So I've had lots of comments about my elbows being straight. I agree, you should ride with your elbows hanging at your sides, shoulders relaxed, straight line from bit to elbow.
I'm here to tell you that would be a very bad thing for me to ride like that all the time with Phil. Please read the following carefully and you will understand why.
A trained dressage horse will make contact and go to the bit, allowing the rider to accept the pressure that the horse is exerting on the bit. What develops is a subtle give and take between horse and rider to maintain the perfect contact for that horse, keeping in mind that each horse likes a different amount of pressure in it's contact with the bit/rider's hand.
How do I know this? Because Kaswyn is a trained schoolmaster who I have shown Intermediare I, and have schooled all the Grand Prix movements on. He makes proper and consistent contact. Through this contact I am able to CONNECT him from back to front. And I can ride with my elbows in perfect position, resting near my hips, soft, and relaxed, giving and taking. I'm not a beginning dressage rider.
Phil is young and green, and has been trained to set his head in one position and avoid bit contact. His previous "head set" looks like an upper level horse who is too deep and overflexed. Poll down, chin in, crest up, and avoiding bit contact. I'm here to tell you that if I just put my arms in perfect position he would set that head again. This is completely undesirable for what I'm trying to achieve.
I'm fixing this my allowing him to stretch into my hand the moment that he offers it. To do that, rather than let the reins slide through my fingers, I straighten my elbows. The contact that he will accept is very light from having been taught to avoid contact. So we only get a few strides of contact before he begins to evade again.
Yes, I also come out of position because I'm leaning a bit too far forward. Another consequence of trying to allow any contact and stretch into my hand that he will offer.
I will not ride him like this forever, because I will not need to. Eventually his 3-4 strides of acceptance of contact will be a full circle, then a few laps around the arena. I've only had six months to re-train four years of previous training. This will take patience and understanding.
And as far as excuses, and fear? I'm not making excuses, I'm explaining why I'm doing what I'm doing. I hardly think I need to make excuses for my riding, considering I ride Phil four or five times a week. Frankly, I work my ass off and have no excuses to make. And absolutely, I have some fear when riding Phil. He's young, still green, and unpredictable. I would be a total idiot not to have some fear.
That being said, I know that Phil is a good horse. He is smart, willing to please, and athletic. We'll figure this out. And I'm not flying blind here. My very accomplished trainer is with me on this journey. I trust her completely and absolutely.
So, I'm not saying "don't make comments". Go ahead and make them. I'll publish them. And although I'm asking for opinions, remember that I know more about what it's like to ride Phil than you do, and when I say "that won't work" or "I can't do that" it's not because it's a bad idea, or incorrect. It's just because I know my horse better than you do.
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