How to Measure Your Horse for a Headstall

When you buy a new pair of running shoes, boots, or high heels, do you ever choose a pair that you think might be your size just from looking at them? If they aren’t the right size and aren’t fitting properly, then your feet will let you know. Just like you always want to make sure you are buying the correct size in your new pair of shoes, you want to be sure you know the correct size for your horse’s headstall. The first step to measuring for proper headstall fit is to determine which type of headstall your horse will be wearing. Follow along in the video to see how to measure for proper fit based on the headstall you will be using.

There are two main types of western headstalls: A one ear headstall, which includes sliding ear and slot ear, and browband headstalls which have a crown piece, browband and throatlatch. Single ear headstalls of any kind are intended to be used with bits that have shanks. A headstall with a throatlatch gives extra stability and prevents a horse from shaking it off or pulling it off if they rub their head on something. Since young horses are likely to be ridden in a snaffle, the browband headstall helps keep the snaffle bit in a correct and comfortable position for your young horse for more effective and safe rides. When fitting properly, the browband on a headstall helps keep the cheek pieces in the correct position without pinching around the base of the ears. The browband also helps keep the bridle from slipping backwards on the horse’s head.

One of the most important parts of making sure a headstall fits properly has to do with the way the bit sits in the horse’s mouth. The cheek pieces are the correct length on a headstall when the bit is in the proper position in the mouth. If a headstall does not fit correctly, the bit may cause discomfort and confusion for your horse. One tell-tale way to quickly check for fitting issues is to look for wrinkles around your horse’s mouth when they have the bridle on. For most horses, the bridle cheeks should be adjusted so the bit’s mouthpiece does not cause any wrinkles in the corners of the mouth but is still sitting at the corners without hanging below them. This means the bit is resting in the horse’s mouth where there are no teeth. Remember, it’s important when you are adjusting your headstall that you take it up or let it out in small increments at a time, never more than ¾ inch.

A bridle that fits well and is adjusted properly will allow your horse to be relaxed and comfortable. Proper fit of a headstall is so important because all the components of a bridle work in conjunction with one another, and if there is one improper adjustment it can cause the cues you give to your horse to be thrown off. It is also important to remember that if your bridle is adjusted properly and the bit fits your horse properly, but your horse is telling you they are uncomfortable (chewing the bit, opening their mouth, tossing their head, etc.) it’s a good idea to have a veterinarian check their teeth for any underlying dental issues.

Dennis Moreland Tack handmade headstalls and complete bridles are designed with closely spaced adjustment holes for very precise adjustments. All are made with the finest quality leather and stainless steel hardware. For more information please call 817-312-5305 or email

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