How do I know if my snaffle bridle fits correctly?
Let’s start from the top down.
The crown piece is the “strap” that goes behind the ears. You can see the crown piece in most "between the ears" photos. Some newer style bridles have some light padding there and cut away ear spaces, because as bridles are tightened, they can put significant pressure on the poll. You want to make sure it’s not cutting into the base of the ears. Check this spot after you have fit and tightened everything.
Keep the ears and poll comfortable!
The brow band is a place to show off some bling, and is pretty easy to fit. Either it’s too big and droopy, too tight and it cust into the base of the ears and/or forehead, or it’s just right. Very Goldilocks. You can always buy this piece separately if you need to because the brow band is not sewn into another part of the bridle, you can easily change it out.
The cheek pieces hold the bit. Ideally, with most snaffle bridles, the bit should create one or two soft wrinkles in the corners of the mouth. (This article here details ways to check for proper bit fit.) Different bits may sit in a different position, and therefore be prepared for some trial runs and adjustments. Some bridles have adjustable cheek pieces on both sides, in which case be sure that 4 holes on one side matches 4 holes on the other, instead of 3 and 5. (Yes, a bit OCD, but as Grooms and horseman it’s good to be on top of details and symmetry.)
The cheek piece on the right holds the bit. The cavesson is resting one finger below the cheekbone.
The noseband or cavesson wraps around the nose. There is much debate over the appropriate tightness of the noseband. Please refer to your Trainer/Veterinarian/Horse's preference on this as you fit a bridle. Please note that the tighter it is, the more pressure it exerts on other parts of the bridle, such as the crown piece. I also suggest using a pad or squishy under the noseband where it crosses the jaw bones. Many newer bridles have this feature built in. As far as placement goes, one finger below the cheekbones is usually good for your generic snaffle bridle (with or without a flash).
I prefer a lot of room on the cavesson.
I like a looser cavesson, maybe two or three fingers can fit between the leather and my horse. If my horse's mouth starts to open, I know I have a riding issue to address. But that is a novel (or two) for another day!
Some bridles comes with padding, or you can purchase separate padding for more comfort.
For fitting a flash, make sure it does not pull the cavesson down. If that’s the case, something needs adjustment. You will need to also make sure the buckle and keepers do not interfere with the lips, as your horse can get pinched as he softly chews the bit. Most horses have a slight indentation between their nostril and front and center that makes a great place to rest a buckle.
This flash is not pulling the cavesson down, the buckle is out of the way of everything, and I can get a few fingers between the flash and my horse.
There are also figure 8 snaffle bridles, and for these you need to make sure the soft fluffy part is resting on the nasal bone. The lower strap is similar to a flash, and the upper part should rest on the cheekbone, a bit high so that the joint doesn’t rub at the base of the cheekbone. For drop nosebands, monitor the fit closely as this type of noseband can interfere with breathing. Start with at least 4 fingers above the nostril and go from there.
Some things to remember! A new bridle will be easier to fit after an oiling. A newer bridle will also stretch and you will likely need to adjust it, maybe even a few times. Of course horses are all totally different, and many won’t follow these guidelines exactly. Don’t be afraid to ask your Trainer for help, or even your Veterinarian. I ask my Veterinarian to check bit placement after every dental procedure on all of my bridles.
Enjoy your new tack!