On the bit - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 4 Old 03-13-2012, 09:44 PM Thread Starter
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On the bit

How can you really tell when a horse is on the bit? What does it look like? What do behind the bit and above the bit look like? What do they all feel like?
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post #2 of 4 Old 03-13-2012, 09:57 PM
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I don't really like the term on the bit, but for simplicities sake I'll go with it.
When a horse is on the bit, it is taking more weight on its hind legs than its front legs. Its hind legs are stepping under its centre of gravity, its back is round and swinging, and there will be a light but consistant contact through the reins to the bit. The horse will have a soft jaw and poll, with its head positioned slightly in front of the vertical.
The most important thing to note, is that this comes ONLY from learning how to ride active hind legs into an elastic hand, to contain the energy from the hind legs and allow it to flow through the horse's body. Essentially, the horse is like a coiled spring when this occurs.


A horse that is above the bit, will usually also have a tight back, and trailing hind legs. Its jaw will be braced, and usually the poll and neck will also be braced. A horse comes above the bit for many reasons - 99.9% of which are rider created and nothing to do with the horse 'being naughty'.


A horse being behind the bit is a huge pain in the backside, and very difficult to correct. Its head is behind the vertical and hyperflexed longitudinally over the neck. Often the horse will also be blocked in the base of the neck, and the hind legs won't be engaged. The reins will feel loose, and the rider will have no contact with the bit. The horse may open its mouth or refuse to take contact.
However, this should not be confused with riding a horse deep. An experienced rider can ask a horse to come a little deep in training, rather than being on or slightly in front of the vertical consistently. The horse must have a very good understanding of working through from the hind legs, and the hind legs must remain active while the horse is deep in front. This positioning will help to soften and lift the horse's back. It is good to ride a little deep, a little low, a little long, a little open, a little short etc. through your training sessions, rather than always in a competition frame. This creates a more adjustable, loose and elastic horse.


I hope this helps you!
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post #3 of 4 Old 03-13-2012, 10:01 PM Thread Starter
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What is the proper way to get a horse on the bit?
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post #4 of 4 Old 03-13-2012, 10:12 PM
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Your best bet is to find yourself a good dressage instructor. It is very difficult to explain over the internet, as riding a horse on the bit requires a lot of feel, which I cannot give you here.
Basically, you need to be able to ride the horse forward and bring it back from your seat. The go and stop aids must be excellent, unless the horse will go and stop immediately to your aids, you have no business asking it to come 'on the bit'.
You need to ride the horse forward in a controlled manner (this is not running the horse so it's going fast - you need to be able to dictate the tempo through your seat), into a forgiving but firm hand. If you do not have a very solid, independant seat with quiet hands, you will not get your horse on the bit.
The leg asks the hind legs to step through under your seat, while your core (seat) dictates the tempo, and the hand contains the energy to complete the 'circuit'.

The best thing to do, is the get some lessons on an educated horse that knows how to work on the bit. Then you will learn what aids to give, and how it feels to ride a horse on the bit, before trying it with your own horse.

~Horse & Hound Artistry~.

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