From Endurance to Dressage
I haven't had many lessons this past month or two. Speedy's recent abscess had everything to do with that. I had a lesson on a Tuesday, and two days later he was lame. The rain didn't help any either. Although, here in Central California we never lament a rainy day since we have so few of them. It took two full weeks for the abscess to heal up, and then I spent another week or so getting him back into riding fitness. This past Tuesday, Speedy and I were finally able to get another lesson.
Normally, when Chemaine Hurtado, owner and trainer at Symphony Dressage Stables, shows up, Speedy and I have been warming up, and we're ready to get to work. Not for this lesson. As soon as Chemaine walked up, I told her that I wanted a "double bridle tutorial." While I had hand walked Speedy for a week in the double and then ridden him 3 or 4 times, I knew I wanted some direct, explicit training in how to correctly ride him in the double bridle.
The first thing she did was check the bridle to see how everything fit. While most everything looked good, she did have me tighten the noseband one hole and attach the curb chain differently so that it rested against Speedy's chin at a different angle. Once that all looked good, I hopped up and put Speedy on a 20-meter circle. As we walked, Chemaine watched my hands and overall rein length.
I am going to be honest here: riding in a double bridle is not rocket science, but it's also not "easy." There's a lot more to it than just holding a second pair of reins. While I enjoy figuring things out on my own, I also recognize when I need a professional's advice. For the first few rides on my own, I experimented with how exactly to hold two sets of reins while keeping each one at the appropriate length. It's not easy.
I had already decided that my Thinline reins were going to be used for the snaffle, and my old Beta endurance reins would serve as my curb rein. The Thinline reins have stops while the Beta reins are smooth all the way down. This works for me as there isn't anything to snag the curb rein. Chemaine liked the set up and commented that the Beta reins drape nicely.
She did have me make one major change though. She suggested I pick up the snaffle rein first and carry it between my pinkie and ring finger with the curb rein above it, carried by the middle and index fingers. She explained that I would need the leverage for the snaffle rein, but by carrying the curb rein higher, I could use more finesse and a lighter grip with the middle and index fingers. It took me a bit to get comfortable with that grip, but she was absolutely right. It felt much more comfortable.
With everything fitted correctly and my grip situated, we moved on to using the curb rein. First, she had me take up the curb and play around with it until I could feel it in Speedy's mouth. Up until that moment, I had been reluctant to actually use it. By the end of the lesson, I was well acquainted with the curb and much more comfortable using it.
She also had me practice a few things like simply relaxing my grip on the snaffle rein to quickly access the curb rein when things were going haywire. She explained that this can be a great tool to use if a flying change gets too wild for example. By allowing the snaffle rein to slide through, I could access the curb rein more quickly.
After shortening both reins a little, she explained how if both reins are nearly the same length, simply coming above the snaffle, like in a transition, will cause the curb to engage, reminding Speedy to soften. She also had me teach him a little about the curb by asking for a more "abrupt" half halt accompanied by a bigger than normal release. He quickly started seeking that release by giving to me quicker and deeper.
She also had me think about his response to the curb. If the response was slow, I needed to ask more firmly and quicker. If Speedy's response was more immediate, I could then get him to come more through from behind because I wouldn't be holding him back so much.
Another thing she had me think about was keeping the gas peddle on because Speedy wants to slow down instead of jumping through and collecting. When I got him soft in the bridle and reaching under, I got this trot to canter transition.
Overall, Chemaine's main question to me was this, "How light is he? Use the curb to make him lighter." No matter how light I thought he was, she insisted he could be lighter and for longer.
I really loved this getting back to basics type of lesson. By the end, I felt much more confident about the double bridle and ready to start schooling him on my own. I definitely have my homework for the next few months, but I think the double bridle is finally right for us.
We're still just one score away from a USDF Bronze Medal, but I think we're getting closer!
About the Writer and Rider
I am a lifelong rider.
I began endurance riding in 1996 where I ultimately completed five, one-day 100 mile races, the 200-mile Death Valley Encounter, and numerous other 50, 65, and 75 mile races. I began showing dressage in 2010.
Welcome to my dressage journey.
About Speedy G
Speedy went from endurance horse to dressage horse. After helping me earn a USDF Bronze medal in the summer of 2020, he is now semi-retired. Speedy is a 2004, 15'1 hand, purebred Arabian gelding. His Arabian Horse Registry name is G Ima Starr FA.
Izzy was started as a four-year old and then spent the next 18 months in pasture growing up. I bought him as a six-year old, and together, we are showing at the lower levels. He is a 2008, 16'3 hand warmblood gelding. His Rheinland Pfalz-saar International (RPSI) name is Imperioso.
National Rider Awards
State Rider Awards
State Horse Awards
CDS Sapphire Rider Award
Third Level: 63.514%
Third Level: 62.105%
2023 Show Season
(r) Ride-a-Test Clinic
2023 Show Schedule
*** SCEC 10/15-16/22
2022 Completed …
(*) Tehachapi 5/22/22
(*) Tehachapi 7/24/22
(***) Tehachapi 8/28/22
2023 Qualifying Scores
Regional Adult Amateur Competition (RAAC)
Qualifying Training Level
3 Scores/2 Judges/60%:
Score 1: 62.115%