Thursday, April 2, 2009

Fitting a Bridle to Your Horse

We have Bailey, the pony, on a trial basis for a month; she has foundered in the past and has some arthritic changes in one knee so we’re not sure whether she’ll stay sound when being used. When I had the vet out to draw blood for a Coggins test and to get her up to date on her spring shots, he did a very abbreviated exam and had a few concerns about the knee more than the history of founder. So I am boarding Bailey at Benvelle Equestrian Center for a month to see how she goes and to get her in shape – which includes loosing quite a bit of weight. I’m thinking she must be at least an 8 on the Horse Body Condition Scale!

I went out to the barn yesterday late afternoon to work Bailey a little bit and took along with me one of our bridles to see if I could fit it to her. We have plenty of bridles for horses of all sizes, from a very large-headed Appendix Quarterhorse down to a fairly small-headed Arabian, and then also a pony bridle left from the small pony we had quite a number of years ago. I knew the pony bridle would be too small so I took the one we used to use on one of the Arabians.

Fitting a Bridle to a Horse: Caveson I want to use a snaffle bit with Bailey to start off with - not really knowing what she has been used to in the past - so the bridle includes a cavesson. Starting with that, I made sure that when it is on her it is far enough below her cheekbone so that it doesn’t rub there, but high enough away from the bit also.

Fitting a Bridle to a Horse: BrowbandWhen putting the bridle itself on, I want to make sure that the browband is down far enough from Bailey’s ears so that she can comfortably move her ears and they are not being pinched.

Fitting a Bridle to a Horse: BitThe side straps of the bridle should also be away from her eyes. The bit should fit in Bailey’s mouth high enough that there is a “wrinkle” in the corner of her mouth; if the bit sits too low it could bump her teeth or she could possibly get her tongue up and over the bit.

Fitting a Bridle to a Horse: Throat LatchThe throatstrap should be loose enough that you can get a couple of fingers between the strap and the horses’ throat.

Fitting a Bridle to a Horse: Caveson or NosebandOnce the bridle is on, buckle the caveson so that it is tight enough to restrict gaping the mouth open, but slightly loose enough so that the horse can chew and mouth the bit. This chewing of the bit creates saliva which in turn keeps the mouth soft and the horse responsive.

My final step is to tuck the caveson strap underneath the bridle as it goes over the poll to create a finished look. Many people will run the strap of the caveson through the same keepers as the browband which keeps everything together and neat, and also makes sure that the correct caveson always stays with the bridle it belongs to. Also creating that finished look is to make sure that all the straps are put through the keepers at the buckles.

When I was done, I had a bridle that fit Bailey very well and she seemed comfortable wearing it as I was lunging her in the arena – there wasn’t any headshaking or trying to rub it on a leg and she was mouthing the bit slightly as she was moving along.

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