It is the riders job to make it easy for the horse

I’d guess in everyone’s life there are pieces of advice that resonate over the years.

(And by the way, as we are approaching the end of the year I wanted to say I am thankful to you for sharing Dressage Snob recollections–somewhat astounded in fact.  30,000 individual views this year.  This brings up an obvious point. Shouldn’t you be doing something more productive with your time?)

Never mind.  We are dressage enthusiasts.  Productive is not the purpose.

One bit of advice that has had particular traction with me is from Rudolf Zeilinger.  He said it over the back of a horse and with a certain “You may not understand this now,” sort of look on his face.

“It is your job to make it easy for your horse.”

And indeed I did not understand it–or came to understand it in so many different ways that my first impression was certainly inaccurate–or at best trivial.

How do you equate taking a sport that is as physically and emotionally demanding as Dressage and making it easy?

By knowing what you are doing!

More advice, trickled down from Wili Schultheis’ classic cure for most problems having to do with a horse:

“Ride better.”

Helping your horse?  Short version:

For any given movement the horse is asked to perform, they are placed in a balance that facilitates that movement. Do not get in your own way.

Examples?  I will give you the ridiculously complicated cracked egg one below,  as well as the tight rope on snow shoes, but they exist at every level of dressage and probably most things in life:

Don’t make it overly complicated and don’t get in your own way.

For instance,

Don’t chase the green-ish horse with fast steps into canter–insist that they respect the half halt and step up to canter.

Why?

Because the balance, once thrown on the forehand, is very hard to get back.  Best to not lose it at all.

Do not get in the way of the very thing you are asking for.

Important concept akin to, “Please do not shoot  yourself in the foot.”  Make sure you (or your tack) are not getting in the way of the message transmission, or preventing the horse from executing the request.

Another instance:

Ride a collected canter for pirouette that is easily ridden forward.

Why?

Because if the balance and activity are correct you can go forward (or backward or sideways) without loss of balance.

 

I could go on–and probably at some point will.

But there is another category of making things easy that can be addressed as well.

Again, Don’t make it overly complicated and don’t get in your own way.

Pick your partner well then pay attention to how it is going.  No amount of complicated technique will help a horse shine who is simply plain. The best thing you can do is honest, correct work.  If it is a boiled egg then it is a boiled egg.  More on that below.

On my ignorant defense of all the horribly ill-suited horses I attempted to bring along, Rudolf gave me another sage piece of advice which I try to remember–while also remembering the scope of my budget and current goals.

“Good horses make good riders.”

The best rider in the world will not succeed on a horse that is lame, over worked, under worked, malnourished or not capable of doing the job.  Some horses are not meant to be dressage horse.

I’m not disputing that the principles of dressage training, rather like Natural Horsemanship, can help most (if not all) horses and their riders.  It’s just that the athleticism, and (of late) the movement preferred, for a horse to really be competitive does not exist in all horses.

It  is very much easier for a horse mentally and physically suited to the sport to enjoy doing it than it is a horse who has impairments.  Never mind that it is much easier to make it look easy when it actually is fairly easy for the horse.  A good horse has good natural balance and rhythm. (Note I did NOT say extravagant movement–though that is nice if you can both afford it and ride it.)

Still, we see many examples of lovely horses whose riders are not yet familiar enough with the balance required for the movements to assist the horse in getting ready.  And no one likes being asked to do something and then being prevented or hindered from doing it.  Or being asked to do something that is impossible from the point of departure.

Imagine tight rope walking in snow shoes.

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Side note: (Following this postulate I went on a diligent search for a picture of someone actually walking a tightrope in snow shoes–which I now believe is the one thing that does not exist in the World Wide Web.

Instead I found this, too good to skip, “Reading comprehension” quiz:

http://www.handipoints.com/reading-comprehension/circus/tightrope-walking.html

Name: _________________________
Date: _________________________

Tightrope Walking

Read the story and answer the questions to test your comprehension.

