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In technical terms, the bridle is the headgear used to control a horse, and includes the bit that goes in the mouth of the horse and the reins that are attached and then held by the jockey during a race.
There is more than one type of bridle for horses, though they all do the same job. Bits can be altered to prevent a horse from pulling, or to stop their inclination to go in a particular direction.
A normal bridle is usually made of leather, though synthetic ones are available. The differences are for aesthetic value, or ease of cleaning or sterilising between uses by horses or between races.
A racing commentator will often refer to a horse being ‘on the bridle’ or ‘picking up the bit.’ This means that there is a good connection between the bit and the reins as held by the jockey, with the jockey able to control the horse’s momentum.
If the commentator says the horse is ‘on the bridle’ or ‘picking up the bit’ it is an indication the horse is going well and could be set to launch a challenge to the race leader. If a horse regularly picks up the bit, it could be the sign of a good runner.
A horse not travelling well will drop the bit when labouring, which is not a positive sign. A horse may ‘pick up the bit again’ or get ‘back on the bridle,’ which means they are going well again and still have something to give in the race, though haven’t been put under maximum pressure.
‘On the snaffle’ is a term referring to a particular type of bridle, but is more commonly used in the United States than the United Kingdom.
There are 10 parts to a standard bridle, including the crownpiece, the noseband, the fiador and the bit.