Do fancy anatomical bridles actually make a difference?

The two I’m most interested in are the Stubben Freedom and the Quantum because of their unique shape to avoid nerves and pressure points. Sounds great, but do these fancy bridles actually have any noticeable effect on the horse? My horse doesn’t have any issues in the bridle but his PEMF/massage therapist and chiro find he is consistently sore in his poll. Wondering if his current bridle could be a contributing factor. But these fancy bridles are SO expensive, I wonder if they really are worth risking the $$ for.

1 Like

My observation is that a simple snaffle with a loose or no noseband does not create poll pressure, in fact the cheek pieces lift if anything. That’s why you don’t want to use a one ear Western head stall with a snaffle. It can pop off.

If you add a tight crank noseband, flash, or running martingale then there can be poll pressure.

However, poll pain can also be caused by riding over bent, or in too much collection for too long, or from not being taught to be laterally flexible.

If I acquired a horse with poll pain I would take off the noseband and ride on light contact in a longer frame for a month or so to see if that helped. I would also do inhand jaw mobilization and flexion.

My guess is that an anatomical bridle won’t go that far to fix poll pain if it’s caused by how the horse is ridden.

11 Likes

He actually also does western dressage, so is in a snaffle with no cavesson quite frequently. He is an older horse with some chronic health issues so he is ridden lightly and only low-level work.

Oh, ok. Maybe get him x-rayed for arthritis and put a big fleecy on his poll strap?

2 Likes

I think some horses do go better in them. But there are cheaper versions out there. Collegiate and Kalvakade both have affordable anatomical bridles and I’m sure there are other companies making them these days as well.

2 Likes

Personal anecdote, but I tried various Micklems, PSoS, and a Schockemohle anatomic, and the only bridle that made any difference at all was the Fairfax.

4 Likes

Once upon a time I used to ride an old western pleasure mare, and I went to my very first clinic for 4h kiddos. At one point the clinician had us all come to the center of the ring while she was explaining a few things. Apparently I wasn’t paying as close of attention to what was going on around me as I ought to have been because my mare figured out that if she flicked her ears just right she could get them out of the ear holes, and then drop her head really low and let the weight of the bit (a big heavy show-style bit with a shank) slide it right off her face. Of course 8/9yo me didn’t notice any of this until I went to pick up my reins and go do whatever it was we were supposed to be doing and I picked up my reins… and picked them up some more… and some more… until I realized I was just holding an empty bridle in my hands :joy:

21 Likes

I found the Collegiate one to be fantastic! For a super sensitive-skinned TB, the fleecy one has been a game changer. I was also pleasantly suprised by the leather quality :slight_smile:

2 Likes

My horse is very sensitive and had a lot of poll discomfort to the point that she was difficult to bridle. I’ve had her teeth done twice by an equine dentist, which did not help, and then tried some different bridles. She’s dramatically better in the padded anatomical and she now cooperates with bridling in it. I don’t think it’s just about the cavesson because I used a western bridle and tried my English without one and that did not help. At this point, she’s had massage and PEMF enough times that she seems generally more comfortable, but she can still tell what bridle I have and fights me about putting the western one on. I wish there were western anatomical bridles too so I didn’t have to wrangle an angry giraffe to get it on.

I’ve always preferred a plain bridle in good quality leather and this is the only horse I’ve had any reason to try anything else on. I really don’t know how much it helps, but my horse sure does have a strong opinion about it. She also has opinions on lots of minor things, so really who knows?

ETA: I bought an older, used PSOS for around $150 to try out. Highly recommend that route because they’ll always resell in that price range.

3 Likes

My horse doesn’t have poll issues but she does have mouth issues.

The inside of her mouth is very fleshy. A regular or crank cavesson will push her fleshy inner cheeks into her teeth. I have found the PS of S bridle does help for that. I have the flash (lower band) buckled just enough to keep it from flopping. I snug the upper one maybe one hole tighter. The other bridle I ride her in doesn’t even have a cavesson.

I couldn’t get either size Micklem to fit her well but the cob PS of S works well. I haven’t tried any of the others.

Susan

Haha, I was on my mare in the lineup at an APHA show and my mare did a head shake and suddenly my bridle was on the ground. I sat there wondering what to do for a minute, popped off, put the bridle back on and clambered back up. Judge didn’t say anything, and we tended not to place in those big classes, so not sure if it contributed to our lack of a ribbon that day or not. :smiley:

3 Likes

Back on topic - I do think that paying attention to bridle fit is important. I am not convinced that most horses need the really over the top anatomical bridles. However, I won’t use the old style bridles with the noseband hanger running under the poll. Not something I would enjoy, having that more concentrated pressure weighing down. Bit weight is another thing to consider. I just bought my first double, and it’s just for occasional use, so I ordered regular bits and a bridle with a pretty standard padded crown, but will consider a wider crown to distribute weight and/or titanium bits to reduce weight if we ever get to the point of using the double on a regular basis.

