Tack n' Talk

Online Equestrian Resource

Is Your Bridle Too Tight?


Many of you already know that I am a stickler for proper fitting tack.  I am always astounded by the number of people who feed their horses supplements, buy them the best blankets and yet use the same tack that they used for their previous horses thinking that all tack fits all horses.

Horses are amazing creatures as they have adapted so well to our human creations.  Head discomfort most always goes unnoticed until there is a behavioral or physical problem.  The most common behavioral problem due to head discomfort is that a horse will refuse to go forward.   Unfortunately, when negative behavior occurs, the rider never checks their tack to ensure that it’s properly fit.

The horse’s head has more nerve sensitivity than any other part of his body.  If the bridle is too tight, your horse is less likely to be able to think, breathe, and perform.

Your horse’s head should move easily when wearing a bridle so that the ear, jaw, lips and nose are not restricted. Tension or restriction on the head can lead to many negative behaviors, such as teeth grinding, biting the tongue, tension in the poll and/or neck, restricted movement, headaches, breathing restriction, loss of smell and general discomfort.  Horses that are occupied by pain cannot think or perform well they just react trying to rid themselves of pain.

How to fit the nose band.

The nose band, also called cavesson, was  designed to hold the horse’s jaw closed while racing across the battlefield so the horse would not bite it’s tongue with the extra weight of the armour claddened rider. Nose bands should not rub, press or irritate.  A nose band should allow for at least two fingers worth of slack, anything less is too tight.

Proper brow band fitting

The sole purpose of the brow band is to prevent the bridle from being pulled back over the ears and down the neck. It is very important that brow bands shouldn’t rub or pinch and must allow the ears should be able to move easily.

The cheek piece plays an important role for the bridle since it determines the level of communication that will exist between your reins and the bit. If the cheek piece  fits too loosely, the bit will rest too low in the horse’s mouth, causing the bit to hit the front teeth.  A cheek piece that is too tight will cause the bit to rest too high in the mouth.  This will cause the bit to dig into the cheeks causing it to pinch.  Cheek pieces shouldn’t rub or press on protruding skull bones.

The purpose of the throatlash is to hold the bridle in place and prevent the horse from rubbing the bridle off it’s head. The throatlash should not fit tightly that it constricts your horse’s breathing.  The common rule for proper throatlash fitting is three fingers width.

Even if the bridle fits your horse perfectly, without the proper bit size, you may encounter negative horse behavior.  Please see my article, “Is your bit the right size” to get more information on some of the negative behavior that your horse will give you with an improper fitting bit.  Earlier this year, I also wrote an article on how to fit a snaffle bit which will hopefully give you some pointers on how to choose the right snaffle bit for your horse as well as how to properly fit that bit!

Good luck and happy riding, Larissa  🙂



  Cathy Whitley wrote @

Larissa-helpful article! I haven’t seen an article this detailed on proper bridle fit, and the purpose of each part-makes a lot more sense to me now / Cathy

  Larissa wrote @

Glad you enjoyed the article. I have seen just so many riders with the wrong sized bit, bridles that are either too loose and too tight and when the horse doesn’t respond favorably, put a stronger bit on the horse. Poor horse! Thanks for your comment!

  CowgirlPride wrote @

This information is totally wonderful! I know this info might be common sense stuff for ppl who have had horses their entire life, but Im not one of them. This is my fourth year of being a horse owner and rider. I really like reading and learning this stuff for myself. It just happened where we was having a problem with something to do with Outlaw’s head yesterday. He was throwing his head and biting the bits. So we adjusted the cheek piece and he seemed to be stop biting on the bit. But he still kept throwing his heaad but I just kept riding. Then after about another 30 mn of riding he settled down. I just don’t know if he was still uncomforable and just gave up and dealt with the pain or if he was experiening something else. But all your advice on the bridle taken into consideration is a good start for me! Thanks again Larissa.

Houston, TX

  A BIT OF ADVICE « Tack n' Talk wrote @

[…] Also remember that not only is fitting the bit important, but it is also very important to have the entire bridle comfortable and proper fitting. […]

  More on bits… | Tack n' Talk wrote @

[…] position.  Before you decide to change bits, look at your horse’s noseband and bridle.  An ill-fitting bridle may present issues that resemble bit […]

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