On the bit question

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On the bit question

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  • Explain the difference between moving faster and engaging hindquarters
  • Best bit for getting a horse to use hindquarters

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    07-29-2008, 09:00 AM
On the bit question

Ok so I was reading a book yesterday: Dressage in Harmony: from basic to grand prix. Anyways It basically said you shouldnt worry about your horses head; you need to wait for its hindquarters to engage (by riding forward) and then it will automatically come. With my horse I use a specific aide but she slows down completely in her trot and usually overbends. I've been having trouble understanding this concept because, riding a horse forward and it automatically will come on the bit is hard to believe...I've seen so many people who ride there horses and have no concept of getting there horse on the bit and there horses fling there heads left right and center and they are just on for the ride, is it because they are not riding there horse forward? I'm very confused by this statement, can anyone shed some light? When will I even know when my horse is forward?
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    07-29-2008, 09:28 AM
Basically yes, getting a horse on the bit comes when the horse engages his hindquarters. However a horse can be "on the bit" but not engaging the hind quarters.

To get all this happening properly you want to ride your horse forward with impulsion but create a 'wall' with your hands that doesnt stop the forward movement but brings the horse back off the forehand bringing the hindquarters 'under' so to speak or engage the hind quarters.

This wall you create with your hands though shouldnt be unforgiving. You want to keep elasticity in your elbows with steady, constant contact with the mouth.

Sorry im not the best at explaining things :) hope that helps a bit :)
    07-29-2008, 09:34 AM
So just to sum up, the horse will go automatically on the bit when she is ridden forward which in turn engages the hindquarters. What kind of exercises will help me get this? When will I know when she is actually engaging her hindquarters? She's only 5 so she has balancing issues in canter especially.
    07-29-2008, 09:36 AM
Originally Posted by jazzyrider
to get all this happening properly you want to ride your horse forward with impulsion but create a 'wall' with your hands that doesnt stop the forward movement but brings the horse back off the forehand bringing the hindquarters 'under' so to speak or engage the hind quarters.
I'm not sure I understand how to do this...Should I just keep light contact with the reins and drive her forward with my legs?
    07-29-2008, 09:59 AM
Yes keep contact with her mouth and drive her forward. You want to start at a walk, then trot then canter bc going into a frame and on the bit will def affect her balance until she gets the hang of it.

Start out by little steps of collection from the walk and build up. One good way is to be pushing her forward a lot while she's walking and then halt her and try to get her squared up and to tuck her nose, then ask her to move forward like that and that will help with getting her to engage her hindquarters.
    07-29-2008, 10:40 AM
Everyone has given you good advice, I just wanted to add that forward does not necessarily mean faster; you want an energetic walk and trot (don't worry about her canter if she is unbalanced, it will come in time). Also make sure you are engaging your keagle muscles (lower abs) this will help her to engage hers as well. It will take a while, but you will start to feel her round her back and she will start to step under herself more.
Hope this helped!

I found this article which also might help:

Edited to ad link[/i]
    07-29-2008, 11:33 AM
Originally Posted by rolf4life
Originally Posted by jazzyrider
to get all this happening properly you want to ride your horse forward with impulsion but create a 'wall' with your hands that doesnt stop the forward movement but brings the horse back off the forehand bringing the hindquarters 'under' so to speak or engage the hind quarters.
I'm not sure I understand how to do this...Should I just keep light contact with the reins and drive her forward with my legs?
yes you want to drive her forward but I wouldnt suggest light contact.

Heres the difference between light contact and what I call 'engaging contact'

In this one I had light 'low' contact. She is 'on the bit' so to speak but isnt really engaging her hindquarters much and is pretty heavy on the forehand

In these I have 'lifted' the contact (my hands) and picked up the reins a little more giving me more contact with her mouth and she has engaged her hindquarters more. We still have some work to do though. Excuse my equitation in these pics too. Bad back, dropping shoulder blah blah lol

Even though I've picked up my contact I am still driving her into my hands. It doesnt mean we are cantering madly around it means that im pushing her energy forwards but blocking/controlling the speed at which she goes. So she is moving forward but can't 'take off' meaning she has to come back and under a little. There goes my terrible explanations. Its easier to do it than explain it for me :)

Once again I hope that has helped a little :)

P.s. Start at a walk. As you are walking feel the move of the barrel (belly) of the horse. As it sways to the right apply a tiny bit of pressure with your right leg. When it goes to the left apply a tiny bit of pressure to the left. At the same time you are keeping your contact. Do this in a 20m circle to start with. Having the almost constant pressure on your inside rein helps your horse soften which is the beginning of acceptance and engaging.

