I have been asked for some time to start sharing my ideas on fashion in the world of equine related sports as well as knowledge about products and selection of products. So I'm going to do my best to maintain a monthly blog. But to ensure I get it done (as those that know me are aware that the plate is stacked a bit full with this new endeavor), I'll also ask for guest bloggers to give their insights on specific topics and to continue to bring quality information and ideas to you. I encourage you to share your ideas and comments, but ask that you keep it in a positive, constructive tone. There are always different points of views on any subject and different ways to look at any subject. I go back to my days of training and an exercise that we used to help people to realize that there are actually different ways to do something and still achieve the same results. We would ask, "if you were eating an ear of corn how do you do that and why?" Some would respond that they eat across each row one at a time, some starting back on the left some on the right, some zigzagging back and forth. While others would eat a section around the circle then go to the next section. And some would answer just random areas of the corn. Not one is "right" just as not one is "wrong" it is for each of us to decide what is "right for US" and to realize that there are numerous ways to get to the results you achieve.
With that in mind, I enter into blogging to share an opinion on a subject from my point of view and for you to consider. And only since many have found value in my point of view do I take this on and share it more widely to help a larger group of people.
The topic this month is on bridle selection. I'll focus on English bridles but would argue that much is the same for western bridles as well. Many will ask me, "What is the best bridle for me?". Well, "That depends" is my answer most of the time. I realize as a consumer that isn't what we always want to hear, we want a simple straight forward answer so we can make a decision and move on, but if I just told you brand x or y, I would be doing you a disservice. Because it truly does depend.
Bridles come in all shapes, sizes, colors, variations for different disciplines and materials. When considering a bridle one has to start with answering the question, "What do you want to do with this bridle"? Some may say that is simple or even a dumb question but I argue that it is the root of the issue. Of course you want to use it to ride in, or even ride a specific discipline in but there is more to it. Think more deeply and consider these questions
- What discipline do you ride?
- How often do you ride?
- Is this your everyday schooling bridle or your show bridle or both?
- What type of features do you want?
- What type of Cavesson or noseband do you want?
- What has worked in the past for your horse?
- What hasn't worked well for the horse?
- Do you need a matching martingale, breastplate, etc.?
- Do you have a brand you prefer?
- And most importantly what is your budget?
Now do you have something in mind? Great!
Questions 1-9 will lead you to understanding what you want as far as features of a bridle and the manner in which you are going to use it. The answer to question 10 is the key to understanding which one is right for you.
In today's global world, there are more and more manufacturers providing good, quality leather goods than ever before thus giving the consumer alot of options to choose from. But this can also be overwhelming. At the end of the day, we need to understand what our options are in a simple manner like Good, Better and Best.
To get there, we need to consider two elements independently. First, what type of leather is it and secondly, where is it manufactured.
In the Good category, are bridles made from synthetic leather, and/or real leather. In general the price point is probably between $65 - 100. These bridles are in many cases made with what is considered a lesser quality leather, compared to the Best leather. That doesn't mean it is bad but probably not as durable as a leather from the Best category. Bridles in this area are also many times made in countries like India, Argentina, China etc. where labor costs are in general lower than in other markets. But if you are looking for your first bridle, or something to school in once a week, or something for a lease pony that you will only keep a year, or your budget is only $100 then there are some great options in this category. For example, we carry some bridles from Perri's Leather that are made by the Amish in PA and with American Leather. They are a Good product and especially at the price! We have some new bridles from Horze Equestrian that are made of Indian Leather and made in India and will retail for right around $100. All excellent choices for a bridle in this price range.
In the Better category, are bridles made from leather that is usually a high quality leather like Sedgewick or UK Leather but manufactured in another country where the cost of labor is less expensive. These bridles have price points in the $120 - $250 range. This is a big part of the market these days as more and more manufacturers try and offer cost effective quality products. For example, Black Oak is a new brand by KL Select who also manufacturers Red Barn products. These new bridles are made of high quality leather that is then shipped to India for manufacturing. So the key here is the quality of the manufacturing. As mentioned, KL Select's new brand Black Oak is one of our favorites. And coming in a few weeks is Nunn Finer's new bridle, the Elena bridle.
In the Best category, are bridles made from the highest quality of leather manufactured in markets that are known for leather products. A few come to mind immediately such as the UK, Germany, France and Italy. The price points here are from $250 and up. These bridles are made from some of the top leathers in the world made from professional craftsman in the strap goods industry.
At the end of the day you will see many brands now offering products in at least 2 of these categories if not all 3 of these categories. So even through it is a brand X and that one was always made in Germany for example and always made with Y leather, that might not be the same for their new bridle. Doesn't mean it is good or bad, but just different.
So after all of this discussion, you ask, "But Jenni what do you use?". My answer is, "It depends".
For example, I have several bridles in the Good category that are for my pasture horses that get ridden only a few times a month (at best). Nothing fancy, just a good functional bridle. I have several for my show horses over the years that are in the Better category if the horse was something I was going to sell in a year, or were growing still so might out grow it, or needed to school some in a double and I couldn't spend $500 on a double bridle. And I have currently just one in the Best category that is for my show horse who is ridden 5-6 times a week. A beautiful Sommer Dressage Bridle, black with red piping.
My experience is whether they were Good, Better, or Best if kept clean and conditioned regularly, they all fit the job they were purchased to perform. I just had to be clear on the job that I wanted them to perform and how much I was able to spend before making the purchase.
As a tack shop owner, we do our best to scour the market to review the manufacturers and their products in order to find quality options for you the customer in each of these categories for the various English disciplines. So when you come in looking for the bridle for you, we have options for you to consider.