The Magazine May 2021

Improve your contact

Posted 30th March 2021

Matt Hicks is back with a few handy exercises to improve your contact

Schooling horse into a consistent contact

Your contact is your most direct channel of communication with your horse, so it’s easy to see why so many riders obsess over getting it right. Is it too tight or too loose? Are you giving too much or being restrictive? The truth is, a correct contact doesn’t really start with your reins – in fact, it’s the product of a relaxed, supple and balanced horse. So, by working on this first and foremost, a consistent contact should follow on naturally.

Riders who fixate on contact run the risk of missing out on the finer details that are so crucial in making it consistent in the first place. By considering your horse’s balance and strength, as well as your position, you’ll be better able to bring about the best conditions for that sought-after contact you so often see but can’t quite reproduce at home.

Keep in touch

Contact issues can almost always be remedied by adjusting or strengthening your position. Without good balance it’s easy to rely on your reins rather than a strong core for support, which will interfere with the consistent contact you hope to achieve. With that being said, if your horse lacks balance then your contact will suffer, too, because he’ll rely on your hand for support.

To counteract your own weaknesses, you’ll need to dedicate a bit of time into developing your core strength. Similarly, if your horse lacks balance, you’ll need to spend time in each pace developing his suppleness and strength through transitions and targeted exercises. Over time, you’ll notice that he’s able to carry himself for longer and becomes lighter in your hand as a result.

Hand it over

Pick a point in the session where your horse is relaxed and try tucking a short whip under your thumbs, carrying it horizontally. This will help keep your hands level and prevent you from fiddling or interfering with the contact. If you create the impulsion, a still, soft hand will give your horse a consistent feel to work into. With the whip to focus on, you’ll be much more likely to relax and avoid feeling hyper-focused on your horse and where his head is. Often, the less you micromanage, the better your horse will go.

Find out more about how you can create a consistent contact for your horse to work into  in May Horse&Rider, on sale 1 April 2021.


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