I have a confession to make. A lot of reviews don’t “do it” for me. I love seeing how everyone feels about how a product performs, feels, fits, etc., but I often have the nagging sensation in the back of my head saying, “well, how is it going to look after YEARS of abuse?” Because, when it comes to where I am investing my very limited budget of horse stuff, that is where I want to put my dollars. In the things that last.
SO – here is a review of a couple of bridles that I have now owned for YEARS.
Dover Figure Eight Bridle
Seriously, I bought a bridle from Dover… at least 5 years ago. I was looking for a sub $200 bridle with a figure eight and a mono crown. I had a nunn-finer bridle that I really liked, but it wasn’t a figure eight, and it really as a reddish-brown color. I wanted CHOCOLATE.
This bridle fit the bill. My original impressions included the sheepskin on the middle of the figure 8 being WAY TOO FLUFFY. I always had plans to trim it, but to be honest, I was too afraid of making it look worse. When I dabbled in some hunter/eq classes, I ended up buying the matching fancy stitched browband and crank noseband for this bridle. It definitely wasn’t the same price as the bridle when I bought it… Link here
So how is it 5+ years later?
Clearly, I still really like it. It is in everyday rotation at the barn, and it gets polished up and brought along for SJ and XC at horse trials. Is the leather as buttery soft as the Vespucci bridles I remember from 20 years ago? Nope. It has held up really well, but instead of softening, a lot of the leather has kind of wrinkled into position.
While it hasn’t started cracking or anything like that, I do feel the leather just might be, after all this time, and all the use, coming towards the end of its useful life.
Harwich Padded Dressage Bridle by SmartPak
I guess they don’t really make the same bridle anymore, so this might just be commentary on quality and all that. This bridle was a pretty serious impulse buy. I had bought a Dressage saddle, and I wanted a bridle that would match. (It was also part of the same order as a girth and leathers… neither of which I use anymore.)
Either way, this bridle has been in and out of rotation since February of 2015, so I think I have used it enough to have some thoughts.
1 – The reins are HORRIFIC. I mean HORRIFIC. I ended up putting the Micklem rains on this bridle after getting that bridle.
2 – The leather quality is crap too. Sorry. Not Sorry. They must have rubbed this thing in motor oil in the photo on the website, because it does not clean up like that.
3 – I still kind of use it. This bridle is… somewhere. It makes it into the rotation when I need a third bridle for some reason. (i.e. I want to put a happy mouth in May’s mouth when the temp dips super low, but I don’t feel like changing out my main bridles). I should probably sell it, but it doesn’t seem worth the effort for the $50 it might be worth.
Horseware Rambo Micklem Competition Bridle & Reins
This bridle was a gift, and I have had it two years. That also makes it the newest bridle in my rotation. It is also the most expensive.
The most hilarious part of this bridle is not the amazing, awesomeness that is the anatomical benefits to the horse. Honestly, I am not sure how much May really cares. I might be able to convince myself that she’s a touch more steady in this bridle vs. the figure 8 or traditional bridle with a flash. However, I do not think it is a $200 difference, so to me, that’s mostly irrelevant.
The reason I really like this bridle? It sits in such a different place on her face that it is perfect when she gets any rubs from her muzzle. There it is. Right there. The best part of this is that it keeps me from worrying about the bridle rubbing in the same place as her muzzle.
As for quality, it is a nice bridle that looks nice and, I think, flatters May’s face pretty well. As mentioned above, I did upgrade the reins, and I actually use thinline reins on it now. Would I buy it again? Not sure. I am happy with it, but there are places that I wish it fit just a SMIDGE better, and it isn’t that adjustable. There are so many options on the market now for anatomical bridles, and I bet there is something out there that would fit better.
What about you? Any bridles that you have had a long time and are still in love with?
This Post Has 35 Comments
The only long-term bridles I’ve had are beta biothane. No problems with them! Haha. The two leather bridles I have are nothing special at all: a knock-off PS of Sweden rolled leather dressage bridle that is holding up well enough for the past 18ish months other than reins that mice chewed through (die, mice, die), and an HDR monocrown figure-8 bridle that so far has gotten softer and suppler with every cleaning in it’s first 10 months with me.
hahahah I should really get a biothane bridle… I am that brutal on things. HDR stuff has always been hit or miss for me. Some stuff breaks in beautiful, and other stuff falls apart. Glad to hear your bridle is in the former category!
