Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Double Trouble

Achievement Unlocked: Train horse to double bridle
Yep, you're seeing that correctly. That's my finicky, opinionated, and delicate-mouthed horse sporting a double bridle. The idea of him in one has been so distant, this photo sort of feels like a dream.

As we've been starting work on 3rd level (shhh, no one tell Pig 3rd level is supposed to be hard!), I've been thinking it was a good time to start introducing Guinness to a double. It's not completely necessary, but I figure he's so sensitive to bitting and bridling changes it's a good idea to start as early as I can.

So I've been casually shopping for doubles, gathering bridle parts, and window shopping bradoons and weymouths. At the same time, a friend generously offered to let me borrow her double for the winter. Just to trial the whole thing out. She came out on Sunday to drop off the bridle, and we popped it on.

Apparently her PSG horse and Guinness are exactly the same size because we didn't have to change a single thing on the bridle. It fits just as is. Obviously it isn't a perfect fit for him (Ack! That bradoon hanger buckle! My eyes!), but it'll do for now. The one big thing I've noticed is that I will absolutely need to look for a weymouth with a much lower port. The one in this bridle is an average height, but obviously a little too much for Pig. Interestingly, he did just fine with the loose ring bradoon, despite not going well in a regular loose ring snaffle.

I kept our test ride pretty short and sweet. We ran through pretty much all of our suppling exercises, as well as some simple changes and lateral work. Even though I purposefully kept a loop in the curb rein, I noticed an immediate effect from Pig. Instead of taking 30-40 minutes of careful warm up to start really lifting his withers and collecting, he took 10 minutes. And his shoulders were very quick to move up and out of the way. I was really astounded at how much less I had to use the reins. In fact, I found myself riding even more off my seat. He was working so well through the back, he was definitely a little sore from it last night.

Though notoriously difficult in contact, Guinness never once dropped out of the bridle or fussed in the double. He was not sure about it (stood with his mouth gaping open for a minute after I put it on, obviously confused), but didn't reject it. In fact, the only thing I noticed was that he was about 10% lighter in my hand. He isn't a heavy horse at all, so that is a considerable amount of lightness. He didn't gape his mouth while working, or grind his teeth (his favorite way of expressing annoyance). I was so proud of him!

Right now, I'm planning on sticking him in the double once a week or less. I want it to be something he gets very comfortable with, and understands. I also don't want to pressure him with it. He's been so good in his snaffle, I don't want to undo any of that work by pushing too hard.

Still, that's my crazy thoroughbred ... in a double bridle. Whoa.

Now, anyone have any spare black cob-sized bridle cheeks, curb reins, or a bradoon hanger?

31 comments:

  1. My mare took to the double remarkably well also, and I remember thinking some of the same things you mentioned. It truly just makes everything a thousand times easier, as long as they are mentally and physically ready for it. Instead of arguing with her, I can literally put a hair of pressure on my curb, and she backs right off. I really felt that riding in the double allowed me to be WAY softer in my hands than riding in a snaffle did. The only thing I would say, and of course this is different for every horse/rider, is to be careful with only using it once a week or so. I had the same thought when I introduced the double, I wanted to only use it once a week so she had time to adjust. Really all I did was set myself up for awful rides when I was back in the snaffle. My mare learned very quickly that she could get away with much more in just the snaffle and our rides became unproductive. I figured heck with it, I'd rather have 5 positive rides in a double than 1 positive and 4 negative rides every week. Again, it may not be the same for Guiness but I just figured I'd share.

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    1. So interesting to hear about other's introductions! The double does make things much easier, but I'm a little afraid of being insistent with it. Guinness' history of being funny about contact makes me much more comfortable doing most of our training in the snaffle for now. Maybe that will change? I hope he gets comfortable enough with it that I can ride with it more often!

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  2. He's so cute! Good luck finding the right bits- shopping for cob sized ones are really hard. Dover has some good ones though. I think there's one called a lightweight Weymouth or something like that which has a pretty low port, but I don't know if it comes in a small enough size. Congrats on the double though :)

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    1. Luckily he wears a 5" bit, so his size isn't too hard. He just suffers from the typical TB problem of "tiny head." Thanks for the heads up on the weymouths! I'll have to check out Dover. Argh. Bit shopping is no fun!

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  3. I think I might have a black bradoon hangar in my garage (don't know why) so let me check :)

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  4. so exciting! sounds like it really wasn't a big deal for him mentally, either, which is awesome! will be eager to hear more about how he handles the transition :)

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    1. It didn't seem to really throw him, for sure!

