Problems getting on the bit, lacking self-carriage
I have a young quarter horse mare who often requires a rather heavy hand to get her on the bit. I know she's not accepting easily because not only isn't she foaming but I can feel her pulling. She often pulls to the left or right, or down, or hollows and throws her head up. Due to some minor arthritis (which is completely under control) she is stiff especially during the first few minutes but even when she warms up, she can still be tough. When I do get her on the bit consistently at the trot, I soften my hands a bit but still keep the pressure (firm outside rein, sponge-squeeze the inside rein) but she often loses the contact by evading the bit. It's a horrid cycle. Last week I rode for 5 days and my arms felt like they were going to fall off by the end of the week. I haven't had a lesson recently due to my trainer being unavailable but when I had the lesson, my trainer told me not to tense my arms but without making them firm (as if I were lifting a 10 lb weight), I couldn't get her on the bit. I'm also concerned that this heavy hand isn't getting her to carry herself properly, but that she's relying on my hand. She's also minimally responsive to the aids, particularly in the downward transition from trot to walk. She was jigging so much (perhaps a stiffness problem) that even a firm pull back on the reins had an extremely delayed response.
**We started a joint supplement on Sunday, so hopefully the glucosamine will help her out a bit and then when this horrible weather passes, I can see where she stands a bit more accurately... I'm hoping to separate the physiological soreness from the behavioral issues.
Even with the lack of impulsion, her walk on the bit doesn't require as heavy a hand, except for the initial asking her to get it.
How can I solve this problem? It's been going on for much too long, and it creates a very frustrating and unpleasant environment in the saddle.
Pulling against a horse will never get them to give, only evade harder.
Honestly it's best to ignore the head, and focus on the horse's body and your body. Is she forward, is she bending on turns and straight down the long side. Are your elbows soft and elastic ALL the time despite rein length? Are your fingers closed (but not tight) around the reins? Is she responsive to your leg? Is there a straight line from your elbow to the bit? Does she move off of your leg, or does she brace/push against/ignore it?
Once she achieves everything, her head will come down on its own. You can always encourage her to release the jaw, but there should be no "heavy hand" unless she's pulling AGAINST you (trying to steal the bit) then you would want to do something other than let her continue to pull against you. I usually bump my horse sharply and quickly in the side, OR get him moving off of my leg to give him something else to think about.
Release and reward when they do a good job, but ONLY when they do a good job. Stay soft.. that's the #1 error with horses having issues with the bit.
My trainer always tells me to move my horse into the bit with my seat and legs, then hold his forward energy steady with the reins. You give her the energy to propel forward, but control that energy to create impulsion. Use a good driving seat, pushing from the back of your saddle to the front, keeping moderate leg pressure on. Keep your hands steady (10cm up from the neck, 10cm apart) with even contact on the bit. You should be able to feel her mouth, but not pull her head back towards you.
If you keep her moving forward into the bit, she should start accepting the contact. She'll be foaming up in no time!
Also, as far as the stopping goes, are you using your knees to stop her? Or just the reins? If you put pressure behind her shoulders with your knees, she loses full range of motion in her shoulders which causes her to slow down naturally. Using that technique in combination with light rein should work. If she still pushes through, then she might need a lesson in halting vs circling her little butt off until halting seems like a better idea.
When halted, some horses will try to yank the reins away from their rider to get away from the contact. If that happens, don't give in at all. Just bump her with your legs and make her bring her head back up. Keep contact with the bit at all times, even at the halt. Consistency is key!
When you get into a place where the horse is fighting your hand and you are maybe pulling or trying to hold it with both reins , do more riding with little contact and lots more forward, and, use your reins one at a time. Having resistance on both reins equally really encourages a horse to brace up against your hand. I really don't know how you are using your rein, but if its you pulling back with both, against her strong , hard neck, it can't be good for either of y,ou.
When you ask the horse to soften to the inside. You use only your inside rein, and if and when she does soften, give her a remarkably big release on that side and then let your outside rein be your real connection to her . When she worries less about contact, you can use both reins more envenly but to discourage her from bracing on you , use them one at a time.
Are you giving any direction to her via your seat. SO many rein dependence issues stem from a rider with a useless seat. If your seat is effecting, you should be able to stop, go, turn and half halt to a fairly good level with reins and legs.
Without using your seat to steady the horse, you become far too reliant on reins. Reins should be there only as a supportive aid. The lightening of the paces and forehand needs to come through a check in your seat, not a pull on the reins.
Pulling backwards on Reims is never going to give the desired outcome, but pulling back the horses immediate reaction is to pull against that pressure, you pull harder, horse pulls harder. All of this pulling going up up the front winds up throwing the horse onto the forehand. So you have added even more pulling power to the horse's front end.
This was such good advice from all of you. Thank you so much!
So do you think my concern is too much with getting her on the bit that I'm not asking correctly? I feel like when I ask her gently, she doesn't respond. Should I just ride her that way and try to get her to come round on her own with time, instead of expecting a result immediately? Thanks!
I think this is mainly due to the conformation of the QH. Their usually bred downhill and allot of horses can't collect to a dressage standard but just get into a frame I hardly see any Quarter horses collecting properly because its a difficult thing for a horse because it depends on their conformation , training and all the other factors.
This is a horse collecting the poll is the highest point.
The horse engages the hind end, raises the back and withers, the hind legs track up . And the horses neck telescopes out.
The back isnt hollow any thing else is called a horse in a frame.