Jeffries Gentle Bridle
Jeffries Saddlery based in Walsall, England already offer many high-quality handmade, English leather bridles in their range so what was the motivation to create another? MD Peter Wilkes explains “there is so much interest in anatomical bridles that we decided to take another look at creating the most comfortable fit for the horse to enhance performance while maintaining some resemblance to a conventional bridle that is pleasing to look at”
An array of experts, leather craftsmen, Master Saddlers, riders, trainers, biting specialist, equine dentist, veterinary adviser and specialist in head shaking were asked for input to help create a bridle that would work with the horse rather than against it.
The first thing the team concluded was that after many years of designing and using rounded browbands and nosebands that the shape of the skull of the horse is rectangular with only a thin layer of skin over the face. This led to a complete change in the shape of the noseband and browband to incorporate a ‘hinge’ that allows them to sit comfortably around the face. It was noted that lots of riders have bought special browbands so this design allows for them to be used. The browband only sits on the front strap (cheek piece strap) to stop it from pulling the head piece forward and possibly giving the horse a headache from the pressure of a tight browband.
“The ultimate aim of both my profession and business is to ensure that animal welfare must remain the ultimate priority and I feel the new Gentle bridle provides an excellent level of anatomical design to improve both comfort and performance” Emily Westwood, horse rider, Veterinary Student Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies, Edinburgh, Owner-Operator at Shakeaze - Freedom from headshaking
The head piece is curved to take pressure away from the sensitive base of the ears and is padded inside to shift pressure away from the poll and the tempo-mandibular joint (large hinged joint of the jaw situated at the base of the ears on the side of the head). All points of contact with the horse on the Gentle bridle are padded with either latex or neoprene and lined with the softest leather for the horses comfort. Part of the planning for the design was based on keeping the action of the bit separate from the nose band so the bit could have the intended action without creating pressure elsewhere. For this reason, the cheek pieces are fitted in the conventional way and take the signal from the reins direct to the lips, tongue, bars, cheeks and poll.
There has been much publicity and some unpleasant photos in the media showing tightly fitted nosebands and the discomfort to the horse that these cause. Horses are only able to breathe through their nose so it is essential that there is as little interference with the nostrils or cheek bones as possible. The hinge noseband is designed to be very difficult to overtighten either accidentally or deliberately. The horse needs to be able to chew to be relaxed if they can’t do this for any reason the neck and back of the horse become fixed and automatically the hind legs are affected.
While it should be possible to ride a horse that has accepted the bit and understands how this acts without a nose band. It is widely accepted that a noseband helps to prevent the young horse from ‘yawping’ or opening the mouth so wide that it changes the action of the bit. The important balance is to allow enough movement of the jaw that the horse can turn – when the jaws slide over each other and move the jaw to release the tension in the powerful jaw muscles by chewing. In most dressage competition, a nose band is required and most people consider the appearance of the horse is enhanced by having one.
The Gentle bridle has a shaped noseband that narrows above the bit for reduced facial contact and below to allow more space for the bit rings. There is also in the range an option to have a stabilising flash strap that goes below the bit, this is removable for those who want choice. As with all other fittings on the bridle this is adjustable on both sides for stability and has a padded piece for the chin groove. The ruling for competition tightness of the noseband is that there must be one or two fingers width between the strap and the horse. A good way to test the tightness of the noseband from the point of view of the horses comfort is described by French Olympic dressage rider Catherine Henriquet, “your horse should still be able to eat a treat”
The noseband of the Gentle bridle has been linked to the cheek strap to provide extra stability to the bridle, ensure that it sits as far as possible from the eye and the second branch of the trigeminal nerve as it runs down the side of the face below the facial crest.
The unique arrangement of the noseband and cheek strap based on three rings allows the bridle to position itself to suit the shape of the individual horses head.
The cheek strap is fitted in contact and creates a stable base for the bridle and does away with the need for a conventional throat latch. The throat latch is often implicated in stopping the horse being able to flex fully at the poll and if loosened to allow more movement this can result in the bridle becoming unstable and easily removed by shaking or rubbing.
Many horse owners with head-shaking horses would prefer to be able to ride without a noseband to take all the pressure and unwanted nerve stimulation away from the area below the facial crest where a group of nerves exit. For those horses who are sensitive to nerve stimulation as seen in head-shaking the most crucial point of the bridle is to avoid pressure as far as possible in any sensitive areas and to make the bridle as stable as possible. With the combination of the soft padding on all contact points, the shaping to sit softly on the head and the stability through the three key contact points ie the bilateral padded headpiece and check strap make Gentle a good option for sensitive horses.
All straps have bilateral adjustment so that complete symmetry of the bridle on the horses head can be achieved. With only two straps (three for the Weymouth) the look is clean and minimal while maintaining the style of a conventional bridle.
Designed to aid communication with your horse and help them become a happy athlete, time to stop shouting and connect softly with Gentle.
Article provided by - Vale Brothers Ltd