How do I get my horse to soften in the contact. And keep my connection without holding the reins tight?
What helped my horse a lot was riding a circle in the middle of the arena and made this smaller and bigger and then try to get your horse a little bit more collected when you ride the circle smaller. Try to do this with your seat and have a soft hand. When you ride the circle bigger again push the horse forward with the leg. Try to do as less as possible with your hand and bend the horse around your leg and keep the horse relaxed. Then you can start to ride transitions between trot and walk. Make sure you give the horse the rein when he needs it let him stretch a lot in all gaits. Another thing you can try is shoulder in on the circle, just about 3-4 meters and then ride forward out of the shoulder in and give the horse a little bit of the rein. I hope this can help you.