If there’s a mystery in riding that maybe some cannabis may help definitely it would be the topic of Connection. It’s that subtle, almost always changing, game changing, and frustrating term of connection with your horse. Connection can be a broad topic like your connection around the relationship with your horse, you’re ability to follow and be ‘with’ your horses’ motion but for the Pyramid of Training it’s the focus on the connection as defined in the USEF rule book as “Contact – the connection through the reins between the Athlete’s hands and the Horse’s mouth. It should be soft and steady at all times.” If you haven’t taken a moment to read through the USEF rule book and your specific discipline now’s the time to do it. What better things to do in a pandemic then catch up on your equine reading! The USEF rule book has a lot of information that is useful for showing overall and covers so many disciplines.
Let’s take that one phrase and find some ways to work on it while riding. Working on trying to be soft and steady in the reins between your hands and the horses mouth is a life long journey so being patient with yourself and include exercises that improve connection as well as make it part of your mental check list while riding – for example, am I sitting up? Is my grip on the reins soft? Are my arms following? Here are some other tips and tricks:
1. You need to be strong enough in your core to not need the reins! Who knew! You should be able to hold yourself up with leaning on the reins for support. Or, at least let it come and go where you need to hold on. This is where being lunged on your horse is helpful. You can focus on riding more off your legs and seat/torso and allow the handler to keep the horse’s head moving forward. If you find you can ride while being lunged without reins just using seat and legs when you pick up the reins you are working on advancing your rider skills.
2. You need to be aware that there’s a piece of metal in the horses’ mouth and it’s connected to your arms and that following from the shoulder and the elbow is important. There is some ‘tension’ between your hand and the horses’ mouth but it has a balance point. The balance points are your elbows and shoulders as they do or not follow the head and neck.
3. Turning your horse means your move with the head and neck with your arms like when you’re riding a bicycle or motorcycle. You need to move with the movement to account for the shape of the horses’ body.
4. Trying to get better at understanding connection by holding the reins and have your trainer hold the reins and help you with the feel the motion with your arms. Also, practice the ‘grip in your hands’ on the reins as the horse can feel that too.
Connection is a limitless topic and once you get good at it you find there’s another whole level to work on. Or you change horses and find that it’s a whole new mystery. The horse must be given time to learn connection also.
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