Saturday, October 23, 2010

Racing bridles

A couple months back, Teresa and I spent a day at Arapahoe Park in Aurora, Colorado.  I took my usual several hundred pictures and planned to come home and write a post or two on  racehorse tack.  Unfortunately, I don't actually know a lot about racehorse tack so this project kept getting put off and put off until I forget about it entirely.

I rediscovered the Arapahoe Park pictures as I was preparing to start work on Erin's race tack set earlier this week.  I'm still not an expert on all things race related, but these pictures are too good not to share.  Here's my best noncomprehensive take on racing bridles.
Most racehorses wear a simple English type bridle made of leather, biothane or nylon.  
Unlike most riding bridles, the racehorse bridle does not feature a one piece crown.  Instead, the throatlatch is an entirely separate piece.  Bits attach to the headstall via buckles and the usually there is no adjustment buckle on the right side cheekpiece. 
Lots of the bridles feature a matchy matchy color scheme, but occasionally you see something that looks like it was cobbled together from pieces of many different bridles.
Proving there's an exception for every rule, this bridle looks like a regular hunter bridle with a one piece crown and raised browband and noseband.  
Nearly every horse wore some sort of noseband.  
The fuzzy cover on this filly's noseband is called a shadow roll.  She also has a flash noseband attachment.
A couple horses wore figure eight nosebands.  This one is made out of some kind of tubing.
Lots of horses also wore blinker hoods.  These go on over the browband but under the cheekpieces.
This blinker hood has ear covers.
Most of the bits you see at the track are of the snaffle persuasion and are fitted with a loose curb strap.  These can include D-rings,
loose rings, 
and even a Western styled snaffle or two.
Another very common racetrack bit is the Dexter ring bit.  I was not personally familiar with this bit so I had to do a little research on it.  This led me to the wonderful Rock and Racehorses blog which is written by photographer, Sarah K. Andrew.
She describes the Dexter ring bit like this:  The ring bit has two mouthpieces: one jointed snaffle mouthpiece and one ring that encircles the horse’s lower jaw. The snaffle portion of the bit can have metal, plastic or rubber coating and the ring is metal. The cheekpieces are of varying shapes, as are the metal “spoons” below the mouth. A ring bit is commonly used on strong horses since it adds stopping power. The bit also increases steering power since a rider has the added leverage on the horse’s lower jaw.
Reins can attach to the bit with either buckles or loops and will always have rubber hand grips.  Most jockeys will tie a knot at the end of the reins as pictured in the photo below.
Saddles tomorrow?  Or perhaps lead ponies or pictures of the horses in the Arabian race?  Let me know what you like to see!


  1. I LOVE that top picture! He's looking at you for sure!

  2. Lead ponies! I've been trying to figure out where/how they attach the lead rope to the bridles. And that what that shoulder guard looks like on some of the lead ponies.

  3. Thanks for the short but interesting description of racehorse bridles! I`d prefer to get a closer look at the saddles and then the lead ponies and the Arabian racehorses! Greetings, Doreen from Germany

  4. Kellye, that's my favorite picture, too. The horse is a Thoroughbred filly named No More Travellin.

    A preview for everyone interested in the Arabians--check out the bay in the second photo and the white grey in picture six. Those are two of the Arabian race horses.

    Kelly, those are exactly the things I was looking at when I was taking pictures of the leadponies. I'm sure I have some photos that you'll enjoy.

  5. The reason they use the curb strap on the snaffle bits is to keep them from pulling the bit all the way through the side of the mouth. Granted, that wouldn't happen in "normal" race traffic, but in adverse conditions, it's highly possible. You'll also see the loose curb strap on western horses in training for the same reason.

  6. The bit attached to the one with the rings is a half cheek or "Spoon" snaffle. It's a bit I used to use a lot driving and training and one of the only bits I will use when I have to use a bit in training (for like show or a client that specifically wants me to drive their horses in a bit afterward)

    However that ring bit there is also used by itself with an inverted mullen mouth/port and called a chifney bit. Some refer to the half cheek/chifney combo as a chifney too. The large circle mouthpiece there is mainly used for leading. I say if you gotta use something like that to control your horse on the ground you need to go back to the training block and teach some manners. Thats just a shortcut.

  7. Arabs please...they were gorgeous :) And I thought that grey was one of them... :) That was the stallion I wanted to take home!

  8. @ sydney bridless: I think you are confusing some bits with each other. The "spoon bit" or half cheek snaffle is not in the least way similar to a dexter ring bit. The dexter is a *very* strong bit and is rather severe. A half cheek on it's own while it can certainly come in a wide variety of mouth pieces (from smooth to twisted wire) the action is much different than a dexter.

    Also, chiffney bits are not used in conjunction with another bit, so I'm not sure what you are trying to say there. Chiffney bits do not all come with inverted mouths. They come in straight plain as well. They are very useful in certain situations where control is vital and the predictability of a horse plumets. The breeding shed for one, but at blood stock auctions as well. They are pretty much standard in the auction house. You can train on a youngster all you want before an auction, but *nothing* can trully prepare them for the "information overload" of being in the stable area of a large auction. It's often enough to turn the sweetest baby into a fire breathing dragon. Better safe than sorry.

  9. Anon- I think I worded that wrong/ you misinterpreted, I was referring to the half cheek by itself, not a dexter, which is the combination of (usually) a half cheek and a large ring.

    I also was talking about a chifney alone as in similar to the ring on the dexter bit, not together with another bit. Please read more thoroughly before jumping to conclusions I have studied many, many, many bits in university.

  10. As far as I'm aware we don't have anything like the accompanying horses in the UK. The nearest we get is sometimes the winner is escorted to the winner's circle by a couple of police horses. I wonder why they developed such different practices.

  11. You can wave that college degree all you want. I gots me one of those too. I've also "studied lots of bits in university", and many, many more in actual real life, decades of it. Multiple breeds and disciplines. College equine courses are great and I have recommended college to people many times over the years, but out of the class room is where you really learn.

    You sound like you are just anti-bit and don't have much use for folks who use them. If the bitless thing makes you happy and works for you, that's fantastic. But perhaps you should learn some tolerance for traditional horsemanship.

  12. I found this website with a bunch of your photos and they're saying they sell the tack in the photos. Thought you might want to take a look:

    1. Thanks for the heads up. That is a weird website. Lots of stolen photos and none of the links work!

  13. how do I purchase a racing bridle from Braymore