Bridle Boss, gilded bronze

This Bridle boss was found at the Durdans Stables, Chalk Lane Epsom. Its date will fall between (1660-1685) as it would have decorated a horse’s bit in the service of Charles II. It is gilded bronze and a superb example of an ornament attached to the side of the curb bit.

Bridle bosses are also known as cheek bosses or cheek pieces, though the term “cheek piece” also applies to leather straps attaching the headpiece to the bit on a modern bridle. In ancient times the cheek piece was a piece of bone, antler or bronze that shaped with a light curve like a bow held the bit and attached to the bridle.

They probably date from a time when horses were ridden with a strap of leather or gut or rope. This cheek piece held it all in place. From the medieval period onwards bridle bosses were used specifically on curb bits as opposed to other bits such as snaffles. Bits with long shanks would be used on saddle horses and for driving and especially to adorn the bridles of horses pulling aristocrat’s coaches.

There are two paintings that show bridle bosses. One is a painting of Charles I on horseback by Anthony Van Dyke (In the National Gallery) and the other is of The Duke of Wellington on horseback by Rembrandt Peale, 1824.

bridle-boss-trew-wwwThis illustration, (Accoutrements of the Riding Horse by Trew) shows where they were placed on the side of the bit. Bridle bosses can be found in The Wallace Collection, Manchester Square, London. Size 4” across.