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Hands, reins and contact (warning: rant)

This is a discussion on Hands, reins and contact (warning: rant) within the Horse Riding Critique forums, part of the Riding Horses category

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        01-25-2014, 01:10 PM
    What is your end goal? If you're just riding for pleasure, then don't worry about it and go about your merry way.

    If you're wanting more than that, and to compete, then you have some things to change. All in all, the thread is right - personally I think that most horses should be capable of the basics in a snaffle, and if they can't, then there's a major hole in training. Have you only tried the one D-ring? Some horses hate single jointed bits, some hate double jointed bits. Some hate the way D-rings sit, some hate the "noise" of a loose ring. It's all about playing around to find the right snaffle for them. When were the horse's teeth floated last?
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        01-25-2014, 01:18 PM
    Okay, you just posted that you're going for dressage in the spring. You will *need* a snaffle - the bit you're using, or any bit with leverage, is illegal in the lower levels. May as well start now finding a bit that your horse works well in.
    Then you need to chuck the notion of bit=head down, and start reading up on the basics of rhythm, relaxation and connection for starters. You need to shorten up those reins by almost half, and get some bend in your elbow. You need to have a connection with your horse's mouth, but not in a pulling sense. You're always sending your horse forwards into your hand.
    There are a TON of posts about getting a horse connected back to front. I strongly suggest you hop on over to the "dressage" section of this forum and get to reading, particularly paying attention to posters such as Kayty, Anebel, Maura, and there are a few others I'm forgetting..
    kiltsrhott and smguidotti like this.
        01-25-2014, 01:41 PM
    Honestly, I'm not sure what my end goal is. I bought this horse just because I liked her, and started doing what I normally do and taking lessons from my pleasure instructor and going to the same shows, but at this point, my goals are changing. I'm getting tired of the pleasure scene, and it's tough to do well if you don't have a QH or an appendix, and a lot of it comes down to who's in the right clique. I also want to jump. My original plans were low level hunter stuff, but Ursula just doesn't quite fit in at the shows I've been attending. Like I said before, I've lined up lessons with an eventing instructor in the spring and want to dabble in dressage a little bit. Even if I don't ever compete dressage, I think it will help us in other areas. My goal really is just to learn as much as I can with this horse and have fun with her. I don't feel the need to ever be the best at any one thing. Some wins at shows would be nice, but they're not essential. I also like to just trail ride with her and hack around the property, but that is much more fun on a horse that's well trained.

    The only snaffle bit I've extensively ridden her in is the D ring which is a single joint but thinner and curved. I have ridden her in a loose ring a hand full of times, a long time ago, and that seemed to go well, but it wasn't my bit. It had the same mouth piece as the kimberwick I've been using, which is single joint, moderate thickness, no curve. I have used a mullen mouth kimberwick too and the horse didn't seem to mind it but I don't like not being able to work one side of the bit at a time. I'm looking for advice on what kind of bits to try because I want to narrow down my list before I empty my bank account on a million bits that don't work. Unfortunately I don't know anyone who has a horse that uses bits as big as Ursula does, so it's tough to borrow. The instructor I'm starting with in the spring has a draft cross, so I'm hoping she will let me borrow some to try out before I spend money. I had also considered the fact that anything but a snaffle is illegal in dressage (up to 4th level right?). I'm not sure if I plan to compete dressage, but regardless, I don't like the leverage at this point and I WANT a snaffle. I just need to find the right one.

    Ursula had her teeth floated in the spring, less than a year ago. She was checked again in the fall when the vet was out to do fall vaccinations and the vet found nothing unusual. I suppose it is possible that something could have cropped up since then.
        01-25-2014, 01:47 PM
    I surely have far less experience than many around here, so take my response with a grain of salt, but from a contact perspective, after watching your video, I could hear my coach in my head right now telling me "Don't snap his mouth, get the slack out!" if I were doing the same.

    Of course, too tight and that would change to "Don't press the brakes and gas at the same time!", so there's definitely a middle ground to be met, but none of the coaches I've ever worked under the english discipline in general accepted any sort of baggy/snapping reins as acceptable.
    kiltsrhott likes this.
        01-25-2014, 01:47 PM
    This guide has a lot of advice on different styles and bits, with some pictures of what happens inside the horse's mouth. There are a LOT of options when riding outside a show. I currently ride Mia with a western curb on a trail, and a snaffle in our little arena. Good luck!

