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?
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.
Last week I told you that I ordered a double bridle for Speedy. Yes, I know that I had said we would continue on at Third Level in a snaffle bridle, but Speedy didn't get that memo. And as someone recently said to me, "What are horses for, if not to prove us wrong at almost every turn?"
I also told you that I ordered the double from The Dressage Pony Store which is owned by my friend, Valerie. I don't get any kickbacks from promoting her site by the way, but honestly, if you need something, check out her store. While her focus is on smaller equine athletes, she does carry a lot of stuff for the big guys, and her prices are truly hard to beat.
As soon as I unwrapped the bridle - Valerie always packages everything so prettily, I started oohing and ahhing. For $135, this bridle is a steal. It's from Harry's Horse, a European tack supplier that carries absolutely everything ever made for horses and riders. I can't speak to the quality of the rest of their products, but if they're even half as nice as this bridle, I'd definitely try some of their other stuff.
Admittedly, $135 is pretty dang cheap for a bridle, especially a double, and at that price point you can't expect much. Even so, this bridle delivers. The leather is much softer than I was anticipating, the stitching is tight and even, and the buckles and other hardware are stainless steel.
The crown piece, crank noseband, and browband are all nicely padded. The crank noseband tapers along the side, which is perfect for ponies and smaller horses. I ordered the cob. The noseband is also finished with patent leather, something I wasn't too sure I'd like. But as Valerie reassured me, it's actually pretty subtle, especially since the noseband is tapered.
The noseband, both bit hangers, and the throat latch are all rolled leather, which helps keep the bridle from overwhelming a smaller face. If you have a big guy, you probably don't even think of these things, but with ponies, Arabians, and other smaller breeds, the double bridle can cover a lot of real estate, something these smaller guys don't have a lot of.
The bridle also came with two sets of reins, one for the curb and one for the bradoon. I never expect a bridle's "free" reins to be anything worth keeping, especially so when the bridle costs about as much as a nice pair of reins. I was pleasantly surprised by what came with this bridle. Both sets are leather, and one set is lined with rubber grips. Both sets of reins are ¾" wide, and the final 18" - 19" are rolled to match the cheek pieces.
While the bridle is quite lovely, fit is really the key. So how did it fit Speedy G? Take a look.
Poor Speedy; he was not a fan. He didn't fight me over anything, but he worked those bits furiously. All double bridles have a lot of buckles, but when you're not experienced at positioning everything, the process takes a while which didn't make it any easier for Speedy.
I actually quite like the gray stitching which pairs nicely with Speedy's white coat, and the patent leather on the noseband is subtle in a good way. I am not sure whether I'll use the baucher as my bradoon which is how I have it set up now, or a traditional bradoon which I also have.
I'll feel better when Chemaine Hurtado, owner and trainer at Symphony Dressage Stables, has a chance to make adjustments. For now, I'll spend the week just putting it on and taking it off so Speedy can get used to having so much hardware in his mouth.
And of course once the new browband comes in, it'll look really nice! Thank you, Dressage Pony Store!
Oh, boy, do I hate it when I am wrong. To my credit, I usually admit it, albeit begrudgingly, but I do at least make the acknowledgement. So what am I wrong about this time? Well ... the double bridle. And it's not that I am wrong exactly; it's more like I seriously miscalculated. I was certain that Speedy could work his way through Third Level and maybe even Fourth in a snaffle bridle. Go ahead. You can laugh.
We've been doing "okay" in the snaffle bridle. Our struggles felt more related to my lack of understanding the level. There was also the assumption that Speedy just found the movements too hard. None of it seemed related to the bit.
After I asked for some feedback though, some of your responses started to resonate, especially those about the flying changes. After one particularly frustrating ride where Speedy would not let go of the inside right rein, it occurred to me that if Izzy had behaved that way, I would have popped my correction bit on him for a quick little reminder.
