On The Bit?

I remember taking a dressage lesson on my quarter horse years ago. She had some issues that were difficult to work with, and her conformation doesn’t lend itself to using her back easily. I was nervous to be riding in front of other trainers, and my mare was fussy. The well known instructor constantly said to me, “she needs to get on the bit. She’s not on the bit. She’s got her head in the air and she needs to get her head down.”

Tell me something I don’t know! The thing is, if a horse has tightness, crookedness and other issues that cause them to go around inverted, just “putting them on the bit” is not only unhelpful, it isn’t possible. This type of thinking leads to frustrated riders getting into pulling matches with their horses mouths, and if you do succeed at getting their head down, you do so at the detriment of their body. If they have physical tightness or weakness, they will not use their backs correctly until you address those issues first.

Before you can collect, you have to be able to loosen, then strengthen. Having a nice round frame is a great goal, but stop worrying about where your horses’ head is when you are doing the important work I think of as physical therapy.

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