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Wanting advice on difficult training issue "on the bit"

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  • Wanting advice on difficult training issue "on the bit"

    It is interesting to me that i find very few professional videos or articles addressing training how to train your horse who is difficult with being on the bit. I know i hear and read over and over again that suppleness is the problem and improper riding back to front is the cause. However, what happens when one has been in professional dressage training for a year and a half and the horse will still not demonstrate steadiness or softness on the bit for 1 trot circle? EVERY article or forum response to others asking this question is always: you must supple your horse. however, my horse has been ridden by a professional trainer, i have been in training with this horse for 2 years and 18 months of that time performing correct supple exercises and conditioning. FULL program. He can collect and remain soft "on the bit" in walk and canter but can not or will not in the trot. Obviously, i get very poor final scores on my beginner novice tests. I finally put him in double reins in a rubber pelham--and that did the trick. as we all know, i cant show him in that bit. PLEASE HELP!!

  • #2
    You can't just ask this question and expect proper responses. It depends on what is going on with the horse. Is it the rider being too stiff, too strong, unbalanced? Does the horse have a physical issue that causes problems for him at the trot?

    Putting on heavy handed bits and reins isn't "getting the horse on the bit and supple", it's getting the horse to give in/give up which isn't training, it's force.

    Do you keep your hands quiet and use a lifting rein? Or do you have low hands and stiff arms that hit him on the bars of his mouth? Have you taught him standing flexions? Did you allow the horse to use his neck to balance himself when he was young so that he developed proper strength and suppleness? If you bring in the horse's head too quickly, by force then the horse will develop stiffness and lack proper acceptance of the bit and supplenss.

    Bit acceptance is about the rider first. If the horse is stiff, I suggest there is something horribly wrong in the rider training this horse. Are your arms hanging from the shoulders, elbows weighted, moving with the horse in a supple manner. Do you know the difference between a backward acting hand and maintaining proper contact?

    There is a huge list of things that could be going wrong. No one on this board can answer your question. If you don't believe it then you obviously haven't spent enough time learning dressage. Get some books and read! Maybe find another trainer as yours doesn't seem to be answering this question (unless she's told you and you refuse to listen).


    • #3
      the bit?

      The bit you were using may have been uncomfortable; have you tried some of the newer ergonomically, shaped bits?
      breeder of Mercury!

      remember to enjoy the moment, and take a moment to enjoy and give God the glory for these wonderful horses in our lives.BECAUSE: LIFE is What Happens While Making Other Plans


      • #4
        chaque pas est fait ensemble


        • Original Poster

          Thank you for your response. Yes- i know the answer just isnt one answer. I appreciate your straightforwardness. I worked very hard to improve my stiff arms and I can ride a lot of other horses and achieve softness and lightness in my trot circle work. I became so frustrated with my horses lack of progress and put 100% of the blame on me. So, I got a professional rider involved. he improved a little, but not enough to even think about riding a dressage test yet. Maybe my horse is not a good match for me and my goal to ride beginner novice dressage. I have ridden in this bit only a few times now. He seems to understand when i close my fingers and ask him to step into the bridle - he actually does it.
          I had my vet and an equine dentist evaluate him for physical issues. All were clear. He has extensive groundwork and lunge work to improve his topline and middle back muscles. I even had to buy a new dressage saddle to improve the saddle fit. All of the things have been done with professional help the entire way. My frustration is also in reading dressage training books and or videos NEVER demonstrate a horse NOT accepting the bit with "proper riding" "training". These horses in the material -of course- progress with proper flexion when asked. I never see a horse that continues to lock his jaw and neck and refuse to soften when asked 100 "proper"different ways.


          • #6
            Originally posted by giventofly View Post
            My frustration is also in reading dressage training books and or videos NEVER demonstrate a horse NOT accepting the bit with "proper riding" "training". These horses in the material -of course- progress with proper flexion when asked. I never see a horse that continues to lock his jaw and neck and refuse to soften when asked 100 "proper"different ways.
            go watch the video titled "overcoming stiff evasions" in the learning tools section of my website.
            it took my horse 7 years to figure out going to the bridle wasn't going to kill him. It's a video of me riding him in a clinic with Paul Belasik, and my horse deciding to be a stiff giraffe turd.
            chaque pas est fait ensemble


            • #7
              Understand your frustration. You say the horse only tenses at trot. So it's a matter of figuring out what is going on there. The vet and saddle have been covered.

              What kind of bit is he ridden in regularly? The professional should have addressed this if that's an issue.

              I have to question if the horse is being ridden properly. The reason one doesn't see vids on this is because it is usually corrected by proper riding and strengthening, but can take a long time depending on the horse. Stiffness in the mouth is a sign of weakness behind. My current young guy has a stiff side and he can tense, he also is in and out of growth spurts which can cause stiffness on and off. Have had him over 2 years and I still work for the softness. Evenness is a long term goal of dressage. Getting the horse relaxed and soft, even in both reins can take a full ride, an hour. It comes sooner depending on the day but takes diligence and no short cuts. Big thing, after my own position and contact, is pushing him to step under more on circles (changing direction often, big mistake people make is over working what they think is the weak side, even work allows the horse to use himself best while strengthening the weak side).