As soon as that thought crossed my mind, I realized that it might do Speedy some good to go in a curb for a ride or two. He slurped up Izzy's correction bit like it was his daily driver. What is it with that bit by the way? Both of my horses love it. All of a sudden, I had a half halt and a half pass and changes that didn't include a woohoo-buck and bolt combo.
For my next lesson, I used the correction bit and asked Chemaine Hurtado, owner and trainer at Symphony Dressage Stables, if she thought Speedy was finally in need of the double bridle. Based on what she saw, she agreed with my "realization."
Having friends in the tack business can be a real advantage. I looked around for inexpensive double bridles and came back to my friend Valerie's shop, The Dressage Pony Store. She carries a few different bridles in a variety of price ranges, but it was the Grand Prix Double Bridle that caught my eye. At $135, it seemed too good to be true. What are friends for though if not to call when you need advice?
I sent her an email with a few questions and then called her up with a few more. She assured me that the bridle looks and feels way nicer than the price would suggest. She sent me a photo of her pony Clooney wearing the bridle, and then she put on one of the browbands I had ordered to check the fit of that. Mine aren't here yet since they're being custom made somewhere in Europe. So, along with two new browbands, I now have a brand new double bridle on its way. It's scheduled to arrive tomorrow.
Good thing I don't mind eating crow.
A couple of months ago, I asked for some advice on how to select a blingy browband for the big brown horse. I got a lot of great suggestions. As it turns out, Valerie, owner of the Dressage Pony Store, not only had great advice herself, but she had samples to back up her recommendations.
Since Valerie lives in the Ventura area where I do most of my showing, a few days before heading to October's SCEC show, I contacted her and asked if she might be able to bring some browbands for me to see. I didn't think she had the couple that I had been interested in - she sold a LOT at the USDF Region 7 Championship show, but I knew she'd have a few pretty ones.
I wish I had taken some pictures. She brought mounds of browbands, all of which were so much more gorgeous in person than I had imagined. It was really funny actually. It felt like a drug deal out of some guy's van. Valerie dropped her tailgate and spread her stash as a couple of us greedily reached in to lay claim to to what we wanted. Sorry, no photos.
As it turns out, I liked something completely different from what I had picked out online. Valerie showed me how the arrangement of the stones matters as much as the color you pick. Dark faced horses, like Izzy, actually need light stones on the edges of the browband to provide contrast between their coat color and the center row of stones. Light colored horses need a darker edge to help provide that contrast.
What I didn't know was that Valerie can order custom browbands, which is what we decided to do. Izzy's new browband will have a soft wave or curve. We did a row of clear Swarovski crystals on the top and bottom rows. The middle row will be done in black diamond Swarovski crystals that actually pick up whatever color is near. When I held the black crystals up to my show shirts, it paired perfectly. I don't know if the one pictured above is the exact browband we ordered, but it's pretty close.
As we looked at each browband and compared the style and shape and color combinations, I started imagining Speedy wearing an equally fabulous browband. The one I have is five years old, and while it still looks great, Valerie's are so much prettier. We scooped up a few that we thought would look good on Speedy and walked over to his stall.
It was great to "try them on" especially since the one Valerie and I had picked as our favorite didn't end up looking that good on Speedy. The colors were too light and looked "washed out" next to his white coat. We ended up choosing a solid row of dark blue Swarovski crystals with clear crystals on the top and bottom.
I have no idea when the browbands will arrive. Valerie orders them from Europe, but she'll let me know when they're here. It would be great if they arrive in time for Speedy's next show in December, but if not, no biggie.
In the meantime, Speedy and I were awarded a "hardest working pair" prize at the show at SCEC. I picked the browband that Izzy now sports. It fit him perfectly and replaces the old one which was missing the center clincher. While I couldn't get a good picture of it, it's a Beasties™ Brillance Crystal browband with, get this, Swarovski Black Diamond crystals.
Apparently, black diamonds are a girl's best friend. And hey, if you're looking for reasonably priced bling, check out Valerie's selection; you won't be disappointed.
