Now, we just need to break it in.
Okay. The browband works. The bits work. After a few tweaks, the whole thing has been given the nod of approval by my trainer. I think I can say that Speedy's double bridle is now officially in service.
This thing has taken me several months to put together and get just so. I am never taking it apart again. I'll unbuckle each strap to clean, but there is no way it's coming apart completely.
The bridle itself is the "Grand Prix Double Bridle," a Harry's Horse brand, purchased from The Dressage Pony Store, whose proprietress is my good friend Valerie. It retails for $135 plus shipping, a real bargain for the quality that you get. I wasn't sure I would like the patent noseband, but it actually adds just a little bit of fancy that I didn't know I needed. The rolled cheek pieces and tapered crank noseband also help the bridle fit Speedy's smaller face.
The browband is also from The Dressage Pony Store. It retails for around $90 which is an outstanding bargain especially since it was a custom order from Europe. The crystals are Swarovski, and they do not disappoint!
The weymouth and bradoon are from Marcel Toulouse. The set retails for $74.95, which if you've looked at bits recently, is a fraction of what one bit frequently costs. I got both of them for that price.
It has taken me some time to decide which reins to use. Ultimately, I decided that I love the Thinline Reins so much that they serve as my snaffle rein. They're also from The Dressage Pony Store. Valerie's price, $95, beats everyone else's by a mile. For the curb rein, I am using an old pair of Beta endurance reins that I had hanging around. They're super soft, flexible, and drape really nicely. I paid around $30 for them, but that was more than 10 years ago. I have no idea what they go for now.
So what did the whole thing cost me? Around $425, but I am not counting the endurance reins as I've had them forever. I really didn't have any idea what the total was until just now. When you spend a hundred here and a hundred there, it doesn't seem like much. Even so, $425 is pretty low for a double bridle. Many double bridles will cost that before adding in reins and bits and fancy browbands.
Now, we just need to break it in.
From nearly the first moment I tried the double bridle on Speedy, neither of us liked the bits I had. In all honesty, the weymouth and bradoon that I had on hand were ordered for Izzy simply as a "let's throw this at him and see if it helps." The experiment was useful in that it told me that Izzy wanted a ported bit. Once I made the switch, the weymouth and bradoon got tossed into my bit box. When it became clear that Speedy needed to go in a double bridle, I just dragged out what I had to see what he did and didn't like.
The first thing that I didn't like about the weymouth was that the shanks, including the bit's purchase, rotated. I did a little research and discovered that some horses prefer the movement. I found it to be a pain in the butt. It seemed that every time I looked, the shank had rotated so that my reins were hanging from the front of the bit which also meant the purchase or cheek piece was rotating. I don't know if it rotated while I was riding, but there's enough managing of the reins without the added annoyance of the shank causing the reins to hang funny.
As far as the bradoon, Speedy was not a fan. Not in the least little bit. I've never ridden him in a single jointed bit. I know some horses need it/like it, but not mine. I only rode him in it a few times, but he was having none of it. I quit riding him in a loose ring French link because the loose rings pinched, and he didn't like all of the movement. Which means he probably didn't like the rotating shanks on the weymouth either.
Taking those experimental rides into consideration, as well as my budget, I did some googling and landed on a set of bits that seemed like they were just what Speedy needed. Marcel Toulouse makes the Sanft German Silver Short Shank Curb & Bradoon Set. At just under $75, I was willing to give the combo a try.
As soon as I unpackaged both bits, I knew they were a better fit for both Speedy and me.
The weymouth has short shanks that are fixed. As soon as I picked up the reins, I could feel the difference in the connection. Everything was much clearer with less movement.
While I am not sure if the old weymouth was an issue for Speedy, I know the bradoon definitely was. He was instantly happier in the double jointed bradoon, which I knew he would be.
Making the switch to the double bridle turned out to be a much bigger ordeal than I thought it would be. How complicated can two bits be? Apparently, very. For now, Speedy seems happier in this sets of bits than he was in the last pair. He's still adjusting to having so much hardware in his mouth, but now that comfort is no longer an issue, I think we can start getting to work.
I'll keep you posted.
At a show this past October, I met up with Valerie, owner of The Dressage Pony Store. I was on the hunt for a sparkly browband for the big brown horse, but after seeing what she had to offer, I decided that Speedy needed one, too. While Valerie has many beautiful browbands in stock, she helped me custom order exactly what I wanted. Her supplier is in Europe, so it took a while for the browbands to be made and then shipped, but they finally arrived!
They are so pretty in person, but it's hard to get a good photo of how sparkly they are. It hasn't helped that my horses are jerks; they both refused to look happy to have new jewelry. It's also been cloudy, so I haven't been able to really see them on a sunny day.