Tightrope walkers balance by putting one foot in front of the other. They wear special leather-sole shoes so that the wire will dig into their foot, giving them some ground to stand on. There are five different styles of tightrope walking. The pole the performer carries helps his or her balance on the rope.

  1. 1. Where do tightrope walkers place their feet?
    1. a. Shoulder-width apart
    2. b. Hip-width apart
    3. c. One after the other
  2. 2. What kind of soles do tightrope walkers wear?
    1. a. Leather
    2. b. Rubber
    3. c. Steel
  3. 3. What does the pole a performer carries do?
    1. a. Helps movement
    2. b. Helps agility
    3. c. Helps balance

I particularly enjoy the idea of walking the rope with feet “Shoulder-width apart”  though of course it is technically possible.

 

So, back to good advice,

“It Depends” and

“Help your (horse or XYZ) by making sure the darned thing is in a place to do what you want.”

Hopelessly vague!  What do you expect me to DO??

In the age of the “Internet Expert” we are all too frequently faced with mounds of information on almost anything.

And with the seemingly sole exception of getting photos of tightrope walkers in impossible footwear, we can prove anything we want.

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This is as true for horses as anything else.

I give you, for example, the raging debate about how best to poach an egg.  (Search it!)

Or, is Sous-vide the absolutely correct method to boil an egg?

Our Friends at WikipediA (who are currently looking for donations if you feel like it) tell us:

“Sous-vide (/sˈvd/; French for “under vacuum”)[1] is a method of cooking food sealed in airtight plastic bags in a water bath or in a temperature-controlled steam environment for longer than normal cooking times—96 hours or more, in some cases—at an accurately regulated temperature much lower than normally used for cooking, typically around 55 °C (131 °F) to 60 °C (140 °F) for meats and higher for vegetables. The intention is to cook the item evenly, ensuring that the inside is properly cooked without overcooking the outside, and retain moisture.”

(I’m going to answer this question for you right here: it depends.)

Suction pack one egg to cook in a water bath?

Sure:

But, get a little greedy, in a hurry?  Totally different outcome.

Now you CAN cook the eggs below, and any “expert” will tell you that indeed Sous-vide does mean vacuum packed.  But, there is absolutely no need to go to the risk and trouble of doing it because eggs themselves come vacuum packed and you can lower them into your water bath as is with no difficulty whatsoever.

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So the argument and advice gets only down to semantics.  People have been doing it for centuries and I do not think yet we have established how many angels can dance on the head of a pin.

There is no definitive, and more importantly, who cares?

Anyway, with cooking, as with horses, the best answer is often “It depends”.

Rider criticism?  It depends.

Is he or she leaning back too far? Maybe.

Do the hands move too much? Maybe.

Is the bit wrong or cruel? Maybe–or maybe not in all cases.

It depends–if (whatever) is helping the horse to understand or to physically accomplish the job, then it is not wrong.  Period, end of story.

Let’s not all die in beauty while we are waiting for something to happen.
You CAN take 96 hours to cook a roast, will it be 96 hours better?

And we can argue about how to best poach the egg all day.

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One poached egg over 1/2 avocado, slightly smushed, and salt/pepper to taste.

No Hollandaise required.

You do have to know how to do it (not hard) and you have to think of doing it.  As well as give up on the complicated things that actually do not work very well and are a lot of extra trouble, but you can read about all day long on-line.

If you do not take the time to develop you balance, you will not ride well.  Think of our brave tightrope walker.  Suitable shoes can help–but practice and adequate shoes will do at the start.

A certain level of mastery may overcome less than perfect equipment, and this is an important point.

Given a new saddle or $3500 worth of training, which will you choose?  If your saddle REALLY does not fit, then probably the new saddle is a good idea.  If the trouble is above the saddle (You) or below (Your fittings) the new saddle not such a hot plan.  As I say in another post, do the easy things first and do not make it overly complicated.

End of advice.  Go ride your horse.

