First off a side note from earlier this week. Louie had a massage from Julie's son on Tuesday, which I'm sure has uncovered part of our issues with our rides this week- Louie's back is sore. Well, nothing is really new there, as his back is often sore, but we think at this point that this is something that needs to be worked through, as he probably is either sore in his back because he needs to use his hind end more and lift his back more, or because he is sore in his hind legs. Anyhow, he's not lame and not severely sore, but I'm going to probably cut back my riding just a bit as a prophylactic measure and get rid of the front riser so that the saddle fits a little more uniformly. I think Louie will also benefit from a few more massages. I'm going to try to drive him a little bit more too as we've only driven once since coming to the new stable, as we've been focusing so much on making riding progress.
Anyhow, tonight was a very very cold lesson. It was about -2 degrees outside (actual temperature) when we rode. I usually don't ride when it's this cold, but I wasn't sure if I'd be able to reschedule my lesson, and Julie still works her horses and teaches when it's this cold, so I figured it would probably be alright. Wow did my joints ache after that!
We worked on essentially the same things this week as we worked on last week, except Julie wants me to work a little bit more on promptness and having our riding be quality and transition ready all the time, "practice as you play" type of thing. No slacking off. And as great as we can get a nice relaxed trot, we've got to be able to get that quickly and transition in and out of it smoothly. It can't take a minute to build up enough energy to make a decent transition from a relaxed gait.
So, specifically, we worked a LOT on half halts, and in those I need to use more whip and abs, and just plant my hands on Louie's neck and get his back end to speed up and his front end to slow down. We worked on our walk-trot transitions, which need to be more prompt as Julie noticed that I am begging for the transition. Well, honestly, I'm not totally sure that Louie understands the cue of moving my seat forward yet, through he's getting better with it. He'll do it when I get his engine really revved up, but he's just looking for the easier answer (which, is trotting rather than walking with impulsion). I think the other thing I notice is that when I move my seat forward to ask for the trot, I give up my legs, which I should keep on through the transition.
The other thing that we worked on was Louie's gawking and going above the bit. When he does this, I need to take him into more of a bend and push him toward whatever monster he is scared of, moving sideways. I can't let him be a tourist and look at the scenery, I need to drive and have control while he's on my time. I need to do whatever I need to do to get him round, which, typically involves bending, planting my hands on his neck so I'm not too busy with them, and pushing with my legs and whip and maintaining the tempo and speed with my seat/core.
He also likes to go behind the bit and curl his neck when he gets frustrated. For this, we think, bend less and go more forward. When he ducks behind the bit, I need to use some fairly strong forward aids, and my abs strongly to keep him from plowing ahead too quickly. I need to keep my hands quiet and planted on his neck. Slowing the tempo or speeding up also tends to help him come out of it.
We worked a lot on gait changes, half halting, changes of rein (from one circle to another and across the diagonal as well as a half circle change of rein), etc and having them all be prompt, round, and without falling apart and having Louie throw his neck in the air. This is challenging, partly because I'm obsessed with changing my whip and in the 20 seconds I fumble with it, Louie completely falls apart. So I'll either have to not change it and just keep it in my right hand, or ride with two whips like most people there.
Finally we worked a little bit more on our trot-canter in two point transitions, which is actually pretty decent (other than the fact that Louie was really wound up with the cold and bucked into the canter a few times).
My homework for the next week is more of the same, another week of short stirrup work (did I mention that she moved my stirrups up 6 notches? ouch! it hurts!) and working on getting better engagement and roundness, more prompt and light transitions (within and between gaits), half halts, and a little bit of two point cantering, focusing on getting my butt back and out of the saddle and not breaking my body in half in the middle.