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Getting a horse to accept the contact

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  • Getting a horse to accept the contact

    I'm not really a dressage person but I thought this would be the best place to come for some good advice.

    How would you go about riding a horse that likes to avoid contact. She's very very soft and would probably love it if you would ride her on a semi loose rein all of the time. However if you pick up more contact she has a tendency to avoid the contact by overflexing and bending at C3 (I think) vs. at the poll. And when you do lengthen your reins, she doesn't follow that contact down and stretch.
    She can be rather fractitious and forward so we've worked at ton at relaxing at all gaits and getting her to stretch down (but without contact) and getting her strides long and relaxed vs. fast and choppy.
    It seems if you pick up too much contact she becomes very inconsistent (accordian like...fast, slow, long, short... lol) and tends to get quite strong if you get strong.
    __________________________________________________ _
    Proud member of PETA: People Eating Tasty Animals!

  • #2
    You do not have any contact. Your horse is overllexing to the contact of the one rein, and coming above the bit with the contact on the other. The root of the problem is that the horse is crooked. This results in one rein stopping a shoulder incorrectly for whatever movement you are riding. It means the horse's diagonals are not in correct proportion to each other as a stride is taken. Because the diagonals are not correctly proportioned, the horse is getting too much contact on one side of its jaw, so that side overflexes. On the other side, because the contact is never correct, the horse does not learn to flex its jaw. Without the jaw flexion on each side, you cannot change the position of the other muscles that need to change to create a more perfect straightness.

    Riding a horse overbent, or in a rollkur position, does create that flexion on both sides of the jaw. The ability to flex the jaw equally on both sides is still not there, and in addition, the rider is not correcting the rest of the horse's body into that flexion. This results in extra stress of joints and tendors, causing the greater risk of the horse's body breaking down.

    Comment

    • Original Poster

      #3
      That's really interesting and when reading your response I think you may have hit the nail on the head.

      So what do you recommend to fix the crookedness/lack of even contact?
      __________________________________________________ _
      Proud member of PETA: People Eating Tasty Animals!

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      • #4
        There is so much that really goes into training for correct contact, I could write a book. The exercises that are presented from level to level of dressage are designed to demostrate the developement of contact. This is especially true of Training and First Level. The struggle that occurs at Second for many riders is because understanding of conditioning the horse for contact is not clearly understood.

        When I start a horse in contact, I start with standing flexions. Flexions are done on the diagonal when a rider is in the saddle, but when you start them from the ground, you are only flexing the horse from one side to the other with the reins. A snaffle bit is designed to be used on one side at a time only. One side of the bit should remain stationary while the other side asks the horse to bend. You also want the horse's head to stay fairly perpendicular when doing these flexions.

        If I were standing next to the horse's side, about in the position of the girth, I'd keep the rein that is farthest away from me stationary, and I would take on the rein closest to me. Remember that the off-side rein must remain stationary as that is so important. You take and hold the rein nearest you until the horse relaxes the jaw on that side and begins chewing. As that happens you soften the rein.

        This is something for which you really need instruction. I suggest you look around for someone that has trained in the French school, or someone whose instructor has trained in the French school. This is the school of training that has come out of Samur. There is way more to flexions than this. I have described only the begining point. Undersaddle, you must also add in the weighting of the diagonal stirrup. The weighting of your stirrup is opposite of your stationary rein for most movements, and this gets much more complicated as you seek to influence the horse.

        To properly influence the horse using the flexions, you must have a very good seat, and you must be able to feel the degree that the horse is crooked. Then, you need to be aware of the correct diagonal to influence in order to effect a change. I could write pages and pages about all this, so please try to find some instructor that is really well versed.

        Comment


        • #5
          In a nutshell... *you* don't make contact. The horse does.

          Once you can think about it as the horse needs to take the bit OUT rather than give to it as you take rein, you will be more successful in changing what is happening.

