How to Get Your Horse to Work on the Bit

Once your horse is working on the bit, he/she will be a lot smoother and easier to ride so it is worth the effort. Your efforts perfect a feel for the bit, which is the only mechanical part to horsemanship. A feel for the bit combines with balance, staying centered, and direction. So the bit is not quite a steering wheel, rather horsemanship appreciates the creature that the rider sits.


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    Urge your horse into a nice steady rising trot. Rising trot helps "release" the horses back - you want a nice, swinging trot. Keep your position good and your legs on.
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    Before even worrying about whether or not your horse is on the bit, make sure you have a nice trot, remember your training scale and use it as your trot. Make sure the horse is in front of your leg, and that you are not trying to get him/her to keep moving constantly. The horse should have good rhythm; the trot should have a very clear two beat rhythm, if it is more like on, one-two, encourage your horse to push more forward.
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    Make sure you have steady contact, not a constant pull or slack reins, but rather like you just have a feel for your horse's mouth. You should feel like you have play dough in your hands. As you move up and down in your posting trot, although your horse's head should not be moving unless it is lame, you are moving, so you must compensate your movement to keep your hands in the same spot and moving with yourself and your horse. There should NEVER be backwards motion on the rein. You should try many transitions, such as a walk-trot-walk-trot-canter-walk, etc. As you do a downward transition, such as walk-halt, make sure that your halt is acquired by the deepening of your seat, tightening of your core, and squeezing of your knees. These transitions will allow you to get your horse's haunches underneath himself, stepping in or preferably in front of the footprint that he has just left with his front feet.
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    Once you have achieved getting your horse to use his hind end correctly, pushing himself off with his hind end instead of pulling himself with his front end, you are almost there! Putting a horse on the bit should always come from the energy from behind reaching over the top line and into your hands where you "catch it" and recycle it back to the haunches.
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    As the energy flows through over the top line, try going onto a 20 meter (65.6 ft) circle, bending the horse around your inside leg. Open your inside rein, pull in your tummy, sit up tall, keep the forward energy, and lift the inside ribcage into your outside rein. Do not "give away" your outside rein, keep a nice steady contact with it, but remember never to hold it.
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    As your horse bends around your inside leg, make sure that he is still stepping underneath himself with his hind legs, and after you push with your inside leg, catch him with your outside rein. Inside leg pushes, outside rein catches as he bends around the circle. Soon, without you even worrying about the placement of your horse’s neck, you will realize that he will reach into your hands, seeking the contact, accepting the bit. As he does this, soften with your inside rein and tell him good boy.
    • Of course, being on a circle is not the only way for your horse to be on the bit, but it is sort of like a cheat sheet when you are learning the process.
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    Make sure that the horse is coming into your hands from behind. A good way to test if he is really on the bit is too gradually and softly let him chew the reins out of your hands. Do not just drop the reins; just kind of let the horse stretch into them, lengthening his neck forwards and downwards. If the more you give the more the horse reaches for the contact, you have successfully gotten your horse soft and on the bit.
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    Understand that this is not something you can just learn in one day. It takes some time, and a lot of effort and flexibility of the horse to reach over the top line and into your hands, but do not become frustrated and fall into the quicker and 'easier' way to get a horse 'on the bit' by seesawing with your reins or pulling the horses head down and in. Being 'on the bit' must come from behind, not from the front. If you have the back end, the front end will follow.

Things You'll Need

  • The correct bit
  • A flat area to ride

Article Info

Categories: Horse Training