Why Is My Horse Is Always “Above The Bit”?

If your horse is “above the bit”, the problem is you, plain and simple.

“Above the bit” describes a scenario where the horse seeks to escape contact from your hands by raising his neck and head – generally assuming a stargazing profile with his face, and effecting perhaps a ‘ewe-neck’ or ‘pigeon throat’. ?He does this because – with you at least – his technique “works”: more often than not, he is able to purchase at least a momentary escape from contact.

Except this: ?it’s impossible for your horse to “get above the bit”, unless he is so restive and resistant that he is willing to rear up and flip over backwards about it – and this risk may be mitigated easily (covered in “Lifting the Neck”). ?But most people are not describing such a horse. ?Rather, their horse is simply ‘pulling’ against the hands using the bars of his jaw. ?He has never actually accepted the bit (or has since rejected it) because his rider uses it incorrectly.

The fix? ?LIFT the reins to engage the bit at the corners of the horse’s mouth (which are weak and sensitive) INSTEAD of PULLING against the bars of the lower jaw (which are strong). ?Do this with no expectations about the verticality of his face. ?Do not worry about your horse’s ‘headset’ yet – it is the least of your worries. ?Lifting the reins will initially make him assume the very position you are complaining about – which is fine at this point.? But he will not be “above the bit” – because you can retain contact with the corners of his mouth regardless of what he does with his head. ?The more relevant problem will become keeping him from ducking?below the bit, which such a horse will try when he realizes you’ve realized he can’t actually get above it. ?This is easy enough to do: ?remember to keep your elbows against your sides so that you can “fix” your hands, such that when he attempts to force his head down, he rather hits a wall at the bit, but finds immediate release when he raises his head again.

The reality is that stargazing is quite uncomfortable for the horse. ?He can only do it in spurts – the muscles used to do this are weak. ?Turn the tables on him – let him travel this way if he wants, as long as he stays on the bit and keeps his neck up. ?The muscles around the poll will tire very quickly. ?Within just a few rides, you will observe?his face coming to the vertical on its own, without any use of force.