It`s a comment we all hear “inconsistent rhythm”, or “inconsistent contact” and we strive in our schooling to be able to repeat transition after transition without faltering.
So how do we create consistency in our riding and our horses? By being consistent in ourselves of course.
Recently I`ve been working on consistency with a client and her mare. The mare, who always has something to say when asked to do something new; can overreact to the aids, and be reluctant to accept the rider`s hand or leg, which means that she is inconsistent to the contact and the rhythm often varies.
Now because the mare can over react so much it is difficult to create consistency so I taught my client to be more consistent. First of all, the rider needs to expect the same thing every day, in order for the horse to feel confident in what is required of them. Then you have to quietly insist that your horse gives you what you expect.
In the example of my client, the mare tends to stop as soon as you pick up the rein contact, and shortens her neck in an attempt to evade the contact. As my rider slowly picks up the rein contact, she needs to remember to use her legs firmly, to counteract the mare slowing down. Then my rider needs to remember to not back off her horse`s resistance. She doesn`t need to get harder in her aids, but she needs to keep asking, not giving in, until the mare yields. Then, being careful not to drop the contact she needs to give at the elbow so that the mare is rewarded by the release of pressure. The release must be well timed so that it rewards the mare, but also not too much of a release that it undoes all the good work she`s just done.
Of course, because the mare is inconsistent it can seem like fighting a losing battle as you no sooner get the correct feeling down the rein and the neck relaxed, or the mare moving forwards from the leg, than you go back two steps.
This is when you shouldn`t give in, but ask again and insist on the correct response. Slowly but surely your horse will realise that on the first cue he should answer correctly, which means that as a rider you become less insistent, because your horse understands what is expected of them. As in the example above, when you pick up the reins it does not mean slow down or shrink in the neck, it means reach forwards into that contact. Of course, this is easier said than done, and once the rider has reached the point that they can apply the aids and the horse responds immediately and correctly, they need to become persistent. This doesn`t mean that they nag all the time, it just means that when the horse changes their rhythm, or wobbles on the centre line, they are corrected immediately. This will help improve the horse`s way of going as the mistake doesn`t snowball, and they become better at carrying themselves consistently because they know that that is what is expected of them.