Today was a riding lesson that really turned into more of a "joining up" refresher lesson. After tacking up, I was planning to warm up in the arena then move out to the big pasture to do some trotting work (more space out there). Well, Louie had a different plan in mind for today. I did as I usually do, brought him into the arena and let him loose with his saddle and bridle on to run around and get any excess "spunk" out. Well he thought it was kindof fun that Stoli, one of the barn dogs, was running around the outside of the ring playing with him (as seen on his most recent video)- and didn't come into the middle to me and stop, waiting for me to hop on, like usual. When he did stop, he stopped with his butt to the middle of the ring, totally disregarding my presence. So, being the "alpha horse," I moved him off with my whip and continued this process of chasing him off until he stopped and turned towards me. This didn't take long, as he hadn't forgotten this basic lesson that was one of his first with me. He stopped and looked at me, and waited patiently for me to approach. Often he walks up to me, but he was feeling a little bummed that he didn't get to continue chasing the dog, so he just waited. When I got up to him, after praising him for doing the right thing, I tested what he had learned and took a couple steps sideways toward his haunches, maintaining my posture towards his head. As expected, he moved his haunches away to face me. Good boy. So now it's time to ride.
Louie had expended a fair amount of energy chasing the dog around the arena and the sun was setting, so we had just a short lesson under saddle today, mostly consisting of leg yielding and lateral flexion. We worked on a pattern I call "squares." This is an easy exercise to do to improve transitions and precision as well as lateral movements, and can be modified to suit your needs. Make an imaginary square in the dirt- about 10-20 feet on each side. Start at one corner and walk to the next. Stop at the next corner and pivot on the forehand 90 degrees until you are facing the next corner. Pause, then walk to the next corner and pivot on the haunches 90 degrees until you are facing the next corner. You can see how this works. Just ride the straight parts, stop, pivot of choice, stop, and continue on to the next. Then repeat in the other direction. You can do the straight parts at any gait and in any length, and utilize which ever types of leg yielding turns you please- and no need to limit it to 90 degrees, you could do 270, or ride triangles or other shapes if you like. Remember though, to stay on the proper square, that when you will be pivoting on the forehand, stop with the forehand equal to the "corner." And when you will be pivoting on the haunches, stop with the hindquarters equal to the "corner"- thus you must ride a little beyond the boudary of your square. So this is a good exercise to mix in once in a while in between rail work. It improves a horse's attention, suppleness, precision, and patience. Louie tends to be a little dull on his right side, so this is a good way to work on listening to my right leg. Anyhow, after we finished with our squares, my fingers were starting to get really cold (it was 16 degrees out), so we did a little bit of trotting- speeding up and slowing down- and then a little bit of walking, working on our inside bend. Louie, being rather dull to my right leg, tends to drift off the rail during this exercise when tracking to the right, but today he did quite nicely and listened to my aids pretty equally. So there we ended our lesson and headed back to the barn for the night.