View Full Version : Double bridle - when and why?

29-11-04, 01:26 AM
Hi oh knowledgeable folks out there who have more experience:-

I have a very nice warmblood mare who is coming back into work after 10 weeks off with injury. Before she stopped, I think she was making wonderful progress - felt light and soft and forward to me and in self-carriage - I used to wonder whether she was forward enough, but now am a bit more confident that the feeling of instant power and absolute accuracy MUST be right - it just feels too good to be wrong. She goes into what I call the "german warhorse mode", where you feel you are sitting up hill and I only need to breathe in or out to get a transition, and looks extraordinary (according to VERY biased onlookers).

In bringing her back into work, she has been either not forward enough (ie too up & down on the spot), or more forward but with nose out, or lugging downwards. After 10 mins stretched down warm-up, I have started to insist she goes forward (and now am wearing spurs again 1 day in 2), and creating the frame with the outside hand (not pulling)while lifting inside hand up so bit comes up until she finds it uncomfortable (not pulling) and gives and then I'm soft and light when she comes down, whilst continuing to keep forward. This is working in bits but not consistent (2 mins nice then head stuck forward again, then locks in muscle in side of neck and loses flexion, then start process again).

The girl who lives next door to where I agist is quite a good rider (competes advanced dressage) and a double bridle advocate. She was talking to me last night and said she has watched me ride, and said if I do get that light and forward feeling, she doesn't think it happens often as whenever she has seen me ride the horse is on the forehand. She said she has been trained in classical dressage, and overseas they very rarely use a snaffle as it is designed as a "racing bit" to get the horses head up, and the classical trainers (for instance the Spanish riding school and riding masters) quite often ride with a curb only, which you need so the pressure on the horse's poll/ roof of mouth etc causes them to flex and drop their head rather than stick it up. Her philosophy is to get the horse accepting the bit in a snaffle, lunge horse in chambon so it starts developing some muscles in the right places, gets used to the poll pressure and doesn't consider going over backwards, and then only train in a double, so you can be much kinder to your horse's mouth. As a consequence, she only starts to compete from medium on so she can use the double. She also believes in Australia we do everything backwards according the the classical principles.

I have been reading bits of an old horse handbook (50 years), and it says much the same thing. I am using one of the Sprenger Ultra Aurigan bits on my girl with the jellybean middle rather than the plain snaffle (and she has a huge mouth - 5 3/4 or 6"). And I have watched some of the showing people ride around in a double with their horses looking lovely too, and wondered how some of the youngsters get their horses to work like that.

Sorry about the essay - my question is, if a snaffle encourages a horse to put its head up, why wouldn't we use a curb instead, at what stage do you start training/using a double, and any suggestions on what I should do next?

Thank you VERY much

29-11-04, 03:17 AM
Where to start? I'll try to be of some help to you JJ and begin by saying - give her time .. ten weeks is a while for a horse to be out and it will take a little while for her to come back to where she was when she was turned out. How long has she been back in work? it sounds as though she was going beautifully earlier - and in a snaffle - so why would you want to change that?

Right now, I couldn't think of anything worse than a double bridle on her - especially if she is tending to go up and down on the spot - worst possible time to put a double bridle on her. I think the girl next door might be mistaken with some of the things she says - the Germans use a snaffle for the first half of the horse's training. The "masters" only EVER ride with the curb alone when the horse is fully trained in all the Grand Prix dressage movements. It really sounds as though she can't get a horse "on the bit" (her variation of it anyway) without the use of a curb!! x(

I personally don't put a double bridle on a horse until he is fully accepting the snaffle, his transitions are clear, he understands all my aids - will lengthen and lower his neck, stretch for the contact, come back up again when I ask - but you can't put a time limit on it. It's not the bit, it's what the rider does with the bit, that counts.

Can you remember what you were doing when your horse was in "German warhorse mode"?? Go back to there - plenty of stretching exercises to help strengthen her back (and her mind), staying on big circles with plenty of changes of flexion and bend - the more you have to use your hands to keep her round and her head down, then the less consistent she will become. Your hands should be passive (not dead) and accepting the energy that comes from behind - so you have to keep her actively forward into your hands - don't take with the hands, just remain passive and allow her to go forward without blocking her. She will soften more quickly and easily with the correct flexion and bend on round lines. the most important thing is to keep her forward

Improv and others will most likely be able to help you more than I have. :-) I just had to say something because of the girl next door.

29-11-04, 04:58 AM
I agree with Ernie and esp. about now being the worst time to try a double.
You sound as if you are trying to do the right thing but...
When she locks in the neck, etc. is this to one side? (On the other rein, she would still be 'hanging' on the same rein) Or the same evasion equally on both sides.

There are a number of things that cause these types of evasions and, basically, the horse is not stepping thru. from behind evenly and/or truely for some reason.
Causes include: 1. A stiff or sore spot anywhere from the hamstring to the poll. (could be as simple as a lump in the saddle stuffing) (hmm..., forget the hamstring, it could even be a foot!)
2. Teeth
3. Rider being unconciously stronger in one hand
4. rider being weaker in one leg (and not level in seat bones)
5. a heap of other details!!

