4 Different Types of Western Bridles 

Why are bridles used in horseback riding?

What are the specific types of Western bridles used when in Western riding disciplines?

Horse riders know that bridles are important pieces of tack, but with all of the options, it can get confusing for new owners.

Below, I’ll explain the different types of Western bridles and how to choose one depending on your preferences and the needs of your horse.

Let’s get started!

4 Different Types of Western Bridles 

Western riding disciplines are known for their focus on horsemanship and displaying the skills of the working cow horse and ranch horse. Western horse bridles reflect this riding style.

The biggest difference between Western bridles and others is that there is no noseband.  These are some of the most commonly used Western bridle types.

#1 Working Bridle

The working bridle is used for everyday ranch riding, as well as stock and trail rides. There are also elegant ones that are designed for the show ring.

Since working bridles do not have a cavesson noseband, the throat latch keeps it in place on the horse’s head. These bridles often come with a curb chain to use with a Western curb bit.

#2 One Ear Bridle 

One ear bridles, as the name implies, only go around one of the horse’s ears. The one ear slot is either attached or separate from the crownpiece, and it helps to keep the bridle in place like a browband would.

One ear bridles are used for everyday riding as well as showing, and the ones without a throatlatch are favored for the competition arena. 

One ear bridles are ideal for horses that are uncomfortable with a traditional browband because the one earpiece stands in its place.

The one ear slot is also adjustable to accommodate horses with sensitive ears. However, they may not be as secure as other bridles considering that they lack a browband as well as a throat latch.

#3 Two Ear Bridle

The two-ear bridle is the same as the one ear, but it has one ear slot for each of your horse’s ears.

This style of Western bridle is typically reserved for the show ring because they are ornately made and lack a throat latch

#4 Western Bitless Bridles 

In addition to the traditional bridles with a bit, there are also western bridle types that do not have a bit. They work by applying pressure to different areas of the horse’s face instead of their mouth.

The mechanical hackamore works just like a regular bridle minus the mouthpiece, allowing for more control.

On the other hand, bosals are thick rope bridles that impart less control and use direct pressure to tell the horse where to go,

Bitless bridles are best used with horses that have a sensitive mouth or that resist having a bit in their mouth.

In some cases, bitless bridles can be just as harsh as those with a bit, so they should be used with the same amount of care.

These bridles are not allowed in show arenas for the most part, so it would be beneficial to use them at home if you wish.

Now that you know more about the different western bridle types, let’s explore the best situation to use each type of western bridle.

Check: Beautiful Horse Bridles You Shouldn’t Miss!

Which Type of Bridle Should You Choose?

Western bridles should be chosen with care based on the occasion you are riding for, and the comfort of your horse.

If you are doing ranch work with your horse or going trail riding, the traditional working bridle, bitless bridle, or one ear bridle with a throat latch attached would be the best options.

chestnut horse with Western bridle

 If you are showing, remove the throat latch from any of the bitted bridles, and skip the bitless one to avoid being asked to change tack or scratched from the classes you have entered.

This is the main criteria for choosing a Western horse bridle.

Here are some other things to consider when choosing a western bridle for your horse:

  • Bridle fit– make sure the bridle is neither too loose or too tight on your horse’s face, as the former will limit communication and the latter will restrict your horse. 
  • Horse comfort– test the bridle to make sure your horse goes comfortably in it and does not show signs of resistance
  • Bridle material– Western bridles are made of leather straps. Choose a leather that compliments your horse and matches your other tack. The leather should also be of decent quality so that you can get several years of wear out of one bridle
  • Bridle price– make sure you find a bridle that is within your budget and checks off all the right boxes purpose-wise. You want to make sure to get your money’s worth when purchasing a Western bridle

Related: English vs Western Bridle: What is the Difference?


Can you ride a horse without a bridle?

Bridleless riding has become increasingly popular. Before you ride without a bridle, make sure that you can communicate with your horse well and purchase a neckrope. The neckrope will help you steer your horse when it no longer has a bridle on.

What is a typical bridle in Western riding?

stallion wearing one of the types of western bridles

A leather bridle with a throatlatch but without a noseband. Western bridles also have a curb chain that is used with a curb bit. Western show bridles lack a throatlatch, and in some cases, a browband too.

Why do Western bridles not have nosebands?

Because the noseband is made to keep the bit in place in the horse’s mouth. Western riders ride using their seat, neck reining, and soft hands, so there is light pressure on the bit and it does not move in the horse’s mouth.  This eliminates the need for a noseband.


There are three types of Western bridles: the working bridle, the one-ear bridle, and the two-ear bridle. The former is for everyday work while the others are used mostly in the show ring.

Choose a western bridle for your horse based on the riding discipline you will use it for, how comfortable your horse is in this piece of equipment, and the quality of the material.


  • “Are One-Ear Bridles Better for Horses?” 2013. Pets on Mom.com. 2013. https://animals.mom.com/oneear-bridles-better-horses-3422.html.
  • “Choosing a Bridle for Your Horse | Local Riding.” 2020. Localriding.com. 2020. https://www.localriding.com/choosing-a-bridle.html.
  • “Do I Need a Noseband? On the Purpose of Nosebands. – Maria Cooke.” 2019. Maria Cooke. December 11, 2019. https://mariacooke.com/do-i-need-a-noseband-on-the-purpose-of-nosebands/.
  • “How to Ride a Horse without a Bridle.” 2020. SaddleBox | the Monthly Box for Horse Owners. June 30, 2020. https://www.saddlebox.net/how-to-ride-a-horse-without-a-bridle/.
  • The Cheshire Horse. 2020. “A Bit Different: A Look at Bitless Bridles and Hackamores – the Cheshire Horse.” Cheshirehorse.com. February 20, 2020. https://blog.cheshirehorse.com/2020/02/20/a-bit-different-a-look-at-bitless-bridles-and-hackamores/.
  • “Types of Western Bridles.” n.d. https://afs.ca.uky.edu/files/western_bridles.pdf.
white horse with Western bridle

What type of Western bridle do you use? Let us know below!

Bryanna Tanase
Bryanna Tanase

Bryanna is a 23-year-old Florida-based Grade 1 Para-dressage rider based in Florida and she has been riding for 5 years. Horses are her passion and her ultimate goal is to be selected for the US Para-Equestrian Team and represent the US at the Paralympics. She rides at Quantum Leap Farm and Emerald M Therapeutic Riding Center and her equine partners are Shane, an American Paint Horse, and Cappy a Welsh x Thoroughbred. When she is not helping at the barn, riding, or training, she is learning about horses, writing articles about them, and using her social media platforms to raise awareness for therapeutic riding and para-equestrianism, shares her journey, and advocates for greater inclusion of para-equestrian in the media and equestrian sport at large.
Read her Latest articles
Learn more about HER

Leave a Comment


Want The Best Care For Your Horse? Subscribe to our EXPERT RIDER Tips