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Developing your horses Connection.

Connection is something we are all always working on with our horse, and realistically has a number of meanings. From creating a bond and building trust with your horse to connecting the horses body to work in a relaxed supple way, the later being what we are exploring here.

A question I always get asked on this subject is what is the difference between contact and connection?

Well the answer is they both work together:

Contact – this is the contact you have with your horse through your reins, seat and leg.

Connection – is the weight at the end of the rein as a result of the horse pushing from behind. – the full picture.

When your horse is connected you will find that when you use your leg you should receive something at the end of the rein.

The connection Wheel:

I always talk about the connection working in a wheel -

1)Starts with your leg – did the horse react?

2)The horse steps under with the hind legs to propel themselves forwards.

3)The energy is pushed up and over the top line.

4) This goes through the back, and neck to the bit.

5)That energy is then contained through a half halt.

6) The second part of a half halt is your leg so the wheel starts again!

However problems in the connection can evolve, such as:

•Horse being too light in the rein - this maybe because the energy isn't making it to the rein, this can be a block over the horses back, and open side door or even that the horse isn't forward enough.

•Too heavy in the rein - this can be when the horse isn't reactive enough off your leg, and instead of pushing from behind they may be pulling with the front end.

•Energy getting blocked - this is usually over the horses back, it may be through tension or they lack suppleness in that area. Lateral work or lots of changes of direction can help this.

•Energy escaping- this is usually from an open door on our box -

-Front door – the horse running through you hands/on forehand.

-Inside door – Falling in.

-Outside door- Falling out.

-Back door – slows down/loss of engagement.

Often when you shut one door, another one will open.

•Resistance - this will show us that the wheel is broken somewhere and we may have to investigate where that is coming from.

•Stiffness - this can be through the horse blocking or even loosing his straightness check in that he is on train tracks and following the line you are riding.

3 stages of connection:

Over the years I have tried to develop a way to explain connection to people and that each stage can lead to the next.

Not Connected – this may present as resistant, against the hand, or no contact at all.

Connected – There is weight at the end of the rein but not through the back yet. Important to note that this may not look 'round' yet but is a serious step in the right direction!

On the bit – When you put you leg on, the horse softens, there is weight in the rein, and is pushing forwards harmoniously

Note that all of these stages start with the leg and the horse pushing forward to the bit, rather than the bit coming backward.

You can learn more about this subject in the online courses section where you will find the recording of this masterclass.

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