Bits in Dressage

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Bits in Dressage

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    09-07-2012, 12:18 AM
Bits in Dressage

So I'm reading my Practical Horseman magazine today during my lunch hour and I'm glossing over some lovely pictures of a young lady riding (Dressage) a large warmblood of sorts. In every picture, of course, he looks amazing.
But I noticed something... and I suppose it's something i've never really thought about... I noticed that she's riding in quite a serious bit. And you know, most upper level dressage riders, ride in serious bits. Hell, I ride in a serious bit. But the truth is, I have a horse that goes just fine in a snaffle but I don't get the connection and the true amount of "horse" out of him when I ride in a snaffle. So why do you suppose that people sell horses with the "snaffle mouth" idea, when most top level horses are not snaffle mouth horses!? And why do you suppose that you can't quite get the connection out of a snaffle the way you can from a "more" bit. Maybe i'm wrong... I don't know anything about dressage... maybe you folks know someone who's doing grand prix in a loose ring. I suppose i've just never seen it!
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    09-07-2012, 12:53 AM
Ok, you're thinking backwrds a little here.

The double bridle is NOT to control the horse, it should never be used as a control device because the horse is not controlable in a snaffle.
Any good, top level rider will be able to ride their horse in a imple snaffle, ride the same movements, of the same quality. In fact, there is a push now to allow snaffles to be used in FEI competiton, presently doubles are compulsary.

A horse with a 'snaffle mouth' generally means that it has a soft, responsive, and light mouth. A horse that needs a harsh bit for regular riding has some serious training problems going on.
EvilHorseOfDoom likes this.
    09-07-2012, 03:14 AM
I'm not stating that a bit is used for control.
I'm talking about the bits that are chosen for horses that are at a higher level of competition. I myself have never seen a grand prix rider, in dressage and jumpers alike, ride in a snaffle. This would never lead me to believe that these horses had holes in their training... it's simply something I noticed, and got me to thinking.
So I'm asking, why do you suppose that, as with hunters, the minimalist approach to tack wouldn't be chosen for dressage as well.
I'm really just asking as it's something I know nothing about.
    09-07-2012, 03:24 AM
I would say that most of the Grand Prix combinations that you have seen, have been seen in competition or media? If so, as I said above - this is because it is compulsary to ride in a double at this level in competition. It doesn't mean they ride in the double every day.
In training, at home, most training is done in a snaffle bridle. Many riders will only start introducing the double a few days before a competition.
The double just gives a little extra fine tuning than a snaffle, which means the rider can remain even stiller in their aids than if they were riding in a snaffle.

Of course, like anything, the double can be abused and that's when you see curbs parallel to the ground, 'broken' necks, gaping mouths etc.
EvilHorseOfDoom likes this.
    09-07-2012, 03:48 AM
Ah ha! I see.

So it seems to be just as customary as say... flashes are to the eventing world of bridles. I just wonder if a lot of it is how we're brought up in our training/lessons and what we think is the most widely acceptable, and classic way of riding. Most folks don't want to move away from what is the "norm" in the horse world. It's something i'd never really thought about until I read that article. I would love to see someone preform some higher level movement in a snaffle! Haha!
Boo Walker and Muppetgirl like this.
    09-07-2012, 06:38 AM
I don't think it is just customary, it is more about having more refined channels of communication with the horse.

Snaffle has a head raising action and a curb bit has a head lowering action - by having both a sensitive, talented rider has more precise channels of communication.

I believe a lot of people will teach a new movement in a snaffle and then move to a double once the horse is established to achieve that higher level of refinement.

I know of a horse that competes to a pretty high level who is always ridden in a snaffle at home and I have watched him doing 2 time changes. Very nice!
    09-07-2012, 07:04 AM
I have seen a fair number of Grand Prix jumpers in snaffles.

Yes, the tendency is to load those horses up with an entire hardward store on their heads and there are very few rules about tack in the jumper ring. The philosophy there is "Better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it."

Most of those horses school on the flat and over low fences in snaffles at home, and get the full hardware store in competition, because the rollback to the triple in the jump off is a bad time to find out you have insufficient brakes or steering. Imagine a horse that you COULDN'T hack in a snaffle; what the heck would you ride them in for a big class?

In re: dressage horses; upper level horses wear double bridles, which actually has two separate bits in the horse's mouth - a small, thin snaffle, called a bridoon, and a curb. Now look at some more dressage photos, and you'll notice that most riders ride off the snaffle rein 90% or the time, with contact on the snaffle rein, and slack in the curb rein. The curb rein is used mostly to influence collection, NOT for steering or brakes. Again, if you needed a curb to steer or stop, do you think you'd have a horse that was soft and obedient enough to ride an entire Grand Prix test?
kitten_Val and Oxer like this.
    09-07-2012, 08:32 AM
Green Broke
Kayty - FYI British Dressage now allow snaffles up to GP level in national competition, however not international level.

Oxer - most top level horses are snaffle mouthed.
    09-07-2012, 09:29 AM
Originally Posted by faye    
Kayty - FYI British Dressage now allow snaffles up to GP level in national competition, however not international level.

Oxer - most top level horses are snaffle mouthed.
That is fantastic Faye! Australia still requires a double above medium level unfortunately. Hopefully that will change.
Now that we're seeing helmets being worn in International Grand Prix, maybe we'll start seeing a move also towards allowing snaffles.
crimsonsky likes this.
    09-07-2012, 12:45 PM
There are quite a few folks at my barn that ride in those double bridles. I worry that sometimes people rush to get a horse in to that type of bridle without doing the work first. I see it more at the schooling shows in my area. Do you suppose that, a horse (AND rider) should have to "graduate" to a bit/bridle like that, or is it pretty customary to get them going in that sort of tack as quickly as possible?

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