What makes a “Comfort”able Bridle?

I’ve been reading recently about the “Comfort Bridle” or “Elevator Bridle” that was developed by Lorraine Greene of Horsesence Saddlers. Variations on this design are now being marketed by several leading manufacturers, such as Albion and Jeffries.

The principle behind this type of bridle is that by maximizing the horse’s comfort, you can improve its performance. Specifically, these bridles are designed to relieve pressure to the poll area.

According to the Horsesense web site:

The Elevator Bridle has been designed to relieve pressure to the horse’s very sensitive poll area. It is one of the most sensitive areas on a horse’s body, just where a bridle headpiece sits. Nerves and blood vessels which feed the brain are located in this area. It is also where Meridian lines run – one of the areas which they connect is the kidney area, exactly where the saddle and rider sit. 

Lorraine Greene said, “I designed a special cushioned underpad, constructed in the softest leather and strongest cushioning, supporting a newly shaped leather headpiece to allow room for the horse’s ears to move freely without rubbing. It eliminates the common problem of a bridle being pulled forward onto the horse’s ears. We see many horses with sore backs of ears, so it’s important to remember that a horse can feel something as light as a fly on his body. To minimise pressure, this headpiece has crew holes either side below a horse’s ears to allow the thinner noseband strap to thread through and over the top of the cushioned pad”.

A lot of top riders seem to agree that this design makes a difference. The testimonials on the site are impressive and the spate of copycat bridles indicates that this is a design that is here to stay.

What I find most interesting about the design concept is the emphasis on reducing poll pressure. There are several bridle and bit configurations that use poll pressure as a way to control horses: gag bits, for example or the cross-under style bitless bridles like the Dr. Cook’s Bitless Bridle or the Nurtural Bitless Bridle. These last two describe their mechanism as a “whole head hug”, that is a kinder, gentler solution than traditional bridles, and yet their mechanism definitely relies on poll pressure.

While I haven’t tried one of the comfort bridles yet, the concept resonates with me. I have a horse that is very sensitive to poll pressure. I’ve tried the Dr. Cook’s Bitless bridle on him and found that the poll pressure was too severe for him; the slightest pressure on the bridle caused him to start to rear. I actually tried one of the bridles again last week. One of my barn mates bought one (in biothane) and I wanted to give it another try. I found that it still provided more pressure on him than he could tolerate when hacking or schooling on the flat. It might actually work out in the hunt field where I find I need a bit more stopping power, but for flat work he focused more on the bridle than on me and I could not establish the same connection that I can achieve with bitless designs that use nose pressure. Instead, he backed off of the connection and hollowed his back.

So, the idea of minimizing poll pressure to maximize performance makes sense to me. In fact, I’ve seen the relationship between back sensitivity and the poll in my own horse. The last time I had my saddles fitted, I asked Gary Severson (aka the Saddle Dr.) about the tightness I could feel in his back. Gary used what I can only describe as acupressure at his poll. Almost immediately he started to chew, lick and yawn. His eye got soft and so did his back. I’ve been using this technique whenever I feel any extra tension in his back and it has made a huge difference. He is using his back more and really swings.

I suspect that if I still rode with a bit, I would try the comfort design bridles. But I think that a lot depends on your horse. If you have a horse that is sensitive to poll pressure — and it appears that many are — this design can help you find a better way to communicate with your horse without causing tension and stiffness in your horse’s back. 


6 thoughts on “What makes a “Comfort”able Bridle?

  1. Try the German LG bitless wheel….. I don’t EVER get to poll pressure with it…..even on ex-racehorses and feral mustangs. Tried everything else….best.

  2. Just a correction in that the Nurtural bridles don’t rely on poll pressure, unless the use of the reins is very heavy. The Dr. Cooks, however, do rely much more on poll pressure, as one of the primary pressure points.
    Though I must say, these new “elevator” bridle contraptions sound interesting, I’ll definitely need to learn more….

    1. Thanks for the info on the Nurtural bridle. I incorrectly assumed that since the design was a cross under, that it would also apply poll pressure.

    2. I disagree with Heather – the Nurtural and Dr. Cook bridles are virtually the same design and work on the same principles. In fact, the Nurtural is a direct copy of the Dr. Cook bridle with a few minor changes to get around Dr. Cook’s patent.

      Crossunder bitless bridles do not apply “heavy” pressure on the poll under normal riding conditions, in fact crossunder bitless bridles do not engage the poll at all unless fairly strong traction is applied to the reins and even then it is not severe.

      If you have had problems with your horse rearing in a crossunder bridle, you should look at how the bridle is fitted to your horse. Rearing could be caused by the bridle sitting too low on the nose or being too tight, or by a physical problem such as teeth with sharp edges.

  3. Hi
    I have tried a Dr Cooks bitless on several racehorses and have great success!
    A lot less pulling and a calmer horse

  4. There is another bridle to add to your list now:
    The SoftEE Bridle designed by Heather Moffett (inventor of the Fhoenix Saddles)!
    Comfort is foremost feature of this elegant design.

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