    PrivatePilot and kiltsrhott like this.
        01-25-2014, 01:56 PM
    Originally Posted by PrivatePilot    
    I surely have far less experience than many around here, so take my response with a grain of salt, but from a contact perspective, after watching your video, I could hear my coach in my head right now telling me "Don't snap his mouth, get the slack out!" if I were doing the same.

    Of course, too tight and that would change to "Don't press the brakes and gas at the same time!", so there's definitely a middle ground to be met, but none of the coaches I've ever worked under the english discipline in general accepted any sort of baggy/snapping reins as acceptable.
    Yeah, I think the problem I face as an English rider with my instructor, is that my instructor is really a western instructor. So I've basically been taught to ride western in English tack. ><
    bsms likes this.
        01-25-2014, 02:17 PM
    Originally Posted by kiltsrhott    
    So I've basically been taught to ride western in English tack. ><
    It's called "Winglish".

    I had the same problem - I switched from Western to English and had some of the same things to overcome. Posting was one (had never, ever done it before), and what seemed most foreign was having constant contact vs the tradition baggy western reins. It did take me some time to get used to holding consistent rein pressure and not making the beginner mistakes of snapping the horses mouth over and over again, but I overcame it sooner than later. I credit my coach 100% for getting past that rapidly as he does not like to see it from any of the riders, aside from the very beginners of course...but they're on horses that tolerate it, in bits that are very forgiving to it.

    Perhaps finding a new coach would be part of your ultimate solution. If the coach doesn't fully understand english to begin with and is just teaching it based on what little he/she may know, it's not going to help your situation.

    I would also try to work on your upper body as well at the canter - while watching the video, again I heard the voice from my coach echoing in my head - "Don't rock!", and "Drive with your seat, not your shoulders!". Keeping your upper body steady helps a lot with keeping consistent contact - rocking back and forth by it's very nature moves your hands as well, which if not compensated for, ends up with snappy rein syndrome.

    (Is it just me that has my coaches voice in my head all the time in these sorts of situations? Hehe)
    kiltsrhott likes this.
        01-25-2014, 02:58 PM
    I think Ursula's song should be EVERY mare's jingle in my opinion -- that really cracked me up -- the lyrics remind me so much of what I imagine my mare's inner dialogue to be lol

    I know some people on this forum disagree with the logic behind getting a horse to "stretch long and low" or as I call it the "stretch down and FORWARD", if you are considering doing dressage and do not want to use leverage bits you need to almost retrain your horse. IMO, if you shorten the reins right now and ask for more contact you will probably end up with a hollowed out back.

    I recomend watching some of Art 2 Ride's videos -- they may help you start in the right direction anyway ;/

    ArttoRide - YouTube
    kiltsrhott likes this.
        01-25-2014, 02:59 PM
    OP, I see your contact as being lightly supportive. The horse IS a heavy horse, and it can be harder for them to get up off the forehand, so a rider often wants to make the contact become firmer little by little, starting with the "following" , passive type, and going to where you are asking the horse to follow your hand. It's the inbetween stage that can be hard, especially for a big, heavy horse.

    I think you are not doing so badly in the inbetween stage. Perhaps it would help your heavy horse to be better able to prepare to accept the contact and shift back off his forehand if you practiced using your seat more to contain and slow him, and half halt. Your seat looks pretty stable to me, so I bet you can affect him quite a bit by firming up the core, and sitting back and deeper, while exhaling and bearing down.

    As for a horse bolting in one bit and not another, it could be that she has something in her mouth, in her palate shape or teeth , that makes the nutcracker action of a snaffle very uncomfortable. Have you had the same results in a double jointed snaffle? And are you using a really fat mouthpiece? Poeplo think they are kinder, but they can often make the hrose feel like he's gagging with a huge bit. A thinner one can be more comfortable.

    PS sorry for the switcheroo on gender for you horse. I couldn't remember mare or gelding.
    kiltsrhott and smguidotti like this.
        01-25-2014, 03:10 PM
    Since she freaks with the D ring and not the kimberwick, I'm going to guess that your mare's mouth structure is such that a jointed bit causes a "nutcracker" action. The jointed bit (D ring) may actually be causing her pain, and rather than stop she bolts against it. It has nothing to do with the D rings, but instead the mouthpiece.

    Have you tried a double jointed snaffle?
    kiltsrhott likes this.

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