Selecting a Headstall

Trying to decide on a headstall for your horse now a day can cause some major anxiety.  Your choices go way beyond the single ear or the brow band style that I had to make as a kid.  Should you get one with a cow hide or crystal inlay, one with zebra stripes or giraffe spots, crosses or star conchos, or maybe the conchos with six shooters on them?  The new one I think I want is a brow band style bridle with Turquoise and Brown floral print ocerlay with copper spur conchos and nail heads.  It is just the coolest and would look great on Dollar.  It could be mine for only $259.95.  Before you get your credit card out and make that purchase, let’s go over some headstall basics.

For starters what exactly is a headstall?  A headstall is basically the part of the bridle that goes around your horse’s head and is designed to hold your bit or bosal in place.  Manufactures have been very creative over the years and have redesigned the headstall over and over again.  Really not making it any more effective, but making it more attractive.

When selecting which headstall would be best for you, you really need to take in consideration the type of riding you will be doing, the temperament of your horse, and your budget.

Basic Headstall Types

When looking at headstalls there are basically three main types:  brow band, single ear and two ear.  A brow band headstall has a band that crosses the horses “brow” or forehead.

A single ear headstall has a loop that goes around one of the horses ears.  There are several varieties of single ear headstalls.  The most common today is the sliding loop.  The advantage to this is that you can slide the loop to fit around the ear perfectly. There is also a slide ear that has a little piece of latigo that goes around the ear to hold the headstall in place, and a slip or slotted ear that simply has a slot in the leather for the horse’s ear to go into.

Two ear headstalls are similar to the one ear headstalls, but they have a slot for each of your horse’s ears to go into.  These are most commonly used in showing.  And this year they have even put a new twist on the two ear headstalls and make cross-crown head stalls.  These are the hot new items for showing this season.  They have two slots for the horse’s ears and they cross in the middle of the horse’s foretop.

Type of Riding

The type of riding you do should play a major role in they type of headstall you choose.  If you just ride for fun on the weekends and don’t do anything real intense then you could use any type of headstall you want.  However, if you are riding colts or doing heavy work on your horse, I suggest that you use a brow band headstall for the simple fact that they tend to stay in place better than most.  The other thing about a brow band headstall is that they are typically equipped with a throat latch.  This will prevent the headstall from slipping off of your horse’s head.  The single ear headstalls are starting to move away from having a throat latch on them, which to me seems like a major hazard if you are anywhere out in the open or on a young horse. Without the throat latch, it is easy for the bridle to slip right off the horse, leaving you with no real control of the horse.  Two eared bridles are typically designed for showing although I do have one that is just plain leather.  Like many of the one eared headstalls, the two eared bridle is usually not equipped with at throat latch, so I recommend using it only for arena work.

Temperament of Horse

The temperament of the horse can make a difference to me which type of bridle to use.  If I’m riding a really mellow, broke horse, I don’t mind not having a bridle without a throat latch on it.  However, if I’m riding a horse that rubs on things or tosses his head around, I definitely want a bridle with a throat latch on it.


Budget can really put a damper on which headstall you choose.  If you have a small budget and don’t ride too often, you probably don’t need a really fancy headstall.  There are some pretty cool ones out there, but if you don’t have the means to pay for them, you should stick to something basic.  A plain headstall, new starts right around $30 for leather, less for nylon.  Fancy headstalls go for just about any price you can imagine.  I’ve actually seen headstalls that cost over $1000.  You do need to be aware that if you are shopping on line, sometimes pictures make a headstall seem nicer than it actually is.  My rule is that if a deal seems too good to be true, it probably is.  There are many people out there selling “silver show” equipment that cheap tin and painted (not oiled) leather.  Also if you have a slim budget you can look at buying used tack.  Leather can last forever, and sometimes people get tired of their headstalls before they are even near wore out.  I have found many deals on tack in consignment shops and on ebay.  You just need to keep your eyes open and shop around.

There are thousands of choices out there when it comes to choosing a headstall for your horse.  Take some time and shop around to find the one that best fits your riding style and your horse.  And if you happen to run into this headstall (click for link) my birthday is in December. 🙂



Dropping the Head

Whenever I bridle or halter my horse, I ask them to drop their head and flex it to the side.  This makes it much easier for me to bridle or halter my horse.  Now I could get my bridle on even if my horse wouldn’t drop his head for me, but honestly I like to make my job as easy as possible.  Why should I have to work so hard on getting the bridle on when it’s so much easier for my horse to just hold his head a little lower for me.  Pictured to the right is my daughter, Minandah, preparing to bridle Dollar.  Mirandah isn’t a real tall gal.  She’s only around 4 foot 11, but notice how Dollar has his head lowered for her.  This is how I like all  my horses to position their head when being bridled.  Getting your horse to do this begins with teaching them to drop their head.

