One Reason Why I Use the Double Bridle

The weather down here has been wonderful for riding, the worst I had to deal with was a minute or two of a sort of serious sprinkle but the rest of my rides were rain free.

When I got to the stable Monday morning it was a lot more crowded than usual. They had gone to a show on Sunday and MJ had two different riders, then I came to ride him the next day (not fair!!!) The veterinarian was coming so I could not use the wash stall so I got to groom him while he was happily eating his own personal flake of timothy hay. I curried his back, used the Haas Military brush as the dandy brush, and of course the Haas Country as the body brush. I tried to get all over him including brushing his lower legs. By the time I finished I was tired and very glad when Merry came and picked out his hooves and put on his boots. My husband got my saddle up on MJ's back, I girthed him, put his bridle on, and I was really tired.

I did not feel too guilty about riding MJ after his show on Sunday, I was just walking him after all. I started walking in 2-point, MJ did not want my weight in the saddle until he warmed up some. He was good, took contact with the bradoon, and then with just the curb bit. We did our usual large turns to warm his back up and the three speeds at the walk. Well I was able to get a regular walk and a very slow walk from him with bradoon contact, but he did not want to extend his walk at all. When I switched to contact with just the curb bit he did extend his walk some. I got rained on for maybe two minutes but then it stopped and I did not melt in the saddle.

Wednesday I got to the barn and Debbie was not there yet. I went ahead and groomed him. Since my saddle pad had gotten quite dusty from Monday's ride I worked harder grooming him on Wednesday, leaning into the dandy and body brushes trying to get all that fine dust out of his coat. Merry kindly came over and dealt with his hooves, grooming his lower legs and put on his boots. She helped me tack him up with his saddle and butt blanket, then I sat down to rest until Debbie appeared while MJ happily chomped his personal, never to be shared, hay.

Debbie finally appeared and was very apologetic, she had been putting her payroll into her computer, had to look something up, and her whole payroll disappeared. She had to put it all back in, sometimes computers are a hassle. She bridled MJ and we walked to the ring and I mounted MJ.

After walking around ¾ of the ring in 2-point I sat in the saddle, I was just too tired to stay up in 2-point any more. Then one of the horses, far off in one of her paddocks, started neighing with a distressed tone of voice. Debbie, of course, went to investigate to make sure it was not a dire emergency. Luckily nothing was wrong. While she was off doing this I walked him around with bradoon contact, he did alright but he did not feel completely happy. I asked MJ if it was OK for me to keep contact with just the curb bit (since I usually warm up more) and he said fine, and he gave me better contact with the curb bit than he had with the bradoon. The contact with the curb was steady and MJ's mouth was calm, when I kept contact with the bradoon his mouth was more active, fussing a little bit with the center roller of the bradoon.

MJ preferred me keeping contact with the curb bit even when I was doing a posting trot though the bradoon contact was acceptable. MJ would not extend his walk when I kept contact with the bradoon, but he did extend his stride some with curb contact. This time when I transitioned downward from the trot using the curb rein I sat the whole six strides (he is still figuring out the slow down signal of the curb, 2 reins at once, versus my slow down aid at the walk of alternating twitching of my fingers when I ride with the snaffle bit.) The whole six strides were smooth enough for me to sit without any distress on my part. His back was soft, his back “swung” more than usual while remaining relaxed, and I felt no hint at all of his usual jack-hammer slow trot that made me feel beaten up.

I am thinking of asking Debbie's permission to try keeping contact with just the curb bit when I try his sitting trot during next week's lesson. Could it be that MJ might be willing to give me a nice, soft, gently swinging sitting trot when I keep contact with just the curb bit? IF I can keep my contact with the curb bit steady enough at the sitting trot so I do not cause MJ any distress in his mouth will he be willing to give me what I want from him? Could I actually enjoy sitting his trot for six strides or more with curb contact? Right now trying to sit his trot with bradoon contact is ROUGH and jarring, and I give up after two strides to protect my back and my brain. It would be SO NICE to be able to rest myself using the sitting trot during our rides!

The last time I tried a slow walk I concentrated on sitting UPRIGHT, and MJ slowed down a little bit from my leg and rein aids but did not get down to his super slow walk. So MJ deems a rider's vertical torso as a “driving aid”? Next week I will have to make sure to lean my body a little forward at the slow walk. I know my torso was vertical because Debbie commented upon it, she had never seen me sit several strides of the walk while my torso was vertical. I am glad she told me, at least with MJ I now know that my vertical torso is NOT a slowing down aid for.

Reflecting on my rides at home I realized that this was a perfect illustration of why I prefer to ride lesson horses with the double bridle. Two other people ride MJ, one three times a week and the other person rides him occasionally. They BOTH ride him with just his regular titanium coated double jointed lozenge snaffle (MJ said he preferred this bit with them when Debbie searched through the bit bag for a bit he likes.) I have always ridden him in the double bridle which he has found acceptable with my hands. Maybe, just maybe, when I keep contact with the bradoon MJ is going through alternatives of “what in the world is this rider saying to me?”, but when I keep contact with the curb he has no doubt in his mind what I am saying even though he might not obey my rein aids quite as fast. With the curb contact he has no unpleasant memories of his mouth being hurt, and he relaxes and keeps contact with the curb with the sure confidence that I will not abuse his mouth.

With the double bridle, especially when I keep contact with just the curb, MJ is confident with the bit. He can reach out for it knowing I won't accidentally or purposefully cause his mouth any distress. With just the snaffle he does not have this confidence in my hands, or anybody else's hands of his current riders.

Yep, just the snaffle is for regular riders who do not know as much or have as much experience riding as I do. It is for work at an elementary level, uncomplicated and not very refined, with possible accidental jerks on the reins. The double bridle to MJ is right now a sure sign that it will be MY educated hands at the other end of the reins, and with curb contact there seems to be no doubt in his mind that I will treat his mouth as the sensitive and tender mouth it is. Snaffles bits bring questions, the curb bit brings confidence that he understands what I am saying while he stays comfortable. With the double bridle I can ride MJ at a much higher level than his other riders while keeping him happy.

This is why I have told Debbie and Shannon that I just rather ride their horses in the double bridle. I can get the results I want even though these horses often have other riders who are not as skilled with the reins as I am. Everybody is happier this way.

Have a great ride!

Jackie Cochran

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Comment by B. G. Hearns on November 18, 2022 at 9:58am

It was once considered a point of pride among equestrians in the 18thC that they could ride 'on the curb' because it showed how precise their hands were and therefore how excellent their skills.

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