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27Aug 14

Too deep or not too deep?

`On the bit' is for many a rather grey area. I also have been confused in my earlier days about this matter. However, as the years went on and with that experience increased, I have simplified the matter: when the horse goes too deep it has got to come up and when it goes too high it's got to come down.

We all know what is too high but when does your horse go too deep?

When the horse consistently wants to go to high it is not wrong to ride it too deep during training for a certain time, as on competition day it will probably end up just right. It is important though to be able to recognize when this position is becoming habitual and therefore difficult to change, with the result: a horse on the forehand. A naturally forward horse will start to move quicker than its natural rhythm and the lazier horse will go dead for the leg.

But what when you think that on competition day your horse was accurate, obedient and for the leg but not too fast, whereas your sheet tells you your horse is behind the bit? We must accept that our qualified judges should be able to notice whether  a horse is correctly on the bit or not. However, this is the moment  we enter the grey area. Can a horse be on the bit when it is actually behind the vertical? In my opinion: yes.

When a horse is advanced in its training and its head and neck carriage in the final position it must be on the vertical when competing, of course. But this surely means that when the horse is more novice and therefore more horizontal in its head and neck carriage but becoming more stretched in its top line, it inevitably will be a little behind the vertical. If not, it would be ahead of the vertical when reaching its final and more advanced position.

This position at novice level must go together with the horse tracking up and consistently and accurately performing the movements in the test. Then I do not think the judge should question the position of the head and neck. If the judge marks this horse and rider down and the rider takes this comment seriously it will stop their development to a higher level and that would be such a shame!



Dressage Training

Dressage training needs variety, including pole work

Dressage Training

Dressage training needs variety, including pole work

About Liz Barclay

Her love for horses together with her dedication made her into the trainer and dressage rider she is, today. She is versatile and inventive and likes a challenge; whether it is a technical training question, a confidence issue or a problem involving the management of the horse or pony.


My book 'THE FARMER, THE COAL MERCHANT, THE BAKER...' with the subtitle 'A Personal Impression of the Development of the Gelderland Horse World' has been received with more enthusiasm than I possibly could have hoped for. Click here to contact me and I will send you a copy. £7.50 + postage, or click here to order from Amazon.