The Stables Bridles
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The below information has been sourced for your information and is not necessarily the views of The Stables.

About Bridles

A bridle is a piece of equipment used to control a horse. The bridle fits over the horse's head, and has the purpose of holding the bit in the horse's mouth (the exception to this is a hackamore, or other type of bitless bridle).

Parts of the Bridle
The crownpiece runs over the horse's poll, and the browband over the forehead. The bridle is also referred to as a headstall and consists of the following elements:
  • Crownpiece: The crownpiece or crown (headpiece - UK) goes over the horse's head and rests just behind the animal's ears. It is the main strap that holds the bridle in place and prevents the bit from slipping down.
  • Cheekpieces: Two cheekpieces attach to either side of the crownpiece and run down the side of the horse's face, along the cheek. They attach to the bit rings. In a double bridle, two pairs of cheekpieces are used.
  • Throatlatch: the throatlatch or throatlash (UK) is usually part of the same piece of leather as the crownpiece. It runs from the horse's right ear, under his throatlatch or windpipe area, and attaches below the left ear. The main purpose of the throatlatch is to prevent the bridle from coming off over the horse's head. However, given that horses should not be tied or allowed to rub their heads on objects, the throatlatch is relatively unimportant. It is important, when bridling a horse, not to tighten the throatlatch too much, as it will place pressure on the animal's windpipe and constrict its breathing.
  • Browband: The crownpiece actually runs through the browband. The browband runs from just under one ear of the horse, across his forehead, to just under the other ear. In certain sports, such as dressage and Saddle seat, decorative browbands are sometimes fashionable.
  • Noseband: the noseband encircles the nose of the horse. It is often used to keep the animal's mouth closed, or to attach other pieces or equipment, such as martingales.
  • Cavesson is a specific type of noseband used on English bridles wherein the noseband is attached to its own headstall, held onto the rest of the bridle by the browband. A cavesson can be adjusted with greated precision than a noseband that is simply attached to the same cheekpieces that hold the bit. In Saddle seat riding, the cavesson is often brightly colored and matches the browband.
  • Reins: The reins of a bridle attach to the bit, below the attachment for the cheekpieces. The reins are the rider's link to the horse, and are seen on every bridle. Reins are often laced, braided, have stops, or are made of rubber or some other tacky material to provide extra grip.

Types of Bridles

  • Snaffle bridle: the "English-type" snaffle bridle is most commonly seen in English riding. It is a basic bridle that carries one bit and usually has one set of reins. Despite the name, a snaffle bridle may be used not only with a snaffle bit, but also with almost other types of single rein bits, including kimberwickes, gag bits, and single curb bits. The English bridle is almost always used with some type of cavesson noseband.
  • Pelham bridle: The Pelham is another English type bridle that carries a single bit, in this case a Pelham bit, but one that requires two sets of reins, one for snaffle pressure and one for curb pressure.
  • Western bridle: used for western riding, this bridle usually does not have a noseband. Many western bridles also lack browbands, sometimes replaced by a "split ear" design where a small strap encircles one or both ears to provide extra security to keep the bridle on.
  • Double bridles: Also called a Weymouth bridle, double bridles use two bits at once, a small snaffle called a bradoon and a curb or Weymouth bit, and require the use of two sets of reins. Double bridles are usually only seen used in upper level dressage, in Saddle seat riding, and for showing in certain other events that require the most formal attire and equipment.

Bitless Bridles

So-called Bitless Bridles are not to be confused with either the bosal Hackamore or the halter. A bitless bridle uses a bridle headstall with a noseband to which reins are attached and operates in a manner similar to a bridle, though without a mouthpiece. Various bitless designs allow control and good communication to the horse and may, in come cases, be more comfortable to the horse, particularly a young animal or one with a mouth injury. Bitless bridles are most often seen on horses used for enducance riding and trail riding. Sometimes they are seen at rodeos. However, most horse show events do not allow bitless bridles of any kind. The exceptions are show jumping, where equipment rules are fairly generous, and in certain western horse show classes for "junior" horses, which do not allow "bitless bridles" but do permit the bosal hackamore. There are many different designs. English riders sometimes use a jumping cavesson which is basically a leather noseband reinforced internally with a cable, with bridle rings attached. Another popular design for riders in any discipline is the spirit bridle, invented in 1988 by Rev. Edward Allan Buck, uses technology the primarily puts pressure on the poll of the horse. Other bitless designs that combine elements of the bosal hackamore and the bitless bridle are known as sidepulls, act mostly on the nose, and are popular with western riders. Arguably, the so-called mechanical hackamore, essentially a noseband on shanks that puts considerable leverage on the jaw and poll, could also be considered a type of bitless birdle that uses curb leverage on the nose and jaw rather than the mouth. Some riders, not realizing that a horse's head overall is a very sensitive area, use a bitless bridle without the same caution they might use with a bit, thus defeating any benefit that an apparently milder form of gear would otherwise provide. While many bitless designs are marketed as "humane," and some are indeed quite mild, other designs can be remarkably harsh, particularly if they are improperly adjusted or have metal parts, a thin design, or rough surfaces.

