Each horse should have it’s own equipment. Thus it can be adjusted to the proper fit of an individual horse. This equipment should be selected to suit the intended use and fit both horse and rider. As in the purchase of almost anything you get what you pay for.
Following will be pertinent facts about some of the more common tack items. Certainly not all tack items will be listed. As an example, a halter and lead shank are standard equipment used to catch a horse in a pasture or corral and to lead it from one place to another or to tie while grooming, saddling or just working around the horse.
The bit is the most important part of the bridle. The main use of a bridle is to hold a bit in the proper position in the horses mouth. Bits are the most numerous article of horse equipment. It is interesting to note that the snaffle bit which was the first bit recorded in history is still the most widely used bit today. The proper fit and adjustment are essential no matter what type you choose.The bit should rest easily in the mouth. Be wide enough so it does not pinch the lips against the teeth. Usually a curb style bit will ride lower in the mouth than a snaffle. The cheek of the bit should be large enough to prevent the bit from passing through the mouth during turns. Here are the general used for each style of bit.
A. Snaffle bits are generally used to start a young horse in training.
B. Curb bits are more severe and can be used alone or with a snaffle. This would include the Pelham and weymouth bits or any bit that has a lever action. Most all Western bits are curb bits.
C. Pelham bits are a single bit but can be used with two reins and a curb chain or curb strap. Actually it is a combination of a curb bit and snaffle bit. It can be used on hunters for park, polo and pleasure.
D. A weymouth bit which has long shanks is a curb bit. It is generally used with a bradoon which is a snaffle with a smaller ring
F. It is worthwhile to note that shanked bits that employ the use of a curb strap or chain act as curb bits even if the mouthpiece is a jointed mouth or snaffle. All curb bits will place pressure on the tongue, lips, jaw and poll. The type of mouth piece will determine how much pressure, where and when it is applied. The shank with it’s differing lengths and angles will determine the degree of pressure and how quickly a signal will pass from the riders hands to the horse.
Bridles and Hackamores
Bridles are available in a number of styles, however they fall into two categories single or double bridles. A single bridle is equipped with one bit whereas a double bridle is usually equipped with both a snaffle bit and a curb bit, two headstalls and two pairs of reins. Only one rein is used with Western bridles.
All bridles should be properly fitted, and the headstall should be located so that it neither slides back on the horses neck or pulls against the ears. Cheek straps should be adjusted at lengths so that the bit rest in the proper position in the horses mouth without drawing up the corners of the mouth. The throatlatch should be buckled loosely with about three inches of slack.
Both the bosal hackamore and mechanical hackamore bit bridles are used as training devices for Western horses and on horses with tender mouths. The bosal hacamore consists of an ordinary headstall which holds a braided rawhide or rope noseband that is knotted under the horse’s jaw, and a pair of reins. This is an excellent device for training or controlling young horses without causing injury to their mouth. When adjusted correctly, the hackamore should rest on the horse’s nose, about four inches from the top of the nostrils or at the base of the cheek bone. It should be fitted so that the passage of two fingers breadth may pass between it and the branches of the jaw. Because on most hackamores there is no mouthpiece signals are placed on the bridge of the noes and on the side of the face as well as under the jaw. More recently the combination hackamore has been introduced which also employ a mouthpiece.
The introduction of saddles changed the course of history. The so called saddle cloth was first introduced about 800 B.C. However saddles with trees were not introduced until about the fourth century AD. This allowed the use of stirrups which was a major change in the was wars were fought. Different countries have designs that suited their particular uses at the time they were employed. However the English and Western saddles are the two most commonly used today.