Monday, January 10, 2011

Those Hula Lessons Paid Off!

I'm just kidding, I've never had Hula lessons.  But I felt like I had tonight. 

Louie and I had a great ride tonight, though I don't think he really noticed, but it really was a breakthrough. 

It was our first ride since our lesson where we worked on shoulders in, haunches in, leg yielding, and learned that my inside leg must never be behind my outside leg.  Ah! 

So we started with our usual warm-up activities, did a little short bit of trotting and cantering, then proceeded through the levels of what we have learned, up to the leg yielding to the wall from the quarter line.  As we were doing this, I recalled what Marlene had requested in my last lesson- to almost try to have the haunches reach the wall before the forehand.  To do this, I turned my hips slightly, rotating toward the inside, and Louie's haunches did reach the wall just before his forehand, even without sliding my inside leg back.  Alright, so we've got that over-correction down!

We proceeded to work on shoulders in and haunches in.  I used my seat and my hips to help cue Louie without moving my lower legs back to make the cue.  I tried to apply more thigh/knee pressure where I wanted the forehand to move away, and more lower leg pressure to control the main movement/haunches.  He caught onto the hips/seat rotation really quickly.  We were able to switch back and forth between shoulder in and haunches in quite simply, with minimal body contortion and funny faces (from contracting my leg muscles so tightly) from me, and mostly using my seat to shift Louie's body.  So I decided to test the theory and pointed Louie straight down the center of the arena.  We focused our gaze straight at the far wall, and I twisted my hips.  Like a rudder, Louie's body rotated with me.  We straightened.  I twisted the other way, Louie shifted.  Wow!  So cool!  I petted Louie a whole bunch, and told him how good he was for listening to my seat so nicely.  I'm not sure he understood what all the hubbub was about, but I think he understands what I'm asking him for.

I'm super impressed that Louie picked up on this hip rotation so quickly.  This is going to make these two exercises much easier for us, as I won't need to kill myself with my legs if Louie continues to listen to my seat so nicely. 

Of course right now, some of our cues feel a little rough and un-polished, but Louie is responsive, and it should improve from here.  I'm thrilled!  Now I need to work on not locking my hips when I turn them, as I have a tendency to stop following the movement with my seat when I use any of my abdominal or thigh muscles. 

So we'll continue to work on these maneuvers at the walk, on and off of the rail, for the next three weeks until our next lesson.  I'd like to start some preliminary trot work with these if all goes well, at least the leg yielding from the quarter line, as I think Louie can handle that. 

Of course we'll continue to mix the canter in with our new lessons.  I figure, since Louie thinks the canter is such a big deal right now, one good way to get it to not be a big deal would be to continue to work it in as part of the routine as we learn new things, that way the canter will become one of those "easy," previously mastered skills, and not the newest and most challenging thing.  Already since we've been working on our dressage, the canter has improved.  It has become considerably more controlled, slow, balanced, and our departures and leads are improving, and we've hardly worked on it.  Awesome.  This dressage stuff is so good for us, and I'm so grateful for having found such a fabulous instructor to learn from.

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