Please help a hunter princess find a butter-soft dressage bridle

I’m a long time hunter rider, now dabbling in dressage semi-seriously with one of my horses who can no longer jump.
I’m used to the calfskin saddles and buttery-soft Edgewood bridles so common in hunter land, and am frustrated with all the black bridles I’ve tried. I own/have owned OS, Kieffer, Passier, KL Select, Red Barn, Dover’s Warrendorf, and Vespucci bridles. No matter the care I give them (clean after every ride, oil as necessary, stored in climate-controlled tack room) nothing gets truly soft and flexible like I want.

Are there brands that will feel more like my beloved Edgewoods? Or is there a particular conditioner/cleaner that you find helps your bridles soften?
Has anyone tried the custom black New Cavalry bridles? Will they break in like their brown counterparts?

Thanks in advance for any help or advice.

In geberal the texture of high quality brown leather strap goods is better than the quality of black because the black requires more dying and processing, whereas the brown can just be tanned. In other words, there is no Edgewood type black bridle that you oil and break in.

I dont have an Edgewood but I have my old bridles from the 1970s. They were stiff fairly unprocessed leather that you had to soak and knead for hours before you used them. I rescued them about ten years ago and they are now super soft and that indeterminate dark brown old leather color. They were the cheapest entry level bridles at the time. :slight_smile:

Anyhow I often let my fingers walk through racks of both new and consignment bridles, stopping when I feel something that seems like good leather.

Interesting to me the only black bridles so far that I can stand are Stubben. I in fact got two second hand. One well worn and one as new. They do not have plastic coating color corrector. There may be other good brands out there but I haven’t come across them yet.

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I have a Stubben bridle that I have made Too Flappy. You know I like a soft bridle. Too Flappy.
Let me think on it some and/or check my Bridle Museum for one I could sell you. I might have a Five Star that is unused that would work. Or that Big Red Horse of yours that I’m thinking of might be too big for what I have.

I wouldn’t try to order custom from New Cavalry (though I’d enjoy owning one), but if you were going down that rabbit hole, you might as well do that with The Country Saddler and get a similar experience plus excellent quality in your own back yard.

Let me think on it some more.

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I recently bought this Kingsley bridle. Its lovely and softer than any bridle I have owned… I imagine the black version is as nice… https://www.cuatxtack.com/products/kingsley-weymouth-bridle-full

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Have you tried Devacoux or Dy’on?

A groom once told me that leather intended for black dye is generally not of the same quality as that intended for lighter dye. I have no idea if there’s any truth to that, but I’ll go with it. I’m like you… Edgewood or bust. I even prefer it to my Hadfield’s. My guess is since black doesn’t offer that gradation or patina that an oakbark does, the black bridle is a unicorn. I’ve had Bobby’s and Nunn-Finer, and both left me thinking there must be something-finer out there. Sorry. Terrible joke.

i train in my Edgewood all the time. It’s my favorite bridle. And if i can’t find the gray bridle of my dreams, i’ll be riding my mare with it in her first shows (IF i show that is). I don’t care it doesn’t have a drop/flash …i’ve never used one so i suppose i don’t know what i’m missing.

The horse I leased had a black Nunn Finer bridle as his daily driver. Single handedly sold me on the brand. It was 5 years old, soft, cleaned easily, & the pigment fully saturated despite never having been re-dyed. Used it to show as well.

While I agree that the fundamental quality of the leather used for black tack may have been (& in some cases still is) lower, that seems to be changing as dressage has become more popular. Especially the case with saddles. Yet, I have seen some nice black dressage bridles. Some of the difference you’re noticing is likely due to the way dressage bridles are built versus hunter bridles; padded nosebands/browbands vs ones with no decoration, rolled leather vs plain, lined vs unlined, anatomical shaping vs regular. All of those design details make for a more structured bridle. Even in brown leather. For example, we rode a jumper that had a PS of Sweden bridle. It was incredibly fine leather & well broken in. Still had much more structure & shape than the really $$$$ hunter bridle we own.

The Artemis Equine anatomical, customisable bridles are made of premium European leather, which is flexible, yet lasts. These bridles are not to be oiled in any way and debut (after much testing) mid-May. USDF- & FEI-approved. Best anatomical bridles on the market.

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You would be in good company, plenty of people in dressage ride in a regular plain noseband. Drop or flash is not required. Many will remove the flash if it is included on the bridle, or just buy a regular noseband outright.

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good to know! tks :slight_smile:

I don’t think it’s the quality of leather entirely. There are plenty of dressage bridles that use exceptional leather and plenty that don’t. But the one common factor appears to be that the black dye process does not make the leather nearly as supple as it’s brown counterpart. The only exception I have found is a few harness makers who have really delivered some exceptional black harness leather. My presentation harness has buttery soft lining on the breast collar and saddle. The headstall is still rigid, but as a driving headstall it’s supposed to be!

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A year in with my Stubben, and I’m pretty happy with how it’s softening up. It’s not Edgewood soft, but it’s supple and the leather quality is very good, though thicker than hunter style bridles. I also took off the removable flash :wink:

I do think, as others mentioned, the way the dressage bridles are padded has a lot to do with it too, because all that padding is always going to be a little stiffer by design than even the more lightly padded hunter styles.

I have an Arc d’Triomphe dressage bridle that I thought was soft and supple. With time - as I used it and cleaned and conditioned it - it became rather buttery I thought.

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I’m about to place an order for an Elevator bridle after reading reviews… I’ll report back.

https://www.elevatorequestrian.co.uk/

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omg…that little fuzzy pony on that page!!! soooooo cute!

My KL Select is pretty buttery soft as far as headstall, cheekpieces, and noseband straps. The padded parts aren’t as pliable but I wouldn’t call them stiff either.

LetItBe

Ok please report back! They have pony cheekpieces, so I could make a frankenstein bridle:) Pony cheek pieces, cob headstall and noseband, and X-full Browband:)

LetItBe

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Can you switch to a brown saddle and use one of your beautiful brown bridles? Brown tack in dressage is becoming more common. I would like to see it make a huge comeback.

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Try the higher end Sterling bridles at sstack.com. A friend bought one a few years ago and the quality was excellent but do not know how they are recently.

Also investigate Bobbi’s bridles.

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