              Is the horse tense in trot with the professional riding or just you?


              • #8
                If the horse can't go basically pleasantly and correctly in three gaits after a year of pro training, I think you need a new pro. (And I just want to emphasize I am putting the blame on the pro here, not on you.)

                I normally expect a pleasant way of going in each gait after one ride, not one year. And I used to ride 5 or 6 grade horses that came out of the hillbilly auctions for resale into pleasure horse homes every weekend. If they can all do it...
                Last edited by meupatdoes; May. 23, 2011, 02:47 AM.
                The Noodlehttp://tiny.cc/NGKmT&http://tiny.cc/gioSA
                Boy Wonderhttp://tiny.cc/G9290
                The Hana is nuts! NUTS!!http://tinyurl.com/SOCRAZY


                • #9
                  Is the trainer able to ride the horse properly on the bit at the trot?
                  Or both of you have problems?

                  How many days per week does the pro ride?
                  How many days per week do you ride?

                  You didn't mention taking lessons with said pro, are you? How often?
                  If so, what is your pro/trainer saying? about you and about the horse.

                  Is your horse only stiff on circles or also on straight lines?

                  What breed is this horse? Conformation speaking (uphill/downhill/long back/short neck?)
                  How old is it?
                  Is this a green bean or an old 'jack of all trade' now being re-schooled to dressage?

                  and what about you and your knowledge of dressage? Is this your first horse training in dressage?

                  You could be watching and reading all the books available on earth, that couldn't replace good real instruction. You need to find a trainer that you trust and listen that will explain you what is going on with your horse according to its breed/age/conformation/prior training and yourself with your riding goals/abilities/knowledge.

                  And remember that if you don't ride correctly, no matter how well trained a horse is, it is not going to work much until you fix yourself!

                  Good luck.


                  • #10
                    What bit are you using right now? And what thickness is it? Also, can you get a pic of your horse's neck and throatlatch area? If a horse has a very thick throatlatch area by nature it may be physically very hard for him to round onto the bit.


                    • #11
                      I was with a trainer for over a year. In that time my horse went form soft, supple and round to stiff, bracey and hollow. The trainer finally put her in a double because nothing else worked. I didn't see the downward progression until an outsider pointed it out to me. I was super bummed, felt I had forever ruined my horse, beat myslef up for allowing that 'trainer' to do that to us, etc. It took 2 lessons with a new trainer to totally change my horse into what she was before, happy, forward and round. (of course it took more than 2 lessons to get it consistantly). That being said, can you try someone else? If after a year, you're not getting there, it sounds like a trainer issue.
                      Do not toy with the dragon, for you are crunchy and good with ketchup!


                      • #12
                        just out of curiosity, where are you located geographically?

                        Also, I have a thought - I'm presuming that you are doing a posting trot, and probably the pro also. Personally, as an amateur, I find it hard to have a steady and "conversational" hand at the rising trot and as soon as I get my mare a little warmed up, I'm sitting. I wonder if a similar issue is going on w/ your horse.
                        We don't get less brave; we get a bigger sense of self-preservation........


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by meupatdoes View Post
                          If the horse can't go basically pleasantly and correctly in three gaits after a year of pro training, I think you need a new pro. (And I just want to emphasize I am putting the blame on the pro here, not on you.)
                          Have to agree w/ this statement and I say this with 15 yrs. of AA experience. Barring all physical aspects, which it sounds like you have looked into with a positive outcome. Not to put the blame solely on the professional, but there is something lost in translation, whatever she is telling you is not working for you. Move on and find a trainer with lots of experience. I have walked in your shoes and can tell you there is light at the end of the "consistently on the bit" tunnel. When you meet the right trainer, it will be like a bomb going off in your head. In my case, it was a trainer who had me going walk/trot/canter on the bit in one 45 minute lesson. It was a miracle . . . for me and this horse. And, yes, it was all about suppling the poll. Good luck.
                          "You gave your life to become the person you are right now. Was it worth it?" Richard Bach


                          • #14
                            I'm understand your frustration, OP, my horse has the same issue. I have had him for two years - but before that he was a kids horse that just putzed around over fences with his nose in the air. His saving grace is that he's a good guy and can take a joke over fences. I had just been hoping for an easier transition to dressage as well as toting me over fences.

                            I can get moments of one would consider "on the bit" but its never consistent. I think there are so many reasons why, that sometimes I wonder why I bother. I think for me, the avg rider w/ 3-4 days a week to ride, its just a losing battle to try to overcome years of riding "off the bit." I'm not great at expecting him to keep working correctly every step of every ride and his years of experience going in a pleasure horse manner however he pleases is what he defaults to every time. I know that since I can get him working correctly at times, its in there, but its never going to become a habit for him unless I ask for it all the time.

