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Icelandic Horse Connection

Give to the Bit Exercises

Preparation for Give to the Bit

Lyons says that understanding the giving concept and your responsibility in it will revolutionize your horse's training.

Preparation for give to the bit starts with rider concentration. The rider's concentration on the task helps build consistency, first with the rider then with the horse and his performance.

When a horse gives to the bit, he is saying that he recognizes a request made thru the reins and is responding by turning control over part of his body to the rider. Responsibility of give to the bit is shared between horse and rider.

The right answer cue to give to the bit will be the rider's quick release of the rein. Lyons recommends lots of practice on give to the bit so the horse has a chance to isolate the exact behavior that is being rewarded. For example, the horse may flick his tail or shift his weight at the same time he gives. Thru many repetitions, he will come to realize the exact and correct response without including unwanted behaviors.

It is the rider's responsibility to consistently give the correct cue and reward the tries. Give to the bit is a specific exercise looking for a specific answer, rather than a general exercise with a wider range of acceptable answers. This leads us back to rider concentration and the rider needing to know exactly how to make the request and how to quickly reward a correct response.

It may be advantageous to bring the bridle into the house one night along with a package of M & M's, grab a willing kid or SO, and practice the give to the bit before trying it on your horse. This may help to improve your understanding of the exercise along with your timing of release for correct response.

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Preparation for Give to the Bit, Part 2

We will be communicating with the horse thru the rein. Look at it as tho it were a telephone call to the horse--we would like him to recognize our call, and see it as important and worth answering.

When communicating thru the rein, we would like the horse to respond to the request. Picking up on the rein will be telling the horse that we would like a change. If he gives the change we want, he receives a release. Consistency in rewarding the correct change builds the foundation for our "deal" with the horse--request, response, release.

Lyons encourages working on the give to the bit several thousand times, starting with requesting and accepting tiny gives. The more times that you do it, the less decision-making takes place--it becomes more automatic, and the easier it is for the horse.

It is not a matter of physical strength when working with a horse; it's a matter of control. We get control of the whole horse by getting control of one little piece at a time.

One of the results of the exercise will be lightness. When we start the exercise, the slower the hands, the lighter the horse will become. The horse will come to give to the bit before the finish of the request so that he receives the quick release before he feels tension. It's a partnership--a dance. The rider will concentrate on the task in order to give the quick release thereby maintaining the "deal" and improving learning.

Lyons feels that a "hard-mouthed" horse is one that has not been given a release therefore sees no benefit in answering a request. If a horse does not respond to a request thru the rein, he may not know the answer, or has not been released for the correct answer in the past.

With consistancy, when we pick up the rein to ask the horse for a change, the horse will know that he has a friend at the other end.

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Baby Gives, Part 3

In the first two sections, we have determined that (1) we need the rider's concentration; and (2) the rider's consistency.

These two things will lead to the horse's performance (response).

The "baby give" is asking one specific spot on the horse's jaw to move in the direction requested. The "ask" does not include: pull, bump, jerk, yank, drag, or force.

I start this exercise from the ground, but it can be started from the saddle.

Lyons recommends a full-cheek snaffle with one continuous rein from one side of the bit to the other.

Working from the left side first: Pick up the buckle with your right hand and reach down the left rein with your left hand bringing it back to brace against the swell of the saddle. You may have to experiment a time or two to get the right amount of contact on the rein WITHOUT moving the horse's head at all. The right hand will serve to pull any excess slack out of the rein if necessary.

Wait, wait, wait for the horse to give his jaw to the left and immediately drop the reins. Begin again, same side.

It will take several times to get the mechanics in place; and many more times to get the feel.

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Trouble shooting: Horses will experiment looking for the right answer.

Some horses may pull against the rein which is normal--maintain consistent contact while he continues searching for the correct answer. We would like to have NO pull from the horse--watch for and do not reward for less pull; the reward comes for the give.

Some horses may just go off to "la la" land and set back accepting the pressure with no response.

The horse may try moving, possibly in circles or backing up. Be prepared to wait it out and go with it.

The head may jerk the rein, pull forward, up, down, or in the opposite direction. The rider's concentration and consistency will come into play here, along with previous practice on the willing child or SO. Have your human practice partner do several of the wrong answers such as no response, pulling down, etc. so that you get the feel of the differences.

Again, no pulling on the horse. That will only set you up to pull against his whole body and he is much stronger!

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We will be looking for the give which should be recognizable by it's substance and positiveness; it's aliveness; it's feel! Don't mistake this for something big and obvious--it's subtle, but there. The jaw does not have to move more than a half inch, but it has to have life.

Ultimately, when the horse gives just a little of his jaw, we have effectively disengaged some use of his neck and back that he might use against the rein.

Remember that when you start the exercise, the horse has no idea what you want and will need time to look for the right answer.

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Gaining Control With the Baby Gives, Part 4

Here is a repeat from Part 3:

"Lyons recommends a full-cheek snaffle with one continuous rein from one side of the bit to the other.

Working from the left side first: Pick up the buckle with your right hand and reach down the left rein with your left hand bringing it back to brace against the swell of the saddle. You may have to experiment a time or two to get the right amount of contact on the rein WITHOUT moving the horse's head at all. The right hand will serve to pull any excess slack out of the rein if necessary.

Wait, wait, wait for the horse to give his jaw to the left and immediately drop the reins. Begin again, same side.

It will take several times to get the mechanics in place; and many more times to get the feel.

Lyons divides the horse's body into nine separate sections between the jawbone and the withers and says that you can gain control of the horse's body one part at a time, thru working with the baby gives.

With the cooperation of all nine of the sections, you should get lighter responses, better diagonal movement, better stops, turns, lead changes, wither elevation, and collection.

If a horse locks up a section that muscle group stiffens and in effect the horse is saying that you cannot have control of that part.... and also nothing further back than that part.

After practicing baby gives by working on Spot #1 (the jawbone) for several hundred times, that spot will remain slightly off center rather than the horse taking it back to the front. This is the time you will progress to working on Spot #2 which is just behind the ears.

The same process of asking for the baby gives as described above will be used to practice with Spot #2.

Lyons relates the request for the baby give as the rider saying "please", the horse answering with a "yes", and the release from the rein as a "thank you".

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