BACK TO THE PAST WITH TWO REINS ON THE SNAFFLE
OLYMPIC RIDER AND COACH TINEKE BARTELS REMEMBERS…
Some time ago, Dutch Olympic rider and coach Tineke Bartels remembered in an article the time we used to have to ride with two reins on the snaffle as a preparation for riding with the double bridle. It was standard at the riding clubs when I was growing up.
That is how it was done. We were not allowed a double bridle until we were able to keep these two reins at the correct length as if they were connected to the bradoon and the curb.
It is a very innocent practice which makes the life for the horse far more fun, rather than being hassled around with two messy hands and a frustrated rider.
‘Thoombs doown!’ was the favourite phrase of one of our instructors, which made us all go in hysterics. Hence I never forgot.
‘Thumbs down’ is the only way to keep the control over the length of your reins and when you haven’t mastered this it will show as soon as the double goes into the mouth of your horse. It will become an uncomfortable handbrake with your horse having no choice other than to go on the forehand.
THE DOUBLE IS AN ART
It is the dream of every aspiring dressage rider. Throughout history, the double bridle is connected to the higher level of dressage and correctly used it looks beautiful.
It is an art, where the bradoon gives the horse the contact it needs with the curb kept slightly longer. On the other hand, it is a terrible weapon when in the wrong hands, literally.
It needs a pair of experienced hands and should only be used when the horse is ready for it. Balanced, for the leg and relaxing comfortably through all the exercises in a snaffle. Certainly not when a horse is heavy in the mouth as a measure to achieve the desired lightness.
HONEST AND ETHOUSIASTIC
I am very lucky to have a great bunch of pupils, some of them having been with me for well over twenty years, who are committed and show every lesson they have done their homework. Some are very comfortable riding in a double, others are still dreaming of it and waiting patiently for themselves and their horse to be ready.
KEEN AND GREEDY
One of those riders is Liz Bailey with her horse George who is not ready for the double yet, but Liz is keen and greedy in the nicest kind of way. She has worked very hard on her home-bred gelding, after a rough start with not a whole lot of trust left in each other. George has finally succumbed to accepting the leg and is happy in his work, with Liz now realizing what little information he actually needs to do his job properly.
They are very comfortable at producing a decent Novice test, whereas during our lessons we play with a bit of shoulder-in and the baby half-pass. Also, George has taken a liking to the flying changes, after a very well-established counter canter.
A WASTE OF TIME
However, this rider is still struggling at times to make her downward transitions uphill. It would be a terrible waste of time to now take that beautiful double bridle, which is waiting in the tack room, off the wall.
Chances are George would revert right back to being behind the bit. The last thing we want after all the work we’ve done.
Just in time for Tineke Bartels to remind me in an article about the two reins on the snaffle. The perfect way for Liz to feel that she is working towards her dream.
Also, it is a reality check. Liz soon found out that keeping the curb consistently a tad longer was not at all easy, even when George went well. As soon as he had a bit of a difficult moment both reins were tight again.
A COMFORTABLE TRANSITION TO DEVELOP FEEL
Knowing Liz, it won’t take her long to get it right. It is now part of her regular homework. I do not mention it during the lesson if it is not quite right. It would become frustrating and we would not achieve anything else. We just go about our usual business and it is not until the end of the lesson when I tell her whether she has improved with her 'double'.
I am convinced that by the time George is ready Liz is capable to make it a comfortable transition for him. She will possibly have the curb rein a bit long. Not a problem, from there she can safely develop her feel.
Tineke Bartels, together with her daughter Imke, also an Olympic rider, are the trainers and coaches at Academy Bartels at the beautiful Culitsrode estate in the Netherlands.
Top Picture: Tineke Bartels
Bottom: Liz Bailey with George practicing two reins on a snaffle
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About Liz Barclay
Her love for horses together with her dedication made her into the trainer and dressage rider she is, today. She is versatile and inventive and likes a challenge; whether it is a technical training question, a confidence issue or a problem involving the management of the horse or pony.
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