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clk
Jul. 31, 2011, 08:34 AM
Hi,

I did a search on this topic and didn't find what I was looking for, although this has surely been discussed before. I apologize in advance if I am repeating.

The last bridle I purchased was in 1996. I don't even know the brand, just that it was moderately priced. Not the cheapest and not the most expensive.

I've taken care of it, and the bridle is fine. But it's too big for my new horse. I've been looking for a new bridle (brown, plain noseband) and the choices are staggering. You can pay $40 or $400. I'd like to buy a nice bridle, as I keep them. I care not a fig about fashion or status, I just want a good quality bridle. Is there a real difference in quality between a $100 and a $200 bridle? Is the difference between a $200 and a $400 bridle really quality or just brand name? If a $400 bridle is really much better, I would buy it. But I can't really tell the difference.

Any thoughts on how and why you differentiate between quality and fashion would be appreciated.

Old Fashioned
Jul. 31, 2011, 09:44 AM
No matter what the price a quality bridle should have the same characteristics:

How is the sizing? Will you have to have individual parts shortened or replaced?
Look at the stitching. It should be small and uniform (at least 22 stitches per inch)
Check the buckles and holes. The buckles shouldn't look cheap and should be sewn in tight. The buckle holes should also be small and uniform
SMELL the leather. It should smell like good quality leather. If it smells oily or rancid move on and find something else.
Feel the leather. The leather should be smooth and thick on both sides. If it's rough on the bottom it hasn't been finished correctly. It should have the texture of a good quality shoe.
Look at the pores. The leather shouldn't be dry or oily. It's ok if it feels waxy or if there is a white/yellowish residue to the top. That is just the dressing or preservative put on by the manufacturer.
Roll and bend the leather. It should roll smoothly and there shouldn't be any cracking.
Look at any padding. It should be soft and smooth. It shouldn't look plasticy. If the padding is white or dyed gently scrape your fingernail over the leather to make sure the dye won't wear off easily. Sheepskin should be sewn in not glued.
Check the keepers. Are they the right size for the leather? Will they do their job of keeping everything tidy or will they slide down all the time?
Factor in the cost of having anything adjusted. $5-10 per keeper, $15-25 per strap.


I've had $400+ bridles fail miserably and I've had $100+ pass with flying colors.

I like the Micklem (http://www.doversaddlery.com/the-rambo-micklem-original-multibridle/p/X1-12672/cn/4515/) bridle for everyday but for more conventional bridles I think Pink Equine (http://www.pinkequine.com/) or Bobby's Signature (http://www.tackzone.com/catalog/signature-series-c-455.html?osCsid=aa144dd533b022d75469243c5909c959) are the best dollar to quality value. Personally I love Pink Equine because I love sparkly things! :winkgrin:

kkindley
Jul. 31, 2011, 10:07 AM
I feel your pain. I had older, high quality stuff. (Think 20+ year old leathers that would still pass a PC turnout, and were still equal length, and unlined) started back up again and needed some new things. I've had a hard time dealing with the quality/price. For bridles, I really like the Nunn Finer/Bartville stuff. I have 2 bridles from them now and they get used daily and clean up lovely for shows. They've gotten rained on, etc and held up well. The only thing they don't like is oil, that will make them stretch a bit. They prefer conditioner. The good thing about them is you can (cheaply) buy replacement parts that match. For example, my horse needs cob cheekpieces, and Bartville swapped those out for me, and took a couple dollars off for the price difference in the size. I went ahead and bought horse cheeks too, saving myself a trip later, figuring I would need them some day.

I also have a Collegiate bridle and although it hasn't been used as much, it seems nice as well.

baxtersmom
Jul. 31, 2011, 10:42 AM
I am a huge fan of Stubben bridles - the leather is super pliable but not soft and wears forever. Can't beat the price - I usually pay around $100 for a used one off eBay.

vineyridge
Jul. 31, 2011, 11:02 AM
Think about this.
IMO, the fancier the bridle the more you are paying for labor and glitz, not leather. Padded nosebands and browbands (and bling) require more stitching, thinner leather on the outside, leather that you can't see under the padding, and something as padding. It stands to reason, at least my reason, that the old fashioned plain hunt bridles will last longer, be easier to condition and clean, and have more replaceable parts when needed. The leather that is used has to be defect free and thicker, and it's all visible. I have a Smith Worthington, made in India of all places from English leather, that is years old, good quality, and will outlast me.

