What is a bridle path?
To betrothed lovers, a bridal path is the aisle to the wedding altar. However, to horse lovers, a bridle path is something altogether different.
In fact, a bridle path may be either an outdoor trail that has been groomed for equestrian use or a groomed area of the horse’s mane to accommodate tack. This second application is what is meant by a horse’s bridle path.
How can you trim a horse’s bridle path simply and neatly?
For most equestrian disciplines, a horse’s mane is trimmed at the poll, just behind his ears. This creates a clear area, or path, where a bridle or halter may sit neatly upon his head.
Here’s the best way, particularly with a young horse, who may be unaccustomed to this process.
B = Begin early. As soon as a foal is born, he can begin to get used to human contact and grooming. He can grow familiar with the sounds and sensations of brushes, combs, scissors and even electric clippers.
I have trimmed my colt’s bridle path since he was a weanling. Because we handled him from birth and groomed him regularly, right from the start, he took this practice in stride. By the way, even as a youngster, he looked particularly handsome in his halter, as he rambled through the pasture with the other colts.
E = Expect to take your time. Groom your horse as usual. Curry and brush him all over. Every once in a while, snip off a few pieces of mane at a time. If the horse seems bothered, continue grooming, and return to work on the bridle path later.
For the first attempt at trimming your horse’s bridle path, you may decide to have flexible expectations. Try to begin the process when you have ample time to take it slowly. The night before his first show is not the time to start trimming. In fact, it may take several tries (on different days) to get the job done. Taking the long-range view, you and your horse will gain more by making clippings a less stressful experience, than simply accomplishing it at once.
S = Start with scissors. If your horse tolerates scissor trims calmly, you can experiment with electric clippers next. Have another capable horse handler hold your horse. Place the clippers near your horse’s neck, and allow him to hear and feel them buzzing before you attempt your first trim. Then start gradually.
The goal is to create a smooth space for the bridle to rest neatly atop his head. The first few times, a young horse’s bridle path need not be picture perfect. The main point is to get the job done without panic or mishap. Exact clipping is really only necessary for horse shows and glamour photography.
T = Trim only a small area of the horse’s mane, at least at first. You can always go back and make a wider path later, but it is difficult to fix a too-wide bridle path, once it has been cut.
For most equine breeds, removing an inch or two of mane (right behind the ears) is enough for a bridle path. Western trainers suggest bending the horse’s ear back flat against the neck and clipping that amount. In the Arabian horse world, a much wider swath is cut to accentuate the arch of the neck.
Eventually, you’ll be able to pick up the clippers and zip through that perfect bridle path in a jiffy!