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Fixing Bit Evasions
Horses evade the bit when they are uncomfortable in their mouths. That can happen for a number of reasons.
The most common reason for a horse to evade the bit is that the rider has unsteady hands. The rider's hands may be seesawing or pulling or constantly bumping the horse's mouth and the horse looks for a way to get away from the annoyance. The bit may be too thick or too wide for that horse's mouth or the horse may have a dental problem. The bit may fit the horse well but be the wrong bit in a particular rider's hands. Horses that have been ridden in draw reins often go behind the bit when the draw reins are taken off.
Evasions take various forms. Some horses tend to go above the bit. They raise their heads high, tense their neck, tighten their back, and tense their hindquarters, often because their conformation predisposes them that way in the first place. The result is that they cannot step off correctly with their hind feet. Horses commonly evade the bit by going above it when the rider's hands are unsteady or when there is not enough forward motion. The rider may be tentative and doesn't allow the horse's forward motion, the rider may not know how to use driving aids properly to send the horse forward, or the rider may not have the strength and coordination to ask the horse to move forward freely.
Other horses go behind the bit by curling their neck and putting their noses to their chests to avoid the hand and bit. This is a harder evasion to correct than going above the bit. Horses commonly go behind the bit when, again, the rider's hands are unsteady. Bits that are too large, do not fit properly, and draw reins are other contributors to the problem. If a horse is worked in a leverage bit with a chain under his chin, he is more likely to try to evade by going behind rather than above it.
The problem with both of these evasions is that they quickly become habits. A trainer with good hands may help the horse learn how to quietly accept contact with the bit again. However, when a habit becomes deeply ingrained, the horse will want to fall back into it whenever someone with just average riding skills makes him the least bit uncomfortable again.
When unsteady hands are the root of the problem, the rider needs to work on an independent seat. That means the rider can ride in balance with quiet hands. The rider should never use the reins for support or balance and the hands have to be able to work independently of the rider's seat. Only then can the rider apply the aids independently and correctly.
To achieve an independent seat, the rider has to work his or her way up the riding tree starting with relaxation, then balance, following the horse's motion, applying the aids and coordinating the aids. With an independent seat, the rider can finally influence the horse.
To understand how unsteady hands feel to the horse, pair up with a buddy and play the ?bit game.? One person holds the bit while the other holds the rein and applies pulls, bumps and other motions. Simulate the motions you typically use when asking your horse for turns, half halts, and halts and you'll have a greater appreciation of your horse's viewpoint.
(Continued on next page)
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- Fixing Bit Evasions
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