You can get a very top quality hunt bridle from one of the hunting tack shops for a lot less than $200. Bartville might make you one with buckles instead of studs, and it still will be less than the big tack companies charge for their padded, stitched standard bridles.

Far_North_Equestrian
Jul. 31, 2011, 12:18 PM
If you like bling, such as the Pink Equine bridles, do an Ebay search for FSS bridles. They're the same quality at sometimes 1/2 the price.

hightide
Jul. 31, 2011, 12:34 PM
I feel like sometimes when you pay for the expensive bridles, you're just getting really soft leather. Sure, soft leather is great, but I like my bridle leather to be a little more durable so all the sweat and grime it comes in contact with doesn't ruin it, or stain it, or whatever.
One of the best, new bridles like this (or so I've found) are the Circuit bridles from Dover. They've been pliable, easy to break in, but are very durable and have put up to a lot of sweat and dirt over 3 years, with infrequent cleanings.

goodmorning
Jul. 31, 2011, 01:00 PM
There are absolutely differences in leather quality. A high quality ages well, has stitching that can withstand years of use, and has a different feel in your hands. There are various different types of leather - for instance, Five Star tack has sturdier stuff, Antares is a buttery soft pliable type. I prefer a sturdier type for every-day & XC use. The super-soft type is just as suitable, but, considering these are costly items I'd rather keep them for other purposes.

I think money is well-spent on quality bridle-work. And with some investigative work, you can usually find great deals on the higher-end brands (ebay, craigslist, premier tack outlet, COTH, to name a few).

My Dover Circuit bridle has taken a lot of abuse & still looks great. No, the leather & detail isn't anywhere near as nice as say, my Five Star bridle, but it cleans up well & I don't mind putting it on the 2yr old. Also been reading rave reviews on the Harwich bridle offered by Smartpak if you want to go that route.

Galadriël Fëfalas
Jul. 31, 2011, 03:56 PM
I bought a really cheap bridle online when I bought my horse (just in case he was a vandal who destroyed things!) it cost me less than €30, and was made in England from "imported leather", don't know where it was imported from, but so far (two years later) it's still going strong. I checked it over thoroughly when I got it to make sure the buckles and stitching were in good order and that the leather wasn't weak or 'strange'. It's not stretched, or faded, or done anything you'd expect a cheapo bridle to do.

I bought a more expensive brand name bridle about a year ago and I hate it, the leather is hard, especially on the edges and the buckles are stiff... blergh

CarolinaGirl
Jul. 31, 2011, 04:28 PM
I like the Micklem (http://www.doversaddlery.com/the-rambo-micklem-original-multibridle/p/X1-12672/cn/4515/) bridle for everyday but for more conventional bridles I think Pink Equine (http://www.pinkequine.com/) or Bobby's Signature (http://www.tackzone.com/catalog/signature-series-c-455.html?osCsid=aa144dd533b022d75469243c5909c959) are the best dollar to quality value. Personally I love Pink Equine because I love sparkly things! :winkgrin:

I've now been oogling the Equine Pink bridles (the ones you can get with colored piping not the bling ones) all day... and I don't even OWN a horse right now. It's just wrong! I would like the grackle bridle with royal please! :D

Trixie
Jul. 31, 2011, 04:39 PM
I've had $400+ bridles fail miserably and I've had $100+ pass with flying colors.

Agree, and that was a really useful write up of what to look for.

I have a Treadstone bridle - $100 - that is absolutely gorgeous, and some tack that was much more expensive and not so nice. A lot of times you can also find very high quality used bridles for very reasonable prices (I would know. I have a tack room full of them). It helps, though, if you have a local consignment shop so you can go feel them in person.

Mali
Jul. 31, 2011, 05:05 PM
The Five Star Tack bridle I bought off their sale/clearance section for $130 is hands down one of the best made bridles I've seen/felt/smelled in a long time! It was supposed to be a schooling bridle, but it's sooooooo nice, that it only comes out for show now. There is not a single thing about it that I could suggest for improvement. When I have a bad day, I pull it off the peg in the house and just "fondle" it for about 2 minutes and my whole world then fills with rainbows and butterflies ;)

FWIW, the quality of my Stubben does not thrill me. In fact, I haven't used it in so long (because it's near death) that I completely forget where I even put it. I have an old Courbette that I like, but over time the leather has separated underneath the noseband and I'm tired of having it repaired.

