The first bridles were made of leather which was very important because the horse's head needed to be controlled. Early horsemen recognized that the horse's mouth was a pressure point and if combined with a "bit" one could even control the horse. Today's bridal, bit and reins are very similar to the first ones used in early times and not much has changed, and more often than not, leather is still the material of choice for the best quality bridles, and the most durable.
Choosing a bridle for your horse can be a big decision and there are many requirements that you need to consider when choosing your new bridle. One decision that is often discussed between horse owners shopping for a new bridle is whether to buy leather or synthetic. Some people have very strong views on this subject; some would never buy anything but the best quality leather bridles while others prefer the ease of cleaning and lightweight design of synthetic bridles. What exactly are the benefits of the different materials for a bridle?
BENEFITS OF A LEATHER BRIDLE
Leather is the traditional material used for making tack for horses, both saddles and bridles. It is considered hard wearing, and a good quality leather bridle is always a good investment for any horse owner. The durable nature of leather means that it will last for many years and continue to look good for a very long time. If well taken care of, a leather bridle will always be soft and comfortable for your horse unlike some synthetic materials which can be harsh on sensitive areas of the horse. Leather is considered to make a better quality bridle. If you intend to use your new bridle for showing or competition, then a synthetic bridle is not a suitable option in most cases.
Leather does tend to be more expensive than synthetic materials, and combined with the cost of the workmanship involved to produce a good quality leather bridle as compared to the cost of producing a synthetic one, this can make a big difference in the amount that you will spend. When considering these factors, it is wise to remember the golden rule when buying horse equipment; always buy the best quality that you can afford. While you will definitely pay more for a leather bridle, it is likely to outlast any synthetic bridle that you buy, no matter what it cost.
BENEFITS OF A SYNTHETIC BRIDLE
Despite the fact that leather bridles are superior in both durability and appearance, synthetic bridles can be very useful in some cases. For sports such as endurance where lightweight equipment is very important, synthetic bridles are commonly used. These lightweight bridles are quite useful for young horses because they are not as heavy as leather bridles, making them more comfortable and easier to use. For horse owners who don't have time to regularly clean their leather equipment, synthetic materials can be a great alternative, as they require much less care than leather and can often be just rinsed or brushed clean when they get sweaty or dirty.
The main downside of synthetic material is that by nature it will show wear and tear much sooner, and be likely to fray or look worn after a much shorter period of time, especially if you are washing or rinsing it often. Obviously this will make it unsuitable for showing or competitions. Even though these synthetic bridles may look less attractive with wear than their leather counterparts, this does not necessarily compromise the function of the bridle.
On the whole, the choice between whether to buy leather or synthetic depends entirely upon how you intend to use your new bridle. In some instances, owners simply prefer traditional materials and the beauty of leather, while others concentrate more on functionality or have less need to focus on the horse's appearance. No matter which type of bridle you choose, it is wise to remember that you always get what you pay for and where possible, try to buy the best quality items that you can afford.