Struggling with your horse's contact when you ride? International and Olympic dressage rider Laura Tomlinson is here to help.
1. A strong and heavy contact
PROBLEM: Your horse feels strong and heavy in your hands.
SOLUTION: On a 20m circle, ride upward and downward transitions. As you ride each one, ask for a little more inside bend and then give, to help keep the contact lighter.
Also, every so often give your inside rein forwards and pat your horse's neck to check you're not riding too much with your hands (you're looking for horse to stay in a consistent outline).
Riding halt-halts will also help. This rein aid is directly linked to your horse's hind legs, encouraging him to step under more with his hind legs and pushing him forwards into your contact.
2. A contact that's too light
PROBLEM: Your horse feels very light in your hand.
SOLUTION: You need to ride forwards from your legs, encouraging your horse to stretch into a longer frame.
Ride transitions in this stretched frame so your horse looks for your hands for support and balance.
3. What is a contact?
PROBLEM: Your young horse doesn't understand what contact is.
SOLUTION: First, establish a contact on a circle or serpentine.
Riding a curved line means you'll use more inside leg to ask for the bend, pushing your horse into your outside hand, while your inside hand creates flexion and bend to the inside.
The result is your horse takes the contact you're offering and if you ride with enough leg, you'll have connection.