And rain it did, man! Thankfully my lesson barn, as I will affectionately refer to it, is blessed with a covered arena and so the show went on. Val was a complete angel today, even when he slipped and ate it getting off the ramp today in the wet (anyone out there have any suggestions on how to help my gravity challenged animal stay on all four feet?). Tacked up and ready to bridle I finally work up the nerve to ask my trainer, “Can we ride in the double bridle today?”
Now if you are a dressage person you know that the double bridle means business. This is a landmark for me and my young horse (I refuse to call him seven and ‘developing’ until his birthday thank you very much!); this is the sign that we are finally big kids ready to graduate and be a real dressage horse. It has been the cause of much worry and many nightmares on my part: the anticipation of just how badly he might hate it and to that feeling of ineptly staring at two reins asking ‘where the heck does this go?’. It has also been made perfectly clear that to be able to do FEI Juniors this year he has to be going well in one. Needless to say, the Unknown has been one heck of a worry wart on my training.
After managing to find both the Weymouth (curb or pelham) and the Bradoon (smaller loose-ring snaffle) to go on my lovely Christmas bridle, we went for it and shoved it into Val’s mouth. And it was no big deal. Somehow I had gotten the bits attached to the wrong cheek pieces and everything was in the wrong place – if you have ever assembled new tack and then put it on for the first time you understand what I mean – and through it all he stood there patiently letting us poke and prod until the thing fit like a glove. I was amazed and pleased at just how well my big six-year-old was tolerating our human stupidity.
Our ride went extremely well even though he was just a bit worked up about the whole two-bits-in-my-mouth ordeal. Jason rode him for most of the time after I had warmed him up – the first time he has gotten on him in months – and was really pleased which in turn makes me a happy mother. Hopping on for a short bit I correctly learned how to carry both reins and be soft yet use the bridle to it’s best advantage. The moral of the lesson was to work Val forward so his hind end powers up beneath him and he moves correctly; forget the tricks and get the impulsion and suspension. Lots of muscling work through transitions within the gaits are in our future. It’s also my job to maintain looseness through both sides of his body – changes in frame and little bits of suppling with the rein in addition to the leg. Val likes to block parts of his body – he is very talented, what can I say? But I am happy as a clam considering the handful of times I have been able to ride in the last few weeks. We are by no means ready to move into the double bridle permanently, in fact I hope we never do! But today was a huge leap in the right direction. FEI Juniors, here we come!
EDIT: Thought you all might like a picture of the handsome boy in his new gear!