There is more to a horse than his head
On the bit, behind the bit and above the bit, are terms used in many English style disciplines. They are used to describe how a horse is carrying his head and holding the bit in response to riders aids and contact.
A horse that is on the bit will seek contact, he will want to connect and communicate with the rider’s hands through the bit and reins.
A horse that is behind the bit or above the bit will draw his head toward his chest or throw his head in the air to avoid connecting with the rider's hands.
Some horses try to avoid the bit by ducking down behind the vertical, or throwing their head in the air, even shaking their head up and down. Nigel and Lara re-train a lot of horses and riders that have been taught to band-aid these problems by playing with the reins, or pulling the horse's head in. As our readers readers know… there is more to a horse than his head.
What is my goal?
To train a horse to want to drive and lift onto the bit there are four parts of the horse that need to work together.
The hindquarter needs to be engaged (his hind feet driving forward)
His ribcage and back need to lift with energy to hold the rider as well as create space for the hind legs to come forward.
The shoulders need to be light in front
Our horses need to seek, find and keep even contact on the bit.
When all four parts of our horse are doing their job, our entire horse is working correctly. When he is strong enough and understands how to drive through and lift with a rider on his back, we call this self-carriage.
We will look at contact, how to train your horse to want to communicate and listen to your rein aids. Regardless of what kind of bit or (bitless) tack you use, Nigel and Lara refer to contact just as the word describes. A line of touch or connection between the rider's hand and the horses bit.
Nice, soft contact is when you can pick up your reins and form a straight line from your elbow to the horses neutral bit. The line begins at the point of your elbow and runs through your hand, down the rein to the neutral bit at the other end.