I rode Louie again tonight. It was the first time I had ridden or even worked him since last Tuesday when he was so deathly afraid of one end of the arena. He was still scared of the barrels, poles, and jump standards at the end of the arena, but I called his bluff when he suddenly became more scared half-way through the ride. We worked through it, confronted our fears, and while he was never really relaxed on the scary end of the arena, he survived.
We continued to work on our dressage homework- leg yielding and shifting the ribcage, which is becoming easier for us. Louie is responding to my leg pressure nicely, and I'm using it intermittently, which is really helpful for both of us. Once in a while, as we were riding a circle, I would look down at him to see the angle of his body- haunches following along the circle, neck and head bent to the middle, a nice curve going through his back. I'm sure Marlene will have criticism for us, but I was pretty pleased with some moments of our ride. Even when I worked figure-8's in two point, Louie responded perfectly by bending his body around my leg immediately when we would change inflection on the figure-8.
We worked on just a little bit of canter. Louie took his canter leads and departures really well! I attempted to do the same basic exercise at the canter, but I had too hard a time staying in the saddle to do that. We were just about to be done for the night, we were cantering around the "good" side of the arena and I had planned to stop at the far end and proceed with our cool down, but Louie spooked at something from the "good" end, tried to bolt, then broke, then picked up the wrong lead when I asked for the canter again. Argh. I brought him back down to the walk and we worked on changing gears from super excited to "settled" for several minutes. Then we tried again- Louie departed beautifully onto the right lead from the center of the ring- no wall to aid him in getting his lead. I was happy.
I definately think our lessons in dressage will help with our canter work as Louie becomes stronger and learns that he must bear weight on the hind legs properly, reaching underneath himself and supporting his body on a circle. I almost felt like our canter transitions had improved already, but I think that must be wishful thinking, as we've really only been working on some very basic concepts for a few rides and this was the first time we had cantered since our lesson. But if I believe it, I'll be motivated to continue, which will be good for both Louie and me.
Lastly, Louie is now going to have a small vacation from ridden work- we have our National Field Trial to attend next week, so "mean Auntie Sandy" will be helping Louie overcome his fear of the scary arena with some lunging to keep him in shape and desensitized while I'm gone. We'll have our next dressage lesson soon after I return, so I want Louie to be rarin' to go and ready to focus on dressage when she comes for our lesson!