I Introduce Bingo to the Double Bridle

My French-link Egg-butt Bradoon bits finally arrived on Monday. Yeah! I got out my cob size bradoon hanger, found my longest Micklem bit straps and my new reins. My Hinterland notched reins stayed on my Wellep double-jointed snaffle since I really did not expect for Debbie to tell me to go ahead and use my made-up double bridle, but I went ahead and put my web reins with colored rein stops on the Weymouth curb. We had measured his mouth and my Weymouth curb is 4 1/2” wide and the bradoon is 4 3/4” wide. I put one of my shorter curb chains on the Weymouth curb, as well as a lip strap.

When I got to the stable Debbie was sort of displeased with Bingo as he had really bounced around as his head-shyness made a reappearance. I showed her the bits I had selected for the double bridle. Since the Weymouth curb's mouthpiece is a rather slender 3/8” and the bradoon is 12mm thick, she was not too worried about the bits feeling crowded in his mouth. Then I asked her what bit set-up she wanted me to use for my lesson and Debbie told me to go ahead and make up my double bridle.

So I switched the notched reins from the Wellep bit to my bradoon and threaded the hanger through the elastic bit at the top of the crown-piece of my Micklem bridle. I find it REALLY hard to thread the bradoon hanger through the brow-band loops so I didn't because I was in a hurry. I hung the Weymouth curb to the Micklem bridle with the bit straps and lengthened to cheek pieces. I “guesstimated” how it would fit (and of course we had to adjust the bridle further.)

While I tried to groom Bingo's head he was not agreeable at all. He'd throw his head as high as it would go and try to get away from my hand/grooming tool. I did not even try to put on his “bonnets” and it was hard for me to get the bridle places clean. Debbie bridled him and then we spent around 10 minutes fussing with minutia, adjusting the cheek-pieces for the curb bit as Bingo slung his head around, getting the curb-chain on straight, and making sure that the bradoon was in a decent place. After slinging his head around whenever our hands got near to his eyes, Bingo seemed to accept having two bits in his mouth rather well, at least he was not trying to push them out of his mouth. We were only able to get the curb-chain rather loose, 3 fingers side-by-side, instead of the preferred 2 fingers side-by-side horizontally. Since the lip strap limits the movement of the curb chain I was not too worried about the curb chain getting to the sharp lower jaw bones above the curb groove.

When I got up on Bingo in the ring I left my curb reins (the web reins with colored stops) sagging a good bit while I kept contact with the bradoon. Bingo accepted contact with no problems. The main difference between Bingo in the double bridle and Bingo in the Wellep bit was that he went slower. That was fine with me, he needed time to become familiar with the odd, odd, odd feelings from having two bits in his mouth. Then I tried to stop and apparently bit aids that were understandable with only one bit in his mouth all of a sudden were completely new to him with two bits in his mouth. It was not a pretty halt as he gaped widely before finally halting.

When we started walking again I practiced adjusting the reins, always trying to keep the curb rein sagging. I deliberately put on pairs of reins that did not match in feel or appearance so I would find it easier to keep track of which rein went to which bit. I had to change how I shorten the reins, with the curb bit in the mix I really could not just widen my hands to get my hands further down the reins. I had to use the other hand to shorten each rein individually while trying not to affect my contact with the bits. Once or twice I accidentally got one curb rein too short (contact with the bit) but I immediately released and Bingo did not make any comments about my fumbling.

After a second gaping mouthed halt I decided, since Bingo had not thrown a fit of any kind about me accidentally touching his mouth with the curb bit, to start introducing the action of the curb bit to him. When introducing a new aid to replace an older aid the “rule of grammar” with horses is to introduce the new aid first, and then do the old aid. So I got the curb reins sagging just a little bit, then as his head moved up I tweaked both curb reins with my little fingers and released immediately, and the next time his head came up I did the halting aids with the bradoon. I had another gaping mouthed halt, but I let Bingo just stand there on loose reins while I counted to 10 and then I praised him to the skies for being such a smart horse. By the third time of me using the curb for a halting aid he responded immediately and I barely had to use the bradoon to get a full halt.

Debbie was pleased with us. While Bingo did not stride forth confidently at the walk he did not seem to be upset with the curb bit and how I used it. Except for the halts Bingo did not seem to get upset by the French-link bradoon. He reached for contact readily, he did not try to duck his head back or invert when I tweaked the curb reins, and he seemed to consider the double bridle a non-event, and definitely not something to get worked up about. Good Bingo.

When I first decided to try working with a double bridle again I did a lot of research into the curb bits. Since Bingo had started out as a Western horse I figured that he had been introduced to a curb bit before. Since his mouth has never felt truly educated to me I figured that if he had been worked in a curb bit it probably would have had 7” shanks, be 5” wide, pulled up to the corners of his mouth around 3/8” higher than his curb groove, and with the curb strap over the knife-edges of his lower jaw bones. I took a chance that with a properly sized curb bit (4 1/2”), placed in the proper part of his mouth, and using a curb-chain instead of a curb-strap, that I might not trigger bad memories of brutal riding.

And I was right, I did not trigger horrible memories of agony. Thinking about my ride I decided that Dwyer was correct in saying that a curb bit of proper width and thickness, properly placed vertically above the curb groove, with a curb chain acting on the curb groove only, with the curb chain at proper tightness, and with a rider with decent hands is a comfortable bit for the horse causing no problems or discomfort. Dwyer also said that mouth problems disappeared “as if by magic” when the size and placement of the curb bits were corrected. Well Bingo did not get upset about the curb bit at all even when I accidentally activated it when I adjusted my reins.

I was expecting much worse.

Have a great ride!

Jackie Cochran

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