Introduction to double bridle
Posted by Irina Yastrebova on Thursday, March 14, 2013 10:10 AM
This winter I introduced Santo to double bridle. He is coming 6 in spring and it is time for him to learn what it is. My bradoon bit (snaffle bit) is double joined snaffle with lozenge, rather thin bit. My curb bit is very low port with rather short shanks which makes it a mild curb. They both 5 3/4 inch in length. Often bradoon's size is a bit bigger than curb. And I feel I need to find a bradoon 6 inches long.
At the end of December I was putting the double bridle on Santo twice a week for 5 minutes before my usual ride. I adjusted it for him and then did flexions using bradoon reins first and then curb reins later. I did it about 5 times before I felt he was ready to work in it. Starting from January I have been riding him in double bridle once a week. First couple rides were very careful, mostly bradoon rein, very little curb as outside rein during circles. Gradually I used the reins more and more as usual and now after about 8 rides he feels like a horse that knows what double bridle is.
I want to talk about how to hold and use the reins when riding with double bridle. I, personally, do not cross the reins. I hold the bradoon reins between ring and middle finger and I hold curb reins at the very bottom, they come to my palms under little fingers. This gives me separation of two fingers between the reins. Because my reins are not crossed I can use each set as intended. Bradoon bit lifts and flexes laterally, curb bit flexes vertically at the poll. I can really separate their action and do not confuse Santo with my intentions. I used to ride with crossed reins and never could understand how exactly to use them. Now I have very clear understanding of their action. If you check the Colonel's pictures on photo gallery page you will see I am holding rein like that not crossed and separated by two fingers. To use more bradoon action which is basically a snaffle bit just narrower and with smaller rings I lift my hands slightly by bending my elbows a bit. If I want to use the curb bit more I lower my hands a bit by slightly opening my elbow joints. I try to avoid bending my wrist joints up and down and I adjust my wrist position using elbows. When elbows bent a bit more wrists are carried slightly higher and snaffle reins are a bit tighter. When elbows open wrists are carried a bit lower and curb reins are tighter. When horse carries himself as I want him the contact is light on both reins. If he tries to drop his head down too much I lift it with snaffle reins. If he tries to go above the bit the curb reins usually catch him not much I have to do or I just lower my hands a bit and hold for a moment until he comes back.
Old masters used to say that snaffle rein works horse's muscles and curb rein works horse's joints. This is so true. Working a horse in double bridle feels different. He is easier to collect, he packages himself better. Half-halts go through making him sit more without losing activity behind. The snaffle never was invented to collect the horse, the curb was. By itself one or another are rather handicapped because only snaffle is limited to act from back to front or upwards and only curb is acting always downwards. However, together they give a rider many combinations of aids to work with. Rider's sensitive hands and ability to adjust quickly makes double bridle a superior tool over tight nosebands, draw-reins, chambons, etc.
Do not be afraid of double bridle. Or, think you are a lesser rider if you use one while other riders do not. However, do not use it to just mindlessly pull your horse into frame. Educate yourself and your horse to what these different bits mean and how to use them properly. A good source of information regarding how double bridle works is Philippe Karl and his books and DVDs.
Happy riding...
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My blog is about teaching, riding and training. I share what is important to me in my work with horses and riders. The writing helps me to think things over and have a better understanding of training ideas and priciples.
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