Putting your horse on the bit is a phrase that evokes confusion and mystery in equal measure. Many riders focus on the front of the horse and concentrate on the position of the horse’s head and while this is relevant, it can be like holding the club on the wrong side.
Working a horse on the bit encompasses many different aspects of the horse’s body that come together like a puzzle to form a complete picture: the result depends on the athletic ability of the horse, the knowledge and experience of the rider, to some extent the horse’s conformation. actual and, the particular level of training. Many riders think that a horse that is on the bit simply refers to head placement, but a horse that truly works on the bit should exhibit the following characteristics:
- A natural head carriage that is not forced or positioned and will vary by level of training: novice horses will have a lower head carriage and neck position than horses doing advanced work.
- A straight horse, meaning the absence of twists, so the shoulders sit in front of the quarters at all times.
- A horse that really travels forward, that is, that does not run.
- a smooth bendable neck with a curve in the direction of travel
- Longitudinal softness on the top line, the back of the horse, which allows the hind leg to pass and work with activity and commitment.
- Balance and carriage commensurate with the horse’s age and training level: A novice or young horse will naturally carry more weight in the front end than a more established horse or a horse working at higher levels.
11 Techniques to Help Put Your Horse on the Bit
- Don’t focus on where the horse lays its head, focus on the activity of the hind leg.
- The contour must not be imposed by the rider’s hand, but the horse must work from behind towards the hand; it is a common mistake to create an artificial head position by restraining or blocking with the hand.
- Use regular transitions and half stops to encourage hind leg activity.
- The horse must be balanced and in a proper carriage according to its level: many riders make the mistake of chasing the horse to activate the hindquarters and all this causes the horse to run towards the shoulder and makes the forehand heavy. that will disconnect the hindquarters
- Use the outside rein to control the straightness of the horse.
- Make sure the horse is straight by working on squares – if the hindquarters are not behind the shoulders, this inherent skew will always affect the horse’s ability to work on the bit because the horse will never really work forward from behind.
- Work off the track – Working on the track or next to the fence will cause the horse to twist unless you are riding everywhere with your shoulder forward or in.
- Include flexible horse work such as small circles and yielding the leg to encourage the horse to soften laterally. When the horse is soft laterally, you will be able to lift and soften the back, allowing the hind leg to come out.
- Don’t confuse speed or rhythm with activity, the horse should move forward but not run which will cause loss of balance and hind leg disengagement. Use constant half stops to control speed while encouraging the horse to use its hindquarters to produce controlled power
- Use mirrors and movies to help you analyze how you feel when you drive
- Don’t neglect your own position: errors in the rider’s technique or flaws in the rider’s position will actively impede a positive influence on the horse.
Riding a horse with the bit does not imply a dominant characteristic; a collection of different things have to come together to create the overall picture. Working a horse on the bit is an often misused term, applied to situations where the horse is working on a good contour or frame, but would not be said to actually be on the bit.
The level of riding knowledge and experience gained through training is essential to learning how to handle a horse correctly. One of the biggest difficulties for cyclists is that they often only have small knowledge, some taught, some newly acquired, and they are missing the whole system and the whole picture. Working through an established progression system with a trainer is crucial to understanding how to train a horse to work on the bit correctly and achieve long-term goals, with progression in both horse and rider training.
Tips for Cyclist Development
Developing a rider’s feel and understanding of riding other horses, some of whom may be more established at their level of work, can be really helpful in the progression of education and feel. Properly working a horse in the bit is a journey rather than a quick fix. Building and adhering to a coherent plan with a sympathetic trainer or instructor will help the rider understand the process that is required to train the horse correctly; it is about developing the education and skill of the rider and, at the same time, training the horse.
- Lunge lessons will help the rider focus on their own position and working without stirrups encourages seat depth, balance and feel.
- Establish a structured training program for the horse with defined objectives
- Study the art of horsemanship away from the saddle, there are many written and online resources.
Working a horse on the bit is the final sum that reflects the involvement of many different parties. It is easy for the cyclist to focus on one aspect of training or development to the exclusion of all others and this will never lead to success. An understanding of the whole picture is essential in the first place.