Give to the Bit - Overview

This is the most important of the Foundation Training Lessons and teaches frame, softness in the bridle and self-carriage.


There is a full length Training DVD on Give to the Bit in the Resources section. These lessons are taken from clinic days and describe many of the points in considerably more detail. I suggest you watch both this course and the DVD before commencing your training.

The purpose of this course of lessons is to teach your horse to travel in frame (on the bit), be soft in the bridle, lift his back (rather than hollow it as he does when his head is in the air), build top-line muscle and self-carriage. Give to the bit will also 'engage' your horse - keep his attention and keep him mentally with you while you are training.

Basic Lesson Elements:

The SPOT on the horse that you want to move: The nose

The DIRECTION you want it to go: Down and in towards the chest (vertical or in front of vertical)

The MOTIVATION for moving it: Gentle rein pressure

The REWARD given for the correct response: Release of pressure, praise and a scratch on the wither




The horse should be old enough to wear a bridle (2+ years) and should have been seen by the dentist.

ISES Training Principles:

  1. Release the pressure immediately when the horse responds.Be aware of when to release the pressure. In the beginning you may not get the horse to move his head to exactly the position you are wanting but be sure to reward movement in the direction that you are looking for.
  2. Use signals that the horse can differentiate. This lesson is simply about head position so try to hold your rein at the same angle it will be at when you are riding. This is different from opening the rein away from the neck when turning (as will be seen in the Shoulder Control Lessons).
  3. Train and initiate responses one at a time (shaping). The horse will not travel in a perfect frame when you begin this lesson. It is important to reward small 'tries' in the direction you want to help the horse learn the lesson.
  4. Train habitual responses using consistency and repetition. Be sure to concentrate on what your horse is doing because you don't want to miss the opportunity to reward him with a release of pressure and a scratch on the wither. Be consistent with your release.
  5. Train only one response per signal. This lesson is concentrating on frame and later we will look at direction the horse is moving. At this stage, don't worry about where the horse is walking, just that he is soft in the bridle.
  6. Avoid fear during training. Sudden, unexpected or heavy pressure on the bit will lead to fear in the horse. If you feel that the horse is afraid of the bridle itself be sure to work through the 'Teaching Bridling' lesson carefully.
  7. Train persistence of responses. This lesson is all about self-carriage; we are teaching the horse a habit - when we pick up the reins he goes into frame and is soft in the bridle.
  8. Check for relaxation. Be aware of your horse's emotional level. A horse that is not relaxed in the bridle, from a tight noseband for example, will be tense from nose to tail. Try that yourself - clench your teeth and see if you can relax anywhere on your body after just 3 seconds.....