So, having ruled out the actual physical pain stuff (There are others who are better at this than I) You need to the deal with the remaining 'stiffness', (be it the horse or the rider!). You need to identify (I will presume at this stage that it is a 'lock' to one side) which side she bulges to.
eg. (a common senario) the neck bulges to the right, the horse feels to take a 'leaden' contact on the right rein and will 'drop' the contact on the left rein. Your right leg would produce little result and sometimes even feel as if the horse is leaning on it, rather than moveing off it. As the problem develops, the horse will tilt the nose to the left.
I'll toss this back at you now, to see if any of this fits what's happening with you horse? With a more detailed evaluation, we can come up with exercises to help.

I tend to think, maybe, your horse has been playing in the paddock and given herself a tweak which is a little stiff, coming back into work? Hmm...

Some of my thoughts on doubles -
A good master would have hands and knowledge to match.
A good master could ride a horse 'up' from the seat and not require a bradoon.
A great master does not require either (bit or bradoon) to position the horse exactly where they want it.
(How many of us are that good?)
In competition, the double begins to be introduced in medium, for many good reasons.
The horse has to accept the snaffle or you are going to hit a wall somewhere down the line and not progress any further.

29-11-04, 10:35 AM
Wanted to thank you for the responses Improv and Ernie. Rode her this morning (before it hit 37 degrees) and she was much lighter, softer, lovely and more forward today (I think), and I thought "yep, I think I am on the right track and trust my own instincts a bit". She was a fraction uneven today, and I am hoping this is either because she absolutely totally shredded her rug last night (one of the leg strap clips was sheared off at the spring and the rug was literally in 30 pieces) or because she has been ridden lightly ie: 20 - 30 mins for the last 3 days in a row, rather than because she's still sore (had time out first for her triceps muscle in shoulder and then for the muscle at the back of the shoulder). I lunged her on Fri and Sat for a couple of mins each way before riding to check the movement and she seemed to be very even and stretching through properly, so hoping it was last night's antics (what they can get up to between 10pm last night and 10am this morning!).

Further to Improv's comments, I'm going to print them out and read them properly because I found your points very valuable. She normally tries to run out the left shoulder when circling to the right, and this is the side she locks on the right rein, and I have found in the last 4 - 6 months that if I am stronger in my left (outside) leg and kick a couple of times lightly with the spur (sorry, probably wrong terminology, more of a medium nudge) this does seem to almost "balance her up" between my legs and then she works much better and softer. On the left rein, she wants to fall to the inside and I find using my inside leg and having my outside one there encourages her to actually ride around the corner/circle and not just fall around it.

To Ernie - you have helped a lot too - I could see there was some sense in what the girl next door was saying, but I have this funny feeling too that if the horse is really truly going forward and in self carriage, you shouldn't need a double bridle, because HEY, they're in self carriage!

Anyway, wanted to let you know today was better, she is having tomorrow off and then we'll see what Tues nite brings. Anyone else who has suggestions I am happy to try them :-)

29-11-04, 02:51 PM
Sounds good, JJ, you're on the right track.
And her evasion would stem from the injury she was out recovering from?
Now she has to be in 'Physio class' while she regains tone in the shoulder. If she has had an injured shoulder, it's not just the shoulder that she has been 'saving', but the whole interconnecting muscle system that she now needs to strengthen up in.
Has she had any massage on the shoulder?

Your 'corrections' with your aids seem right.
When you are circling to the right and she wants to hang on the right rein, make sure you actually give the rein and create your turn with an 'open' hand and a 'give and take' motion, rather than a constant hold. The left rein is the 'supportive' one. Raising the left hand a little is often a better way to establish a good contact with it (as opposed to taking a 'stronger' hold with it) while you lighten the right rein.
Circling left, the right rein should be the support rein, but you will need to use a 'half halt' hand action to keep her straighter (not falling in)while not letting her hold onto this rein. A counter-flexion can be valuable here as a gymnastic exercise, if you have done them.

BUT all 'corrections' with the hand will only be as successful as the response to your seat & legs. This is where the 'solution' comes from, working evenly from the back end. So, yes, make sure she comes of that leg with a stronger reminder.
I would look for exercises such as spirals, serpentines etc. looking for a good response to your leg, starting as large as neccessary and working down smaller as able. (10m. is minimum.)

Ernie, you assessment of this would be appreciated, esp. in case I've mixed my left and rights!x( That constipated, concentration again! LOL
And I'm sure you'll have some good specific exercises

30-11-04, 02:56 AM
I think you've covered just about everything improv :-) I have found one excellent exercise (and I must admit I don't do it often because (a) I forget and (b) it's too hard x( ) is renvers on the circle. You have to make sure you are doing a true renvers, and one quarter of a circle at a time is enough for your horse, before he will start to fall out of it. You can do it in trot or counter canter.

The slight unevenness bothers me. It could still be foot.