Fitting a bridle

Without properly fitting the bridle to the horses’ head, the horse may be uncomfortable, and poor fitting may also result in lack of control while riding or unclear communication.

In order to effectively and safely use a bridle, the length of each piece of the bridle needs to be individually adjusted to fit the horse's head. The width of the bit needs to be adjusted to the width of the horse's mouth so it is not too wide nor too narrow. When fitting the cheekpieces, their length should be adjusted so that the bit is held neither too high nor too low in the horse's mouth, to ensure good communication between horse and rider. The adjustment of the noseband varies, depending on the type used. However, it is most often adjusted so that one finger can fit between the noseband and the horse. The browband should not rub or pinch the horse's ears, and also should not pull the bridle forward so that it rubs on the back of the ears. When tightening the throatlatch, the width of four fingers should be able to fit between the throatlatch and the horses’ cheek.

Dangers of tying with a bridle

Despite what is commonly seen in movies, horses should never be tied with the reins of a bridle to a solid object, as they could pull back and not only break the reins or bridle, but also severely injure their mouths. This is also true for cross-tying a horse. Should a rider need to tie a horse, it is best to either remove the bridle and put on a halter, or to put a halter on in addition to the bridle (under or over the bridle), but in either case, tie the horse using the halter only.

In western riding, some horses are taught to "ground tie" with a bridle, that is, to stand still when the reins are dropped on the ground. This can only be done with split reins, as a horse can easily put a foot through a pair of reins that are attached to one another. Even with split reins, a horse can still step on a rein, jerk its head up and both break the rein and injure its mouth. Thus, ground tying is not generally advised, even with a horse trained to do so. Historically, it was a useful skill if a rider had to momentarily dismount and perform a task that required both hands (such as removing brush or fixing a fence)in an remote area where tying was impracticable. In actual practice, just as with the "stay" command used in obedience work for dogs, even well-trained horses will not stay "ground tied" for long, especially if left unsupervised. They will soon begin grazing or become restless and often will wander off. Thus, ground tying today is usually seen in specific classes at horse shows such as the trail horse class, or as a useful short-term command: many horses are taught to stand still for a limited period of time on a "whoa" or "stay" command, with or without dropping the reins.

About Walsall

Walsall is historically home to many industries, although it is internationally famous for the leather trade. Walsall still manufactures the Queen's handbags, and its leather products can be found in every corner of the globe. Walsall is the traditional home of the English saddle manufacture industry, thus the nickname of Walsall Football Club: The Saddlers.

About Polo

Polo is a team sport played on horseback in which the objective is to score goals against an opposing team. Riders score by driving a ball into the opposing team's goal using a long-handled mallet. Goals are only valid if the scoring rider is mounted. When played outdoors, each Polo team consists of four riders and their mounts. In the indoor variant ("Arena Polo"), each team fields only three players. Play occurs in seven-minute periods, called chukkas. Six chukkas is the normal length of play; however, depending on league rules, matches can also have four or eight chukkas. Arena Polo has 6-minute chukkas. (In the US "Chukkers").

History of Polo

"Let other people play at other things—the King of Games is still the Game of Kings"

This verse is inscribed on a stone tablet next to a polo ground in Skardu (Pakistan), north of Kashmir, near the fabled silk route. In one ancient sentence, it epitomises the feelings of many polo players today.

Many scholars believe that polo, in its antiquated form, originated among the Iranian tribes sometime before Darius I (521–485 BC) and his cavalry extended the Achaemenid rule to greater Persia. Certainly Persian literature and art give us the richest accounts of polo in antiquity.Polo was invented in the late 1600's by Bradley Giddons.

