And of course, shopping means putting all that expensive, time-consuming product research I've done to use.
And if I'm going to do that, y'all might as well benefit.
So if you're looking for a solid bridle on a budget (and your horse is a standard size):
...and you can spend up to $200:
I realize that just because I think a ~$200 bridle is "relatively affordable" doesn't mean everyone does. However. This starts to be the range where you don't have to compromise a whole lot. My favorite in this range is Eponia Equestrian. Nice leather that breaks in fast, fantastic, thoughtful details, interesting designs and solid customer service. A recent blogger review from Austen pretty well dials it in. I snagged one of these babies at Rolex and it was GORGEOUS. Super sad that it was never ever gonna fit Ms. ZB.
|why yes that's Teresa's horse rocking brownie now|
10/10 would buy again and don't be surprised if another one shows up in my collection.
...and you want to spend about $100
This is a dicey price range. There are some options on the table but you're definitely going to have to make some pretty serious compromises with either design details or product quality. Or both.
One entrant in this category the Premiera line by Hypostore. (These are also marketed by a popular instagram retailer for a 200% mark up. Friends don't let friends pay 200% too much.) I picked up one of these last winter. The leather is ok. There are definitely attempts at thoughtful details, but the budget nature of this range just means that it's not... quite... something. Mine just sat funky on Courage's head. It wasn't bad, but I wasn't in love with it. Blogger Karen hasn't written a full review, but she had a double from this line (on my referral, sorry Karen) and the noseband just didn't work for her horse and the browband fell apart. Buyer beware apparently--their customer service was underwhelming when I dealt with them.
5/10 would use them in a pinch but probably won't go back
...and you want to spend less than $100:
Once you hit this end of the spectrum, you better know what you're getting in to. Royal Sports is probably the best option here--lots of options, lots of coupon codes, reasonably fast shipping from India. Downsides include leather that smells weird (technical tack ho talk here), iffy-at-best customer service, and kinda wonky sizing. Like. Cob size is TINY and horse size is HUGE and maybe oversize is for elephants? I have no idea. Haven't tried the OS. Alli wrote a review here, and she's the most recent purchaser I'm aware of. It's not my favorite option, but you can get a bridle pretty inexpensively and if you're not too picky, it's probably fine.
2/10 unlikely to place another order unless I need something cheap and weird
Not to worry!! You're not SOL if your horse is full or semi custom, but you will have to take some measurements and try a little harder. There can also be a bit of a premium for buying piece-by-piece. It's definitely more expensive than just buying an assembled bridle. So.
If you want to spend up to $300 (and you need custom sizing):
I know it's not super sexy, but a quality standby is the Nunn Finer custom event bridle. You can pick leather and buckle colors and then pick a different size for every different piece. Or at least choose from three different sizes. It's not fancy and modern, but we're talking solid leather that does the job and isn't embarrassing. The look blends seamlessly in the dressage and eventing rings and the bridle will pretty much last you forever.
|ZB not getting a figure eight obv|
9/10 have already ordered one for Zoebird
If you want to spend up to $200 (and you need custom sizing):
I've written a very positive review of Uisce Saddlery in the past. Elaine makes a quality product with excellent craftsmanship that is surprisingly affordable. Because these pieces are hand made, you can get all crazy-go-nuts on hyper custom sizing and details. I did contact her this time around and apparently mid-busy-season she's a little slower to respond than if you catch her in the off season (and I have the patience of a gnat, oops). On the whole, my experiences have been positive and I love the little extra zazzle you can get with colored padding if you're bold.
|i love different stuff|
8/10 we all know this is going to happen again
Noted: Flexible Fit Equestrian also theoretically lands on this list but I have no personal experience with them and haven't been thrilled with the designs I've seen out there. I'm happy to be proven wrong but haven't had the impetus to spend the money yet.
If you want to spend about $100 (and you need custom sizing):
A bit of an unexpected entrant in this category is the Equiture line of bridles. I'm not sure where they're sourced from (well I mean Asia obv), but you can order each part individually and get some fun details like patent or white padding. It's more of a dressage look, but with the right pieces you'll be ok regardless. Downsides are of course that you're looking at pretty mass-produced leather that's just... not that pretty. It has that cardboard-y shine that doesn't really come off and it doesn't break in like super nice leather, but it's affordable and it will do in a pinch.
|this qualifies as a pinch|
4/10 unlikely to buy again
Ummmm I hesitate to add at this point that I've (obviously) owned models from all of these lines and all of my reviews are based on actually owning/handling them. I also paid full price (or used publicly available sales) and received no compensation for any of my thoughts on these. This is also just a list of budget options and doesn't include bridles from higher-end price ranges that take a little more commitment to acquire.
|and none of this includes browbands haha|
At this point, I'm playing with an Equiture frankenbridle with a Nunn Finer on the way. What are some other options that would be worth checking out?