Frustration: Outside Rein & Consistent Contact
 
 

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Frustration: Outside Rein & Consistent Contact

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  • How do you achieve a consistent contact in dressage
  • How do you keep consistent contact on a horse

 
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    12-16-2010, 05:57 PM
  #1
Weanling
Frustration: Outside Rein & Consistent Contact

So I've avoided posting about this as I honestly thought it could be corrected much quicker then it seems to be coming (my first mistake). When I did my first clinic with my mare (I've only had her since August), I thought it turned out great, and she was on the vertical, blah blah. Now - it seems we're having more issues than ever - which reminds me of how we were going during that clinic, and it feels just "lucky" that we were in the contact. I wasn't driving into anything at that point - she was simply holding herself on the vertical - it was like "false contact" if that makes any sense at all. We reverted to side reins for a very short period in time while I figured out how to sit - now that's fantastic and my coach and I have pulled the side reins off. Disaster. My hands CANNOT figure it out until 35 minutes into a lesson. Once we're in the contact and the trot is big and floaty there are no issues working with it. It's getting there that's my major issue.

Last night during our lesson we worked on a spiral - slowly coming in from a 20 meter circle using the outside rein to hold the shoulder and bring it in, at the same time as ensuring the hind quarters were pushing out and that she was overall bent and flexed correctly. As mentioned though, it took me about 35 minutes working both sides to get to a point where we had a consistent big trot and she was on the vertical on full contact.

I'm simply frustrated because I know this is completely a "me" issue - this has nothing to do with her other then the fact she's figured out that my hands can't get it right, and so she'll push her limits until she really knows that I'm not going to give in on the issue.

Do any of you have any recommendations on how to hold the shoulder and keep a solid outside rein, keep a flexible/soft inside rein, keep the shoulder in and the hind quarter out (with her body bent properly) - all at the same **** time? I realize this is a hump and by this time next year I will be laughing at how many issues I had with simple contact (just like sitting at first was impossible) - but I employ you to give me some advice or exercises that you think might help.

Thanks all! And if I wasn't clear about something, please let me know and I will try to clarify.

PS: I should mention that to get her to that point it takes my coach consistently reminding me of what needs to be where to get it. It's like I can't put all the puzzle pieces together when we're training on our own (not all the time, but some times).
     
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    12-16-2010, 06:45 PM
  #2
Banned
I know this is a very frustrating concept and a big training hurdle; and it sounds like your trainer is doing all the appropriate things.

Something that really stood out to me in your post though is that there was no mention of your inside leg. The consistent contact comes from the connection between your inside leg and outside rein. You need to be giving a little push with your inside leg, and a beat later, the same size half half on the outside rein. When you do this with the correct strength and timing, you'll actually *feel* the horse change their balance and come onto the contact with the outside rein.

I suspect that in the clinic where you felt this all come together, something about the setting had her a little more animated and forward than usual which made this easier and that since then you've struggled to get her forward and energetic enough to make the connection.

The spiraling in and out exercise is terrific and works really well, but while you're doing it, really be active with your inside leg, and use it to *push* her on the outside rein. You want to think of it as a little leg yield out and a little half pass in, creating energy with your inside leg that you catch with your outside rein.

Another great exercise which is deceptively simple is to place two sets of cones around a 20 meter circle. Trot the circle and as you pass through a set of cones, ride a big half halt and then ride forward. Have your coach rate your half half from 1 to 10 (A ten means the horse almost stops.) Aim for about a 5 half halt until you feel your horse soften and come on to the outside rein. As you get better at this, add a third set of cones and half halt.

Also, please forget about "vertical." If you think about that, you'll end up just riding the front end of the horse. Vertical, on the aids, on the bit, whatever you want to call it, happens behind and under the rider, where you can't see it. Ride forward into the contact correctly and it happens on its own. It's the result of other things being correct, you can't produce it in isolation.

Oh, and IME, it's totally normal to have gotten it right once and to struggle for a while to find again.

I hope some of the more knowledgable dressage riders on the board chime in with ideas and advice as well.
     
    12-16-2010, 11:50 PM
  #3
Weanling
Great point - I absolutely did forget inside leg in there. This being part of the problem - there are like 15 aids I need to use at once to do this accurately and appropriately. That's exactly what we were working on in the spiral - is leg yielding her hind end out while holding the shoulder in. This was a new concept to me - we've done things similar to this in the past but I find that when things are explained to me slightly differently it makes a huge difference. For instance, a good example of this is "bend"... when I think bend, unfortunately I used to relate that to - "If I see her neck bent, then this must be right" - which is completely wrong, as her back end wasn't doing ANYTHING while I thought I was good. None the less.

