My horse being difficult and sensitive when it comes to contact really frustrated me at first, but now I see it as a blessing. Because of Guinness, I am now able to take almost any horse and put them on the bit in the course of a single ride. Properly on the bit, too, not just putting their heads in a frame. It's a talent, and one I put a lot of sweat and tears into cultivating.
Do any of you want to cultivate this talent?
Of course you do. Pretty much everyone can do with a little more knowledge about working a horse on contact, especially a sensitive one. Anyone who asks me about learning more about contact gets the same advice I'm going to give you here. Go listen to George Morris.
Yes, I know George isn't a dressage coach. I know his riders aren't classical in the way many dressage riders are. I know the h/j world and the dressage world say nasty things about each other sometimes. But honestly, George Morris is one of the best lower level dressage coaches I've ever heard. His approach to getting a horse on the bit is excellent, and especially suited for those with sensitive horses (something that can be legitimately difficult to find in the dressage world!). His approach revitalized Guinness and I's relationship completely, and is 100% responsible for the fact that my difficult thoroughbred was able to accept being ridden in a double bridle this fall, and is working towards 3rd level. (Well, I mean, my trainer is responsible for a lot of that, but George taught me the contact basics!)
So for any of you out there intrigued, I'm going to link you to this amazing video from the 2015 Horsemastership Clinic with George. Go ahead and fast forward to 30:45, where George gets on one of his student's horses, a hot-headed thoroughbred mare. If you watch the previous bits of the lesson, you'll notice this mare completely flipping her rider the bird when it comes to contact.
|Just after George mounts the problematic horse. Note her flipping his hands the bird.|
|Seriously. The mare doesn't look like the same horse at the end of his ride! I bet she was super sore later.|
The best part about this video is George's commentary as he rides the mare. The whole thing is a master class in how to cajole a tough horse to accept contact, complete with some great lessons about how to develop more solid hands.
Obviously you can't learn to have perfect hands from a video, but I promise you can get a head start by implementing George's technique. I even picked up some more ideas to continue to build Guinness' trust in contact, and have started to implement them.
Do any of you like watching George Morris? Anyone else used his techniques to get a difficult horse on the bit? I promise they work. Let me know if you try them!