Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Dressage double bridles

This may come as a surprise, but when I judge a model horse performance class I'm pretty lenient in regards to the tack. Obviously, I'd prefer to see beautiful, in scale tack with every strap and buckle in the right place. However, I'm much more concerned with how well the horse is performing. If everything else is good, I can overlook a too big browband or a sloppy saddlepad. Those things happen in real life, and while unattractive, neither is likely to factor into the judging unless two entries are very, very close. I refer to things like that as nonfunctional tack issues.
There is another category of tack errors, however, that I simply cannot tolerate. These are functional tack errors--that is, errors that would adversely affect the equipment's ability to function in a safe and correct manner. One of the most common of these is a misplaced curb chain on a double bridle. I've seen so many otherwise good dressage and saddleseat entries that are completely undone by that one pesky detail! With that in mind, I went out of my way to take lots of pictures of upper level dressage bridles while I was at the Paragon II Dressage Show in Estes Park, Colorado a couple weekends ago. As you can see, the curb chain attaches to the top part of the curb bit and passes in front of the snaffle bit. I guarantee that if you run it behind the snaffle, any competent judge will be forced to place your entry at the bottom of the class. That's not safe and it's not done.
Also be sure that the snaffle section of the double bit is supported by a bridoon hanger. That's the fancy name for the strap that attaches to the snaffle bit, passes over the poll, and attaches to the other side of the snaffle. This is not an optional item. Without the bridoon hanger, the bit is completely unsupported and would not stay in the horse's mouth. As with all functional tack errors, this will be a deal breaker for me if I'm judging.
Here are a few random observations about the bridles in these pictures--most of the upper level horses showed with loose throatlatches. I'm sure this is to accommodate the tucked head position, but it was quite noticeable in many cases.
This chestnut horse is wearing a bridle with a separate throatlatch piece. Most English type bridles feature a split crown so this is somewhat unusual. Unlike most of the horses, he also has a plain, undecorated browband.
All the bridles are black, which is to be expected at a dressage show. Most feature silver hardware, but some like the bridle below have gold toned buckles.
Here's a gold toned curb bit with silver buckles.
There is a lot more variety in dressage bridles than hunter/jumper bridles. This on has a buckle on top of the crownpiece.
On last picture of Trisha's horse, Surprise. He has a short head with a boxy muzzle and always reminds me of a Sue Sifton sculpture!
Hope this was helpful, and please check your double bridles before you put them down on the show table!

11 comments:

  1. Doubles get a lot less tricky once you have tacked up a real horse in one!

    I certainly would love to have a *little bit* of your photography skills!

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  2. Oh, I definitely agree! I think if you've actually used a piece of equipment, it's much easier to understand both the hows and whys of proper fit.

    As for the photo skills--my secret is to take lots and lots of pictures. If you take enough, some of them are bound to be good!

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  3. Thank you for the lovely and clear photos showing where that curb chain goes!

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  4. Excellent info for me. I hope to remember it all when I have a model double bridle. Do the real bridles actually have two bits? Sounds uncomfortable!

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  5. A comment on loose throatlatches. I knew a girl who buckled hers up ridiculously loose. One day the bridle came clean off and the horse went on to endanger everyone in the arena. Not cool! The worst part is, she never did learn her lesson from that incident... :-P

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  6. 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?

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  7. I'm just curious as to what that one tiny little loop is used for near the end of the bit. I've never seen any strap attached to it before. Your pictures also show no use.

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    1. You're talking about the loop on the middle of the bit shank, right? That's where you'd attach a lip strap. As these pictures clearly demonstrate, a lot of riders don't bother with them, and I generally do not add them to model bridles unless I'm specifically asked to include one.

      Hope this helps!

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  8. Thank you sooo much for these great entries on performance details. I'm preparing for my first "real" performance attempts at a live show in May, and am "being the sponge"... I'm reading real horse show regulations, but having the information on models is so very helpful with those pesky details!

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  9. do you need to use a double bridle for the models? or would a snaffle bridle work?

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    1. You need a double bridle for the levels which require a double bridle. When in doubt, google the real horse rules and use those as your guide.

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