The other thing I failed to mention is our use of half halts to help us through this issue. Again, something that was/is my fault right now is "holding the half halt too long", and forgetting to release my hip. Last night was the first time every that I could actively tell the difference between holding too long, and remembering to release right after the half halt and feeling her move forward out of it more balanced. So I'm sure that this is a major contributor to our issues as well - the more I hold that half halt, the more we lose momentum and then we're back at square one because we have no forward movement left and we're both pissy with each other.

And yes, very true re: "the vertical" terminology. You're right - up until now, I really seriously have only been riding the front end of her. Not once (until last night) have I thought about yielding the rear end out unless we were actually doing an exercise that required it (IE. Shoulder in or something of the sort).

Re: the cone idea - I sort of (without the cones) used this concept last night. Because I was consciously thinking about the half halt and then immediately opening up my hip to let her go, I had to break the 20m circle into quarters. Every time I'd hit a letter I'd half halt, open up, half halt, open up. By the end of it the concept was solidifying but I'm sure I lost some inside leg, outside rein, some other aid I was supposed to be focusing in on at the same time. LOL...****it.

I truly appreciate the post maura. Yes, sincerely frustrating - specifically because there are nights where we get it, and its gorgeous forward round and spectacular. Then there are other nights (Tuesday night) which are a complete disaster. Those are the nights I leave the barn and ask myself "What did you really accomplish tonight?", and my only positive answer is "You went out and rode in the cold which in itself is a huge accomplishment" (even though we have an indoor, nobody can tell me that going to get a horse in -15 from the field is fun).

I have mentioned to Anabel already that I have another clinic coming up on January 2nd - and am sincerely hoping to either get some great photos, or a decent video out of it. If I get either I'll come here to post and hope that the veterans will comment. Frankly, we (being my mare and I), train hard - and I really seriously have a hard time taking advice from anyone who isn't at our level or above. I'm sure that this is understandable.

Thanks again maura - I'll keep you posted.
     
    12-17-2010, 12:28 AM
  #4
Trained
"hold the shoulder and keep a solid outside rein, keep a flexible/soft inside rein, keep the shoulder in and the hind quarter out (with her body bent properly)"

This raises a few flags for me. The first part about keeping the shoulder - we ride the WHOLE front of the horse - not riding it in pieces. Think about turning the whole front end as opposed to holding the shoulder - the horse weighs 1200lbs you aren't going to hold anything.
About the reins - again with the holding/keeping thing! You can't just stick the horse somewhere and expect it to stay there. Both reins are elastic - the horse stretches to both of them EQUALLY. You need to have equal pressure in both reins and the ability to give with both reins and allow the horse to stretch and create a bridge over the back.
And finally about the hindquarters - we don't want them out is the thing! If the horse tends to dog track the issue is with more effectively bringing the front end around and using an effective inside leg. Otherwise the horse is going to have one direction where they want the quarters in and the other where they want them out - this is the nature of any animal (including us). Everything is crooked - in dressage we aim to straighten. We do this by riding the forehand around and keeping the horse actively forward and in front of the leg - not by focusing on what the hind end is doing. It is through exercises and keeping the horse even where we create straightness - this is why straightness does not come until right before collection on the training scale! Many other things are needed before this can be a priority.

From what I'm reading you are over thinking. Simplify. You have three basic aids - your hands with an equal weighted contact in each. Your legs which work together to go forward and your seat which balances. Follow the training scale Rhythm, relaxation, contact, impulsion, straightness, collection.

And at this point until you have you figured out in your own training sessions don't worry about the horse. What I always suggest is a neck rope or bucking strap for the rider to hold onto to steady her hands. Keep your hands low and following the horse's body (not his mouth, we aren't pushing a lawnmower), and push your shoulder blades down and into your hips until your elbows are physically touching the hips. This stabilizes your upper body and core and allows you to be still in the tack. IT may feel like a straight jacket at first but as you get stronger you will have more freedom in this strong position.

