Harness and Tack

A Bridle Your Horse Can't Rub Off

by Barb Lee
The reports of tragic deaths as a result of bridles coming off in 2010 prompted me to develop an idea I’ve had for a bridle which is much more difficult for a horse to rub off. To make this “safety bridle” more appealing, it had to be as similar in appearance to traditional bridles as possible.

Kant Rub It Off bridle
The KRIO bridle is designed to stay on, even after a horse has rubbed the brow band over its ears.

As a harness maker, I developed a driving bridle based on the Australian stockman’s bridle some years ago. This bridle has a second crown, to which the throat latch is attached. The design proved to be highly effective, preventing at least one accident when the wearer rubbed his bridle crown over his ears, but the snug-fitting second crown prevented the bridle from falling off.

Since one of my horses gets exceedingly itchy under the bridle, I felt it might be a matter of time before she got her bridle off, if I didn’t do something, and soon! So I worked out the details of the KRIO (Kant Rub It Off) bridle that I am very happy with. Fortunately,I have not had cause to test it in the field, but I believe strongly that it could be the difference between a minor inconvenience and a terrible wreck. I am sharing the details of the construction of this bridle here, in hopes that it finds acceptance, and that it might prevent more of these horrible wrecks, which seem to occur all too frequently.

Here are the primary features:

  • The crown is not split. It does not have throat latch billets, only cheek billets.
  • The brow band is extra long, extending below the cheek billet about 3", and terminating in a ring at each end.
  • To these rings are attached a second, “safety” crown, and the throat latch billets.
  • The throat latch is shorter than a traditional bridle.
  • Of utmost importance, there is a short strap on each side which attach the brow band assembly to the cheeks.

The remainder of the bridle is made as any other.

Begin with any ordinary crown. The only one I had to “sacrifice” was a die cut curved crown. A straight piece of BioThane ™ or leather can be used. The throat latch billets have been cut off, leaving only the cheek billets.

Begin with any ordinary crown. The only one I had to “sacrifice” was a die cut curved crown. A straight piece of BioThane ™ or leather can be used. The throat latch billets have been cut off, leaving only the cheek billets.

The throatlatch-crown-browband assembly I am making in these photos is for a horse which normally takes a 16” brow band (a Morgan). Hopefully these instructions will be clear enough for any harness maker to adapt the design to his own construction techniques. The safety crown concept is especially adaptable to ringcrown draft bridles.

The brow band is 20" in length, total, excluding the rings. The safety crown is 13 1/2" total, excluding the rings.

The throat latch billets are 7 1/2" total, excluding the rings. The cheek connector straps are 3 1/4" total.

The throat latch is 10 3/4" total (this bridle fits a horse with a slim throat), excluding the buckles.

bridle crown
Start with an ordinary crown and remove the throatlatch billets.
browband-crown-throatlatch assembly
Here is a look at what the browband-crown-throatlatch assembly will look like when you are done.
browband-crown-throatlatch assemblyfolded browband-crown-throatlatch assembly
Here is another look at the assembly, folded together.

Making the Brow Band

The brow band is made about 5 inches longer than an ordinary brow band, and each end terminates in a ring. The "lap" where the browband material folds over the ring is extra long, in order to create "extenders" that will drop the safety crown behind the regular crown, so that the safety crown will sit a few inches farther down the neck than the regular crown.

bridle brow band

horseshoe This is a side view of one end of the brow band. My thumb is on the short strap that connects the brow/ crown assembly to the cheek. The short strap is made of thin, hi-flex BioThane. It is stitched to the INSIDE of the part of the loop through which the crown billet passes. A small spacer of leather has been inserted into the loop to keep it open for easy insertion of the crown billet. The spacer is held in place with a Chicago screw. I am using an ordinary rosette here. The loop on the back of the rosette has been “dimpled” with a cold chisel and hammer to prevent it from sliding over the Chicago screw. A nice “finish” would be to use a harness ornament with a Chicago screw on the back, instead of a regular rosette.

The ring is about 1 1⁄8". Making up the unusual browband is the only “trick” to this bridle.

bridle cheek connector

horseshoe When assembling the bridle, the short connector strap buckles into the bridle cheek first. Note that it is adjustable, so the brow band can be positioned properly on the horse’s forehead.

bridle cheek billet
horseshoe Then the bridle crown cheek billet is inserted through the loop in the brow band in the usual manner, and buckled into the cheek over the top of the connector strap, as shown in this picture from the underside of the bridle cheek. Note that your box loops must either be ample enough to accommodate both straps, or the connector strap must be cut when the correct brow band position is determined on the horse.

horseshoe If you have positioned the connector strap properly, it will be virtually invisible under the crown cheek billet. The reason for the connector strap is because without it, should the main bridle crown be pulled over the ears, the bridle crown could theoretically slip through the browband loops, thereby dropping the bit out of the horse’s mouth, and the blinkers below the eyes. The connector strap assures that this does not happen.

fitted bridle
horseshoe Here is the bridle fitted to the horse’s head. Note that the throat latch and the safety crown form a “collar” around a much narrower part of the horse’s throat than a typical bridle. The throat latch can be buckled fairly snugly.

For added insurance, a person may want to use a connector strap between the nose band and the throat latch. A ring could be added for attaching a lead rope.

safety crown on bridle
horseshoe And here is the hoped-for result of a complete displacement of the main crown – no loss of function whatsoever.

The safety crown works especially well with the ringcrown style of bridle, however it may be that this crown style is actually more free to slip over the ears. In either style, it may be highly advantageous to attach a small strap between the main crown and the safety crown along the top center.
Inquiries may be made to Barb Lee, lee@ccwebster.net, or 503-631-2862, or write in care of Rural Heritage Magazine. I am no longer a harness maker so cannot build a bridle for anyone else. Please take this article to your favorite harness maker! rh horse logo
Barb Lee lives in Oregon City, Ore. This article appeared in the June/July 2011
issue of Rural Heritage magazine.

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