A hunt seat style English bridle
A bridle is a piece of equipment used to direct and control a horse. The bridle is the headgear that holds a bit which goes in the mouth of a horse, and also the reins that are joined to the bit.
Bridles are usually made of leather. They are made of different parts which are buckled together. The headpiece, also called a crownpiece, goes behind the horse's ears. The browband is placed across the horse's forehead. The throatlach goes behind the horse's cheek. The cheekpieces extend across the horse's cheek and attach to the bit. The noseband goes across the horse's nose and under its chin. Some bridles do not have a noseband. Others have special nosebands designed to prevent the horse from opening its mouth too widely and crossing its jaw. Sometimes, a strap called a martingale is attached to the noseband.
A bridle without a bit uses a noseband to control a horse, and is called a hackamore, or a bitless bridle. Bitless bridles work by pressure and leverage on the horse's nose and chin groove. Bitless bridles can be useful for horses that have problems with their mouths. It is more difficult to turn a horse using a bitless bridle, and bitless bridles can provide tremendous leverage and stopping power.
Images for kids
The crownpiece runs over the horse's poll, and the browband across the forehead. The cheekpieces run down the sides of the horse's face.
A double bridle, using two bits.
Barcoo (or ringhead) bridle as used across Australia
A one-ear or "slip-ear" style western bridle with curb bit, with added silver for show.
One type of cross-under bitless bridle. Reins are separate, though held closely together in this photo. (click to enlarge and view detail) A horse should not be tied with this bridle, as it may tighten on the nose if the horse sets back on the rope.
If a horse must be tied to an object, a halter should be placed under or over the bridle, and the cross-ties should be attached to halter rings rather than the bit