The Ultimate Guide to Types of Horse Riding Bridles

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The huge variety of available horse tack can be a little intimidating even to the more experienced equestrians. Bridles differ between one another depending on their purpose, but are generally used in most riding disciplines and not rarely, during the groundwork. Bridles are typically made out of leather, but the types and quality of leather might differ. Some bridles for example, are made out of other quick drying materials. It’s important to pick the right one, suitable to your’s and your horse’s needs.

Types of Riding Bridles

All around bridle 

All around bridles can be used for everyday rides and hacks. They are good for basic dressage training, jumping, lunging and recreational riding. They are usually made out of leather (black or brown), typically without any exciting details and patterns. Their simple design makes them very versatile. They are designed to be used with a bit. 

Dressage bridle

Dressage bridles are typically more flashy and sleek looking. The bands are often thicker and more padded, to redistribute the pressure evenly. Two new common trends in dressage fashion are glossy, lacquered touches and rounded troatlash and cheekpieces. The most commonly used material is leather, in black color (other colors might not be very welcome at the competitions). The headband is a personal preference, but most dressage bridles come with a sparkly one. If a rider is using a curb bit, a double dressage bridle is necessary (a bridle consists of an extra cheekpiece). 

Endurance racing bridle

Made out of synthetic materials, dries very quickly without damage to the bridle. Endurance racing bridles come in many different colors and patterns. Most popular colors are reds and blues. The greatest difference between a common bridle and the endurance bridle is the presence of quick release snaps on the cheek pieces. This design allows you to convert your bridle into a halter within seconds. It is very useful during rest stops, veterinary checks and breaks during longer hacks.

Anatomical bridle

Super common around showjumpers, anatomical bridles are designed (as their name suggests) with respect to the horse’s face anatomy. The bands are a lot thicker and more padded, to provide a better distribution of pressure and extra comfort to your horse. The bands are also differently shaped, to avoid direct pressure on the nerves and blood vessels. They are often used with horses that suffer from head shaking syndrome, or are simply really sensitive and nervous. Anatomical bridles tend to be more pricey, due to the higher quality materials used in their production.

Bitless bridle 

Bitless bridles lack cheekpieces and the bit. The reins are usually attached near the noseband, the rider maintains the contact by acting directly on the horse’s nose bone. These bridles are popular in natural horsemanship and are an amazing tool for building your horse’s trust. They can be used for jumping, dressage and hacks. Despite most people believing that bitless bridles are a better and safer alternative to normal bridles – bitless bridles should only be used by experienced riders with a steady hand. Acting directly on the horses nose bone puts it into the risk of breaking, fracture and damage of the respiratory airways. 

Lunging bridle / cavasson

Bridle used for lunging, or so-called cavasson, by some riders isn’t considered an actual bridle (because it does not consist of a pair of rains and thus is not used for the riding itself). It is a mix between a halter and a bridle with extra loops attached to the top of the noseband. Usually cavasson is made out of synthetic material, although leather ones are pretty common too. Another difference is the direct attachment of the noseband to the cheekpieces, unlike the headstall in a conventional bridle. 

Western bridle 

Western bridles lack a noseband. The leather is more natural/raw looking, and the preferred color of the leather is brown. The bridles are usually heavier. The headband is often very thick and decorated with beautiful, engraved patterns. Cheek pieces are often decorated as well. Western bridles work with the classical bits, but sometimes western riders pick a different bit, depending on the westen discipline. Western bridles can be used by amatour riders for forest hacks and all around riding. They are commonly seen in horse exhibitions and entertainment  shows, as well as in movies. 

Show bridles 

Bridles seen in horse breeding shows or auctions are a very delicate looking leather piece of equipment. They lack a bit and have a chain instead, to which a presenter attaches their rope. The design is minimalistic, so that all the attention is dedicated to the horse itself. The leather is usually black. These sort of bridles are closer to a halter than a bridle, but are useful for competition veterinary checks and during horse presentation in hand.