My mom has an old Circuit bridle that she’s taken very good care of and she’s had that….Oh god maybe 10 years now? Maybe more? And it still looks good. It’s a little crinkly too, but I think since she kept it in a bridle bag most of the time and cleaned/oiled it at least once a month it still looks good. It’s an older style with no padding, but hey it looks great on Whisper and whenever she’s ridden English that’s her bridle lol. Amber even wore it for a show season when I didn’t have my own stuff lol. It’s oakbark and I’m a chocolate fan, but it’s still a lovely bridle 🙂
I should probably just give the Circuit bridle a deep clean and condition and then see how it feels. A bit ashamed to admit that it’s been a while. 😉
I have a horze Harrison bridle I’ve had for 3 or so years now. It’s done the job and still looks ok, but it’s starting to feel icky and it’s time to upgrade. I went with an ovation initially but I got a figure 8 and my horse hates it, and I can’t find a replacement noseband for an affordable price. So I don’t know what I’ll end up with.
It is incredible to me how much nosebands cost. The dover bride is $189… the crank noseband? Also $189… the economics of that make NO sense.
Good to know about the Harwich bridle. I came pretty close to buying one during the black Friday sales.
Yeah it’s fiiiiiine for a backup bridle, but it looks like junk now hahaha.
lol i feel the same way when i see a review on a piece of equipment straight out of the packaging….
Honestly, I buy maybe 1 or 2 horse items a YEAR. That means there is very little turnover in my stuff, so it’s got to last me. It’s the #1 most important factor in the majority of my purchasing decisions.
I’ve got a micklem for my sensitive gelding and he absolutely loves it! But my mare never notices a difference… so she has a solo splendor bridle from solo equine. I just bought mine on Black Friday, but my sister has a bridle from solo for awhile now and it’s held up super well, and still looks beautiful!
I haven’t heard of Solo Equine. I just went to check them out and had a good giggle at the “Solo Drop It Like It’s Hot” drop noseband bridle. Seems like great prices if they hold up!
I love my Eponia cookie bridle that Amanda made me buy what 2-3 years ago. Now it still looks great but it is kept in a bridle bag and never gets used that much! LOL It cost me 150 at FHI and I would totally buy another one from them if I needed one. The leather is very soft and I am not that kind to it 😉 HA
I think I still have a noname bridle somewhere in my packing stuff. Like I paid 60 bucks or less HA! But it worked till I got the nicer one….
I feel like I never could find AMAZING sales at KY3DE, maybe it has just gotten too big for that? Or it’s because I only go on XC day.
Bobby’s are still my favorite. They need to upgrade their styles but I still love them. Most of the stuff out there feels like garbage all the time. I had mine for 8 years before I sold it and it still looked fantastic – and I am terrible on my tack.
My D’yon that I got for a hella good sale already has some parts that are wearing at a digusting rate. Would never pay full price for them. EVER. I bought it because of the crown piece.
An other bridle brand already mentioned is sold locally to me. I’m not impressed, and I have been hearing lately from people that have them that they aren’t holding up or they don’t fit as great as they hoped. I only continuously see reviews from people that are good friends with the people that sell them and I honestly cannot take those kinds of reviews seriously.
Yeah – I have looked at the Bobby’s brand before, and it is on the short list for my next bridle… whenever that may be hahaha.
Their mid range ones are quite nice. Obviously the high end are super nice, it just depends on how much you want to spend.
I see value in both types of reviews. I constantly get people asking my opinion on something I just got, and I do like to give “first impression” type reviews. Usually you can tell right off the bat if something seems made well or not. I also like follow-up reviews later, talking more about the durability. I’m glad that people DON’T wait years to review things, or there wouldn’t be reviews out there for a lot of stuff that I buy lol. It’s definitely helpful to see updated ones though, or ones like these, that specifically address how they hold up over time. I think for tack that’s especially important.
Back in the day I had a Crosby bridle that I had for almost 15 years, and then a Mark Todd that was a good decade old when I gave it to Emma. Honestly though I don’t think I’ve ever had a bridle fall apart… partly because I don’t generally buy cheap bridles, and partly because I tend to sell them. I have problems.
Yeah, I think the reviews thing depends on the product. Like, I want to know how those new pants fit if you’re larger than a 16 yr old model. BUT if you don’t mention that they fell apart after washing them 3 times, I am sad.
I will say, I have had ONE bridle break on me and… it’s not something I would ever want to experience again.
I went back to my Micklem 4 years later and its the best fit for my girl. I have a few PS of Sweden and a Butet figure eight that are all about 4-5 years old and have held up amazing.
Oh the Butet bridles are BEAUTIFUL. I remember going to Beval in Gladstone as a tween and just petting all the leather hahaha
Yes! Its by far the nicest I have ever owned, bought it used off ebay! haha otherwise I could never afford.
One of the first bridles I ever bought was one of those Dover brand ones and it lasted for about 5 or 6 years before one of the cheek pieces broke. I think it’s still the foundation of my hunter bridle with other bridle parts pieced together on it I’d definitely buy another one if I ever showed hunters enough to bother replacing it.
