(This post isn't really about why I chose to have a bitless option or why I chose the side pull versus the multitude of other bitless headstalls. If you are interested in that information, I can write up a post on that too)
After much debate and research, I decided on the side pull halter bridle from The Distance Depot. I chose this company for a few reasons, but the main one was cost. The bridle with overlay color of my choice was $105 with free shipping. I also read numerous good reviews of their tack and they supplied the tack for the AERC Rose Bowl Parade members. I figured it had to be a good quality after all of that.
I chose the Arab/Cob size with a few butterflies in my stomach. Biothane tack is typically considered custom and is therefore non returnable. Gem's head is a bit oddly sized in that her nose is pretty petite but the rest of her is more horse sized. The Distance Depot offers one base color and either bling or an overlay color at no additional cost. They have the full array of color options and will send you swatches if you are unsure of a particular color. I wanted a black base with a red overlay on the brow, nose and bit hangers. You can also choose between stainless steel or brass hardware at no additional cost (other places up charge for stainless). And finally, you can choose the hardware that goes on the brow band for its attachment to the poll and throatlatch straps. I went with stainless steel and a basic rectangle. There was a small upcharge for some of the fancier options.
The headstall arrived on Friday and after tearing open the package in glee, my heart sank a little. The thing looked massive!
|My red and black precious|
The stainless steel hardware was bulky enough to look durable, yet sleek enough to not be the focus of the headstall.
One feature really stood out to me as being amazing: the throatlatch. After a life time of having to buckle the throatlatch each time, having a system where you set the length and then just quickly snap it on is pretty great.
|The side pull part of it.|
The nose band was a bit stiff and wanted to lay flatter and wider than my mare's nose shape. I tightened it a good bit, but still left room under the chin for two fingers to sneak in. It still sat a bit wider than I like, but I think with time it will shape better.
The bit hangers proved to be the biggest pain. They were really, really short. Like not even reaching the nose band which I had a bit higher than normal too short. I lengthened them all the way out, grabbed a spare bit from another bridle I had, and went to see how they would do. In the end the bit hangers were set to two holes from the very longest setting possible.
The other piece was the throatlatch. After getting it adjusted and falling in love with the quick attachment and release snap, I stepped back and looked at the fit. I always thought that the whole point of the throatlatch was to sit behind the jaw in the actual throatlatch and prevent the whole thing from being removed. This one was placed way forward of that. Looking at the construction, there is no way for the throatlatch to sit in the actual groove with the angle that the material leaves the poll. I did a lot of stalking on the AERC facebook page looking at pictures of other people's headstalls and they all seem to lay in the exact same position, so I don't think it is a flaw of the design of this particular headstall just in all the headstalls in general.
|All dolled up. Makes me really kick myself over losing her red mohair cinch back in the fall.|
Gem was sweaty when we finished and seemed content with the headstall. Or as content as she could be with tack.
In the end my initial impressions are such:
1) The material is fantastic, the options and speed at which it was produced from Distance Depot are all big pros.
2.) The fit on the Cob was pretty spot on except the nose is a bit wider than I would have liked. My mare is pretty petite in the nose though.
3.) I love the width of the material used, but I also like a pretty refined and understated look to my tack (well, except in color). If you have a larger boned horse, this piece might be eaten up. The same width is used in the horse size.
4.) The bit hangers are really too short. For reference, on Gem's old hater bridle (cob sized) the bit hangers were at the absolute shortest and I still wished they could go a bit shorter. This one was nearly at the longest possible setting. If this was a regular halter bridle, I would just lengthen the cheeks a bit, but it is a side pull and as such you need to be careful where the nose band lays. When ordering, just keep in mind that you may want to call and inquire about longer bit hangers.
We will see how the side pull functions and the longevity, but for initial impressions I am really pleased with it overall and would order from Distance Depot again.