January 24, 2003, Newsletter Issue #109: Dressage Tips

Tip of the Week

In working with a horse that is green, to teach them to take up the contact and take a hold of the bit, it is often easier to use a full copper snaffle mouthpiece.

In developing this frame in a horse, you need to have perfected your riding skills to such a point that you are completely supporting your upper body weight, and you are not using the horse`s mouth to support your upper body weight. A horse will resist if the horse`s mouth is supporting your upper body weight and balance.

Spend most of the time with this exercise, on the long sides of the arena; allowing the horse to relax, or to soften your contact around the short ends of the arena.

Start of with only a very light contact on your reins. This means to have the reins soft, relaxed and not a direct and taught tension from hand to horse`s mouth. Just ever so slightly allowing the reins to have a slight convex to the usual direct contact that causes the appearance of a straight line from horse`s mouth to rider`s hand.

Alternate your hands, first outside, then inside, alternating a half halt squeeze on the rein, every other stride of the walk. You should notice that the horse is dropping their head at the poll, and bending at the crest of the neck downwards.

As the horse responds, keep the hands still, and stop alternating half halts on the reins. Then when the head begins to come up again; then, slightly half halt on the outside, then inside rein; every other stride sequence.

This will take time. Often the lighter the hands on the reins, the more dramatic the response of the horse; therefore, the heaver the hands, usually the more a horse will invert his head carriage, and his neck and back.

Reward your horse, by allowing them during the warm up and the cool down to have a loose rein, and allow them this time to play or to tongue the bit and get a feel for the copper in their mouth.

And, always remember, once the horse is showing boredom, change either the gait or the direction. Don`t burn out the mind of your horse~!

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