I’ve used various padded crown pieces on both my mares and haven’t noticed any differences, but I make sure the browbands are large enough and the crown doesn’t gouge into the base of the ears. When in doubt, rotating between different bridle designs is another strategy, to provide relief to pressure points.

Also pay attention to keeping the buckles away from the TMJ, and consider how comfy or not the noseband might be.

1 Like

I am a very weak woman (MS). I found that when I used stainless steel double bridle bits that I had trouble lifting the bridle up to the horse’s head and holding everything up as I got the horse to open his mouth. I also wondered if the excess weight was affecting the horse’s head carriage and motion negatively.

I have no troubles with lifting my double bridle with titanium bits. The horses are a little bit more willing to open their mouths for the bits and are not as “expressive” about their reluctance to go riding (lesson horses, not mine) when the bits are made of titanium. This means a lot less effort on my part to get the horse tacked up. My riding teacher also appreciates this when she bridles the horse.

I use a Micklem bridle. I cut the chin strap (“dropped noseband”) off years ago. I pass the bradoon strap over the top of the crownpiece, threading it through the browband loops. My bridle looks really odd, but since I do not show I do not care as long as the horse feels comfortable. When the horse’s head is comfortable they LISTEN to my properly timed hand aids much better, they respond quicker, and I save a lot of energy by not having to deal with the resistances triggered by head discomfort.

EACH RIDE I ask my teachers if the horse is happy with their bits and bridle, just in case I miss anything. When I switched to riding in double bridles they report that the horse is cheerful and has no trouble being ridden in the double.

One lady has told me that she wants me to ride her old arthritic mare ONLY in the double bridle with the titanium bits, and we just walk since the mare is at the limping stage for the trot. This lady is a Western rider (well anything that works rider), had never ridden with a double bridle, but she really likes what she sees when the mare walks under me, relaxed and dealing with her leg ouchiness.

2 Likes

Yes, I have the same concern. Because I’m only planning to use the double occasionally at this point, I bought less expensive cyprium bits, but will strongly consider buying titanium if I continue schooling this horse up the levels. She is in a titanium snaffle and it is really nice and light.

1 Like

My trainer recommended a Micklem for my horse, so I tried riding him in hers and he obviously like it better.

So, Micklem it is then.

I feel like one of the Stuebbens is basically a copy cat Micklem for more money, but I didn’t expend much bandwidth and just got what the trainer said to get, so take that for what it’s worth.

1 Like

Ergonomic bridles — those with built in noseband hangars and a cutback mono crown — can be much more comfortable than traditional crown bridles.

Most bridles I see do not fit. They have too short browbands and the nosebands are often too small and too tight. The browband should rest between the bottom of the ear and the raised orbital bone, lie flat and have no tension (ie you should be able to run your hand from side to side) with the bridle properly fastened.

Nosebands are the true deal breaker for optimum comfort to the horse. The tighter and lower the noseband, the more unpleasant pressure across the poll and the bridge of the nose — which is exacerbated if you use a flash.

Current studies suggest the best noseband (if one is required) is a wide (2inch or more) crank noseband with padding. The independent movement of the strap as the horse moves is what makes the crank noseband more horse friendly.

Another thing is to fit the bridle to the horse as they move, not as they stand still. Depending on your discipline that may mean a much looser noseband or cheek strap, depending on their head set in motion.

6 Likes

You all might enjoy this Dr. Clayton lecture. All about this subject.

4 Likes

Fairfax bridles have been shown in research to reduce pressure points. Haven’t tried them myself, but it is an interesting read/watch: https://www.fairfaxsaddles.com/bridles/bridle-testing-and-design

1 Like

After making sure my bridle properly fit, I got a Back on Track poll cover before splashing out on a bridle.

Made a huge and very noticeable difference to my touchy Friesian mare.

2 Likes

i have a couple old broken in soft as butter bridles like this and i just put the noseband strap over top the wider poll/cheekband one. I come from behind the cheekstrap and have noseband strap lay there, to go over the nose. Its a tad bit twisty, but hardly noticeable…especially because those two bridles are so soft and pliant.

1 Like