I would save up my pennies and buy another Five Star in a heartbeat! Their customer service has been wonderful as well. They are #1 on my list.

Old Fashioned
Jul. 31, 2011, 06:58 PM
Carolina Girl - Did you see the matching equipment (http://www.pinkequine.com/acatalog/Sport_Interchange_Products.html) for the piped bridles? OMG! I need to win the lottery so I can outfit my horse properly. :winkgrin:

enjoytheride
Jul. 31, 2011, 07:07 PM
gah thud the matchy matchy of pink equine just made me swoon

JWB
Jul. 31, 2011, 07:27 PM
I LOVE Five Star bridles if you can find them on sale.... Amazing quality. That said, for a budget bridle that will last for years and has MUCH nicer leather than the price suggests, I can't say enough good things about the Pinnacle bridles from SSTack.com

They're about $100 but look and feel like a more expensive bridle. My coach who "only uses" Stubben (although she's got a 5 Star too now) was very impressed with my pinnacle bridle that I got for my growing horse. Used it for two years and then still resold it for $60 at a tack swap. Not a bad deal.

CarolinaGirl
Jul. 31, 2011, 07:37 PM
Carolina Girl - Did you see the matching equipment (http://www.pinkequine.com/acatalog/Sport_Interchange_Products.html) for the piped bridles? OMG! I need to win the lottery so I can outfit my horse properly. :winkgrin:

Of course I did! LOL I will keep telling myself I do not have a horse.. do NOT have a horse!

Madeline
Jul. 31, 2011, 08:02 PM
If you don't have a burning need to fit in, you can hardly beat race bridles for quality. ( What do you want to put on your multi million dollar triple crown contender? A leather bridle with fancy stitching, or one which is designed to last forever.) You can get one with no reins ( 'cuz you probably don't want those inch wide rubber guys) and with a cavesson. About a hundred bucks. Last forever.

Then you can get a nice bright colored nylon one for schooling... Machine washable.

Sithly
Jul. 31, 2011, 09:04 PM
The Five Star Tack bridle I bought off their sale/clearance section for $130 is hands down one of the best made bridles I've seen/felt/smelled in a long time! It was supposed to be a schooling bridle, but it's sooooooo nice, that it only comes out for show now. There is not a single thing about it that I could suggest for improvement. When I have a bad day, I pull it off the peg in the house and just "fondle" it for about 2 minutes and my whole world then fills with rainbows and butterflies ;)

Same here! :lol: I got a Five Star during the last big sale, and it is absolutely gorgeous! By far the nicest bridle I've ever owned.

purplnurpl
Aug. 1, 2011, 10:05 AM
I can't say enough about the Harwich bridles.

http://www.smartpakequine.com/SearchResults.aspx?page=GRID&free_text=harwich&attribute_value_string|Store_ID=Equine

I found them posted on the H/J forum.

I bought one. Then I bought 3 more. And I don't even have a horse. :lol:

I have $200+ Courbettes, Keiffers, a double from Dressage Extensions, and Bobbys and the Harwich is nicer than all of them put together.

It needed a good drink but wow, really really great leather and wonderfully soft padding. The fancy stitch bridles are really really purdy.

I find with bridles and prices, it's just hit or miss.

GingerJumper
Aug. 1, 2011, 10:45 AM
I have an HDR (whatever their highest "level" is... forget what it's called) that's been lovely. My Micklem has held up nicely as well. I've got a pair of Crown web reins (they were like $20 new!) that I bought in a pinch and honestly, they're the favorite reins in my tackbox.

I've seen supremely expensive bridles fall apart, and cheapo's live through everything. The list Old Fashioned posted is an excellent one for looking at bridles, very comprehensive.

deltawave
Aug. 1, 2011, 10:55 AM
I wish they had more sites where you could mix and match what you want in a bridle! (Just Bridles is a bit out of my budget) The Harwich sure gets good reviews, but they don't seem to have anything but brass buckles in the style I want. Yuck to brass.

