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William Micklem is an International Coach and Speaker as well as a Fellow of the British Horse Society. He invented the Micklem Bridle which won the BETA Innovation Award in 2008 and was the first comfort bridle on the market that was designed through looking at the horse’s skull, not just the external shape of the head. William was aware how many traditional bridles sat over sensitive nerves in the face and also across the cheek where the protruding upper molar teeth sit due to the upper jaw being wider than the lower jaw. The Micklem is designed to avoid the sensitive areas and nerve endings in the face, thus making the bridle much more comfortable.
1. The noseband sits higher than a dropped noseband, avoiding pressure on the fragile nose bones. The placement of the bottom back strap gives similar functionality to a flash noseband.
2. Noseband positioning avoids any pressure on the motor and sensory nerves exiting at this point, eliminating the possibility of discomfort and numbness on the lower areas of the head.
3. The unique shape and positioning of the noseband and back straps means they avoid the protruding molar teeth, so sensitive tissue inside the mouth is not damaged.
4. The shaped cheekpiece fits comfortably around the protruding cheekbones, avoiding unnecessary pressure.
5. A shaped, widened and padded headpiece with no separate uncomfortable narrow noseband, spreads the pressure evenly over a wide area of the poll.
You can find out more about William and the reasons behind his design on his website > www.williammicklem.com
I started using Micklem Bridles very early on, before they were really known about. I remember having to carry a letter to show the dressage stewards at British Eventing competitions to prove the bridle was dressage legal! The reason we started using a Micklem was because we had a horse that suffered with head shaking and we wanted to make him as comfortable as possible. The Micklem made a marked improvement to his level of comfort and I really liked the minimalist look of the bridle and the fact it sat so still on the horses face, so I started to use it on the other horse I had at the time.
In 2013 I was lucky enough to be sent two Micklem Bridles directly from William Micklem after approaching him for support. His depth and variety of knowledge is just incredible and it was great to find out more about the product from the designer. He was also very generous with his time and gave me lots of feedback through videos to help improve my position and balance in the saddle. Since then I have never wanted to use another bridle and all my horses go very happily in Micklem Bridles – I have never had a horse who hasn’t been as good if not better in a Micklem than a traditional bridle.
The design is so simple and it makes them very easy to use (and clean, which is always a bonus when you’ve got 4 bridles to clean the day before a show!). Because there’s only one buckle on each side of the headpiece that can be used to adjust the height of the noseband, and a separate strap that buckles the bit onto the bridle to adjust the height of the bit, the fit of the bridle itself is so much more adjustable. The only problem is that they are not suitable for bits that require a short cheek piece such as a Gag, as unfortunately you can’t get the bit high enough in the horse’s mouth without affecting the fit of the noseband.
The only time I haven’t put a horse straight into a Micklem is if I’ve got the horse to sell because, surprisingly, there are still people that think Micklems are only used if the horse has a ‘problem’ such as a contact issue. However, both times I’ve had horses in to sell that I have started in a traditional bridle, I have ended up swapping to the Micklem after a couple of weeks because they are so much more settled in them. Florence, a chestnut mare who joined the team last year, started off in a Grackle but she was a bit sensitive to put the bit in and didn’t like the noseband being done up. So I swapped her to the Micklem and, although I still have to be careful not to rush when putting the bridle on, she is so much happier to take the bit.
I still have the original Micklem Bridles that I got given at the beginning of 2013! Coco’s is still as good as new and the leather on Lily’s is brilliant; I have just had to replace one of the nylon loops that connects the ‘drop’ part of the noseband, as I use the bit clips on her so it puts more pressure on that specific part of the bridle. I have since got 3 more Micklem bridles and they all hold their quality really well. I know the bridles were criticised early on for the leather quality but it is not a problem I have ever had.
I think they are great value for money and still significantly cheaper than a lot of the newer ‘comfort bridles’. What William is most pleased about is that his design has led to a change in attitude towards the importance of the bridle and how it affects the horses comfort. He said he doesn’t mind that there are similar designs or that research has gone into other options as the reason he did it was to improve the horse’s comfort and I think it is safe to say he has done that.