Monday, June 14, 2010

Eventing bridles, part one

One thing became very clear as I watched the horses warming up for the cross country phase of the Colorado Horse Park CCI and Horse Trials this past Saturday--there is no one uniform look when it comes to tack and turnout. Still, it's fair to say that most of the horses wore a regular English type bridle with either a built in flash attachment...or a figure eight noseband.
Snaffle bits were in abundance. This is a full cheek...
and this is an eggbutt.
Some bridles were dark brown (havana) and others were black. The bridle color usually matched the saddle, but not always.
Nearly all of them had rubber reins--sometimes in bright colors!
Also popular were two and three ring elevator bits (also known as Wonder bits and Pessoa bits).
This bit can be used with one or two reins, and those reins may be attached to either the big ring in the middle or either of the smaller bottom rings. That said, the next photo illustrates the most usual configuration. Note, most English riders do not use a curb strap with this kind of bit.
This is a really unusual way to attach a three ring bit to the bridle's cheekpieces. I'm not sure I understand what the rider was trying to accomplish here.
Here's a two ring bit with a curb chain. Like I said before, this is not the norm but it's also not illegal. Eventers are nothing if not practical. If something works, they're going to use it. The breastplate on this horse is also noteworthy. It's a jumper style breastplate in that it only attaches to the saddle at the D-ring (or stirrup bars). There is no center strap that runs down to the girth.
Stay tuned--lots more bridles to come!


  1. BTW, if that grey is the correct grey I'm thinking of, his rider was mentioned as a show jumper...which might make the breastplate decision more understandable.

  2. What is the brown disc at the ends of the bit called and what does it do? Same for the tab things in the center of the reins? I'm still learning!

  3. The brown disc is a bit stopper- it keeps the bit in place and stops it from sliding through the horse's mouth. The tabs on the reins keep the rings of a running martingale from sliding forward too far and catching on the bit, which can cause serious trouble.

    My friend is an eventer and also uses the "breastplate" shown- she calls it a breast girth, but I have no idea if that's the official terminology.

    Also, a resounding "what?" to the misuse of the elevator bit.

  4. Rubber reins are the best for jumping. I love mine, especially rainbow reins they are so helpful for learning riders.

  5. The brown discs (they also come in other colors) are usually called bit guards. They are mostly used with loose ring bits to keep the bit from pinching the corners of the horse's mouth. They do also keep the bit from sliding through the horse's mouth.

    The tabs on the reins are called martingale stops and they work exactly the way anonymous described. They can either be made of rubber or leather.

    Back in my mobile tack shop days, I sold tons of the elastic breastplates like the one on the grey. We never called them breastgirths but I have heard that term before.

    And yeah, I really didn't get the misused elevator bit either! It bugged me every time that horse passed in front of us.

  6. On the misused elevator bit -- i've seen them used that way occasionally to give a little more leverage (*snork*) without increasing the poll pressure. Mostly it doesn't work and can pinch.

    I'd like to make another note on elevators, which i have used occasionally both for dressage schooling and on event horses, if i might? They are more often used with two sets of reins, like a pelham, so that you can use it as a normal snaffle until you need the lower rein setting. With the reins on just the lower ring, you can't steer as well because all you get is flexion. (this is for the 2 and 3 ring elevators, not the 1 ring variety, of course) I suppose you COULD use them with a pelham converter, but i think this would defeat the purpose of using an elevator bit in the first place.

    The same is true for the standard gag bits shown in the next post. These are nearly always (in my experience) used with two sets of reins so that you can steer off of the reins on the snaffle rings and use the gag rings for their intended purpose. =o)

    HTH a bit!

  7. Thanks for that input, Jamie. I am familiar with three ring elevator bits and gags because they are common in hunter/jumper circles. I don't think I've ever ridden with a gag, but I've schooled several hunters in the elevator bit. I much prefer to use them with two reins, because you're right--they don't steer very well with just the lower rein. Still, I see an awful lot of horses going around with just the lower rein. In fact, I don't think I saw a single horse using two reins on a elevator or gag bit Saturday.

    Most of the horses pictured in this post were competing the CCI* or CCI** but a few were from the preliminary and training divisions.

  8. The rigging on the three ring is done incorrectly attaching the bridle directly to the o ring keeps it from Working as it’s designed to someone didn’t know how to use the bit