Are you prone to sawing side to side on your horse’s mouth at dressage, or to using both hands to wiggle the bit to get your horse “on the bit”?
“Sawing” on a dressage horse’s mouth means to alternatively squeeze and release with the hands, and you ride the horse front to back when you do this. To all appearances, your horse is on the bit with his head down and his nose vertical, but there is no true front to back connection.
In reality, the one part of your horse that is affected by your sawing is his jaw. A moving bit leads him to chew, and when he does chew, his jaw flexes.
In essence, this means nothing more than this: when you saw you are simply manipulating a jaw that is flexed. And you will still have no leverage over plenty more body that your horse will have left over.
Flexion might lead you to assume the horse remains on his bit, and you are rather surprised about his tendency to go off his bit when asked to do things like transitions.
The reality you might not realize till too late is that your horse was never on the bit. And obviously flexed jaws are of no use whatsoever.
Get your horse really on the bit by using “connecting aids”. Close both of your legs so that power from behind is added. You should act like you’re on a lengthening. When the horse reaches your outer hand, make a fist of that hand so you can capture and contain the power and recycle it back to your horse’s rear legs. Keep this up for about 3 full seconds.
Finally, you have two reasons to squeeze or vibrate the inside rein:
1. The first one is to keep your horse’s neck straight. Your objective is to prevent him from twisting his neck outwards by way of response to your closed outer hand. This way, you most probably won’t be needing the inside rein when riding with his soft inside since your horse will not be trying to look outside if you should close the outer hand.
2. You can move the bit by making him chew and flex in the jaw.
You should remember that you ride a dressage horse front to back by wiggling the bit on both sides. What this means is, don’t do with both hands when you can make do with one. Keep the second hand free for the essential task of power recycling to the horse’s hind legs.