The Weight of the Leather

The great controversy between contact and no contact continues to rage in my mind! However, I feel like I’m getting closer to an understanding of some kind of universal truth.It all started back when I was a teenager (no, we didn’t ride dinosaurs). I was working with my mentor, a rancher – horse trainer. I was trying to learn how to train horses at the same time as trying to learn how to ride horses. This method, by the way, is not recommended. I did actually sign up for “English” riding lessons. There I was instructed to “post” the trot and to make contact with the horse’s mouth using a snaffle bit. Returning to my mentor, assuming he’d be impressed by my newfound knowledge what I heard was “Don’t hang on their head!” He and his compadres were of the old cavalry school prior to World War II and they were using horses for ranch work. They needed a “using horse”, one who would be light and responsive, with the reins held in one hand.They didn’t want a “hard mouthed” horse. Later when I was trying to learn dressage, every time I made contact with the horse’s mouth I was haunted by the echo “don’t hang on their head! ” It was like aversion training. But slowly I learned to ride a balanced seat, without “waterskiing” on the reins. I learned to use my hands independently of my body and seat. I didn’t resort to using the reins to stay on the horse. Now, I can actually take a soft contact with the horse’s mouth and follow the movement of his head with a relaxed hands and elbows. I’m beginning to see a contact as “the weight of the leather.”

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