Also, your horse has to have the muscle to hold a engaged/collected position. The first pics where my mare is low and not engaged was in the beginning when she was unbalanced, stiff and heavy on the forehand. After months of work both in the saddle and on the ground and she has started to build the muscle mass she needs to hold a collected frame.
    07-29-2008, 07:37 PM
I agree with all...

Think about literally pushing her into your hands..

If you don't understand this statement( ^^ ) , think of this:
Hold a dressage whip in your hands. Put the handle end on one palm, and the flicky end in you other palm.
The hand with the handle of the dressage whip, push forwards (and slightly up) towards your other hand. The whip will bend in and arch.
Your literally pushing the whip up and round into your hand.
This is what you want to achieve with your horse.
    07-29-2008, 09:16 PM
So I was riding her today and trying to get a forward movement out of her. She seems to stay at one low to med. Speed trot all the time. When I put my leg on to get more movement, she doesnt respond at all. Her previous owner rode her with spurs so im guessing she's a little dead to the leg. I tried to canter her to wake her up a bit, but even when she speeds up after the canter she'll go right back to the same trot within a few strides. I can't even canter with her anymore because she drops it after 2 strides anyways, its very frustrating and as much leg as I put on or as much rein as I give her, she'll still drop the canter. If I give a little tug with the reins, she'll trot. Even when I feel she is about to give, ill put my leg on and she still will transition into a trot.

Needless to say I did do a few halt to canter transitions today which went well and I was suprised that she did it somewhat easiliy. If I can't get the forward movement I may as well try and get the muscle haha. Anyways I have a few more questions: So If I am giving her the aide to walk with more impulsion, I can feel her sway as she walks? And when I do feel the aide give her a little pressure with both legs at separate times (when each of her quarters reach the ground). How do I let her know when she doing it right? Do I lighten the contact? Is this something she will get right away or is it something that takes months/years to develop?
    07-29-2008, 09:27 PM
Yes as soon as she gives to the bit in any way lighten the contact. Pressure and release...remember it because you will use it in many ways :) the release is their reward. As long as her head is where it should be she has a steady, comfortable and even pressure on her mouth. When she isnt doesnt do as she should then she will feel more pressure again. They soon figure out its easier to keep their head down :)

Don't expect this to happen overnight though. As mentioned horses need muscle tone to correctly hold a collected frame. It may take you months to get her on the bit constantly. You will probably find too that once you get it going in the walk she will lift her head again going into trot so there is another challenge of getting her onto the bit in the trot. Then the canter and so on. Make sure though before you start heavily asking this of her that she is balanced and gaining good muscle. Balance her by doing a lot of trot circles with simple changes. This will help her balance and will also help start softening her. Circle work is the best when you are trying to teach a horse to go on the bit :)

If her previous owner used spurs I would suggest carrying a dressage whip with you for a while. In many cases you wont even have to use it. Just knowing its there can be enough sometimes. If you ask for her to do something with your leg and she doesnt respond ask for the same thing again but this time back it up with a little tap on her butt with the whip. It doesnt have to be hard just the tiniest tap should be enough. Hopefully in time she will become more sensitive to your legs.

I wouldnt worry too much at this point about getting her on the bit. Work on her muscle (lots of trotting uphills, trot poles etc) and work on her balance (once again with a lot of trotting circles.) as she becomes more balanced and confident you will be able to work more on different speeds through the gaits meaning you will be able to work on getting a slow, medium and more forward or collected trot going.

It just sounds like you will need a lot of time and patience with her. But that's not a bad thing. Its a great learning experience for you :)

Oh and yes, when she sways to the right gently squeeze your right leg on her. When she sways to the left, do it with your left leg.

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