Monday, November 17, 2014

What Does "Bridle Horse" Mean?

     One of you recently asked: what does "bridle horse" mean.  I love the question because there's so much to the answer!
     "Bridle horse" is an old horseman's term that came specifically from California.  It was a term used to describe a horse that had moved from the snaffle to hackamore to bridle.  Usually the term was used to describe a horse that was completely finished and "in the bridle".  These were horses that carried a spade or modified spade bit.  Often working in four reins for a year or more.
     Though the term is used today, it describes a different horse.  The old bridle horse was completely accepting of the bridle and could do any job asked of them while "packing" that bridle.  Nowadays, we usually just mean a horse that has a lot of headset on a loose rein, carrying a curb bit. 
     The old bridle horse not only carried the bit well but carried his body well.  This allowed the horse to do difficult maneuvers while "up" in the bridle.  In other words, not pulling and getting stiff, he
showed no resistance.  Many times the modern horse just hangs in the bridle, accepting the bridle but not necessarily being totally comfortable with actually working with the bridle.  Most horses today carry a different type of bit in the working classes, bits that are much easier for a horse to accept.  The modern demands of the show ring and the lack of time to bring horses along prevent us from making true bridle horses.  We still achieve horses that carry the bit well and can be very pretty but, in the true sense, they are not "bridle horses" even though they are still bridled up.
     So no, the Western Pleasure horse working in Romels is not a true bridle horse.  That phrase and the tradition goes back, way back, to when vaqueros worked cattle in California and carried 60 foot reiatas and sometimes even roped Grizzlies!
     Hope this clarifies the term for you.  If you have any questions or comments, I'd love to hear from you!  Talk to you next week, JD.

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