What kind of western bridle should you choose? In the western world of riding horses, the word "bridle" is often interchanged with the word "headstall." Technically, the headstall is the piece that attaches to the bit, goes up and around behind the ears and attaches on the other side to the bit. The word "bridle" often refers to the headstall, bit and reins combined. However, most people don't really make a distinction between the two.
With that said, the Grewal Equestrian western headstalls, or bridles come in a variety of styles. The main styles of headstalls are the browband style that comes with a throat latch - sometimes referred to as a working bridle; the one-ear or two eared headstall; and the split-eared headstall. The most common are the browband and the one-eared or single ear style. Although you can use any western headstall you like for your horse, there are reasons riders and trainers prefer one style over another.
The browband style that also has a throat latch is a more secure design and can be used with a snaffle bit. The browband prevents the headstall from sliding back on the head, especially when pulling on the snaffle bit to encourage flexion. The throat latch keeps the headstall from being pulled off the front, particularly when applying pressure to both reins with a snaffle for stopping. Although the headstall being pulled off the front is not a very common occurrence, it can happen, especially with young horses or out on trail. That's why the browband style is recommended when using a snaffle bit, for training young horses, or everyday pleasure and trail riding. It is a secure bridle with curb or leverage bits as well.
You will see the browband headstall with the throatlatch used by western riders of all sorts quite often as it is so versatile. It is worn in local ranch horse show classes for young horses or novice riders, but this varies with different organizations. It is always best to check the rule book for clarification. It can be used in reining classes with snaffle bits, on most ponies, and those who ride on the trail and for general all around riding. Western Pleasure horses under the age of five years may be permitted to use a snaffle bit, but again, check your rule book.
The single ear, double ear, or split ear headstall does not have a browband or a throat latch. It is a very simple way to hang your bit and is comfortable for the horse. These headstalls are used with curb bits that have shanks and leverage combined with a curb chain. When the reins are engaged, it puts pressure on the poll of the horse. This setup is for a trained "bridle horse" - one that knows how to neck rein. They are widely used in the western horse show world. You will find almost all competitors in an All Breed Open Show Western Pleasure classes or Trail classes in single ear headstalls. The one-eared headstall is also popular for barrel racing and rodeo events.
Kym McMillon, who has competed in reining competitions with her stallion, I'm Smartly Dun, a son of Hollywood Dun It, comments, "I've always worked under the premise of a browband and throat latch headstall with a snaffle, and an one-ear for a shank bit. Of course there are some exceptions... like roping horses. In reining competitions we use a browband with a snaffle, and one ear with a shank bit."
With these choices for western bridles, it's important to select the finest quality leather with detailed fine stitching for your horse's comfort and the longevity of your bridle. Simple buckles or a bit of bling add some fun and show off your horse's gorgeous head in any style headstall. The perfect Western Bridle for your horse will be the headstall design that functions with your choice of bit and what type of riding you and horse enjoy.