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Bridle quality

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  • Bridle quality


    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.

  • #2
    No matter what the price a quality bridle should have the same characteristics:
    1. How is the sizing? Will you have to have individual parts shortened or replaced?
    2. Look at the stitching. It should be small and uniform (at least 22 stitches per inch)
    3. 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
    4. SMELL the leather. It should smell like good quality leather. If it smells oily or rancid move on and find something else.
    5. 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.
    6. 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.
    7. Roll and bend the leather. It should roll smoothly and there shouldn't be any cracking.
    8. 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.
    9. 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?
    10. 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 bridle for everyday but for more conventional bridles I think Pink Equine or Bobby's Signature are the best dollar to quality value. Personally I love Pink Equine because I love sparkly things!
    Camels spit, Mary, camels - Catherine Haddad "Dressage Critic


    • #3
      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.


      • #4
        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.


        • #5
          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.
          "I'm a lumberjack, and I'm okay."
          Thread killer Extraordinaire


          • #6
            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.


            • #7
              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.


              • #8
                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.


                • #9
                  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
                  Where in this wide world can man find nobility without pride, friendship without envy, or beauty without vanity? - The horse. (R.Duncan)


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Old Fashioned View Post

                    I like the Micklem bridle for everyday but for more conventional bridles I think Pink Equine or Bobby's Signature are the best dollar to quality value. Personally I love Pink Equine because I love sparkly things!
                    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!
                    Custom Painted Brushes: spcustombrushes@gmail.com


                    • #11
                      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.
                      They're small hearts.


                      • #12
                        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.


                        • #13
                          Carolina Girl - Did you see the matching equipment for the piped bridles? OMG! I need to win the lottery so I can outfit my horse properly.
                          Camels spit, Mary, camels - Catherine Haddad "Dressage Critic


                          • #14
                            gah thud the matchy matchy of pink equine just made me swoon


                            • #15
                              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.
                              The rebel in the grey shirt


                              • #16
                                Originally posted by Old Fashioned View Post
                                Carolina Girl - Did you see the matching equipment for the piped bridles? OMG! I need to win the lottery so I can outfit my horse properly.
                                Of course I did! LOL I will keep telling myself I do not have a horse.. do NOT have a horse!
                                Custom Painted Brushes: spcustombrushes@gmail.com


                                • #17
                                  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.
                                  * What you release is what you teach * Don't be distracted by unwanted behavior* Whoever waits the longest is the teacher. Van Hargis


                                  • #18
                                    Originally posted by Mali View Post
                                    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! I got a Five Star during the last big sale, and it is absolutely gorgeous! By far the nicest bridle I've ever owned.


                                    • #19
                                      I can't say enough about the Harwich bridles.

                                      http://www.smartpakequine.com/SearchResults.aspx?page=GRID&free_text=harwich&att ribute_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.

                                      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.
                                      Horses are amazing athletes and make no mistake -- they are the stars of the show!


                                      • #20
                                        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.
                                        Trying a life outside of FEI tents and hotel rooms.