18.3.18

Introducing a double bridle to your horse

This is a topic that has been coming up recently with a couple of my friends, who have been worrying about when to introduce a double bridle to their horse, or to even use one on their horse. I've had several conversations where people have been SO worried about the double bridle that they have avoided using it for years! In my opinion, a horse should be willing and able to carry his weight on the hind legs with uphill balance in the snaffle bridle, and only after then introduce a double bridle to them. I'd never put one on until I’m totally happy with the way the horse goes in a snaffle, which has little to do with age - Basse is now already 16, but this was the first time when I felt like both him and myself as a rider were ready to use a double bridle on him whereas Vallu was 7 when he first had a double bridle on (not introduced by me, we bought him when he was 9 years old)!
I think what needs to be remembered is that depending on how the horse is in the mouth, you need to pick the correct bradoon - I'd opt for a loose ring bradoon for a horse who needed more 'play' on the mouthpiece (e.g. Basse) and an eggbutt for one who responded better to a mouthpiece which stayed relatively still (e.g. Vallu who I'm still trying to find the right eggbutt bradoon for!)

The first couple of times I put the double bridle on Basse whilst grooming and tacking up for my usual ride, for which I obviously took the double off and put his snaffle back on - I just wanted him to get used to having two bits in his mouth without having to do any work. This also gave me the chance to adjust the double for him and make sure it fitted him well.
The first ride in a double Basse was totally chilled. I think this is because he'd already gotten used to having a double on whilst being groomed and tacked up, so it wasn't a shock to him to have two bits in his mouth. Also, I just rode him with the snaffle reins, I ignored the curb rein for the first ride and spent the ride mainly just stretching him in the indoor. I let him do what he is good at while getting used to the bridle, so just had a quick stretch and then picked him up just to practice trot/walk transitions and some centre lines and halts. Thinking connected and straight and not really paying any attention to the curb reins. I was so pleased with how his halts are coming along, I now have a +95% chance of getting him to halt square on the first go! πŸ™ŒπŸ»

The second ride in the double bridle was two weeks later, and I found him to be totally relaxed about the double so I rode him like I would ride in a snaffle - he did the same amount of work and a similar difficulty of exercises. He was easier to collect and he 'sorted' himself out better. I had to do a lot less to get him working better through his body. Half-halts actually went through straight away, making him sit more without losing activity behind! Lots of pats and sugar lumps! Since then, I've only used it a couple more times simply because he is still very good to ride in a snaffle (as you can see in these photos!), but on a certain days when I want to work on more collected work or lateral work I use the double.
My final note - please do not be afraid of double bridle or think you are a lesser rider if you use one while other riders do not. It is your choice what you ride your horse in and it doesn't matter if it is a snaffle or a double bridle!

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