Sorry I am late in posting about my lesson last week. But here it goes.
You know Newton's law of motion that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. . . well our lesson was kind of like that. Louie has been trying to figure out lots and lots of ways to get out of being round and staying on the bit. His two favorites are: "hey look! That crack of light coming from the corner of the door is going to eat us both!" above the bit, and "I am so frustrated with you Mom!" behind the bit.
We've worked on remedying these problems in the past, but we really focused on this, and Julie said something that really made sense to me. She basically said, that I need to be ready with a response or a "fix" for each time Louie does something besides being round (while he's on my time, gosh darn it!), and in addition, I need to look for opportunities to give. So that basically means that I need to be thinking and know the answers and what to do each time Louie decides he wants to go above or behind the bit- have a solution ready to use for each problem I might encounter. Then in addition to that, I need to pay attention to the "feel" and if I feel that Louie is ready to sink his neck deeper, I need to be prepared to let him do that when I feel him giving me those signs (ie filling up the bridle or taking more hold of the bit).
So the fixes. . . when he wants to go above the bit, I need more bend, more sideways, bending him away from and pushing him towards the scary monster. Shoulder in works great for this. When I take my inside hand off of his neck and back to my knee, I need to still hold with my outside rein (think pulley rein) to get the neck to come down and in into the contact vs just over-bending.
When Louie wants to go behind the bit. . . now this is a really tough one as it evolves some with time. . . but for the time being, what works is to add leg and say "whoa" with my seat/tummy so that he doesn't run off. Even from a standstill, adding legs causes him to reach his nose out some. The key is not to pull with my hands to cause him to back off of the bit. I need to give some to make it a happier experience. The other key, which I think has really helped us, is that when he does duck back behind the bit, I can't throw my reins away. This is where that looking for opportunity to give comes in to play. . . I need to then shorten my reins and keep the same contact that I want, using my legs to push him into it (and stomach to control the speed, grunting if need be LOL). After going around like this, BTV while still maintaining contact and getting a big forward message from my legs, eventually he gives in to it and starts to become heavier and heavier in the bridle. As I notice him increasing the downward pressure on the reins, then is my opportunity to give, and let him lengthen the neck.
I really think that this behind the bit treatment has helped as we worked on it a fair amount at our lesson on Thursday, and in the three rides I've had since then (I know, a lot of riding I got done this week!) I've hardly felt him go behind the bit at all in the past few rides.
The other thing that I think really helps is lunging him a little bit to warm him up- both directions, both ends of the arena. That way we get some of the "monsters" and freshness dealt with and out of the way so that we don't spend our entire ride trying to deal with being above the bit and running away from scary monsters. I have done that the past two rides and my it sure seemed to help us have a more productive ride.