Giving to the bit help! - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 6 Old 11-15-2012, 10:55 PM Thread Starter
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Giving to the bit help!

Okay so I need to help on how to go about getting my horse to give at the bit at a trot and canter. He does it perfectly at the walk and then once we start trot trotting and cantering, he shoots his head up and completely pulls against my hand. I don't ride with spurs or a crop and I ride him in a french link dee ring. I don't want to use a stronger bit. I have tried half halting, I ride in a deep seat, initially on my tailbone to clarify that I want him to slow his gait. And i've tried doing circles, and different patterns to get him to pay attention to my aids. Oh and I don't use any martingales or breastplates either. Does anyone have any suggestions? I'm getting a little tired of having my arms pulled out of their sockets lol
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post #2 of 6 Old 11-15-2012, 10:58 PM
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If he's shooting his head up at the trot I'm going to promise you it's a back or saddle issue. Nothing to do with the bit, the problem is his head is in the air and all he's thinking is 'OWW! how do I get away from that?!"
Have you got pics of him trotting? I'm pretty darn positive this is a back issue, but a pic or video would be beneficial to see exactly what's going on.
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post #3 of 6 Old 11-15-2012, 11:13 PM Thread Starter
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IMG 4388 - YouTube

It's a little old, and my reins aren't as short as they probably should be, but whenever I shorten them, he starts to go faster which is the complete opposite of what I want lol.
And this is as high as his head ever goes, I didn't mean to sound deceiving, its not THAT high aha, just higher then I would like.
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post #4 of 6 Old 11-15-2012, 11:22 PM
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It could well be a pain/discomfort issue.... but its VERY commonly an education issue as well. If I had a dollar for every horse I see running around with its head stuck up, perfectly sound, but with a rider that is unsure how to change it - I'd own Totilas by now ;)

Its good to hear OP, that you are not using any kind of gadget to strap his head down.
Do you have any lessons?
I'll come at this from a Dressage perspective, assuming that you ride English.

Basically, you can ride as many circles and patterns as you want, but if you're not riding the horse forward into a slightly restrictive hand, you won't be doing anything beneficial other than getting your horse fitter.
I strongly suggest, if you haven't already, that you start to learn how to ride and teach a horse to leg yield. Leg yielding is a good stepping stone towards lateral movements, but it is also EXTREMELY helpful in establishing a connection between the inside hind leg, and the outside rien/shoulder. When you can get this connection, and add some inside bend - your horse will start to come onto the bit of it's own accord.

When you ride, for now just forget about his head. I want you to play your hands on his wither, or tuck your pinkies under the saddle cloth to keep your hands still. You're not allowed to use your hands to stop, turn or try and pull him 'onto the bit' - it is all in your seat and legs, you would be surprised how well this works ;)

With your hands still, focus entirely on riding him forward off your leg. Ride millions (literally millions) of transitions. Every few strides I want you to change what you're doing. When I ride my horse, who is training at Medium (US 3rd level) Dressage, I very rarely remain doing the same thing for more than 15m at a time. In one short side, I will have ridden correct flexion, counter flexion, shoulder in and probably put in a good 5 half halts. Mixing things up constantly is greatly beneficial to developing a horse's balance. They will begin to shift their weight towards their hind legs rather than on their shoulders. Once their hind legs start to push off the ground and really carry the horse, they will begin to start seeking the bit of their own accord - absolutely no effort from the rider's hands what so ever. All you need to do, is sit quietly, keep your hands nice and still (following only the horse's topline), and ride your legs and belly button towards your hands.

An instructor will be of most help, as they can give you instruction and tell you when to apply or release pressure on the spot.

~Horse & Hound Artistry~.

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post #5 of 6 Old 11-15-2012, 11:24 PM
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Just saw your video. He doesn't look sore at all.

But it did confirm my post - changing thing around every few strides. In the video you're just riding around and around on the outside track.
Set yourself a challenge - you are NOT allowed to touch the outside track when you ride!

~Horse & Hound Artistry~.

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post #6 of 6 Old 11-15-2012, 11:33 PM
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Is he an OTTB? Has he ever been trained to be a regular riding horse?

I mention this because most OTTBs I know think contact=GO! and need patient, gentle restarting. You essentially need to teach them how to ride all over again.

His head is quite high and I wouldn't completely rule out saddle/back issues. You should have them both checked.

Once pain issues are rules out here's what I'd do:
I'd start all over, like he'd never had a rider on him. On the ground with his bridle on, apply gentle pressure to 1 rein with your hand rested on his withers. I do this so that the moment they turn their head they relieve their own pressure and the handler isn't tempted to keep pulling to get them to turn more. Hold the pressure until he turns even in inch in the correct direction, relieve all pressure and give him a rub. Rinse and repeat this until just a tiny ounce of pressure gets him to turn his nose to his stirrup easily. Steer him in both directions with you standing on either side, even turning his head away from you. I would do this with a regular nose band, not a flash - as he shouldn't need one at this level. At this point he'll learn that gaping his mouth or fussing won't relieve the pressure, but turning his head will. Mouth gaping (the reason we use flash nosebands) is mostly caused by a horse who's being nagged with too much contact (OTTBs) who have learned the only way to find any relief is by gaping their mouth. It's useful again when used properly in upper levels of dressage - but he's not at that point and should NOT need one.

Next I would practice this same giving to the bit while sitting on his back at a stand still.

Now I'd take him out for just a walk around the arena, never, ever finish a lap around the ring without doing at least 3 things, any 3 things anywhere. But put in circles, changes of directions, cut the ring, start a figure 8 but then go down the center line. Mix it up! Keep him guessing. Mix it up between a heavy working walk to a long, low relaxed trot - practice stretching him down into the bit at the walk and pick him up again into some forward high action walk. Again, keep mixing it up.
do this for a few days or even weeks, really get him supple and listening gently. Remember steering isn't done all with your hands - use your whole body to steer him, start with your eyes, shoulders, waist, hips, legs, then hands.

Once you've been doing really well with this and have some good quality feel for a few days consistently, now add short trots. Change it up continually, again don't finish a lap around the ring without at least 3 things happening, now even changes of speed. In your short trots ask him to stretch low and deep into the bit using your whole body to guide him. Give him the rein he needs to do it. Keep the trots slow and relaxed at first, even if you need to use sitting trot to help keep him low and relaxed at the trot - remember to BREATHE!! I make my students sing their ABCs when they sit trot so I know they're breathing ;)
Don't trot more than a few steps at a time at first, this will help encourage him to relax into it, he's not going for an hour long trot, just a relaxed jog for a short while.
Gradually increase the amount of trot work and work on changing things up constantly. Pick up trots half way through circles, sometimes make circles toward the wall of the arena rather than away (this always throws them for a loop :P) Any time he gets worked up in the trot just bring him back down and relax him.
Eventually you can work on developing control over a good working trot and a soft relaxed jog.

Keep practicing these skills until they're solid - don't even bother with the canter until he's an ace at everything else, that's only reminding him to do the wrong thing.

Good luck, let me know if you need anything cleared up

ETA: just saw Kayty's posts, completely agree with all of it.
I also just looking at the picture realize I think you're hands are a bit high, based on the direction the reins are going. High hands= a high head. Remember to keep your hands low and slightly restrictive, but not hauling on his mouth as they appear in the photo. The video I honestly couldn't tell much from other than it doesn't look like a serious pain issue on the horse's behalf.

Last edited by PunksTank; 11-15-2012 at 11:36 PM.
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