From Endurance to Dressage
The Double Bridle Part 2
When Chemaine suggested that the double bridle might be the bitting solution that would work best for us right now, I'll admit that I felt more than a bit intimidated. I already have trouble with my rein length. You want to add even more reins with which to fumble? I also worried about how noisy my hands are and about hitting Izzy with the curb if he spooked or if I shortened my reins clumsily.
The majority of dressage riders never make it into the double, used at Third Level, so I thought I'd sure my initial experience with getting it put together and using it for the first time.
I knew Chemaine was coming for lessons over the weekend, so I waited for her help in putting it together. By the time we were through, we joked that assembling a double bridle would make an excellent barn party game, especially if done in teams!
With her daughter, Morgan, holding it aloft, she and I set to work adding what we needed to my existing bridle. She first ran the bradoon hanger up and over the crown piece but through the brown band to hold it in place.
We then attached the weymouth (curb) to the original bit hanging straps. Since two bits would now be in his mouth, Chemaine dropped the weymouth one hole from where the correction bit had been. She then attached the bradoon bit to its hanger. As we attached the different bits, Chemaine showed me how the bradoon hangs just above the weymouth so that they almost nest together, one atop the other. The bradoon's strap is also hung "outside" the weymouth's strap.
Chemaine attached my rubber reins to the bradoon as that is the bit that I am actually communicating with. We used a pair of laced reins for the weymouth. I am sure that more experienced riders can have matching reins, but it is really important for me to have two completely different reins so that I can easily see and feel which rein I am adjusting.
I mentioned this already, but in case you missed it, Izzy had reached the point where he absolutely refused to open his mouth for the snaffle. It had turned into a bit of a battle to get it in. After only a day or two with the correction bit, he was was once again slurping up the bit easily. Because of that, I wasn't too worried about him taking the double bits.
Chemaine had shown me a few weeks ago how she puts the double in, so when we were ready to bridle Izzy, she simply stepped back and let me do it. I appreciated her confidence in me. As she had shown me, I simply cradled both bits in my hand just like you would with a single bit. Izzy reached down and took them both in his mouth without a single complaint or even look of surprise. He didn't fuss with them or even act like anything was different.
Chemaine and I talked about why the snaffle had gotten to be so uncomfortable for him. She agreed that tongue pressure might have been the issue, but to her, it was more likely that it had to do with his ability to swallow. With a double jointed bit, the bit lays across the tongue. For some horses this makes it difficult for them to lift the bit away from the tongue to swallow. The correction bit has a lot of tongue relief, so with its higher port, Izzy had room to move his tongue around.
I wanted to make sure that Izzy's first ride with the double was a good one so I insisted that Chemaine ride him first. She started out at a walk with the curb rein draped and hanging. As Izzy stretched and loosened up, Chemaine slowly took the curb rein in her hand, but kept it pretty loopy. At this point, the curb rein is for its stopping power and not for collection.
Within a short time, Chemaine was able to take up the curb rein so that it was closer in length to the snaffle rein. She showed me how to keep the curb rein just a bit longer so that it only comes into play when he tries to charge or take control.
I am really glad that I have been riding him in the correction bit because it provided a good transition. I also kept my rein a little loopy with that bit as well because it was more about having stopping power than it was about being on the bit. When he would challenge me, I simply held my hand steady and let him hit the curb chain on his own. A few times testing it out always brought him back down to reason. The weymouth works in the same way (for right now).
As Chemaine rode, she simply showed Izzy how to be more quiet in the bridle. For every stride she encouraged him to reach and stretch down while maintaining a steady tempo. While she didn't actually use the word "shocked," I think she was. He was not the same horse she had ridden three weeks before. He wasn't anxious or worried and the tension he used to carry slowly melted away. The work that I put in over the past few weeks really showed. I wish that I had thought to change out that bit months ago.
After a little canter work, I got on him and grinned in delight; he was butter in my hands and under my seat. The double bridle is my new best friend. Later that evening, Chemaine joked about my "Third Level horse who's just working on his changes." Pretty funny, right?!
Haha! I'm glad it's working well. Also, I used a double for a while- I used two different reins too to make it blatantly obvious which rein I was using. I could probably use the same reins now... but to be honest, I don't want to. I like my web rein on the bradoon, and a 1/2" rubber lined rein on the curb. Any more thickness just feels clumsy to me!
12/5/2016 07:05:47 am
I can't believe how well it all worked. The list of what I loved about it was too long to write. :0)
12/5/2016 09:34:29 am
Then he will become grooved into a certain behavior pattern and when you go back to a snaffle, hopefully the one that is a loose ring that is part of your double bridle now, he will still think he has the back up of the curb chain. Also I have noticed that when their heads are down as his is in a vertical frame they are less likely to spook. Especially when they are concentrating on the bits in their mouths.
12/5/2016 10:45:53 am
That's the plan!
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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
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Third Level: 63.514%
Third Level: 62.105%
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