I can't say that I've ever reviewed a product before that I didn't first research and later buy. Until now. Some time ago, my friend Jen gave me a pair of Back on Track splint boots that had been left over after a show. They'd been hanging around the show office for several months with no one claiming them, so she passed them on to me.
They've definitely seen better days. They're no longer bright white, and they carry some stains that no amount of scrubbing will remove. The velcro is still super sticky though, and there are no major wear marks. Interestingly, it is because of these blemishes that they really impressed me.
For many years, I stuck with the DSB Dressage Boots from Riding Warehouse. They're well priced, they fit well, and they clean up pretty easily. But. It gets HOT here, and my horses' legs get really sweaty underneath the boots. That wet attracted a lot of sand from the arena which dirtied up the boots. That meant a lot of constant cleaning. In the winter, the same thing happened due to rain or puddles, but the boots took forever to dry when I washed them. Out of sheer laziness, I simply quit using them.
A week or so ago, I saw the Back on Track splint boots laying around untried (again, laziness) and decided to give them a try. This pair is a small, and they fit Speedy's front legs perfectly. In fact, it was like they were custom made for him. Even old and previously worn, the fit was excellent.
Speedy didn't even notice he had them on. Since he hasn't worn boots in at least six months, I figured there would be some of that weird high stepping thing as he tried to shake them loose. Nope. He walked straight off, oblivious that he had on new old boots. It was when I took them off that I was truly impressed.
At 15 years old, Speedy is starting to show his age. He has bumps and lumps from previous injuries, scars, and a few things that I keep my eye on. He doesn't generally stock up since he lives outside, but his legs aren't as tight as they used to be either. After I took those boots off, there was not a single bit of excess fluid in his legs. They were cleaner and tighter than I've seen them in a long while.
Without the fluffy fleece, the Back on Track boots were easy to hose off and they dried fairly quickly, faster than fleece anyway. And while I haven't tried them on a hot day, it's been in the mid-80s here, warm enough to show me that they do seem to let the excess heat escape.
These boots are now going on my wish list. I need to buy Izzy a brow band first, but after that, I am going to be buying a pair here and there. Izzy will need a pair, and then Speedy will need a new pair in front, and after that I might need hind boots. At 70 bucks a pair though, it may take a while until both horses are booted all the way around.
Christmas is not too far away though ... and neither is my birthday!
I ordered two new girths last week, one for each horse. Like I mentioned in that blog post, girths are like underwear; you just don't know for sure that you'll like them until you wear 'em. Or in this case, until my horses wear them. I have to say, I am quite pleased with both of them.
I bought Izzy the Collegiate Shaped Memory Foam Dressage Girth, and I wasn't disappointed. It worked as well or better than I was hoping. I can't say that he noticed much of a difference, but I felt a lot better about using it. I like the construction. All of the stitching is neat and even, and the edges are smooth without any stray strings or roughness. I gave the memory foam a solid poke, and was pleased to see the hole fill in immediately.
As I was hoping, this girth is a bit wider than the Ovation that I had been using, but it isn't too wide. Some of the dressage girths simply look too wide for my tastes. Neither of my horses has a particularly wide heart girth, so I just wanted something slightly wider that would still give Izzy room at the elbow. I really like the shape of this girth as it is slightly contoured without getting too narrow. But like I said, Izzy wasn't complaining about his Ovation, I just thought I could find something that was a little more comfortable.
I've used the girth a number of times over the past week, and no weird sores or irritations have popped up. When I take the girth off, his sweat pattern is clean and even. I've hosed the girth off to see how quickly it will dry, and that is the one thing I wish I could change. The Ovation girth doesn't absorb any water, so it is dry immediately. With the memory foam on the Collegiate, it does absorb water like a sponge, so if I wash it in the winter time, it might not dry all the way before its next use. I can live with that though.
I bought Speedy the same girth he's been going in for several years, except it's a newer model. The Ovation Coolmax Shaped Dressage Equalizer Girth is perfect for him and checks off all the boxes. I knew I would like it as the old one was working just fine.