It also drives me crazy that "eventer" bridles never, never, EVER seem to come with a caveson. Not everyone likes or needs a figure 8 or a flash! And if you buy a caveson "hunter" bridle all you get offered are laced reins. Grrr. I'm in bridle-shopping hell. The horse was easier to find! :lol:

Miichelle
Aug. 1, 2011, 11:40 AM
I second deltawaves complaints. I have 4 horses & only my Appy mare can wear a bridle straight off the rack (sometimes!!!). My biggest complaint is that browbands are too short and/or cheek pieces too long.

JillCozza
Aug. 1, 2011, 11:52 AM
I can't say enough about the Harwich bridles.

http://www.smartpakequine.com/SearchResults.aspx?page=GRID&free_text=harwich&attribute_value_string|Store_ID=Equine

I found them posted on the H/J forum.

I bought one. Then I bought 3 more. And I don't even have a horse. :lol:

I have $200+ Courbettes, Keiffers, a double from Dressage Extensions, and Bobbys and the Harwich is nicer than all of them put together.

It needed a good drink but wow, really really great leather and wonderfully soft padding. The fancy stitch bridles are really really purdy.

I find with bridles and prices, it's just hit or miss.

Totally agree, very very good price and I love my bridle!

clk
Aug. 2, 2011, 06:29 AM
Really great advice, Old Fashioned your post is a wealth of information!

I ordered a five star and the harwich from smart pak. I'll use Old Fashioned's list and also see which fits my nice little horse better!!!

Thank you again, very glad I posted the question, I feel like I made an informed purchase.

IFG
Aug. 2, 2011, 07:38 AM
I am really picky about the leather and stitching on bridles. I LOVED my Crosby that I bought in 1985, and nothing much has measured up since. That includes Stubbens, Courbettes, etc. The Nunn Finers are nice, but not English leather. I like my Jerry's headstall. I have a Shayler (English) from BOB, which is nice, but not like my old Crosby. Whatever, horse now prefers the Micklem anyway.

FWIW, I would always rather pay more for good leather. I hate stiff, yucky, smelly leather.

deltawave
Aug. 2, 2011, 09:21 AM
I bought a Five Star bridle on sale for only $200. :) They recommend it for horses with a "refined head", which I don't own, LOL, but the price was good and it's very pretty. :)

wildlifer
Aug. 2, 2011, 09:25 AM
It also drives me crazy that "eventer" bridles never, never, EVER seem to come with a caveson. Not everyone likes or needs a figure 8 or a flash! And if you buy a caveson "hunter" bridle all you get offered are laced reins. Grrr. I'm in bridle-shopping hell. The horse was easier to find! :lol:

OMG, THANK YOU. I am a flash hater and this drives me insane. Not everyone wants to tie their horse's mouth shut!!!!! Try buying a dressage bridle with no flash. Is it such a foreign concept to bridle makers that people actually want to hear their horse when he communicates??

Merle
Aug. 2, 2011, 09:43 AM
I bought a Five Star bridle on sale for only $200. :) They recommend it for horses with a "refined head", which I don't own, LOL, but the price was good and it's very pretty. :)

I have the same bridle for my mare and she is not refined either. It is a FABULOUS bridle! It definitely needed to be broken in but now the leather is soft and supple. And wow, it will last a lifetime if properly taken care of. I'm a leather snob and I highly recommend Five Star Tack. :) Here's a pic of my mare in the bridle (you can zoom in further):
http://s171.photobucket.com/albums/u306/Born2Event/Matera/?action=view&current=2011-07-26_18-00-11_455copy.jpg

I have had Dobert bridles in the past and adored them. I was dumb and sold them along with the horses they were used on and now I'm having a hard time finding the same color/styles as I had before. I have a Vespucci bridle for my Thoroughbred and I also really like it.

scubed
Aug. 2, 2011, 09:57 AM
I bought a Five Star figure 8. Right now, I'm using the Micklem, but hoping to switch eventually since that bridle is so yummy. I originally custom-ordered it in black and then before I got it, Jamie called back and said enough people wanted it, that they would make it a stock item, still give me the sales discount and refund the difference to me. Gotta love FiveStar customer service

Jleegriffith
Aug. 2, 2011, 10:01 AM
Same here! :lol: I got a Five Star during the last big sale, and it is absolutely gorgeous! By far the nicest bridle I've ever owned.

Ha, I'm glad to know that I am not the only one who fondles my five star tack bridles:lol: They donated some to CANTER Mid Atlantic for our retraining program and I also bought a few for my personal use.

The leather is gorgeous, love the stitching, the padding is awesome and there are so many choices in styles. Jaime is excellent to deal with and will bend over backwards to get you what you need.

http://farm7.static.flickr.com/6012/5901281542_f2f5abe28a.jpg
This one is nice for those who don't want a flash.

deltawave
Aug. 2, 2011, 12:13 PM
So OK, here's a spin-off question--what, exactly, is the recommended way to "break in" a new bridle?

Can you tell I have some REALLY old tack? :lol:

Merle
Aug. 2, 2011, 02:19 PM
Deltawave, how did you break yours in?

I broke mine in by using it and cleaning/conditioning afterwards like I normally do. It took a few weeks of good daily use but it's lovely now. I didn't feel that it needed oil, just the fibers needed to "loosen" up. I'm not a big fan of dousing with oil unless the tack is super dry. I use a slightly damp cloth to clean off dust from the sand/grime and then condition it with the nice tub of conditioner they sent with it (as a gift for buying the bridle! How nice is that?!). :)

jen-s
Aug. 2, 2011, 03:57 PM
The Harwich sure gets good reviews, but they don't seem to have anything but brass buckles in the style I want. Yuck to brass.

It also drives me crazy that "eventer" bridles never, never, EVER seem to come with a caveson. Not everyone likes or needs a figure 8 or a flash! And if you buy a caveson "hunter" bridle all you get offered are laced reins. Grrr. I'm in bridle-shopping hell. The horse was easier to find! :lol:

Heheh! So I hate buckles (and brass!) and didn't like the laced reins or thick rubber ones on the Harwich bridles. One of my good friends bought the Plymouth (el cheapo Smartpak bridle) and I was stunned to see hook studs, either no flash or removeable (having brain fart), and rubber webbed reins. HTG, I was STUNNED, seriously STUNNED, at how nice that bridle was for $60. And the reins, yummy!! And I usually hate rubbery reins, but I've been having trouble with rein slippage due to sweaty necks this summer.

I'm not a huge snob when it comes to leather goods. I like nice shoes, good bags, quality tack, but I'm old school enough that I don't mind putting the TLC into mid-line tack to make them yummy. I suspect that my new Plymouth isn't going to take nearly as much TLC as I would have expected. Color me happy!

CatPS
Aug. 2, 2011, 04:43 PM
I have a Plymouth from Smartpak and it is SHOCKINGLY nice for the $50 I paid. I've been using it 3-4 times per week for about 5 months, and it looks fantastic. My trainer has a Harwich, and I have to admit that I am not really all that impressed with it (neither is she... she's itching for a new one). Some of the keepers are too small (a HUGE pet peeve of mine!!), the padding on the noseband doesn't extend all the way around and it puts too much pressure on the underside of the jaw. There's just so many options once you hit the $100 mark, and this particular Harwich bridle just doesn't cut it.

And also I have to say... CURSE YOU COTHers!!!!! Little Plymouth bridle and I were living a happy life together until you people had to go talking all about Pink Equine. I yearn! I pine! AARRRGGGHHHH, the agony!!!!!

jen-s
Aug. 3, 2011, 10:42 PM
Speaking of FSS, does anyone know how they measure their browbands? I wish my Smartpak Plymouth was a hair longer. I've been coveting this one from FSS for ages and now that I have a new bridle, I have no excuse not to order it, but I'm stumped on sizing. http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=270526637171&ssPageName=STRK:MEWAX:IT#ht_3203wt_952 I guess I should mention that I refer to my gelding as a "delicate little flower." ;) Wouldn't that be super cute on a chestnut gelding with a white blaze?!

shamrocker
Aug. 4, 2011, 07:36 AM
I am a fan of eJeffries bridles/strapgoods. They make high quality leather goods, and they last a long time. I found one of their elevator bridles here in the US for an amazing price and snapped it up. The crown was rubbing behind the ears and I contacted Jeffries. They made me a custom made browband free of charge and I had it within a week, to alleviate the problem I was having. Talk about wonderful customer service! It is a lovely classic well padded bridle, no frills or bling, who needs that when the horse is a beautiful creature on it's own!

