Tonight was our 4th lesson with Julie. We worked on the usual type of stuff and I asked Julie to help us clarify our cues for a downward or upward transition (as they're pretty similar all in all). I'm not sure I got a clear answer on the difference, but I think throughout our lesson tonight I figured out enough of what I need to understand for now.
We did a little bit of work with the cavaletti, which Louie once again panicked when he started into them. This time it was only 3 of them in a row on a circle. He trotted the first one, then jumped the second two. LOL. Oh Louie. . . by the third or fourth time through, we had a respectable trot through them.
We worked a lot on slowing down using the seat tonight. I thought we really did a nice job with this. I do have to be careful to not completely lock my seat and brace into my stirrups as I tend to do this. Just tighten my lower abs and slow the saddle down, not completely stop it unless I really mean to stop completely.
We also worked some on half halting, basically slowing my seat, then bumping a little bit with the legs or laying the whip gently on his side. Louie did manage to do one very nice square halt while we worked on that.
The other thing we worked on was lengthening the neck, by using the seat. My basic cues to get Louie to lower his neck are: apply just a little bit of light calf, especially the inside leg, tighten my lower abs, make sure my posting is nice and light, and very gently wiggle my reins a little bit (mostly inside, but sometimes the outside leg to get him to take the connection lower). This also worked really well, and I was impressed with how much I was able to get him to lower just with these simple things, sometimes without even using the hands. We did, however, discover during this exercise that I use my hands too much at times, and Julie thinks I should try to keep my hands a little more still to give Louie more confidence that he's doing the right thing. I need to keep my elbows loose to move, and give with the forearm, as that part of my arm "belongs to my horse."
We worked just a little bit on our walk-trot transitions, and found that these really can be very light and easy, and I really don't need to rev the engine a whole lot. Just a touch from an active forward walk, slide my pelvis slightly forward, and if he doesn't go off of the seat movement, give him a tap with the whip and try again.
Finally, probably the biggest thing we worked on tonight was my leg position. I need to roll my thighs in, so that my knee caps are basically touching the saddle, and my thighs are making more contact with the horse. When I do this, I also need to turn my feet way in, so that my heels are out, and keep a bend in my knee (light heels), so that my weight isn't braced down into the stirrups. This bracing is a really bad habit that I have which, lucky for me, gave me a one week sentence of riding without stirrups. . . Argh. It will be good for me, but I just hope I don't fall off while I'm at it! It should help me to keep the bend in my knee, use my thighs more (but not vice grip), and NOT brace into my stirrups.