Showing bridles have narrow straps and sewn-in bits.
Otherwise, 3/4-inch wide is practicable for cheekpieces; billet fastenings make
change of bits possible. Brow bands must not constrict the ears--a
frequent cause of headshaking. Nylon reins are strong and easy to wash,
but can be slippery; laced or plaited leather gives good grip for single reins,
leather-covered rubber is also very satisfactory; two reins must be of narrow,
plain leather. Cavesson nosebands, loose enough for inserting three
fingers, fit an inch below the projecting cheekbones. Dropped nosebands,
useful for schooling and pullers, twin with snaffle bits and must be
fitted correctly--under the bit, in the chin-groove at the back, on the bony
part of the nose, well clear of the nostrils in front; just tight enough to keep
the mouth closed and exert slight pressure.
Snaffle bits should be thick. The jointed variety are simple to use, and are usually effective, but they are relatively severe. Pelhams upset all tenets of good bitting, but most horses and ponies go well in them. Double bridles are excellent for riders who know how to use them. The young horse, well schooled in a vulcanite-mouthed, unjointed snaffle, can be a lovely ride.
All bits must be wide enough not to pinch. Curb bits lie lower than snaffles, which touch the corners of the lips without wrinkling them. There are innumerable bits of varying severity which are obtainable, but good schooling is always the best method of control.
Leading rein ponies are shown in snaffles; many show ponies and Hacks and Hunters wear double bridles; the majority of polo ponies are played in pelhams with standing martingales; which, once again, contrary to the theory of good bitting, appear to suit all types of horse or pony. A severe bit in soft hands abuses the mouth of an animal much less than a mild bit will in heavy hands.
Many horses and ponies go well in hackamores, which have no bit but act by pressure on the nose. The Bedouin often ride their horses without bits, with a single rope for "reins." In 1965, Penelope Morton and Korbous gave a fine display of riding and jumping at the Wembley Horse Show--without a bridle at all. Nsr, a Yemeni stallion, has never worn a bit, but is schooled to high-class dressage, and to show and cross-country jumping.
Well-schooled horses and ponies carry their heads in the proper position. "Standing" and "running" martingales can be used as a temporary measure and, if properly fitted, do not interfere with the horse's jumping.
"tack" add to the
comfort and safety of riding. Too big a saddle makes it hard for the rider
to sit properly; if too small, knees and thighs may overlap. When the
rider is mounted, the saddle bow must not press on the horse's withers;
conversely, high-withered horses need cut-back saddles. Seen from the back
there should be an apparent channel, showing that the weight is carried on the
big muscles on either side of the horse's spine.
A modern general purpose saddle is an excellent buy. One-inch rawhide leathers are comfortable and unbreakable. Stirrups must have 1/2-inch foot-room and are safest when made of stainless steel. Grass-fat ponies appreciate nylon or string girths; hard, un-oiled leather ones cause girth-galls.
Racing saddles weigh one pound and over; showing saddles have straight-cut panels to display the horse's "front"; each Metropolitan police horse has its own saddle "tree"; Bedouin saddles are high, fore and aft; Western saddles were adapted from the Spanish, which came originally from the Arabs; they are very heavy for holding a steer, roped to the front "horn"; Persian hunting saddles are sometimes comfortably quilted, and the high bow and cantle give wonderful security on mountain slopes; a folded blanket provides the panel for an Army Universal saddle.
The craft of the decorative rawhide and leather braiding that adorns the best saddlery of Mexican vaqueros, Argentine gauchos and cowboys of the American West, came with Cortez and Mendoza--but it is an old Arabian art that arrived in Spain with the Moorish invasion.
Cleaning tack: Most
tack is made of leather. It is best to remove mud and grease from it directly
after each use, to prevent it becoming hard, and cracking. Clean it
with a damp sponge first, then saddle soap to keep it soft. A special lanolin preparation, used at
intervals, helps keep leather supple. If hard and neglected, treat with
hot neat's-foot oil.
Man-made substitutes for leather bridles are now available and are cleaned simply with a damp rag. You should also sponge bits.
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