Favorite bits/bridles for each phase

Hello all. After schooling dressage for 8 years and showing hunters for 4, I am trying my hand at eventing with my soon-to-be 6 year old OTTB, Max. He absolutely loves the padded figure eight bridle and d-ring french-link bit he goes in right now, but alas we will need a change of bridle at least for dressage. He is very responsive and soft in the mouth but not over-sensitive. He goes best in light to moderate contact with quiet signals, and he really has no bit evasion problems to speak of. I have a few questions for you seasoned eventers. I do apologize for my ignorance, please respond with grace.

1). Do you switch bridles and/or bits between all three phases?
2). I know that every horse responds to different bits in different ways, but what are your go-to bits for each competition phase for the super-laid-back-yet-still-young-and-unpredictable horse?
3.) If you have any tack must-have’s for the beginning eventer, or really any beginner eventing advice at all, please feel free to share!

Why do you need to change bridles for dressage? Your current bridle is perfectly acceptable.

While I don’t think they are illegal under most rule books, I haven’t seen them used very often (at least at the shows in my area) and I am afraid I may get some funny looks/comments from the judge/other competitors when I enter the ring with my light brown hunter bridle paired with my pitch black dressage saddle. :no: I just don’t want anything to detract from our performance. Your point is valid, though. I may end up just keeping it, especially until we advance to higher levels.

You can always get a black figure 8, if your horse is happy in it. I’ve showed my TB in one for years at recognized events and straight dressage shows with no problems. :slight_smile:

My horse wears a figure 8 in dressage. They’re fine. You’ll even see people at beginner novice/novice riding in jumping saddles so a brown bridle is fine. The judge can’t care if your tack is within the rules - there’s nothing in the movements that has anything to do with tack.

Thanks, that’s good to know! It’s definitely something to look in to.

I used to show with a brown dressage saddle and a black bridle (because that’s what I had); not one person ever made a remark, least of all the judge. I recently got a brown bridle to match the saddle. I use the same bridle and bit for all three phases - a French link eggbutt with a flat cavesson, no flash. My horse is Arab/Trakehner and has been known to be a bit speedy, but I consider that a training/rider issue, not a bitting issue.

I’ve done the dressage phase in a figure 8. No one will care, promise. I didn’t have a dressage saddle until the end of last year, so I’ve been showing in a jump saddle for all three phases. I’m probably going to use my black bridle for all three phases this year because SOMEONE outgrew his brown figure 8 over the winter :cry:

Eventing is so great because most everyone is practical and it’s more about getting the job done and having a good ride rather than appearances. Not that you shouldn’t look nice and well presented, but things like a black bridle with a brown saddle are unremarkable. Doing dressage in your jump saddle, if you wish to at the lower levels, gets done a lot too.

I just went all black with my tack: Black Micklem bridle, black Custom Saddlery dressage saddle; black Kentaur Eventer II jump saddle; black Prestige breast collar and girth; black Equifit and Roma boots for show jumping and cross country. The only color is on my horses’ ear bonnets which are black with bronze or gold piping since one is a buckskin and the other palomino. They both go nicely for dressage, show jumping and cross country in a Korsteel flexiflavored peppermint mullen mouth bit. My dressage pad is a white, no slip Equine Comforts Products pad and my jumping pad is a black, no slip, contoured Equine comfort products pad. I don’t use any other pads. I sometimes use an Acavallo wither gel pad.

KISS is my rule whenever possible.

My best advice is get your feet wet by going to schooling shows. They are wonderful, fun, low pressure events for sorting things out and honing yours and your horses’ skills.
If you’re coming over from hunters, you may already have a monogrammed tack trunk and such but if not and need a trunk, go get a 50 gallon Husky or Stanley from Home Depot to tote all your show gear in. You’ll see lots of them at an event.

A hanging saddle rack that fits on your stall front is a great thing to have and easily fits into your truck, which is easier than hauling a collapsible rack.

A bridle rack for you stall front.

A stall pick, broom and small garden wheelbarrow for clearing your stall post show.

An eventing stop watch to time your cross country run.

Your own penny/number holder that you’ll reuse at each event. Of course, a safety vest; mines a Tipperary. You can do all three phases in the same helmet as you’ll see lots of variation out there. I ride dressage in one helmet, but do show jumping and cross country in a billless Tipperary skull cap with a black CO cover. Some people like to let their freak flag fly on cross country and get quite colorful. So have fun with that if you wish.

A good sponge; a good brace like Vetrolin liniment post cross country run as I really don’t think you need to worry about icing your horse’s legs until you get to Training level. Rubbing alcohol to help remove any green spots from your horse’s coat should he lay down and get a poop mark or rub stain.

That’s all that comes to mind at the moment.

The best bit and bridle for each phase is the one that works. Fashion has nothing to do with it (I’ve ridden in a brown dressage saddle with black bridles, and a black jump saddle with brown bridles. No one stopped to gawk). I’ve changed bits, I’ve swapped bridles, I’ve done it all. Some of my horses have gone in the same bit/bridle for all three phases. Some have needed a different set up for each phase. My current horse has gone in everything from a loose ring to a gag on xc, depending on where he was in his training (he spent his last season in a loose ring at prelim). It really just boils down to using what works.

Your best pieces of equipment will be tack that fits and is in good repair, helmet and vest, and a rule book. Avoid getting sucked into bitting trends, and if you think you need a stronger bit, first evaluate your riding and your horse’s attitude. Sometimes a bit change is in order. Sometimes a bigger jump is in order. Sometimes a downgrade is order. Sometimes a few lessons are in order.

Have fun, don’t stress about matching tack unless it will distract you, show up with a well groomed horse, and you’ll be perfect.

As far as tack goes, I am an eventer to jumper back to eventer with some hunter in there too. Use the same tack for everything. Hunter bridle in brown with loose ring French link because that is what my horse likes. I have a variety of reins to pick from depending on what I am doing and what conditions are like. I have a dark brown/black XC saddle I use for everything - dressage to hunter EQ. I have never rec’d a comment from anyone about any of it. I think eventing riders are the most forgiving - no one cares what color or brand of breeches you wear! H/J tack is absolutely perfect for beginning event riders and horses.

I think I’m in love with the sport already. The beauty pageant feel of bigger hunter shows was never my thing.

We use a snaffle with a lozenge for dressage and for x-c and s/j we use a plastic bit with a D ring. My horse has extensive dressage and it shows in her x-c - she
goes in perfect rhythm neither pulling or sucking back. We do put on a running martingale, but no drops, flashes, etc. Just simple tack.

Nobody cares if your tack matches. Truly. Unless it’s some day-glo nylon color (not even sure if that’s legal?), no one will even notice. Take a look at many of the top pros, and you will find that most of their tack doesn’t match, either (unless they just received a sponsorship from Big-Name Saddlery and were given matching leathergoods). When you’ve been in this sport a long time, you acquire lots of tack and you mix and match whatever is left to do the job you need to do…brown bridle, black rubber reins; brown rubber reins with black martingale stops; brown monoflap saddle with black short girth; brown bridle, brown saddle, black breastplate; etc, etc. Good turnout is about being clean, safe, neat, and polished; I promise, matching shades of leather dye is not on anyone’s radar.

Wear whatever bit your horse goes best in. If you need different bits for dressage and jumping, it can be handy to have separate bridles for each. But it’s certainly not required…assuming your tack is well-cared for, it takes just a few minutes to swap bits and usually there is an hour or more between phases. Sometimes at one-day trials the time schedule is shortened, but even then I usually have time to swap reins or bits or whatever when I’m changing saddles and clothes from dressage to jump.