For the past weeks I've been struggeling with contact. Too strong, too loose, nothing at all or just really uneven contact. It has been a while since my last lesson so it was about time to get some pointers on what I'm doing wrong and what I'm doing right. For the past week, we have been training with a cavesson and it has not been ideal, but at least he has gotten som exercise. I started out with the birdle again on wednesday and it went fairly ok.
Yesterday I had another lesson for Pelle, and we worked mostly on the contact. Before we started the lesson, Pelle tested my hip to see if there was any improovement in the "looseness". He did this by taking hold of my leg and se how far he could move it backwards, forwards and to the sides without any tension in the muscles. Even I could feel that there was improovement! yay!
During the warm up I was told to keep my focus on my hip and make sure that I kept using it in all the exercises. Turns, straight lines and changing the direction is no longer a problem, but the problems arrive when I start to work at the mobilisation exercises. The moment I want the horse to move sideways i tense up and he stops. There is nothing in between, when I remember to use the seat correctly he does the exercise correctly. If i tense up, he stops, at once! hah. No need for an instructor to tell me what to do, the horse does it all by himself.
After the warm-up, I told Pelle that I was struggeling with the conctact. My problem is that I don't want to be to strong in the hands, but then it goes the other way and the contact is more or less nonexisting. So I was told to shorten the reins abit, and take contact so that it was even on both sides. Then, by using the horses natural response of going against pressure, I was to use the reins and put his head where I wanted it. The inside rein shows him the flexion, the outside rein determines how high/low his head should be.
We worked on flexion both in walk and trot. To get the flexion in the horse, we want him to bend around the inside seatbone. So weight on the inside, contact on both reins, when you get contact, slowly push the outside rein forwards so that the horse will follow the pressure and bend to the inside. If he looses the flexion or he thinks it's too hard, I use the inside rein and lead his head to the inside, when he obeys remember to give the rein. My problem is that I move the hands to fast and then loose the contact because the pressure goes away. When this happens, start all over with even contact on both reins.
It took me about half a cicle to see how that I haven't really been working on contact at all, because this was a huge difference! Suddenly, the horse was alot calmer and more susceptible to the aids. We worked in this exercise throughout the lesson, and in the end the horse worked alot better than he had done in weeks. We even had a few moments here and there where he actually worked really well! Now I know we are on to something!
During this lesson, I realised what different instructors has been trying to tell me, but it haven't really come through to the brain until now. It's when you suddenly get the feeling of contact you can actually really understand what it's all about. And I think this is a major part of what riding is, you can read all you want and know all the theory, but you don't know it until you feel it.
At the end of the lesson Pelle said; "You haven't ruined the horse! Nice work!" So I ask my self, was that to be expected? nop, don't think so. I think it was more Pelle talking to my subconcius that keeps telling me "don't do anything wrong! don't ruin the horse!". And I haven't, so I'm happy :D
On a sidenote; I might have found a new stable. It is only 5 minutes away from where I am now and it is under construction. The outdoor areas are in place and have been for a while. They are building a stable and an arena which is supposed to come up this summer. I think it will be quite promising once its finished and the bus stops right outside, brilliant. The girl who runs this place seemed like good old farmes daughter, with both legs firmly planted on the ground and a healthy view of the horse. And last, but not least, we can have whatever instructor we want!