Tack n' Talk

Online Equestrian Resource

The Bridle – proper fit.


Horses are amazing creatures as they have adapted so well to our human creations.  Head discomfort most always goes unnoticed until there is a major behavioral or physical problem and more than often the horse just suffers in silence. One of the most common behavioral problems due to head discomfort results in the horse that will refuse to go forward.   Unfortunately, when negative behavior occurs, the rider rarely checks their tack to ensure that it’s properly fitted but generally puts more severe human contraptions on the horse thinking that will correct the issue.

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.

English Bridle

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.

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.

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 to be able to move easily.

Western Bridle

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 his 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.

Allow three fingers width for proper throatlatch fitting.

Far too many people use one set of tack for multiple horse’s thinking one set fits all.  This just isn’t the case.  While we can adjust the bridle somewhat to move from one horse to another, we need to be aware that not all bridles fit all horses.  Your horse can only speak to you in one manner and that is behaviourally, so if your horse is speaking to you by tossing his head, not moving forward, grinding his teeth…please stop and listen.

Thank you,  Larissa



[…] of the accessories and equipment worn by a horse when it is being ridden or used to drive a cart. Bridles, saddles and their accompanying parts, such as, halters, martingales, breast plates, and harnesses, […]

  More on bits… | Tack n' Talk wrote @

[…] use a strong bit, look at the tack, yourself and your 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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