I normally love a bargain but there are certain things I won’t scrimp on and tack is one of them. Good saddles and bridles cost a pretty penny but there is a good reason why: they fit better, they last longer and end result is happier horses. Yes there is occasionally a brand which is cheaper that may be as or nearly as good as the top end brands but they are rare.
I look at my bridle history and there is a line of Stübbens, handmade English leather bridles, Sabre and also a Belgian bridle by the maker Tolga, none of them ‘cheap’ makes, although there was one exception I will expand on below.
I am a great believer that you should work your horse at home in the same bridle as at competitions so whatever is the current bridle of choice it needs to stand up to daily use.
I will normally only change a bridle if the horse breaks it or I have a new horse with a different sized head!
I have ridden Fleur since she was a 4yo and she is now 14 so in 10 years she has had now 6 bridles which is rather more than I would like. The first belonged to her previous owner so when I bought Fleur from her it was returned. The second had a fancy split headpiece something I soon discovered was not very practical (read bit sliding through mouth almost!) so that was sold. I then used an ancient Stübben which was easily 10+ years old but was a little cosmetically tatty round the edges after daily use, but it was safe and served the purpose for a few years whilst I couldn’t afford to splash out on a new bridle. Then I could and I bought the Tolga and what a beautiful wonderful bridle it was for a good couple of years until madam got it caught and broke it, even worse she did so mid event. I could have cried, actually I think I did. I had no choice but to buy a bridle at the event if I wanted to finish the competition, to say there was a limited choice is putting it mildly but £60 later I had a supposedly English leather grackle bridle. To say it was bad was an understatement, it needed a LOT of extra holes added to even fit that day and then proceeded to stretch over the coming months rather notably. I searched trying to find a replacement noseband for the Tolga but to no avail, so continued with the ‘cheap’ bridle not really finding something suitable as a long term replacement. That was until the beginning of this year!
I have long admired Kate Negus bridles but hadn’t up till now owned one as I wanted another bridle with a notably shaped head piece, but at the beginning of the year they launched their new Grand Prix padded and shaped head piece which was exactly what I wanted from a bridle. After a chat with the very helpful Julia from Kate Negus that included taking measurements of my existing bridle plus noting my preferences of leather colour, buckles, bilets and reins amongst other things, my new bridle was ordered. I ordered both a Grackle and flash noseband so I was prepared for non BE dressage in addition to a pair of the X-Suregrip reins, as hey I may as well go the whole hog as my work Christmas bonus was paying! (Nothing like a Christmas present to yourself!)
I personally don’t do bling in pretty much any form so I did choose very simple ‘plain’ options including traditional billets instead of buckles or clips but for those that want bling the option is there.
On arrival I was immediately impressed by the quality of the leather and the stitching, there was no doubting it was a quality bridle. When fitting it to Fleur the advantages of being able to mix and match sizes to make the appropriate bridle really was highlighted. Fleur has a cob head almost pony in size from top to bottom dimensions but is quite broad so whereas previous Cob bridle browbands have always been tight the full sized option that came with the Kate Negus bridle fitted perfectly.
I have now had the bridle several months and it is honestly still looking as new, despite daily use and not enough care on my part, it has only the slight marks where the buckles lay on the same hole each time that would tell you otherwise.
In terms of its performance Fleur is going fantastically well in it, it hasn’t stretched like its predecessor and due to the head piece design swapping the noseband couldn’t be easier, no threading things through just do up a buckle on either side. I LOVE the reins which means a lot coming from me, as I am ultra-fussy and can’t stand traditional rubber reins which are too bulky and inflexible. I have ridden in all weathers without grip issues and they are lovely and soft and flexible due to their nylon rather than leather core.
Handily I also picked up a Kate Negus kineton at Badminton in their sale to replace my ancient one which had seen better days so everything matches!
I really can’t speak higher of the bridle and the service received from Kate Negus. There are very few companies that offer such an effectively made to measure personalised service when it comes to bridles and other leather work, never mind producing such high quality products and I can promise you now they didn’t pay me to say that!