What “on the Bit” Really Means

Tuesday’s Tip!

“On the bit”

This will be a quick intro to an interesting and misunderstood concept – I may make a part 2 and 3 depending on what people think of this short intro!

So, “on the bit” as an idea is misunderstood by a lot of riders. First off, they see-saw or get heavy-handed to get the horse to drop its head into an “outline”. Whilst this does make the horse drop its head, it doesn’t really make them “on the bit”. I prefer to use the term “round” as I feel it explains what needs to happen for “on the bit” to occur.

If you get your horse powering from behind, engaging their hindquarters and using their back correctly, they will most likely begin to drop their head and neck into a rough “on the bit” shape – this is because that position of roundness (hind end pushing, back raising, neck and head lowering slightly) helps them maintain the power. The rider has to get the horse working properly from behind before they can think about getting the front end in an “outline” and “on the bit”.

Often when I see people riding, they are concentrating hard on hose-head position and forgetting the rest of the animal. They are also causing the horse’s head and neck to be in an incorrect position – the neck breaks at the 3rd or 4th vertebrae, and the poll is no longer the highest point. The head is also most often behind the vertical. Whilst this seems a popular shape currently, it is incorrect – any horse working behind the vertical is not working correctly, and the neck vertebrae are being compressed, which reduces flexion and suppleness. A horse working round and moving from behind will have its poll as the highest point, its head on or slightly in front of the vertical and the neck vertebrae will be aligned and straight – flexible and supple.

That’s it for this week – if you want more information on this topic, let me know in the comments and I will make a part 2 next week and maybe a part 3 the week after!

Feel free to like, share, and comment, so I know what little problems you all have, so that I can feature them in a future Tuesday Tip!

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