Last Updated on March 2, 2022 by Allison Price
Although it is simple, the war horse can be a great help in overcoming head-shyness.
The war bridle must be used with empathy and finesse or it can become a harsh device.
Most people have seen war bridles used in western films or books depicting the Old West. These images show First Nations warriors riding on horses across the plains, with a little rawhide around their lower jaws. The traditional Native American bridle is also known as the Native American bridle. It has no head stall, noseband, browband, or throat latch. Instead, it acts as a loop of rope and sits in horse’s mouth as a bit, with the ends containing reins.
There are many applications today. They can be used on horses with a sensitive scalp, dental problems or any other reason that they cannot or won’t wear a bit or headstall. It’s been used by some horse owners to have fun and improve their training, but it is not a permanent solution for any specific training problems.
Tatum Norris (a blogger and horsewoman) writes that war bridles can be used for horses who have had a lot of training to learn how to respond to traditional bits. History would clearly show that horses can be trained to use this type of bridle. However, it is important to have a horse who responds to your gentle rein cues and doesn’t put pressure on your legs before you transition to a war-bridle.
Norris says that if you don’t ride with your hands (which, hey, you shouldn’t), and use the reins to stop, steer, and turn, then a war harness isn’t for you. This can be a dangerous piece of work and can cause pain and suffering if used incorrectly.
Brittni Raflowitz of the USA, a showjumper, entered Wellington’s Grand Prix arena on her giant warmblood mare, Hilton Van De Breepoel, as shown on her Instagram. Raflowitz also posted last September a close-up of Hilton wearing his war bridle while he was gelding.
A quick survey of my horse community revealed that most people had never heard of a bridle, let alone ridden in one. Two Canadian women from the West reached out to Horse Canada to share their experiences using the bridle.
“I have a wild horse that I rescued. Joan Sopow, EC coach and CanTRA certified instructor at Faulder Badlands Sport Horses, Summerland BC, wrote that she is a wonderful horse but also very sensitive around her head. It was initially a great option for her. She doesn’t have any bitting problems, but it’s a sensitive issue.
Sopow said that she has two types of war-bridle. One with small rings and one with larger rings to attach reins to. The bit was easy to fit, but the horse had to be able to relax because it is “tightened” around the lower jaw. It doesn’t “hang”.
Sopow claims that her horse used her tongue to push against the bit to relieve pressure. “The other problem I had with the bit was the weight of the reins pulling down on the horse’s tongue. Not a comfortable feel for the horse.” Sopow worked with the war bridle for some time and eventually found a better way to bridle her horse. She used a leather halter to suspend the bit that could be worn over her crest, but not too close to her head. The end result? Sopow describes the end result as a happy, calm horse that has no head or bitting issues.
Linda Fitzpatrick from Alberta, the owner and operator of Reverence Horsemanship Centre told us that her horses have happy, healthy mouths. My business is to develop horses and riders. As a teacher, a little bit of experimentation, observation and conversation can go along way in building confidence in horse-human relationships.
Raffi was eight years old when the decision was made to give up her Pintabian daughter, Raffi.
Fitzpatrick said that Raffi was a sensitive horse. He has always responded to any conversation that involved his head. Fitzpatrick explained that Raffi has a Type A (Arabic) mind. When I am developing horses, my focus is on building a mental connection of calmness. Raffi wasn’t a calm horse when I first met him.
This attractive war bridle (modelled by a VERY attractive horse!) is available through Cowboy Collection Quarter Horses .
Fitzpatrick first rode Fitzpatrick with a French bit under a sidepull harness for several months. As he gained mental calmness, athleticism and mental calmness, his fussiness about his head began to decrease. Fitzpatrick was inspired to use the war bridle. “The first time that I rode Raffi on the leather bit, he was calm with his head. Peaceful. Lovely. It is so easy to use and my son is happy with it. The French link bit was too complicated and not a good fit for Raffi.
Fitzpatrick is currently introducing Kieki, a six-year-old quarter-horse mare, to the war horse bridle. So far, so good. “She is sensitive and very mentally in tune.”
Tell us, would you ever attempt a war bridle.
I’m Allison, born and raised in San Diego California, the earliest memory I have with horses was at my grandfather’s farm. I used to sit at the stable as a kid and hang out with my Papa while he was training the horses. When I was invited to watch a horse riding competition, I got so fascinated with riding!