Yeah. It’s not that buttery soft french/italian leather, but it hasn’t disappointed me (especially for the price).
So, I am SO happy you did a review on the Dover Figure 8 as I have been eyeing it. Especially because it appears that in the photo, the noseband attaches closer to the top of the mouth, not under the lip, as so many of them do. Is this in fact the case? It just seemed like a good price point and I am so sick of having nosebands latch at the mouth of the horse…
On May it’s like right on top of her lips. But she has such a short, wide head that she’s probably the exception. On my more normal sized gelding, it hit right above his lips. So if you’re looking for something for a short, wide head, it might be an issue.
I think June has a fairly normal head, but thanks for the feedback!!
I think Dover now does free shipping and free returns on sized items over $75. So might be worth the risk!
Oh that’s great info!
Hmmm… I bought a PS of Sweden from Michele for Gem last year. No clue how old it is but it looks new still and is holding up nicely. I use it as my every day/only bridle for H’Appy. I bought a no name used black bridle for Gem three years ago for $25. No clue how old it was either but it still is functional if maybe a bit wrinkled in a few places
Glad to hear you like your PS of Sweden bridle! I have heard great things about some of them, but I am not sure if the quality has declined recently.
My two bridles are new (courtesy of B snapping my old KPH one I had for a few years – irrelevant though as I hated that one for the constantly twisting cavesson).
B did NOT care for the Micklehem style bridle AT ALL though.
I love long term reviews! I think the Smartpak bridle leather quality below the “wellfleet” level is total crap, and I’m not overly impressed with that line either. I have had my Ovation Wide Noseband bridle for almost 3 years now and I LOVE it. No joke, love it. It has broken in so well, the leather is almost as nice as my edgewood. Like… blown away by how well t it has broken in over the years, and high quality the leather feels.
I have heard some good stuff about Ovation products in general. Glad to hear that you’ve had such good luck with their bridles!
I am a bridleholic (seriously, I own 50+… I might have a problem!) Obviously, with so many, I haven’t had the chance to regularly use all of them, though the vast majority of my purchases have been used.
Of the ones I’ve used the most, are:
Henri de Rivel
Crosby XL Excel
Beval New Canaan
All of them have held up pretty well, though the quality varies. I would say the older Crosbys and older Bevals (both made in England) are pretty indestructible and look great forever if well cared for. Same with the Equitana Romania, which is of a similar level of quality. I love the HK Americana for the price as well, and they soften up beautifully and look and feel much more expensive than they are (same with the step-up Aramas and SmartPak Nantucket, both also made by Harmohn Kraft, that I have).
The Kincade, Collegiate, and HDR will certainly do the job, but are not in the same league as the former ones I mentioned. All of these are older, so I’m not sure what the quality is like these days (and I’ve seen newer HDRs I really dislike the plasticky, painted on look and feel of, so I don’t think I’d recommend an HDR bridle anymore unless you could see it in person first), but these three have definitely served their purpose as inexpensive schooling bridles well. They are not butter soft and there is some slight wrinkling in places (though not nearly as bad as many inexpensive bridles), but they are also not cardboard stiff. For what they are, none of these are bad schooling, backup, or starter bridles for the prices they retailed at.
I have many more bridles I haven’t gotten around to using yet, of course, but that I expect to hold up well. Sadly, many of them are older, discontinued brands (or the manufacturing has since changed and they are no longer the same product). I have high hopes for my Jimmy’s, Dover Wellington, Edgewood, Hadfield’s, Moritz, Frank Baines, Stübben, older Pessoa (made by Harry Dabbs), Northrun, Courbette, Aramas, Ovation, and Nantucket bridles as well.
I have other strapgoods from some of these brands that have been used quite frequently as well, and I’ve been very happy with them. I have an 8-year-old pair of Ovation lined leathers that look and feel much more expensive than they are and are buttery, yet sturdy. The leather is in excellent shape for the amount of usage it’s seen.
I’ve seen a lot of stuff in tack shops lately that I sadly haven’t been impressed with, and some of the once great brands have sadly gone downhill, but have fortunately had pretty good luck with most of my stuff, other than the cheap no-name starter kit stuff I had many moons ago, which really did feel like cardboard and never took oil. Anything is an upgrade from that, though I will say that once you get a bridle with beautiful leather like an older Crosby/older Beval/etc., it is really hard to go back to the just “okay” schooling quality bridles for anything but schooling/training purposes. I still have them because it’s nice to have stuff you’re not too attached to in case it gets damaged, but really enjoy using quality made tack with beautiful supple, yet sturdy leather.