Friday, October 18, 2013

Micklem Competition Bridle Review

I'm sure most of you have noticed that Courage is sporting his very own Micklem Competition Bridle in havana. I was torn between it and a fancy figure eight, but I ran across this one in his size and my color on facebook, so it came home.

Micklem Competition Bridle
 List price: $189.95
What I paid: $150 (noted: these hold their value ridiculously well)

Why a Micklem

I was interested in the Micklem design for several reasons. I like the idea behind it, of fitting a bridle to the horse's face. I like the mechanics of it--it does make more sense biomechanically than a traditional plain cavesson bridle. I've also seen them popping up around the sport horse world more and more frequently. Sure, it could be a trend, but there was one easy way to find out if Courage wanted to get in on the trend.

An adorable Courage face
Up until this point, Courage had gone in a couple of Cuna's bridles. None of them fit him well. He probably went best in the figure eight, but it fit him most poorly. He spent most of his time in the crank/flash on Cuna's dressage bridle.

That was partly because it worked for him, but mostly because it was the only bridle that actually got small enough to fit his tiny head.

Courage looking cute

Design, Sizing, and Quality

When the Micklem arrived, I looked it over thoroughly. Despite being used, it was in excellent condition. The rings that hold the jaw strap and the nose strap on are sewn in to the bridle with nylon, which makes them much more durable. The leather quality is ok. It's sturdy and workmanlike, certainly not the dreamy luxury of an Antares (swoon!!), but it isn't nasty and plastic. I'm actually quite curious to see how it does with regular care--it's a little dry right now.

As for sizing... well, if you've ever looked these up on the internet, you quickly realized that the sizing information available was pathetic and useless. Here's what I can tell you.

Izzy with the bit clips
The people on the internet are correct--there's really no way you can measure this bridle that compare to a normal bridle. The browband? Given that those are changeable, not a super useful number.

That said, my mare wore a full size bridle and could sneak into an oversize. She wore the horse sized Micklem in newmarket with no trouble at all.

Courage, who is too small for Cuna's horse sized bridles, fits perfectly into the cob size.

That said, if you are in doubt, GO UP A SIZE. Seriously. Courage has the tiniest, narrowest, daintiest little face, and the nose strap is on the second hole. We tried this bridle on a 15.1h TrakehnerX, and it wouldn't buckle.

A note on the bit clips: I had these for Izzy's model. They were completely useless. I mean, maybe if your horse just happened to be the perfect size and you just liked how plastic looked on their face, maybe they would work. For the rest of us, if you want the bit more stable, use a full cheek or baucher.

The Micklem in Use

Now the important part: does it work? 

That depends on what you mean. It absolutely functions as a set of leather straps that hold the bit on my horse and facilitate riding, but I doubt that's what anyone is asking. 

Courage has been mouthy/busy, particularly when he was bored, stressed, or distracted. He went in a big shadow roll with his mouth tied shut on the track for a reason. That said, he wasn't presenting with any extreme/unexpected problems. He wasn't a compulsive head-rubber, he didn't seem agitated after rides, nothing like that.

I knew when I put it on him that it wasn't magical--he wasn't going to learn to go into the contact and carry himself just because he was wearing a new bridle. 

All that said. 

I think it works for him. He is noticeably quieter with his mouth and happier in his work than he was in a normal bridle. He doesn't fight me as much about taking contact and he doesn't crank his mouth open and lean on me. He still has other evasions. He twists his head and giraffes around and does normal green horse things. 

Honestly, I wasn't expecting the Micklem bridle to make any difference whatsoever, but he's definitely liking it and going better than he was before.

Final Thoughts

If your horse is happy in a normal bridle, there's no reason to switch over. As I mentioned, I had one of these for my mare and it didn't make one iota of difference in the way she went.

If you don't like how it looks... well, it's not for everyone. It's definitely distinctive and it doesn't work on many faces. Courage has a long, narrow face that does well with some business filling up space. Cuna would look downright silly with this much "stuff" going on.

It's not the magic bullet, but it works for us.

So... the tack 'ho at rest? I guess I don't get to keep hunting for my Antares after all. Courage is a Micklem Man. 


  1. Looks like a neat bridle! Glad to hear that it works for you. :)

  2. Too funny... Courage reminds me SO much of a TB jumper I know named Reggie, and Reggie wore a Micklem too! It's very flattering on him, I like it.

  3. All the ladies at my barn have "made the switch" but I honestly can't get into it. I think its exceptionally fugly on most horses (Courage not included, he looks smashing in it!). In addition I've noticed users tend to look down on those who haven't switched, like we are abusing our horses faces. Uhh, ok.

    I 'might' try it someday, but I'd feel like I was jumping on the trend train I don't really want to board. They all swear by it, but Yanks goes perfectly fine in our german crank nose. Not naysaying the users of the bridle though! Just not my style.

    1. I added a section to address your remarks. It's a cool bridle and it works for us. It doesn't work for everyone and there's certainly no moral superiority in using it, any more than there is for barefoot horses, snaffle users, or barrel racers.

      I would never have tried it if I was in your situation. How irritating. ;)

  4. That bridle looks seriously great on him!

  5. He looks good in the new bridle.

  6. I'm impressed you were able to get the cob size to fit. I couldn't get any of the buckles to close on Red (who I originally bought mine for, and who went in cob sized normal bridles). They are a weird sizing, for sure. Courage looks super cute in his!

    1. Courage has a ridiculously tiny face. It's hard to explain how small it is.

  7. I really need to get one for my pinto/arabian mare... she would adore the stability of this sort of bridle...

  8. Sweet! I've been curious to try one of these for a while. Thanks for the review

  9. Oh man, once again, that looks SO good on his face. It just really seems to work for some horses, especially with straight, tapered faces.

    I'm sad about the above commenter's situation with the morally superior boarders. I love Connor's Micklem for a variety of reasons, but no piece of tack is ever a one-size-fits-all solution. It hasn't kept Connor from trying to lay on my hands (that was my own fault and a magic piece of tack wouldn't fix it), but like you say he seems happier and steadier in it, and it's flattering. Win win.

    I've done a pretty good job taking care of mine and the leather is still ho-hum. I am a little worried about the little flap of leather behind the chinstrap breaking, do you get the same feeling? It's held on with two tiny little pieces of leather and it's constantly getting soaked in foam/treat crumbs.

    1. Time will tell, I guess. That flap doesn't look incredibly secure, but I'm hoping that if I don't mess with it that it doesn't just fall off and die. We'll see.


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