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Contact and the young horse

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  • Contact and the young horse

    What are your thoughts on riding young horses (recently started under saddle) on light contact. Dressage "do" or dressage "don't" and why?

  • #2
    Absolutely a "do." Contact should be introduced right away. That doesn't mean you're asking for a 3rd level frame or anything like that. A soft, following contact that the horse trusts should be part of just what it means to be ridden. Why begin with a loopy rein and then change the rules on them? By the time you climb in the saddle the horse should be used to some contact from side/Vienna reins, ground driving, etc. Why drop it once you get on?

    Long and low is important, but L & L is truly achieved when the horse follows a soft contact downward, NOT when the reins are all slack and loopy. I think people sometimes feel like young horses need a longer, stretchier neck--and they do--but this can be best achieved through contact, not through letting the horse meander around with draped reins. Contact is communication, and you can make the contact do whatever you want it to do, whether that is asking for a higher poll or a longer stretchier frame, or a softening of the jaw, or, or, or....I think a young horse, in particular, appreciates the guidance and consistency judicious contact provides.
    2007 Welsh Cob C X TB GG Eragon
    Our training journal.
    1989-2008 French TB Shamus Fancy
    I owned him for fifteen years, but he was his own horse.

    Comment


    • #3
      We've been working my young mustang on contact for the same reason STSF mentions. Once he learned how to lunge, we started him in the side reins, gradually increasing the contact asked of him so that he learns to move forward into contact. If his job is to be a dressage horse then it will ultimately be easier for him and for me to learn how to follow the contact vs. just going around on a loopy rein.

      I did a very interesting unmounted exercise with a T-Team person I've worked with over the years. Two people paired up and one had the bridle hung off the head with the hands holding the bit. The other person was the rider and held the reins in their hands. We felt the difference between having a light, steady contact vs. a loopy rein that takes up contact intermittently. I must say that as the horse, it was so much better to have a rider who had consistent contact as opposed to the loopy rein. As the horse I felt "lost" and "disconnected" when my rider had a loop in the rein and was uneasy about when the next rein aid would come. When my rider had light contact, I felt like there was a conversation and I was ready for whatever would come. A very interesting exercise and I encourage others to try it.
      My Mustang Adventures - Mac, my mustang | Annwylid D'Lite - my Cob filly

      "A horse's face always conveys clearly whether it is loved by its owner or simply used." - Anja Beran

      Comment

      • Original Poster

        #4
        And what about the horse's head at this stage? btv vs. in front of the vertical with babies?
        Very well written posts guys!

        Comment


        • #5
          I think you should let your horse guide you. It's generally best to err on the side of lightness, but some horses naturally prefer a firmer contact with the reins. If your horse needs a lighter touch, however, this does not equate zero contact.

          Comment


          • #6
            Why would one want a horse btv ever? Babies most of all need their necks for balance. So you let them put their head where they need them to be, not where you think they should have it. The horse softens at the pole, bringing its nose in, as it builds balance and sits more (something that takes time, years as the horse progresses in its training).

            Light contact with soft following hands. Use an opening rein to help lead them where you want them to go (that's out, not back). Be sure to sit forward as it helps their backs.

            Comment


            • #7
              Ah, but Elegant E, many youngsters will naturally go BTV when first learning to carry themselves and a rider - it has nothing to with wilfully putting them there. This is particularly true for those of the Arab/Morgan/Welsh persuasion IME. Some horses initially find their balance by curling up in an utterly disgraceful and unclassical manner! Of course one has to then begin the journey of riding them forward and up into a truer contact, but the contact has to start somewhere. So personally (depending on the individual horse) I don't panic if they start out BTV and that certainly won't fool me into throwing the contact away. Too often people assume that a horse will only go BTV because of riders' hands, and this really bugs me. I don't think that's really what was meant in the post above, but it's possible some people may interpret it that way... or maybe I'm just being crotchety and pedantic first thing on a Monday morning.
              Last edited by Lost_at_C; May. 16, 2011, 05:59 AM. Reason: haven't had morning coffee yet....
              Proud COTH lurker since 2001.

              Comment


              • #8
                I absolutely teach a horse to go WTC with no contact before teaching a horse to go on contact. It's to teach "stabilization" before a horse can properly go on the bit. The amount of time you spend before asking a horse to go on contact depends on the horse, sometimes it's 6 weeks, sometimes 6 months.

                It is shocking to me how many people skip this step, this is one huge reason IMO I rarely see a horse that is truly on the bit and through, people concentrate on the position of the horses head and in turn interfere in the horse's ability to balance and maintain rhythm on it's own. Even when a horse is going on the bit or in a frame I have at least one schooling session a week where I ride light and forward on a loose rein.

                This is a fantastic article. So are the old books by Littauer.

                http://www.anrc.org/article.asp?Arti...&section_id=25
                On the Internet, nobody knows you're a dog

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by SisterToSoreFoot View Post
                  Absolutely a "do." Contact should be introduced right away. That doesn't mean you're asking for a 3rd level frame or anything like that. A soft, following contact that the horse trusts should be part of just what it means to be ridden. Why begin with a loopy rein and then change the rules on them? By the time you climb in the saddle the horse should be used to some contact from side/Vienna reins, ground driving, etc. Why drop it once you get on?