Good luck! And remember simplicity is key - take a step back and look at the big picture often :)
     
    12-17-2010, 01:08 AM
  #5
Trained
Once again a brilliant post from Anebel!
Just to further instil what she pointed out, you are complicating this too much. There are certainly not 15 aids to get a horse on the contact - there are 3. Stop. Go. Turn. Nothing more, nothing less. That is all dressage is. Stop, go and turn. I think we as rider's tend to complicate things far more than necessary, making it difficult for not only ourselves but our horses.
Break your training into sections rather than trying to tackle it as one big lump sum! So if you're losing the shoulder, ride her in a shoulder fore feeling.
An exercise that I really like, is to ride serpentines with leg yield across the parallel/change of rein. Starting at walk on a 3 loop (20m circles) - Ride you first 1/2 20m circle, and as you come off the track start to ask for flexion onto the new rein, while leg yielding off your new inside leg. Repeat each time you change rein, then start the exercise on a 4 loop serpentine still in walk. When you can master it in walk, go back to a 3 loop and do it in trot, then a 4 loop and so on.
I have found this exercise excellent for keeping the horse upright, in front of my leg and into a connection.

Another thing to keep in mind, is that unless the horse is very experienced, it WILL take a while each session to develop a connection from hind to front. You have to warm the horse's body up as a whole, establish relaxation, rhythm and then the contact and straightness start to come.
     
    12-17-2010, 11:33 AM
  #6
Banned
Quote:
Originally Posted by ~*~anebel~*~    
"hold the shoulder and keep a solid outside rein, keep a flexible/soft inside rein, keep the shoulder in and the hind quarter out (with her body bent properly)"

This raises a few flags for me. The first part about keeping the shoulder - we ride the WHOLE front of the horse - not riding it in pieces. Think about turning the whole front end as opposed to holding the shoulder - the horse weighs 1200lbs you aren't going to hold anything.

Absolutely agree.

I am also wondering in the 35 minutes you say it takes to get your horse to where you want it, just exactly what are you doing to get there. Everything mentioned by Anebel and Maura are fine after the horse AND you are warmed up but just what do you do from the moment you first sit on this horse to the point you become happy with her work.
     
    12-17-2010, 12:30 PM
  #7
Banned
Great points about the warm up and the long and low.

Finding out what works for your horse in terms of warm up and preparing them to work on the aids takes some searching and trial and error, and what works well for one horse may not work for another.

If you're riding a TB, you often have to focus more on relaxing and using their back in the warmup.
     
    12-17-2010, 12:55 PM
  #8
Started
I've been working on a very similar thing, MissH... so don't feel like you're the only one who isn't "getting it". ^_^ Unfortunately if I am not very careful about the manner in which I ride, my horse will begin to "brace" against my hand. I have to be very very careful not to respond to her bracing by getting into a tug of war. Recently I have discovered that I really need to get her hind end responding to my cues so that her inside hind leg moves up beneath her a little better and gives her a better balance. Every time I feel her starting to stiffen, I try to re-engage her hind end... I don't know if this makes any sense, it's hard for me to put in words.

Whatever I was doing, last night it seemed to work alright... by the end of the ride she was soft and forward in my hands. It felt like I was finally doing something right!
     
    12-17-2010, 01:38 PM
  #9
Green Broke
I'm having the same problem too. I'm either playing tug of war (boy does my horse like that game) or I've got a droopy outside rein and if I have a droopy outside rein she won't bend at all or worse yet, trying not to play tug of war and basically throwing any variety of contact away.

We've been doing circles with leg yields, walk/trot transitions in corners, trot/canter transitions on what theoretically was a circle (apparently squares are more circular than my circles while cantering) added in with lots of screaming about close my fingers, stop bracing, bend my elbows, close my !@#$% fingers, look at the gigantic loop in my outside rein, get those hands even and those fingers CLOSED, take a deep breath you're making HER nervous, sit up straight, I've seen half-dead horses trot faster than that, use your LEGS and yeah.... frustrating!

Last lesson started off with a rodeo bronc session, being bucked off, coming off again and ended with her actually coming around and being nice and soft. Ok, so it ended well but holy crap I better not need a rodeo session every time to accomplish that!
     
