This may seem extremely simple to so many of you, but for me...wow...it has been quite a journey. Of what do I speak? Of riding with contact.
Even at the height of my polo playing days, I always had a loop in my reins whenever possible, and guided the horse with my legs, seat, and intention. As an avid trail rider after that, I rode with no contact, slobber strap-setup on the bit (or bitless), and always had safe, fun rides, as did my children.
My horses were always well-behaved, healthy, sound, and contented, but...not always round in their backs, the most hind-end engaged, or possessing necks that were arched like rainbows and polls bent at that perfect angle! These are all the things that I am learning about NOW, a decade into owning my own horses!
I have worked on these things alone, but for the handful of lessons with Patrick King and Ariana Sakaris, the last of which was a year ago! I've studied dressage through books, videos, and in person (watching good riders in action, and taking one lesson here locally) and I've been teaching/critiquing myself through the videos I record...slowly, slowly we are getting there.
Here, Maia and I were able to stay in a nice contact for quite a few steps without struggle or too much effort from either party. I began to use positive reinforcement (adding treats) to reward her try to stay soft with the offered contact. As you see at the end, I also am training her to take the treat nicely, without "grabbing" with her lips!
I love learning with her. She is making me better each and every day, and I am grateful for her patience! Together we will get there; I am sure of it and in no hurry, either. Happy weekend, all!