November 2018 - Tack Trends
Written by CRM
Thursday, 01 November 2018 04:40
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Equine anatomy plays a growing role in design of bridles and girths.

Not long ago, a story on track trends in the english world was short. The hunters, equitation and dressage disciplines are steeped in tradition and things hadn’t changed dramatically. While many core traditions prevail, innovative, horse-centric design elements have made this topic more interesting of late, says Laurie Stein, an english tack expert for Southern California superstore, Mary’s Tack & Feed.

“The biggest trend is all these crazy anatomical designs,” she observes.

Equine anatomy accounts for the most significant influx of new horse wear, Laurie says. Saddle design has always taken anatomy (horse and human) into consideration, and now such concerns are becoming widely seen in design of bridles and girths.

Micklem Bridles pioneered the idea many years ago with headstalls designed to alleviate pressure on the horse’s facial nerves and bones. They looked unusual, and still do compared to a conventional bridle, but the idea of bringing more comfort to the horse has been embraced in lines suitable for show use in most arenas. Several manufacturers include information on whether their equipment is allowed for competition by the various discipline governing bodies, an important point when contemplating the purchase of a new piece of tack that might push traditional boundaries in look and function.

Today, bridle makers at every price point have some variation of an anatomically-designed headstall, some to more extreme extents than others. The PS of Sweden line is one brand that’s at the forefront of these trends. Dy’on of France is another, along with Schockemohle, Passier, Collegiate and Prestige Italia, just to name a few.

Common components include padded nosebands (cavesons), brow bands and sometimes crown pieces. Crown piece and brow band placement contours are advertised to alleviate or distribute pressure on the poll, and leave ample room for the ears. Options in noseband placement accommodate both anatomy and training objectives. The line between where these design details add comfort versus style is a little hard to tell, Laurie acknowledges. “We all want to believe that they benefit the horse,” she observes. “And if they are cool looking, too, that’s good. We’re all trying to do the best we can for our horses.”

To illustrate the range of options, here are three bridles with their manufacturers’ description of each design and its benefits.

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The Pioneer Revolution from PS of Sweden.

The noseband´s height is adjustable in three positions for a guaranteed perfect fit. Thanks to this, the risk of the bit locking is minimized. Additionally, the sensitive infraorbital nerve at the horse’s cheekbone is left free of pressure. Thanks to the cross-sectional design of the noseband, the risk of the cheek pieces being too close to the eyes of the horse is minimized.

In the noseband´s highest position, it works like an English noseband but with Pioneer’s other benefits. The noseband has rawhide on the inside to hold its shape and also features a built in soft pillow to increase the noseband’s stability. The snap hook of the upper part of the noseband can easily be removed and then closed as a pull-back in the traditional way with leather.

The patented neckpiece is softly padded and leaves plenty of room for the ears to move freely. The cheek pieces have our patented and selectable elastic Cradles™, which allows the bit to suspend in the horse’s mouth. This also helps to even the pressure across the neck. Our elastic Cradles™ are designed so you can easily hook them on and off.

The Pioneer bridle is suitable for jumping, dressage and eventing.

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The Prestige Sport Windows Figure-8 Bridle blends intricate workmanship and stylish design with supreme horse comfort. Made in the EU with high quality leather, the Windows Figure-8 has graceful lines and a lightweight feel. Based on advanced anatomical studies, Prestige developed the grackle (or grakle) style noseband that sits comfortably on the horse’s head and doesn’t require rings on the sides. The anatomical noseband and cut-away anatomical crown are used to improve the comfort and well-being of the horse.

The crownpiece is crafted from one piece of leather in a wider shape to reduce pressure points at the sensitive poll. The padding is a soft, perforated leather for even more comfort.

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The Marcus Ehning II Snaffle Bridle was developed by Passier in cooperation with successful professional jumping rider Marcus Ehning of Germany. The headpiece is softly lined and, with its anatomically shaped ear recess, provides optimal pressure relief. The waved browband is softly padded as well. The newly developed, innovative shape of the softly-lined noseband leaves room for and thus avoids pressure on cheekbone and facial nerve of the horse. The headpiece can be combined with 10 other exchangeable nosebands by Passier, including dropped and figure 8 versions.


Laurie notes that girth options are becoming as wide as those for bridles. The Mikmar and Tapestry were the first brands she recalls making anatomical innovations, and many others have followed suit. Here are manufacturers’ descriptions on four such girths.

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The Mikmar Comfort Hunter Jumper Girth allows freedom of movement and breathing. In cooperation with a major medical textile company in France, this girth was developed to allow maximum freedom of movement for the horse while keeping the saddle in place. A special patented material sewn into the middle of the girth expands, giving comfort to the horse and allowing easier breathing and movement for the chest area. This wide elastic panel covers a larger area of the belly than traditional girths, reducing pressure and the risk of pinching. An anatomically-correct, integrated non-slip cushion on the inside of the Mikmar Comfort Girth keeps the saddle centered and secure.

Scientific studies have shown that a tight girth affects respiratory function and compresses chest muscles, reducing blood flow and oxygen supply. This can result in muscle spasms, impaired action, reduced power, uneven gaits and behavioral issues, like refusals at jumps.

(Mikmar also makes a dressage Comfort Girth, and a studguard for jumper girths.)

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Tapestry Comfort Girth brings comfort to your horse with its patented girth design that expands when your horse breathes. It reduces stress and pressure points while providing a secure and symmetrical connection to your saddle. English all-purpose and close contact saddle girth is especially helpful for alleviating pressure behind the elbow where traditional girths usually cause discomfort.

The Tapestry Comfort Girth is a hybrid elastic and leather saddle girth with a sternum pad lined in neoprene that provides non-slip performance. The elastic expands and allows your horse to breathe easier when working hard, thus improving his athletic performance.

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Stübben’s Equi-Soft Girth is a revolutionary answer to girthing discomfort.  While everyone has spent significant time perfecting saddle design, little has been done to improve the girth over the centuries. The root cause of discomfort is the constriction caused by girthing which reduces circulation and decreases the range of motion of underlying musculature.

Various methods have been employed to mitigate girth pressure over the years, such as elastic on one or both ends, mohair, string and neoprene.  Proper saddle construction and fit has lessened the need to over-tighten a girth.  In conjunction with proper saddle fit, all of these products provided relief by limiting the amount we can tighten the girth.  Still, none of these products have effectively dealt with the root cause.

The Equi-Soft girth, when properly adjusted, effectively deals with the constriction by giving in all directions and markedly reducing the tension.  This frees the underlying musculature, allows better circulation, and decreases the restriction of motion of the gut.  As respiration is enhanced and the horse experiences less discomfort, pulse rate has been shown to be reduced during exercise.  Because the muscles are less restricted, lateral flexibility is enhanced as well as the horse’s ability to employ the external obliques, serratus and other abdominal muscles necessary to support the topline.  This is manifested in greater extension of the foreleg and more active employment of the hindquarters.

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Prestige Italia’s RP Dressage Girth has an unusual design with outstanding performance capabilities. It features a padded round panel that reduces pressure and increases equine comfort. The girth can slide a bit through the round panel, which eliminates side-to-side movement. The round panel with three inner oval inserts disperses pressure as well as generating an air cushion. This enhances freedom of movement for elbows making it easier for your horse to perform dressage maneuvers. The girth remains secure and high functioning even if exposed to dirt, sweat, water and mud.