|Image from Flexible Fit Equestrian's Facebook|
I've been ogling Flexible Fit Equestrian bridles for some time now. I decided a while back that when Penn was ready for a double, I wanted to order from them. (no, I did not order Penn a double!)
|This awesome guy in his double. Penn and Mikey will only share the bradoon bit and reins.|
When Penn made the switch between a Micklem and a regular snaffle bridle, there was a problem. I changed Mikey's double back to a snaffle (removal of the bradoon hanger), and realized the noseband wouldn't work for Penn. Way back when, I used a removable flash attachment on a HDR snaffle bridle. No one at the time really told me how to fit the noseband and flash, so the noseband was too low and loose and the flash too tight, causing the noseband to pull down and it almost looked like a poorly fitting figure 8 bridle. I rode that way for years, and it stretched the noseband to the point where it won't sit up on the nose anymore. If I were to attach a flash, it would just pull down Penn's nose and look ridiculous. Not to mention that I also had the bridle as tight as the cheek pieces and noseband side buckle went. I had to order a new noseband anyway, and based on the prices for new nosebands, I decided to just order a whole new bridle. It's only money right?
The last time I got a new bridle was back in 2013- that's when I got Mikey's Micklem. I think I got my black snaffle bridle between 2005 and 2007 when I got my first dressage saddle. I don't collect bridles- I have a brown one, an HDR snaffle and bradoon hanger, and a Micklem. I figure this means I've been behaving and am allowed to buy Penn his own, brand new, not hand me down, bridle.
The really nice thing about Flexible Fit bridles are just that- it's a flexible fit. Mikey's full bridle was too big for Penn, but the full size Micklem seemed to fit Penn OK- except the drop was almost as tight as it goes and the jaw band was bigger than where Mikey wore it. Penn's cob sized show halter fits his nose well, but it's a bit small for his jaw. Full browbands are ok on his head, but cob fit better. FFE allowed me to mix and match sizes, creating a custom fit for an excellent price.
I measured Penn according to their methods and emailed them the measurements and asked what size pieces I should buy. They responded promptly and politely to all of my emails, and asked me to go measure Penn's head again because the nose measurement I sent them was smaller than their pony size. Oops. Penn's final dimensions? Full headpiece, full cheek pieces, cob noseband, cob browband.
FFE is based in Australia, and I think their full bridles are a hair smaller than US full bridles- I expected Penn to be firmly in the Cob sizes, despite his thicker jaw, however his measurements put his headpiece and cheek pieces in the full range. After receiving his bridle, I think he might have been able to get away with cob cheeks, but definitely not cob all around.
BO's daughter has also been looking at FFE bridles, and since we both wanted one, and it's flat rate international shipping, we decided to order together and split the $35 shipping.
I decided to get the Flexi-Fit Gel Mix & Match Bridle, and BO's daughter got the Flexi-Fit Mix & Match bridle. Starting prices on my bridle are $184.80, hers $109.80. Not a bad price for a custom bridle. You can buy individual pieces from them, ie just a noseband or just a browband, however there's a discount if you order them within the Mix & Match bridles. Neither of us bought reins- we each have our own preferred reins.
Depending on the base Mix & Match Bridle, you have a varied selection of nosebands (so the leather, gel/non-gel and fittings match). The Gel Mix & Match has the most options. It seems almost every browband is available to each bridle (some are limited due to styling like rolled leather etc). You can get brown or black leather in dressage, eventing, or hunter styles. You can order any number of nosebands and browbands (all are discounted in price since you're buying through the Mix & Match!)
I went with these:
|$49.95 - who can say no to sparkle for that price?!|
I wasn't going to order a browband, but I decided that I liked this one too much, so I figured I'd have 2 sparkly browbands.
My bridle totaled $209.80 + $17.50 in shipping, so custom fit bridle for $227.30. Awesome. Add everything to the cart, and start checking out. The bridles had a price drop because Australian taxes were already figured into the price, so those were taken out. My bridle was down to $208.23. Fabulous!