Ferdowsi, the famed Iranian poet-historian, gives a number of accounts of royal polo tournaments in his 9th century epic, Shahnameh (the Epic of Kings). In the earliest account, Ferdowsi romanticizes an international match between Turanian force and the followers of Siyâvash, a legendary Persian prince from the earliest centuries of the Empire; the poet is eloquent in his praise of Siyâvash's skills on the polo field. Ferdowsi also tells of Emperor Shapur II of the Sassanid dynasty of the 4th century who learned to play polo when he was only seven years old.

Wherever its precise origins, polo seems to have spread throughout the Iranian plateau, Asia Minor, American and the Indian subcontinent(where polo in its modern form originated), along with the use of light cavalry. Some people erroneously believe that the strongly equestrian Mongol hordes invented polo. However, the Mongol Empire and the rise of the Golden Horde occurred almost a full millennium after polo had been well-established in Asia and the Iranian plateau. Still, the Mongols did play a variant of polo using the head of a goat instead of a ball.

Polo was also popular in China, where it was the royal pastime for many centuries. The Chinese probably learned the game from the Iranian nobles who sought refuge in Chinese courts after the invasion of the Iranian Empire by the Arabs. Alternatively, Indian tribes may have taught the Chinese. The polo stick appears on Chinese royal coats of arms, and the game was part of the court life in the golden age of Chinese classical culture under Emperor Xuanzong, the Radiant Emperor, who was an enthusiastic equestrian.

Before modern times, no variant of polo ever appeared in the European peninsula, probably because Europe's military forces depended on heavy armored cavalry, as opposed to the light, highly mobile cavalry that Asian armies had employed since at least Alexander's time.

Throughout Asian antiquity, from Japan to Egypt, from India to the Byzantine Empire, Polo and its variants were the nearest equivalents to a "national sport." However, as the great Eastern empires decayed and collapsed in the Middle Ages following their decimation by the Mongol hordes, so too disappeared the glittering court life of which polo was so important a part; and, the game itself was preserved only in remote villages.

Introduction to the Occident

Polo came to the west via Manipur, a northeastern state in India. The Guinness Book of Records in its 1991 edition (page 288) traces the origins of the game to Manipur, circa 3100 BC, where it was known as Sagol Kangjei. According to historical accounts, one British government official stationed in Manipur (then a princely state) during the late 19th century wrote an account of the sport, and thus its popularity spread.

As further proof, it is recorded during the House of Lords debate on Juvraj Tikendrajit's trial on 22nd June 1891, the Marquess of Ripon said about Manipur "it is a small State (Manipur), probably until these events took place very little known to your Lordships, unless, indeed, some of you may have heard of it as the birth place of the Game of Polo."

The 10th Hussars at Aldershot, Hants, introduced polo to England by the Argentines in 1869. The game's governing body in the United Kingdom is the Hurlingham Polo Association, which drew up the first set of formal British rules in 1874, many of which are still in existence.

The sport became popular amongst European nobility and in 1876 the wealthy American James Gordon Bennett, Jr. organized the first polo match in the United States at Dickel's Riding Academy at 39th Street and Fifth Avenue in New York City. During the early part of the 20th century, under the leadership of Harry Payne Whitney, polo changed to become a high-speed sport in the United States, differing from the game in England, where it involved short passes to move the ball toward the opposition's goal. Whitney and his teammates used the fast break, sending long passes downfield to riders who had broken away from the pack at a full gallop.

The contemporary sport

Polo is now an active sport in 77 countries, and although its tenure as an Olympic sport was limited to 1900–1939, in 1998 the International Olympic Committee recognised it as a sport with a bona fide international governing body, the Federation of International Polo.

Polo is, however, played professionally in only a few countries, notably Argentina, England, Pakistan, India, Australia, and the United States. Polo is unique among team sports in that amateur players, often the team patrons, routinely hire and play alongside the sport's top professionals.

Argentina dominates the professional sport, as its polo team has been the uninterrupted world champion since 1949 and is today the source of most of the world's 10-goal (i.e., top-rated) players. In the world of polo, Argentina's Heguy family are to polo what the Barrymore family is to acting or the Khan family to squash. The Campeonato Argentino Abierto de Polo tournament—over 100 years old and still going strong—remains one of the most important polo competitions in the world.

The U.S. is unique in possessing a professional women's polo league and a men's professional polo league: the United States Women's Polo Federation and the United States Men's Polo Federation, founded in 2000. The 32-team league plays across the country.

