Grand Prix Jumper Tack

Grand Prix Jumper Tack

When I was in Wellington, I mentioned to my friend that I wanted to get a figure 8 bridle for Simon to school in.

“Why?” She exclaimed, “Your horse is a good boy. He doesn’t open up his mouth!”

I didn’t exactly have a good answer, because my horse is a good boy and doesn’t open up his mouth. I realized the reason I wanted a figure 8 bridle is because they look cool and jumpery.

I think a lot of people who are local showers like me put a lot of stress on “looking the part” and for jumpers that means a figure 8, open front boots and some kind of breastplate/running martingale combination. Of course when I had a front row seat at the WEF Grand Prix I could so easily see that the real jumpers don’t have that rigid of uniform.


We had lots of running martingales and figure 8 nosebands, shown here with what I think is a full cheek gag bit.


A breastplate with a running martingale attachment, flash noseband and gag bit.


Five point breastplate with running attachment, flash noseband with full cheek snaffle and vet wrap shadow rolls.


What looks like a rubber full cheek.


Double bridle and what I like to call a “oh shit” strap.


Bib martingale, rubber Pelham with converter and figure 8.


Elastic breastplate with running martingale over top it, baucher bit and flash.


4 ring elevator with flash attachment.


A… Lot of hardware, haha.


Gag bit using two reins.


Combination bit.


What looks like a simple loose ring.


Hackamore with breathing strips and more vet wrap shadow rolls.


Pelham with a converter and what looks like a rope noseband?


And finally, a good ol’ Kimberwick!

There. I have officially geeked out on tack for too long. Anything surprise you? Anger you? Please you?

30 thoughts on “Grand Prix Jumper Tack

  1. Wow. Some of these are intense. My first reaction was “dang, those horses must be CRAZY!” Then I thought, “dang, those horses need some more training to settle them down without havin to use such harsh equipment.” THEN I thought “hmm, maybe horses can’t be good jumpers if they’re not crazy and require insane hardwear on their heads?” haha Which is it? I like to ride in the simplest/gentlest bit possible, and with as little extra stuff as possible.

    1. I think it really depends. Some of the best riders have equipment that CAN be harsh in wrong hands, but they use it softly. I think the goal for most riders is to go as simple as possible, but when you’re galloping over 1.5m fences it isn’t always best for a snaffle, lol.

    2. My thought process exactly. You never see that much hardware on XC! And half of those horses are muscled completely backwards. Eeek!

      Of course then there’s Ian Miller with his simple loose ring and running martingale. <3 !!!

  2. I have a figure 8 for Tristan that I use for cross country. He doesn’t open his mouth, really; no flash on his dressage bridle. I do like the look, though, and I found the bridle in the Dover clearance basement for $50, so I couldn’t leave it there!

  3. The rope noseband is the Dy’on bridle with a rope noseband (they now carry it at Dover). I think it’s just a little something extra to keep them from opening their mouth since it’s more uncomfortable than just flat leather. Plus it looks kinda neat 🙂 I too am obsessed with tack configuration. Nothing really surprises me here, it’s just whatever works – goes! for the jumper ring. And with the bit severity issue, the whole point of jumpers is to be fast and catty, you don’t want to be hauling on their mouth the whole time so sometimes it is better for the horse to use a stronger bit that you use more gently.

    1. Correct. And I will say watching this, it’s not like the riders (although there were a few exceptions) hauled on their horse’s mouths the whole time with this kind of hardware. It’s very much a give and take relationship much more than you see in lower level jumpers.

  4. Beautiful pics. I have never seen most of this stuff, but then again I have never had the chance to watch a grand prix in person. Really cool!

    1. You should definitely go to one! Even the lower level Grand Prixs are really fun, and any decent sized AA show usually has one associated with it.

  5. Yikes, none of those horses look particularly happy with what is going on in their mouth or on their face except for the one in the hack. I use to ride my mare in a hack but I can’t imagine jumping grand prix in one! Anyway, your pictures are lovely!

    1. Well, you have to keep in mind these photos were taken 1 stride away from the first fence of the course. Literally one stride. A lot of the horses were in the middle of getting some instruction or anticipating the first jump. If you look through the whole album, you see a lot of bright and happy faces.

  6. Yeah my reaction was sh** that’s a lot of hardware – but I do agree, when you’re jumping at that level you need INSTANT reaction from your horse, and a light touch on a severe bit is a lot kinder than hauling his teeth out with a rubber snaffle.
    The figure eight nosebands were all the rage in Ireland a few years ago when my daughter was jumping ponies, of course Pony Mom had to shell out for a snazzy new bridle so darling daughter looked the part, but actually, I grew to like it a lot better than the Flash nosebands. There’s none of that “pulling the cavesson part too low” stuff going on, and a couple of her ponies really seemed to like it better.
    Whatever suits… you might find Simon really likes it!

