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  • Contact questions

    Hi everyone, a few contact questions. I'm not a dressage rider, but I'm trying to learn.

    1. When working with a green horse (TB who has gone above the bit her whole life), I want to be able to reward when the horse has a moment where they quietly reach into the contact and are active behind. I am a very pressure and release of pressure for a reward type of rider, and find that I teach most skills with by doing this. So, when I feel a correct and quiet contact from the horse, like they are meeting my hands, my inclination is to want to throw it away, or push my hand further forward in attempt to say "yes, good job that is what I want- have some rein". How do you respond when you feel that "correct contact"- how do we reinforce that on a horse that is just learning?


    2. What is the best correction for coming above the bit (green horse)? Mainly happens on the straight aways. I usually follow the horses head up with my hands, and slightly close my fists while adding leg- maybe do a circle. Thoughts?

  • #2
    1. So this one is a hard one to get the hang of as it is somewhat counter-intuitive. Horses can be rewarded by simply staying in sync with them and keeping them balanced. Unbalancing a horse by dropping the reins right after they take contact is not a reward. When a horse takes the bridle you must stay in sync with them and simply support them with a gentle leg and a following arm. If you feel the need to do something, use your voice, or transition down and take an actual break to reward.

    2. The coming above the bit is a sign of loosing balance. A gentle bend helps the horse gain balance. As the horse learns to move off your leg you can correct the loss of balance more subtly but to start, a circle helps and eventually it will just be a bit of inside leg to reengage the inside hind leg.
    "I'm too sexy for my blanket, too sexy for my blanket, these mares-they should take it..." (J-Lu) - Featuring The Skypizzle Pony aka Classic Skyline

    Comment


    • #3
      I'm no pro, but something I had to learn was "giving the rein" doesn't have to be anything but a softening. The horse doesn't feel slighted if the "give" is 1/4" instead of 5". Just soften and follow.

      Comment


      • #4
        I'm no pro as well but agree with all the points above. Also, on a green horse, I'd only ever soften or "give" one rein at a time on a green. And like has been mentioned, it doesn't have to be dramatic. I definitely wouldn't do it too early either. Stay steady and use your voice, then later you can do a bit of uberstreichen (giving of the rein, a test of the contact really.)

        Comment


        • #5
          The reward for a correct contact is to soften your fingers and thereby soften the contact. If you move your hand forward it pushes your horse off balance. They must seek the connection and trust that you will be there for them. A conversation.

          Circles are your friend. Plenty of circles as suggested by Hawks Nest. Also use your corners in the school, half halt, rebalance, use the corner to reconnect.

          Transitions by the million to balance and rebalance.
          "Good young horses are bred, but good advanced horses are trained" Sam Griffiths

          Comment


          • #6
            1. There is a whole range of contact between "keeping it the same" and "throwing it all away".
            At the halt, hold your reins short enough thar there is a straight line from bit to elbow.
            Close your fist tightly - there's your firm contact.
            Relax a bit so you are still closing your fist, but more loosely - there's your light contact.

            2. You should ride with your reins short enough that contacts 1 and 2 (and in between) are always available to you.
            If your horse significantly raises his head you may have to being your elbows back a bit, but in moments of bracing put contact #1 on your horse. Do not give until he gives, even if you have to go from trot to walk to halt to waiting for him to say yes ma'am to the halt. Adding bend or a couple lateral steps outward can encourage the horse to relax and give sooner so you can also soften sooner. When he softens, go to contact #2.

            Repeat for the rest of your life.
            The Noodlehttp://tiny.cc/NGKmT&http://tiny.cc/gioSA
            Jinxyhttp://tiny.cc/PIC798&http://tiny.cc/jinx364
            Boy Wonderhttp://tiny.cc/G9290
            The Hana is nuts! NUTS!!http://tinyurl.com/SOCRAZY

            Comment


            • #7
              and dont forget to add leg when he raises his head....

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by Torre View Post
                Hi everyone, a few contact questions. I'm not a dressage rider, but I'm trying to learn.

                1. When working with a green horse (TB who has gone above the bit her whole life), I want to be able to reward when the horse has a moment where they quietly reach into the contact and are active behind. I am a very pressure and release of pressure for a reward type of rider, and find that I teach most skills with by doing this. So, when I feel a correct and quiet contact from the horse, like they are meeting my hands, my inclination is to want to throw it away, or push my hand further forward in attempt to say "yes, good job that is what I want- have some rein". How do you respond when you feel that "correct contact"- how do we reinforce that on a horse that is just learning?


