Battle of the Browband

I’d have to say I’m really pretty standard when it comes to my tack.  Old fashioned.

(But I am attempting to think outside the box.  After squeezing my horses ears for decades with the standard too-tight brow bands I decided to do something about it)


Back to old fashioned.  On a recent horse hunting trip a seller (whose saddle I eyed warily as something that would be complimentary to a camel),


~(Re camel saddle: I’m not trying to pick on any saddle in particular, but there has been a trend of late to “support” the fore and aft of the dressage rider in a not so “classic” manner–at least for a horse.)


Anyway, she made a not very nice comment about the saddle I dragged out of the pickup.


Stubben Tristan saddle showing correct triangular “pelvis marks” in the leather

scoffing at my Stubben (Tristan Extra):

“What are you riding that relic for?”

Hmmm. . . .  a comment direct and to the point.

Difficult to answer.


You can see one above, with Melynnda up on her PSG mustang, Mariah.


They are pretty basic. And some pretty accomplished people have used them: Wili Schultheis for instance who designed them, and



(Rudolf–c.1989 New Mexico clinic back in the dark ages when I first rode with him.)

Bad thoughts towards the horse seller crossed my mind.

Why the “relic?”

Comments like, “Because I can sit.” (or possibly worse) flitted through my brain–which was fortunately too disciplined (or puzzled) to instruct the lips so unwisely.

I let it go.

I’ve had lots of new saddles in the past twenty years.  They all say “Stubben” on them.  And I’ve never had anything but the Tristan tree.

Whatever.  Go with what works for you–but I do like having different sizes for different  horses.

And that brings me to the point of this post.


Go look up “dressage brow band” and you’ll find some that cost more than having a dental appointment. (For your horse). And look more like a tiara than a piece of barn equipment.

$150 is a lot to spend for a single 16 or 17 inch piece of tack that is in all effect probably not necessary.  Never mind the Swarovski crystals.

But I wanted to find something that worked, and just going an inch up in size did not help–it was the stiffness and semi-bowed shape that were causing the problem that I wanted to fix: ear infringement.

Please let me introduce you to the “Big Lug” the chestnut to the right in this picture.


To the left is his first cousin, once removed, “Miss Perfect.”

First cousin “once removed” means that Regazzoni (by Rubinstein) was his (Big Lug’s) father, and also her (Miss Perfect’s) mother’s father.

(Don’t worry, he’s gelded.)

Breeding.  More crap shoot than science.  Just look at those two. Closely bred and could not be more different. Same very famous grand daddy and great grand daddy.  (Peron’s influence could have had something to do with Miss Perfect’s likeness, but really–here is Rubinstein.)


And Miss Perfect below.  (We won’t even talk about the way she moves.)


Anyway, here is the Big Lug


He’s a normal sized dumblood, but there is a problem with tack fit for him–his head.

As we riders all know, centuries of breeding have made warmbloods much smarter–and therefore they have wider heads.


Well, maybe not smarter, but broader I will give you.  Look, do you see  how this standard “horse sized” brow band lifts toward the ears and pulls from behind them?

He’s going in a double some of the time, and its clear it is not comfortable.  Lots of straps feeding in there in an already tight configuration.

I see no reason to crush his somewhat thick skull with a standard 16 inch (stiff) leather brow band.

Why not just bigger?  It is better–but not perfect. A 17″ leather band sticks out like the prow of a steamship on him.  Remember the movie Titanic?

There had to be something better.

I looked and looked. The menu included a host of clinched and jeweled offerings–all  with the same basic design as always. Different, as long as 16 or 17 is all you need, and you have more money than you think you need.

Then there was an offering from Sweden coupled with an intriguing bonnet-shaped head stall and a snap on browband design. They claim it will fit any normal 1.25 head stall.  But of course you could buy none of these “by the piece” except the incredibly expensive accessory bands.

Thinking myself lucky, I snapped one up on Ebay for $60.  Only to find that as promised it would fit a 1.25 head stall–but nothing else. (IN SHORT, A VERY SPECIFIC DESIGN!)  Not going to work with the wad of leather the Big Lug’s double bridle presents right behind the ears.  Here’s the problem: Look below.  It might be okay for the forehead.  Might, I have not tried it–because there is no room for cavesson or double bridle rigging.



The second job–perhaps the only actual job–of the browband is to contain the various straps (cavesson, bradoon hanger, etc) in a tidy package.  The red one had done that job for years–made a jab at the Atlanta Games with it.  But it and all the others are too small or the wrong shape for Big Lug, and the Swedish model wouldn’t fit either the cavesson strap nor the bradoon. Bummer.

$60 and many hours into the project with no luck, I got tired of the search, and thought of abandoning the brow band altogether.  Sigh.  Couldn’t do it.  Yes, in the end I am a traditionalist. And while I love hair ties for many things, tying the straps together behind the ear is not on the list.

But then I talked to my friend Lori–who sews.  And we hatched a plan: it involves the things you want in your own head band.  Silk, elastic, something, well, non-military.  (Okay she can make a Steam Punk one if you insist.)

Big Lug has one.  He is happy as can be:

IMG_2343 - Version 2

Note the soft materials and elastic attachment allowing the throat latch to angle correctly without changing the tension in front?  No tendency to ride up toward the ears? Plenty of room for straps.  (Trust me on this.)IMG_2328Fancy hand set (and useless) copper rivet.


Many interesting colors soon to be available on our Etsy Girth Shield sales platform.

The horses love them.  And  in honor of Valentine’s Day I made a special one for Miss Perfect.




If you want one come visit. $39.  There are lots of colors. . .


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s