On the bit - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 6 Old 12-23-2008, 12:26 PM Thread Starter
Join Date: Aug 2008
Location: Albuquerque, NM
Posts: 117
• Horses: 2
On the bit

So Cirrus started leaning into the bit a few weeks ago. Before that, his head was held to heaven and he wasn't making any contact at all, so we've made progress now that he has basically accepted the bit in his mouth.

My BO suggested I keep my hands at the same place on the reins, but pull my hands back and hold onto the saddle (essentially shortening the reins, and making my arms hold a 90 degree angle). Then, keep prodding him on, trying to "push" him onto the bit. This doesn't seem to be working at all for him. He just sucks back, and refuses to flex at the poll. Is there a better way to get him to start going on the bit?

In general, he's a very willing horse. He's very relaxed and calm for a 7 y/o, but he's also pretty lazy.

Thanks in advance!


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post #2 of 6 Old 12-23-2008, 09:20 PM
Join Date: Mar 2007
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Ok this may or may not work for you but when my horse is leaning on the bit or trying to take over the bit I usually start doing circles. First I'll turn him one way then I'll turn the other. Once I feel the pressure come off the bit then I reward him by letting go and relazing my pressure that I put on him while turning in circles. If he starts up with leaning I do it again.

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post #3 of 6 Old 12-23-2008, 10:15 PM
Green Broke
Join Date: Nov 2008
Location: Copley, OH
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I also "see saw" with the reins, give and take back and forth...VERY subtle though, if you do it too drastically, it's just going to confuse him and probably make him mad!

Or if you want to keep pressure equally on both reins you can always do that with the "give and take" method. Release pressure, then take it back again and back and forth...eventually they normally stop pulling so hard, at least the horses I've ridden respond that way and it's what my trainer has always told me to do in that situation.

Good luck!

"The times when you have seen only one set of footprints in the sand, is when I carried you..."
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post #4 of 6 Old 12-23-2008, 11:16 PM
Join Date: May 2008
Location: Ontario, Canada
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I actually would suggest the opposite. You want your horse to come into the bit on his own, with only a very small amount of coaxing from you. What I mean is... don't worry about where his head is at the moment. Work on his back end first. So many riders focus on head position and forget that true head position comes only from impulsion from behind. Use a lot of leg, sit back and work at the sitting trot, getting his back legs to start working underneath him. This will actually help him to drop his head right down for you. Give him time to get there. Like I said, work long and low first, get him working those back leg muscles. It will take some time for him to develop these muscles. As he works through his back end, in the meantime, it's improving his topline as his back muscles strengthen, all the way to his neck. Keep a soft feel on the reins, because you don't want him to develop a hard mouth. So yeah, work long and low, start developing that impulsion, and this will help tremendously. Oh, and remember to be patient with him and work WITH him, not against him.

Keep us updated and good luck!

(Sorry if that was kind of scattered... my brain isn't where it should be right now. Lol).

"'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the Lord. 'Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future'" ~ Jeremiah 29:11

Last edited by Jubilee Rose; 12-23-2008 at 11:18 PM.
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post #5 of 6 Old 12-23-2008, 11:32 PM
Join Date: Dec 2008
Location: New Zealand
Posts: 397
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Getting a horse on the bit

This is what I have been told
  • Hold a constant, steady contact. Don't play with the bit, as it can create an artificial out line.
  • Do lots of transitions to get him to lighten up and use his hind end.
  • Push him forward into the bit and keep a steady rythmn (sp)
  • Take lots of breaks and get him to strech down and use the top of his neck.
  • Avoid getting him tense, which could cause him to stiffen his neck and brace against you.
  • Lateral and circle work and also help get him to use his hind end and soften.
  • Once he softens to your hands, you MUST soften too, this rewards him.
  • Dont focus on him being on the bit all the time.
  • If he isnt used to working in an outline it is going to hurt his muscles a bit as he has to use them in a different way.
Hope this helps

I know what it is like to have a horse that doesnt like going on the bit,
I have spent almost a year getting my horse Cessie to work on the bit correctly using her hind end, she used to be a giraffe but now she has a proper top line and accepts the bit readily and happily.
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post #6 of 6 Old 12-26-2008, 12:16 AM
Green Broke
Join Date: Nov 2007
Location: Arkansas
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"Frame" starts from the BACK (haunches), not the front (reins). Your trainer has it right in that your hands should be steady, but you should not be pulling the reins back so far.

Instead, make sure there's a nice bend to your elbow, your hands are UP, and your pinkie finger lines up with the horse's mouth (where you want it to be anyway, lol). Keeping your shoulders and arms relaxed, push your horse forward with your leg. Sit the trot, tuck your rear, let your legs hang down heavy/long, LOOK UP, and breathe. Pull your inside rein back a bit (2-3"), keep your outside rein stead, and just keep pushing him forward. If he rushes, less push with your leg (just squeeze, inside leg only), more with your seat. Just hold it and WAIT. As soon as you feel his head drop into the bridle, even if it's only 1/2", relax your reins (IMMEDIATELY) to a normal position (don't throw them away) and give him a "GOOD BOY". He needs to equate his "give" with your "release".

Take up your reins and try again. Repeat 4-5 times, take a break, then go the other way. Do this at the walk first, then try the trot. Quit on a good note. Let him "think" about your lesson, then try again the next day.

As he gets better at it, you should feel his back come under you and his hind end reach farther under his belly (your saddle will come up and you'll feel more "bump" in his gaits from the rear). Start asking him for long and longer periods with his head lowered. Be sure to keep him MARCHING forward. If you let him slow down, he'll topple on the forehand and you'll get false collection. Once he's doing well at the walk and trot, try it at the canter.

To help your progress along, start working on a medium circle and try counter bending work. First get a good marching trot going. Ask for him to give his head/neck. Once he does, slowly change the bend to the outside. Keep looking around your circle. Keep your hips turned in the direction you want to go. Keep your outside leg on him (HARD if you have to) to keep him on the circle. When you pull your outside rein back, keep it closed to his neck, so he is less likely to drift. Pick your outside rein UP a bit too, so it's back and up. Keep your inside rein steady (so he doesn't pop his shoulder) and keep looking forward and round your circle, LOOK UP! Feel his mouth (sit the trot). Keep asking with your seat and leg until you feel his head drop and mouth soften, even it's just 1/2". IMMEDIATELY relax your aids and go back to your regular (true) bend. Continue at the trot until he's relaxed and try again. Do this 4-5 times, relax a bit, then try it the other way.

Once he's going really well at the trot with the counter bending, try it at the canter, but on a BIGGER circle, and only AFTER he is doing VERY well at the trot. If you rush it, you risk him popping his shoulder, leaning, and learning other bad habits.
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