Phil has been getting a bit better about my hands moving. Tonight I realized something important - that he gets worse when I take a strong hold on him once he bolts. This makes it very difficult, because when he takes off my first instinct is to tighten the reins to slow him down. But then he gets more frantic, which makes me think that somehow he associates a strong hand and short reins with something bad happening.
So tonight I tried really hard to let go as much as possible. Even when he bolted, I tried to just momentarily take a firm half-halt, then let go. It was really hard for me to do that, because it didn't always work at first and my instinct was telling me to grab his face and slow him down. Eventually he calmed down, and by the end of the ride everyone had left the arena so I was able to do some serpentines which helped him to relax even more.
I think this issue finally arose because I had started to release my inside rein like my trainer had explained to me during our last lesson. He seemed okay at the trot, but when I started doing it at the canter he started having issues. Before this I think my hands were always low and quiet so it never was a problem. But really, I have to be able to move my hands around without him freaking out, so this is just something we'll have to work on. Tonight, once he relaxed during the serpentines, I kept my hands still and gave him a break so that we could end our ride on a nice, relaxed note.
He's getting better, and I can tell that he's trying. It makes me feel bad, putting him through this, but he'll never get better if we don't address this problem. I'll just go slowly, and eventually we'll get there. I'm actually getting something out of it too - I'm getting much more fluid in my contact and I'm forcing myself to let go and not hang on the reins. Even though this is difficult work for me, I know it's much harder for him.
I'm thinking about taking him to a dressage schooling show in January. I'm kinda excited about it. We need some lessons between now and then, but I think we can pull it off. I'm excited. :)
The Harmany Muzzle
5 days ago