Tack Time: Making a Gymkhana Bridle

Text & photos by: Traci Durrell-Khalife


Whether its barrel racing or apple bobbing, gymkhana events are both popular and fun. As with most events, there's some customary tack that will enhance your model entries.

Gaming saddles are typically streamlined to be lightweight and to allow the horse complete freedom of movement for the best times. While optional, breast collars, tiedowns, and protective leg wraps or boots are frequently used. Any type of humane bit or hackamore is allowed. With all this optional equipment, riders often color coordinate for a fun and flashy look that's also very functional.

By following these directions, it's easy to make a colored faux-nylon headstall with mechanical hackamore. It's perfect for gymkhana, but can also be used in roping, drill team, and outdoor scenes such as natural trail and ranch work. Choose ribbon that matches or complements your tack, rider and horse. Please keep in mind that these measurements are for an average Traditional size Breyer® and may need to be modified slightly to fit a specific model. 




With these tools and supplies you can make a bridle

1. Cut two pieces of 20-gauge wire, each 5.5 cm in length. Using needle nose pliers, shape two shanks as shown in Fig.1. Leave a slight opening on the upper rings. Connect the shanks as shown with a 3.5 cm length of wire bent around each lower ring. Using tweezers, make a small S-hook with about 1.25 cm of 24-gauge wire. Attach it to the upper ring on the near (left side) shank. Slide the end link of the chain (3 cm long) onto the upper ring on the off (right side) shank. Squeeze both upper ring s closed.


A flat view of the shanks of the bit

2. Fold a tab on the leather lace and glue around a shank just above the curve. Repeat on other shank, leaving a finished lace length of 2.75 cm. First skiving the tabs with an X-acto is recommended for a smoother appearance. This means shaving a thin layer off the back of the lace. Now trim out a piece of fleece fabric, in your choice of color, just large enough to cover the leather lace for a simulated fur noseband. Hold the hackamore with shanks parallel and noseband curved, as it would be on a horse. Now glue on the fleece and allow it to dry.


3. For the cheek pieces and crown, glue a buckle to one end of a 4-cm piece of ribbon. Fold a tab and glue the other end to the top ring of the near shank of the hackamore, above the S-hook. Glue one end of an 11.5 cm ribbon to the other shank, above the chain. You may use Rio Rondo buckles or shape your own from wire using your needle nose pliers.

4. For the throatlatch, glue a buckle to one end of a 15-cm length of ribbon. Trim the other end to a point.

5. To make the browband, fold a tab at each end of a piece of ribbon so the finished length is 6.25 cm between the folds. Glue the tabs down, leaving an open slot next to each fold.

6. To assemble the headstall, lay the offside cheek piece/crown over the pointed end of the throatlatch. Thread them through one end of the browband. Make sure the glued browband tabs will be on the inside of the bridle. Then thread the pointed ends through the other end of the browband. Buckle the crown to the near cheek piece.

7. Apply a small amount of Fray Check to each pointed end. This helps prevent raveling and makes a stiffer end to go through the buckles.

8. To make looped reins, cut 33 cm of ribbon (or appropriate length for your model). Fold a tab and glue one end to the lower ring of a shank. Repeat on other side, making sure the ribbon isn't twisted.

When everything is dry, put the bridle on your model and adjust it. The noseband of the mechanical hackamore should be a little below the cheekbones. Use tweezers to hook the curb chain snugly onto the S-hook. Buckle the throatlatch so it fits snugly, but not tight. Put the reins over the neck and position in the rider's hand or wax into position if not using a rider.

Voilà. Your model is ready to speed his way through the next gymkhana course in style!


Smarty sports a faux-nylon gymkhana bridle Alternate view of gymkhana bridle



• For matching leg wraps, cut strips of vet wrap self-adhesive elastic bandage 1.5 cm wide by 10 cm long. Wrap around the cannon bone & press tight. It comes in a variety of colors and is available at most tack and feed stores.


• Use a clothespin to hold folded and glued tabs until they dry.
• Children should have adult supervision when using sharp tools.


About 30" of satin ribbon, 2 mm wide
Silver necklace chain, 3 cm long
Two buckles
20 gauge silver wire
24 gauge silver wire
About 5 cm of leather lace
Scrap of fleece fabric

Tools & Supplies:

Needle nose pliers
X-acto knife