          Adjust your reins to the place where your hands are in front of your body and your elbows are still bent and at your sides. Ride with your focus on keeping the rhythm the same at all times.. that is your job and your responsibility to attend to. See what happens when you close your leg. See what happens when you half halt. See what happens when you move her off your inside leg.. off your outside leg... figure out where she is stiff. If she rushes, slow the tempo. If she sucks back, send her forward.

          Don't get drawn into situations that involve doing thing without the reins at the proper length. There is no point in that, other than to show you that you are picking up the rein and bringing her head back at you if things change so much when you pick them up. There is also the possibility that, like most people do for a long time, when you pick up the reins you are thinking about only that exact thing. Instead, pick up the reins matter of factly and pay attention to everything else about the horse FIRST and what is happening in front of you with the reins LAST.

          Don't be surprised if she is offended when you don't change the rein length, she never read any of these posts or any dressage books so she has no idea that she needs to step to the end of the rein... be patient but firm. I tell my students to simply state to their horse that they are really sorry but things are like this now and that is that.

          Flexions.. I dunno if I'd go there. Flexions, standing and in motion, are pretty sophisticated tool and usually employed best by people who already have the horse on the end of the rein. If the horse is already giving to the bit and backing off it, messing with her head more might not be a good idea. But that's how I see it.
          "Kindness is free" ~ Eurofoal
          ---
          The CoTH CYA - please consult w/your veterinarian under any and all circumstances.

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by EqTrainer View Post
            In a nutshell... *you* don't make contact. The horse does.

            Adjust your reins to the place where your hands are in front of your body and your elbows are still bent and at your sides. Ride with your focus on keeping the rhythm the same at all times.. that is your job and your responsibility to attend to. See what happens when you close your leg. See what happens when you half halt. See what happens when you move her off your inside leg.. off your outside leg... figure out where she is stiff. If she rushes, slow the tempo. If she sucks back, send her forward.

            Don't get drawn into situations that involve doing thing without the reins at the proper length. There is no point in that, other than to show you that you are picking up the rein and bringing her head back at you if things change so much when you pick them up. There is also the possibility that, like most people do for a long time, when you pick up the reins you are thinking about only that exact thing. Instead, pick up the reins matter of factly and pay attention to everything else about the horse FIRST and what is happening in front of you with the reins LAST.

            Flexions.. I dunno if I'd go there. Flexions, standing and in motion, are pretty sophisticated tool and usually employed best by people who already have the horse on the end of the rein. If the horse is already giving to the bit and backing off it, messing with her head more might not be a good idea. But that's how I see it.

            Above is great I agree about flexions? How would flexions help a horse GO to the bit rather than leaving it? I could see a horse that is leaning on the bit need em but...


            With a horse that gets behind, I hardly use my hands at all besides the outside rein for turning and the inside for a slight bend on the circles. I DO NOT use them for a half halt until I KNOW that I can push them right back into contact.

            Circles, and tempo change often, I keep a super soft quiet hand massaging the inside barely and then when the horse reaches I reward with a following hand, OVER , OVER, and OVER lol

            NOW giving is not throwing away, NO, its following by feeding the reins if I choose to. OR just a following hand that moves a bit towards the mouth depending if the horse is getting heavy on the forhand or not.
            ~~Member of the TB's Rule Clique ~~
            http://www.off-breed-dressage.blogspot.com/

            Comment


            • #7
              Have you tried going back (or) to the lunge with side reins at a proper length for TL and driving her into the contact? Lots of horses that are tight or tense in the neck and evade by going BTV under saddle will be more willing to relax and reach for the contact on the lunge because they can balance easier without a rider. You can still half halt her from the ground to rebalance and keep her stepping under herself. Do lots of transitions as they are great for suppleing. Not sure this will help your problem but, properly done, it sure won't hurt! God luck!
              "Success comes in cans, not in cannots!"

              Comment


              • #8
                When asking a horse to accept contact, the weight if the reins and the softness and give of the hand is important. However, even more important is the fact that the horse must becoming up from behind, and the rider must be able to regulate the pace, and to some degree the bend, without the use of the reins.

                The reins support round, and they support the degree of bend in the neck and head.
                They do not create it.

                That is where the nagging voice of the instructor comes in.
                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.

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