                2. What is the best correction for coming above the bit (green horse)? Mainly happens on the straight aways. I usually follow the horses head up with my hands, and slightly close my fists while adding leg- maybe do a circle. Thoughts?
                I very much agree with the above posters, especially Hawks Nest.

                I wonder if you TB raced or was trained to race. They have a very different association with contact than a TB who never went that route. TBs who raced were taught to pull against contact, ant that's a whole other story. It is easier for the horse to go above the bit and move, you have to convince the horse to use it's whole body. That's what the exercises do, but horses like to do what is easier for them.

                In dressage, you want contact. It's like holding hands or giving a handshake. How do you feel shaking the hand of someone who doesn't shake back and is limp? You lose confidence in them. The worse thing you can do is throw it away the reins, as a horse in training is seeking your guidance as they lose balance. You want to FOLLOW, not throw the reins away or restrict movement with a stiff hand. You want your horse to rely on your kind but instructive hands/body to help them know what to do. You don't want your horse to learn that "no pressure" is the release and hope to train this horse in dressage or any kind of riding. Even trail horses have to learn that the rider dictates the ride by using rein aids and seat/leg aids, and a release isn't about throwing the reins away, letting the horse think he's OK to do his own thing. That's actually very dangerous on trails. Without aids, many horses say "Sh*t, what do I do??)

                Coming above the bit on a green horse? Depends on how much above the bit and the lesson being taught. Some horses are more inclined to come above the bit due to their build than others. Mine is like this. I let him figure things out being above the bit, but once he understands, I expect him to lower his neck, open his throatlatch and use his back. This takes creative riding on my part. It takes many changes of direction, circles, leg yields, and an understanding that this is all new to your green horse. Cut your horse slack!!! Don't worry about his head as you train him to your aids. Slowly teach him to use his back and the head will lower and you'll fix the coming above the bit with only slight reminders with your hands (sliding the bit, not pulling). It's all about engagement of his body and butt, and that takes time. Don't rush!!
                Proud member of the Colbert Dressage Nation

                Comment


                • #9
                  If the horse does not understand contact then you are in the realm of danger.

                  With a horse and rider who do not understand contact the rules are that legs mean go, hands mean turn or stop and you never use legs and hands at the same time, because to do so you will confuse the horse.

                  It is a confused horse, not a naughty horse, that throws its head, opens its mouth, bucks, spins, bolts and or rears.

                  To add legs and hands at the same time is a way to teach a horse to rear. If they go over backwards they can kill or maim the rider and or themselves which is what I mean from danger.

                  You are taking a being that does not understand English and has no wish to learn contact and trying to make them think it is a good thing. That takes skill.

                  Contact can be learnt by horses in experienced hands in minutes. Horses are very fast learners.

                  Riders are not fast learners. It can take years to learn contact, even on school masters with instructors commenting on every stride.

                  Basically for dressage it is always seat then legs then hands. ALWAYS. EVERY TIME. Whether you think it, write it or do it.

                  Even with an ottb you want relaxation and forward first.

                  Inside leg to outside rein is happening the whole time, it is a basic when people say add inside leg they are meaning over above what is already happening with inside leg to outside rein.

                  For contact your hands never move back. You give the inside rein, you don't give the outside rein. You never pull. You hold and give the inside rein when the horse gives.

                  Horses learn from the release of pressure. So if they pull and you give you have taught them to pull and lean.

                  When they give, you give the inside rein and they learn to give.

                  You can practise with another person. Hold the reins as normal, they take the bit and pull. When they suddenly release - your elbows should not move back and the rein should slacken. It is a skill.
                  Last edited by SuzieQNutter; Feb. 15, 2020, 11:54 PM.
                  It is better to ride 5 minutes a day than it is to ride 35 minutes on a Sunday.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Contact is simply being there. You are not asking for round, you are just there. It is supportive and soft. In the early stages with a green horse, you simply ride forward indicating turns, and changes of direction with your seat and legs first, backed up by a soft opening rein. Gradually as the horse better understands body aids, the use of the opening rein, its use becomes less and less, finally indicated by a light vibration of the fingers. This takes time, some horses rapidly learn and others take much longer. The use of the rider's elbows is very important to maintaining soft fluid contact.

