Hunting for the perfect hunter bridle?
Have you ever wondered about the origins of the Hunter bridle? Let’s look at its main use - the show ring. Many horse and pony riders enjoy showing classes, and the Show Hunter class is one of the most popular. As the name suggests, the equine hunter should possess qualities that are recognised in the hunting field. These include good manners, ground-covering movement and, if competing in working hunter classes, a bold jumping style.
Show hunter horses are divided into three weight sections; lightweight, middleweight and heavyweight. A lightweight hunter typically measures in at around 16-16.2hh, and has about eight and a half inches of bone under the knee. A middleweight hunter stands around 16.3hh, and has around nine inches of bone. A heavyweight stands around 17hh, has nine to nine and a half inches of bone, and is capable of carrying heavier riders.
In addition to the three weight divisions, hunter horses can contest small hunter classes (under 15.2hh), ladies’ hunter classes (to be ridden side-saddle), and also working hunter classes.
The correct tack for ridden hunter show classes
As well as immaculate turn out, show hunter horses and ponies must be sporting the correct tack. Tack for working hunter classes should be plain, in either dark havana or black leather colourways, and it is essential for the saddle and bridle to match!
A Hunter bridle is a well-recognised piece of kit, both for the hunting field and for the show ring. Its fit and style is designed to compliment the look of a hunter horse (or pony), and it has a range of notable features. Equicraft’s Plain Hunter Bridle for example is a high-quality horse bridle designed for horses (and ponies) using soft, supple leather that is superbly comfortable for your equine. It has a plain browband and the traditional, wider noseband that show judges favour on a heavier equine head. Equicraft’s Hunter bridle noseband width varies, depending on the chosen size (of five).
Why is a Hunter bridle so plain?
You may be wondering - why is a hunter bridle so plain? This is to respect the tradition of the hunting field, and the ‘workmanlike’ nature of the hunter horse. Hunter bridles should be plain with no ‘bling’ or anything coloured. Rolled, plaited or padded browbands and nosebands are acceptable in a Hunter show class, as long as they are all in the same colour, e.g. no white or coloured piping or padding. Discreet 'show stitching' is also allowed. (Check out our Show Stitch Heritage Hunter Bridle.)
A hunter bridle has a browband which lies flat, and is close but not touching the base of the horse or pony’s ears. It should not be tight, but should certainly not droop, like a dressage bridle may do! The noseband should fit snugly across the horse’s nose, with no more than half an inch below the horse's cheekbone. (You can buy Hunter nosebands on their own, e.g. without the full horse bridle - click HERE). The cheekpieces should lie flush against the horse or pony’s face. The throatlash, used to secure the bridle, must be secure, but also allow the width of a hand to fit between it and the horse.
It is important to note that there must be no change of tack between the jumping and flat/ridden phases of a working hunter show class, so if you decide to wear a martingale for the jumping, it must stay on for the whole class. The hunter bridle should be accompanied with a correctly fitting bit, which creates two to three wrinkles in the corners of the horse's mouth.
Please do check out another BLOG from us, about showing horses and ponies.