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There are many different types of saddle and bridle. For the novice, a general purpose saddle and a snaffle bridle are most suitable. They must be carefully fitted.

What Type Of Saddle Do I Need?
The type of saddle depends on the particular needs of the rider. Show jumping, eventing, dressage, showing, sidesaddle and racing - all have their own types of saddle, adapted to take into account the different features of each style of riding. For the novice a general-purpose saddle is best. Saddle size is measured from the pommel to the cantle, and standard sizes are 15 to 17 inches.

How Can I Tell If My Saddle Is A Good Fit?
A good saddle should be well balanced: its weight should be evenly distributed, with no undue pressure on wither or back. The front arch must not be so narrow as to pinch the withers, or so wide as to allow it to press down on them; there must be no pressure on the horse's spine (to avoid pressure sores) and there should be a clear tunnel through the saddle when viewed from behind. The fit should be checked visually when someone is in the saddle. The advice of a reputable saddler is strongly advocated.

What Kind Of Girth Is Best?
There are four main types of girth: webbing, leather, string, and nylon. Within these types there are other features to be considered - safety, ease of cleaning, and how easy it is to ensure that chafing does not occur. In the past, two webbing girths were commonly used, the second as a safety measure in case the first one broke. But webbing girths tend to rot, are hard to keep clean, and are seldom used today. Leather girths are probably the best, being strong, easy to clean with saddle soap, but need oiling from time to time in order to keep them supple. Nylon makes a good material for a general-purpose girth and is easy to clean. String girths are also satisfactory and less likely to cause galls than other forms (they are particularly useful on unclipped animals). A sheepskin or similarly padded sleeve is sometimes put around a girth as an extra protection against chafing or girth galls (which can be a problem in fat, unfit horses newly in work).

What Kind Of Bridle And Bit Does My Horse Need?
There are three types of bridle: single, double and hackamore. The single bridle is used most often; the other types are used only by very experienced riders. The bridle enables the rider to control the horse by applying pressure and leverage variously to one, other, or a combination of the corners of the mouth, the tongue, the bars of the mouth (areas of gum in front of the cheek teeth), the front of the nose and the poll - depending on the type of bridle and bit.
Bits can be made of any of a number of materials. Forged steel is best - and most expensive. Plated steel may chip; nickel and other softer alloys may wear and cut the mouth, and are unsuitable. Rubber and vulcanite bits are also used, and are softer than steel. The most common bit is the snaffle. This is used for the early education of young horses, and unless very fine control is required, or firmer control, most horses are ridden with one form or another of this bit.
In fact, there is a bewildering variety of snaffle bits. The simplest is a jointed snaffle with rings, which exerts its effect by leverage on the sides of the mouth. On some horses the rings tend to pinch the corners of the mouth, in which case a hinged ring is fixed to the jointed mouthpiece (to create an egg-butt snaffle), a commonly - used device to overcome this problem. Snaffles can have straight bars or be jointed; the severity of the bit depends on the material from which it is made, the thickness, the shape, and the means of jointing the mouthpiece. A German snaffle has a broad mouthpiece and is mild, compared with a racing snaffle which is narrow; a twisted snaffle, in which the steel looks as if it has been wound up from one end, is much more severe than vulcanite.

What Other Bridles Are Used?
Double bridles give more precise control and are used in advanced equitation; they also allow greater control of head carriage and are used in showing and dressage. Double bridles should not be used on a horse or pony until the animals are fully accustomed to responding to a bit - that is, they have been well schooled in the use of a snaffle. The upper bit (the bridoon) is a thin snaffle; the lower (the curb) is H-shaped; and the combination makes a variety of instructions possible - by exerting pressure on the tongue, the bars of the mouth, the jaw (via the curb chain), and the poll (by means of leverage).
Similar to English tack, there are numerous varieties of Western bridles and bits. Depending on your preference, there is an assortment of styles and types to suit all needs.

What Other Bits Are Used?
A Pelham bit is a variation of the curb bit that combines something of the effects of a curb and a snafffle in one bit. There are different types, which exert varying pressures on the bars of the mouth and, via the curb chain, on the chin groove. This bit can be used with two reins, but a leather loop between the bit rings (a Pelham converter) is sometimes employed to allow the use of a single rein - this lessens the effect of the bit in that it cannot act on both the corners of the mouth and the chin groove at the same time. For this reason, the bit is sometimes used on ponies that are too strong for their riders. A Kimblewick bit works on the same principle, and is used for the same purpose, although it is quite severe and must be used with caution. A hackamore bridle has no bit in the mouth; it exerts pressure on the nose, chin groove and poll. It is severe and is used only by expert riders on problem horses, and is not recommended for normal riding.

