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What does "on the bit" mean to you?

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  • What does "on the bit" mean to you?

    I audited an eventing clinic today and the instructor was working on stadium. She kept saying to the riders, "put him on the bit." It got me to wondering, what does "on the bit" mean to you? It seemed, from what I was observing (and I used to event myself) that "on the bit" just meant "put his head down in a certain spot" and I wondered what the real definition is.

    Does it mean through? Or is it its own definition? Does it just mean "head set" (although I hate that term)?

    When I work in my dressage lessons, there is definitely a different feeling when the horse's head is in a certain position (which likely would be called "on the bit" by some) and when the horse is TRULY on the aids, back lifted, carrying me.

    So what IS the definition of on the bit?
    "A horse's face always conveys clearly whether it is loved by its owner or simply used." - Anja Beran

  • #2
    I think it is a bastardization of "On the Aids".

    So, On the Bit meant On the Aids, but now it has taken a downword spiral to head set.

    Comment


    • #3
      Originally posted by Pocket Pony View Post
      I audited an eventing clinic today and the instructor was working on stadium. She kept saying to the riders, "put him on the bit." It got me to wondering, what does "on the bit" mean to you? It seemed, from what I was observing (and I used to event myself) that "on the bit" just meant "put his head down in a certain spot" and I wondered what the real definition is.

      Does it mean through? Or is it its own definition? Does it just mean "head set" (although I hate that term)?

      When I work in my dressage lessons, there is definitely a different feeling when the horse's head is in a certain position (which likely would be called "on the bit" by some) and when the horse is TRULY on the aids, back lifted, carrying me.

      So what IS the definition of on the bit?
      Actually this is defined in the USEF rulebook....DR101

      DR101 OBJECT AND GENERAL PRINCIPLES OF DRESSAGE

      6. In all the work, even at the halt, the horse must be “on the bit.” A horse is said to be “on the bit” when the neck is more or less raised and arched according to the stage of training and the extension or collection of the gait], accepting the bridle with a light and consistent soft submissive contact. The head should remain in a steady position, as a rule slightly in front of the vertical, with a supple poll as the highest point of the neck, and no resistance should be offered to the rider.
      Do not confuse motion and progress. A rocking horse keeps moving but does not make any progress.
      Alfred A. Montapert

      Comment


      • #4
        Through. Completing the circle of energy. Plugged into the rider and ready to respond.
        Groom to trainer: "Where's the glamour? You promised me glamour!"

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by CFFarm View Post
          Through. Completing the circle of energy. Plugged into the rider and ready to respond.
          This is my interpretation, also. It actually doesn't require a bit - (before everyone gets their panties in a wad, I will emphatically state that I am NOT on the spirithorse bandwagon!!). I had a mare some years back that I could get completely "through" with no bridle or saddle - often schooled her bareback and with just a halter and lead rope tied around as reins. I rode in those days with an instructor who had been classically trained, and he loved seeing me and that little mare "show up" the other students on their bigger, fancier horses. While they were struggling to get their horses "through" and on the bit, the mare and I were going around nice and round in a halter, with her stepping energetically through the topline and reaching softly and elastically into my hand. I could totally feel the impulsion and energy from her engine going through her entire body to her face and being channeled back into my hand.

          Comment


          • #6
            DY, my TB is the same way. We school 2nd and jump the novice CC course in a home made bitless that's sort of like a side pull.

            My visual for on the bit is when the space under the stirrup bars feels filled, the hind legs swing forward enough to feel those big lumbar muscles lifting the saddle, and they hang their heads from the atlas like a pair of nice pants over a hanger.
            Last edited by Petstorejunkie; Oct. 14, 2012, 12:12 PM.
            www.destinationconsensusequus.com
            chaque pas est fait ensemble

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            • #7
              To me it's a through feeling. Over the back and pushing with impulsion from behind that puts the energy from back to the front where they push into the bit and find their "headset".
              Horses aren't our whole life, but makes our life whole

              Comment


              • #8
                one the bit is a mis translation of "on the aids"

                Comment


                • #9
                  Gosh, it's a good feeling when you get it! My young horse is still a 2x4.
                  Proud member of People Who Hate to Kill Wildlife clique

