Originally Posted by mlkarel2010
Softening exercises! You want him to respect the bit and be really light and responsive. Then he'll automatically flex vertically when you pick up the reins and automatically collect himself.
If you need more info on softening, just ask
I agree that softening exercises will help, as a horse that is stiff through their neck/body can't go on the bit or collect.
But I disagree a little with the idea of pulling back or holding firm until he gives to teach him, as it creates a flexion in the wrong place. Also, when you pick up the reins it will actually create the horse to be behind the bit, not on the bit, as a true "on the bit" comes from the hind end push so without the added leg on you will have only a head set.
The horse will flex in their jaw and the base of their neck (where it meets the body). Although this does bring the head down and somewhat round the neck, it doesn't round out the back, which is what working on the bit is really all about.
Also, you cannot create collection riding a horse front to back (ie, using your reins to get the horse to do something). Collection by definition is when a horse carries more weight on his hindlegs than his front legs. The horse becomes almost like a spring so that the energy being created is held in.
A better softening exercise I find is to have the horse standing still, keep your body straight and your weight even to prevent the horse from turning, and turn his head left, then right, the left, etc. to get him to loosen and stretch the muscles in the neck and gain an understanding of giving to rein pressure. It can also be done at both the walk and the trot once he gets it, and usually has a much more agreeable response than just holding until he gives.
Many horses will feel trapped when they feel constant pressure on the reins and will toss their heads, twist, and try to get away from the pressure before actually giving to the pressure. Not to say its entirely wrong, but if you truely want your horse on the bit or collected it won't get the job done.