On the bit?...How?
I'm having trouble understanding how to get a horse "on the bit." I have heard you are supposed to drive the horse with your legs into you hands, but quite frankly I don't see how that's physically possible. The horse doesn't exactly change length with the addition of leg unless they shove their nose forward with the faster gait (which I'm pretty sure isn't what's supposed to happen). Could someone try to explain what I should be feeling? I'm lost...:?
It's not that simple. There's building blocks to getting a horse on the bit.
You also need to understand what it means.
Here's an article that will explain it much better than I can. As you can see, there's quite a bit of work a horse and rider have to get down before asking for more (being on the bit counts as one of those "more" things).
The article breaks it down into three aids but your horse has to be able to understand all those aids correctly before they're applied like this.
I'm going to guess you're not working with a trainer. (Nothing wrong with that. I'm without one too and so are many of us) If you're trying to ride and train dressage then its important that your Sally read and educate yourself on terminology and theory.
3 Aids To Teach Your Horse To Go On the Bit & Round | Regarding Horses
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DA indicated a good article but as a general explanation of the process; "driving the horse into the bit" doesn't mean making the horse go faster. The idea is to use your leg to get the hind legs working underneath the horse and then containing the forward motion with your hands...you maintain the same speed and tempo but the horse works through their back and neck.
Picture this...put the horse on a long rein and ask him to stretch down (just the motion at this point as the proper "frame" won't be there but it will help the picture). Now, shorten the reins while maintaining the speed and tempo you already have. My trainer put it this way..having the horse on the bit in the proper frame is just restricting the amount of stretch when the horse is on a loose rein and has the neck stretched out and down.
One thing that is important is that you need impulsion (the power from behind where the hinds are working under the horse) in order to get the power for the horse to move up into the bridle for you to contain with your hands. Ride the horse back to front.
Here is something to look at. Getting a horse "on" the bit means quite a bit of conditioning so the horse can use its "ring of muscles."
What does 'on the bit' really mean?
not to contradict anything already said, OP, but you are forgetting that a horse can lengthen and shorten his body quite a bit by lifting his neck alone. Then, by tucking his pelvis under and reaching more under himself with his hind legs, he will feel even more "compacted".
Where the bit comes in is that if you do drive a hrose forward, without setting a limit with the bit, the horse WILL just go faster and become longer out the front.
mind you, this is a very simplified imagery. The bit can only "limit" the front in as much as it tells the horse to limit himself; to lift up his neck in front and keep that forward energy within him, and "recycle" it.
If a human being wants to bound, he will contract himself (vertically) in order to have a strong balance and contained energy that he can release with force. getting the hrose on the bit is the first step to learning how to begin containing that energy to make the horse ready to spring forward with power.
Good post Tiny.
Adding to that (and to complicate things further for you OP, see, it wasn't as simple as you thought ;) ), the restriction of faster movement when you apply leg should actually come from your seat, far more so than the bit. You'd seat is THE single most important aspect of putting a horse on the bit and beginning collection. It dictates the pace, tempo, rhythm and manages the half halts to fine tube the shape of the horses body and how he is using it.
Simply putting leg on and pulling on the reins will just give you a cranky horse.
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Best explanation for a horse being on the bit is very easy to explain, and lots of people try to force the horse into the position.
You have to prepare the horse to give itself into the bit.
Lots of people mistake being on the bit with collection. Although it is going hand in hand. And never totally separable.
I would suggest you get yourself deeper worked into the training pyramid of riding: With the Base : Rhythm, Relaxation, Connection, Straightness and finishing up with the peak being Collection.
While these words stand independently ,none works without the other.
On the bit is the first time felt when the first connection is happening, minute but it is there. You have to ride your horse into it.
When you have rhythm and your horse is relaxed, you can use your body - your hips riding towards your hands- in a forward motion with a soft connection to the bit, feeling the horse reaching under and lifting his back arching underneath you. At the beginning it is ever so slight. You cannot force it, as you see with so many horses, that are held back and kicked into the position.
It can be felt as a very light feeling a floating of the horse underneath and with you. You might just feel it for a few steps but when it happens you know.
Best might be to have an experienced person around, that can help you accomplish this state for a few steps so you can feel it, and then you try to work this on your own.
In theory I understand on the bit. In practice is what's the problem. I get what tinyliny said about the horse can change the length of its body by stretching or contracting it neck and tucking its hips, but when your horse seems to have nose and tail on two opposite ends of the world there's nowhere to go but shorter and that's why I'm having trouble understanding how to drive into your hands.
After riding the horse I'm working with today I think part of the problem is that I can't even rest my legs against her sides because she explodes. So if I try to get her on the bit there's a heck of a lot of hands and little to no leg. How do I make her sides less sensitive?
Without being there it is sure hard to tell why you can't achieve or try to achieve this. Sounds like you for sure are lacking the first two of the pyramid. Regardless of the level of training the horse has received, it needs to have the relaxation( which means a whole lot more than just being relaxed ....
You need to bring calmness into the horse. Seems like the horse will not give you the opportunity to even try to ride into the hands, because she may not be ready for it.
How does she work bending exercises, volte, circles slightly 'tilting' the head or yielding ? Is she equally nervous there
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Also you do not actively rain her in, you keep your connection to the bit the same , set case she knows how to find and hold the connection with you . And then you just sit in and ride with your hip , within the rhythm of the horse, towards your hands. Then without more tension on the bit and maybe a little pressure from the legs, if prepared correctly should come into the bit and collection .
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