Tuesday, January 24, 2012


I have heard people say that bravery isn’t the absence fear. It’s doing something in spite of being afraid.

Well, I forced myself to be brave on Monday.

I’m still struggling with connection on Phil. The strong steady leg has worked really well to help him focus and to get him to go to my hand. But I felt that he really wasn’t maintaining the steady connection that I wanted. He seemed to go to my hand, then come up, then root around and push down on the bit. He just seemed unsettled.

So I thought back to when I was riding Lee and was trying to get connection with him. I remember my trainer saying “Just let him go. I think he gets frustrated when he wants to go forward and you stop him.” Maybe I was letting my fear get the best of me and was stopping Phil a bit too much.

Mind you, this horse has jumped straight up in the air, taken off with me in a panic, and bulldozed almost into the wall when I tried to use my leg when I first got him. Therefore I’ve been a bit cautious with this whole “strong leg” thing. But maybe I just needed to let him go.

So I did. I put my leg on him and just went with it. He gave me some very big, strong strides, and it felt really good. However, we were covering a lot of ground, and it was hard for me to tell if our tempo was maybe too quick.

I had my friend Debbie make a short video of me riding Phil tonight. Here it is -

I'd say that he doesn't look too quick, but he does look too short in the neck, and still not steady enough. Needs more reach into my hand with a longer neck and more constant contact.

I'm going to send the video to my trainer and get her take on it. What do you all think?


V. Viola said...

Hi DM,
I would love to see more temporary release on the inside rain and see him seek the support of the outside rein. In these strong trots, can you regulate the tempo with your seat? Even a smidgen? I don't know the feel of the Arabian impulsion very well but I think in earlier videos with your trainer, I saw better hock flexion, and swinging back. The winter is not easy! You keep my riding going Thank you!

Unknown said...

I really like him :)
I watched the video thinking how I would work on this if I was working with him myself or taught someone on him and here are some things that I would do (of course might be totally wrong for him/you and the video can be misleading but here we go):

- I wouldn't worry about the unsteadiness of the contact too much, there appears to be some tension in his body, especially neck, poll and pelvis which I would want gone first before expecting rein contact to have more quality

- there also appears to be a lot of tension in your arms, neck and pelvis: I would try to soften the rise of the rising trot letting each hip to relax as you rise and thighs soften as you sit. There seems to be a lot of thrust from your hips towards his wither which might be "pushing him" onto the forehand.
I would try to have more bend in the elbow (perhaps higher hand but still encouraging longer neck) so you can rest your upper arms by your sides with more ease and softness yet it would allow you to perhaps feel more grounded through the upper body.
- I would ask for more lateral bend in his body
- I would also try to have more "uphill" posture in myself as he seems to carry quite a bit of weight on his shoulders.

All in all, I think for a young sharp horse he is doing very well and having worked with a horse with similar issues recently I found that improving lateral and longitudinal flexion with in-hand lateral work, circles and walk leg-yields under the saddle improved the contact "issue" 90% :)

All the best, he looks like a fab project!

Marnie K said...

First of all I know that scarey feeling of putting a lot of leg on a hot blooded horse. I know I am very guilty of accepting a lazy trot instead of putting a lot of leg on my TB.

Secondly my gut feeling is that Phil is still trying to figure out the whole contact thing. It's like he just doesn't get it yet and is still thinking he has to have his head 'set' and then when he does reach into the bit and 'hits' it he throws his head up in surprise.

Just out of curiosity do you lunge him in side reins? Will he accept the contact with those? I ask because my OTTB will take up a light contact with the side reins at a walk but Phill's video reminded me of how he trots on side reins - he holds his head in a certain position but isn't truly accepting the contact.

Cheryl said...

You are so brave. When in doubt think "synbad"!!!

Anonymous said...

I am impressed at all of the "stuff" that you have to ride by and he is still listening to you and not spooking! He doesn't look too quick to me. His connection is inconsistent and he isn't relaxed but not spooking. :) Seems to me (and I am not an expert) more lateral work and bending with transitions. Control his butt in all manners, not just the forward and I think his contact will improve.

Dressage Mom said...


I was doing a release with the inside rein, but it was getting too distracting because Phil is really afraid when I move my hands around. I was also afraid that I was disrupting the connection. I know I need to get back to this, I just hate freaking him out with the hand movements. I know he needs to get used to it sometime...

Yes, I should have been using my seat a bit more. However my saddle was cold, and I didn't have full seats on, and I was sliding around more than I would have liked! And I'm sure he looked better in my lessons with my trainer - she fixes all of my issues! :)

Dressage Mom said...


Oh yes, he certainly carries tension in his whole body. Getting him to relax is hard. I think he has a lot of past training issues that make him anxious much of the time. It's sad. :(

And I also carry a lot of tension in my arms and neck! I totally agree I need to work on this. I think I'm much more relaxed when I ride Kaswyn. I'm more tense with Phil because he can be... well lets say unpredictable. And my posting was a little uncontrollable because my saddle was cold, and was slippery, and I didn't have full seats on, and I was sliding around. That in itself made me tense. I should have put a little Leather Therapy on my saddle - that usually makes it a bit tacky and solves the sliding issue.

I've been hesitant to try lateral stuff (besides bending exercises) until I can get a decent connection, but I suppose I should at least try it. Can't hurt, right? And I agree, he needs to be more uphill. I didn't realize how "down" he was in the shoulders until I rode Kaswyn and asked for a flying change and felt him elevate his forehand to push through the change.

Dressage Mom said...


I have lunges him in a very long side rein. Nothing that would make him "set" his head at all. He sometimes seeks contact with them, sometimes not. I'm certain he spent a lot of time in tight side reins. He was taught to set his head and back off the bit with his previous training, so I guess I shouldn't be surprised that connection is such an issue.

Dressage Mom said...


That was many years ago! I was young and dumb then! Now I'm older and I don't bounce as well. :)

Dressage Mom said...


In general he's not a spooky horse. Sure, he will startle at things, but I think the thing that scares him most is his rider beating the tar out of him. So, so sad. :(

Yes, more bending and lateral movements is something I need to do. I really thought I needed to establish the connection first, but I guess I can work on them both at the same time.

Anonymous said...

Hi Sheri
Been following for a few months, you are doing a great job with the "great phil", my trainer leaves me for a month or two in the winter as well so i feel your pain. I find going back to my lesson videos helps put me back on track. I am struggling as well with my mare reaching for the connection consistently as well , i felt she was feeling claustrophobic and shortened as well. When my trainer came back this week we went back to lengthening at the walk and trot, stretching down to get her back round. I don't think phil is round enough and he seems worried about the contact, it maybe due to fitness, it takes almost a year to get a horses muscles prepared for true connection. He seems much happier seeking it during the canter and happy in the videos, just my two cents, love your trainer on your videos, she reminds me of my trainer alot, keep on trucking. Cheers Lori

Logan Keys said...

Slower horse with rider in more balance will resolve lots of things :) (ask me how I know lol)

Shoulders back and head up helps with your balance and the horse needs all the help he can get while he learns to "find his feet".

Also let him slow down to a lazy feeling but with tempo.

Your balance back, and his balance lower even with the neck too will help everything work over the the back more efficiently IMO :)

Lovely horse! I also did dressage on my arabian :) The lighter breeds need so much more help with balance we have to exaggerate.

Achieve1dream said...

He is sooo cute! I'm not experienced enough to give advice, but it looks like you got some good advice. :)

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