So we submit the order, I get all the confirmation emails, and I check my credit card. The total charged to my card was significantly less than the order total. How about a strong USD vs AUD for the win? I don't know why it didn't occur to me- AUD is represented with $ too. I should have realized the website was in AUD, not USD! But that was a nice surprise (it could have been a really bad one). At the end of the day, after splitting my CC company's ridiculous $8 currency exchange fee, Penn's custom bridle only cost $158.13. After factoring in the CC fee, that's a 24.06% discount because of the exchange rate being in favor of USD! (two side notes: one- our two gorgeous browbands were only $33 each, two- BO's daughter's was the cheapest Mix & Match option and including that gorgeous clear crystal browband, shipping, and CC fee, it was just under $117)
Communicating with the company and ordering were a cinch- they're very responsive and the website was easy enough to navigate. I only had trouble removing items from my cart- sometimes I dump a lot into my cart to decide on later. Communications were only held up by the time difference- they're something like 10 hours ahead of EST.
We placed our order on 6/2 (when it was already 6/3 in Australia), and I got the package on 6/13. Not a bad turnaround for international shipping halfway around the world.
The bridles come in an awesome soft bag, and all of the leather was soft, right out of the bag. I can't tell if I like the leather or not- it's soft right out of the bag for sure, but it has a kind of waxy/plastic feel and the edges are VERY square. I think that will go away in time as it gets cleaned and conditioned. They have that wonderful new leather smell though! I love the gel padding on the underside of the crank noseband- it's just as good (if not better) than the gel insoles you can buy for your shoes. I may have spent a long time squeezing it and making everyone else squeeze it too. The regular, non-gel bridle is still very soft and has excellent padding.
|All the pieces (two bridles worth)|
There was only one problem- my browband suffered some kind of manufacturing problem where the crystal strip was splitting from the leather backing. when laid out flat, it looks fine, but when curved, it splits. I brought it up to the company via email, and they sent me a new one without any fuss. The crystal browbands are also shipped in their own heavy plastic sleeves, something I thought was cool. You can reuse the sleeves to store browbands too.
|Penny liked the bag. She was in it as soon as it was empty.|
The bridle fits Penn perfectly! BO's daughter's bridle fit her horse perfectly too. Everyone is very happy. Penn seems to enjoy his new bridle too- he's been foaming at the mouth like mad when we ride. The company is spot on in their recommendations when you send them measurements. Each buckle has 7 holes- the company recommends sizes based on using the middle hole, so you'll never be buckled at the very first or last hole. If I changed anything, I might have gone with cob cheek pieces- I tightened them up one hole from where I normally put them. Definitely not the company's fault though!
|Not being photogenic for new bridle pictures,|
So I already said how awesome the crank padding is on the gel bridles, but the crown piece and noseband have the same gel and get an A+ in the soft and squishy department. The gel mix and match bridle has ear cut outs in the monocrown. The throat latch buckles on both sides. The noseband is nice and stiff (in a good, it-won't-slide-down-the-nose way). The noseband also has a neat converter option with the flash. This flash is completely removable, without damaging the noseband itself, or looking hokey like the normal removable flash attachments.
|Without the flash. Also, you can see the squishy crank padding.|
|Insert the flash between the gel padding and outer leather.|
|Bring the bottom of the attachment around the gel and the raised square through the top, insert flash, and bam!|
The bridle also comes with cleaning and care instructions- never use any liquid oil on it. It seems they wanted a cream conditioner, but I don't have anything like that, so I used my Effax Balsam on it. It is quite thirsty! The directions didn't say anything about the cleaner, so I used the balsam on it a few times before using my LederCombi on it to remove some of the waxy feel (it worked).
I really, really, REALLY like this bridle. It's pretty, it's soft, and it was an excellent price for a semi-custom bridle. I only say semi-custom because it was a mix and match of sizes instead of a fitter coming out and measuring/cutting it exactly to Penn's size. This is pretty darn close though. Obviously it's not the best quality out there, but it's really excellent quality for such a great price.
There's already talks of another order at the end of the year- BO will be riding again soon, and her daughter has another horse who would love her own fancy bridle. And sometime in the next year I'll be ordering the Gel Mix & Match Double Bridle.