A topic every rider at some point in their riding journey obsesses over, and rightfully so, because we are told that’s the way our horses should be going and, well, it just looks like we know what we are doing!
Right off the bat, on the bit is not something we achieve with our hands. Many riders make the mistake of using too much hand to get the horse’s head down - false! While this might work to get the horse’s head down, it will only look pretty to the uneducated eye. The goal is not to make our horses look pretty, but to make them work correctly, which will therefore result in them being on the bit naturally!
Let’s just remember the German Training Scale for a moment. First step is “Rhythm”, so that means instead of focusing on the front part of the horse, we should focus on the back of the horse, which is pretty much the “engine”! First things first: we need to encourage our horse to go forward! The second step of the Training Scale is “Relaxation”. After you have a horse that is going forward in a nice rhythm, start working on relaxation: do some half halts, ride some serpentines and circles while asking for some flexion. You will soon see that your horse is relaxing and wanting to reach down - that will be your “aha!” moment!
Most important thing is to have fun with it. If it doesn’t work in trot or canter, go one step back and work on it in walk! The walk is such an underrated gait, because it’s the perfect place for you and your horse to understand and prepare for the next step! Next time, we will talk about how to get your horse in a working frame, but until then keep working on these very important steps!