                    As the horse becomes more educated to the leg and stronger it is easier to progress to more extensive strength building exercises, almost all of which are based on the circle, bringing in the inside hind leg under the horse to a lesser or greater degree depending on the size of the circle. This is why circles are so important, and must be ridden correctly. Then in their own time, horses develop self carriage, it is then through use of a combination of body, legs and hands that the rider can expect roundness and engagement, and lightness.

                    When you are dealing with a horse that mistrusts contact, you must go back to the basics, and try to convince them that you will not demand but will quietly accept, by being patient and steady.

                    Some riders understand all of this instinctively, most take awhile to "get" it.

                    Some riders change their horse, they change their saddle, they change their teacher; they never change themselves.

                    Remember the horse does all the work, we just sit there and look pretty.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      The idea I use works like this:

                      Sit up, put your hands and arms in riding position, and tighten all your muscles from fingers to shoulders. Without moving out of position, release that muscle tension. There's your "give" without dropping the contact.

                      If you relax your fingers while still holding tension in say your elbows, from the horse's point of view there was no give. It's the release of tension through your own body that creates the give.
                      ​​​​​
                      ​​​​​Hopefully it's obvious that the release of tension is not becoming a floppy passenger, but releasing the tension from the active aids while maintaining body position.
                      ​​​​​​

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by SuzieQNutter View Post
                        If the horse does not understand contact then you are in the realm of danger.

                        With a horse and rider who do not understand contact the rules are that legs mean go, hands mean turn or stop and you never use legs and hands at the same time, because to do so you will confuse the horse.

                        It is a confused horse, not a naughty horse, that throws its head, opens its mouth, bucks, spins, bolts and or rears.

                        To add legs and hands at the same time is a way to teach a horse to rear. If they go over backwards they can kill or maim the rider and or themselves which is what I mean from danger.

                        You are taking a being that does not understand English and has no wish to learn contact and trying to make them think it is a good thing. That takes skill.

                        Contact can be learnt by horses in experienced hands in minutes. Horses are very fast learners.

                        Riders are not fast learners. It can take years to learn contact, even on school masters with instructors commenting on every stride.

                        Basically for dressage it is always seat then legs then hands. ALWAYS. EVERY TIME. Whether you think it, write it or do it.

                        Even with an ottb you want relaxation and forward first.

                        Inside leg to outside rein is happening the whole time, it is a basic when people say add inside leg they are meaning over above what is already happening with inside leg to outside rein.

                        For contact your hands never move back. You give the inside rein, you don't give the outside rein. You never pull. You hold and give the inside rein when the horse gives.

                        Horses learn from the release of pressure. So if they pull and you give you have taught them to pull and lean.

                        When they give, you give the inside rein and they learn to give.

                        You can practise with another person. Hold the reins as normal, they take the bit and pull. When they suddenly release - your elbows should not move back and the rein should slacken. It is a skill.
                        If you only ever give the inside rein and persistently ride with more feel on the outside rein than the inside rein, you will never have a straight horse.
                        The Noodlehttp://tiny.cc/NGKmT&http://tiny.cc/gioSA
                        Jinxyhttp://tiny.cc/PIC798&http://tiny.cc/jinx364
                        Boy Wonderhttp://tiny.cc/G9290
                        The Hana is nuts! NUTS!!http://tinyurl.com/SOCRAZY

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by meupatdoes View Post

                          If you only ever give the inside rein and persistently ride with more feel on the outside rein than the inside rein, you will never have a straight horse.
                          It is something that takes feel. Too much
                          outside rein and the horse will shoulder in. Too little outside rein and the horse won't go into the outside rein and will look out.

                          You lengthen both reins for long and low, you shorten to work the horse. Both reins are not held in the same spot for the entire ride.

                          It is a balance. You have to balance between seat legs and hand. Think of the sweet spot with clutch and accelerator on a manual car.
                          It is better to ride 5 minutes a day than it is to ride 35 minutes on a Sunday.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            susie Q-if you wish a horse to turn while going forward, you must use hand to control the degree of flexion. The turning comes from the rider's legs and seat supported by the reins, therefore both must be used simultaneously, even if only the outside rein.

                            @meup-Relying on reins to maintain straightness is counter productive. Reins control the head and neck, leaving the rest of the horse capable of wriggling around. Legs and seat are responsible for straightness.

                            Some riders change their horse, they change their saddle, they change their teacher; they never change themselves.

