Wednesday, June 18, 2008

A momentous occasion

My double bridle arrived today (a Theo Sommer on closeout at Dressage Extensions), so I took it along to the barn tonight for a preliminary fitting. My first time introducing the double bridle, and my first time attempting to fit one from scratch! It was a big night!

I rummaged through the drawer of extra bits in the tack room until I found a simple loose-ring bradoon that looked to be about a quarter-inch wider than my snaffle. Then I found a low-port curb bit with curb chain attached. I attached the two bits to the bridle, and then hung it side-by-side with my snaffle bridle. I adjusted the bridle so the bradoon appeared to hang even with the snaffle bit on the other bridle. I adjusted the curb bit to the highest hole, but I could tell it was still going to be too low in Willow's mouth. I need to seek out a leather punch tomorrow night. I decided to try the bridle sans reins for my first attempt.

All this time Willow was dozing in the cross ties (I think she would happily stand in cross ties for, possibly, weeks at a time). I unsnapped the cross ties and moved the halter down her neck. Then I carefully balanced the bradoon bit on top of the curb and asked Willow to open her mouth, wondering if the clanking metal would bother her at all. Nope. She let me bridle her like she's been in the double for years. (Thank goodness her ear phobia is a thing of the past).

The curb was obviously too low in her mouth, but the bradoon hung just about right. I attached the curb chain, and Willow went right to messing with the bits, chomping them and shoving them around with her tongue. I gave her some sugar and she started to drip saliva everywhere (Rocky the barn dog loves sugary horse saliva. Eesh.) I let Willow get used to the feel of the bridle for five minutes, then took it off. No big deal. Hurray! Once I get a couple more holes punched so the curb can ride higher, I'll attach the reins and start lungeing her in the bridle once a week. I eventually need to buy my own bits, too, but I hope I can continue to borrow these for awhile.

After that mini-triumph, I rode as usual in the snaffle. I really feel like things are clicking these days. We're down to solid 15-meter canter circles. Next stop, 12 meters. I'm able to do counter-canter approaching what's asked for at second level. Tonight my only frustration was simple change through trot, right to left. When I asked for the left lead, Willow said, "How about a trot extension instead?" Three times in a row. On the third try, I got a little irritated and replied, "Trot extension? OK! Three times around the arena!" Willow was huffing and puffing after that. I let her walk for a bit and tried the simple change again. Bingo. Willow's no dummy.


Dressage Princess said...

Those simple changes can be not-so-simple!
Just for interest's sake, how do you know when to introduce the double bridle? I've ridden with one a little, but I really don't know anything about the why's and when's... Is it to help encourage her to carry her head higher?

halfpassgirl said...

There are all sorts of opinions on when to introduce the double. My own personal feeling is that when you're (correctly) schooling most of second and dabbling in third, it's fine to introduce the double, so by the time you're solid at third the horse thinks it's no big deal. I plan to lunge Willow in it once a week for a couple weeks, then ride in it once a week for a couple weeks using only the bradoon reins, and then very gently start letting her feel the curb reins.

I don't know that it will help her carry her head higher per se, but I do think it will help me with half halts and better engagement behind, and in theory that will lighten her forehand. I am very much against using the double as a shortcut, so I'll still school in the snaffle five days a week.

dressagemom said...

Extended trot marathon! Too funny.