If you are looking for a sparkly browband, you really need to talk to Valerie. My total bill for two custom browbands loaded with Swarovski crystals was a paltry $153.86, and that included shipping.
I could not get either horse to pose with a decent expression on his face, but these were our best effort at showing off their new glam.
Now we just need to get through winter so that we can starting showing again. And if not a show, maybe some sunshine so that I can appreciate our new look. If you're looking to add some sparkle to your gray days, check out what Valerie has at The Dressage Pony Store.
Because, hey, it doesn't cost anything to look. Am I right?
Winter finally made it to California, and with it, so did Izzy's "sillies." The good thing is that he's no longer a jackass. A few days ago, he came out of his field with his skin on fire, coiled up like a spring. Rather than fight through it, I walked him over the round pen and let him work it out in there.
My first reaction was to be annoyed. REALLY ANNOYED. I found myself saying, "Oh, great, here we go again." But then I realized that the complete jackassery of years past was nowhere to be seen. Instead of bolting and launching himself into the air, he was just spooky, looky, and twitchy. I can live with that.
This horse likes cold weather. He doesn't hate the heat, but it definitely takes away all of his sillies. I can barely get him moving in the summer. Once that mercury drops though, his energy level sky rockets. If I give him a day or two off, he practically vibrates.
As he's become more educated, me too for that matter, he's much easier to redirect. Now that I can get him off his forehand, I can add leg. Just the other day I felt him sucking back a little, and my first reaction was to take my leg off. Just as suddenly, I thought to myself, "Uh-huh, mister. My leg is going on!" Now, he knows what a "frame" is, he knows how to carry himself, and he knows that I am going to push him forward into the bridle. And he can deal with it.
He's a lot more fun to ride this winter than he's ever been before. When he wants to lean on my hands, I now have a way to encourage him to shift his weight back. With lateral flexion and a firm inside leg, I can push him forward until HE decides to soften his poll and neck. It works like magic. When he softens, I straighten him a bit and send him forward. As soon as he braces, I flex him, firm up my inside leg, and drive him forward into the outside rein.
Sometimes that's all I get to work on, like last night, but that's fine because in the long run, it's all about the quality of the connection anyway. Our journey is anything but linear. With this horse, we spiral around and around, all the time getting more and more educated.
We're Not-So-Speedy Dressage for a reason.
I also saw this on Facebook the other day - thank you, Haute Rider. My first instinct was to say smart and sound, but then I got to really thinking about it. I am not so sure I like smart horses. Smart horses, like both of mine, cause a lot of trouble. They break things, including themselves. They have opinions, usually opposite to mine. They're nearly impossible to fool or trick, even when it's in their best interests. No, rather than smart, I think I'd prefer a good temperament.
When you really look at the price of smart, it goes for a mere buck, you have to wonder why smart is so cheap. A good temperament on the other hand, will gobble up half your budget. It's so pricey in fact that you aren't going to get much else. Do you go with broke or a gelding? Maybe young or short?
If not smart and sound, what else would I choose? Well, for $2 I could get a young horse under five years old. While I've said never again to a baby, it would be acceptable because I could guarantee a good temperament for $2.50 putting the price of my unicorn under budget at only $4.50. Of course, I might have to spend a lot on training and lessons down the rode, but with good temperament, he'd be easy to train.
I would also consider a horse ready to compete. Sure, that's nearly my entire budget at $4.50, and yes, he might be a lunatic, but he also might be magical. Truly a unicorn. Something like this. That's Verdades - talented but slightly nuts in his younger years. Reminds me of Izzy.
Unicorns are elusive for a reason. Even with a $1,000,000 budget, they still break. Sometimes they get too big or don't grow enough. Some are never ready to compete, and they all get old sooner than we'd like.
How would you spend your $5?
Last week, a friend shared this article on Facebook. It's worth the read. I scored 94 points. Based on my score, I am among the very privileged.
I thought about that quiz the rest of the day. Do I think I am privileged? Yes, but more along the lines of it's an honor to be trusted by so magnificent a creature. Do I feel privileged in the sense that I have unearned or undue access to a lifestyle that others are denied? I don't.
I was raised by a single mom who came from a teenaged mom herself. My mom was a high school graduate with no skills who was married, divorced, and then the primary caregiver to two little girls by the time she was in her early twenties.
My mom dug deep. She got herself some training, worked a man's job, and did her damndest to avoid public assistance. As a little girl, I remember going with my mom to clean houses, pick fruit, and scrounge scrap metal to sell. My mom taught me to be a hard worker and to take responsibility for myself.
Neither my husband nor I feel a sense of entitlement. We're not owed anything. We don't "take." We don't expect the government to help us or fix things. We pay our taxes, go to work, and invest our money for retirement. While we are both of European descent, neither one of us gives a rat's ass what color you are or who you love. We won't judge you based on your color or gender, but we will judge you by your actions.
Before you criticize me for being insensitive or blind to the realities of the world we live in today, I get it. Not everyone has had the same "access" to the choices that I've had in front of me. By the same token, others have had more and better choices than me. I don't resent them for that.
My husband has expressed his frustration more than once about the recent movement that paints white men as oppressors who should feel guilty about their station in life. Should he donate his retirement to women who have been raped because it is men who perpetrate that crime? Should he be forced to give a portion of his salary to the NAACP because he makes more money than many black men?
Deep breath, Sweaney. I read the article. It made me think. Bigotry and racism have always made me angry. I am frustrated that there are assholes who force others to feel inferior or threatened or ashamed of who they are. But that's not me. That's not the man I married. I won't be made to feel guilty because of my European ancestry and gender.
I've been an elementary school teacher for nearly 30 years. I've seen more than one generation grow up, and I've seen a lot of changes over the past three decades. The one change that I am most excited about is the overwhelming diversity that I see in my classroom and my students' complete ignorance of racial lines. In fact, most of these kids have last names that don't seem to match their ethnicity.
All of these kids know that racism is "bad," that bullying is unacceptable, and that gender is becoming a fluid idea. That doesn't mean that this generation is going to solve the world's problems, because they won't. There are still kids who have parents who are blatant racists, homophobes, and bullies themselves. Those kids will struggle.
Is horse ownership a symbol of privilege? I never thought so, but I am not black, gay, mentally ill, or physically disabled. If I were one of those things, maybe I would feel differently. In the meantime, there are some who think that I don't get a say so because I am white, and in their view, white equals privilege. I am certain that many white kids do grow up with privilege, but so do many black and asian kids. I sure didn't feel privileged while I was picking walnuts and scrounging for scrap metal in a junker car. I felt poor and disadvantaged.
I was the first person in my extended family to graduate from college, but it wasn't easy. I worked part time jobs - sometimes several at a time, applied for and received a few grants and scholarships, and borrowed the rest to pay for college. My mom taught me that if I got an education and worked hard, I would be successful. She was right. Privilege wasn't any part of my growing up, but I wouldn't have turned my nose up at a college fund.
What about you? Did you take the quiz? What did you score? Do you feel "privileged?"
While it doesn't yet show up on my expenses for November, trading in Blue Truck and Juke in exchange for Newt is going to alter my spending in not-so-fun ways. Trucks big enough to haul three horses are a lot more expensive than cute little cars made for zipping around town.
I spent most of November adjusting my budget to account for the bigger truck payment and added fuel costs that I'll incur from here on out. Juke got around 30 miles per gallon while Newt seems to get about 15. Newt's monthly payment is nearly twice as much as Juke's so that means both my monthly payments and fuel costs will double.
When I look back over the month, I am actually surprised that my overall spending looks so low, although not going to a show "saves" a lot of money. So does not taking regular lessons. The truth is, I spent a lot on "stuff." I bought new girths, muck boots, and the double bridle. Selling some old stuff helped even things out though. And when I look at those costs, I got super great bargains on all of them.
In late November I went on another round of spending while I was in the midst of trying to cut spending. How I rationalized all of that, I simply don't know.
I bought Newt's floor liners (which I'll pay for with my school detention check. Oh, how I loathe running the detention program, but I love getting that check.). I also bought new tall boots, the browbands from the Dressage Pony Store - more on those in another post, and a new blanket for Speedy. I'll pay for all of that in December.
So yes, horse are expensive, especially when you keep buying stuff!
As I saw someone else write on Friday, "Someone please take away my phone and my laptop and my iPad. I can't afford them!"
In all fairness, some of it was stuff I was going to buy anyway like Flaxseed oil and vitamins. I simply took advantage of Riding Warehouse's 20% off sale (which runs through today by the way) to buy my monthly supply.
The rest of the stuff was on my will need soon list. So what did I order? Well first, my justification for ordering ...
My tall boots, which I really like by the way, have started to show some wear. It's wear that I can live with and still use, but I know the day is coming when the holes will be too big to be seen with in public.
I've purchased two pairs of TuffRider boots, and while they haven't lasted forever, they've done what I expected for boots south of $200. The first pair, the TuffRider Baroques, lasted just over two years. I loved them. They were comfortable from the first day I wore them. I replaced them with the TuffRider Belmont Dress Boots which I loved even more. I've been wearing them for nearly two years.
While browsing through Riding Warehouse's current inventory of tall boots, I saw both the Baroques and Belmonts on clearance for $131 and change. They weren't eligible for the extra 20% off, but how could I complain when I was buying a pair of boots that I know and love for $131? I bought the Belmonts.
