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House of cards

Written by Julie Taylor on 02.07.2016 in Training

If you're anything like me, you will have asked yourself at some time in the past: "What does it take to get a yellow card for abuse of the double bridle at a dressage competition?" Courtesy of Norwegian Grand Prix veteran, Per Waaler, we now have an answer to this question. All you have to do is attach your snaffle rein to your noseband as well as the bit ring, essentially allowing you to ride your horse bitless as long as you leave the curb rein alone. The stewards will never stand for that.

Waaler says he modified his rein attachment to make  his sensitive mare more comfortable. Having sustained chronic injuries to the bars of her mouth in a previous home, Welba was trained in a sidepull for years while Waaler rehabilitated her. He still prefers to ride the mare bitless, but for competitions, he must put her in a double bridle. Welba understandably resents even the lightest pressure on her bars, and so for quite some time, Waaler has been competing her with the snaffle rein attached to the noseband.

"The mechanics of my bridle are affected by taking all the contact from the snaffle rein, and transferring it to the noseband, which is padded and loose. About three fingers easily fit under the noseband at the ridge of the nose" Mr. Waaler explains.

"There is no possibility of achieving contact with the bit, unless the inner, thin leather strap should break, which I dont think would happen with my contact. The bridle becomes a padded sidepull, with the snaffle and curb bits hanging in the mouth for show." 

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  • To transfer the pressure from the snaffle rein to the noseband, Mr. Waaler attaches the rein both to the bit ring and the noseband

  • While Per Waaler was issued with a yellow card for his bridle adjustment, nosebands like this attracted no attention from the stewards. Photo: Crispin Johannessen

Last weekend, Waaler and Welba entered the Grand Prix at a dressage show in Everlöv, Sweden. According to Waaler, he volunteered for a noseband check before entering the arena. 

"Since I have an agenda to get the stewards to check the nosebands, I
went to the steward during my warm-up and asked if I could do the
first voluntary nose band check" he recounts.
According to Mr. Waaler, the steward smiled at his loose noseband but did not take any further action. However, after the ride, which received the second highest score in the class, the steward returned to take photos of Welba's rein attachment. The photos were handed to the judge and it was announced that Per Waaler had been disqualified and he was issued a yellow card.
"I am glad it happened, as it will possibly put the focus on other problems in the rules, or rather the adherence to the FEI code of conduct - that the welfare of the horse must never be subordinated to competitive or commercial influences" 

It is testament to the lack of rigorousness and efficacy  of the bridle checks advertised by the FEI and national federations that it took years for someone to catch on to the fact that Mr. Waaler's reins were not attached in the usual manner. We have asked the FEI how Mr. Waaler's fun anecdote reflects on the bridle checks and the mandatory double bridle. We'll bring you the answer when it comes.

UPDATE: The FEI has declined to comment on how Mr. Waaler's case reflects on the mandatory bridle checks advertised by the FEI and national federations, because Mr. Waaler is no longer an FEI rider and because he was competing at a national show.

Photos by Crispin Johannessen. 

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