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How To Get Your Horse Off The Forehand Without Over Bitting

Submitted by member: Carly

I have a 4-year-old 17.2-3 hh Holsteiner who I am training for the jumpers. He has come along nicely, but I have hit a bit of a roadblock. He has a tendency to get very heavy on the forehand while we are jumping a small course. I don’t want to over bit him to try and give me the control to get him off the forehand. What kind of exercises could you recommend to try an help with this habit? Thank you!

Answer by Bernie

I couldn’t agree more that over bitting your young horse would not be the right decision.  He is young and quite big, so incorporating flatwork during your jumping schools (where as you say “he gets heavy on his forehand”) is the answer. The choice of bits for me would be some type of classical snaffle or as I say the mildest bit suitable to your horse.

Use lots of poles on the ground and low cavaletti daily along with all your normal flatwork and you will find this will enhance your progress rather than separating the two. Incorporate lots of upward and downward transitions: canter walk transitions, lengthening and shortening the stride both in the trot and canter, trot halt, canter halt, and combining these exercises with the poles and cavaletti. All of these transitions over time will have a great effect on improving the balance of your horse, thus lightening the forehand. The real key lies in the promptness of the transitions both ways, but especially downward. Repetition of prompt but smooth downward transitions should be a great benefit for your horse.

I have another technique I call the “Nip Up” which is useful in elevating the neck of the horse when done properly.  It’s a quick flick up of both wrists followed immediately by softening the contact. Below you will find a link to a free video tip where I demonstrate that.

The video topics Fundamentals of Flatwork: Basic and Fundamentals of Flatwork: Intermediate contain the schooling exercises described above.

Video Recommendations:

tips to get your horse off the forehand

FREE VIDEO: The “Nip Up” – A Half-Halt Technique for Your Horse
Bernie Traurig
In this free video tip, Bernie Traurig teaches us a very handy tool all equestrians should have in their riding toolbox. One of his versions of a half-halt that is simple to do, he calls a “nip up.” This can be used in many instances, especially on a horse that is too low in its carriage or is too heavy on the forehand. Bernie demonstrates how to use this technique properly and effectively without hanging on the horse’s mouth. Ultimately, this should be an invisible and soft correction that you should only use when absolutely necessary so it remains meaningful. This technique can also be found in the books by Vladimir Littauer (Commonsense Horsemanship) and Gordon Wright (Horsemanship & Horsemastership) where it is defined as a Half-Halt.
Running Time:  2 minutes and 49 seconds

View Video
What bit to use on your horse

Bits and Bitting
Bernie Traurig
Bernie shares his personal insights on bits and bitting. His philosophy has been gained through decades of experience with thousands of horses.
Running Time:  31 minutes and 6 seconds

View Video

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Bernie Traurig

As a Horseman, Bernie is renowned for not only his riding talents but for his teaching and coaching gifts. As a competitor, Bernie has represented the United States Equestrian Team both at home and abroad on many occasions and reached the top of the sport in all 3 of the International Equestrian Olympic disciplines: Show Jumping, Dressage, and Eventing.After amassing 60 years worth of training and riding techniques and experiences with thousands of horses, Bernie is driven to give back to the sport that has given him so much fulfillment and success.

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