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Almond Joy 12-15-2012 10:28 PM

Getting On the Bit
So today as we were riding around the arena with friends (The B.O. let us ride a lesson horse for a little for our xmas present, it was so much fun!!!) my friend taught me how to get a horse on the bit. Basically she taught me to wiggle my pinkies and "sponge" them and then use leg to push her into the bridle!!! It worked pretty well and I was really happy! She lifted her head so it was slightly above her withers and got her head on the vertical.

What exactly does this do! I know it isn't complete collection but is it almost like a stepping stone? Do they lift their back to do this and connect their hindquarters and front end? Thanks so much!!!

blue eyed pony 12-16-2012 11:27 AM

That's how you get a false frame. False frame is BAD. My gelding tends towards false frame and it's really annoying, we always get bad scores in dressage because of it.

True roundness, what is REALLY meant by "on the bit" [which SHOULD really be called "on the aids"], comes from the hind end. You get them working their hiney, working on a good rhythm, straight and on your aids, and collect the energy with your seat and a light but unyielding hand [which you then give, when the horse gives]. I've been lucky enough to be allowed to ride an FEI dressage horse and this approach, as instructed by the amazing coach who was giving me the lesson on him, gave me the most incredible work. Whereas the approach you describe gave me flat, hollow, yuck. This is on a very highly educated horse.

My gelding is incredibly hard to keep together because he is so long and has something going on in his hind end soreness-wise [arthritic, I think, given that he's 17 and doesn't have the best conformation... although it might be an old injury from what I know about him].

Mum's new gelding, on the other hand, will be amazing once we get him past his bucking, because he's built for dressage, and is naturally uphill and engaged [not sure if he swings through his back or not but he feels nearly as nice as the FEI horse so I assume probably yes]... and tends to want to carry himself nice and round even WITHOUT the light unyielding hand. It won't take an incredible rider to get and keep Ben truly on the aids... but with my gelding Monty it takes a LOT more than I have to keep him together for more than a couple of strides at a time. I can GET Monty together, but I can't KEEP him together.

If you're going to finger wiggle [some horses learn it's an aid for roundness] use leg FIRST and THEN hands. You establish the forward FIRST. False frame is headset and encourages a horse to move heavy on the forehand with a trailing hindquarter... not something you want to learn as a habit. And what you're doing by getting headset first is encouraging false frame.

Almond Joy 12-16-2012 12:54 PM

Okay thanks!!! And I think the horse may know the finger wiggling as an aid for roundness because all of the more advanced riders use it after getting them going forward. So basically get them going forward but then capture it in the bridle and seat? Thanks

blue eyed pony 12-16-2012 01:10 PM

Yep :) The key is to have energetic forward with impulsion, rhythm, engagement and straightness. With my gelding, I have to warm him up on a long, very light contact [can't loop the reins, he is an idiot haha] and adjust his rhythm with my seat a few times, establish the rhythm I want, then KEEP that rhythm and shorten and lengthen his stride a few times, both on circles/serpentines and down the long side of the arena. THEN bring him back to a halt, take up a shorter contact and get him off my hands... and finally we can settle in to work.

Quite often he gets stiff and bracey [he's kind of unfit and as I said very long in the back so it's hard for him] and to get him soft I have to demand more flexion and a few steps of a lateral movement, any lateral movement [our most common is leg yield, because I'm a dressage noob! hahahaha]. Sometimes that doesn't work, so I have to halt him again and get him off my hands.

...and all of THAT is for a headset. I'm not sure how I get the actual engagement, it only ever happens for a few strides at a time but omg he feels amazing when I get it right.

With an educated horse that has the musculature to be able to hold itself, yep, it is as simple as getting them forward and energetic, riding straight, and collecting that energy with your seat and hands. You should be riding predominantly off your seat and legs - the bit is there for decoration and extra refinement in the dressage horse, not for control or for getting the headset - but that takes a HUGE amount of core strength and a very well educated horse. My gelding simply refuses to engage unless I have my core engaged, lots of leg on, back supple, and energy high and excited. Oh and bum tucked under in a "driving seat". He's better when I'm sitting the trot, but that's hard to do on him!

Sitting the trot, by the way, is much easier when you're on a horse that's working correctly and swinging through the back! I discovered, riding the FEI horse, that I actually CAN sit the trot, and on Ben, it's the easiest thing in the world. On the FEI horse it was exhausting, because his movement was SO big, but nowhere near as challenging as it is on Monty. Monty's upright shoulder and pasterns make it hard to begin with and the fact that he's so difficult to get to engage does not help!

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