“I’m not strong enough to ride my horse on contact.”
This is something I recently heard, and I’ve been thinking about it a lot recently. I’ve never thought of myself as particularly strong, but I do ride my horses on contact as soon as they’re able to do so and feel good about it.
In this photo, I’d just had my daughter and was decidedly not strong, my core was extra weak, and I hadn’t ridden in several weeks since giving birth. My mare carries herself, and does not require strength to ride (though I sure did miss my core!!) The green rope is there to demonstrate over a video lesson I had done how to ride without disturbing the reins.
I remember riding horses growing up that I needed gloves to ride, or I’d have giant blisters between my fingers. Half way through my lessons, my fingers and arms would give out, and the horses began to lean on me. I didn’t love it, and I’m certain the horses didn’t either.
From time to time, I encounter someone who says their horse “has to be ridden this way.” Maybe they are accustomed to being ridden this way, but they certainly don’t have to be.
I’m not saying you don’t need to be fit to ride. Being fit is always a great idea. But if you find yourself muscling through your rides, maybe it’s time to rethink you and your horse’s understanding of contact.
It takes some time, dedication and thinking to educate a horse to self carriage. But step by step, they can learn to carry themselves, to not lean on your hands for support, and to actually love the contact. You’ll know this when they feel buttery soft, sneeze, blow, and have happy ears when you ride. The payoff is worth the work!