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Several years ago I was riding my green OTTB and my total newbie husband was watching. We were doing Jane Savoie's flexion exercises... Suddenly horse was "on the bit." My husband exclaimed, "He just gave you so much more of his back to sit on!" I've always been surprised that he was able to see that as an "uneducated" observer.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      when horse sucks you into the saddle and he has a lovely reach (draping) of the neck to the bit, there will be a bit of a "lean." But you will be so sucked into that saddle as the withers rise to meet your butt and crotch and the feeling, especially in the young horse, is an adrenaline rush like no other, especially when horse gives it to you for the first time!!!!! I live for those moments. ;-) It takes correct musculature to achieve it. And that, in the youngsters, seems to take a ton of time; it varies from horse to horse....but the principle is the same. There will be no more feeling like you are slapping concrete with your butt cheeks. ;-) And the sitting working trot is unbelievable and you feel if you relaxed your hand a teeny tiny bit he would give you this fabulous lengthening..he is in front of the leg and he feels so powerful...just an amazing feeling. ;-) The baby may only have it for a few strides (thing 2-3 strides) and when he offers....it puts you on a high for days on end because you know it's there. ;-)
                      Bethe Mounce
                      Head Trainer, AmeriCan Romance Equestrian
                      https://www.facebook.com/AmericanRomanceEquestrian
                      Brentwood CA

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        I think the definitions given above are good.

                        However, if I hear someone use the phrase, I typically think it means nothing or "headset" if anything. It's not a phrase I hear someone who truly has their horse going in a way it could be applied, typically.
                        If Kim Kardashian wants to set up a gofundme to purchase the Wu Tang album from Martin Shkreli, guess what people you DON'T HAVE TO DONATE.
                        -meupatdoes

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                        • #13
                          I agree with everyone's definitions. I get so irritated with the constant disagreement over terms though. I had someone tell me my 4 year old was "on the contact" when I explained the first time she came "on the bit". To me my 4 year old has been consistently working in what I call "accepting contact". That means she is steady in my hand when I take a light feel of her mouth. She has rhythm and relaxation. After 4 months of that and her playing around with taking more or less contact she came "on the bit". Just like that. She pushed from behind, lifted her back, stretched her neck into a telescoping movement from the withers and took a lovely stretching solid contact. Her back swelled under me, her movement was suddenly so powerful, her head came just in front of the verticle, her mouth and jaw were soft, her tail was relaxed and swinging and her poll was at the highest point. In my eyes you dont get more "on the bit" then that! As stated above the adrenal rush was insane! She went from feeling like a Pontiac to a Ferrari in less than 3 seconds! And she did it correctly...from behind. So to me personally a headset is just that. On the bit is the whole body connection and it does result in a standard head position but that is not the point. The head position is a product of the process and not the process itself.

                          And now I spend my days patiently waiting for get to do it again! :-D
                          Please excuse the typos...I'm always on my iPhone and autocorrect is not my friend. Yes I mean mares autocorrect...not mates.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Most horse's really like how it feels ... as long as it isn't overdone. They need to develop the strength to carry themselves longer.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              The USDF judging terms glossary defines on the bit:

                              Acceptance of contact (without resistance or evasion) with a stretched topline and with lateral and longitudinal flexion as required. The horse’s face line is, as a rule,
                              slightly in front of the vertical.

                              Comment


                              • #16
                                " "on the bit"

                                I agree, "Head setting and framing are terms I abhor!; to me, it feels like the horses' back has come up they seek to keep their bodies between the leg and the hand It as is if the slightest thought has become a command , requiring minimal aids
                                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

                                Comment


                                • #17
                                  same old, same old,

                                  There is a well known instructor in No. VA. who, taught all her students to get he head down, and by Gawd , it stayed here ; They came to me when their dressage was "good," but, now, their horses would not jump, no joke; how could they with their heads locked down?
                                  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

                                  Comment


                                  • #18
                                    HUH?

                                    It is a difficult term to understand/ comprehend and I believe our answers differ over time; I recall a clinic where the instructor said, my horse's head needed to come higher and the neck longer huh? we had won big classes going the way we were
                                    Last edited by Carol Ames; Oct. 15, 2012, 10:02 PM. Reason: typos
                                    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

                                    Comment

                                    • Original Poster

                                      #19
                                      Well I'm glad I'm not alone. I think of it as the horse's back coming up, the horse stepping up from behind, moving into the outside rein, and into the hand. Just putting the head down isn't enough!
                                      "A horse's face always conveys clearly whether it is loved by its owner or simply used." - Anja Beran

                                      Comment


                                      • #20
                                        Well I had that adrenaline feeling tonight in my lesson! Right lead canter, I added a bit of inside leg, asked for more bend, and suddenly his back lifted and he filled up the outside aids, and it was just WOW... for four strides. Small victories, right??

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