First review!!! I figured I’d do something that I have had for quite a while now, so Smartpak Harwich Line it is!
I first got my first Smartpak Fancy Stitched Padded bridle back in December of 2009, when they first came out. I’d still been riding Ricky at the time, and had a hard time finding bridles to fit his pony-esque head. I knew I didn’t want anything too expensive, since he wasn’t my horse and I truly didn’t know when I’d be getting a horse of my own. I also wanted something I could wear both in the schooling ring and the show ring, because the thought of having two bridles for that really never made sense to me.
|Older bridle on Lib in 2013|
In comes the new Smartpak bridles, and given my love for Smartpak, I knew I had to try them. So I ordered one, which at the time was just over $100. When I got it I was pleasantly surprised by the leather quality. It obviously needed an oiling, but was already pretty soft out of the bag.
So I started using it, the only way besides oiling and conditioning to really break in a bridle. It fit Rickys weird head pretty well, and was on the smaller side so it fit a lot more horses then my old Hadfields, Red Barns, and Edgewoods, bridles that seemed to fit the large horse out of the package but “grew” to fit mammoth proportioned heads.
Everything was going well with it until I rode in it at a show in March 2010. This was the show that I broke my ankle at, and when I was putting my tack away to go home, and wallowing in self pity over not riding again for a while, I noticed that the reins were broken. The small metal hook for the hook closure to the bit was missing. Uhhh can you say unsafe? Called up Smartpak that day and they were extremely apologetic, and told me they’d send out new reins immediately. AWESOME SMARTPAK!!!
A company that stands wholeheartedly behind their products is becoming increasingly harder to find, so while I really liked Smartpak before, I LOVED them now and have since then.
I have since purchased an second of these bridles, which while still very soft, its actually softer then the first one in my opinion, the colors are very different and I had a hard time in the beginning darkening it. No amount of hydrophane or mink oil would change it! And it didn’t seem to have a film or waxy residue on it, the color just wouldn’t hold for whatever reason. But I have since gotten it to the color I like, a deep havana. Much more appealing on a black horse then burnt red.
|Another before darkening shot|
|After: Please excuse both of our faces…|
I have also purchased the matching figure eight noseband piece recently to go with these bridles. Because the bridles are monocrowns, a feature I love, I couldn’t find a different brand figure eight to fit into the small crown piece hole at the top. So I bought the noseband piece out of desperation just because I couldn’t find one to fit it locally.
|My current rig|
The first noseband I received was ok, but the noseband stitching was off center and it was already tearing in certain places, yes tearing, so I sent it back immediately. Called Smartpak and let them know, and also let them know that the picture is nothing like the product they send out, to which they apologized profusely and sent the new noseband to me next day air.
|If you look very closely, the top two holes for the noseband pieces have small tears forming. This was right out of the box. You can also see the stitching lies to the left.|
|The new figure eight piece more close up.|
This one was much better, centered stitching, and no tearing in sight. They don’t have a ton of fluff on the nose disc, which I actually like, but some might want a fluffier piece. The noseband was also no where near as soft as the bridle out of the bag, but after a couple of rides, and some heavy conditioning, its starting to come around. It fits Libby pretty well, in the middle every buckle, but I could see it being a tad too small for a horse with a more roman nose. So for about 45 bucks, got it on sale, I got a pretty good deal.
Overall, they are an inexpensive but good quality bridle. I haven’t been able to try any other Smartpak bridle lines, but from what I’ve seen with this one, I wouldn’t hesitate to go for the Wellfleet line, or even the Plymouth line. Not like you have anything to lose! So no, they aren’t CWD or Antares quality, but honestly the thought of spending more then 300 dollars on a bridle WITHOUT REINS turns my stomach over. And since Libby doesn’t mind, and they’re still soft enough for me, I think I’ll stick with them 🙂