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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.

Below is a photo of a bridle with a leather headstall. Underneath the photo is a description of its main parts.

Below: The main parts of a horse headstall.

Parts of a horse 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. 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. If a headstall does not have a browband it will probably have an ear piece (see One Ear Headstalls, below). The purpose of the ear piece is the same as the browband: To keep the headstall from sliding down the horse's neck.
  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.

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.

In the photo of the one ear headstall below 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.

Below: A one ear headstall.

Leather, one ear headstall

Fixed Ear Headstalls

Some one ear headstalls have a piece for the ear cut right into the headstall. These are commonly called "fixed ear" headstalls. Since the earpiece is in a fixed location, it cannot slide freely.

Below: A fixed ear headstall.

A fixed ear headstall


Split Ear Headstalls

Still another type of one ear headstalls (not shown) 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.


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. Some headstalls come with bling in the form crystals, fancy buckles, or other eye-catching accents.

Below: A fancy headstall with bling.

A fancy headstall with bling


Horse Headstalls (you are on page 1 of 2)


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