Plotting Horse

The riding school
May 11, 2009, 16:53
Filed under: Riding

Thursday I had a riding lesson. I have been going once a week for two years now. We are ten adults (all women) and every week our list of names rotates and a new person picks her horse first.

I got second pick and chose Juvel (Jewel in english)



She is from 2000 and measures approximately 15.5 hands (as far as I can figure in comparing her wither height to the height of my nose…) She is very sweet, but at the same time the sort of horse that isn’t obvious to read. All of a sudden she can turn to you in the stall and look absolutely scarily pissed off – ears back, nose flattened and pointed and all the veins popping out in her head! She does nothing and it’s in response to nothing in particular, but after a second she seems to just forget about it and give you a little loving nudge. (Weird, maybe a mare thing?)

I am not sure how long she has been at the riding school, but she is starting to get somewhat resistant to the bit. I wish that the management would retrain the horses when they get like this; I know it’s probably mostly behaviour chosen by the horse as a response to pain or irritation at bad rein handling, but for me as a beginner it is rather impossible to learn to put the horse on the bit (which I think I am now ready for) when the horse has taken the bit and holds it with an iron grip in an iron mouth on an iron neck! Also, it is very bad for the poor horse to be holding itself in such a stressful and painful position.

I must admit that I see it as a problem, this learning to ride thing. I am learning: I am going to make mistakes. These mistakes will damage the horse somehow. If only I could feel sure that my instruction was the most effective possible and that my learning curve had the smallest possible impact on the horse. I cannot! Oh, lunge line, come to me!

This is surely a failing of these types of riding schools – with their business plan and organization they cannot possibly do the best for rider or horse. By the way here it is if you’d like to check it out: Örestads Ryttaresällskap

While I am being critical of the riding school, I also would like to state that it would probably be impossible for me to learn somewhere better, due to financial constraints. And, I really do like the school, the owners and instructors care very much for the horses and they do the best they can in the circumstances.

That is all besides the point. I would like to learn how to put the horse on the bit (consistently) so that my aids will come through. I know that it is all about the hind end – riding the horse into the contact – getting ‘forward’. Jane Savoie has a great clip about the connecting half halt, which puts the horse on the bit. Also in written form. I am still unsure about how much weight to take in the reins though. When the horse is stiffly above the bit (which seems to be the most prominent form of bit resistance in older riding school horses) how do you get it to give in the correct way?

Here is a good ‘lesson’ from It talks about not messing around too much with the bit, in experimenting. I totally agree! It also talks about the use of lateral work and circles to get the horse bending around the inside leg and into the outside rein. Keeping a steady tempo. Imagining a box around your hands, so that the horse will be blocked from lifting his head when you do get him to accept the bit – while urging him forward with you leg when he tries to evade by going above the bit. A lot of good information!

I think I have some of the puzzle figured out. I did get Juvel to relax some; she was chewing the bit and getting a nice white mustache. She sort of swung her head around a bit – not tossing – when I did momentarily convince her that she would want contact with the bit. She was trying, I think, to get me to maintain the connection, but I didn’t really know what to do.

I guess next week I will work on:

  1. Getting forward – driving the hindlegs under
  2. keeping a steady contact until the horse starts to flex the poll
  3. Keeping my hands in the box when I get the connection.

However, next week we are jumping! Yay! And then all the dressage aspirations go out the window…


2 Comments so far
Leave a comment

so….what exactly is a “bit”? And good luck with the horse jumping…though everytime such a thing is mentioned i think of Gone with the Wind… be careful!

Comment by Bobby

Oh, you’re so cute Bobby! A ‘bit’ is the bit (pun intended) that goes in the horses mouth, it can be made of metal or rubber, usually metal. The most common all-round bit (though maybe not for western) is called a ‘snaffle’ bit. The bit is attached on both sides to the bridle which basically goes up over the ears. Each side of the bit is also attached to a rein. This is how you steer the horse, more or less. The bit sits on top of the tongue and on the ‘bars’ which are spaces between the teeth on either side of the lower jaw. You want the horse to accept the bit and chew on it happily and give the bit when it is asked to by the reins. Lesson end. Ever heard of Wikipedia?

Comment by deakristensen

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