse-related. Of course, my wallet protests and grows lighter the longer I am in there.
However, the bonus is I can touch the bridles, feel the leather quality, grip reins, and, more importantly, seize up the actual overall finish of the bridle and possible fitment for my youngster. I can look at the bridles up close at the saddlery, evaluating each bridle for quality, craftsmanship, weight, and suitability. But more on this later.
I would ask the saddlery salesperson the same questions as I ask of the online tack shop, though some of the questions can be answered by simply feeling the bridles. Importantly, I always ask whether I can fit the bridle on my horse and exchange it if it’s not a great fit. (And I’ll dive into the best fit for a bridle a bit later too.)
Some saddle shops don’t want to exchange or refund bridles. I understand it’s a risk if you’ve fitted the bridle on a dirty horse or on one that takes off and damages the bridle.
After all, the shop doesn’t want to lose money. If this is the case, you can always take one of your older bridles to the shop. By fitting the old bridle to your horse, you can figure out how much more or less length or adjustment you need for your new bridle.
I buy most of my bridles at saddleries, where I can handle and inspect the bridle. However, I’ve made some excellent purchases from online dealers too. And if I am purchasing a new saddle, then getting the saddle fitter out is a great chance to fit a bridle (or ten).
The Saddle Fitter or Rep Visit
For those who have never used a qualified saddle fitter, it’s pretty impressive. The saddle fitter may be affiliated with a saddlery, and they can bring several saddles and bridles to your ranch or stable yard to fit your horse. You will often be able to ride with the saddle and new bridles to get a feel for the tack.
Of course, this is a pricey service, and you can expect to pay quite a bit. The saddle fitter will probably try to push you toward purchasing a more expensive but correctly fitting saddle or bridle since they often get a commission on sales.
However, it’s really worth having all those saddles and bridles there to try on, test, and adjust to your heart’s content.
What Is the Best Horse Bridle?
The best horse bridle is comfortable for your horse, suitable for your type of riding, and helps you maximize your horse’s performance.
The Best Overall Horse Bridle
A great overall horse bridle I recommend is the Rambo® Micklem® Competition Bridle, which balances quality, performance, excellent fitment, and affordability.
- Made from high-quality hand-rubbed leather
- Single headstall or crownpiece
- Padded browband and noseband for extra comfort
- Quality stainless steel hardware
- Shaped noseband and throat latch for relief of pressure points, adding to the horse’s comfort
- Offers better control and collection of the horse due to contact points
- Dressage, showjumping, and eventing-legal, according to FEI regulations
- Medium price point
- The bridle is a little stiff due to the thickness of the leather
- The bridle doesn’t have separate cheekpieces or a detachable noseband
While this bridle may not suit every horse, and it isn’t entirely as adjustable as a plain English bridle, it is one of my top choices for my youngster. The noseband is relatively small, making it ideal for her delicate muzzle. Since there’s hardly any pressure on the main pressure points of the jaw and nose, I know this bridle won’t be teaching her any bad habits like headshaking.
I really like that the bridle is FEI legal for most riding disciplines, making life easier for me as I’m unsure which discipline my little mare will do best. With a versatile bridle, we can play around and see what my horse is best at without buying a bridle for each riding discipline.
The Best Horse Bridle Based on Quality
As with most things in life, the better the quality, the higher the cost. However, if budget isn’t your primary consideration, you can opt for a top-quality bridle like the Acavallo® Maesta Bridle, which is made from quality Italian leather with strategic padding.
- Single piece crown piece that’s ergonomically curved to clear poll and ears
- Shaped flash to sit clear of the bit rings
- Unique self-adjusting cheek piece system to minimize pressure on pressure points
- Suspension over cheekbones reduces friction and rubbing
- High price point
- Replacement pieces will be costly
- Sold without reins, which will be an additional cost
Acavallo is like haute couture for horses and riders. When you buy a brand like this, you know you are assured of the best quality. However, this may not be the best bridle for your horse—the proof is in that first ride.
The Best Horse Bridle Based on Performance
For performance, versatile fitment, and overall quality, I love the Schockemöhle Montreal Select Anatomic Hunter Bridle. If an all-around performance bridle is what you’re after, this is the one for you.
There are fewer parts with a single padded crown to cause pressure and pinch facial nerves. The result is a calm and confident horse, ready to perform their best.
- Double-stitched and padded poll area and noseband for comfort
- Anatomical design to respect ear comfort
- A narrow central strap over the poll reduces further poll pressure
- Significant overall pressure reduction
- Highest quality leather with signature stitching for showing
- Not sold with reins, which are an additional cost
- The upper end of the price range
The German design of this bridle is spectacular, and I can’t help but recommend this to any discerning rider who wishes to achieve the best levels of performance with their horse. I was strongly tempted to buy this bridle, but knowing how rough youngsters can be on a bridle, I decided to go for a simpler and less expensive bridle.
