I remember when I took some hunter lessons way back when I was younger and I rode this big old black hunter, huge! And if I took up contact, he would just lean the harder on it, so I would pull the harder and so on. My teacher would yell at me, saying the old , "it takes two to tango!" Meaning if I didn't pull , he wouldn't pull. Ok, but then how to have contact? I was really frustrated by that.
Then I took dressage lessons (years later) and it was all about taking a contact and pushing the horse into that contact, and tighter and tighter . . . .and you WOULD get the horse dragging back and you'd have to use a lot of leg to counteract the drag from the front. (all incorrect. I know the dressage experts will jump on me about this. You know, "back to front! Ok!!
So, in recent years I have been riding Western and trail and I guess doing what you would call natural horsemanship. And the trainer I work with emphasizes that contact has a meaning. You take up contact for a reason. If your contact is dead and heavy, it loses its' reason and then becomes background noise.
AND, the horse sets the amount of pressure that it will have on the rein, by coming off the bit when it feels pressure applied. How much pressure that takes, is up to the horse. Trick is, if the horse has never gotten a well timed release for giving to the bit, then he hasn't learned that there IS freedom in contact. He will feel he has no escape, thus there is no point is coming off the bit .
You, the rider, must put on the contact (pressure) and in order for him to give to that pressure, you will have to MEET HIS RESISTENCE AND ONE OUNCE MORE.. If you only meet him, then you are in stalemate. You MUST exheed him, but only the tiniest amount. And the instant he gives an ounce, you give a pound. At least at first, until the idea that there is freedom in giving is well understood.
Once he has given to the bit, it's the rider's responsibility to maintain a soft and responsive contact. Like if the horse needs to reach down to cough, you have to softly follow, or if it stumbles, you have to follow the head. You know what I mean.
That's how you get the horse softened to the bit. At first, it can look really ugly because the horse WILL resist, no doubt about it. But eentuallly you get him really soft and then you can, in theory, ride like a cowboy with only the drape of the reins creating the contact.
I don't think I would do that in jumpers, tho.
Last edited by tinyliny; 11-28-2010 at 01:51 AM.