Bitting System

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Using The Goodnight Bitting System
The self-correcting bitting system I use is often called an elbow pull and it is a long harness leather cord with snaps on each end. To use the bitting tool, you place the middle of the cord over the horse’s poll and then run each end through the rings of the bit, between the horse’s legs and up to the saddle. Adjust it so that when the horse is standing square and relaxed, there is no pressure on the bit. The pressure will come as the horse walks or trots; his elbow will cause a pull on that side of his mouth.

It is a self-correcting tool– meaning that when the horse does the right thing (brings his nose down and in), the pressure goes away. It teaches the horse to drop his head, bring his nose in and round his back when he feels pressure on the bit. Since the horse is coming off of the bit pressure, he is required to hold himself in the frame rather than have something to lean against like with side reins. This requires the horse to bring his hind-end up underneath him and lift his back in order to hold himself in the frame while keeping slack in the reins.

I like this training tool much better than other bit-training techniques because it gives an alternating pull on the bit, not pulling on both sides of the bit at the same time, so it keeps the horse very soft and relaxed in the neck and jaw. Also, you can mimic the action of the bitting system from the saddle, by using alternating sponge squeezes in time with the horse’s front legs. Finally, I like this system because it teaches the horse to give to the slightest rein pressure and to seek out the slack in the rein.

I think is very important is to teach the horse to seek out the slack in the rein. From day one, I teach the horse that when he gives to the bit, he will find slack in the rein. Whether the horse is giving laterally (to the side) or vertically (bringing his nose into his chest) you should relax the reins as soon as the horse makes an effort. Again, this will reward the horse for his efforts (all any horse wants is less pressure on his mouth) and will teach him self-carriage.

I am not a big believer is holding a horse in a frame. I believe if you are light and responsive to your horse’s efforts, you can teach him to carry himself in whatever frame you ask of him. This may sound like a simple concept, but I have found that most riders have difficulty with the release. When a rider picks up the reins and asks the horse to give, most riders will continue to apply pressure to the reins even after the horse gives. I think this is in an effort to maintain direct contact, but it is typically done without feel. Therefore the horse gives in some small way but if he does not find a release, he does not know that he has done the right thing. The horse is searching for a way out of the pressure on his mouth. By and large, horses will gladly hold whatever frame you want if they know that in doing so, you will release the pressure on his mouth.

Again, the beauty of this system is threefold. One, the instant the horse gives the right way he gets slack. Two, the elbow-pull creates a rhythmic alternating pull, rather than a static pull on both reins (like side reins), and it is far more effective to use one rein at a time rather than two (a horse stiffens his neck and leans into it when you pull on both reins at the same time). And third, once the horse has learned to respond correctly and carry himself in a collected frame with no contact on his mouth, you can mimic this action on the reins when you are on his back.

This technique is explained thoroughly and demonstrated on my video, Bit Basics. You can also find out more about collection and many other riding skills in my Training Library, JulieGoodnight.com/Academy

–Julie Goodnight

Riding The 20+ Year Old Horse

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Q: Has Julie written any articles or done any tv shows on riding the 20+ year old horse? I have a mare that is 21 and has been a pasture pet the last couple of years. I’m wondering if I should try to get her back in shape-totally retire her or what?

A: Most horses in their early 20s are still ride-able, for a few years at least. They may not be able to ride as hard as they once did, but some horses are still very active at that age. They better shape your horse is in the greater his longevity; once you “let a horse go” and retire them, it seems like the sooner they fail. And most horsemen agree, that horses do better when they have a purpose and get attention and exercise.
It would definitely be beneficial for a horse that age that has been sedentary to get back into condition. You’ll have to take it slowly—make it a six month plan, for starters. Maybe start with walk-only rides 3-4 times a week for a month, then start adding a little trotting. You can also use my bitting system as a means to strengthen an older horse’s back and abdominals; this will help tremendously in preventing sway-back.
We do have an episode of Horse Master on reconditioning an older rescue horse that may be useful for you. It is episode 214, “Rescue and Rehab”. You can view it online.