                  Long and low is important, but L & L is truly achieved when the horse follows a soft contact downward, NOT when the reins are all slack and loopy. I think people sometimes feel like young horses need a longer, stretchier neck--and they do--but this can be best achieved through contact, not through letting the horse meander around with draped reins. Contact is communication, and you can make the contact do whatever you want it to do, whether that is asking for a higher poll or a longer stretchier frame, or a softening of the jaw, or, or, or....I think a young horse, in particular, appreciates the guidance and consistency judicious contact provides.
                  This.
                  www.saraalberni.com

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    got no contact go no control,

                    contact - when starting youngsters off then its best to start on the lines as in long lineing so they can learn simple commands and directions via voice and hands as the lines are an extention of your hands
                    however when ridding a youngster be that green or just broken in

                    its how you ride between the leg and hand
                    which determines the kind of contact you have with your horse be that young old or otherwise

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Where I come from we ride greenies/youngsters with just enough contact to feel the mouth but we don't go anywhere near asking them to be on the vertical. We work towards forward motion and tracking up from behind for a long time before taking anymore rein.

                      Lost At C: I'm curious about this observation that certain breeds are predisposed to putting themselves BTV. My trainer's career began with Arabs and regardless of their intended discipline she started them all in dressage (including Western and park horses). She has never mentioned a horse that sucks their head in like that... unless of course it's an evasion thing, but you're saying it's a natural carriage at first. Do they do this even in a loose rein? It seems to me (and I'm no pro, so apologies if I'm totally wrong) that if one was riding a horse with some contact and it was bringing itself behind the verticle that would be one's cue to 1. loosen the contact a bit and b. push the horse forward to encourage them to stretch out and actually stick their nose out a bit ahead of a verticle.

                      idk. I have some strong opinions regarding the practice of trying to put young/green horses onto the verticle early on. I am currently riding a stallion that was started, we believe, with way too much draw rein. Basically, he jogged around like a Western horse, and note, you had to resort to some serious leg flapping and whip tickling to just get that, which his nose to his chest if you had just about any contact with his mouth. Someone was focusing way to much on his head and making a big deal out of having on the verticle. But there was no forward motion and he ended up BTV all the time. We fixed it by riding him on a pretty loose rein for atleast 2 or 3 months. He's back to normal now and moves off of leg just fine. But he will probably always be very sensitive to rein contact and is put on the vertical very easily... you can still pretty much rollkur him by accident if you're not careful.
                      Tru : April 14, 1996 - March 14, 2011
                      Thank you for everything boy.


                      Better View.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        A steady light connection with the horses mouth, that means allowing bascule/telescoping of walk/canter. IF you follow the directives (for training in the rules), then training level is merely a steady connection and the horse accepting the bit. That means no added (longitudinal) flexion, just active/up/open. As the horse develop a light degree of lateral flexion (the bend of a 20 m circle) it will OFFER very light longitudinal flexion. Such a lower level horse should be very open in the throatlatch (45 degree) and only offer to chew and a little flexion. As the horse comes 'on the bit', is ridden on smaller figures 15/10m circles it also offers more longitudinal flexion (still ifv steadily if possible/if in balance). The horse should only 'chew the reins from the hand', go fdo to the degree it has connected to the hand in the first place.
                        I.D.E.A. yoda

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          I think there is a confusion between contact and frame or length of reins to many uneducated (not saying anyone on here is uneducated - just a general observation). Those of who ride dressage have learned that you can have contact no matter the length of the horse's neck. With youngsters you want contact but you want a very long/horizontal frame. I want the youngster to follow their nose. I don't want any baby to be overbridled and confined by the aids, especially the hands. There are always exceptions to these thoughts. I find if I follow the training pyramid and directives of the training level tests I stay on track.
                          Susan B.
                          http://canterberrymeadows.com/

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            I am currently using loose ring snaffle, and it comes out of each side of his mouth by about 2cm, and sometimes more on one side. I think it is too big. he fights it even when I have loose contact.

                            Comment

                            • Original Poster

                              #15
                              What a lovely discussion! I am loving all the opinions on this topic. Very well-stated and thoughtful posts so far. Anyone else care to share their thoughts?

                              Comment

                              • Original Poster

                                #16
                                Seems that forward off the leg is the #1 most important thing to impress upon a youngster (other than being relaxed and happy to be ridden), while combined with light to medium, following contact...without trapping the horse with the hands.

                                Comment


                                • #17
                                  Originally posted by roja.raou View Post
                                  I am currently using loose ring snaffle, and it comes out of each side of his mouth by about 2cm, and sometimes more on one side. I think it is too big. he fights it even when I have loose contact.
                                  I would say the bit may be too wide and or big. Also, some horses are sensitive to the bit moving around in their mouths. Have had good experience with Mylar eggbutt and a drop nose (not tight at all, just kind of there to stabilize the bit so it doesn't move as much when contact changes - as well as prevent horse from crossing it's jaw which is the main reason for nosebands).

                                  Allowing the horse to bascule and use it's balancing rod, aka neck, is super important and can't be reiterated enough. The easiest way to ruin a horse's walk is to take too much contact.

                                  About BTV, sure some young/weak horses will bob their heads btv but the goal is to get them reaching out and forward. Have a friend from Europe who was taught to take the horse's head in so that the forehead is parallel to the ground. Yikes. How is a horse supposed to balance without it's head and neck?

                                  If a horse does come btw, it can be dealt with several ways depending on what's causing it. Pushing the horse more forward (not constant thumping, just push and wait till horse slows then push again) can bring the head up. Some times a gentle lifting rein can let the horse know you want him to balance up and out more. Yes, keep the contact but is has to be giving/forward, not taking back.

                                  Btw, too quick a tempo, bc being pushed too much, can throw the horse off balance. Forward is good, but young horses can find balancing and forward hard. It's the rider's job to help the young horse find its balancing point.

                                  One last thing about young horses, one should ride in a more forward seat. Gives the horse room to use its back.

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