January 19, 2022

Product Review: Fairfax Performance Bridle (Drop Noseband)

Somehow, I managed to write a product review post about buying a browband for the Fairfax bridle I bought last May without ever having written a post about the Fairfax? Thanks to Nicole for pointing that out!

PC: Austen

I've long lusted after the Fairfax Performance Bridle. To design it, Fairfax spent nearly two years analyzing pressure point data and gait analysis data from all the classic bridle designs, and they used what they learned to develop this bridle.

I won't go through all their findings here, but you should read them even if you don't plan to buy one. For example, they found a flash noseband was the most detrimental to movement, drops and figure 8's performed best in terms of pressure reduction and freedom of movement, and cranks actually exerted LESS pressure on the nose than a regular caveson! This is because they learned that any articulation point allows that part of the bridle to move independently as the horse moves, which reduces pressure, and a crank has an articulation point in the noseband while a traditional caveson does not.

Yes, this is their own research, but who else is going to study this stuff? In the horse world, any data is better than no data, IMO.

Baby Connor in our first Micklem, June of 2013

So last May I took half of my truck deposit that I never ended up buying and worked with Hastilow to order the Fairfax Drop. If you get one of these bridles, I highly recommend working with a fitter, which they do at no cost to you: DO NOT order off the rack. I thought I knew something about bridle fit before, but wow, Fairfax takes bridle fitting to a whole new level of precision.

Your fitter will keep sending you different sized parts until everything fits just right, and will evaluate measurements and photos along the way. For example, they initially sent me the full-sized noseband because Connor was borderline between full and fine. 


Compare the fit of the full here with the fine in the first photo in this post. This was my first attempt at fitting it myself, and it wasn't good enough for them! They had me adjust several buckles from these positions. Note that it buckles on both sides of every strap, so that the fit is precisely symmetric.

While the full worked, we all realized that the fine would fit better, but it took them six months to get one in due to supply chain issues. So I rode with that full-sized noseband for half a year before sending it back to them (quite used) once the fine got in, and they didn't charge me a dime for that.

Comes with a bag and a small bottle of leather cleaner/conditioner

So what did Connor and I think of it? I'll put it this way: Over the years, I've had him in four different Micklems, a PSoS Flying Change Revolution both with and without the flash, standard cavesons with and without a flash, figure 8's, and standard drops, and this is the first time I've felt a difference from a bridle. 

Did it fix everything about the contact? No. But both Mary and I noticed with amazement that he was immediately more willing to go into the bridle, right from the first ride with it.

From Mary's first ride with it and Connor's second ride with it in June of 2021

It's also, no surprise, much easier to get a precise fit with it than any other bridle I've owned, especially the Micklems. On the Fairfax, the holes are fairly close together on all of the straps, and my fitter took advantage of that, telling me things like "your throatlatch buckle should be one hole lower on both sides", incredibly tiny adjustments that I would never have thought would make a difference to the horse.

PC: Austen

I know, everyone's next question: how's the leather quality on a $650 bridle? It's not going to impress you out of the box, but it sure will over time. As its broken in (and that's taken a while) the leather has gotten incredibly soft, but I get the impression that they prioritized building it to last vs building it with the softest, most delicate leather in the world, and I'm very okay with that. A $650 bridle SHOULD last.

Brand new out of the bag, not yet oiled

What don't I like about this bridle? Very little, but a few things. The look does take some getting used to, although I think the drop I have is one of the best looking iterations of it. With the big pads on the noseband and crown, some people really don't like the look.

The pads do have a purpose - their pressure testing showed they reduce pressure over the most sensitive structures of the face

Noseband pad, from the full-sized drop noseband that we ended up sending back

The leather keepers underneath the chin are intentionally shipped too tight, and will break in over time, but in the meantime it's very difficult to get both straps from either side of the noseband into them. The fitters can stretch these for you, but I've chosen not to since I don't want them to stretch too much.

One of the two leather pads that go under the chin on the drop are visible here. They have a loop of leather on the other side of the pad to hold both straps from both sides of the bridle.

The last thing I don't like: you can only use Fairfax browbands with it because the browband actually screws into the bridle. As with all things Fairfax, there's a data-driven reason for this, but if you've got a thousand dollar browband collection (not me, lol) be aware you won't be able to use them anymore. I soothed this pain by having Amelia at Dark Jewel Designs take a plain Fairfax browband and make me a custom one.

Straight out of the bag, not yet oiled, showing the browband attachment point underneath the leather pad. You cannot, at all, use a non-Fairfax browband with this bridle. It's just not possible. Also not possible to use a show number on your bridle with it either, which is by design - their testing showed that horses are more sensitive than we realize to asymmetries in the bridle, including numbers only being on one side.

All that said, I'm so in love with this bridle and I think Connor is too. For the first time, I don't find myself lusting after any other bridle on the market, we're both just happy with this one.

Bottom line: Yes, it's expensive, but for us it's been worth it. No other bridle that I'm aware of has data to prove its effectiveness, and it's not like the bridle will fix all your contact issues, but at least for Connor, it's been a big improvement.

What: Fairfax Performance Bridle (I have the drop noseband, but several styles are available)

Where: I got mine remotely fitted through Hastilow, although there are several options.

Price: Starting at $530

Color: Black or brown

Disclaimer: Hoo boy, yes I did pay for this myself and it hurt a little, haha. All opinions are my own and are not influenced by anything.


  1. Since looking at their research I've found a couple of other bridles that seem to use their data and conclusions with different designs. Which is great in our very stagnant, stuck in tradition sport!

  2. I want this. For literally no reason. And the browband thing is a real problem.

  3. Thank you for doing reviews like this! It makes it much easier for me to consider saving up for something like this. . .

    1. You're so welcome! It's actually a tough bridle to find pictures and reviews of online, so I figured this would help some people.

  4. I love that equestrian companies are spending time and money to scientifically prove that long-held perceptions are in fact not correct. The challenge is changing the thoughts of the old-school trainers and coaches who have always used a certain piece of equipment or done something a certain way.
    I've has two instructors tell me that my baucher bit gives leverage, and I'm like, well, Neue Schule did a study and proved that it actually gives negative poll pressure (as in less poll pressure). I don't think I changed their thoughts.
    I think the browband thing is a deal-breakwr for me. Otherwise, I'd totally spend the $850 CDN and get it. (Most definitely not!)