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As you go through your time in the Horse World, you will most likely hear people talking about a term called "ABOVE THE BIT" Without getting technical which is what a lot of people do, I will attempt to simply explain it.
It basically means that the horse is going around with it's head in a normal head carriage as seen when running around the paddock rather than as you see the good horses carrying themselves in competition or the photo's in the magazines. They would much rather carry themselves ala-natural and for that reason, we have to train them and make them carry themselves as we want, should we desire that type of look. If you are a pleasure rider it doesn't matter a hoot where your horse is looking or how it carries it's head so long as it is well under control and relaxed. In fact, if you are a Pleasure Rider, it should have it's Head unrestricted by Rein.
When a horse is carrying itself with it's for-head basically perpendicular to the ground and with the top of the neck arched, it could be "On the Bit" which it must be in English competition but in Western competition, the horse must have a head set as they call it but whilst not being "On the Bit" This is because of the judging rules of that type of competition.
Now most dressage riders or Instructors' love to get highly technical about this subject and they get most passionate indeed. Everyone has their own particular spin on it but all the Novice rider needs to know is that if the horse has it's head perpendicular to the ground and the rider has a constant feel of both sides of the horses mouth on an equal and light pressure, that will do. This is achieved by riding the horse from behind by using your legs and seat and generating power and capturing that power in your hands so that the horse is "On the Bit" The other thing that is going on underneath it all as you watch a good rider is that they have the whole body of the horse bent around their inside leg in the direction of travel and that the horse does listen well and also knows how to leg yield and to be balanced during circle work, not going around leaning like a motor bike. This provides balance and balance stops rushing. All of this helps to have horses "On the Bit"
What normally happens with Novice Riders and most Pony Clubbers' is that they mainly always ride their horses on the bit ok, but in a resistant fashion where they are hanging off the horses mouth to assist their own balance. The horses head is never at the perpendicular as explained but somewhere in between, heading to the look of the horse running around the paddock. Their horses are always resistant and never gets to be lightly on the bit, giving their face and in a little self carriage. A direct result of this kind of riding is the establishment of the "UPSIDE DOWN NECK"
Unfortunately, there are not a lot of Instructor's in the lower end of Accreditation, who can successfully teach how to achieve a horse being 'Round', so until you find one, stay off their mouth. That way, you will not have to undo a lot of bad habits later.
The best policy for the novice rider is to basically ride around on a complete pleasure rein, stay right away from your horses mouth other than during braking or change of direction and wait for the day that you get a good enough Instructor (use an accredited one) that can quickly teach you how to put your horse "On the Bit" Then, when you know how to do it, you may ride around whenever you like with your horse "Round" and "On the Bit" at the two gaits of trot and canter. I strongly advise you however, that whilst your horse is walking, unless you are practicing your show routine, stay away from your horses mouth and give a nice loopy rein. That way you will have a far more relaxed horse and it will be a good walker later on in competition.
It is because of our observations of such horses and riders that Mrs. HP has decided to produce a series of Dressage Lessons on DVD to deeply examine the precise subjects that are stopping all of these people from being more effective riders'. They will be here over time:
Due to our regular involvement in the work with Problem Horses, I can strongly assure you that 'above the Bit' with a contact, causes Rider induced Veterinary Problems in Horses.
Not only that, but it causes the incorrect learning to Ride of the Young for they do not learn and obtain and 'independent Seat'
So the Golden Rule is this: "If riding and 'English trained Horse' you either learn fast how to be "On the Bit', soft and 'round' or stay right away from the Mouth of the Horse for this is all a road to destruction.
Wear your Heart in your Hands
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