Difference Between Bridle And Headstall

Hello! Did you know there is a difference between a bridle and a headstall?
No! Well, there is a difference!

Many people don’t know the difference between a bridle and headstall. I have had people refer to them as the thing that goes on the horses head or around their face.

That’s okay I understand! Below I have explained the correct terms and the basics.

difference between bridle and headstall
Western Headstall

If you are interested in learning the difference between a bridle and headstall, then please continue reading.

Pleasure, Shows, Western, English, Dressage, Bridles/Headstalls:

 A bridle: whether it is for pleasure, shows, western, English, dressage is the complete set that has a bit that goes in your horse’s mouth to ride.
There are many different styles and colors for different riding disciplines.

Headstalls: The headstall is the headpiece without the bit or reins attached.
So the headstall is going to be the main piece to complete a bridle to ride.
Bits: A bit is a piece that goes in your horse’s mouth and for communication and control bits are categorized into two groups

Snaffle Bits: A Snaffle is a direct pressure bit
Curb Bits: The curb bit is a leverage bit with shanks.

Both types of bits can have a variety of different mouthpieces and styles with a roller on it so the horse can play with it and be more content. Bits are made of stainless steel (the most common type), aluminum, copper, etc

Hackamore Bridle: 

difference between bridle and headstall
English Hackamore Bitless Bridle

There is another bridle called a hackamore that some people use that doesn’t like to put bits in their horse’s mouth. What the hackamore is, is a headstall that doesn’t have a mouthpiece, with reins attached to.

A properly trained horse with a hackamore will be easy to control.
A horse that has been riding with a bit should not ride with a hackamore unless you are an advanced rider.
The reason for this is because the horse is not as easy to control without a bit and they can put their head down easier to eat or run away with you in a hackamore.

Styles can be a two earpiece, one earpiece, browband or just a plain strap that lays behind the ears. They can also have a throat latch strap that buckles behind the horse’s jaw. The purpose of this strap is to keep it properly in place. As well as helping with the horse’s speed control.

Reins: Reins are long straps that connect on each side of the bottom part of the bit that you hold in your hands to control your horse with communication. Like the other equipment pieces, they come in different styles and colors.


Trainers at a show will use the tack/equipment term when speaking to their students. Which means, everything they have to put on your horse to ride, the bridle, blanket, saddle, etc.
There are also other people who this term use as well.

Equestrian Collections
My Mare Cinny (left)
Her baby Taiga(right)

Be cautious when changing your tack whether it’s new or used. Take the time to make sure it fits comfortably.

I hope you are no longer confused about bridles and headstalls.
Please leave a comment or any questions you may have. I will gladly reply back to you.
Thank You For Reading My Page. All the best!    Michelle



4 thoughts on “Difference Between Bridle And Headstall”

  1. I feel much more educated after reading this article. I did not know the difference between the headstall and bridle. I do now!
    I have never had a horse or been around horses. I always wanted to though. My son has a horse named Lady in the country. She loves to eat and hates when someone rides her! She is so stubborn but so lovable.

  2. Hi Cynthia, I am glad you were able to learn from my site. I bet she is lovable. Horses have a calming about them that calms you. Does your son ride his horse?


  3. Until I read this, all I knew about the which controlled the horse was the bit, bridle and reins. I assumed that because they were made of leather – the reins that is – they were all brown and or black. Now I know better and I have also learned about headstall and hackamore bridle. So if ever I get the opportunity I would know a little about horse equiptment and be able to talk about it.

  4. We are always learning something new. I hope you do et the opportunity to ride a horse. Thank you for reading. Michelle

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