A short while back I mentioned in a blog that if a horse was properly broke to the bridle (curb bit) you could easily ride the horse one-handed in a snaffle. So, I want to talk a bit more about this.
Many people seem to thing that a curb bit hardens a horse's mouth but that isn't necessarily so. After a horse has been put through the stages of making him a "bridle horse", they are often much better in the snaffle. Why is that, you ask?
When a horse has been properly trained to the curb, his mouth becomes educated. The horse learns to respond and softly yield. As this process proceeds the stiffness a horse naturally has to a bit gradually dissipates. What is really interesting is that when you work with a horse that really accepts and understands the curb bit and is carrying the proper one for him (maybe I should write about that too...), you can do anything with the curb that you would do in the snaffle. Now this takes some time but it is really worth it.
If your horse is well broke, you should be able to pick up a bridle rein individually and place his head and neck and shoulder wherever you need to. The horse should respond by moving in that direction softly and dropping down in the bit (not pulling). It's good to remember the basics, one of which is that the rein controls everything in front of the withers. We can reinforce that rein, if needed with our leg because we've taught the horse to move away from pressure.
Hopefully this helps some of you get a better handle on what we mean by the term "bridle horse". Talk to you next week! JD