Get in line!

Posted by in Blog, on the bit, straightness on Dec 15, 2012


Is getting your horse on the bit a compromise between energy and shape? You’re not alone! But if a horse isn’t going forward he was never on the bit in the first place.


On the bit has less to do with the bit and more to do with your horse’s body – and his straightness. Your rein contact acts as a dam that your legs drive his hocks, body and hips towards. As they push up behind his shoulders his back has to round. If his quarters and shoulders aren’t in line his body will swing to one side as you push on. It won’t matter how hard you push him his back will never round. 


Imagine you’re about to start a sprint from starting blocks. If your body is straight (so your shoulders and hips are in line with each other) when the gun goes off the power from your legs sends your body up out of the blocks and forward. But if your shoulders and hips are out of line your body goes off to one side and the power is lost. Which is exactly what happens to your horse if he’s not straight.


Too much inside bend is a common problem and a big cause of lack of impulsion (energy). It unbalances your horse and puts his quarters and shoulders out of line. On a straight line or a circle his hind legs should follow the tracks of his front legs (as your shoulders and hips follow each other when you do a forward roll).Bendhis head and neck too far to the inside and his quarters will drift to the outside. He’ll lose energy and his body (and paces) will flatten.


Riding round the school trying to work out if your horse is straight or not is confusing, frustrating and demoralising! Try working him on the inside track so you can feel exactly what his body is doing. Ride 19m circles so you’re just in off the track and three loop serpentines that only go to the ¾ lines. The second you take away the fence he’ll try to drift back to the track and you’ll have to ride both sides of him to keep him on the line you want him to take.


The addition of a transition can have a huge effect on your horse’s straightness. It’s easy to unintentionally lighten up your contact on one rein or use less leg on one side than the other which is why he loses his shape after a canter or from walk to trot.


Try riding transitions on the ¾ or centre lines. Riding them off the track keeps you focused on the line you should be riding without relying on the fence to guide your horse. Square up your body to the end of the school – if your shoulders and hips are square to the end he’ll copy you. Concentrate on using both legs equally and keeping even pressure on both reins (it’s harder than it sounds) so you’re pushing both hind legs into an even contact.


When you ride a transition make sure you look straight ahead. When many riders concentrate they end up looking down at their horse’s head or down to the inside. Ask for canter on the centre line doing that and who knows where you’ll end up!


Next time you take up your reins concentrate on keeping the contact even in both reins. Use both legs to push your horse’s quarters up behind the contact and you’ll keep his body in line. Get him straight and he’ll sit back on his hocks and stay balanced. He’ll be more relaxed, more responsive and more forward. That’s on the bit!


Good luck and enjoy your schooling.



If you have any questions you’d like to ask get in touch via Facebook, Twitter – @ pollson – or by emailing me at My advice is free so why not try me?





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