A note from Martin about the function of bridle loops
The bridle loop at the top of the cheek piece can play an important role in the function of a bit. There are a couple of things to consider that I’d like to talk about. First the diameter of the loop, and then the angle that it is tipped out.
First, let’s talk about the size of the loop. The size of the headstall and curb strap shouldn’t be too large for the diameter of the bridle loop, and the loop shouldn’t be too small for the leather causing it to bind as the bit rotates. We don’t want a small loop to bind the leather and restrict the action of the bit, the freedom of the headstall, or the curb strap to be inhibited.
For a 7/8″ or 1″ hole, a 1/2″ or 5/8″ headstall with a 3/8″ or 1/2 curb” strap should fit, depending on the thickness and stiffness of the leather. Attention to function over durability should be given.
|Spade bit with bridle loops turned out|
Next, having the bridle loops tipped out at the top is important, especially on the Spanish type bits that may be ridden with a bosal underneath the headstall. Regardless of whether you ride with a bosal or not, if the loops are not turned out the headstall can be bulky, causing it to double back through the bridle loop. This can cause it to pinch the horse’s cheek between the leather and their molar, creating discomfort and, in some cases, lacerations inside the cheek from sharp molars.
Often people request to have a 5 ½” mouthpiece to give a horse more room, but the bridle loops should be at least 5 ½” from tip to tip to give the horse this needed room. This gives the room where it’s needed without widening the bottom of the cheeks where it is not needed. This is something the old bridlemen did that I don’t see done today to the extent that it should be.
In the Great Basin in the days of the pioneers, it was common to see Thoroughbred-Percheron cross horses used for light harness work. The same type horses were also ridden with the spade or ring bits. There were big ranches that had the large crossbreed draft and straight Thoroughbreds, then some had smaller Morgans, Saddlebreds, mustangs and some Arabs.
The buckaroos, to my knowledge, had the standard 5-inch wide mouthpieces with the loops tipped out to fit the shape of the larger muzzle without having a wider mouthpiece that wouldn’t center in a smaller horse mouth. These were people that depended on their horses for their livelihood and took good care of them.
We should learn what we can from whoever and wherever we can, and study function first, then cosmetics.
The Bridle Horse Series goes into more detail about other bit considerations.