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Seeking Truth One Hand at a Time.

“The greatest enemy of knowledge is "NOT" ignorance, it is the illusion of knowledge.” 
― Daniel J. Boorstin, The Discoverers: A History of Man's Search to Know His World and Himself

What does the above statement mean to you? What is the best way to gain power and infuence over folks? The best way to mislead folks is to be perceived by the angle of light. Everyday folks are misled by charismatic folks like: government leaders, religious leaders, and folks with a sharp tongue of humility and knowledge. It is the illusion of knowledge and humility that they are cloaked with. It is all about knowing how to tickle and dazzle the ears of the unsuspecting.  

Truth! Most folks in the world hold truth, honesty, and integrity at the top of the list of attributes they value in other folks. We demand honesty in our marriages, relationships, friendships, our government leaders, and our religious leaders. What about horse trainers? Do we hold them to the same standards of truth and integrity?  

Western Heritage! What does barrel racing, reining, trail riding, western pleasure, working cow horse, cutting, and roping have in common? Yes, they are all western disciplines. Done correctly, they all require riding one handed in a curb bit. The truth is that the western curb bit was designed to be used on a well schooled western working horse guided by one hand with split reins. This is the western heritage and the code of ethics that we shook hands on. Riding a finished bridle horse is the goal we expect to have. This is "common sense based on truth!"

So what is the issue? Our western heritage is being slowly eroded by a new discipline called Western Dressage. When this new discipline was conceived, it promised to hold on to the western heritage by improving the western horses with classical principles. It was to be different, it was not  about putting a western saddle on a dressage horse. Great idea, eh? What happened to that hope? 

Quick history lesson. It is against all rules and principles to ride one handed in Modern Dressage. Only Western and Classical Dressage teaches folks and allows folks to ride one handed as an end goal. Over the years there has been some confusion between Modern and Classical dressage because many English folks were teaching Modern Dressage calling it Classical. This is due in part mainly to bring some type of self importance to their teaching. Back in the day, Classical Dressage was based on building European working horses to be used for war or field duties. In the beginning of WD, the self appointed WD leaders asked for help from dressage trainers to teach western folks how to do WD correctly. Well, the Dressage folks responded and brought along all their tools including the "double bridle". The problem with this is that most western folks do not recognize the need for a double bridle systerm in the mouth of their horses; they knew it could be accomplished with one bridle. Soon after, a real nice phrase came to light, "Western horses should be improved by dressage principles not ruled by it." "Common sense based on truth!"

lmh 1815-zf-2975-85890-1-002 copyThe division! Some folks wanted to bridge the two disciplines and others wanted a completely new discipline. The truth was that WD was created because some western folks saw the need to do dressage differently from what they saw in the competitive arena. We only wanted to use the original principles of dressage not the rules and things like the double bridle. The western folks also saw the need for a "soft feel" and knew ways to incorporate both ideas to teach horses the same movements, but in a more productive manner without losing the "soft feel" of the western horse. Some of the western folks already had a plan on how to teach WD with a hybrid version that combined both disciplines. Soon after the unveiling of WD there became a division not cooperation.

The first horses that competed in WD were basically finished western pleasure Morgan bridle horses (one handed). One minute these horses were in the WP ring being ridden one handed and later that same day they were being ridden WD in the same bridle, but the rider was riding with two hands not one. Why one hand in one ring and two hands in the other? The truth is that these horse were well trained for WP not trained to bend like dressage horses. They only needed to look pretty going straight down the rail. So instead of retraining them for proper dressage movements, they cheated by taking the easy way out by using two hands. 

After two years, this practice of using two hands on a curb bit has not been challenged and is becoming a regular practice. Many Dressage trainers / instructors rationalize that it is not incorrect to use a bridle in dressage so it is not incorrect for a western horse using dressage principles. Riding a dressage test correctly with the training pyramid is very difficult one handed in a curb bit. Because of the level of difficulty to achieve this level of communication, most folks can't do it nor do they know how to transition a snaffle horse to the curb. Instead of raising their expectations, they minimize the importance of riding correctly one handed. The problem is that new students do not know its incorrect and the leaders continue to take short cuts. They do what is popular without regard to what is best for the horse and proper development of proper training.. 

lmh 4546-zf-2975-85890-1-007 copyI want to make this perfectly clear! It is okay to ride one handed or two handed, but certain tack is used for certain applications and should not be misused. If you are going to ride two handed, ride and train with a snaffle. If you are going to ride one handed, ride in a curb! When riding in a curb, there are times that you need to make corrections with the FREE HAND, but riding primarily with two hands is not proper nor is it correct. 

