Double Bridle Beginner
I've never ridden in a double bridle before. My instructor said she wants me to start learning how. I've been making up excuses not to because I'm nervous about riding in a double. We don't have a school master for me to ride, no "been there done that" horse available. This would be on my mare, that I've trained (with my trainers instruction).
Disclaimer: We're training Third. My trainers idea is that if I start learning how to ride in a double now, then by the time my horse is schooling Fourth, I'll be skilled enough to ride her confidently in a double. I would only ride in it with my trainers direct supervision. Also, it's not to "train" the horse, but for me to learn how to use it correctly. I doubt we'd use it very much since my trainer hardly ever rides in one except right before a show.
I wondered if others could share their experiences with their first experiences riding in a double? How/when did you start? What problems did you run into? What went through your mind the first time? How long did it take to get comfortable riding with one?
Or any other anecdotes you'd like to share.
I learned to ride in a double with my horse who had also never been ridden in a double, but he trained beautifully in a snaffle and I had also ridden him in a pelham to show so I knew the curb action wouldn't be a problem. I rode in it solidly for a month or so when schooling to get used to riding in it and the differences in actions between the bits, and then stopped - my instructor told me to save it for a few schooling sessions before a show and the show itself, and no more. It's VERY easy to get used to riding in it, and it can easily act as a cover-up for training problems, so whilst learning to ride in it properly is important don't become too reliant on it!
One warning, I know a girl who decided she liked her double so much she would use it for jumping. It let her keep a good hold of her strong jumper, and she could ride well in it so what was the problem? Nothing, until one day she got into a sticky situation where the horse needed to help her out, and he just couldn't take the bit because the hold of the double was too strong. Ended in a nasty refusal and horse fall, and scared the horse out of jumping big spreads. Taken her a long time to convince him he isn't going to have his teeth ripped out over a big spread. So be aware, it is a LOT of control...
Subbing, I have minimal double experience and would be nice to know!
I started in a double bridle the winter before my FEI Juniors season and then doubles were still mandatory for the FEI classes in Canada. The horse wasn't experienced in the double and neither was I. Since that horse went lame and subsequently became unrideable, I started to train my pony for the juniors and also had to train him in the double. FEI Juniors roughly equals third level.
I think third level is a good place to start thinking about a double if you choose to use one. I'm hoping to start my 8 year old in a double this year as we should be doing third. The first few times I rode in the double I didn't even touch the curb rein - I just rode around on the snaffle with a large loop on the curb. I think this gives the rider a chance to figure out how to hang on to that big tangle of leather without accidentally jabbing your horse with the curb. For a horse with no experience, I think that gives it the chance to figure out all the new hardware in their mouth without getting too confused. I found it exciting but very intimidating at the same time the first time I got to ride in it as I was very worried about messing up or something. One of the main problems I ran into was with my pony: he has an extremely light connection (incorrectly so, actually and it's been terrible to try to fix) and would always duck behind the bit or bounce/bob on and off of it (does that make sense?). He did get better with time though, it was a training hiccup that I didn't truly know how to fix at the time. It didn't take me too long to get used to it really and it isn't terribly difficult to navigate once you wrap your head around the extra pair of reins. I've found that doubles aren't for every horse, I never would have ridden my pony in it had I had the option to opt out, but with the right horse they can be wonderful. Don't be afraid to give the double a try but as stated before, remember to not become reliant on it and try to use it as sparingly as you can once you've got a good start on it!
I started in a similar way to Tigo - riding only off the snaffle with a loop in the curb. It takes a while to work out which rein is which when you're holding 2 reins in each hand. It helps you you have one set of plaited reins, and one set of plain leather. Then you can feel the difference between the two without having to look and try and figure them out!
I ride in a pelham with double reins while jumping - I did get used to them on the flat first - on my strong gelding. I do occasionally get my reins mixed up but have learned how to adjust the length very quickly and if I'm holding them two-handed never get confused [I have a habit of wanting to ride one-handed a lot].
I found the thing that saves me if I get into a bad spot while jumping is to just let the reins slide through my fingers. If I have to, I grab mane as well, so I don't yank on his mouth.
Jumping with double reins isn't actually that dangerous if you know what you're doing... that being said I can't say I would jump with a bit and bradoon in, just because that's a setup for refined communication that may not necessarily be possible over fences.
Your bit selection is going to be a big indicator of your success in introducing both your horse and you to the double bridle.
Remember there is going to be a lot of metal in the horse's mouth. For this reason you want to really carefully select a bridoon snaffle that is quite thin, and a bit wider than your normal snaffle (to allow more room for the curb). I have a kk type snaffle for normal type riding, but use a french link in my double because there is less bulk to it, but use what your horse likes best (mines not very picky).
For the curb, you will likely go through 2-4 curbs before you find the one to work in, but in stages! A good starter curb is going to be quite thick, with short shanks
(I started Rowan in something like this Euro Steel Brass Hollow Low Port 5" Cheek Dressage Curb Bit).
Then I would ride around, mostly on the snaffle, until you get the hang of 4 reins. Also, try different holds. The best hold I found for my small hands is to have the snaffle normally, and run the curb under my pinky. More traditionally, the curb would run between the index and ring fingers, which I find uncomfortable.
Then when the horse is more used to the curb, he will probably start fussing with the big hunk of metal in his mouth. From here I transitioned to a thinner curb, with the same short shanks, which Ro did not like. So then I bumped up to a mid port, mid shanked curb which he really seems to like
(similar to http://www.horsetackinternational.co...ge.200x201.jpg).
The other thing you need to realize when riding in the double, is that there is contact on the curb. It is light, but it is there. Any flapping of that curb rein will be penalized. The point of the curb chain is to be tight enough that the contact on the curb does not bring it past 45 degrees. A moderately tight curb chain is not cruel, and serves to stabilize the bits in the mouth.
As well, have the bridle adjusted correctly!! The bridoon hanger needs to be inside and behind the curb!! I see doubles adjusted incorrectly far too much or my liking.
These are both things that your coach should be able to help you with though.
Good luck!! It will take a lot of trial and error
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