    12-17-2010, 03:27 PM
  #10
Weanling
Quote:
Originally Posted by Delfina    
We've been doing circles with leg yields, walk/trot transitions in corners, trot/canter transitions on what theoretically was a circle (apparently squares are more circular than my circles while cantering) added in with lots of screaming about close my fingers, stop bracing, bend my elbows, close my !@#$% fingers, look at the gigantic loop in my outside rein, get those hands even and those fingers CLOSED, take a deep breath you're making HER nervous, sit up straight, I've seen half-dead horses trot faster than that, use your LEGS and yeah.... frustrating!
Bahaha....oh man. TOTALLY UNDERSTAND....If it's not one thing, it's another.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Spyder    
I am also wondering in the 35 minutes you say it takes to get your horse to where you want it, just exactly what are you doing to get there. Everything mentioned by Anebel and Maura are fine after the horse AND you are warmed up but just what do you do from the moment you first sit on this horse to the point you become happy with her work.
Alrighty. Lets get right into it. Typically lately, as the weather has turned and we've had lots of snow, she is a little frisky when I bring her in (no traction in the field even with the studs). So to start, we'll do about 15 minutes a side on the lunge. We'll focus on trot and canter, in the attempt to get her over her back and moving forward before I get on. After that, we'll warm up with a few rounds of walk on either rein, first with a loose rein, and then in the frame? (I put a "?" simply because I'm not quite sure what the favorite terminology is around here - I typically would've said on the vertical, but who knows - can someone clarify so when I'm explaining myself and trying to learn something I can be clear? ).

After this, I've already worked myself up to the point that we're going to have to trot eventually and this is where the problem starts. She'll be warm and soft and gorgeous at the walk - as soon as we kick it up a gear the first thing she does is bring her nose up. I think this is mainly attributed to the fact that she now knows that she can !@*# with me because I haven't been consistent with this in the past. So because she's gotten away with it before, now she's learned and this is where we're at. So we'll post trot for a decent amount of time on both reins. I'll work on some serpintines if I have room in the arena - really focusing on bending, flexing and trying to get her through. I have pace issues - so I'll try and stay conistent with the gait. I will try *not* to worry about not being in the connection, as as soon as I start to get worked up about not getting anywhere I get tense, then she braces - and as the others have mentioned, everything become more difficult.

Then we'll move on to sitting trot - I think I've done a great job thus far of really sitting and controlling my seat. We've done a lot of no stirrup work in the past and it has really helped. Now - if she's not over her back and we're not forward and round, obviously sitting becomes slightly harder and neither of us are as happy as we could be. None the less, I will sit and again work through serpintines, bending and flexing trying to accomplish the same thing.

Recently, as in over the course of the last week, we've bumped up canter to way earlier in our sessions as this helps with our forward movement, and I seem to have no problems with coordinating everything in the canter. She's round, forward, I can tell that my hands, seat, and legs are doing everything they are supposed to be doing, and I have a much great ability to "tweak" the gait more accurately then I do at the trot.

Anyways, eventually, after cantering (always after this point in our sessions/lessons), it's much easier to get her round and forward (obviously). So this is typically where I hit the 35 minutes and things start to come together (not all the time, only some).


Today, was another interesting experience. The canter was GORGEOUS. Trot, a complete failure. I got maybe the last 5 minutes on either side semi round at the trot, so was fairly disappointed. I rode with two of my very good friends (both training 4th level, and showing 3rd), and both commented that this is the hardest part of the level that I'm at. I remember in summer when I first bought her, and I couldn't sit for crap - thinking that I would never be able to ride without stirrups. Now, I prefer it. So I understand that this is one of those things that will come with time. But I'm also open (very open) to learning from the veterans on the site as in combination with my amazing coach, anything at this point that helps me get past this hurdle would be truly appreciated.


Quote:
Originally Posted by anebel    
From what I'm reading you are over thinking. Simplify.

I bet you anything that there was a time when you're coach told you all the same things about inside leg, outside rein, shoulders, positioning, blah blah blah - and that at the time you were going wth am I supposed to do with all of this information - LOL... it's so easy to say "simplify" when you already have the ability to do it, and do it beautifully! I agree with your line of thinking, I'm just saying - remember back to when you weren't the gorgeous rider that you are now and you were going through the same issues I'm having, and try to remember how that felt.

I laughed at Delfina's post because it's so absolutely true - if it's not one thing, it's another, and at this point it takes a ton of focus to ensure I'm doing all the right things at the right times, while allowing her to move like she's supposed to move.

Anebel I have a question though - re: the bucking strap - use this while holding the reins at the same time to assist in moving with the body and not her mouth? Can you elaborate? I'll try it if you suggest it and then report back on how it went.


You ladies are wonderful - I'd love to hear any more feedback on the information I posted above. I should mention that my girl is a 5 year old Trakehner cross (TB/Percheron).




     

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