 

End note–and I think fairly to all posts

Because the Dressage Snob blog is popular, attempts to monetize it are rife.  In fact, I just paid Word Press a sizable amount of cash NOT to bug you with ads so you can enjoy Dressage Snob without the latest thing you looked at on line popping up to tempt you.

(I really object to this “cookies” marketing technique.  If you wanted to shop you’d be shopping!)

So forgive me the small plug on this really very useful invention, and if you have thought my advice was sound on other things, then you might consider giving this a try.  Your horse will be happier.  Mine are, and now quite a few other people.  You can read what they say below.

https://girthshield.wordpress.com/what-people-are-saying/

Selfishly I do not have them in the local tack shop.  I thought about it, and I’m feeling generous about sharing, but truthfully a little conflicted.

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Miss Mariah. 14.1 (in front) out-scored a fair troop of expensive warmbloods at Prix St George last year.  (It was not easy.  Don’t do it. Sorry Rudolf)

So, all of you in some other competition zone, please feel free to get one. 

The Girth Shield

https://girthshield.wordpress.com/the-problem-and-the-solution/

For something that does work, and will cost roughly three riding lessons, not three months of training, improve your girthing strategy.

Best wishes,

DF

 

How to be a better trainer. Do the easy stuff first.

Rudolf said to me once, with some disgust, “What is all this talk about teachers?  It is the student that makes the difference!”

Well, yes.  But there are some notable teachers, himself included, who have changed the course of many riders.  And historically riding teachers have been more or less directive.  Recall this sport started with the cavalry?

The cruel trick now is most enthusiasts are adult and professional women.  People not exactly accustomed a sound butt-kicking on a daily basis–as might have been a more common teaching strategy in the old days.

The pendulum swings. But here is something for any stalled students who wonder sometimes plaintively, where to go next:  you may have the best horse in your area, more money than most, time enough to ride, a facility lots of riders dream about.  But, if you cannot or will not take instruction, if in your heart you want praise for what you are doing more than you want to improve what you are doing, then you will someday come across someone who has all those same things–a horse, money, time–and perseverance.  Someone who knows how to be trained.  And that person, the one who knows how to be trained, will quietly leave you in the dust.  Think about it.

From what I can see currently there is a big love-in happening in the dressage community between the students (the ones with the check book that are actually in charge) and the teacher who assumes a role of being in charge for a short period.  People are so nice now!  What happened?  And are riders doing better for it?

I’ve been at this a long time.  I was a girl in the hunter circuit on the East Coast in the seventies when George Morris sent everyone on a crash diet.  Mr. Morris was (and is) one of the most revered and feared jumper coaches of our time.
Distance-George-Morris(Thank you Amy.)

This is very good advice, by the way.  Dressage riders, take it to heart on any line of changes that you engage in.

So this little ditty has some references to George and is largely about how to be a better (and possibly hated) trainer by actually making a difference in your riders.  Its also about how to determine the correct moment to duck and run if that is what is indicated.  And it has a pointer at the end to something that actually makes life easier for your horses–and thereby you. I’m going to say this several times.  In almost all cases the best teaching plan is to do the easy and obvious things first.  Horse limping?  Check his feet before you buy a new saddle.  Do the obvious–because 9/10 that is what the problem is.  Horse bites at you when girthed?

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It means it hurts.  Do something.

https://www.etsy.com/shop/GirthShield

More on this seemingly-obvious, but never-addressed issue at the base of the post.  Making your horse more comfortable is a great example of picking the low hanging fruit.  Do first the easy (and inexpensive) things that make the biggest difference. Bit trouble?  Maybe. Get his teeth looked at before you splurge on a new bit. Avoid trends.  They are expensive, designed to get you to focus on equipment rather than riding.

Anyway, in our social media-enabled age of instant perfection, coaching is getting to be a complicated subject, largely because actually being a better trainer is likely to get you fired.

