Whether for play, competition or display purposes, tacking up model horses is fun! Tiny saddles and bridles help make models come to life and look like they’re really performing. Crafting your own tack is not only economical, but also very rewarding. With these simple instructions you can create your own hunt seat bridle that’s realistic enough for show purposes, yet tough enough for play.
The finished product depends greatly on the quality of leather lace. Select a fairly narrow width, such as 3/32” so it will look proportionate to your model’s head. The more pliable the leather, the better, as the bridle will hang more naturally. Stiff leather is difficult to position properly on a model. To soften the lace a bit, roll it around your index finger and pull it through several times. Choose a shade of brown that will match your saddle.
Materials & Supplies
Leather lace (about 1.3 meters)
20 gauge wire
2 small round silver beads
Needle nose pliers
Leather measurements for average Traditional Breyer
Reins: 36 cm
Throatlatch: 16 cm
Bridle cheekpieces: 4.5 cm
Bridle crownpiece: 11 cm
Browband: 9.5 cm
Noseband: 10 cm
Cavesson crownpiece: 13 cm
Cavesson cheekpiece: 5 cm
Begin by making five buckles with the 20-gauge wire. (You could also use pre-made Rio Rondo buckles and skip this step.) Carefully bend the wire at a 90-degree angle to the left, while holding it with needle nose pliers. Continue making four more 90-degree left angles until you achieve a buckle that’s a rectangle with a bar through the middle. Snip the wire with your wire cutters. Try to make the buckles just wide enough to accommodate the lace.
Next, make a snaffle bit using the wire and two tiny silver beads. A bead on each snaffle ring will simulate where the mouthpiece joins the ring. Thread a bead on, then use your needle nose pliers to shape a ring about 8 mm in diameter. Snip the wire and close the gap of the two ends. Put a dab of glue over the ends and slide the bead onto that area. This will hide the wire ends and hold the “mouthpiece” still. Repeat for other side of bit. A pre-made bit could be also used instead.
|Slide the bead on first, then shape a circle of wire for the bit.|
When constructing the bridle, you may notice that the lace becomes rather bulky when folded for gluing to a buckle or bit ring. To minimize the bulk, you can skive the end of the lace. Lay it flat on a hard surface, such as a wooden cutting board, with the rough side of lace up. Hold it down with a finger, while holding your X-Acto in the other hand at an angle to the lace. Carefully shave off a very thin layer about 2 cm long. This is optional and does pose a risk of cutting yourself or of cutting through the lace. Children should skip this step or ask an adult to help with it.
Skiving the leather makes it easier to fold for gluing.
It’s easiest to cut and assemble one piece of the bridle at a time, so you don’t get the pieces of leather mixed up. Labeling parts with a sticky note will help you stay organized. In keeping with equestrian terminology, references to the left side of the horse or bridle will be the “near” side and to the right side will be the “off” side.
Using the measurement chart below, cut the reins. Fold a tab at one end and glue to a bit ring. When folding tabs, fold back about 1 cm of lace. Apply a minimal amount of glue so it doesn’t ooze out the sides. Use a clothespin to hold the tab in place while it dries. Repeat for the other end.
|Clothespins hold folded tabs while the glue dries. Labels identify the bridle parts.|
Cut the throatlatch and glue a buckle to one end. Cut a rounded point on the other end. Cut both bridle cheekpieces and glue a buckle to each. Cut the bridle crownpiece and cut a rounded point on each end.
The browband length varies from horse to horse and is not adjustable. Cut the browband at 9.5 cm, fold a long tab of about 1.75 cm, and glue it leaving an opening wide enough for two widths of lace to pass through. Leave the other end plain for now.
To begin the cavesson portion of the bridle, cut the noseband and glue a buckle to one end, making a rounded point on the other end. Cut the crownpiece, which will go on the off side. Fold a tab and glue it leaving an open slot just wide enough for one width of lace to pass through. Trim a rounded point on the other end. Cut the cavesson cheekpiece and glue a tab leaving a slot on it, also. Glue a buckle to the other end.
Now glue the bridle cheekpieces to the bit rings, making sure the mouthpiece bead is at the front, between the reins and cheeks.
|The bridle parts are ready for final assembly.|
When the glue is dry, remove all the clothespins. Buckle the bridle crownpiece onto the off side cheekpiece. Slide the noseband through the cavesson crownpiece and cheekpiece slots; the longer strap goes on the off side. Hold the bridle and cavesson crownpieces together, along with the throatlatch. Slide these three pointed straps through the browband slot with the bridle crown being in front of and next to the throatlatch; the cavesson crown should be underneath both of them. Position it over your model’s head and determine where to fold the near side browband tab to get a good fit. It needs to be long enough to keep the cheek straps back from the eyes. Take the bridle off the horse and glue the tab allowing space for two widths of lace to pass through the slot. Allow to dry.
|Try the bridle on your model to determine the finished browband length.|
Continue by passing the three straps (in proper order) through the near side of the browband. Then buckle the cavesson and bridle crownpieces to their corresponding cheekpieces.
Put the bridle on your horse and adjust it. Start by buckling the noseband snugly; adjust the cavesson crownpiece so the noseband is just under halfway from nostril to eye. On a real horse, it rests about two finger widths below the cheekbone. Next, wax the mouthpiece beads to the corners of the mouth. Adjust the bridle cheeks so they lay snugly against the sides of the head and so both sides are even. Buckle the throatlatch snugly, but not tight. Be sure the reins are straight and have good contact as you pull them back to the rider’s hands or wax them in place near the withers.
Voilà! Your horse is now ready for some hunt seat adventures!
The finished hunt seat bridle!