Thursday, February 13, 2014

Bridles Part 3: Extra Features

Now that we've discussed aesthetics, fit, and function, it's time to look at a couple a bridle parts that have a range of options available. Crown pieces and bit attachments have more potential variation than any other single piece of the bridle and it's worth knowing the different types and their uses so that you can figure out what best suits your needs.

Starting at the top:


Courage with a normal crown
Most bridles are made with a standard crown piece. In this model, the cavesson hanger is a narrow strap that runs under the crown and both pieces are held together by the browband. It's easy to adjust, easy to clean, and inexpensive.

There is nothing wrong with this kind of crown piece. It's worked for decades and horses are pretty much fine with them.

Courage with a padded monocrown
Then someone said: "horses are sensitive and there are a ton of nerve endings in the poll area. What if we padded the crown area to cater to sensitive horses?"

And someone else said, "I don't think horses really care, but their owners will. MARKET THIS SHIT."

It's called a padded monocrown.

Instead of two separate pieces, the cavesson hanger is merged with the crown and there's padding on the bottom. Do horses care?

I don't know. Mine haven't. I do like these in the winter time because long winter hair can't get pulled when it's caught between the straps.

That said. I really and truly haven't noticed a difference. At all.

And I specialize in sensitive horses. Your mileage may vary.

contoured padded monocrown
After the padded monocrown, someone thought to add contouring to make the crown go around the ears better.

It seems like a good idea. I did contact Brita at (love that site!) and she said that she gets a lot of returns on the contoured models because they can rub if they don't hit the ears just right. She doesn't have that problem with non-contoured crowns.

I've never had them rub, but I go through bridles at kind of an alarming rate.

Mojito and the comfort crown
There is also the padded crown (aka "comfort crown") option. I always think of it as the bastardized monocrown and I've never actually owned one. It operates on the same principle of alleviating pressure, but the cavesson hanger is just threaded through the crown piece. Does it work? Sure. Is it a PITA to adjust? Yeah. Easy to clean? Probably.

Now let's move down the horse's face:

Bit Attachments! 

And yeah, I get pretty excited about these. There are three different kinds.

The first is sewn. You sometimes see this on double bridles, but mostly only in old photos. It's super safe and very tidy looking, but good luck ever changing your bit or cleaning your bridle. These are a remnant of a different era. I'd steal a picture for you to see, but I just don't believe in stealing. Google it if you're curious.

Cuna with hook studs
The next kind is hook stud ends. I could write a long section about how these are the only acceptable end for the hunter ring, but but why take my word for it? Here's JenJ of Wyvern Oaks to deal with hook studs in a more comprehensive manner:

"My biggest issue with them is that they can fail unexpectedly and at the worst possible time, and because they are hidden, you have no idea when they might be ready to go. I've had two sets of reins fail in the last year - both times, the hook just pulled out during a ride. Both bridles had been disassembled and cleaned completely within a month of failing, and I check over equipment condition pretty carefully when I do that. I had no idea there were problems with the hooks. With buckle ends, it's easy to see all the hardware and leather, so it's easy to check the condition of all the parts.

"My other big complaint is that they tend to be VERY hard to get apart. Granted, I don't have super high-quality bridles, but for the most part they are well-oiled and broken in... but they are STILL very hard to get apart, especially when it's cold. Since I'm currently in a position of switching out bits on a regular basis, this is an extra pain in the butt."

Yeah. Not much I can add to that. Thanks JenJ!!

If you aren't up for sewn and are disenchanted with hook studs (and don't ride hunters), there is another option! World, meet buckle ends.

Courage has buckles
Buckles are easy to use, easy to clean, and very safe. They're also not as tidy looking as hook studs, so they get no love in the hunter world. They tend to be the attachment of choice in the eventing and dressage worlds.

There are so many bridle options. I sure hope you have half as much fun reading this as I do writing it. Crown pieces and bit attachments are just another piece of the puzzle. At the end of the day, you have to figure out what works best for you and your horse. I'm just trying to cover available options so you can make an informed decision (and/or spit fire at me in the comments. I like that too.)

Next time, I'll talk about bridle brands, leather quality, and common myths. :-D


  1. I have a Vespucci bridle that has the comfort crown and I LOVE it. It's actually pretty easy to size, because the noseband has buckles on both sides.

  2. I wuuuuv my buckle ends. So, so, easy. I don't think I could ever use hook studs again.

  3. Can I confess that I like hook studs? So much neater! But I hear you, they are annoying to fasten and unfasten, and while I've never had one fail while I was actually on the horse, my nags have broken quite a few.
    As for crowns, I like the comfort crown; it's easier to put on as well, since you don't have to fumble with the cavesson hanger and/or get mane or hair stuck between the straps. That said, I actually care less about the crown than about the head I'm putting it on. I adore bridle paths. I even trim bridle paths for non-working horses so that the fly masks they wear don't mess up their manes. Even for the draft-type shaggy things that would look stupid with four inches of mane missing, just two fingers' worth of hair removed from behind the ears makes life a whole lot easier. Especially for tall stallions who stand with their heads up while you try to put the bridle on.

  4. I love LOVE my buckle ends. I actually like how they look too. Loving this series - can't wait for the post on brands!

  5. I'm loving all this bridle info!
    Kika's bridle has the comfort crown (where noseband strap goes over headpiece) and while I lile the idea behind it as you rightly point out adjustment & cleaning IS a PITA.

  6. What about the reins?
    They may be purchased separately, but a bridle can't do much without them.

  7. Oh man, I HATE those freaking hooks. The day I realized that I was never going to own a bridle with them if I could avoid it, though, was the day I had to try and disassemble a bridle that, as far as I could tell, had not been completely disassembled since some time in the early 1980s... and that was 2005. There was a screwdriver involved...

    There are three other bit ends that you'll see, but they're primarily seen on western tack: leather ties, clips, and Chicago screws. (I don't ride western; I just live in the land of Quarter Horses... Some of the bridles are cute, though, and they work the same way!)

    Leather ties are just that - leather strips stuck through a pair of holes and tied. Like this: They're kind of a pain in the butt; they never re-tie again the same way, they can look bulky when you tie them, and untying them is almost as much of a pain in the rear as the hooks.

    Clips I've seen on trail bridles as well, but I tend to associate them specifically with western bridles. They're typically sewn on, but let you change bits pretty easily. Like this one:

    My favorite by far is the Chicago screws, though. They can have decoration on the post side (like conchos) or be a plain round stud; the other side is literally a flat-head screw. You, bridle, screwdriver, and a bit of patience, and you can typically change your bit in about 2 minutes. Although it would be hard to do while ON the horse... Like this:

    I've seen a few different browbands with the western stuff too - that last bridle's a good illustration, because there's the random metal bit between the throatlatch and the cheekpiece/crown piece. I honestly have no clue why it's like that. It just looks strange to me.

    And of course there's always the one-ear look. There's detachable: And built-in in either what's called "split-ear": And just plain old built in: And if you're feeling really ambitious, you can use a double-eared bridle:

  8. Love this series too! Had no idea they were called "hook stud" ends.

  9. very informative. I've never given this much thought but now thanks to you I can say that I have a padded monocrown with buckle bit attachments. I must say buckles are so much easier and I don't think I've ever looked at a bridle and thought about the bit attachments before. I guess it is a good thing we're not hunters!

  10. Love this series! Looking forward to the next part. I bought a padded monocrown on an impulse to satisfy what I thought was my hunter princess. I've since decided to enter eventing, and will be getting buckle ended items from here on out. Not a fan of the padded monocrown, my horse is just as comfortable in a traditional crown with a clipped bridlepath


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