The common types of western headstalls are one eared headstalls, which include slot ear, slit ear, and slide ear, and browband headstalls. Either type may be used on trained horses and it is personal preference which you choose to ride with, but browband headstalls are generally used with snaffles on colts and green horses.
Single ear headstalls of any kind are intended to be used with bits that have shanks, also known as curb bits. Slot ear headstall crown pieces (the strap that connects the bit to the headstall on either side) are made with a wider area in the leather where the ear will come through. In that place, a section of leather is cut from the crown to leave a slot for the ear. Slit ear headstalls simply have a slit cut in the crown for the ear. To allow room for the ear, this slit is generally longer than its corresponding slot in a slot ear headstall. Slide ear headstalls are built with a u-shaped piece of leather (earpiece) that slides on the crown into position for the right ear to be placed in the earpiece. This type headstall can also be built with an earpiece for each ear.
In addition to the crown piece, browband headstalls also have a browband and throatlatch. 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 more effective and safer rides. The throatlatch gives it extra stability and prevents a horse from shaking or pulling the headstall off. 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.
The curb or chin strap on a snaffle bit is attached to each snaffle ring between the mouthpiece and rein. It will not touch the chin and is there to help keep the snaffle rings from being pulled through the horse’s mouth when turning or doubling. It should hang loosely and does not function to stop the horse.
Always remember that if your bridle is adjusted properly and the bit fits your horse properly but your horse is uncomfortable (chews the bit, opens mouth, tosses head etc.) that it’s a good idea to have a veterinarian check him for dental issues.
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