Does My Horse Need A Noseband?
A cavesson is an almost universal addition to a bridle. It serves no useful purpose and is generally added purely to improve appearance - although it may be used to attach a standing martingale. Sometimes sheepskin is added to the front of the noseband to reduce a horse's vision and thus to keep its head down. A dropped noseband is used to stop a horse opening its mouth or crossing its jaw; it is narrower than a cavesson, and is fitted below a snafffle bit. It is sometimes used together with a cavesson noseband (in which case the combination is called a flash noseband), especially if a standing martingale is also needed. A crossed noseband (a grackle) has an additional strap running above the bit, and is used for the same purpose as a dropped noseband but is more effective.

Does My Horse Need A Martingale?
Martingales are used to increase control of the head or to alter the pull of the reins. A running martingale has very little effect, but ensures that the pull of the reins comes from the correct direction, irrespective of what else the rider does with his or her hands. In addition, the neck strap is very useful for a novice rifler to hang on to! A standing martingale runs from the girth to a cavesson noseband. It is helpful on a horse that throws its head about in the air, and is frequently supplied for novice riders of ponies in riding schools. Irish martingales are used to prevent the reins from going over the horse's head, and are not often necessary.

My Saddle Slips: Is There Anything That Could Stop It From Doing So?
First check that the saddle is a good fit and is sufficiently padded. This is especially important on horses that have a poor conformation (low withers) or on those that have lost a lot of body condition. In either case, a numnah (a saddle shaped pad of sheepskin, rubber, felt or padded material) or foam pad may help prevent the saddle from slipping sideways. On a very thin or narrow chested horse there is often the problem that the saddle tends to slip backwards along the loins. A breastplate, consisting of a neck-strap passing to the girth (between the forelegs) and anchored to the D-rings on the front of the saddle, may help to hold it in place. Likewise, a breast girth - a webbing strap that runs around the front of the chest and is attached to both sides of the girth - may have the same effect. On small ponies, the saddle tends to slip forwards from the withers up the neck, particularly when the animal puts its head down to eat. An adjustable leather strap leading from the back of the saddle around the dock - a crupper - should overcome this problem.

What Are Saddle Galls?
A gall is a thickening of the skin resulting from pressure and friction from ill-fitting tack. Saddle galls are found on the withers and the middle of the back, usually on top of the raised vertebral processes of the backbone. Sometimes galls may occur on the side of the backbone because the gullet of the saddle is not wide enough and the saddle is pinching. In every case, removing the source of the pressure is essential. A numnah or a foam pad that has had the relevant area above the pressure point cut out should ease the pressure and enable the skin to heal.

What Can I Do To Help A Sore Mouth?
First check that the bit is of the correct width - a jointed snaffle (when pulled straight in the mouth) should protrude 1/4 inch on either side. The cheek straps should also be checked to make sure that these are adjusted properly to keep the bit in the correct position - just touching the corners of the mouth. Some individuals have very soft skin at the corners of the mouth: for them the mildest possible snaffle bit should be used and, if the lips are cut, an ointment should at once be employed to aid healing. Cracked lips do not heal easily, and tend to crack repeatedly unless treated. Pressure from the rings or the sidebars of a bit can be prevented by using rubber bit-stops.
A common cause of horses' 'hanging' or failing to take the bit is dental problems. Sore cheeks result if the bit is pulled on to sharp cheek teeth. And of course horses develop a sore mouth if too severe a bit is used - it should be stressed that horses often pull if a bit is too harsh, and a horse that is difficult to control because it pulls should be tried with a milder bit rather than with a more severe one.

What Other Clothing, Or Accessories, Might My Horse Need?
Rugs are used to keep horses warm in the stable, especially when clipped. A horse blanket fitted underneath the rug provides additional warmth when required. Such blankets may be kept in place by a roller of leather or webbing, which protects the spine from pressure, and is preferable to a surcingle (a plain strap), which may cause rubbing. Waterproof, canvas-covered New Zealand rugs protect a horse at grass from the weather, and any of a variety of anti-sweat rugs and sheets may be used after exercise.
Protective clothing is important for traveling. Many different types of boots are also available to protect horses from injury in accidents or from faults in their own action. Boots like this include brushing, speedicut, coronet, knee, hock, overreach, tendon and traveling boots.

  • Western Saddle
  • Western Bridle
  • English Saddle
  • English Bridle
  • Halter
  • Bits