Well tonight was another good lesson for Louie and me with our new dressage instructor Marlene. It had been a month since our last lesson, and between working so hard on the scary end of the arena and having a two-week break that seemed to have put us way behind, we actually made some noticeable progress on our homework! Our bending around our circles has definitely come along, and I was able to hold Louie out on the circles much easier this time. Of course the addition of spurs really makes that a lot easier.
So tonight we continued to work on our bending, noticing that Louie, unlike most horses, actually bends to the right much easier than he does to the left. When circling to the left, he wants to just bend closer to the poll, but not from the base of the neck, so that is something we need to work on. He also wants to go just a little bit more rushed at the trot to the left than he does to the right, which Marlene thinks is probably a function of discomfort in bending in that direction.
We think we may have discovered a key to getting Louie to downward transition without pulling his head and neck up- and that is to hold him into an exaggerated inside bend while slowly relaxing into the transition. What Louie wants to do is to snap his neck straight and raise up, but not allowing him to straighten, he doesn't take the opportunity to lift either.
We showed Marlene our canter for the first time tonight, and while it wasn't Louie's best work- throwing his neck in the air and loading his inside front leg, losing his balance and dragging himself around the circle in the canter. She said it wasn't a bad canter but I've definitely felt him do better. We talked a little bit about his reluctance to use his right lead and Marlene recommended I try transitioning him with his haunches shifted to the outside of the circle. We tried it once and low and behold, it worked! He took his right lead and was much more balanced that way in the first few strides, whereas usually he takes several strides to put himself together. So we will keep trying this.
Another thing that Marlene wanted me to work on is where my hands are. I have a really bad habit from my earliest learning's of western pleasure, and that is to cross one hand over the mid-line of the neck, in attempt to neck rein. I have been scolded for this before in my saddle seat lessons, but old habits die hard, especially when they are left alone to their own devices for many years while not taking regular lessons. One thing that she wanted me to think about was keeping my hands equidistant from Louie's neck, and if anything, keeping the inside hand farther away, toward the middle, like a leading rein. This is difficult for me to do and will require a lot of work, but we're pretty determined.
I'm looking forward to our next lesson, in the new year. But for now, we'll work on our new homework and of course take a few days now to celebrate the holidays. Merry Christmas!