There’s a fairly large group of riders who have been erroneously taught to keep continuous or constant contact between the reins and the bit. For some reason, they were taught to never let any slack develop in the reins. The misperception is that any lack of rein pressure in the horse’s mouth means no communication is taking place with the horse. In reality, the rider is developing a horse with a tough mouth that requires a considerable amount of attention to perform simple tasks. The rider can never leave a horse ridden in this manner to perform even the most simplistic task on command. Every minor action taken by the horse must be under the direction and guidance of the rider.
Although the belief spans all disciplines to some degree, interestingly dressage riders appear to be the most prone. We find this especially peculiar in a discipline that emphasises training of the horse to perform beautiful movements almost to the point of a dance. In our opinion, your horse should follow instructions without the need to micro-manage every little detail. As you know, we often use analogies with people to illustrate our thoughts. Let’s say you ask your 10-year-old to please bring you a glass of milk. Do you manage every minor segment of the activities to complete the task. Do you orchestrate each step to the refrigerator, opening of the door, getting a glass from the cabinet, and replacing the milk jug back in the refrigerator. We certainly hope not. It would take a lot of work and effort. In fact, we would suggest it might be easier to get your own milk.
A properly trained horse can perform without constant rein pressure and should.When asked to engage, the horse should do so and without being told where each foot needs to be. If you want to work hard while you ride, it’s your choice. For us, we prefer to keep it easy and simple.