Though changing old behavior into new is the reason riders presumably hire coaches, people tend to get mad when you actually ask them to change.

(Oh dear.)

First off, and question of note: why would you WANT to be a trainer in this country?  Never mind a better one?

Point one, there is a lot of free competition: a seemingly endless supply of U-tube and Facebook experts willing to give an opinion, watch a thirty second clip and make a judgement.

Point two, the liability aspect of the game in the USA is enough to send all but the impoverished (or extremely well-insured) running.

And then there is the,  point three, “meanie” quotient.

images-2George Morris fairly terrorized a generation of young riders–myself among them.  Many of which amounted to something.  There is nothing that says you have to be a tyrant to train aspiring riders.  You do not have to insult them or send them on crash diets, or be unsympathetic to their individual needs and learning styles.

But it helps.

Some advice from George:

George-Morris-Hell

Look at how relaxed and at peace that horse looks.  I guarantee you, the rider at the other end of that gaze did not.

 

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Well, trainers, maybe you do need to ignore “their learning style.”

(George once famously accused a rider in a clinic of appearing like a wart on a horse.  Ouch.)

Trainers DO need to ask (and sometimes demand) their students  to change.  And as I have begun advising in clinics of late: “This part of what I’m about to tell you (over and over) is probably going to make you angry.  You are going to hate me.  That’s okay.” 

(That’s also why I have a hotel room on a clinic and probably don’t want to go out to dinner with the larger group.)

Hands up who has been mad at their teacher !!!!!!!!!!!!!!    0

(There is at least one liar in every group.)

Teachers can (should) be demanding.

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(Trust me I’ve been there.)

Change is the process of letting go of what you thought you knew or understood.  Change (learning) often evokes grief, rage, disappointment, and even momentary despair. Change is about doing something different.

That’s all part of learning something that in the end may be deeply satisfying, but the road towards it is a real PITA.

So, as a teacher, if you are basically there to cheer on your students, they may feel great–but will not change/improve.  Good side of this “cheer on” plan, short term, is they won’t ever be really mad at you either, so you can probably get on for a while, and everything will be okay.  Until they decide to go to a horse show and encounter a thing called, a score.

More on simple changes that make a big difference below, but here is my advice on training, some of it gleaned from some good sources.

Check the tack. Make sure the most simple details are attended to before you ever start.  Make sure the tack fits, the equipment is in good order and comfortable for the horse.  (Unites States Pony Club.  Remember, I am a graduate A . . . we never start a lesson without checking the tack.)

Have a plan and sit outside the arena. (Anders Lindgren, Rocky Mountain Instructor’s Series.)

Make sure it is the student who is putting in the majority of the effort. (Rudolf Zeilinger, my hero and a master of inspiring his students, both equine and human.)

Be very demanding, but when they are really working make them more at ease by forgiving small mistakes–which inevitably happen. (Meg Plumb, who coined the phrase I often use, “not to worry!”  Rudolf Zeilinger’s equally profound version is: “Es macht nicht” or “it does not matter.”)

Knowing when something does not matter is critically important.

Only care deeply when change is possible. (I’m not going to attribute this to anyone, but there is no point in knocking yourself (and the student) out when change is not really wanted or it is just too hard. If the horse is old or lame, or the client is frightened, making excuses, or rides only twice a month, let it go.  They have given you a message: you have been assigned educational hospice care, not intervention.  You might choose not to teach them if it annoys you.  But let them down easily. There is no shame in that.  They are in charge of how much effort they put in).

I’m going to repeat this: The student is in charge of how much effort they put in.  Time, money, commitment, goals.  They belong to the student.  And if the student does not organize these to a level that may make a difference, there is nothing you can do as a trainer but collect a (small) check and go home.

People used to (annoyingly) say to me, You’re so lucky that you “get” to go to Germany and train! 

