Monday, November 15, 2010

On the bit

Not having much in the way of training in my life--well, except for on-the-job-stay-in-the-saddle-or-else training--this term hasn't meant much to me. Nor, for that matter, has collection. Particularly when I watch other people and their horses in what seems to be a parody of that term.

Lena is collected much of the time, it's just the way she is. One of the things Cheri said about Lena is she was always so confident, so sure of where her feet were at all times.

Bar is learning, and I can see the difference in his topline and in his overall strength, movement, and confidence every day. I can tell he feels it, too, knows his body is more in balance and therefore stronger.

But on-the-bit was an odd concept for me. We learned to ride Lena with a loose rein, only picking up her mouth when we wanted her to do something.

Bar had no idea what to do with a loose rein, and I'm afraid I didn't help early on by grabbing his face when I'd get nervous.

In a book I just finished, The Byerley Turk by Jeremy James, he talks about the style of riding I've seen encouraged--holding the horse back with your hands while pushing him forward with your legs. His description is from the perspective of a Turkish groom who has traveled miles with the first Thoroughbred and knows what kind of response this might lead to. It does. The rider who used that technique ended up in the dirt, and that kind of makes sense when you view it from the horse's perspective. "Make up your mind!"

The concept itself is important, but figuring out what it really meant eluded me and therefore was not easily translated to my dearest darling opinionated Thoroughbred.

This post by Glenshee Equestrian Centre, to which I was directed by Kate at A Year With Horses, makes more sense than anything else I've read, seen, heard, etc.

This last paragraph sums it up, but the whole post is definitely worth a read:
"Rather than the rider demanding the horse both yield to pressure while paradoxically accepting a strong contact, the rider offers a gentle contact and the horse, once he knows he can trust the consistency and fairness of the hand, will seek that gentle contact wherever the hand may lead, and allow the hand to shape his entire carriage and movement (the action of the rein through the body) with that same light feel. This, to me, is what it means to be “on the bit.”
I am looking forward to practicing with this methodology a little more, and I'm sure Bar is too. ("Finally she's making sense!") Lena already gets it for the most part, but it certainly won't hurt to play with it with her as well.

The thing I love about horses is there is always something new to learn. When there isn't, I'll just have to invent something lest we all get bored.


Grey Horse Matters said...

Your last line says a lot. There is always something new to learn, we never will know how to do it all. And this is why I believe the horses and ourselves will never get bored. The "on the bit" post was a clear and concise article of how things should be done and what on the bit means. Love your horses, they are all gorgeous.

jme said...

your horses look great! i agree with you - one of the things i love best about horses is learning every day - about them and from them! i'm glad you enjoyed the post and i hope it's helpful :-) good luck!