By Sara Rivers Cofield
Bridle bosses are decorative metal pieces that
were attached to the sides of some curb bits during the colonial
period. They are usually made of copper alloy, and have two tabs
or integrated holes that allow them to be attached to curb bits
with iron or brass rivets. Bridle bosses conceal the area where
the bit’s mouth-pieces and cheek pieces attach.
Bridle bosses are also known as cheek bosses
or cheek pieces, though the term “cheek piece” also
applies to other parts of a bridle bit. The bridle bosses shown
on this site were used specifically on curb bits as opposed to
other bits such as snaffle bits and bridoons. For images and descriptions
of these bit types, click
here. Curb bits are specialized bits used for steering and
stopping. They could be used on saddle horses for riding or driving
and harness horses for pulling carts, coaches, etc.
Bridle bosses vary depending on the molds used by the manufacturers, but similarities in styles are evident over time. Based on the current assemblage at the MAC Lab, it seems that elaborate bridle bosses with decorative molded patterns and openwork tend to be found on sites with 17th-century components and upper class inhabitants. Plain dome shapes with a nipple at center and plain round rivet tabs are found on 17th- and 18th-century sites. Plain dome shapes that generally have wider rivet tabs with concave sides tend to be found only on 18th-century sites. The trend therefore seems to be a decrease in ornamentation over time. A similar trend is seen in the metal pieces that decorated the leather straps on horse accoutrements. As the sample size of both leather ornaments and bridle bosses at the MAC Lab increases we hope to test and refine these general chronological trends. This section of the website therefore offers comparative chronological data in the form of images, measurements, context, and site information for every bridle boss available at the MAC Lab and cooperating regional repositories.