To start with let’s talk about where to place your hands when training your horse to drop his head.  I take my right hand and place my fingers on the horse’s pole.  They will be applying pressure in the same place your halter or bridle will sit behind your horse’s ears.  My left hand will be on my horses nose with my thumb on one side and fingers on the other.  Now we have our hands in the correct position, let’s get started.  You will start by applying downward pressure with both hands.  Don’t try to pull your horse’s head down.  Just hold steady pressure downward.  At first your horse will probably try to lift his head or move away.  It is important that you do not stop applying pressure if he does this.  Just continue to hold steady pressure until your horse makes an effort to lower his head.  The second he lowers his head any amount release all downward pressure.  Let him rest a couple seconds and think about what happened.  Then resume applying downward pressure.  When he lowers his head slightly release.  Continue to repeat this until he lets you lower his head to the ground.  The time range of this exercise depends on the horse.  Some horses figure it out right away, while others take a little longer.  Just don’t try to rush it.  One day you may only get your horse to lower his head about half way down.  Just come back the next day and work on it some more.   Eventually your horse will figure out what you are wanting.

Not only do I find this head lowering exercise good for training your horse to lower his head while being bridled, but it also helps get him in the right frame of mind for more training.  Since we are applying pressure then releasing when he does what we want (moving away from pressure), we are building a base for other training that we will be doing.  Pretty much any training I do with my horse involves applying and releasing pressure.  Once your horse understands that when you apply pressure you want him to move away from it, his training will go a lot faster.

Do It Yourself for the Average Horse Owner

Do It Yourself for the Average Horse Owner. What exactly does that mean? It means that this is a website designed to help normal people with their normal, day to day horse issues. The horses that I use are not professionally trained, show horses. My demonstrations are all done with horses that I or my friends own. In fact, the horse featured in most of the pictures and video, Dollar, is a horse that I acquired in a trade when he was only a yearling, and I have done all the training on him.  He’s not perfect, but he gets the job done.  I created this site, because most of the horse owners out there are just average people. They have their horses out in a pasture. They saddle and bridle their own horses. And for a many, they don’t do much with their horses except for the occasional weekend ride.

This site is designed to be easy to use.  It has step by step instructions with pictures that make it easy to follow.  Then many of my posts will also include a video showing how to do what was described in the post.  Eventually, the posts will also include links to other posts that tie in with what you are learning to do.  For example, the post on bridling will have a link to the post on how to train your horse to position his head while being bridled.  Right now the site is a work in progress, and I don’t have half the information on here that I want to get on here.  But as the weather gets better, I’ll be adding information day by day.

The training information that is going to be on this site is going to be broken down in very easy to follow step by step process.  The training videos will be performed using horses that don’t already know how to do the maneuver we are working on.  I know when I’m looking up “how to” information, it is very frustrating to watch a person explain how to train your horse to do something, and their horse does it perfectly in minutes.  For most of us in the real world, it doesn’t work like that.

Each post includes an area where you can comment.  All comments are welcome.  Please comment if there was something you found confusing or know of a way I can improve the information.  There is also a forum on here.  Hopefully that will take off and people will be able to ask questions or give tips, and get feed back from other horse owners.

So is this a site that is going to be useful to you?  This site is great for a new horse owner who is just learning how to do many of the tasks involved with horse owning.  This is also a great site for children that are just learning how to take care of their own horse.  Perhaps mom and dad are worn out from saddling and bridling their child’s horse for them.  This site is perfect for that.  Also if you are an experienced horse person and are stuck on how to get your horse to do a particular manuveor, this site could be for  you.  Not all horses respond the same to the same training.  I may offer a little different way of training the horse to do something, that may work on the horse your training.  Basically this site can be useful to anyone.

Thanks so much for stopping by,


Pictured is my daughter Mirandah and Dollar

Bridling Your Horse

Bridling your horse is the last piece of tack you’ll put on your horse before you head out to ride.  Following are the steps to bridle your horse.  In the near future. I will also be adding a video demonstrating a horse being bridled. There are several different ways to bridle a horse, this is the method I use it seams to work best for me and my kids.

1.  I take both reins and throw them around the horse’s neck.  That way if your horse starts to take off you can quickly grab the reins to stop him.  Then I remove the halter.  Some people like to fasten the halter back around the horses neck; however, I do not.  I’ve had horses pull back while I was bridling them with a halter around their neck, and when they hit the end of the rope the tend to panic.  This creates a dangerous situation for both you and your horse.

2.  Standing on the left side of your horse with the bridle in your left hand, use your right hand to cue your horse to drop his head and turn it slightly toward you.  If your horse isn’t trained to drop and turn his head, keep checking my horse training section for an article and video on how to train your horse to do this.  I hope to have it on here soon.

3.  With my right hand between the horse’s ears, I transfer the bridle from my left hand to my right.  With my left hand I then move the bit just below your horse’s lower lip.  With the bit here it is easy to just slide it up between his lips in the next step.

4. Now with your right hand you are going to pull the bridle up as you put the bit in your horse’s mouth with the left.  If your horse is reluctant to open his mouth for the bit you can insert your thumb into the side of his mouth and tickle his tongue.  It might take a little time, but typically they will open their mouth using this method.

5. Once the bit is in his mouth , you need to gently tuck his right ear into the bridle.

6. Then tuck the left ear into the bridle.  If you have a horse that is fussy about having his ears messed with, keep checking out the training section.  I do have a video and  article on desensitizing your horses ears coming.

7.  Finally fasten the throat latch of the bridle.

There are many different theories on how a bridle should fit on your horse.  I like the bit to sit in their mouth so that the corner of my horses mouth pulling up slightly.

Following is a link to my video on how to bridle your horse.