October 18, 2011
Top five tips for easy bridling and unbridling.
Bridling your horse should be a simple process, but like anything else … if you’re not careful or try to rush, you could be asking for trouble. Take your time and follow these five steps every time.
1. When you go to bridle your horse, first untie his lead rope from the fence.
Tie the halter around the neck, to give yourself a “safety net” in case he tries to pull away.
The same is true when you take off the bridle; never try to re-halter your horse with a halter that’s tied to the fence. Only one good thing could happen (your horse is compliant and lets you do it), but there are lots of bad things that could happen.
I like to handle my horses around their heads a lot, to get them accustomed to haltering and bridling. They’re relaxed about the process.
2. First, holding the headstall up with your right hand, ask the horse to accept the bit.
You can put your left thumb in the corner of his mouth to ask him to open up, while holding the bit in place with your fingers.
Brad and Valerie Kearns explain why showmanship is the perfect event for people who can’t afford an expensive horse in this AQHA FREE report, Showmanship Basics.
3. Fold one ear forward and pull the headstall over it, then do the same with the other ear.
Most bridles adjust on the left side (some have adjustments on both sides), so I’m in position if I need to move the buckle up or down a notch.
If you’re using a new headstall or bridling a different horse, it’s better to have it too big rather than too small. If it’s too big, you can adjust it once it’s on the horse.
But if it’s too small, you’ll be trying to let it out halfway through the bridling process.
4. People have different ideas about how tight the bit should be in the mouth, but generally speaking, you don’t want it to be pulling too much on the corners of the mouth or hanging too loose, either.
The Showmanship Basics report offers numerous full-color photos of Nicole Barnes and her Quarter Horse, Zippos Ace Of Spades, modeling correct and incorrect showmanship positions.
5. When it’s time to unbridle the horse, slide the headstall forward off his ears and then allow him to release the bit.
Don’t pull the bit out of his mouth, just let it release naturally. This is another good time to pet his head and encourage him to relax.
Dennis is an AQHA member and tack expert who has been making quality work tack since 1976. At Dennis Moreland Tack, Dennis makes high-quality handmade tack, utilizing the best designs possible. He is a frequent contributor to America’s Horse.