                            Remember the horse does all the work, we just sit there and look pretty.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by merrygoround View Post
                              susie Q-if you wish a horse to turn while going forward, you must use hand to control the degree of flexion. The turning comes from the rider's legs and seat supported by the reins, therefore both must be used simultaneously, even if only the outside rein.

                              @meup-Relying on reins to maintain straightness is counter productive. Reins control the head and neck, leaving the rest of the horse capable of wriggling around. Legs and seat are responsible for straightness.
                              Obviously straightness comes from the whole ride, however if you perpetually ride the horse to have 5 units weight on the outside rein and 2 units weight on the inside rein, and only the inside rein ever releases, the horse will never be straight.

                              You can't ride the whole horse straight correctly with just the reins, but you can certainly fk it all up by riding "inside leg to outside rein" past all level of reasonability.

                              The same way you can screw it all up by "adding more leg" everytime you have a question, because it supposedly solves every problem ever, until whatever clinician you finally check in with says you are going too fast and across the ground, and the horse needs to wait and carry.

                              LEG LEG LEG!!
                              INSIDE LEG TO OUTSIDE REIN!!!

                              If you just parrot it all rotely without stopping by "feel" and "judgment" first, you'll have a crooked horse who is rushing.
                              The Noodlehttp://tiny.cc/NGKmT&http://tiny.cc/gioSA
                              Jinxyhttp://tiny.cc/PIC798&http://tiny.cc/jinx364
                              Boy Wonderhttp://tiny.cc/G9290
                              The Hana is nuts! NUTS!!http://tinyurl.com/SOCRAZY

                              Comment


                              • #16
                                Feel. Balance the reins and legs - enough inside rein for the flexion you want, enough outside rein to keep weight on the outside hind leg and control speed, enough outside leg/thigh area and pelvis to turn, enough inside leg to hold up the inside shoulder/keep him on the outside aids/provide bend. There is no one answer.

                                and to whoever wrote that too much outside rein causes shoulder in, if you have enough inside leg you'll get a counterflexed horse..... ask me how I know this, when I thought inside leg to outside rein was the entire answer.

                                Comment


                                • #17
                                  Originally posted by meupatdoes View Post

                                  Obviously straightness comes from the whole ride, however if you perpetually ride the horse to have 5 units weight on the outside rein and 2 units weight on the inside rein, and only the inside rein ever releases, the horse will never be straight.

                                  You can't ride the whole horse straight correctly with just the reins, but you can certainly fk it all up by riding "inside leg to outside rein" past all level of reasonability.

                                  The same way you can screw it all up by "adding more leg" everytime you have a question, because it supposedly solves every problem ever, until whatever clinician you finally check in with says you are going too fast and across the ground, and the horse needs to wait and carry.

                                  LEG LEG LEG!!
                                  INSIDE LEG TO OUTSIDE REIN!!!

                                  If you just parrot it all rotely without stopping by "feel" and "judgment" first, you'll have a crooked horse who is rushing.
                                  My response was to a beginner who does not understand contact or dressage. The nuances change as the rider gets experience. They are told that to get them to stop throwing the reins away as they said they were doing. Also the advice to have lessons with someone on the ground to give them the knowledge of what to do next.

                                  Of course the aides happen simultaneously, but the advice to think, write and do of seat then legs then hands, is to get then thinking of back to front and not front to back. Which most riders do not get when trying to do it themselves without learning from an instructor.

                                  A turn is a quarter of a circle. Look where you are going to turn your head, shoulders and hips. To go from a 20m circle dressage riders should be able to do this without the inside rein. It is the outside aides that mean a smaller circle, as I said if they are not in the outside rein, they will go the opposite way.

                                  It all becomes very subtle, not a driving force, until you only have to think where you want to turn, etc, but this person is not starting there. They are starting with a tb raising its head and having no lessons in contact or dressage so you are speaking way too far ahead for what they can understand and do.

                                  As I also said relaxation comes before contact. Let go of the reins. On the training scale straightness is second last before collection. Let this person start finding out how contact works before cramming every lesson you have ever learned in to their head. They need to start somewhere and that somewhere would ideally be with a fantastic instructor on a schoolmaster but that doesn't happen as often as we think.

                                  It was a german instructor yelling at us, 'It is a sin to give away your outside rein' to riders experienced enough to be instructors.
                                  It is better to ride 5 minutes a day than it is to ride 35 minutes on a Sunday.

                                  Comment

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