I have received a message from a ‘Real Life Rider’ who is “struggling with a green horse curling at any contact and getting anxious and rushy when asked to rebalance and slow the tempo”.
Maintenance of the contact or for your horse to ‘accept the bit’ she must have total trust and be relaxed with your hands (via the reins) in the mouth. To truly have a horse on the bit or to have your horse accept the bit will take many months of hard and sometimes frustrating work.
Curling, or over-bending is the lesser of the evils associate with bad contact. You must keep your horse going forward and as you say work on the tempo. However, don’t be tempted to slow too much with a horse that over-bends; much better that you stay forward, even TOO forward initially until the curling is sorted. Slowing will just settle the horse into a false sense of security and will be more difficult to deal with.
So, send her forward and give forward slightly with the rein from the elbow. If she leans or pulls – work on transitions. You should, as soon as possible, take a light but positive contact with the reins.
You should work on short bursts of hard work. Take up the contact, send her forward, be real steady in your hands, hold her in position, work the arena to keep her thinking and then, back to walk and drop the contact to the buckle end allowing her to stretch.
If she has worked hard enough her nose will hit the floor! This will start to build the top line and musculature she needs to hold herself in the contact.
If your horse pulls on the reins in an effort to go faster, then you should do many (and I really mean many) downward transitions and repeatedly give and re-take the reins. This will encourage balance and rhythm on a lighter contact.
Use the exercise of spiralling in and out of a circle laterally. i.e. Making the circle smaller, say 10 meters, with the outside leg, then make the circle bigger, say 20 meters, from the inside leg and a soft or giving inside rein.
Change the rein often.
When you feel your horse has stopped pulling on the inside rein, use your inside hand with the inside rein to stroke your horse’s neck. This has two benefits.
- Firstly it rewards the horse for not pulling on the inside rein.
- Secondly it will prove to you that you do not need the inside rein to bend or turn your horse.
If you are struggling with contact issues, enter the word ‘contact’ into the search at the top of the page and you will get all my posts relating to this issue.
Here to help!
Patricia – The Dressage Tipster