Here we have a Crystal System subscriber who struggling to keep a consistent outline with her horse coming behind the vertical or poking his nose slightly, another very familiar problem which raises its ugly head, time and time again! (no pun intended – well, it was intended actually, lol!)
Thing is, when our real life rider gets the magic spot … keeping it is a problem.
I have had a number of questions about consistent contact. It’s a problem. It is what is known as a back to front problem and can escalate and create more issues such as gait changes (working to medium trot) becoming difficult, movements are downhill instead of uphill and the horse begins to lean or back off the leg.
Too much focus on the reins makes you a ‘front to back’ rider. Swapping your thinking will solve a multitude of problems.
Want to eliminate 80% of your problems?
If there were a one size fits all solution and I could just pinpoint one thing that would assist every rider it would be forwardness.
Having your horse forward quite simply erases 80% of all issues! fact! (bold I know, but I need you to understand this)
To achieve a consistent contact, we should shift our focus to forwardness and do everything we can to drive the horse’s engine (which is in the hind quarters). Remaining focussed on this and removing the focus from the front is the starting point for consistency in the outline.
Keep the reins soft, following and steady, do not pull back.
Quick Tip: On a circle, if you drive your horse forward with determination, maintain the bend with the inside leg, but at the same time hold the outside rein, your horse has no choice but to become round. If he drops behind the vertical push him forward, up into the contact and give, very slightly with the fingers and then DO NOTHING!
You must resist fiddling, vibrating, tweaking. You must simply hold the reins in place and allow the horse to find the contact. This will take practice. Only make adjustments if things change, then go back to doing nothing.
A word of caution – you should have a contact, you should be able to feel the bit, do not think you have a light contact if you can’t feel anything – you don’t – what you have is NO contact, which frankly is a bad thing.
Want to eliminate 80% of your horse’s problems?
If there were one size fits all solution and I could pinpoint one thing that would assist every horse it would be transitions.
Incorporating countless transitions into your work will benefit you and your horse in many, many ways. So, check that you are in a back to front mindset and begin the use of the transitions to start the horses engine.
For example, in the walk to trot transition, when you ask the horse to trot, you should feel the horse respond easily to the leg aid by engaging his hind, accepting your seat by lifting his back and continuing to step under his belly towards the hand and UP into trot.
If the horse keeps his neck round (his nose can be slightly in front of the vertical) the energy created will flow, allowing you to feel as though there is a support behind your back and seat and lightness in your hand.
To summarise, work on getting your horse forward, be still in your hand and use many transitions to engage the engine.
For a horse that is not used to being round, moving from his hind end through his back will cause him to use completely different muscles than he is used to. After the exercise, give the horse the buckle end of the reins and allow him to stretch. Like us, he will most likely be a bit sore the next day and will need time to build up the correct muscles. Be patient.
For more great posts about contact you can select ‘contact’ from the sidebar section “Topics I’m interested in …”