Keeping a horse on the bit - The Horse Forum
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  • 5 Post By tinyliny
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post #1 of 7 Old 11-12-2013, 03:13 PM Thread Starter
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Keeping a horse on the bit

I know how to get a horse on the bit, but often while I'm riding, I can get the horse to drop its head correctly but it never keeps it. I know it isn't the horse's fault and is mine but was wondering if anyone had any tips on how to keep the horse on the bit. Thanks in advance
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post #2 of 7 Old 11-13-2013, 07:26 AM
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Practice. If it's something you're teaching the horse then he just doesn't have the strength to stay in frame for your entire ride- that comes with time and muscle build. Make sure when you ask for the stretch from the base of his neck you keep a constant light feel of his mouth in your hands- if he seems willing give him a teeny bit more rein to see if he will take it down. It's essential to make sure your hands and seat postition are staying soft and steady and not impeding with him while you work on it.

If the head comes back up just make sure you keep the connection with his mouth (too many people drop it when this happens) this tells him, "Hey, no matter what we do I'm here guiding you, but right now I want you to stretch the base of your neck and don't be afraid to take a feel of the bit."

Outside rein is key in this exercise. It's everything. And inside leg. They work together. Over time you'll find that the amount of strides where he takes the bridle and the feel down increases. Just be steady and consistent in your aids.
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post #3 of 7 Old 11-13-2013, 09:27 AM
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"On the bit" has nothing to do with where the horse holds his head. It is about the WHOLE BODY of the horse.

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post #4 of 7 Old 11-13-2013, 01:23 PM
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Actually, it does have to do with where the head is. A horse with his nose in the air is not very able to be on the bit. Nor a horse with his nose cranked back toward his chest. And, "on the bit" does not mean "collection". it just means that the horse meets the bit without resistance or bracing, and without withdrawing from contact with it. His energy should "meet" the bit at the place that the rider has set it. So, yes , the whole body is involved in that.

For the horse to meet the bit, and stay there, he must be able to really trust your hands. So, you have to have really steady hands, which means you have to have a steady seat. those things take time to develop.

it's possible that you are doing a lot of rein "wiggling" to get the hrose to give to the bit, but it is more of you pulling him back, or down, than him going forward to meet the bit, and as soon as he comes back, you release him and he pops up again? think of it more as you put the bit in a good place, then ask him to meet you there. when he does, if you want to reward him, give ONLY the inside rein, just a little , and this can help reinforce to him that he has done the right thing.

never try to pull him back down into a "frame" by pulling downward with your hands. If your horse pops her head up, you follow her up with your hands, maintaining the elbow through wrist to bit straight line alignment, and keep asking with the inside rein for the hrose to soften to the rein, and then, with you leg, ask her to step into that softness and meet the bit, again.
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post #5 of 7 Old 11-13-2013, 08:16 PM
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In order to get a horse on the bit, you need to ride from the back of the horse and push him into the bridle.

It sounds strange, but collection, putting a horse in a frame and on the bit comes from the hind quarters. You need to have a light seat (so your horse is not bracing against your weight in the saddle) to allow him to lift through his back and bring his hind legs under his body. When a horse does this, it is impossible for him to hold his head up in the air like a giraffe and his neck rounds. He has to have a soft neck and not be tense or bracing against your contact.

It is hard to describe, hard to do properly but once you get it, it feels really good. :) My green horse is still learning to work correctly, he understands what he needs to do, but his muscles are not strong enough yet to hold himself for longer periods of time. I do not ask him to go on the bit with my reins. I ask with my seat. The only thing my reins control is the flexion and counter flexion.

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post #6 of 7 Old 11-14-2013, 02:01 PM
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It sounds as if the OP equates a "dropped" head with being "on the bit."

tinyliny describes it well. I'd just like to add that I believe being on the bit is mostly psychological: that is, the horse is relaxed, and there, waiting, with you, willing and ready for whatever comes next. The contact can be very light; or not.

But certainly, simply having a dropped head does not mean he's on the bit.
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post #7 of 7 Old 11-14-2013, 02:06 PM
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You didn't say if you ride with an English saddle and a snaffle. If so, you can help your horse by resting your knuckles in front of the pommel while posting a trot, bc the horse does not move his head and neck to balance at the trot. However, riders often jerk the reins while posting the trot, so keeping them steady by resting on the withers WILL steady your hands.

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