Also It is imperative to ride lower levels in a curb to properly develop the bridle horse. There is talk to eliminate the curb at lower levels. This is would be another travesty to the western horse. All we need is rules to eliminate two hands on the curb. Make it simple!

Final note!

Common sense based on Truth. 

"The leaders and top riders are not setting the example and people will always take the easiest way out.... it's just human nature."~ Jen Johnson

Not all things that are in the common consensus are based on truth. The driving force of this disinformation is driven by several groups of people. Western trainers, clinicians, coaches, judges, and dressage instructors. In a nutshell, dressage instructors rationalize that riding two handed in a curb is because they use a double bridle two handed. They want to push their way with no regard to western heritage. Western trainers want to attract more students by lowering the expectations and tickling the ears of the unknowing. Clinicians want more recognition, so they continue to take shortcuts in proper training. They justify the use of two hands because its all about developing a partnership with good hands not proper development. Those folks that are promoting two hands on the curb are lazy and are disrespectful to those trainers that work so hard to create a properly trained western horse without short cuts. The bottom line is they can't walk the talk. 

How can you make a practical application to this article? Don't be misled by fancy words and popularity of a single charismatic person. Expect more. Do not sell out! Don't we owe it to our horses to be instructed by knowledgeable truth seeking horseman? What do you look for in an instructor when it comes time to find help with your horse? Truth!! Look at the way they ride and how their horse moves. If they do not have a demo horse, run away as fast as you can....Use common sense based on truth. Look for trainers or instructors that can walk the talk..

For more info please see this article.

Here are some folks that make great points and are supporters of proper western heritage.

David WratchfordMy thought on the matter is this. Schooling your horse or making a corrective action by using a second hand on the reins is one thing, constantly riding your horse in a curb with two hands is something else entirely. The bits typically are not designed to function that way and I think it shows laziness or a lack of desire to create a finished horse. Whatever works for a person is great but what about who rides that horse when you're done? Don't we owe it to our horses to educate them in such a manner that they don't have to deal with frustration or misunderstanding when they are no longer with us?

Michelle LasiterIn my opinion...it is a false feel to ride two handed in a curb. Of course they rife light....if you apply too much pressure...it will be painful. Many of my head tossing issues are because of two handed riding of the curb. If they want to ride two handed...why don't they just stay in a snaffle...something that is designed for two handed? Why do they need to cheat and go with two hands on a curb? I don't believe in schooling two handed in a curb before shows either.

David WratchfordA two handed curb is not mechanically viable. It really doesn't take a masters in physics to understand the why of it. Feel free to do it if you want but you are honestly just cheating yourself and your horse. But then again if you feel you need to ride your horse two handed in a curb, you've already failed...

Renée Kozak-HellbergIf you don't know how to use a shanked, leveraged bit of any type one-handed, & you have not perfected (as a rider) the classical levels in which double bridles are used with two hands on a shank (as classical as applied to western riding is the goal, right?), then you just shouldn't do it. Use a snaffle - that simple. Not everyone will be able to ride like Eitan.

Jen JohnsonIF that was happening I would be completely on board with it. But the leaders and top riders are not setting the example and people will always take the easiest way out.... it's just human nature.


0 #1 Patty Carlson 2015-01-04 14:05
Randy, I get your issue. As a competitor, new can be scary and if two hands are allowed, people will choose it. Heck, I did, but in a transition bit designed to work with two hands or one. My goal is to be showing western dressage with the correct bend with ONE hand at the lower levels so when it is time to move up through the levels, I am able to do this correctly for a western horse. The real challenge would be competing at an open show where aged horses must be shown one handed.

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