How I start a horse in a bit

Hi there again. Before I go on to today's blog, I wanted to thank everyone who wrote in with suggestions for Cat, I really appreciate all the kind thoughts and advice. Thank you too for all the poems, it was really lovely reading them and discovering new treasures. OK, on to today's blog post. Many people ask me what is the best way to use a bit in training a horse and so I thought I would write and tell you the approach I use.

Before you even start to introduce a bit, first make sure your horse is bonded to you at liberty through the seven strings of heartfelt connection using the Waterhole Rituals. Make sure your horse is the kind of horse that loves learning and following your lead and being ridden. I do not use a bit until I have trained my horse to perform three speeds of walk, trot and canter from the ground and also whilst riding, along with having a good stop and go button on him.

I also want to be able to lead my horse from behind and Companion Walk him in walk and trot on a course with turns and straight lines. The reason you need all this ability on your horse is so that when you introduce the bit, it is not used for control but rather as a way to be clearer in your signals.

Make sure your horse is a safe riding horse in an enclosed arena without a bit first before introducing the bit. When you introduce the bit, adjust it so that it is slightly lower in the mouth. Usually I put the bit one hole lower in the horse’s mouth than the bit would be if it fitted to the corners of the horse’s mouth. Now work the horse with a halter as normal, the only difference is that the horse is carrying a bit. Let the horse carry the bit for a week or more. At first your horse will fiddle with the bit for a while and then after a time he will begin to suck the bit up and hold the bit where it is comfortable for him. After a week, when you find out where that is you then can adjust the bridle to where the horse naturally wants to carry the bit.

Let your horse wear the bit through all of your activities, ground work and riding but do not use it in the beginning. Teach your horse from the ground walking next to him how to respond to the bit in halts and turns like he does with the halter or side pull. Alternate between using the bit and the halter when you ride. If you feel any loss of connection then use the halter to re-establish control and when under control you can go back to using the bit. Most people would automatically think to use the bit to gain control. Do not do this in the beginning stages. This is very important. It takes away abuse of the bit and helps to create better horsemanship skills as well as creating a horse that is happy and light to the aids.

When selecting a bit choose a bit that fits your horse’s mouth. I prefer to use a snaffle because my horses seem to like it. Do not choose a harsher bit to gain more control because you think your horse lacks sensitivity. All horses can be trained to be light. You can gain more control by training a horse to be more responsible and responsive to his work. Think that the reason you have a horse is to have the pleasure of training them once you have developed basic horsemanship skills. Enjoy building better horsemanship skills on a daily basis as being the reason you ride and train. Use the journey everyday to bring more integrity to your leadership. Bringing more well-being and positive life experience through the training process with your horse is the way to the art of horsemanship. No matter what you do with a horse you are always put in the position of training him even if you do not know that is the case. A well-trained horse will not stay well trained unless he is managed properly. I see that many people think that a well-trained horse will always be a dream to ride and that is not the case. Horses are always influenced by the way the rider goes about riding them. This influence can take the training right out of the horse or if ridden properly the horse will stay well trained.

Hope that helps

Carolyn