Why you need a bridle that fits and how to properly fit your bridle

Over the past five years there have been a raft of new bridle designs come onto the market claiming to be anatomically designed and kinder for your horse. We here at Flexible Fit Equestrian have been fitting mix and match bridles for over ten years and we have seen the difference a correctly fitted bridle can make to your horse time and time again.
There are three major areas on your horse’s head that will hugely impact on how your horse reacts to their bridle.
  • The vascular anatomy (blood flow)
  • The temporomandibular joint (TMJ)
  • The facial nerves and airway
Looking at diagram 1, Vascular anatomy of the skull, we see major arterial blood flows predominately down the side of the horse’s cheeks and under the jawline. Many modern ‘anatomically’ designed bridles are now sitting firmly on these major blood flow centres. More and more nosebands are being designed with an additional strap under the cheekbone and jawbone line which can affect circulation. Therefore, we recommend the 1-2 finger rule under the cheekbone for noseband fit.

As equine science expands so too does the understanding of the TMJ and its impact on comfort and performance in horses. This small joint is solely responsible for your horse opening and closing its mouth. Has your horse refused to take the bit? It could be a sign the TMJ is inflamed or having issues. Browband fit can also be responsible for TMJ pain. A low fit, too small or even too large, a browband can cause TMJ issues. Many ‘anatomical’ bridles are designed with extra wide crownpieces that whilst allow ear clearance, overcompensate on angle and sit on the TMJ. Our crownpieces are all designed with a straight direct alignment from the poll to the bit and to sit behind the TMJ.

Here Suzanne Liscouski talks about the change in her horses after finding Flexible Fit Bridles, especially the impact on the TMJ.

We highly recommend you do further reading on the TMJ and the many ways it affects your horse.

Often the most talked about aspect of bridle fit is the nerves in the horse’s head. One of the main flowing nerve centres comes once again from the TMJ area, reinforcing how important browband and ear movement from the crownpiece is and how it impacts comfort.

The infraorbital foraman nerve centre sits just below the cheekbone and once again we cannot stress how important it is to make sure the noseband is 1-2 fingers below the cheekbone. This will avoid putting pressure on the centre of the nerve. As you can see nerve centres flow all around the horse’s face. This makes how you place the bridle and most importantly how tight you make the bridle parts a crucial part of the bridle fit process.

Tightening the noseband beyond two stacked fingers at the front of the noseband and the flash will restrict your horse’s ability to chew and relax. This will lead to tension, head tossing, evasion of the bit and even lack of engagement.

There is always much controversy over the type of closure on a noseband. It does not matter the style, any noseband can be tightened to cause pain. It is our responsibility to ensure our horses have the correctly fitted tack with the minimum pressure possible.

Flashes also cause controversy. They play a role in training for some horses and should only ever be used as an encouragement to close the mouth. The flash can restrict the airway if applied incorrectly. You should always, if using a flash, ensure that it is two stacked fingers lose. This will mean no pressure is applied at all if the mouth is closed or partially closed. Pressure will only be applied once the horse completely opens their mouth. Once they close it pressure shall be removed completely. If a flash is applied correctly, as a training tool, then no restriction on the airway will be possible.

Here at Flexible Fit Equestrian we are committed to ensuring your horse has the correctly fitted bridle and tack. We promise to go above and beyond to ensure a happy horse and rider!


Now we look at what you should check for to ensure your bridle fits correctly.