“A bridle with a bit guides the horse.”
Like a steering wheel is essential to maneuver an automobile, it’s difficult to get our horse to go where we want without a bridle.
For lay folks, the bridle is the apparatus on a horse’s head, typically with a steel piece (the bit) placed in his mouth, and further connected with six-foot reins going to the rider’s hands to direct the horse.
This came to mind with recent acquisition of another horse that the seller insisted should be ridden with a short-shanked snaffle (swivel-mouthpiece) bit. Our philosophy has always been that it doesn’t matter what’s in a horse’s mouth, but what’s in his head, and the rider’s ability to get exact response when requested.
Some horsemen claim they need many different bits to get all of their various mounts performing to perfection. Certainly, catalogs often have hundreds of bits for sale, and certain trainers own dozens of them.
Contrastingly, we only have three bits. There’s the cowboy (curb) bit we got 52 years ago when we bought our headstall, a bit just like the horse-seller recommended, and a $2 ring-snaffle from the hardware store.
While they’ve all been used at times in our training career, the simple ring-snaffle is our most preferred horse headgear these days, as it has been for three decades.
Of course, we’ve ridden with many other bridles, including various hackamores which don’t have a bit, but rather a band which exerts pressure on a horse’s nose. These are used especially to start colts riding, but also on many mature horses.
A few horses can be ridden fine with only a halter, and even fewer can be guided with just the rider’s legs and voice. Most of those who claim to use “no tack” still have a string around a horse’s neck. We’ve ridden horses all of those ways, but a bridle with a bit is still the most dependable.
Reminds us of Second Kings 19:28: “I will put my bridle in your lips, and I will turn you the way you should go.” However, importantly, Proverbs 26:3: “A bridle for the horse, and a rod for the backs of fools.” Yet, sound advice, Psalm 32:9: “Be not like the horse which needs firm bit and bridle, or else they will not come with you.”