I also have their Atherstone girth and it is terrific.

There are a lot of good products out there, you just have to find the right one that fits your horse well within your budget.

clk
Aug. 7, 2011, 06:22 PM
So I ordered a Harwich and a Jubiilee bridle from Five Star. The plan was to try them both and only keep the one that fit my horse the best, and that I liked the best.

For those out there who might be thinking the same thing, order he Harwich and DON'T order the Five Star.

The Harwich fit my horse better, the style fit his look better, and I think it is a very nice bridle, absolutely sufficient for my needs.

Had I not ordered the Five Star, I would have skipped happily on, given the perfectly fine quality and the unbelieveable price of the Harwich. But no......

The Five Star bridle is really, really wonderful. At more than twice the price of the Harwich, it should be, but honestly I don't know how a bridle at any price could be nicer. I'm sending the Jubilee back and getting a style the fits my horses little head better and they are sending me a cob canvesson in place of the horse size. I don't need it, but just can't resist. And the Harwich is also way too nice to send back.

If there is a nicer bridle than the Five Star, PLEASE don't tell me.

Thanks again for the help.

Mali
Aug. 7, 2011, 10:38 PM
If there is a nicer bridle than the Five Star, PLEASE don't tell me.

:lol: I agree! I can honestly admit, my Five Star is the only
piece of tack that I clean AND oil after each use. I just feel like it deserves extra love and attention. I don't want it to harbor any ill feelings towards me ;) Now I know how men feel about expensive, shiny sports cars!

Fancy That
Aug. 8, 2011, 02:19 PM
I'm so glad I'm not the only one who just needs a simple cavesson and NOT a flash/figure 8/drop or anything else.

I don't even use a noseband at home or when trail riding, etc. I only use a simple one for showing/events because it looks traditional. Alot of my training philosophy is a little more "western oriented", literally, than most English riders.

Also - I too, suffer from having the dreaded "Morgan head" on my mare, so she needs a Cob size with Horse browband. She could almost even use Pony cheek pieces.

And why do bridle manufacturers think horses have these GINORMOUS throatlatches??? I feel like I'm always up on the smallest-or-close-to setting on the throatlatch.

I'm an Ex-Hunter Princess and love my KL Select Red Barn Spirit bridle (padded with wider noseband too) for showing or Hunt (with local foxhunting club).....but for EVENTING, which I also dabble around in - I use my old plain-raised Stubben snaffle bridle. I even have a clincher browband to make it look more dressage-y :)

I have heard nothing but great things about the SmarkPak Harwich. The other bridle that alot of Hunter Peeps like, which won't break the bank, is the Ovation.

About the reins - since my mare goes in a normal snaffle/hunter bridle, which always comes with laced reins..... I did have to go out and buy seperate rubber reins for my Stubben. I got matching Stubben rubber reins which are fine and good, but I really wish I got the Eventa Reins or the newer Smooth/Thin Rubber Stubbens!

Big_Grey_hunter
Aug. 8, 2011, 03:07 PM
The Harwich really is amazing, especially since I got it for $50 new on ebay (person couldn't return it because she lost the flash converter). The leather is lovely (with some oil), the padding is nice too. However, it is rather bulky. I'm keeping it because it's so nice, but I don't suggest it for a horse with a small or refined face, it overwhelms them.

Sithly
Aug. 8, 2011, 03:22 PM
The other bridle that alot of Hunter Peeps like, which won't break the bank, is the Ovation.

Little factoid: the Ovation bridles use Wickett and Craig leather, which is my very favorite American leather and also the one Five Star uses in their "Symphony" line of bridles. Good stuff. :yes:

JCS
Aug. 8, 2011, 03:41 PM
Can anyone comment on the browband size on the Smartpak bridles? Stock browbands on full/horse size bridles always seem to be too small for my horses, although the rest of the bridle fits fine.

NSRider
Aug. 8, 2011, 05:23 PM
After reading about Five Star Tack, I went over to check it out.
DANGER!!!
DO NOT DO THIS unless you want to buy!!! I checked out the sale section, and lo and behold... gorgeous bridle, at the top of my price range, gorgeous, lovely... took the plunge! Really excited about my bridle, can't wait get it!