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How To Get My Horse To Soften On The Bit

How To Get My Horse To Soften On The Bit

Getting your horse to soften on the bit is an essential skill for any rider. It not only improves communication between horse and rider but also enhances the horse’s overall performance and comfort. Softening on the bit refers to the horse’s ability to relax and flex its neck, jaw, and poll while maintaining a light contact with the rider’s hands. In this article, we will explore effective techniques and exercises to help you achieve a soft and supple connection with your horse.

Understanding the Importance of Softening on the Bit

Softening on the bit is crucial for several reasons:

  • Improved communication: When a horse softens on the bit, it becomes more responsive to the rider’s aids, allowing for clearer communication.
  • Balance and collection: Softening on the bit encourages the horse to engage its hindquarters and lift its back, leading to improved balance and collection.
  • Relaxation and comfort: Softening on the bit indicates that the horse is relaxed and comfortable, reducing tension and promoting a more enjoyable riding experience.

Techniques to Encourage Softening on the Bit

1. Establish a solid foundation: Before focusing on softening on the bit, ensure that your horse has a solid foundation of basic training. This includes obedience to leg aids, steering, and transitions.

2. Develop a consistent contact: Maintain a steady and elastic contact with your horse’s mouth. Avoid pulling or holding too tightly on the reins, as this can create resistance and tension.

3. Use half-halts: Half-halts are a valuable tool to encourage softening on the bit. They involve a momentary increase in rein pressure followed by an immediate release. This helps the horse rebalance and flex its neck and jaw.

4. Engage the hindquarters: Softening on the bit is closely linked to engaging the horse’s hindquarters. Incorporate exercises such as transitions, circles, and lateral work to encourage the horse to step under its body and lift its back.

5. Incorporate suppling exercises: Suppling exercises, such as flexion and bending, can help your horse become more flexible and responsive to the bit. Practice serpentines, leg-yields, and shoulder-in to encourage softness and suppleness.

6. Seek professional guidance: If you’re struggling to achieve softness on the bit, consider seeking guidance from a qualified trainer or instructor. They can provide personalized feedback and exercises tailored to your horse’s specific needs.

Case Study: Softening on the Bit

Let’s take a look at a case study to illustrate the process of achieving softness on the bit:

Case Study: Sarah and her horse, Bella

Sarah, an experienced rider, was struggling to get her horse, Bella, to soften on the bit. Bella would often resist contact, stiffen her neck, and lean on Sarah’s hands. Sarah sought the help of a dressage trainer to address the issue.

The trainer observed that Bella lacked engagement from her hindquarters and had limited flexibility in her neck and jaw. They devised a training plan that focused on developing Bella’s strength and suppleness.

They started with exercises to engage Bella’s hindquarters, such as trot-walk transitions and leg-yields. These exercises encouraged Bella to step under her body and lift her back, creating a more balanced and connected frame.

The trainer also introduced suppling exercises, including flexion and bending. Sarah practiced serpentines and shoulder-in to encourage Bella to soften her neck and jaw, promoting a more relaxed and responsive connection.

Over time, with consistent training and patience, Bella began to soften on the bit. She became more willing to accept contact and responded promptly to Sarah’s aids. Their overall performance improved, and their partnership grew stronger.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

1. How long does it take to achieve softness on the bit?

Every horse is different, and the time it takes to achieve softness on the bit can vary. It depends on factors such as the horse’s previous training, temperament, and the rider’s skill level. Consistent and correct training, along with patience, is key to achieving softness on the bit.

2. Can any horse learn to soften on the bit?

Yes, with proper training and consistent practice, most horses can learn to soften on the bit. However, some horses may require more time and patience due to physical limitations or previous training issues. Seeking professional guidance can be beneficial in such cases.

3. What if my horse resists contact and pulls on the reins?

If your horse resists contact and pulls on the reins, it is essential to address the underlying issues causing the resistance. This may involve evaluating the fit of the bit and bridle, checking for dental issues, or addressing any discomfort or pain the horse may be experiencing. A qualified professional can help identify and address these issues.

4. Can softening on the bit improve my horse’s overall performance?

Yes, softening on the bit can significantly improve your horse’s overall performance. It encourages the horse to engage its hindquarters, lift its back, and move with more balance and collection. This, in turn, enhances the horse’s movement, responsiveness, and ability to perform various exercises and movements.

5. Are there any exercises I can do to encourage softness on the bit?

Yes, there are several exercises you can incorporate into your training routine to encourage softness on the bit. These include transitions, circles, leg-yields, shoulder-in, and serpentines. These exercises promote suppleness, engagement, and responsiveness in your horse.

6. Can I achieve softness on the bit without using a bit?

Softness on the bit refers to the horse’s ability to relax and flex its neck, jaw, and poll while maintaining a light contact with the rider’s hands. While a bit is commonly used to establish this connection, it is possible to achieve softness on the bit without using a bit. Bitless bridles or other forms of communication, such as a rope halter or hackamore, can also be effective in achieving softness and communication with your horse.


Softening on the bit is a fundamental skill that enhances communication, balance, and comfort between horse and rider. By establishing a solid foundation, maintaining a consistent contact, using half-halts, engaging the hindquarters, and incorporating suppling exercises, you can encourage your horse to soften on the bit. Remember that each horse is unique, and progress may vary. Seek professional guidance if needed, and be patient and consistent in your training. With time and effort