Behind the Bit

“Headset” is a word I tend to avoid.

Most judges and coaches these days recognize that a tucked in nose does not collection make. A behind the bit horse is “avoiding”.  Kinda like cringing in the dentist’s chair after he’s pricked you once or twice with that sharp little tool. Fingers clenched, trying to avoid or at least prepare for the next sting.

So what’s the key to giving the behind-the-bit horse confidence to lengthen his neck? By dealing with the legs first. I’ve found if I can get the rhythm and straightness consistently in the box of my aids, the neck will start stretch to the front of the box.  One caveat-when the boundaries of the box are rigid or inconsistent, the horse learns to

  1. lean on them (the heavy horse)
  2. fight them (rooting the reins out of the rider’s hands)
  3. or avoid them (behind the bit).

Once a horse learns how to escape the noisy or inconsistent hands of a rider, he’ll tend to hide behind the bit, even with a rider of educated hands, avoiding the annoyance before it begins. In horse psychology, this is called “avoidance conditioning”.  He defaults to an escape route that works, whether or not the threat is still present.

“Hurt me once, shame on you. Hurt me twice shame on me”. So the saying goes.  We’ve all been hurt and embarrassed in life. Avoidance conditioning says “never again!” We protect ourselves from further hurt by avoiding confrontation, love or risk.

But what might we miss?

Learn from mistakes. Then rise to the next challenge.

When I sense it is God asking me to stretch myself into a scary challenge, I recall what I’ve learned. Despite past failures, He loves me. Within His boundaries is the safest, most satisfying place to be.