Is your horse over their back? Through, and on the bit?
Here are 3 things that you, as a rider, can do, to ensure that your horse is properly, truly, honestly "on the bit".
1. When you give in the reins, your horse should relax and stretch their neck forward and down.
This is extremely important and illustrative! If you give in the reins, and your horse lifts his/her head up and hollows his back, he is absolutely, positively, not properly "on the bit", "through", or "over his back". This is an easy test to prove. As you are riding, give forward with your hands, to loosen the reins. How your horse reacts, will tell you volumes. If she follows the rein forward and down, she is correctly "on the bit". If she lifts her head and hollows her back, she is incorrect, and not actually "through".
2. Is your horse soft in the reins.
If your horse is properly "through", they will not be leaning, hanging or heavy in the hand. They will feel light and elastic in the hand/reins, and you should be able to feel the horse's hind end connecting into your hand. Your horse should push under their belly with their haunches and back legs, the energy will go up into their back, and you will feel/connect/capture the energy into the bridle/hand. You will feel the horse's entire topline connect from your leg though your rein. Important! Always remember that you must put a horse, "on the bit", from back to front, from the hind end to the head and neck! NEVER from front to back. Engagement must be achieved from the hind end! This is hard to explain in words, but amazing to feel and experience in action and practice. Caution: Sometimes, your horse can avoid the bit contact by going into a fake head set, and will feel very light in the hand. Be sure to achieve lightness by engaging the hind end, and then check the lightness by giving in the rein to see if your horse follows the lightness downward and forward.
3. When you flex your horse laterally, to the side, with one of your reins, your horse should "follow" the rein.
It should feel like your rein is an elastic rubber band, and like you are "stretching taffy". As you stretch your horse's head and neck to the side, your horse should "follow" the rein with a soft and supple contact. Caution: for this to be done correctly, you must maintain an outside rein connection! If you don't, your horse will not be able to maintain "thoroughness", and will simply be pulled off balance.
I hope this article was helpful to your understanding of what the term, "on the bit" means.
Feel free to contact me, if you need more elaboration.
All the best to you, and please give your horse and extra hug and a kiss from me!
Clarity Performance Horse Training Center @ Strong Stables: