You may be able to ride a horse without a saddle, although it isn’t the safest idea, but few people can control their horses without a bridle. The bridle is designed to connect the bit in a horse’s mouth with the reins in the rider’s hands. This enables the rider to signal his horse to stop or turn.
Since a bridle is such an important part of your horse’s tack, you should be sure that you buy one that is the right style and size for your horse. Luckily, since bridles are almost fully adjustable, few horses have problems with a bridle being too small or too large, so you won’t have to worry about taking measurements unless you have a draft horse or a pony.
If you ride horses in the English style, then you will need to buy an English bridle. For people who ride for pleasure, the traditional standard snaffle bridle is the perfect choice. This bridle can be used in beginner show classes, as well. However, if your horse is hard to control, your trainer may recommend using a slightly different model, such as the snaffle bridle with a flash noseband or a snaffle bridle with a drop nose. These bridles make it difficult for a horse to spit out his bit.
If you are interested in doing dressage work, you can begin working with your horse using a snaffle bridle, but you can’t compete in events without using a dressage bridle. If you ride saddle seat, which is not very common, you will need a double bridle, which controls the height of your horse’s head with one set of reins and provides traditional stopping and turning signals with the other set.
For people who ride Western style, there are several very different bridle choices. The traditional Western bridle is fairly similar to a standard English snaffle bridle, except that it does not have a noseband. However, both of the other common Western bridle styles, the bosal and mechanical hackamore bridles, have no browbands and no bits. Instead of using a bit to control the horse, Western riders that use these bridles control their horses with pressure to the noseband. If you are interested in using a hackamore bridle, keep in mind that the bosal model is used to train horses to use a hackamore, while the mechanical hackamore is the model you will want to buy for your horse.
To buy a bridle, you can go to your local feed and tack shop or you can shop online and have the model you want shipped directly to your door. However, for people on a budget, there is also a third option, buying a used bridle. Check bulletin boards and local classifieds for people selling used tack. Make sure you take a close look at used bridles before you make your purchase, since some of them can be extremely moldy due to improper cleaning or have loose stitching. Of course, with some elbow grease and saddle soap, you can clean up a bridle, but the price should reflect the work involved. However, don’t buy a bridle with loose stitching, since a broken bridle could have dangerous consequences.