Missouri Foxtrotter & Spotted Saddle Horses  5 years and three years old ridden in snaffle and western saddle in Pasture byfair rider.

Question: What does it mean ' into the bit' and what kind of action does it produce? Is it away to ride all the time? How do I keep my horse on the bit? I am new to the gaited horse world and have a lot to learn. I had always rode quarter horses until I moved to MO. For trail riding there is no match to the smooth ride of a gaited horse! 

Thank you for your help.

From Panelist Carol

Thanks for your good question.  I personally believe that for trail riding if your horse is gaiting well, there is no need to worry about if your horse is on the bit or not.  This term refers to the way a rider pushes the horse forward from the legs and holds the reins short
so that the horse, if trained properly, will flex at the poll and round his back.  If your horse
is smooth and you are comfortable, there is no need to use this unless you want to set him
up to show.  

Carol Camp-Tosh

From Panelist Erica

When a horse is "on the bit", it refers to their whole body being pulled together uniformly. It does not literally mean they lean on the bit or depend on the bit to hold them together. It can be a form of collection as well. If you wish to learn more about collection I would recommend finding a good instructor in your area that can help. Collection can be used in all breeds of horses - gaited or non. Good luck!

Erica Frei

From Panelist Lee

Most people use the term "into the bit" to describe riding with contact through the reins with the horse's mouth. This is very different from the "feel" of riding one handed with slack reins on a typical western-trained Q horse, but it is very common in "English" riding.  Many gaited horses do their gaits more consistently if ridden this way, with contact .  Depending
on what you want to do with your horse, it is OK to ride with contact whenever you ride, but it is best to keep that contact no heavier than the weight of a plum in each hand. Heavy pulling on the reins is not a good thing -- it is hard on the horse, and wears out your hands/arms.

You can keep your horse on the bit by keeping steady hands (ride with two hands on the reins) a steady seat, and maintaining even pressure, through the reins, with the horse's mouth.  Again, try not to feel any more pull in your hands than the weight of a ripe plum.

As far as the "action" riding on the bit produces, usually what is desired is a consistent, somewhat collected easy gait.  Then again, for some horses, putting any pressure on the mouth can cause them to lean into the bit, and race forward with speed.

You can, with time, teach a gaited horse to move with slack reins while maintaining his gait, using the western style you are familiar with, but this takes some skill, practice, retraining for the horse, and depends a great deal on the type of gait the horse does to begin with.

Good luck with your horse.

Lee Ziegler

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