Since my other pair is still going strong, I put the new boots in storage until the old pair suffers a fatal injury. But of course, more came in that Riding Warehouse box. It was a big box.
I tried to tell myself it was for the "free shipping," but we all know that's a lie since the boots alone were enough for Riding Warehouse to waive the shipping. So why did I need another Haas brush? I don't know, quit judging. We all have a thing, and right now I am kind of obsessed with these brushes. I already bought the Fellglanzsburste, which I love, so it seemed reasonable to expand my collection. This time I bought the Parcour which is a bit stiffer. Next on the list is the Diva. Hey, Santa? You hear that?
We've had some unusually wet and very cold weather this past week which forced me to pull out my collection of winter blankets. Whether it's due to the Cushing's or just age, Speedy didn't handle the first round of cold very well. I showed up and he was a gigantic ball of shivering jello. I quickly bundled him up in a winter blanket and crossed my fingers.
Since then, he's been happily blanketed on all of the rainy nights. Unfortunately, my nicest and heaviest blanket literally fell apart the first night I tried to use it. I wish I had taken photos. The ranch owner saw it at feeding time and was horrified to see it actually disintegrating in front of her eyes. She carefully picked up the pieces that had fallen off and judicially chose to wrap Speedy up in his lighter, but safer blanket. I threw the old one away.
Four or five years ago I bought a new blanket for my last horse, but he never needed it. I threw it on Izzy for a couple of our most recent coldest and wettest nights, but he proceeded to ventilate it on both sides. Speedy gets a new one. He doesn't. As it just so happens, Horze was having a fabulous Black Friday sale on ... you guessed it, blankets!
While Speedy's medium weight blanket is still going strong, he really needs a warmer one. After deducting a coupon code from the sale price, I paid $71.55 for a 1200 denier, waterproof, windproof, and breathable blanket. Shipping was free of course. How could I turn that down, especially since Speedy's actually fell apart?
On Small Business Saturday, I dropped another hundred bucks at my local feed store, Fred C. Gilbert's. Today's Cyber Monday, but I have jury duty so hopefully I won't have time to do any browsing.
I am not sure what the cold and mud had to do with reckless spending on Black Friday, but that's the story I am going with. Did you score any great deals?
Holy freaking hell, people. This double bridle thing has simply been exasperating. I cannot, CANNOT, tell you how many times I have dismembered that double bridle in an effort to get the p e r f e c t fit.
And poor Speedy. He has earned himself some HUGE bonus points for putting up with the endless pinching, tugging, pulling, and conking that he has endured this past week.
Since we've been battling that abscess, I've taken the time to get him accustomed to the feel of two bits in his mouth before he has to work with them in his mouth.
Speedy loves his interactions with me, so when he is benched for any length of time, he's quick to feel left out. Bringing him out every day to not only check his abscess but play around with the double bridle lets him feel important. He doesn't really care what kind of attention he gets, so long as he gets some.
Like all double bridles, this one has what seems like an infinite amount of adjustments. After ruling out the baucher as the snaffle bit, the hanging rings made everything just too busy, I decided to use a regular bradoon as the snaffle. The next thing I had to decide was which bit to hang from the removable strap that goes over the crown piece.
My first instinct was to use that piece as the bradoon hanger. After more research though, I saw that many bridles that have this removable piece use it to hang the weymouth. So I gave that a try. That was an epic fail. I switched the bit back around so that the bradoon hangs from that strap and the weymouth from the fixed strap.
I also spent several days raising and lowering the snaffle and another few days raising and lowering the curb. Finding that happy medium where the snaffle rests just inside of the curb has not been easy.
The weymouth bit itself is a tricky beast. With shanks that rotate, it is very easy to slide the leather of the cheek piece into a shank that has rotated 180 degrees. If you're really inexperienced, like me, you might find yourself asking why the rein is attached to the front of the bit instead of the back.
Like most bridles with a crank noseband, convincing the noseband to maintain a round shape is not always easy. Every afternoon, I may have cursed a few times as I've tried to wedge the noseband in between the cheek pieces to "train" it into maintaining a round shape. The booger just won't stay where it's supposed to.
A week later, I think I finally have everything adjusted to where I like it. Of course, things may be different once I start actually riding Speedy with it. He may hate it. I may hate it. If so, we can always go back to a regular snaffle.
I don't think that's going to happen though. Speedy's a pretty good egg who tends to go along with whatever new thing I've come up with. For a few cookies, he's usually in.
I have far more to be thankful for than I probably deserve. I have a loving family, a nice house, a job with great hours and excellent pay, two dogs that know they're loved, and two horses that I adore.
On this day in particular, I'd like to say thank you for being a part of my everyday life. I write because I like to write, but it's the connections that I've made with other equine enthusiasts that make this little space so dear to me.
Thank you for stopping by and letting me part of your life.