Tonight we practiced some of the skills we learned at our dressage lesson. I tried to put on spurs, but soon discovered that the spur straps that I had were not long enough to fit around my tennis shoes. So I grabbed a whip instead. This definitely woke Louie up and he respected my leg much much more knowing that my whip might bite him if he didn't listen to my leg.
It took a fair bit of warming up before he would settle in and work, but by the end of the lesson we seemed to have gotten the walking in a circle drill down fairly well. With an inside bend, with more pressure on the outside rein, better balanced pressure with my legs (and intermittent, not constant), and keeping the hind end in, without me falling off of my saddle. So that was a very good thing! I made sure to praise Louie frequently when he was doing the right thing. I do think a) having the whip, and b) not having a person standing in the center of our circle that Louie wanted to visit made a big difference. But what made a really big difference was a comment from one of the other riders at my barn saying that she thinks of it this way: if you push the ribcage to the outside, then the horse should naturally be bent slightly toward the inside. If you keep your reins the same as they were when you were going straight, there will be less pressure on the inside rein as the horse is bending away from the outside, taking up contact on that rein and lessening the distance on the inside rein. Aha! This was a light bulb moment for me!
We also worked on this at the trot, which was pretty decent, but needs more work as Louie seems to still think that one leg at the girth means go faster. We'll get it, he just needs reminders and me doing it more often.
We worked on our not-so-good downward transitions. I found tonight that the going slower slower slower, and if he raises his head up- push him forward method was not working as well as I had hoped. Louie was actually becoming confused and then just stopped transitioning- he'd just continue at a jog trot with me sitting in the saddle until I pulled him up- at which time he would raise his head. Ugh. . . I recall Louie used to lift his neck to help him transition into the trot from the walk. He rarely does this anymore, because I had to work with him to get him to not do it- by gently sea-sawing my reins before asking for the transition, and continuing it as he was changing gaits. Then re-doing it if he lifted his neck, until he realized he could make the transition without the extra "balancing." I tried this with the trot-walk transition a few times and it seems to be working fairly well- better than the slow down method. The only problem is that I think the downward transition cue gets lost in the rein wiggling, so I might have to add some extra cue for a while here- a sigh or something usually works. So, I think I might try to fix this issue this way instead, and hopefully I can make some progress in the next few weeks, then hopefully we just won't have to worry about it regularly, just like we were able to do with the upward transitions.