Luck had nothing to do with it. And my raised eyebrows at the comment had to do with the grief, rage, disappointment and despair that were often my companions on the journey.  It was not fun.  Gratifying, but not fun.  And truth was, I made it happen by giving up many things the people claiming I was “lucky” possessed.  They could have done it too.  I did it because I wanted the training very, very badly–I was tired of the grind of “almost” knowing.  But many parts of that journey were humiliating, confusing, expensive and painful.

So I am amused when my casual students seem to expect that lessons are in some way entertainment.  Sure, you can use humor to keep the mood light, but that’s not the goal.  Nor is marketing.

Which leads us to client choice.

As a trainer do not work with horses or riders whose talent, temperament, or level of training are outside your training skills and goals.  That means both horses too green and horses too experienced.

There are probably other people better suited to these jobs, and it is silly to think you are an expert in every one of the various fields.    No one is.   If you are a Grand Prix rider with good cred and no experience with young horses, then teach the upper level.  If you know about bringing a young warmblood along the levels, do that.  If you know how to break a horse and gentle them in, do that. Some people have two out of three of theses skills.  Almost no one is an expert in all three.  Live with it.

Mine?

I have never done polo or tent pegging, but I have watched both with enthusiasm.

I have experience in breaking and training young horses.  I don’t do it because I don’t find it very interesting–and you need really specific facilities, help, and other very broke horses.

I have experience in jumping, eventing, trail riding.  I don’t do those much because I already have. (Well, sometimes I still jump, and sometimes I take the horses out.  But I don’t get paid for it.)

I have  experience  in upper level dressage, a background in science, a degree in English, Brown belt in Aikido, and know something about biomechanics, carriage and suspension.  I teach because I enjoy making it easier for people to understand (and feel) how they are going to get where they are going–if indeed they want to go.  If they do not want to do it my way, it is usually not a good fit.

So my training group is really limited.

That’s fine!  I don’t have all that much time.

Another great piece of advice from Rudolf?  “Get done with your riding day and go do something else.”

Sometimes productive things happen when you step back and think.

 

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X-rated stretch (This one ought to get some air time. . .)

Actually, I am joking, there is nothing in the slightest bit x-rated about what I am going to tell you–but I will give you a story about Rudolf at the base that illustrates how very difficult it is for people in our culture to effectively teach riding when it is impossible to actually talk about anything from the mid-thigh to the navel of the rider–some would say mid-thigh to chin as advice of how to strap breasts down is largely ignored as well.

However, I promised to give you one basic (and fantastically effective) stretch which you can do in the saddle–as long as your saddle has a tree that you can access.

In fact, you MUST do it in the saddle, as there is no other way to do it that I can comfortably think of.    There are other stretches, but this one is too good to miss.  (Ms. Melynnda who originated this stretch, has a raft of them and will happily come do a clinic for you.)

Here it is, and given that you will not have your computer with you when you try this, I will keep it incredably short and to the point.

This is a picture of a pelvis with the muscles of the hip flexor and Psoas illustrated

Opsoas_major_and_min.jpg.w180h241-2

Below is a saddle–mine–which a pelvis like the one above would sit over quite comfortably.

Stubben Tristan saddle showing correct triangular "pelvis marks" in the leather

Stubben Tristan saddle showing correct triangular “pelvis marks” in the leather

So, imagine yourself sitting in the saddle looking forward.

Take one hand (lets say the right) palm down and cross your body with it grabbing the catch strap that I hope you have, and holding it firmly.

Lean softly back against that right hand, lifting your rib cage just a bit and with your right hip joint look forward and down for the tree of the saddle–in my saddle rather where the white lines are.

When you can feel that edge of the tree with the inner side of your hip joint (which you will not be able to do if you have overly rotated your tail bone under yourself–you must stretch upward and downward) stretch against the saddle, loosening the base of your Psoas from the internal side.

Repeat on the left.

Interestingly, this is one of the main areas of communication with your horse–they lift the front of the saddle when you ask them to, you connect and speak with your seat.

