Product Review: Goodbye ‘Franken-bridle,’ Hello Flexible Fit Equestrian!

Photo by Abby Powell.

Meet my pony, Maggie. She’s 14.0-hands tall and she wears a cob-size crown piece, a full-size browband, cob-size cheek pieces, a cob-size noseband, and pony-size reins. I’ve spent the entirety of the time that I have been eventing her — that’s the past six years — trying to find a bridle that fits her.

Not a single off-the-rack bridle has fit this pony correctly without punching any holes or replacing any parts. In my years-long quest to find or build a well-fitting bridle for her I’ve scrounged through dollar bins full of musty strap goods, bummed odd parts off of friends, and purchased enough complete bridles (most of which ended up being returned) to equip a small cavalry.

The end result has been what I dub a “franken-bridle.” It’s not pretty, but it get’s the job done for the most part. It’s made of an amalgamation of pieces from different brands, in different sizes and if you look closely enough, slightly different shades of brown all claiming to be havana. See below:

There are two main things I’ve learned throughout my bridle-fitting misadventures. The first is that just because you have a pony or a horse, you can’t assume that they’ll automatically fit into a prescribed “pony” or “full” size bridle. Secondly, I’ve found that size designations are wildly inconsistent between brands. Two nosebands from different suppliers both stamped as full-size will often measure differently. I’ve even experienced a cob-size browband from one company that was larger than full-size of another brand! So you can imagine how excited I was when I heard there was a company whose premise was to fit the horse based on the measurement of each part that also offers a wide range of styles.

Flexible Fit Equestrian recognizes that no two horses are alike, so why should their bridles be? Their solution is a build-your-own bridle experience where customers mix-and-match the sizes of their bridle parts and choose from and wide selection of nosebands and browbands, creating a custom fit on a truly versatile piece of equipment.

Flexible Fit Equestrian hadn’t been on my radar before, but they’re not new to the market by any means — they are actually Australia’s largest bridle company and have been in business for over 10 years. Recently they’ve set up a new stateside base for customer service and order fulfillment, shipping directly from Virginia, making them much more readily available to customers in the United States.

For the past month, my pony has been trying out pieces in Flexible Fit Equestrian’s havana brown mix and match snaffle bridle range. I began with Flexible Fit Equestrian’s guide to measuring for a snaffle bridle and watched one of their many videos on measuring. Armed with a fabric measuring tape, I headed to the barn. Once I had my measurements, I referred to their size charts which took me a moment to wrap my head around since I had been used to measuring the crown piece and cheek pieces separately. I hadn’t seen a measurement chart like this before:

Courtesy of Flexible Fit Equestrian.

Once I understood it, it made a lot of sense. Measuring the crown piece and cheek pieces as one actually offers up more sizing options. For example, if your horse measures around 38 inches, they could fit into a full crown with cob cheeks or a cob crown with full cheeks depending on the fit you’re going for. Maggie measured in between the cob/cob sizing and the cob/pony sizing, which surprised me since I hadn’t been able to fit her into a crown piece smaller than full size (thanks to her comically big ears and generous forehead) in any previous bridle I had tried, but I later learned that the Flexible Fit Equestrian’s sizing runs a little larger than we’re used to in the US.

Since my pony measured in between sizes on the above chart, I consulted the company regarding which combination to go with; it’s easy to do via a form on their website. Even after you build your bridle and are checking out, you can still submit your measurements along with your order and someone at the company will double check your sizing. Once you receive your item, if you find that any part doesn’t fit as your hoped they guarantee that you can swap it out.

Joanne from Flexible Fit Equestrian opted to go with the cob crown and cob cheeks for Maggie to ensure that her ears would have the clearance they need and that I would have enough flexibility in lowering and raising the cheek pieces to accommodate different bits with different size rings. Sizing for the browband and noseband were more straight forward, and Maggie clearly would be full and cob sizes, respectively.

I chose a havana bridle in order to match my jump saddle, which I am also riding dressage in at the moment, but all of Flexible Fit Equestrian’s leather goods are available in both havana and black. Been looking for a brown bridle to match a brown dressage saddle or a black bridle to match black jump tack? They’ve got you covered. In addition to snaffle brides they also carry double bridles, hackamores, and noseband-less bridles. Each and every style is available in every size and in either color.

This noseband? Same exact one as below, without the flash. Photo by Abby Powell.

I love the padding on the underside of the crown piece, the browband, and the noseband — it’s super soft but doesn’t add bulk. The noseband style that we tried first, which they call a raised Converter Eventer, features a pad on the underside of the chin and a flash noseband attachment that easily converts to a plain cavesson. Want that polished flash-less look for the jogs without lugging around a whole other bridle? Simply slip the converter tab out of the noseband and everyone will be none the wiser. It’s sleek and classic-looking and for once my pony can wear a bridle with the different size parts that she needs and still have a cohesive look with matching shades of brown.

But most importantly: It fits. It fits really well, in fact. And Flexible Fit Equestrian nailed it on the first try.

This is the same bridle as in the first photo, but with the browband swapped out and the flash taken off. Photo by Abby Powell.

Is it the most buttery soft leather that I’ve ever felt? I’ll be honest that, no, it’s isn’t, but it’s certainly no rough bottom-of-the-barrel cut either. Though the leather arrives a bit stiff, if you follow the included instructions to give it a few applications of a good quality leather cream a couple times in the first week it will begin to soften up and become flexible rather nicely. Flexible Fit Equestrian’s leather is sourced from England and tanned within the UK. It’s expertly stitched and I have no reason to believe that it won’t hold up to years of use.

We spend a lot of time obsessing over how well our saddles fit (rightly so,) but why not our bridles too? A traditional bridle that is fitted correctly from ears to nose will not sit over any of the major facial nerves or blood vessels. Though there are many bridles on the market now with interesting anatomically designed nosebands, none of their manufacturers offer sizing part by part, which can be equally important in achieving a comfortable fit. My horse/pony/cob and I are glad to finally be able to kick the franken-bridle to the curb.

We’ve covered the ‘fit’ in Flexible Fit Equestrian in this review, and we’ll be bringing you another installment in which we cover the ‘flexible’ aspect and take a closer look at their enormous selection of different style nosebands, browbands, and reins. Frankly there’s just too much to cover in a single review, but suffice to say that whatever style you need, they’ve got it covered.

Flexible Fit Equestrian has a couple great promotions going on right now if you’re still doing a bit of list minute holiday shopping. Now through the end of this week you can use the code CHRISTMAS20 at checkout from 20% off your order. No time to measure your or your recipient’s horse right now? There’s a great deal on gift cards right now as well: purchase one for $200 or more and receive an extra $50.

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