Immediate Improvement with the Double Bridle
Lately I have been riding Bingo in the Fager Bianca double-jointed roller snaffle, with improvements with contact and responsiveness to most of my hand aids (turning was not perfect.) These improvements were so great that when I finally achieved Debbie's minimum requirement for riding in the double bridle (being able to get up into 2-point) she said that she would prefer me using the Bianca snaffle instead of the Fager Madeleine double-jointed lozenge bradoon. I switched my Micklem bridle to a double bridle by running the bradoon hanger over the crown piece and I guestimated the proper hole for the bigger ringed snaffle. For the Weymouth I used the Fager Victoria Mullen mouth titanium curb.
On Wednesday Bingo was sort of muddy, it had been drizzling a bit throughout the night so he was damp. After his thorough grooming we tacked up. When Debbie bridled him he cooperated completely and did not show any distress from having two bits in his mouth again. I had to shorten the bradoon hanger a hole and he did not make it hard for me to do so (thank you Bingo!) Debbie was muttering that she let me use the double bridle because she understood that I needed to work on building new nerve connections for my hands, but that I did not NEED the double bridle to get Bingo to obey me. She was right, I do not NEED the double bridle for obedience, but I really enjoy Bingo's increased cooperation with my hand aids.
The riding ring was sopping wet and I was feeling tired, so Debbie and I agreed that this was a walking lesson. Bingo was relaxed when I mounted, relaxed while I sorted out my body and the two sets of reins, and he kept on being relaxed as we walked off and established contact. He reached forward willingly to get contact and his mouth felt more relaxed to my fingers.
Happiness for both horse and rider.
Everything was better. He stopped immediately and smoothly to my first set of alternating hand aids, his curves were smoother with him cooperating, and his turns in place improved though they were not perfect. At no time did I feel any resistance in his lower jaw, and believe me when Bingo resists the bit it is very apparent. He even backed up without his usual setting of his lower jaw though it did take a few aids to convince him to creep back, but I imagine his arthritis might be bothering him due to the weather.
Debbie did not see much difference, but my fingers did not care because my fingers KNEW that Bingo was not resisting the double bridle bits at all. Of course my curb rein was sagging and I did not activate it during my ride so his obedience was not from compulsion, it was through him relaxing his lower jaw.
During the ride I felt Bingo occasionally moving the roller on the snaffle with gently with his tongue.
He was so much more relaxed with the action of the Bianca snaffle while also carrying the Weymouth curb than he had been with just the Bianca snaffle in his mouth. Bingo is just more cooperative in the double bridle, more relaxed in the double bridle, and he seems to think that my hand aids are clearer and easier to understand with two bits in his mouth. I am amazed.
Bingo was the one horse that I've ridden who I was pretty confident would not like the double bridle at first, if ever. He really does not like bits and I had expected him to freak out when he had to carry two bits at once. He dithers and frets at anything new and I had expected a frenzy of mouth movements with a lashing tongue, but he immediately and calmly accepted two bits in his mouth after a minute or two of exploration when I first introduced them, even before I changed from the stainless steel to the titanium bits. With the the titanium bits he acts like the double bridle is no big deal, and something that is definitely NOT distressing to his suspicious and resistant personality.
I am floored. I was expecting good results from using the double bridle—eventually, after months of patient and gentle persuasion. I was NOT expecting immediate and cheerful cooperation (from BINGO???), and I most definitely was not expecting him to relax his lower jaw so much.
Last Sunday I was able to get in a ride on Cider, again just at a walk because there had been plentiful rain. I used the Fager Oscar front-lock double-jointed lozenge snaffle. This was only the second time I had used this bit on Cider, and she was still accepting it fine. Our halts were quicker and softer, she backed up readily and was lighter on the bit than before, and her turns in place were prompter and more relaxed. She seems to like the front-lock feature that quickly turns the mouthpiece into a type of Mullen mouth, and she kept her lower jaw nice and relaxed. I find all this interesting since Bingo did not seem to like this particular bit much at all, but Cider so far seems to consider this bit completely suitable for her mouth.
I am so glad I started buying the Fager bits. The horses seem to like the ones which are appropriate to their mouths better than they had liked the more normal type titanium coated bits of any mouthpiece. The key seems to be determining whether the horse prefers the bar-relief bits or the tongue relief bits. With my MS it is inevitable that my hands worsen over time and it is so nice to run into bits where this does not matter much at all, both the horses I ride have shown definite improvements when I finally determine which Fager bit they prefer.
Right now I am looking forward even more to my lessons and rides. When I pick up the double bridle I smile, when I remember how Cider reacted to her bit I smile. From months and years of minor but annoying problems with the bits I have apparently moved to a whole new experience of the horses cooperating with my hands. JOY!
Have a great ride!