                            Oh well. One day I'll buy a horse that already has the habit of working correctly a little more ingrained.


                            • #15
                              My mare can be like this, and I had much better results than I'd had in a while this weekend just by lifting my hands about 3 inches -- which is what was needed to get a straight line from bit to elbow. I can't say why, but maybe try it???
                              You have to have experiences to gain experience.

                              1998 Morgan mare Mythic Feronia "More Valley Girl Than Girl Scout!"


                              • #16
                                Originally posted by giventofly View Post
                                .. and improper riding back to front is the cause.
                                Um, I hope you meaning improper riding being "front to back." Back to front riding is correct.
                                "And I'm thinking you weren't burdened with an overabundance of schooling." - Capt Reynolds "Firefly"


                                • Original Poster

                                  Thanks to everyone!!

                                  Yes- i meant back to front. I will check out your video destination equus. And yes, he too was a horse not started and worked consistently in dressage. He was ridden by lesson teens learning to jump I appreciate those of you sharing some of the same struggles in a similar time frame. His conformation is that of a friesian percheron cross with a thick jaw and small throat latch. It worries me -that is the issue. But trainers have said he isnt so closed there that he cant steady his jaw and nose in basic trot work. I am using a HS large loose ring Ultralite roller disk snaffle. I have tried all the legal dressage snaffles. I constantly address my position and corrections with my trainer. I have started with a new trainer and will have 2nd lesson this week. She will ride him as well. Thanks so much for all the feedback-it truly helps!


                                  • #18
                                    My first thoughts are -- something physically wrong with the horse that shows up mainly at the trot (unlikely but possible), and b) you need a new trainer.
                                    "Reite dein Pferd vorwärts und richte es gerade.” Gustav Steinbrecht


                                    • #19
                                      Originally posted by InsideLeg2OutsideRein View Post
                                      My first thoughts are -- something physically wrong with the horse that shows up mainly at the trot (unlikely but possible) ...
                                      Actually, this scenario is not all that unlikely.

                                      When I was in my massage training, I did some work under veterinarian instruction. One of the topics discussed was the limits of massage therapy and when to recommend that the owner consult a vet. Scenarios like the OP's were discussed at length.

                                      More lamenesses show up in the trot than anywhere else. Some mild or bilateral lamenesses (or stoic horses) appear as training problems. The vets' advice was to recommend a workup with a good lameness vet.

                                      Why is this important to the OP? Not long after starting professional practice, I had a very similar case. Nice walk, respectable canter, horrific trot ... it was assumed to be a training/"on-the-bit" issue by rider and trainer, but trainer recommended massage to see if it would help relax the horse's tight back. It helped some, but remembering the advice from the vets, I suggested that instead of scheduling a second massage the owner should call in a really good lameness vet.

                                      She did. The vet asked that the horse be massaged right before the appointment in the hopes that loosening the muscles might help reveal a subtle unevenness. Apparently, it did. A trip to the university hospital and some scans later and the horse was shown to have mild bilateral inflammation around the sesamoids. The vet said many horses wouldn't react at all to such a mild inflammation, but this guy apparently was just sensitive to the discomfort, and for whatever reason, he showed it when asked to connect with the bit at the trot. Shockwave, a brief rest period, some NSAIDs and gradual resumption of work yielded a brave new horse who was not only much improved in trot, but his walk was gliding and his canter bounding and connected.

                                      So OP, don't rule out discomfort you haven't discovered yet. Even with professional saddle fit, massage, chiro, whatever, people can miss things. If a training problem doesn't resolve with good training, there may well be one or more physical issues to be addressed. (And I am assuming that your trainer is as good as you believe, though I will suggest a second opinion from another competent trainer may be in order. There could be a different approach to your horse's training -- and/or yours! -- that will better help you overcome this obstacle. This isn't saying your current trainer is bad or wrong; sometimes a different approach can help with the really sticky spots.)

                                      Saddle fit is another potential issue. I have a little mare who is very sensitive to saddle fit (spinal curvature makes her a bit of a challenge). Even being the slightest bit "off" to her feel makes her fussy, sucked back, or even just an outright beeyotch. And it LOOKS like a training issue, but is in fact a comfort issue. So I have to spend more to have a really top-notch fitter check her saddle several times a year to keep it fine-tuned. Most horses would be fine with minor imperfectionsin fit; this mare is not.
                                      Equinox Equine Massage

                                      In the depth of winter, I finally learned that there was in me invincible summer.
                                      -Albert Camus


                                      • #20
                                        Originally posted by Petstorejunkie View Post
                                        ... my horse deciding to be a stiff giraffe turd.
                                        I haven't watched the video, but this sounds like what I call the "rodeo llama" behavior