The goal of that post is not to go through all the measurement process, neither to deal with the good headstall or bit. I have just seen such strange _ and sometimes painful _ methods to bridle a horse that I feel interesting to share this information.
I did not invent anything here: many good horsemen use the following method, I experienced it and I think it is the most comfortable both for the horse and the horseman or horsewoman.
Before I get into the details, I want to emphasize the philosophy laying behind the following steps: empathy and respect! I know I keep saying and writing these words. I do it on purpose. Imagine you are this horse: would you like someone to tear your ear to put that bit on? Or hit your teeth with that piece of metal? Or to put fingers in your mouth all the time? I can tell you I could not stand that for long…
Tom Dorrance was explaining to one of his students how important was a gentle touch to educate a horse. We can actually teach a horse to come to the bit, open its mouth and take it all by itself IF it knows that process will be pleasant and rewarding, not painful or uncomfortable: “It comes from the heart” are the words he used to explain how gentle and soft we should be with our horses.
Now that you are relaxed, full of love and softness for your horse, let’s bridle it:
First of all, I advise to keep the halter around your horse’s neck. The lead rope should be wrapped around your right arm so you remain connected to your horse all the time. I do not tie it up as it is safer to be able to move with the horse if necessary. And I do not let him loose neither as I want to be able to restrain it, just in case, or simply to have a lever to back it up for instance.
Position of the horse
Second, I want my horse to collaborate with me from the beginning. That implies that I should not have to use a stool to reach its poll! Make sure your horse is trained to lower the head and tip it inside when you ask for it. That groundwork is important to prepare the horse to the bridle.
Position of the horseman
Hold the headstall in your right hand and put your horse’s head entirely through it _ bit hanging under the chin and headstall laying around your horse’s right eye.
Presenting the bit
That step will take some time but definitely worth it. The idea is to teach your horse to open gently the mouth every time you approach with the bit. So, see this phase of the training, of its education, as an investment: you will save time and frustration for years afterward!
Lower the headstall a little, hold the bit in your left hand (wide open hand of course) and present it to the horse’s lips, and wait!
First, you could prepare your horse to the bit, by getting him used to accept the rope. Second, especially in the North of Europe when days are cold, heat up the bit between your hands before you present it to your horse. That's the kind of nice attention it will remember!
Putting the headstall on
Now that your horse has taken the bit, you can gently pull the headstall, put the outside ear in the hole first, then the inside ear, remove any hair that would remain stuck under the headstall and… RUB YOUR HORSE, from ears to lips, be generous, let it know that whenever you come with the bit, it will end with nice rubbing all over its face. Ultimately, your horse will be looking forward to being bridled!