DRESSAGE EXPERTS? I need clarification!
I need clarification for what I think a few things mean. I've been getting mixed messages from people.
Here is how I think you get a horse "on the bit" ... First you must create impulsion and engage the hindquarters, getting the horse to move through her back end. Correct?
A horse with a pretty head set does not mean the horse is actually on the bit.
So is it ok to work with a long, low headset first, before getting the proper headset like this?
This forces you to stop relying on your reins and to have a nice quiet seat that will not hinder your horse. Right?
Then ... once your horse has gotten proper muscle in the hind end and can work with the right impulsion, then you work at the head set. To something like this:
But never with the head too far tucked in so that its behind the bit, because it puts too much strain on their back and they become heavy ont he forehand. As in this picture:
This is what I understand about being on the bit. Am I on the right track here?
Thanks so much guys!
You are correct, there's a whole lot more to "on the bit" then a pretty headset. It's more of a way of going that allows your horse to move using his body freely and and in a way that is balanced. The results are balance, impulsion, engaging his hind end, slight lifting of his back, being soft and submissive to the bit, etc. You are also correct, to start off a green horse, you would first begin by a more long and low headset (it takes a bit to get that higher neck that you see in upper level horses, although, conformation also plays a factor). However, the first picture you showed is NOT what you want! The horse's poll should not be below the withers and more importantly there is NO contact on his mouth! (no submission or acceptance to the bit, that's major). That horse is basically plodding along hanging his head. To progress in dressage your horse needs to learn to shift his weight from his front end to his hind end. That's not what's going on that picture. While you don't want rely on your hands for balance, you must always have contact with their mouth (so there would be a straight light from the bit, through the rein, through your forearm) The lady in the 2nd pic is not balancing on her rein, but she does have a very direct communication. And you are correct, you don't want to be behind the vertical either. There are several causes and reasons. It can make them heavy on the forehand but (purely my opinion, anyone can disagree) I think that can happen more because someone with heavy hands will cause a horse to be behind the vertical AND heavy on its forehand, not necessarily one a result of another. It can also mean that your horse is avoiding the bit. But ultimately, a horse behind the vertical will not be as balanced or soft as a horse that is properly on the bit.
I don't necessarily see training to go on the bit as an A + B + C = D (on the bit) formula of broken up pieces to get to the finish because it all goes together. I see it as more a "a little on the bit", "a little more on the bit", "even more on the bit", etc etc. These are my thoughts on the matter and my personal training principles. Anyone can feel free to disagree as I am NOT claiming to be a dressage expert! I generally avoid this topic because it's hard to explain and more of a feel then a formula or checklist. But insomnia wins tonight!
Upnover - You are 100% correct. And you explaned it very well too. I can know all these things, but am never able to post them so that they make sense to others :P
For the OP, in the first picture you posted, the rider is simply allowing the horse to stretch down and rest his neck, which is something that is very helpful to let a horse relax between periods of working on the bit. In Australian dressage tests, they actually ask for this as its own seprete movement, where the aim is for the horse to stretch as long and low as he can, and the rider should release contact. Its always done at a walk, usually across the diagonal.
Round of Applause - North Star Training Center
Visit this site, and scroll down to the image of Dawn Weniger on Don Derrick. This is a lovely example of a young dressage horse deminstrating the long and low stage of being on the bit. Compare it to the first image on the page, a horse who is well muscled and knows how to work from behind, and can therefore achieve that higher level of impulsion to allow for this headset.
Thanks for your input guys.
I still think though, that you don't need to have a lot of pressure with your reins to get a horse on the bit. Its more about your seat and leg, with SOFT HANDS.
I can have a long, low headset with my horse, with little rein contact and still be working through her back end with my legs and seat. I understand what you mean, upnover, about that first picture, how he's just plodding along. It seems like she's just sitting there. Perhaps the head should not be as low as that ... :???:
You are right, you shouldn't need a lot of pressure on the reins to get a well trained and sensitive horse on the bit... but soft hands and riding with no contact are NOT the same thing. Softness comes from having hands so independent from your body that they are capable of being very still and following your horse's mouth while keeping that very slight hold on it. A person with good hands can keep a direction communication on their horse's mouth the entire time, without ever pulling. Personally, I think this is one of the hardest things for a person to learn to do well. When you have that direct communication all it takes is a slight closing of a finger or slight vibration of a rein to ask a horse to do something. If you look at any upper level picture of a dressage rider, they always have contact with their horse's mouth (unless like Miss Katie said they're allowing their horse to stretch!).
That first picture is not a dressage rider, it's someone probably riding in I believe Hunter under Saddle (which is not the same as hunter/jumpers) or possibly English Pleasure. I don't really understand the HUS thing, but they do go around with a very slack rein and no rein contact, very low hands, and a low head. I've always thought it look liked western pleasure with english tack. -Unless the rider is allowing the horse to stretch down like Miss Katie said. But if you watch any HUS or English Pleasure rider go around, they usually all look very similar to this! So that's my guess!
just to add, I believe in dressage tests it is required to keep contact with your horse's mouth, otherwise you get counted off for it.
Whoops your right, they do ask you to maintain contact.
Thoughts ... anyone else?
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