Morgane Schmidt Gabriel tests and reviews this radical improvement in bridle design that’s quickly proving to be a “game changer.”
As a self proclaimed tack addict, I am always on the look out for exciting new tack to try. Of course as a dressage rider and trainer I also require that it’s effective, well made, and of course attractive (because let’s be honest, there’s some fun in dressing up our horses). Recently I was given the chance to review the Tota Comfort Bridle which is designed to relieve pressure from the poll, TMJ joint, and the delicate facial nerves, all of which should result in improved performance. Although I hadn’t ever really considered the importance of the bridle on performance, it made sense and I was excited to give it a try. I’m thrilled to say that the Tota Comfort Bridle certainly exceeds expectations in all areas.
To start, let’s talk about the most important aspect: how effective the Tota Comfort Bridle is. Dressage is, in theory, about harmony and increasingly subtle communication with the horse. Not shockingly then, in the dressage ring mouth problems are a serious concern. This is because they can indicate poor training and discomfort which are huge, legitimate issues. Mouth problems are also difficult to address as the cause can be nebulous at best. While some horses are just busy with their mouths (for some it is indeed a habit), others are certainly responding to some sort of discomfort. The typical, though clearly wrong-headed, approach that many have taken to “fix” a busy mouth is to strap the horse’s mouth shut. At best this is a band-aid and at worst cruelty. The Tota Comfort System addresses this.
Unlike traditional bridles that cause poll pressure when the horse moves its jaw, the Tota Comfort Bridle’s unique noseband does not. Instead, the curved cheek pieces and the jaw strap allow the bridle to sit below the delicate facial nerves while also redistributing the force created by the cavason when the horse moves his jaw. This helps protect the poll as well as the TMJ. What this translates into for the rider is a more comfortable horse who can move his mouth without added pressure, and as such relaxes more and feels less of a need to play with his mouth or resist the cavason or bit.
That last bit may sound too good to be true; however I’ve seen it play out with my own youngster. Willie, or as many of you know him The Beastlet, has always been pretty active with his mouth. He doesn’t have a tongue issue, thankfully, but he has always seemed like no matter how loose or tight the cavason is that he feels the need to try to open his mouth against it. Some of that can be, and should be, clearly addressed by making sure he’s in front of the leg and actively coming from behind, but some of it also seemed to be a habit of his. When I switched him to Tota’s Exuma model, I noticed a significant difference.
Will felt more honest in the connection, not leaning into it or hiding slightly behind it; he took the contact and quietly held it. His mouth has been much quieter and the cavason is quite loose. I believe the added jaw strap on the Tota nosebands helps stabilize the jaw as well as alleviating pressure which means the cavason doesn’t need to be as snug to help keep the bit(s) quietly in place. All of this has translated into Will being much more relaxed in his work — even in the winter tundra we have going out here in Reno — and quite lovely to work with. For a horse that I didn’t really think had any sort of significant “problem” to be solved the difference is remarkable. If it can do this much for a horse who is going well I can only imagine how helpful it could be with a horse who has significant bridle discomfort.
In addition to being super effective, the Tota Comfort Bridle is beautifully made with high quality leather. I’m a huge leather snob, and generally limit my bridle purchases to Schumachers. While I have used some other nicely made bridles I have yet to run across one I felt was as beautifully crafted as the Schumachers, particularly the rolled ones. The Tota Comfort Bridle is the first I’ve encountered that I feel is on par. The rolled leather pieces are seamless and the padding is quite soft. Additionally, the craftsmanship is superb. The bridle is just as lovely as it is effective.
Although I tested a dressage double bridle, Tota Comfort also makes snaffles and jumping bridles with multiple options. They also have a truly detachable flash for their snaffle bridles should you want one. Check out their full line of bridles and styles here. Tota Comfort also sells their cavason on its own so that it can be added to your current favorite bridle. There’s additional information about that on their website (scroll through the pages for different styles, colors, etc).
Overall I must say I’m thrilled with the performance and quality of the Tota Comfort bridle (enough so that my other beast, Stormy, will get one for my birthday). I wholeheartedly recommend giving them a try, particularly if you’re looking to maximize your horse’s performance and comfort.
For more information on their bridles, nosebands, the science behind them, ordering, or fitting visit the Tota Comfort System website. You can also check out their Facebook Page for additional updates, photos, and events.
Morgane Schmidt Gabriel is a 33-year-old teacher/artist/dressage trainer/show announcer/ who still hasn’t quite decided what she wants to be when she grows up. A native Floridian, she now lives in Reno, NV, where she’s been able to confirm her suspicion that snow is utterly worthless. Though she has run the gamut of equestrian disciplines, her favorite is dressage. She was recently able to complete her USDF bronze and silver medals and is currently working on her gold. Generally speaking her life is largely ruled by Woody, a 14.2 hand beastly quarter horse, Willie, a now 7-year-old Dutch gelding, and Stormy, her friend’s nearly all white paint gelding with a penchant for finding every mud hole and pee spot in existence. Visit her website at www.theideaoforder.com.