Many riders think they need to keep off the brake if they want their horse to go forward. The opposite is true. To create impulsion you have to contain the energy you create from your legs. You need a rein contact.
Shake a bottle of coke with the lid on and everyone knows the result. It expands so much that when you open it the drink bursts out. Without the lid there’s nothing to contain that fizz.
Riding your horse without a rein contact has the same effect.
The lid on the bottle is static. It doesn’t pull or push, it restrains. Remember this when you take up your contact. If your hand remains constant (like the bottle lid) you’ll contain your horse’s energy without needing to pull or tug.
Long reins are a common fault. You may think you are being kind but imagine having a bit in your mouth with no idea when the next pull is coming. It’s enough to make you tense, isn’t it? A consistent contact helps your horse relax. He knows where you are. When you need to turn or take a check the pressure increases but it doesn’t come as a surprise.
Make it a goal this week to ride with a consistent contact all the time. Focus on the weight you have on each rein. It should be the same in each hand whatever you are doing. ‘Light in the hand’ is often misunderstood. It really means your horse is quick to respond not that there’s nothing on the end of the reins.
Put two mugs of water in front of you. Pick them up with your hands in riding position and elbows bent. This gives you an idea of the weight you should feel on your reins. It’s probably more than you thought. Keep hold of these mugs and stick your elbows out, drop your hand or round your wrists. The water spills out. This represents the energy you had in your hand. A straight line from your elbow through the rein to your horse’s mouth allows you to contain the energy you’ve worked so hard to create.
Create a soft rein contact by keeping your arm and fingers relaxed. You can’t lean on anything that isn’t solid. Nor can your horse. Move your fingers. Squeeze the reins as if you were squeezing water from a sponge which will stop your arms and shoulders becoming tense and rigid. That’s enough to stop him leaning. Dropping the rein and taking it back again has little effect. He’ll be right there waiting for you when you take your rein back up!
Bear this in mind the next time you ride your horse. Do your best to make his life as comfortable as possible and he won’t fail to do the same for you.