As with saddles, there are many different types of bridles but today I will address Western bridles. Within the category of Western bridles there are also many different kinds, but here I will do my best to talk about the main types. For example, in the picture above Moose has on a standard Western bridle with a browband and split reins. Most Western bitless bridles, like hackamores, are put on the same way (obviously minus the bit), but there may be some variation so keep that in mind. Here is a step-by-step guide on how to bridle your horse with a Western bridle:
1. If your bridle has a bit, make sure that it is clean; it’s only fair to the horse to give them a clean bit to put in their mouths.
2. Regardless of what kind of reins you’re using, put them over the horse’s head and around the neck. This is a safety precaution so that your horse will not step on the reins as you put on the bridle and so that you can keep the equipment in your hands organized.
3. Unbuckle the halter, slip the noseband off the nose, and slide it down your horse’s neck, then re-buckle it. This step makes sure that you still maintain some control over your horse while their face is temporarily naked.
4. Stand on the left side of your horse next to their face. Hold the bit in your left hand while holding the rest of the bridle, or just the crown piece, in your right hand. Offer the bit to your horse by either touching it to their lips or just presenting it. If your horse doesn’t take the bit well, that’s another issue altogether that I will address in a separate post. Depending upon the bit, you may have a curb strap, and if you do make sure that it doesn’t go into your horse’s mouth. The curb strap should have about two finger-spaces between the chin and the strap itself. Note: if you have a hackamore or bitless bridle, this step is as simple as sliding the noseband onto your horse’s nose.
5. This next step can be done one of two different ways: you can either move your right hand between the horse’s ears to ask the horse to lower its head or you can reach over the neck (or under, in my case, because it is easier on my shoulder and my horse is tall even when he lowers his head). Slip the crown piece over the horse’s ear—I like to start with the ear closest to me but some people do it the other way—and make sure that the browband is sitting correctly (if you have one). If you have a one-ear bridle, do the same thing but after you slide the crown piece on put the correct ear into the one-ear piece.
6. Do up your throatlatch, making sure that you have about two finger-spaces between the jaw and the throatlatch.
7. Take the reins down from around your horse’s neck so that you can lead them easily.
Steps 4 and 5 should be done in one or two smooth, fluid motions but I chose to break it down into separate steps to give you more detail. Be sure that not only the bridle fits well but the bit, too, as this is something that can greatly affect your horse’s response to aids and its comfort. The bridle should always go on last to ensure the safety of your horse.