Behind the Bit, Grace and Forgiveness.

“Headset” is a bad word in my vocabulary.

Most judges these days aren’t fooled by that horse with his nose tucked in, “behind the bit”. Instead, judges analyze the balance, rhythm and relaxation of the whole picture.

I often describe the horse as in a box, a shape or frame. The rider sends him forward from her legs  (the back of the box) into her hands (the spongey, forgiving front of the box). The horse rounds his top line and softens to the bit and the energy springs upward rather than running forward.

But when the front and the back of the box are rigid, or their boundaries inconsistent, the horse learns to: 


      1. lean on them (the heavy horse)

      1.  fight them (rooting the reins out of the rider’s hands)

      1. or avoid them (behind the bit).

    If rider’s hands are noisy or inconsistent, once a horse learns how to escape them, 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’s found an escape route that works and it becomes his default whether or not the threat is still present.

    Kind of like cringing in the dentist chair after he’s pricked you once or twice with that sharp little tool. Hard to relax.

    “Hurt me once, shame on you. Hurt me twice shame on me”. So the saying goes. So many folks protect themselves from further hurt by avoiding confrontation, love or risk.

    I’ve found the confidence of the behind-the-bit horse can be rebuilt by re-teaching horse, through elastic “forgiving” arms, to accept my contact.

    We’ve all been hurt and embarrassed in life. Avoidance conditioning says “never again!”

    Forgiving those that have hurt us.  Admitting and learning from mistakes. Risking to try again.