February 9, 2012

Fundamental Philosophy Changes

Everything I held true about riding has completely changed in the past few months.

Maybe that is a slight exaggeration, but not by much.  Some of my most fundamental ideas about riding have changed since getting Connor.  Not all of it has come directly from riding him/being taught, though.  Consider this post from (ohmygosh, I've read your blog for over a year now and don't know your name, so sorry!) Solo and Encore's mom:

"The journey with Solo and now this new endeavour with Encore has, I think, taught me, more than anything, about what real contact is.  We are always told, "Don't pull on his mouth, stay out of his face."  That is, to an extent, true.  But real, working contact is not a feathery light touch until your horse actually has the balance, muscle, and training to carry himself completely.  That doesn't happen at the beginning.  Unless you have a freak horse that I just don't want to hear about...Contact is CONTACT -- you are asking your horse to push power from his hind legs through his body into the bridle and until he learns how to do that on his own, he needs your help at times and the reminders are constant."
Boom.  With that quote, and with my trainer telling me constantly that I haven't taken enough contact with him, I'm letting him down when he needs me in transitions, and I'm letting all the energy escape out of his chin, my riding philosophy changed forever.  I'm still learning what true contact is myself, but that notwithstanding, my previous theory was that the mouth needs to be coddled, treasured, and babied so that it doesn't become hard, and the hands must follow whatever the horse's natural walk is at all costs.  But that quote made me realize that there is a huge difference between pulling and contact, between a mature horse and a green horse, and with that my whole idea of contact has been reshaped.

That's not the only major philosophy change of mine lately, but it's the only one I have time to write about while at work!  Lesson in the cold tonight.


  1. You can have contact but soft, following elbows. That was a hard concept for me to learn, too! I still have a hard time with throwing away my contact in trot-canter transitions. Isn't it great when you read something and have a lightbulb go off?

  2. I just read this now and though I probably read it before on FS blog but reading it again now with your comments brought me back to the first few months I had Steady. I too kept being told to take more contact. This being my first green horse I felt the same way as you. That I was to never be hard on the mouth. And i was being told to take quite a firm hold of his mouth constantly. I remember I kept saying to instructors that I felt like I was pulling hard on his mouth. I was then told that it was OK and that is just where he is at in his training. I was a hard sell on that fact and didn't not believe it for a while. I thought for sure I was going to give him a tough mouth. It took some time but it finally sank in and they were right! And he does not have cement mouth, quite the opposite and as time passes the contact is able to get softer and softer. Great break through though it happened forever ago :-)