Tonight we worked on a little bit of everything. We started out with a little bit of lateral work with shoulder in and renvers along the straight away. Julie wants me to "think" renvers when I do my corners, to help me get deeper into them at the walk.
We worked a lot at first on medium walk to free walk, and Julie reminded us that when a test calls for free walk, the horse has got to do it "now!" or you'll lose points if they take half of the distance to lower the neck. We're getting the hang of this pretty well, but we can always use some improvement in transitions.
We then worked a little bit on our half-halts and the beginnings of extension. Basically what she wants me to do is to half halt for several strides, then "Go!" by changing the "attitude" of my body and thinking extension from my belly button. Not add leg, give the reins, or anything like that, more releasing the impulsion created in the half halt into forward movement. I think I have yet to figure out exactly what the attitude change I'm looking for is, but I think for now Louie's probably going to feel it as a different speed and height of posting. We got a little bit of some decent extension, but it's inconsistent yet.
We then worked on a little bit of sitting trot with no stirrups and Julie was kind of laughing as I sat the best when I was fumbling around looking for my stirrups. That is part of my homework, to slowly start to introduce some sitting trot, in short bursts, starting with just more frequent changes of my posting diagonal, then sitting 3 strides, 4 strides, 5 strides, etc until Louie doesn't really seem to notice or care whether I'm sitting or posting, as right now, he seems to think it's a really big deal if I change from one to another.
After a little bit Julie had had enough of me bending my wrists so she put on some old wrist braces that she had and made me ride in those. They immobilize the wrist joint so you have to use your shoulder more. I do think it helped, as I know that I use my wrists a lot in an effort at subtlety, but in using my reins so much, I am killing Louie's confidence and teaching him to back off of the bit. So far the wrist braces actually really seem like they're going to help with that. I have to wear them for at least the next week. Julie says Bill Woods (a clinician who is actually coming for a clinic later this spring) thinks of the arm like a hollow tube from the fingers to the elbow, and the rein goes through that tube and attaches at the elbow. I can see how this will help, I just need to make it a habit, which means I could be wearing the wrist braces for many months.
We then worked out some issues we were having with Louie wanting to curl back and duck behind the bit once in a while. Julie hopped on for a few seconds and basically so far what we're going to try to do is basically "grunt it out" with strong abs. So, for example, in the trot, if he ducks back behind the bit, I need to keep my reins the same length, add my calves, make sure my back is not arched, and use my stomach strongly to keep him from going too fast. So I'm using my stomach (as strongly as needed) for breaks instead of my reins, and hopefully he will reach out into the contact. Another technique that often helps is to either slow down or speed up within the gait, make a gait change, or add more bend/lateral work. Julie stressed the importance of getting him to reach down into the bit and really establish a solid training level frame before proceeding to the higher levels, as if we don't get him reaching down, he'll just drop his back instead of doing the work properly.
Lastly, she hiked my stirrups up 6 notches and I rode the canter in 2 point "jockey style" trying to maintain my head and torso in a constant position with the horse moving under me. She says doing this for a while should help me to eventually sit the canter without breaking my body in the middle as I so often do in the canter. She said we had a very nice jumping position, so that is good as this is something we work on outside of lessons on occasion too (just not with this short of stirrups). This is part of my homework, as well as wearing the wrist braces and working on a little more sitting trot. I'm also going to really try to work on my half halts more, though Julie did agree that I really like homework as we do some pretty decent discovery and make progress between lessons. I am super excited to start working on more extension! But for now, we've got other things to fix, so I've got to be patient, but of course I'll try it out from time to time.
It was cold, a high of about 14 degrees today, and despite my apron clip that Louie got, he still managed to work up a pretty solid sweat, as did I! So, we may have to think about extending his clip. . .