My current mystery is that of contact. It baffles me. 10 years of hacking ensured I have long-rein-itis and a very casual attitude to contact. Coupled with the constant bombardment of Rollkur and low, wide, sawing hands on social media, I naturally scurry back to the comfort of my default position.
Saffron is more than happy to go along like this all day, indeed it wasn’t until 2013, at the grand age of 18 that she started schooling. Now don’t get me wrong, I realise this sounds like I am focusing on the front end and the hand. I appreciate I need to get her forwards and tracking up before anything else, however contact is the topic for this blog. I’m not worrying about the position of Saf’s head, just the amount of feel I have on the reins.
I’ve always used plain leather reins and really liked the feel, but without realising they would slip, millimeter by millimeter through my fingers. I bought some continental reins, the ones with the leather notches spaced every few inches – they are fab! They ensure my reins are even, and really highlight any unintended lengthening of the reins.
So in terms of contact, what is correct? I have heard it described as holding the hand of a loved one, snug, but not overpowering. I wouldn’t describe my usual contact as ‘snug’, so maybe I’m way off. When we transition from walk to trot, I often feel I have to shorten my reins a lot as once we start trotting, they’re too long. At a recent lesson with my non-regular instructor, I ended up on the second notch from the big on the continental reins. At the time this felt very short, but I have since ridden at home at this length after a longer warm up, and they felt about right if we’re after the ‘snug’ feeling. I was also told that if the reins were ‘twanged’ they shouldn’t wobble.
Lots of snippets of information to go on, but it’s such a learning curve. When do you reward the horse? Non-regular instructor said I kept getting a nice ‘contact’ but then throwing it away. My brain is telling my hands that when Saf softens, to reward her by giving the rein a little.
Is it just me who’s mystified? Contact, the black art. Most of the time I’m getting it wrong, but when it’s right, things seem to fall into place.