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Dressage: Encouraging Your Horse To Reach For Contact With The Bit

Submitted by member: Jean

My horse gets easily distracted, which leads to him getting tense and/or stiff and me losing contact. What’s an exercise I can do to keep my horse relaxed and on a contact when this happens?

Answer by Verena Mahin

For a horse to truly reach for the contact, he must be accepting of both the leg and the hand equally. Depending on the horse, there are different exercises.

With stiffer horses I start on a circle. Ensuring I have my outside rein and leg in place, I slowly start asking my horse to bend and yield away from my inside rein and leg. First, a little squeeze from my inside leg, following immediately by a little flexion, then softening my aids inviting the horse to stretch deeper and longer. The outside rein aids act as quiet and constant support, then slowly lengthen as the horse starts to follow the bit and stretch. Be careful not ‘to lose’ your horse to the outside when you are working with your inside rein and leg. He must continue to move forward.

For a more loose and supple horses, I work this same exercise along the wall to help me keep him straight.

If you have a particularly lazy horse, then working these exercises at the trot and canter may be more beneficial.

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Verena Mahin

Verena is the owner and trainer at the California based VS Dressage Inc. She has had many successes at FEI level, competing and coaching through Grand Prix. In 2011 she coached two riders representing Puerto Rico at the Pan American Games in Guadalajara, Mexico. Verena clinics all over the country. Learn more about her and how to book a clinic at:

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