How much contact? - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 20 Old 09-24-2010, 08:55 PM Thread Starter
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How much contact?

The one thing that always kind of irked me about English riding was the amount of contact required. It just seemed like everyone is always in the horses mouth! I, however, have ridden Western for the last 7 years, and constant contact is taboo. I still have some trouble getting over it.

I tried riding my mare with light contact the other day (hornless Australian) and wasn't really sure if I was doing it right. Should the rein be just barely touching? Should there be very light contact, where you can feel the horses mouth?

I am sadly confused

Wait! I'll fix it....
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post #2 of 20 Old 09-24-2010, 09:16 PM
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I usually have a few pounds in each hand. It's not feather-light because that would mean your contact is probably inconsistent. Although some horses, like my QH, get lazy and lean on the bit sometimes and get very heavy on the reins - when that happens it feels like I'm holding a freight train... But, ideally it should be pretty light, cause the horse is carrying itself.

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post #3 of 20 Old 09-24-2010, 09:55 PM Thread Starter
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So, ideally, I should have light, but firm, contact? I ride in an eggbutt snaffle, western bridle. The Australian (unfortunately, a 16" seat) that I currently have is my first 'Englishy' saddle I've ever ridden in since a lesson a few years ago.

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post #4 of 20 Old 09-24-2010, 10:03 PM
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this is how i explain it to my students:

you want to be able to 'feel' the bit. by this i mean that feeling when you pick up the reins to the point where there would be even the slightest pressure on the bit. there should be a straight line from the bit to the hands but dont strain the line. just have 'contact'.

some english riders are all up in their horses mouths and it annoys me. any extra pressure other than 'contact' should only be momentary eg; half halts, slight pressure to the inside or outside for whatever reason. even a complete halt shouldnt really see the rider pulling on the bit. a well trained dressage horse (or any horse for that matter) will halt from your seat anyways, not your hands. a well trained horse combined with a well trained rider is what brings a horses head down not heavy hands pulling his head down.

rider error/laziness/lack of knowledge/poor training etc is where you will find riders hanging of mouths. and also those who havent been taught to ride without using the reins for support. sadly this is seen more in the english world than the western. all my students do A LOT of no rein work on the lunge so they have to learn to actually ride rather than rely on tensing their legs and hanging on the bit

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post #5 of 20 Old 09-24-2010, 10:04 PM
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by the way, are you australian?

"I whisper but my horse doesnt listen...So I yell!!...He still doesnt listen"


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post #6 of 20 Old 09-24-2010, 11:14 PM
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I posted this on another forum and it was in answer to a person that was riding western wondering how much contact is needed for English..


There is more contact than in western but to define the right amount over the net is difficult. What is strong to a Western rider may not be to me. Western riders are more used to an almost no contact and picking up even a little may "seem" strong to them.

In English the contact should never be leaning nor so constant that it allows the horse to lean. The horse looking for contact should never degrade to any form of lean or hold. To express the right contact in the best terms would be to say you feel the mouth and follow the natural movement of the horse so that the reins become more like an elastic. In essence they ACCEPT the frame of the horse, not create it (generated by the seat). The horse should be balanced enough through the seat of the rider that if you threw the reins away for a stride or two no change in position, speed or balance will occur in the horse.

I will regularly move my hand forward in a circular motion releasing any pressure on the rein/mouth and resume contact throughout my ride and nowhere does it make any change to the horse's balance. It simply relieves any pressure for a few brief seconds.
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post #7 of 20 Old 09-24-2010, 11:24 PM
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I ride rail classes in hunter arab. I have just a bit of contact (lol no pun intended, but yes I CAN feel the bit), because when the horse is bridled & soft I like to be really soft with my hands and give them a little bit of slack. Is this proper?

Meh, sorry to steal your thread ;)

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post #8 of 20 Old 09-24-2010, 11:30 PM
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whats proper?? lol personally i think if you have your horse doing everything you ask of it with a little slack in the reins then that horse is doing better than the horse who has his head "down" because its being held down.

depends on where you are and what youre doing and which judge you have basically. and how noticeable the slack is :)

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post #9 of 20 Old 09-24-2010, 11:57 PM
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Other people have described it, but my instructor got through to me when I was transitioning to english by calling my contact a 'polite conversastion' with the horse. I'm not yelling at him and yanking him around, but I'm still having a conversation with him through the bit.
It was really helpful for me to think about so I just thought I would throw that out there.
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post #10 of 20 Old 09-25-2010, 12:15 AM
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jazzy:
I mean I'm sure softening up is OK, or how else would the horse know he's going right by being soft? He would just learn to lean...

I guess now that I think about it I HAVE to have some feel of the bit to push the horse on it... therefore there is no slack ;)

Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world. ~Harriet Tubman
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