The Best Horse Bridle Based on Budget
While I was skeptical of the low price, I must admit that I bought the Suffolk™ Hunter Bridle for my youngster, and I have no regrets. This bridle is an excellent buy at this incredibly budget-friendly price of less than $70 (including the reins).
- The great price!
- Beautiful stitching
- Quality leather
- Padded browband and noseband
- Includes plaited reins
- Hook stud closures on cheekpieces for bit fitment
- Highly rated by riders
- Leather is a little stiff when the bridle is new
- Limited lifetime when not correctly sealed and treated with regular use
I would be using this bridle for about a year before transitioning to a better quality and perhaps more technical bridle within the first year of training my youngster. This bridle was just what I wanted: fair to decent quality, adjustability for my little mare’s still-growing face, comfort, and affordability.
The Best Horse Bridle Based on Style: Western Bridle
Western bridles are both functional and pieces of art. The Weaver Texas Star Browband Headstall is a stunning example of functionality and artistry. The quality leather, double-layered and stitched, is soft and durable.
Trimmed with brass studs and finished with 18 karat gold conchos, this is genuinely a show-worthy bridle.
- Double cheek adjustments for a better fit
- Stainless steel buckles for quality and durability
- High-quality English bridle leather
- Fits most standard Western and English bits
- Does not come with reins
- Higher maintenance due to the studs and conchos
- The brown tone may not match your other brown tack like saddles
If I decide to go into Western sports or pleasure classes, I will go for the Weaver Texas Star Browband Headstall. This bridle is stylish, well made, and an excellent fit for most horses due to the adjustable cheekpieces.
Fitting the Best Horse Bridle Correctly
While money can buy you the best possible bridle, an expensive bridle is not always the best fitting bridle, especially when it’s poorly adjusted. Knowing how to fit a bridle correctly will help you ensure that you can adjust it according to your horse’s head no matter what bridle you purchase.
Browband and Noseband Fitment Guide
The browband and noseband need to fit loosely enough, so there’s no undue pressure on the sensitive forehead and bridge of the horse’s nose. Slide two fingers under the browband to check that it fits correctly.
The noseband should have one to two fingers space all around, including the sensitive bridge of the horse’s nose and the jaw bone ridges underneath the horse’s head.
The noseband should fit two finger widths under the bottom part of the cheekbone. The browband should fit comfortably below the horse’s ears but well away from the horse’s eyes, resting softly above the horse’s eye sockets.
The cheekpieces should be adjusted, so the bit fits at the right height in the mouth of the horse. The snaffle bit should create two soft wrinkles in the corners of the horse’s mouth, while the curbed or solid bit should barely wrinkle the corners of the horse’s mouth. Ensure the cheekpieces are far enough to the side, so they don’t move into the horse’s eyes.
Throat Latch Fitment
Tighten the throat latch so the strap forms a soft loop that hangs almost vertically. The latch should fit the area where the horse’s jawbone rounds (creating their cheeks) before flattening.
Answer: The best bridle for your horse will depend on the shape of their head, the type of riding you do, the quality you can afford, and what they are most comfortable in to perform their best.
Answer: You will need several measurements to correctly choose a size bridle that fits your horse’s head.
Measure from the right corner of the horse’s mouth, up and over the poll, down to the left corner of their mouth.
Measure the distance from one side of the horse’s forehead where their ear ends (where the browband would sit) to the opposite side of their face where their other ear ends (or the corresponding position).
Measure the circumference of the horse’s muzzle from a point two finger widths below the horse’s cheekbone, wrapping the soft measuring tape around the horse’s face to tough the start of the measuring tape. Be sure to fit two fingers under the measuring tape and adjust the measurement accordingly.
Answer: The ergonomic or anatomical bridle is designed to avoid placing pressure on the sensitive nerve centers of the horse’s head and face, thereby ensuring the horse is more comfortable.
The Right Bridle Wrap Up
Choosing a bridle for your horse should be well thought through, and choosing the best bridle is about what is comfortable for your horse, the occasion you are riding in, and the quality of the materials. No two riders will agree on precisely what makes the perfect bridle, so it comes down to a few requirements.
Choose a comfortable bridle for your horse that fits accurately, alleviates discomfort, and encourages performance and partnership between the horse and rider. The reins and the bridle are an extension of the rider’s hands, and therefore, you want a quality bridle that will be soft yet precise, affordable, yet high quality.