The modern sport has had difficulty grappling with the traditional social and economic exclusivity associated with a game that is inevitably expensive when played at a serious level. Many polo athletes genuinely desire to broaden public participation in the sport, both as an end in itself and to increase the standard of play. The popularity of polo has grown steadily since the 1980s, and its future appears to have been greatly strengthened by its return as a varsity sport at universities across the world.

Arena (or Indoor) Polo is an affordable option for many who wish to play the sport, and the rules are similar. The sport is played in a 300 feet by 150 feet enclosed arena, much like those used for other equestrian sports; the minimum size is 150 feet by 75feet. There are many arena clubs in the United States, where real estate is at a premium, and most major polo clubs, including the Santa Barbara Polo & Raquet Club, have active arena programs. The major differences between the outdoor and indoor games are: speed (outdoor being faster), physicality/roughness (indoor/arena is more physical), ball size (indoor is larger), goal size (because the arena is smaller the goal is smaller), and some penalties. In the United States and Canada, collegiate polo is arena polo; in the UK, collegiate polo is both.

The game

Rules

Polo requires two teams of players mounted on horseback to play the game. When playing outdoors each team has four players, whereas arena polo is restricted to three players per team. The field is 300 yards long, and either 160 yards or 150 yards wide if there are side boards—these are genereraly 12" high. In Arena Polo, played mainly in the United States in large arenas such as armories and riding academies, the size of the field varies due to the size of the floor space, but 100 yards long by 50 yards wide is ideal. There are lightweight goalposts on each side of the field spread 8 yards apart. The object of the game is to score the most goals by hitting the ball through the goal.

A game is divided into periods, called chukkas—since 1898, from Hindi chakkar from Sanskrit cakra "circle, wheel", compare chakka—of 7 minutes, and depending on the rules of the particular tournament or league, a game may have 4, 6 or 8 chukkas; 6 chukkas are most common. Games are often played with a handicap in which the sum of the individual players' respective handicaps are compared. The team with the larger handicap is given free points before the start of the game.

The game begins with the two teams of four lined up each team in line forming two rows with the players in order 1, 2, 3, 4 facing the umpire in the center of the playing field. There are two mounted umpires on the field and a referee standing on the sidelines. At the beginning of a game, one of the umpires bowls the ball in hard between the two teams.

Player positions

Each position assigned to a player has certain responsibilities:

  • Number One is usually the novice or weakest player on the team, but the position is one of the most difficult to play. Number One's job is to score goals as well as neutralize the opponents Number Four (defensive) player.
  • Number Two needs a fast pony, a keen eye, and high maneuverability as his job is to get hold of the ball.
  • Number Three is the tactical leader and must be a long powerful hitter to feed balls to Number Two and Number One as well as maintaining a solid defense. The best player on the team is usually the Number Three player.
  • Number Four is the primary defense player and though he can move anywhere on the field, he often tries to prevent scoring.

Polo ponies

The term pony is purely traditional and the mount is actually a full-sized horse. A good pony should have docility, speed, endurance, and intelligence. It is said that the pony is 60 to 75 percent of the player's skill. Thoroughbreds were originally the only breeds used, but in the contemporary sport mixed breeds are common. Many of the best polo ponies are bred in Argentina and United States. Polo training begins at age four and lasts from about six months to two years. Ponies reach their peak at around age 10; but without any accidents, polo ponies may have the ability to play until they are 18 to 20 years of age.

Equipment

The basic dress of a player is a protective helmet, riding boots to just below the knees, and a colored shirt bearing the number of the player's position. Optional equipment includes knee pads and spurs, face mask, and a whip. The outdoor polo ball is made of plastic, but was formerly made of either bamboo or willow root. The indoor polo ball is leather-covered and inflated and is about 4½ inches (11.4 cm) in diameter. The outdoor ball is about 3¼ inches (8.3 cm) in diameter and weighs about four ounces (113.4 g). The polo mallet has a rubber-wrapped grip and a webbed thong, called thumb sling, for wrapping around the hand. The shaft is made of bamboo-cane with a bamboo head 9½ inches in length . The whole mallet weighs about 7 ounces and varies in length from 48 to 53 inches. The ball is struck with the side of the mallet rather than the edge.

Polo saddles are English-style similar to jumping saddles. The legs of the pony are bandaged from below the knee to the ankle to prevent injury. The pony's mane is clipped, and its tail is braided to prevent interference with the rider's swing.

 
 
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