Here I go again with another controversial notion – REIN CONTACT. To initiate contact with your horse, you must shorten the reins – this does not mean pull! Many riders believe that shortened reins means pulling reins. This is far from the truth.
You should aim to achieve a useful rein length that allows a secure feel of the bit in the horse’s mouth, it should be steady, which is where it gets tricky – take up the rein contact, and keep it, but you must allow and follow the horses head movement. I see all too often riders who think that a steady contact is keeping everything still – No – you must ‘allow’ or your rein will actually be on-off, on-off with the movement of the horses head.
Another prerequisite is hands that are independent of the seat so they can respond to the horse’s needs rather than using the mouth for balance.
Next, invite your horse to reach forward into the rein contact. This can be thought of as a “handshake” with the horse, where the horse comes to meet you, like when you reach forward to shake someone’s hand, they reach forward, and you make contact!
Ask the horse forward from your legs and seat. Create a millimetre of space for your horse to reach into. (from giving elbow movement – don’t drop the reins or let them through your hands!!) You should feel your horse surge forward with a lifted back, this is how you will know if you are on the right track!
Without contact, your reins will be ‘wishy washy’ and so will your rein aids. You will always surprise your horse, you may cause discomfort in the horse’s mouth and there will without doubt, be inconsistencies in your communication.
Contact can always be improved, like communication can always be improved. It develops with the goal of softness, lightness, gentleness and effectiveness of the touch.
Good rein contact makes a happy horse and taking all of the above into account, only with soft shoulders, arms, elbows and hands will you achieve a good contact.
Patricia – The Dressage Tipster