A Guide to Bridle Types

- Guides and Tips

BridlesThere are many different types and styles of bridle, with most of them consisting of leather straps that include a headpiece, a brow band, cheek pieces, and a pair of reins. Variations in bridle type are usually due to differences in the style of the bit; the mouthpiece that fits between the teeth of the horse. Here are some of the main bridle types.


A snaffle is the most common type of bridle used in riding. It is named after the type of bit that is incorporated in the bridle. A snaffle bit is a mouthpiece that applies direct pressure to the horse’s mouth when giving instructions using the reins, without any added leverage. It has two rings on either side to which the reins are attached, and is usually jointed, with a link in the middle of the mouthpiece. While a snaffle is often considered a ‘mild’ bridle, the size and shape of the snaffle bit will affect its severity on the horse’s mouth. The snaffle bit can range from a mild Mullen mouth bit made from non-jointed rubber to a Corkscrew or Twisted Wire bit that exerts severe pressure on the mouth.

Double Bridle

The double bridle is generally used by advanced riders, as it requires a great deal of skill and can damage a horse’s mouth if used improperly. It is most often used in dressage events and horse shows. The double bridle is also called a full bridle, and has two bits and two sets of reins. A small type of snaffle bit, called a bridoon, is placed in the upper mouth, and a curb bit is placed below it. The curb bit has shanks and a curb chain. The bridoon is used to turn the horse to the left or right, while the curb instructs the horse to move its neck vertically.


A hackamore is a bridle that does not use a bit, but instead controls the horse by exerting pressure on the face, nose and chin using a noseband. They are often used in trail riding, endurance riding and western riding. They are useful for horses with dental issues, and are often seen as kinder than using a bit.

Western Bridle

Western bridles do not usually have nosebands, and often have no brow bands. They are generally used with a Pelham bit, a curb bit that incorporates a snaffle, often with side or bit shanks.