Elasticity to the contact hmmmmmmm
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Elasticity to the contact hmmmmmmm

Here's a pic of me riding a 5year old a few years back that perhaps isn't perfect, but well on it's way to the higher marks.

At the lower levels (Prelim / Novice) I’m not looking for a really uphill, elevated and expressive way of going. Instead I’m looking for something that’s forwards, round, supple through the frame, responsive to the aids AND working to an elastic contact.

So horses that are in a round outline (with the head vertical) but are for some reason ‘blocked’ through the back, will not be coming through a supple frame into an elastic contact. Instead it will be described by me as ‘A polite contact, but not really coming through the frame sufficiently’ and I’d be underlining the Suppleness of the back in the collectives.

So is this down purely to suppleness??

Well not entirely. The horse should be respectful but willing and happy to work with the contact in a way that can be described as ‘the rider is communicating through the reins in an effective manner that maintains the roundness in outline and rebalances the horse well through transitions and continually as required’. It is clearly essential to use the leg and seat in balance with the horse to initially create the forward desire and then to encourage maintaining it, keeping the horse 'in front of the leg".

Can this be achieved by see sawing on the contact? No

Or perhaps setting the hands low and pulling occasionally? No

A good pair of hands always stands out to me as they are appear to be almost ’proud’ of being where they are. They want to boast how they’re working with a light elastic contact, not shy and trying to hide something.

To achieve this and to get the desired way of going from your horse there must be no blocking through the back, nor any resistances.

There’s a simple way of checking if your hands are in the right place and that your reins are not too long. Simply touch your wrists together for a split second in front of your tummy and open apart 6 inches (approx).
It you physically can’t, then your reins are too long. Simple.

In my mind, I like to see elbows slightly to the front of the rib cage, not by the sides as an elastic contact with the elbows this far back will inevitably mean sometimes they may end up behind the ribcage and result in the core having to compensate by tensing and/or leaning forward which will in turn raise your centre of gravity and unbalance your horse.

The feeling of achieving a light elastic contact is memorable, so once you’ve experienced it once, try riding for it in all your tests AND your schooling. It’ll be very clear to me if you have it and just as plain will it be to me that you haven’t.

Signs of this not having been achieved include..

- losing rhythm, balance

- hollowing, resisting, blocking through the back

- losing impulsion / lacking engagement

- losing straightness

 

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