From Endurance to Dressage
Sydney has been easy on my tack. His pad fits perfectly. My saddle fits him nicely. An oddball bridle that was too awkward on Speedy G fits him attractively. Not only does Speedy's first dressage bit fit him comfortably, but he seems to like it. He's just become my "easy" kid.
Speedy on the other hand? He's just a troublemaker when it comes to horse clothing. Have you seen what he tried to do to his new fly sheet? The one I just bought so that he would be more comfortable while we were on vacation?
Before he destroyed it completely, I washed it and put it away. Maybe when it gets really hot and the flies get really bad, he'll wear it with more appreciation.
Speedy has been a bit of a challenge when it comes to tack. Dressage pads are too big. His dressage girth is tiny. I've tried at least three dressage bits in an effort to make him more comfortable. Even Cob sized bridles fit awkwardly. I've bought no less than seven bridles for him.
After reading a recent article in Dressage Today, I decided to switch up his bridle again. I've been using my Tekna bridle for schooling.
The Tekna dressage bridle features a softly padded browband and noseband, removable flash, and buckle ended cheekpiece. It's made of QUIK-CLEAN material and has stainless steel fittings.
It's a nice bridle. The cheek pieces are narrow enough not to overwhelm his face and the caveson is thin enough that it doesn't dwarf his muzzle. I recently re-attched the flash in an effort to stabilize the bit.
What I don't like about this bridle is that it is fairly stiff. Since it's not leather, it doesn't move or give as gently as leather might. I started to wonder if the stiffness of the caveson was causing some bracing.
Dressage Today's article wasn't that helpful. There were simply too many conflicting opinions. There is no general consensus on exactly how tight the caveson should be or how high/low the bit should rest in your horse's mouth. What works for one trainer, doesn't work for another. In general, the bridle is fit right if your horse rounds up and accepts the contact. That's not very helpful.
The part that I did find helpful was a different way of describing chewing the bit. That expression has never made sense to me. Both my horses "chew" on the bit, and I know that's not the kind of chewing that's meant. Instead of chewing, the article suggested thinking of sucking on the bit like you would a lollipop. Hmmm ... that makes sense. In order to suck on a lollipop, the caveson and flash need to be loose enough to allow the jaw to slide around, but not so loose and as to be merely decorative (my words, not theirs).
I recently started using a flash since Speedy likes to gape at the mouth while working. I can't seem to find a definitive answer as to how the flash should be adjusted. Most of the time it looks quite tight on a horse which I just don't care for. If his lips are clamped shut, how can he suck and chew on the bit?
To help me decide how to adjust his bridle, I took some photos of Speedy's mouth without the bridle. Speedy tends to have open lips. And I don't mean droopy, taking a nap lips. At rest, his lips are open. He doesn't have a very "relaxed" looking muzzle, does he?
I moved his eggbutt snaffle (with a double joint) to a cheaper leather headstall that I picked up last year. Here is his mouth with that bit. Same open mouth. I adjusted the caveson so that I could slide two fingers under any part. I tightened the flash with the same idea; it's not flapping, but it's not squeezing either.
Here is the leather bridle adjusted to where I think it should be. Even though there is a little wrinkle at his lips, I might raise the bit one more hole. While I was riding, the cheek pieces moved slightly as I picked up the reins. I need to think about it some more.
He did work well with this bridle. I don't know if he was just in a working mood, or if he did prefer the give of leather to the more rigid fit of the Tekna bridle. I'll be curious to see what Friday's trainer and Saturday's clinician say about the fit.
While the leather quality isn't particularly fabulous, the bridle seems to fit well, and Speedy has a pretty pleasant expression while wearing it.
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
2023 Completed …
2023 Qualifying Scores
Regional Adult Amateur Competition (RAAC)
Qualifying Training Level
3 Scores/2 Judges/60%: