What Is the Difference Between a Bridle and Halter?

While bridles and halters look similar they have key differences in structure and usage. A bridle has a bit and reins and is used during riding. A halter has no bit or reins, this gear is used when leading or tying the horse.

What Is a Bridle?

Bridles are used when riding a horse to aid in controlling the horse. These usually (but don’t always!) have bits which is a metal piece that sits in the horse’s mouth.

Bridles have a browband, bit, and reins whereas halters do not.

Bridles are often used in conjunction with saddles and other tack. The basic traditional design of the bridle consists of an arrangement of leather pieces fitted to the horse’s head that includes the bit, a set of cheekpieces attached to either side of the bit called a headstall or headcollar. A noseband is often added at the bottom of a bridle, and it may be made from leather or nylon. A bridle will also have reins, a bit, and a browband. There are a number of styles and designs available today which can include a variety of additional features but also bridles look more or less similar.

Examples of Bridles

Here are a few examples of horses wearing bridles. Bridles come in various styles depending on the bit used and the type of riding the rider will be doing.

Two horses wearing bridles

English style bridle on horse

Western style bridle

What Is a Halter?

Halters are used to lead or tie a horse. These do not have bits.

Halters are used when trailering, putting a horse in cross-ties, and leading the horse between locations. If you aren’t riding or aren’t leading your horse to an arena to begin riding, you can assume the horse is wearing a halter instead of a bridle.

A halter is a simple device placed on the head of certain animals, usually livestock such as cattle or horses. Halters are typically used for leading and tying. Unlike harnesses that fit over an animal’s head and neck, a halter fits over an animal’s face and head just behind the animal’s ears. A halter is generally used with a lead rope, sometimes called a leadline.

Examples of Halters

Here are a few examples of horses wearing halters. Halters come in a variety of styles and colors. Often these are nylon or leather. You’ll also notice some have a breakaway strap that helps to release the horse from the headstall if they become trapped.

Horse in rope halter

Horse in nylon halter

Horse in leather halter

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