Contact and "Feel"

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Contact and "Feel"

This is a discussion on Contact and "Feel" within the Dressage forums, part of the English Riding category

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    12-01-2011, 03:20 PM
Contact and "Feel"

I have a problem and I think its a common one: I often don't take enough contact, or in an effort to "give" I end up throwing it away. My intentions are good. I don't want to be too handsy or use too much rein.

I realize that getting really good at this will take time and practice, and honestly I've come a long way since making a strong effort to get this down.

For those of you who really have contact and feel down, how did you learn it or if you are teaching, how do you teach proper contact and feel to your students?
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    12-01-2011, 03:49 PM
Green Broke
I am now on my second very green horse and have to say for me it's all about getting them forward from the hind end to get to to come up into the bridle. Lots of flexing, bending transition to keep him up off your leg and paying ettention! I too have this problem sometimes, as you said it's very common.

What's worked for my young horses. Transitions transitions transitions! And....figure eights! I do a exercise of trotting my figure eight and really asking him to be forward and in the middle before changing direction I halt, stand for a few seconds and then ask for trot and off we go on our other circle! This help him stay forward, pay ettention, and better be able to balance himself through his turns. Good luck!!! Take it slow, one day at a time you will then soon find you made it one circle being forward and correctly using his/her body! Then it will just grow from there! I'm sure there bare many other exercises to help with this, this is what worked for me best!
Thyme likes this.
    12-01-2011, 04:11 PM
Great topic! I find that each horse requires a different amount of contact and so it's, perhaps, more obvious on some that you are "throwing away" the contact whereas on another horse that might not be enough of a release. Imo, it's all a matter of figuring out how you and each individual horse work together.

That may not really apply to what you are asking now that I think about it. *shrug*
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    12-01-2011, 04:16 PM
Green Broke
I agree with Crimsonsky! Everbhorse and rider Asa team are different, like my friends horse over does the whole contact, he doesn't do it correctly at all, he loves to play games to try to get bout of work so he sucks back and when he is asked to collect and use his him end he goes way way behind the vertical so that taking more contact is harder for his rider. He's gotten so much better, the long and low worked for him. If I did the long and low with my horse I'd have not enough forward as that is his issue...but getting better! Try different things, take your time!
    12-01-2011, 05:11 PM
I'm going to suggest something that may sound off the cuff. Consider taking a 1st session of Ballroom dancing. You learn a "soft feel" by being either the leader (man) or the follower (woman.) You'll learn lingo like, 'No noodle arms" and learn to not be heavy or sluggish. Plus you can get a really good idea of what it's like to follow another person's cues. =D
    12-01-2011, 05:13 PM
My horse tends to be behind my leg - so my coach is always having me really push him into the contact to the point where I have a very strong feel in my hand - he is still loose and supple, however is really into the contact and driving from behind.

How one learns to have a good, supple and strong contact is a process... first of all you must learn to move the hands so that they are steady relative to the withers. You cannot follow the mouth. You want the forehand to move as one piece and so the hand must encourage the neck to move with the withers. How this is accomplished is with a bucking strap, holding onto the saddle pad or, if your arms are long enough, resting the knuckles firmly on the neck, directly infront of the withers. Always think about pressing the hand forward and down, without moving your elbows from your hips or leaning forward.

Once you are stable in having the position of the arm correct, you must learn to correctly position and use the hand to create suppleness. The thumb is ontop at all times, and the hand is rotated longitudonally such that the pointer finger is closer to the front of the horse than the pinky finger. From here it is possible to create a great deal of flexion with the wrist. You can easily take up 2-3" of rein without moving your arm.
Now, the fist must be entirely closed around the rein. No open fingers that allow the rein to slide through!! Then you can use your fingers for aids - when they are so loose they are always inadvertently giving the horse an aid, making him dull to the bit. This is where your little bit of suppling and flexion comes from.

The position of the hand is very important and has many other implications which can be discussed in detail. However, when learning it is better to keep in mind only the simplest position and focus on making that as supple as possible while maintaining the arms' and hands' positions.
When you have the arms and hands set up correctly - it is good to think about riding "through" your hands with the seat - up to the contact. You must never think backwards with the hand - always remember to press it forward and down.

If you would like to watch someone whom I think has just the loveliest soft, but effective hands - watch Edward Gal. Good luck!!
    12-01-2011, 05:21 PM
From what I have always been told and from what my trainer tells me, feel cannot be taught. It is something that naturally comes to a rider. With the correct trainer you may be able to accomplish "feel" but it is not quite the same as having natural feel.
    12-01-2011, 05:38 PM
Feel cannot directly be taught - however it never comes naturally. A good coach can direct you towards having feel, recognize when your feel is correct and tell you so. They can make suggestions to help you "get it". So while, it cannot be taught, it certainly takes a good pair of eyes on the ground to help you develop it.
    12-01-2011, 05:40 PM
I beg to differ but that's alright. Feel can come naturally and a trainer can help you learn how to use your feel
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    12-01-2011, 05:54 PM
I still stand by my previous post. However, I used a 2nd set of reins, made from baling twine and held outside of the pinkie fingers to teach following and feel to my English students. Also, drop the reins and turn using your weight and aids only to isolate your body from the reins. You can teach your horse to start and halt by weight, as well. My horses learned that if the feel was light, we were just hacking, but if I choked up (and followed, of course) we were going to speed up and do something more exciting.
I am always changing the length of reins when I ride according to what my horse is doing. They feel this, too.
I would be less concerned about following and pay more attention to your seat. In addition, winter is a great time to teach your horse what some people think of as tricks, but are actually useful skills. For example, I've taught "Sweet Cup & Cakes" to throw a gate open on command. (My mare already knew how to do this.) He does it all of the time now, if he knows I'm unlocking a gate for him to enter. I taught him to do it by leaving him to cool off in the dry lot that I use as my 55 x 65 ft. Training area. I'd leave him there for an hour (2010) after a hard workout, then I'd unhook it before he could exit and join the herd. He's lost all fear of gates, and we intend to open gates while trail-riding in the future without dismounting. If I could do it, I'd make a jump at a gate that the herd has to pass through, to train my 5 yo's to learn to jump without my weight stressing them.
ANYWAY, make up some games that force you to secure your seat, and try riding with slack reins or tied reins and cross your arms while you ride, too. Hope this helps. =D

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