Trainer’s Corner: Healthy Contact with 4* Eventer Natalia Neneman

Natalia Neneman is a 4* eventer based in Ocala, FL.

“Teaching my young horses to hold a soft contact with the bit is something I take very seriously; doing the proper behind-the-scenes work will produce willing, happy, upper-level horses!

“One really effective exercise I use to teach this is a simple trot-pole exercise.

  1. Set four trot poles with four feet of distance between each.
  2. Canter towards the first pole with a steady rhythm. It’s important not to rush your horse into the exercise. A steady, collected approach will help your horse properly read and react to the question at hand.
  3. One stride before the first pole, ask for a downward transition to trot. Continue in trot through the remaining three trot poles.
  4. Immediately after the last pole, ask for an upward transition to canter.
Natalie Neneman teaches contact with the bridle.

*4 Event Rider, Natalia Neneman


This exercise can be done in alternating directions with canter circles on both sides before re-entry. (As with any exercise, it’s important to work both sides of the horse.) Shifting back and forth within the gaits, along with the added pole work will help your horse remain in the bridle without relying on the bit. Rather, your rein aids together with the connection through your seat will dictate the speed and balance of movement.

Teaching a young horse to hold steady contact is a process not easily mastered. It’s important to have patience. If you’re willing to take your time in practice, you’ll be surprised how much your horse can do.

Bonus Tip: A horse cannot master holding correct contact with the bit without the right equipment. A correctly fit bit and bridle are necessary to give the horse the best chance to “hear” your aids. I use Vespucci bridles on my horses. They feature resistance-free browbands to ensure my horses don’t experience discomfort around their ears or poll and the double-ended buckle design of the cheekpieces allows me to easily change the bit’s setting as needed. This way my horses are happy and confident in the contact, on the flat, and over jumps.”

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