Tonight was our 3rd lesson with Marlene and we really learned a lot. She was impressed with our progress and our work ethic as I think she can tell how hard we work to get things down from one lesson to the next.
By this time Louie and I are comfortable with walking and trotting circles and keeping a proper bend, with proper pressure on the reins, seat, and legs. Our downward transitions have really improved, and I think the gentle bit sliding left-right-left-right is going to be the key to remedy that situation. We can both tell though, that a light bulb went off between the last lesson and this one in respect to Louie's downward transition head/neck position.
Tonight Marlene wanted to start on leg yielding. She asked me to walk the quarter line, then leg yield Louie back to the rail, keeping his body very straight, and if anything, a tiny inward bend at the poll only. She was pretty impressed the first time we did this at how well Louie respected my leg and moved toward the rail. I think she was expecting that he knew nothing more than how to go forward. He didn't do it perfectly, nor did I, but he did move toward the rail very willingly, and kept his body mostly straight. We have some room for improvement here as I need to get him to move over without having to move my inside leg back.
We then progressed to shoulder in, which is supposed to be easier than haunches in. Ha! Marlene was shocked when we did okay with the shoulders in, but actually did better with haunches in. Well, we figured out why, and that is because of the "different" way I trained Louie to shift his haunches and forehand to begin with. When I teach any horse, I put one leg behind the girth to get them to shift their haunches away from the pressure. Well, when you are trying to ask your horse to do shoulders in, doing it that way results in having your outside leg ahead of your inside leg, as the inside leg slides back to drive the haunches out. Oops! We found out tonight that is a big no-no, and that the outside leg should NEVER be ahead of the inside leg. The reason for this is because if you need to do this to ask for shoulder in at the canter, it would confuse the horse into thinking that you want to switch leads.
So now how do we do shoulders in without moving that inside leg back?? Well it's going to come down to shifting the weight/turning my seat and probably using my upper leg to try to hold the shoulder in with the outside thigh/knee, and push the body out with my inside calf.
Naturally haunches in is easier based on the way Louie and I learned, I'll be able to hold him in with the inside knee, and use that outside calf, which is allowed to be back farther, to drive the haunches in. So, we'll have to REALLY work on this in the next few weeks before our next lesson and straighten out our system of aids to make this happen.
One way that Marlene recommended we try, is use the haunches in, which comes easier to us, to help teach shoulders in, which really is the same basic maneuver, just with a wall on one side or the other. She recommended we walk down a rail, do a few strides of haunches in, then straighten and proceed to shoulders in. She said most horses are better at haunches in one way and shoulders in one way, usually opposite directions, and she can't figure out the reasoning behind that as they are essentially the same maneuver, just with a wall in a different spot. Anyhow, haunches in is easier for us to the left, and shoulders in is easier to the right.
Well, our next lesson is 3 weeks away and we've sure got our work cut out for us before then!