Buying bridles is a bit of a pain in the butt. It is really hard to pick bridles out online (why does each product only have one teeny-tiny stock photo!) and having a crappy bridle is really no fun because you have to worry that they will snap. What I really wanted was a reasonably priced bridle that would last me for a while and that looked decent. When I was looking online, SmartPak had a promotion going on and so I decided to go with their Plymouth Raised Fancy Stitch Bridle.
|Plymouth Raised Fancy Stitch Bridle|
The bridle typically costs $72.95, but it was on sale when I bought it so I paid $60 for it. That is a really good price for a leather bridle.
|Casey doesn't look impressed here, but she does like this bridle because it doesn't leave any rubs on her face! A+ from her!|
The bridle only comes in one color (which is not named on the website). I think that color is Havanna Brown or at least is close to Havanna Brown. It is a dark brown without any red hues in it.
The stitching detail is in white thread and so it stands out from the dark leather. Since I ordered the fancy stitching, it has a pretty crossing pattern on the nose band and the brow band. I personally went back and forth between getting the fancy stitching and the plain stitching, because I do like the flowery-ness of fancy stitching, but there is something appealing to me about plain leather. In the end, Jin picked out the fancy stitched bridle and so that's what I ordered.
|Fancy stitching on browband|
The leather itself is real leather, I will grant it that. The problem with the leather is that it is incredibly stiff. The nose band and the brow band are taking a really long time to mold to Casey's face, and the leather straps were so stiff when I tried to assemble it that assembly took probably twice as long as it needed to. The worst element in terms of stiffness are the reins. They are plain laced leather reins and they are so stiff that they are almost hard to ride with. I was really frustrated with the stiffness of the leather the first couple of times I used the bridle, but I have to say that after a week, the leather is beginning to loosen up. I think that the leather would really benefit from some leather conditioner, but I just haven't had the chance to buy any yet. Considering the price of the bridle I'd say that the leather is acceptable, but by no means is this great quality leather.
|You can see the stiffness in the reins|
The hardware on this bridle is stainless steel, so it should last a long time. Hardware is boring to talk about, so I will just say that the buckles seem to be sturdy and they are not stiff or hard to work with.
|Close-up on buckles|
The design of this bridle is very traditional in look. It is a very typical hunter bridle. I really like the look of traditional hunter bridles so for me, this is a plus. If you want a bridle that is novel in its design then you probably wouldn't want this one, but you would also have to be willing to spend a lot more money.
In terms of size, I ordered Horse size for Casey (who is a 15'3 hand TB mare) and it is very big on her face. This bridle also comes in the sizes: Pony, Cob, and Oversize. I think that Casey would have fit much better in the Cob size, but the Horse size does work as long as all of the buckles are on the highest hole.
|Browband is too large on Casey|
In terms of specifics, the browband and crown are 1/2" in thickness, the cheeks are 5/8", and the reins are 5/8". The length of the reins seems to be standard. I haven't measured them but they seem to be long enough to give Casey her head to walk around and that's about as long as I need them to be.
By far the best part about ordering this bridle from SmartPak is that they have customization options which are great. It only costs $7.95 to get an engraved bridle nameplate. There are nine different font choices and the name plate can come in brass or silver.The other option is a laser engraving. That costs $13.95 and there are only two font choices. I ordered an engraved name plate in brass and it looks really great. There are so many bridles at my barn and they all look similar, so having this name plate is just one way to try to keep my things from getting lost. Also,it is just really fun to have something with your name on it!
|Engraved brass nameplate|
Overall, I probably would order this bridle again just for the price. For a schooling bridle, it works well and the only true downside of it is the stiffness of the leather. I do think that probably every leather bridle in this price range will have stiff leather so the only way to really avoid this is to pay more money (which I am not willing to do right now). I think that as I continue to use the bridle it will continue to soften up and I will be buying some leather conditioner to speed up the process!