One of the things I most like about this girth is that the elastic at the buckles extends all the way from end to end. It is stitched down after the keepers, but this girth allows for some expansion when Speedy takes deep breaths.
When I went to buckle this girth for the first time, it took me a minute to figure out why it was tight on the fifth hole. Speedy goes on the sixth hole in his old girth. I realized that over time, the elastic on his old girth had slowly stretched out. I am good with that. If he needs more room, I love that the girth will give just that little bit.
With Speedy's wooly winter coat already growing in combined with the fluffy edges of the girth, it's hard to see that he has enough elbow room. This girth is slightly less contoured than Izzy's, but Speedy has plenty of clearance. While Izzy doesn't seem to care about most things, Speedy is quick to let me know that he doesn't like something. He's the epitome of a snowflake. I tightened this girth up just like I did the older version, and he worked in it over the course of a week with zero complaints.
Not long ago I purchased new reins. Last week, it was two new girths. My next purchase is that brow band I've been hankering for. I have some extra cash coming my way. Once it's here ...
Some things are fun to buy. They give you a lot of satisfaction. They look great. They add to "the look." Girths are not one of those things. At least not in my book. Girths are like underwear; you have to have them, but they're pretty utilitarian and for the most part, go unseen.
Unlike say, a new pair of boots. I have a pair of river boots that I LOVE, but I am hankering for a new pair. Something like this pair of Dublin's in a size 7.5 would do nicely, thanks. These are definitely not like underwear. You know what else is not anything like underwear? The Haas Diva with Lambswool. I drool over this brush every time I am on Riding Warehouse's site. It will be mine before next season's summer shows start. Speedy really needs this.
But alas, we do need underwear and girths. Both of my boys' girths have seen better days. They're looking a little rough around the edges and the keepers on Speedy's girth are falling apart.
I've tried Speedy in a few different girths, and he has made it quite clear that he prefers fleece. Fortunately, he's not too much of a diva so synthetic fleece works just as well as real wool. His current girth is actually holding up quite well. It's just the keepers that are giving out.
When I started looking for a replacement, nothing jumped out at me as a must have, especially when I looked at price. Speedy's must haves are pretty basic. He needs a 20" length in fleece. We both like elastic at both ends, and roller buckles are a must. He doesn't care about ergonomics; his saddle sits just fine with a squishy fleece girth. I sort of liked the LeMieux, but it doesn't come in a 20", and it was a bit pricey.
Then I saw the Ovation Coolmax Shaped Dressage Equalizer Girth, the updated version of what I already have. It's slightly contoured and has roller buckles. I've always liked the elastic from buckle to buckle because it allows the girth to expand and move as Speedy works. It's fleece, it comes in the smaller 20" size, and it's under 50 bucks. Basically, it's perfect.
The Ovation arrived and was exactly what I was expecting. I haven't used it yet, but I may do a follow up review if anything in particular stands out.
As I looked at girths for Izzy, I found the exact girth that I am currently using, also an Ovation. At $37.95, the Ovation Airform is a bit of a steal, but I've always wondered if it feels a bit like wearing a narrow belt. Izzy has never protested the girth, and he's not at all girthy, but I've wondered if something wider might be more comfortable. Something like the Collegiate Shaped Memory Foam Dressage Girth.
This girth checks off all the boxes that I need in a girth for Izzy: roller buckles, elastic at both ends, and it's made from a material that I can hose off each day. It was slightly more expensive than the Ovation, but I am hoping the width will prove to be more comfortable. In person, it looks great, and the memory foam feels super comfortable, but since I am not the one wearing it, who knows?
When I ride this afternoon, weather permitting - in case you haven't heard, California is having some issues with wind and power, I'll try it out on him to see what he thinks.
I hate it when I buy new underwear and don't like the fit because you can't exactly return it. Girths are the same way. You never know if one is going to really work until you ride in it, and if your horse says it's not comfortable, you're left shoving it in a drawer as you find a better fit.