Oh, I promised to tell you one story on Rudolf.  Here it is–and I hope he is effectively ignoring the blog.

One summer in Germany Rudolf persistently told me to stretch my leg down.  And I tried–and failed and tried and failed and tried and failed.  You know the story.

In desperation, weeks into this process, I finally asked him, “Do you mean I am supposed to open my thighs?”

Eyes down, slight blush from him. Assent.

Gosh darn it, though I, a whole summer and he is too embarrassed to say!

However, do remember, it is the rider’s job to translate the language of the teacher into their own body memory–and indeed the movement required is “opening the thigh”, but also engaging the base in a supple way.

And in any case, Rudolf can read the blog to his heart’s content as I am 100% happy with his instruction–years and years down the road.  That says something. It works.  It really, really does.  But from a master, who would expect anything else?

The dressage whip. What it is for and how to use it.

Dale Forbes:

Under “tools of the trade” I have given you my favorite dressage whip and where to get one.  It comes in various lengths and sometimes (most commonly in the past)  has a white handle.  It is the Fleck Schultheis model and is distinguished by its good balance, stiffness, and humane end–which, when the whip is near the end of life, will often fray.  Time for a new one–the flexibility in the contact part is important.

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The other end looks like this once you have added the Peacock rubber band, which you must buy separately.IMG_0165

I am going to illustrate this post with a group of winter photos, mostly taken on the first day it got above 25 degrees in three weeks here in Spokane.  Yes, it snows here, sometimes quite a lot:

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This is a photo from four years ago with record snows when the Sport Horse arena collapsed.  Fortunately no one was in it at the time, and the very gutsy owner declared, “It’s just money,” made plans to rebuild, and went back to her job, where she works for every penny she gets.  (Round of applause from the local crowd.)

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Here is the new and improved version, on a balmy day of January after they had given us a path from the manure spreader to assist in not breaking our necks on the ice floe.  Not all barns are that considerate!

But, back to the whips and the former by way of apology that our horses do not look so beautifully turned out just now.  And we are all dressed like snow people–the layered look, if you will.  But June will come.  We are hoping, anyway.

The purpose of your dressage whip is to quicken the hind leg–specifically to ask the horse to slightly abbreviate the backward swing of the leg and bring it up faster.  While it can be used as a quick reprimand in a tight situation, it is NOT meant to make the horse go faster, or “get in front of your leg.”  That is a more common use for a jumping whip, which is mostly held differently.  The purpose of the “tic with the whip” is to work on the timing of the legs.

(After note–re timing of the leg: it is obviously important to work on your timing which is precise, though not complex, and can be managed by the feel of your whip over the thigh.  If this is not clear, you might need to write and ask me on this one.)

But anyway, you are best to hold the whip in a way that you can use it lightly at a moment’s notice–over your thigh and slightly braced between your forefingers, the heel of your hand, and that same thigh.

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Above, I am holding the reins in one hand and my iPhone in the other, riding the darling four-year-old Hannoverian Rosie (from Rotspon) who is accommodating the snow coming off the roof (THUMP!) with only minor leaping. You will see (if you look closely) that the whip runs through my hand, with at least a couple of inches of handle showing at the top (balance issue) on the upper side of the rein, with my wrist slightly turned to point the tail of it over my thigh, below.  I am wearing full chaps since, as mentioned before, it is frigging COLD up here.

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Also below I have momentarily removed my glove so you can see the purpose and placement of the Peacock rubber band inside the palm of my hand (which would normally be closed around the rein/whip combination).  You will also see that my rein–a simple snaffle with this four-year-old–has been run between my pinkie finger and my ring finger.  This is not a must, but for me it makes it easier to support the whip upward with the small finger unrelated to the feel of the rein, which is obviously coming in the other direction.

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Above all else, according to Rudolf, TAKE YOUR THUMB FROM THE WHIP!  If I had a nickle for every time he said that to me in the first season I was there, I would be able to go to lunch.  Yet another reason to feel dumb in the hands of a great trainer, but a good example of how much persistence it takes to weed out a bad habit once firmly established.

