What Is... A Horse Headstall - Page 1 of 2

Western horse headstalls come in two main types, browband and one ear. Our article and photos below describes the main parts of both types of these headstalls.

Headstalls: What They Are, The Main Parts

A headstall for a horse is a hanger put on a horse's head used for holding a bit, bosal, nose piece, or other piece of equipment to control a horse while riding. When a headstall is combined with a bit (or bosal, nose piece, etc.) the combination is known as a bridle.

To the right is a photo of a bridle with a leather headstall. The main parts of the headstall are:

  1. Crown piece. The crown piece goes over the top of the horse's head, behind its ears. As the crown piece extends down the side of the horse's head it meets up with the cheek pieces.
  2. The browband. Not all headstalls have a browband, but they are very common. The browband goes in front of the horse's ears, across the brow. Its purpose is to keep the headstall from sliding down the horse's neck while riding.
  3. Throatlatch. Not all headstalls have a throatlatch, but they are also very common. The throatlatch goes underneath the horse's head behind the throat.
  4. Cheek pieces. The cheek pieces buckle onto the crown piece then continue on down each side of the horse's head, or cheeks. Cheek pieces have fasteners of some type at the bottom in order to attach a bit, bosal, or nose piece. The type of fasteners can vary widely.

Parts of a horse headstall

One Ear Headstalls

Western Headstalls also commonly have another style (besides a browband) called a "one ear." Instead of a browband, one ear headstalls have an ear piece that goes around one of the horse's ears. It serves the same purpose as a browband, which is to keep the headstall from sliding back. A one ear headstall is shown in the photograph to the right.

In the photo notice that the ear piece is its own individual piece of material (in this case, leather) and is designed to slide freely. This allows the ear piece to be slid along the top of the headstall to the best location to accommodate the horse's ear. There are also headstalls that have an ear piece for each ear. Logically, these are called "two ear" headstalls.

Horse headstall: A leather, one ear headstall

Some one ear headstalls have a split cut into the crown piece for the ear instead of a separate piece. "Split ear" headstalls are popular with many riders, but care must be taken so that the split is adjusted so it does not rub the horse's sensitive ear. A split ear headstall is shown at right.

A split ear horse headstall

Plain Or Fancy

Headstalls come in a nearly endless variety of styles made from a wide variety of materials. Common materials include leather and horsehair, and synthetics such as nylon and biothane or beta biothane.

Pictured at right is a leather browband horse headstall. It has tear-drop shaped cheek pieces with hair-on cowhide inlays in the cheek pieces and the browband.

A horse headstall with cowhide

Horse Headstalls (you are on page 1 of 2)

The headstalls below are available from

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