Peeling the onion on Consistent Contact

Recently, I had a few lessons where I was really working on consistent contact on Bali, my third level horse, then Chip, JJ Tate’s grand prix schoolmaster. These were great lessons, I am starting to really hone in on how it feels, and then I go back to my other horses.

It looks like I’m see sawing on their mouths! EEEK! There were some video clips from my yoga session last week, that I did not get downloaded in time from the dropbox, but I saw it. I was on Sparkle.

Now, on the OTTBs or the three year old, things can go from this:

to this:

or this:

in seconds. In other words, consistent contact is an elusive fantasy. So, what is going on here? Why have I suddenly turned into a see saw rider?

The first clue was when Inga called me on it with Neuf in a lesson. I opted to stop, explain that I did not feel like I was actively doing the see sawing, I was trying to keep consistent contact and trying to follow when the contact went away, and asked what to do. Often with instructors they take this as making excuses or arguing, but Inga was great and explained that when he disappears behind the contact I need to get him forward into it again. I will slip into a bit of this with Bali, but not as much.

Then, I did the yoga/dressage clinic and James noticed it on Sparkle, and they had the video, which I watched, and saw it.

So, next ride on Sparkle I really paid attention to things, and sure enough, she would drop behind the contact, and I would take up the slack by moving my hands back, she’d take the contact, and I’d follow it out again. Lo and behold…visual see sawing.

So, I put some human draw reins on me, this would be when I hold the saddle pad billet straps in my hands, limiting the amount of bounce, but then I also bridged the reins, meaning that it was noticeable if I reacted to the lost contact by bringing my hand back. Then, I really focused on NOT doing that, but adding leg and seeing if I could send Sparkle back into where she started.

Tonight on Neuf, I had a bit of a ‘eureka’ moment, I realized that the horse has to do his or her bit in this consistent contact. Yeah, yeah, I know, the dogma is everywhere, the horse is reaching for the bit, and that is what I have been working towards, but somehow, I took that nice elastic feel of consistent contact, and started to try to do the horse’s job as well as my own.

So, I sternly gave myself the talking to while riding Neuf, and think it worked a bit. Hopefully I’ll be able to get a lesson on him this month.

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About Mel

Random musings in a riding journal
This entry was posted in Bali, Neuf, Riding, Sparkle. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Peeling the onion on Consistent Contact

  1. marilee says:

    Hi Mel,
    It’s Marilee from Mike’s board. I’m not used to posting on blogs, so I hope this comes through.

    Just wanted to say that what you do that they are calling see-sawing is not what most people would call it. See-sawing is moving the reins left/right/left/right trying to wiggle the horse on the bit.

    One reason so many instructors are always asking riders to shorten up their reins and get their hands out in front is because it is much easier to feel when the horse slips behing the contact and correct it quicker. With the long reins, when the horse drops the contact you have all this slack in your hands and so it is natural to try to regain the contact with your hands. And really, once that slack is there, you have to take up contact again and push the horse back on the bit. I mean, you can’t go from loose contact and expect the horse to step into it. jmho

    • Mel says:

      Marilee, You did it right, the first time you comment, I have to approve, but once I approve one, it lets them all through. I think it is to cut down on spam and moderate comments that might be uncivil.

      I think that is why I was so frustrated on being told I was see sawing, as I thought that was something that I would actively do to try to wiggle the horse onto the bit. Once I realized what they meant and were seeing, I can now work to fix it.

      I am the queen of the too-long reins. I’ve gotten better. I don’t get the ‘shorten your reins’ over and over, at least not on Bali. On Neuf, he is a young horse, so there is a lot less consistency, because he is 3!

      It is hard to get the horse to come back into contact from completely loose reins but I seem to be able to catch it within moments and get it back, but if it goes on for more than a couple of footfalls, it is much harder.

      Mel

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