The thumb is for stabilizing the reins so they do not run through your hand all the time, not for balancing the whip.

So now, you might logically ask, with your hands in front of you and the whip over your thigh pointing a bit out as it must to come over the thigh, how do you actually USE the darned thing?

I was at first unwilling to hold the reins in one hand, the Iphone in the other, listening to the snow come off the roof and tap, tap, tap little Rosie to demonstrate this.  Instead we galloped around for a bit until she was happy and more relaxed, and then I went and picked up a draw rein in case of real snow crashes and gave it a try.

If you have a fast connection you may be able to look at this.  Apologies for the quality–this was not easy to organize.  The annoying little noise is the semi-half-humm I usually do when I am riding–particularly when there is snow falling off the roof.  What I am attempting to demonstrate–without actually hitting the poor creature–is the rotation of the hand and slight outward movement that brings the whip around your thigh.  Some folks describe this as like opening a door handle.  Indeed it is, as long as the whip is carried on your right side.  You should know how to do both, but you’ll probably always be better at one.

This obviously takes practice.

Getting tape of it while mounted obviously does as well . . .

If you want to note the slightly forward press of the hand in almost all situations, that is up to you, but it also came from a much-repeated “FORWARD THE HAND” comment from You Know Who. . .

And here is the view of Miss Rosie walking out after her big photo op.  Next time she wants a hair dresser–but she IS a bit of a Sorority girl at heart.

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(Anyone in AZ looking for a beautiful gray mare, she asks?)

She wanted me to post a summer shot so you don’t get the wrong idea. . .

ourHorses

(Photo by her good friend Melynnda Thiessen)

How to adjust your double bridle

Dale Forbes

How to fit your. . . .. double bridle:

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(Originally from our other website, but on the move:)

http://www.wildwoolywasher.com/cleaningtwo.html

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But, re the double. I can hear it now:  “If you are using a double bridle you ought to know how to do this already! ”

This is a catch-22 that we don’t need to get into.  Here’s how it works:

If you are putting together a double bridle with two bits, the strap that hangs the snaffle part is a separate thin piece of leather with the same kind of attachments as your cheek pieces, but usually only one adjustment, mostly kept on the near or left side as well.

The curb bit is always held by the main crown piece, not the smaller extra strap.  This is because part of the curb action depends on poll pressure and a wide pressure is kinder than a thin strap—never mind that the leather is stronger.

Two notes here about equipment.  Padded head stalls sound like a great idea.  They are not.  Poll pressure in a double bridle is supposed to be felt and interpreted by the horse.  Padding this is not a kindness and leads in almost all cases to a gummy, heavy feel in the hand.  Think of it like holding the reins with huge overstuffed mittens.  You can’t feel anything subtle.

Note re size of the bits:  The bradoon (snaffle bit with smaller rings) will be the size your horse normally wears in his or her snaffle..  Thinner, of course, and with smaller rings, but basically the same width. The curb, which does not bend, should be one size SMALLER than the snaffle bit.  You see a lot of horses in the US terribly bitted when it comes to their doubles, and a lot of rider guilt and ignorance about how this tool is introduced, used, and fitted.

Anyway, the snaffle in a double bridle hangs above and behind the curb.  When you put it on, the curb chain runs  between the two bits, under the snaffle, and over the curb.  People make a mistake with this frequently (usually running it over the top of the snaffle—ouch!)  and it is not nice for the horse.

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(This is a detail from http://www.spokanedressage.com/ where Melynnda shows her prowess as both a rider and a web designer. . . . .  Good JOB!)

By the way, tipping the top part of the curb backwards helps make it easier to do up the curb chain.  After you have done this, make sure the snaffle part is still sitting in back of the curb. Pull on it and put it there for your horse.

Other things people frequently have questions about in clinics are correct use of the dressage whip. More on that later.