Since this is my first blog, I want to start by introducing myself. My name is Lisa Updike and I have had horses in my life for more than 35 years. At my peak I owned 8 horses and I have owned many different breeds and sizes. I have competed in eventing, dressage, English pleasure and in hand. I have owned my tack business, Pure Harmony Equine, for nearly 5 years and sell many types of English tack, including bridles, reins, breastplates, halters, leads and crystal browbands. I also sell dog items, handbags and other accessories. I am a trained fitter/rep for HM Saddles and offer remote and onsite custom bridle fittings. Remote fitting are completed using pictures and measurements. I confirm those provided measurements against the actual bridle that you will receive.
Here are a few stories of bridle fittings.
I sold a Full size Figure 8 bridle to a Pony Clubber at an expo. About a month after the purchase her mom contacted me. They needed a Cob size Figure 8 noseband as they were using the noseband on the smallest setting and Pony Club requires they have 2 holes on either side of the hole used on the horse. I sold them a Cob size Figure 8 noseband to match the bridle. Then about 6 months later they needed a new dressage bridle. We knew the Full size bridle fit everywhere except the noseband so I asked for a noseband measurement to confirm what size they needed. The provided measurement put them into an Extra Full noseband. I had them confirm the measurement and ended up sending an Extra Full and Full size noseband to go with the new bridle. Sure enough that horse needed an Extra Full in the crank noseband even though the Full Figure 8 was too big. The horses just keep us on our toes.
I recently visited Venture Farm, home to my sponsored rider, Megan Jordan. I fit several horses while I was there. For onsite fittings, I generally start with the size we think the horse will be and go from there. Many horses are in bridles with crowns too small which cause the ears to be pinched or browbands that sit below the strap splits and look messy. We had some interesting findings while doing these fittings. Most of these horses are warmbloods or warmblood crosses. We had one horse who ended up in a Pony size Figure 8 noseband and another needed an Extra Extra Full (basically a Draft) crown. These were not especially small or large horses, but I fit what the horse needs. I carry the majority of items in Pony to Extra Full and can get smaller or larger sizes if needed.
I start with determining the size crown the horse needs as most of the other pieces will be impacted by the crown size. The shaped ear area and the strap splits need to lie in the correct place. The bottom edge of the browband should sit right at the strap split and sit against the forehead, not snug nor loose. The strap splits need to be low enough to allow the browband to not pull the crown forward, but not too low that the browband looks sloppy. Once the crown and browband size is determined, the cheek piece is fit. The usual bit the horse uses should be used to fit this and the buckle should be approximately lined up with the eye. I generally fit to the middle buckle hole or a bit higher when doing remote fittings. The noseband sizing should be adjusted to a middle hole setting and the buckle adjustment for height should also line up with the eye. The final piece is the throatlatch and it should be adjusted so it is not snug when the horse is flexed vertically.
Nothing surprises me during a fitting anymore and I am always learning from the horses I fit. I can add separate bridle pieces to any order to allow for use of different bits (such as a shorter cheek for use with a bit with a larger ring, a hackamore, a hanging cheek or pelham), add an extra noseband (so the bridle can be used for different competition rules) or any other mix of sizes to get the needed fit.