  7. I have said it once and I will say it a billion times: god, I love Ian Miller. Just out there chillaxing on his horse in a simple loose ring.

    I always want things just so I can look the part (ie for no sane reason whatsoever). I’m trying to convince myself that if I spent half as much money on learning to ride instead, I wouldn’t need all the fancy doohickeys.

  8. I’ve been guilty of owning a figure-8 bridle for a horse that didn’t need it, just because it looked cool. lol 🙂
    When riding jumpers, I always found that the best ones were the most explosive ones. The ones that would lock onto a fence and GO. These guys could go soft as soft can be on the flat, but as soon as the jumps started going up-watch out! These horses LOVE to jump, they get EXCITED when they see the fences. 🙂 But when you’re going into a complicated combination or are going to have to make a sharp rollback after the humongo oxer you’re about to take, you really do need to be able to check all of that speed and power-thus the big bits. This is also the moment where these horses like to throw their heads up in protest-in comes the running martingale, and hardware with poll action, like the elevators, gags, combination bits and hackamores. One time, while collecting a very excited mare in front of a fence, she threw her head back in protest so far that I ended up with a bloody nose and mouth. We were riding in a full cheek bit, without a running martingale…haha…She was one of the most awesome jumpers I’ve ever ridden!
    I thought the vast majority of these horses look happy and focused, and the riders’ hands are soft on the reins, even the ones with more contact.
    I was surprised by the “oh shit handle”-I don’t think I’ve ever seen that before in a show arena. But it certainly looks like you’d need it to ride that horse! He is not happy about being asked for one more stride before launching!
    I really like the 5 point breastplate on the dark bay with lots of hardware and black tack. Very unusual design.
    Love these photos! Could tell by looking at them that all of them were taken right before a jump, just by the expressions on the horses’ faces! What awesome timing!

  9. Lovely pictures.
    I personally use a breastplate for every time I jump so that I can use it for an “oh shit” strap. I like that it is more stable than just a plain neck strap. I have in the past used a running martingale but I don’t feel that Houston truly needs a martingale so I don’t typically use one. Sometimes I throw one on for XC just as a precaution. I am guilty of using a figure 8 because I like how it looks. I can’t help it! Houston probably could use a flash all the time but I don’t really like to put one on every ride and he sometimes is more fussy with a drop down noseband. The way the figure 8 sits must be more comfortable to him.
    I was surprised to see so many double bridles. The other bits don’t surprise me. I personally don’t think that using any of those things means your horse is crazy. Does make them look ready for battle though! Every bit serves a purpose 🙂

  10. I pretty much agree with what has already been said. Better to have a harsh bit and soft hands than a soft bit and hard hands. You have to use what works for your horse and of course we can’t judge a horse and rider based on just one picture. I too think the figure 8 bridles are kind of cool looking but I hate to see them cranked on way too tight.

  11. Seriously. These photos are … engaging. Engrossing. Mesmerizing. AWESOME. I loved your description of the task. I DVR as many show jumping events as I can and watch them as I fall asleep. I am not interested in participating, but it is a fun sport and I enjoy watching the speed and athleticism of the horses and their riders.

    As an aside, I tried checking out the dressage tack at El Sueno this past weekend, but I simply couldn’t pinpoint any trends. From any distance away, tack is 99% a white pad, black dressage bridle, snaffle bit, and black coat, maybe navy. I gave up after a few riders as there was very little to set us apart. The major difference was in coat and helmet color. Most wear black coats. I myself am sporting a gray coat with black collar this season. Others are wearing navy. Some riders where full seat with white while others wear full seat breeches with a dark seat. Other than that, there’s not a whole that’s different! :0)

  12. Hmmm I can’t remember ever seeing a jumper with a double bridle before.
    We have an expression for amateurs who buy specific tack to look the part – ‘all gear no idea’ 🙂

  13. I am the queen of questions, so forgive me in advance! What is the purpose/difference between a regular running martingale and the bib running martingale? I’ve seen them before, but never learned why you would use one over the other.

    Anyways, LOVELY pictures. I’ve enjoyed all of the ones from your trip to WEF and now I’m off to your Flickr to see them all!

  14. I ride Henry in a Mikmar ( .. he is STRONG. Sometime I wonder if he has feeling in him mouth lol! Anywho he is not a bad horse or wild or out of control… but if I want to get things done and have authority, I need it. Honestly the bit isn’t that harsh but has the tools that I need when riding.. and I’d like to think that I am a good enough rider to use a stronger bit.

    PS I want a firgure 8 Bridle too cause I think they are pretty but it won’t be practical since I can’t use it in the Hunter ring…

    As always your pictures are awesome!

  15. I must say you have high quality articles here. Your blog should
    go viral. You need initial traffic only. How to get it?
    Search for: Etorofer’s strategies

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.