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  5. It's funny how some horses that plow through a snaffle, enjoy and prefer a double. I have a few that have done that. But kudos for the progress! What fun :)

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    1. I've noticed that too, Kelly! That's part of the reason I was pretty leery of Pig's reaction. He's already more apt to vanish from contact than get heavy, I was worried it might scare him off! But, he is pretty heavy in his shoulders, and it can be very difficult to convince him to lift those suckers up. The whole process really is fun! I feel like the last two years were really paying our dues to get to enjoy playing at the level we are now! :)

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  6. As a person who is unlikely ever to need to put a double on anything, I applaud you. What an achievement!

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  7. Yay!! I love my double, Rico goes so much better in it and it makes our rides super fun. I started with a medium port wheymouth but ended up downgrading to one without a port (so just a short shanked mullen mouth curb). He used a french link loose ring bradoon too. Very soft bits! I do like having something in my hand though. Sounds like you're doing a great job introducing it to him!

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    1. Thanks! I hope the introduction keeps going smoothly! I definitely think very soft bits are the way to go with Pig. He's always been in a double jointed snaffle, and he has the typical thoroughbred low palate. Good to hear someone else has had good luck with a low/no port weymouth. The options for those seem to be pretty limited!

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  8. What a GOOD pony! :) A double bridle make everything a bit softer and lighter etc with Vallu, but right now I haven't used mine for over two weeks, just cos I thought it might be a good point to just focus on other stuff for a while, so alternating is good. Even when we have regular training I only ride him in a double twice a week!

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    1. Interesting! I love hearing how everyone uses their double! It seems to be a completely individual thing, based on the rider and the horse! I certainly need more practice riding with one, as I haven't regularly ridden with two reins in a loooong time. :)

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  9. Similar experiences with my OTTB when I started introducing it. I really loved the double :D

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    1. Awesome to hear! I hope we keep getting confident in it! I love that you had a TB in a double, too! They are so rare at upper levels for some reason!

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  10. How exciting! Glad he didn't totally throw down his hoof at the idea :D

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  11. I started my OTTB in a double at the end of last summer. He did just fine, and did not like a loose contact on the curb rein one bit. I figured I would just take a very loopy contact on it and not actively engage it. He got fussy quickly, and I didn't like the bouncing feel it had in my hand. I took up the contact, not tight, and he was a happy camper. I like the double because I get a better response, I don't have to use my hand as much, if at all. One thing that is difficult is switching back to a snaffle. I've also heard that you shouldn't ride in a double all of the time as it can encourage "cheating" connections. Yes it's tough to switch back and forth, but I think it is well worth the effort. Mind you, I rode him in a pelham all winter because I was hacking out since we didn't have an indoor arena, and then worked him sporadically in a double until I planned on riding 3rd in public. I worked him in his Micklem until I was done showing 2nd level because it was so hard to switch back and forth at the time. After I switched back to the double, I used it for most of the summer until I developed better "fingering" on the reins so I could actively engage each curb rein on it's own or release it even more on it's own. I'm back to working in his micklem and mullen mouth, splitting my focus between flying changes and keeping a strong connection. I don't think I'll be riding often in his double. I've heard the super good grand prix riders use snaffles for everything, even warm up, and then swap right before going in the ring. Now I'm all for practicing in it cause well, I'm not grand prix rider!

    These are the bits I got (I shopped on ebay for the weymouth, it's hideously expensive):
    http://www.dressageextensions.com/ProductDetail.asp?KEY=1071
    I actually can't find the weymouth anywhere- it was an HS kk conrad that had a square port that's rotated to be better shaped to the horse's mouth because I didn't need all that much curb.

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    1. This is great info!! Thanks!

      I can see why loopy contact could frustrate a horse. If my contact is inconsistent in the snaffle, Guinness throws a HUGE fit. That constant give and take just means nothing to them.

      So far, I've had good luck going back to the snaffle. Of course, we've only ridden in the double once!! I think I need the practice in it more than Pig, but I do like that it makes him pick his shoulders up. Hopefully more rides in it can get him to build the muscle memory for improving our collection. His shoulders are just so damn heavy! The snaffle is certainly something I want to keep working with, though. I don't think there's any excuse for being reliant on the double to get good work!

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  12. Woohoo, he looks so well in it!

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    1. Thanks! I think he's handsome in a curb bit!

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    2. He's always handsome, but he does also cut a dashing picture in a curb & a harp ;-)

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