Thursday, September 3, 2009

Double bridle postscript

I hadn't planned to talk about dressage again today, but I do want to address a couple of the questions that came up in the comments on the double bridle post. First, in regards to Jane's question, the double bridle really does have two separate bits--a snaffle and a curb. The snaffle is fitted up in the corners of the horse's mouth and the curb lies a bit lower. It's definitely a mouthful!
An anonymous poster asked: Are the reins always held the same with double bridles in dressage or is it a matter or preference? Does the same rule apply to Saddleseat double bridles as well? The short answer is no, there is no one correct way to hold the reins. My friend Trisha holds hers the same way I was taught. The curb rein goes between her pinky and ring finger while the snaffle rein enters her hand under the pinky. The snaffle rein is usually wider and goes on the outside where the reins cross one another.
This rider is holding her reins in a similar manner. The main difference is that she has the curb between the middle and ring finger and the snaffle between the middle finger and pinky. This is probably a bit more common, but either way is fine.
If you would like to see some more exotic methods of holding the reins, check out this site: You'll have to scroll a bit, but it's worth it--good clear descriptions and excellent pictures. I borrowed the next photo to illustrate one of the more interesting methods described there. Probably I would not set up a model dressage horse this way, but it just goes to show that there is no absolute "right" or "wrong"!

I am not well versed in Saddleseat, but I suspect most riders in that discipline hold their reins in a manner similar to Trish or the rider on the chestnut. With the exception of Equitation classes where there may be one preferred look, it probably doesn't matter all that much. The main thing is that all the four reins should be neat and show the proper amount of contact. This can be quite difficult in model scale. If you manage to get that part right, I'm not going to worry too much about exactly how those reins are entering your rider doll's hands!

Ok, no more dressage for a while--I promise!


  1. FWIW--Dressage Today had an article in the past year (it may have been a year ago) about how to hold reins and they had no less than 8 different ways to hold reins for a double bridle, including one way where all 4 reins went into ONE hand (!!!!) I don't h ave the issue month offhand (ha) but its a nice article with good drawings as well.

    I'm planning on using it as a reference that no, reins don't have to cross to be correct

  2. Thank you for the clarification!

  3. Holding them in all one hand can be seen in the freestyles and should get the rider brownie points. I remember watching Robert Dover do canter pirouettes one handed.

    And, for some reason, I remember one instructor mentioning he went through one school or something that required riding a second level test all one handed. I don't know why, I just remember it.

    I learned to do as the rider of the chestnut does. I don't know what the advantages of riding as the grey's rider is. You would know really quickly which set of reins were which bit but the rest I'm confused with!

  4. Saddleseat folks are very Particular about how ya hold the reins, ESPECIALLY in Equitation. They do hold the pelham/weymouth between the pinky and the other finger next to it, and the snaffle rein goes under the pinky. All saddleseat folks ride this way.

    Another misconception that I heard during NAN 2008 was that the snaffle rein was not laced in "open" saddlebred shows. This is completely false. It is trainer/rider preference as to whether or not to have one or both reins laced. Just fyi... I have a ton of photos of this if anyone needs reference..

    -Heather from Saddlebred country, Ky

  5. Hey Heather! I'm so glad you weighed in on this because I am *not* a saddleseat person. At all. If you ever want to do a guest post on anything saddleseat related, please let me know. I'm sure you're better educated than I am and I also know that you've got a wealth of wonderful photos!

  6. Just found this post looking for how to hold double reins. At my last (real) horse show, the judge told me I was holding the reins wrong even though I wasn't. I just wasn't holding them "her" way.