Good luck with your horse!
Julie

Copyright ©Julie Goodnight 2000. All Rights Reserved. No part of this website may be reproduced without owner’s express consent.

Issues From The Saddle: How Much Does Conformation Have To Do With Movement

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Question Category: Issues from the Saddle

Question: Hi,

I have a 5 year old QH gelding that is tall and not very muscular. He has a long back and legs and I wonder if that is why I am having trouble getting him into a nice slow jog. He goes Hunt well, but I’d like to slow him down for western and trail classes.
My question is; how much does his conformation have to do with his movement? He is also “strung out” at the canter and seems to have a hard time collecting. I don’t think he will ever “lope”! I raised and trained him myself and he is quiet and willing, a great horse. I ride him in a simple snaffle, and he responds very well to aids.

Thanks for any advice!
Joanne

Answer: Joanne,

Conformation has everything to do with movement and performance. Horses that are long-backed especially have difficulty bringing their hocks up underneath them and elevating their backs, which is required for collection. I believe you can improve a horse that is not athletically inclined, but you cannot make him into something he is not. To improve him, I would work on conditioning him in a round pen, at liberty, in a bitting device that encourages self-carriage. The type of bitting device I use is called an ‘elbow pull,’ or the Goodnight Bitting System. In time (months), with better conditioning, be can improve his self-carriage and collection, maybe by 15%, but his conformation will always be a limitation.

Again, you cannot put a round peg into a square hole, and not all horses are successful at slow Western gaits. You can make any horse trot slowly, but the ones that are good at it are naturals; the ones that are not good at it present a constant fight and easily become resentful. It may be that your horse is better suited as an English horse, for which long and lanky are more desirable traits.

JG

Copyright ©Julie Goodnight 2000. All Rights Reserved. No part of this website may be reproduced without owner’s express consent.

Talk About Tack: Elbow-Pull Bitting Device, Goodnight Bitting System

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Question Category: Talk about Tack

Question: Hi Julie,

You had mentioned in one of your Q & A’s a product called, a self-correcting bitting device. What is it and where can you purchase it?

Thanks
Kimberly

Answer: Kimberly,

The self-correcting bitting device I use is called an elbow-pull (or the Goodnight Bitting System on our site) and it is a long harness leather cord with snaps on each end. You can buy it from my website, with or without the instructional video called Bit Basics. The bitting device comes with instructions on how to use it; the video has details not only on how to use and adjust the bitting device, but also on the complete training process for starting a young horse or rehab training for the older horse, as it applies to bitting and bit pressure.

To use the bitting device, you place the middle of the cord over the horse’s poll and then run each end through the rings of the bit, between the horse’s legs and up to the saddle. Adjust it so that when the horse is standing square and relaxed, there is no pressure on the bit. The pressure will come as the horse walks or trots; his elbow will cause a pull on that side of his mouth.

It is self-correcting meaning that when the horse does the right thing (brings his nose down and in), the pressure goes away. It teaches the horse to drop his head, bring his nose in and round his back when he feels pressure on the bit. Since the horse is coming off of the bit pressure, he is required to hold himself in the frame rather than have something to lean against like with side reins. This requires the horse to bring his hind-end up underneath him and lift his back in order to hold himself in the frame while keeping slack in the reins.

I like this device much better than other bitting devices because it gives an alternating pull on the bit, not pulling on both sides of the bit at the same time, so it keeps the horse very soft and relaxed in the neck and jaw. Also, you can mimic the action of the biting device from the saddle, by using alternating sponge squeezes in time with the horse’s front legs. Finally, I like this device because it teaches the horse to give to the slightest rein pressure and to seek out the slack in the rein.

I hope this helps.
Julie Goodnight, Clinician and Trainer

Copyright ©Julie Goodnight 2000. All Rights Reserved. No part of this website may be reproduced without owner’s express consent.