MOST RIDERS instantly think of the reins when contact is mentioned. But it’s the leg and seat aids that creates and shape the contact. The hands just receive the contact. It doesn’t create or control it. The legs and the seat creates the contact by making sure the right amount of energy travels forward through the horses body without blockages. (When/if you find the horse is blocked somewhere along the top line you also remove blockages with your legs and your seat. Not the hand.)
What the riders hand does is striving to obtain a quiet and moist mouth. Think that the bit should massage the corner of the horses mouth. The moisture comes not so much from chewing on the bit, as many people think, but from the action of the gland which produces the moisture when stimulated by the flexion of the gullet. A dry mouth is a bad sign and is the result of the action of the rein not going through the horses body. So stay soft!
If you feel stiff, try give your horse a massage before you ride (&/or yourself) : )