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Thread: Riding With A Contact

  1. #1

    Default Riding With A Contact

    Hi all,

    As some of you may know, I have returned to riding after a several year break.

    I am learning more about dressage and the horses way of going and I've noticed that when I ride properly, the horse goes properly... So obvious but something I need to keep reminding myself

    At the start of my last lesson, the horse I was riding was sluggish and would not go forwards, however, the more I shortened my reins and the more contact I took up the better she worked. However, this felt completely backwards to anything I've ever learnt before. My instructor says there is no point working the engine of the horse (the back end) if I'm just going to throw it all out of the front, and by having a contact I am containing that energy.

    It just feels strange that to get the horse working more quickly, and more alert, I need to use more rein?!

    Can someone shed some light please as I was previously taught that if they weren't going forwards to give more rein. When I give more rein on this horse, everything falls apart and we bumble along...

    I have a particular interest in classical dressage at the moment, so if someone could also give that view of things that would be really appreciated also.

    Apparently, my hand carriage isn't that great at the moment and should be the horses shoulder width apart to enable them to work through the shoulder - it certainly feels better riding this way and does affect the horses way of going more positively but it would be good to know if this is correct? I've noticed that keeping my elbows back by my sides generally helps the bigger picture too - everything feels more collected if that makes sense!


  2. #2
    Join Date
    Sep 2009


    Traditionally horses are taught to work into a contact, shortening your reins is part of most of the aids for moving up a gait. You'll often hear the expression riding 'leg to hand' creating the energy and containing it.

    However, most horses, especially school horses, just learn as a consequence that when the rider shortens the reins, they are going to get a boot shortly after, if they have ignored the first squeeze to move off, so they anticipate the aids, and they can still move off on the forehand with no engagement.

    Generally if I'm walking along and I shorten my reins, my horse with run into trot whether I want her to or not, its just a very bad habit as far as I'm concerned.

    You should of course be able to ride a horse actively on a loose rein, but its further up the scales of learning in traditional dressage...

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jan 2014


    Yes the horse works properly if using its hindquarters and it engine so to speak and this energy needs controlled and contained and horse needs to be on their back end not on the forehand. Yes a horse needs to be able to work on a loose rein and for one with my mare will work her loose when warming up then long and low and then when working forward and from behind I will gather her up into a proper contact as this is how she works best.

    Elbows in and elastic contact will help the horse's way of going as will your position and riding. Mind you as I find it is often easier said than done and I have to remind myself this too as I can get lazy sometimes and just not want to school and have fun lol. Yes hands apart like that helps me mare go into a contact and helps her for turns and being on the correct bend.


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