In recent decades, equestrian sport across all disciplines has embraced innovation in tack and riding equipment in ways that have never been considered before. We’ve seen progress in saddle tree design and half-pads, in ergonomic girths and stirrups, and more recently, in spurs. But bridles have remained largely absent from the tack redesign phenomenon, until now.

Enter the Tota Comfort System, created by Dressage Connection’s Charles Tota. The design of the headstall features special curved cheek pieces and a comfortable noseband and crown piece, which help to alleviate and redistribute pressure while protecting the horse’s Temporomandibular (TMJ) joint and delicate facial nerves. It was inspired by Olympians Ashley Holzer and Sue Blinks, who sought to improve the unsteadiness caused by standard bridle designs. The resulting prototype, created by Tota, was quickly embraced in its patent-pending form by top dressage riders, including Carl Hester and Kasey Perry-Glass, both of whom used it at qualifying events on the road to the 2016 Rio Olympics.

The FEI approved Tota’s bridle just before the 2016 winter circuit in Wellington, Florida, and it soon took off, gathering a following of loyal devotees, many of whom had previously struggled with headstall discomfort in their horses, often due to dental issues or jaw or poll tightness. Having established a solid foundation in the North American dressage community and beyond, Tota is now expanding his models to the eventing and jumper worlds.

We tested out one of those models, the Lauderdale Jumper Bridle, this spring. Here’s what we discovered.

1. It’s Novel But Easy to Use

Constructed from rich, brown leather, the Lauderdale bridle, at first glance, is made from more leather than jumping riders might be used to—but don’t let that discourage you. The headstall is thickly padded for comfort, and like all Tota bridles, the ergonomic noseband is supported by a secondary, easy-to-adjust jaw strap that sits between the noseband and the throatlatch. That strap, when adjusted correctly, should fit snugly and lie parallel to the noseband, but not over the horse’s jowl.

The rest of the bridle can be adjusted as you normally would and my model came with an optional flash portion which, when removed, can be pushed up so the flash attachment is no longer visible. It’s a thoughtful detail, as is the thickly padded headstall and noseband, which are cushy to the touch and sit comfortably against the horse’s face, reducing unnecessary rubbing. I oiled my bridle straps (avoiding the padded portions) to make them more easy to adjust during the first few uses, and the leather seemed to soften quickly and maintained its dark chestnut color. In terms of fit, the full-horse size worked for my large-headed warmblood, though it seemed to run a touch smaller than similar full-size models he’s worn in the past.

2. Tota(l) Control 

Though I haven’t struggled with any particular poll or jowl sensitivity with my own horse, I liked the way he flatted and jumped in the Lauderdale Bridle. Thanks to its thick design and jaw strap, this bridle seemed to fit more securely than others I’ve tried and offered a more even feel and improved connection from side to side in my hand. The crank noseband is a nice feature for added control, and overall, the pressure seemed to me to be better distributed across my horse’s face. Although the pebbled rubber grain of the included rein set was a bit finer than many jumper reins on the market today, in terms of a performance, the added security inherent with this model seems like a natural fit for the jumper ring and on cross-country, where high speeds and fast turns can occasionally compromise bridle stability.

3. It Keeps the Horse in Mind

The basic design for a bridle—headstall, bit, two reins—may have been the same for eons, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be made better, improving our horses’ comfort along the way. By redistributing cavason pressure when the horse moves its mouth, the Tota Comfort System protects sensitive nerves along your horse’s face and helps to stabilize his jaw.

If you have a jumper or eventing horse that struggles with poll or jaw stiffness, you should take a close look at the Lauderdale Bridle. Even if you don’t, it’s always worth considering products that push the envelope toward better design, especially when that design was created with your horse’s performance and comfort in mind.

Lauderdale Jumper Bridle by Tota Comfort Systems, from $500. Learn more at TotaComfortSystem.com.

-Images courtesy of Tota Comfort System.