Monday, July 6, 2009

The hunter bridle

Although you won't find it in the USEF rulebook, there is definitely a dress code for horses competing on the A show hunter circuit. Almost without exception, every single horse will be wearing a brown bridle with a raised browband and noseband and laced reins. The bit will attach to the bridle and reins via stud hooks and that bit will most likely be some sort of snaffle. Big D-rings bits are the most popular, but you will also see full cheeks (usually with bit keepers) and, to a lesser degree, loose rings, eggbutts and pelhams. Kimberwickes, while common at breed shows, are not used in the USEF hunter ring.Both the horses pictured here are competing in top level hunter shows. I took the photo of CC (the bay horse) in the early 1990's and the other picture was taken in May of this year. As you can see, not much has changed. The hunter ring is very traditional and this type of classic, elegant bridlework never goes out of style!The next picture illustrates a common fitting problem in regards to the browband. Ideally, the browband should lie flat against the horse's forehead and be close to, but not touching, the base of the horse's ears. It should roughly parallel the noseband rather than tilting downwards or upwards.The noseband (also called the caveson) should fit snugly around the horse's nose and lie just below the horse's cheekbones. If in doubt, higher is better than lower--you do not want your noseband way down by the horse's mouth! The noseband on Hazel (below) is just about perfect.
The throatlatch should be neither tight and constricting nor loose and flopping. All straps should be tucked neatly into their keepers and the crownpiece of the caveson hanger should be completely covered by the main crownpiece.

The buckles on a hunter bridle are usually silver and square shaped and will have two keepers--one fixed into position beneath the buckle and the other sliding. The cheekpiece buckles should lie even with or slightly higher than the back corner of the horse's eye. Although you may see a lot of model bridles with the buckle placed below the horse's eye, that is extremely uncommon on real show bridles and would generally indicate the bridle is much too small.
Helpful? Please let me know!

7 comments:

  1. VERY helpful, especially to someone who would like to show performance more but has never ridden much or owned a horse. Please keep things like this (or the other posts where you talk about different events) coming :)

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  2. Thanks for the info. I knew some of that but I also learned a lot. I'm sure I'll use it in the future. Thanks a lot.

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  3. Very helpful! I knew how to fit the caveson but not the browband and cheek buckles. thank you!

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  4. Helpful, but I was always taught that the buckles must be level with or very slightly above the eye -- higher than that and it meant the cheekpieces were too long and should be shortened. This from a trainer who showed on the A circuit before I was even born.

    I love your illustrations and of course your bridlework itself. :) Very nice article!

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  5. Your trainer is right, of course. The rule when I was measuring for custom bridles was level with the back corner of the horse's eye while the horse was standing with his head in a relaxed position. However, you do see a lot of bridles with the buckles higher than that even at the big shows. You don't want them way up touching the browband but there is some leeway. The main thing is not to place them too low because *that* you don't see in real life!

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  6. Good tips for tack fitting on model horses! It's always sad to see nice tack put on wrong, I think the most common and glaring mistake is having the noseband way too far down, too close to the mouth.

    As for where the buckles fall on the horse's head, models vary in head size so much, and showers do what they need to use their tack sometimes, as long as the actual parts go where they need to (noseband is in the right place, browband fits, etc.) I wouldn't count someone down for the cheek buckle being too far up or down. However, for the best look, when making tack I try to make the buckles fall at the right place on the model it is originally designed for. :-) Good info!

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  7. Thank you Jennifer! I have a Cooper resin on it's way and I'll come back to this when I make his tack! I grew up riding Western, but my model interests are mostly English!

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