If you think that contact is an endless learning cycle you are correct. It’s part of what makes riding super fun and super frustrating. What you may not realize is that incorrect Contact or Connection can lead to problems you might not think are related. For example, your horse wants to leave whenever it’s near a gait. Guess what? That could be related to you not having the horse connected and focused on you from their front end. If you take your hands off your car steering wheel – the car goes wherever. Pretty scary right? Same for the horse. If your connection is inconsistent or not respected by the horse, then they have an open door to find a way out of the arena. There are other reasons – like running through your leg for example. But it also starts with the connection. Here’s a simple and effective connection exercise to help keep your horse’s steering wheel working and in the arena. You can do this at any gait and after or as part of your warmup.
Pick up the Trot. Count your horses front legs starting at 1 to 4. And then,
Flex the horse to the outside for four steps. You want to see your horses’ eyelashes and some nostril as the look outside of the arena.
Flex the horse to ‘straight’ positioning. Count four steps.
Flex the horse to the inside and count four steps. Again, you want to see eyelashes and some nostril as the horse looks to the inside of the arena.
Go one direction in one gait about 3 times around the arena. Try it the exercise at all gaits - yes, even the canter!
Then take walk break and evaluate how it went. Did one side seem harder than the other? Did the counting and the ‘flow’ of changing the position of the horse’s head get easier or harder? Did the horse get steadier in the trot while counting? Did the changes in flexion get easier as the trot became steadier?
Repeat the exercise and when you have the horse straight – ask for my forward strides.
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