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Snaffle vs Curb

I have a question, Randy: If a horse goes nicely in a snaffle, why do you need to change to a curb or (bridle)?

Snafflebit

curbGood question, here is the answer: 

"Very few folks can ride bridlelss, but even fewer can ride with a bridle!" ~ Eitan Beth-Halachmy


The simple truth is that you do not need a snaffle, curb, saddle, halter or anything else to effectively ride a horse, just get on and ride like the wind. You can even ride like Lady Godiva if you want..

"I am building a Western Dressage Bridle Horse not a Ranch, Cattle, Trail, Western pleasure, Dressage, or a two handed Snaffle horse!" The context of this article is about Western Dressage not general horsemanship. 

When I first started to ride horses, I said the same thing. I said, "if my horse goes well and is happy with a halter and lead rope, why use anything else?" Back then, I was happy just staying on and going on trail rides. I thought I was hot stuff riding in a halter and lead rope. (pictures below) Back then, I thought curb bits were used for untrained disrespectful horses that needed a more harsh bit to control and stop. Times have changed for me.

p1000677 copyAfter riding thousands of miles of trails in the Cascades Mountains of Washington State, it was time to do something different (pictures are in my gallery). It all comes down to expectations and what you want to do with your horse. Why do I ride one handed in a bridle? I do "not" do it because it is easy, I do it because it is hard and challenging. I do it "not" because I am trying to force control. The bridle has less control not more and it is not a torture device. The truth is that I don't use it as much as you see me use it. I only show in a bridle.  98% of my riding and training is still done in a simple D-ring or Full-cheek snaffle. 

I have been training Carbon for four years now. He was introduced to the curb bit only last year. Transitioning to the curb is a natural progression of training. Just as a child must learn the basics in grammar school to be prepared for an advancement to a higher level, the horse must be supple to the rider's aids and learn to carry himself in a snaffle before graduating to the curb. I feel it is important to have a horse solid at 4th level Dressage or with comparable movements and good control before introducing the curb. Using a curb bit is a finishing tool, not so much a training tool. You will never see me use a curb bit early in a horse's training.

Why do I use a curb at lower levels?
When I transitioned to the curb, even though Carbon knew advanced movements, he needed to relearn the cues of all the movements, even the simple ones, because it was a whole new set of signals and cues coming from my aids. It would not have been fair to expect him to perform in a curb at advanced levels just because he knew how to do it in a snaffle. So riding at training or lower levels is his transitional period to accept the new tack. 
Insights:
  • Curb bits are a western tradition, and it is one way that it separates us from Dressage folks.
  • Curbs are "not" to be ridden two handed, they are strictly made to be ridden one handed. I am strictly against two handed curb bit riding at any level!!
  • Riding at lower levels with a curb makes folks uncomfortable because they do not fully understand how to prepare a horse to become a bridle horse.
  • It is essential to ride one handed in the curb at lower levels once the horse is schooled at upper levels in a snaffle!!
 Final thought:
What is the difference between Dressage / Western Dressage? Ask yourself this question. Anytime you ride two handed in a snaffle or a curb bit in Western Dressage, what makes you different from Dressage folks? Really the only difference is that you are riding in western tack, right?. No! One handed in a bridle is what makes us different. The only problem is that if you use 100% dressage concepts, you will have an issue building a Bridle Horse because it will take a different set of concepts that are not taught in moderen Dressage. Modern Dressage is based on two handed riding only; however, Classical Dressage is based on developing a horse for one handed riding.

Even now when I go on a trail ride, I just hang a lead rope and go. There is no need for anything in their mouth other than an apple, but building a Western Dressage Bridle Horse is just a great way to put the finishing touches on your friend. 

Check out the video below, do Carbon and I look Dressage or Western? Neither, we are WESTERN DRESSAGE!!

 
 

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