Ask an Expert

Rein Contact in English Classes

November 29, 2010

AQHA asked our Facebook fans what showing questions they would ask of trainers at the AQHA World Championship Show. Here is one of those questions:


Are hunter under saddle and hunt seat equitation horses supposed to go on contact with the bit, or off contact, as often seen in the show ring? I am not sure what is correct for an AQHA show.
— Tara Williamson


I think the best way to break it up is to compare the hunter under saddle horse to the working hunter horse. It’s a little more forward from behind, more athletic horse. The rein contact is a little longer, freer and a little looser.

We’re really wanting them to come through their shoulders and come from behind. They’re lightly in our hands for contact – same thing for over fences. We like them forward in front of their legs and kind of cradled in our hands with a light feel and just staring through the bridle with a good expression because they have to look through the bridle to get to the jumps.

We need their head up to look into the turn, and I think those two blend well together. Equitation on the flat or hunt seat equitation is the most comparable to equitation over fences. Hunt seat equitation is the prelude to equitation over fences. Even though you might not jump, and you do hunt seat eq, you still want a bit of a shorter rein, you want a little more contact with the horse, you want the horse on the bit and with a little more shape to his topline, because it’s all about adjustability. You want your horse to adjust to the pattern, so you can make him go faster, collect, lengthen, bend or hand gallop, and you need to have that connection.

Same with equitation over fences: If you take that pattern work and just put it over jumps, it’s the same thing. It’s collecting, it’s lengthening, it’s rollbacks, it’s shaping your horse through the turn, and it’s lead changes. It’s the same thing, just with jumps. We look for just a little bit more contact between the hand and the leg, so you can be more effective as a rider.

AQHA Professional Horsewoman Lainie DeBoer.