Tonight our lesson started out working on my posture and shoulders back, then quickly turned into working on getting Louie to engage his haunches. We modified our method from last time just a bit, and in the end came up with the concept of squeezing tons with the legs (calves), laying the whip on his side as needed (right side primarily), and holding with my stomach and hands (light as possible) until he lowers his neck and brings his hind end under him.
This was not easy and took Julie riding him for about 15 minutes before he'd do it with any degree of predictability. After a while I got on and I could feel his hind legs marching up underneath me in the walk- what an awesome feeling. We worked on it quite a bit at the walk, then at the trot, and I think in the end, we needed a little faster tempo in the trot to get it, but we had at least a lap or so of really nice forward, round, and through trotting.
I'm not sure I'll be able to reproduce it on my own, but that's my goal for the week. Push him forward into the contact and watch for him to *ask* to lower his neck down, then give (but not completely or he'll get behind the contact).
We also had a little bit of an adjustment in my arm position. Julie noted that I'm using my wrists still- even wearing the wrist braces! in that I'm ulnar deviating them (closing the pinky side). I need to remember to always have my pinky being the closest finger to the bit, and have light fingers for him to take the contact into. If I need to make a correction, I make a big one from the shoulder. Also, my hands need to come up and out just a little bit so I'm not pulling down on his mouth.
Well, the idea of engaging the haunches is a challenging one for a horse who always wants to lift his neck up every time he feels me tighten my legs, but after a few minutes of Julie riding him and just pushing until he gave, he started to figure it out, so it's up to me now to see if I can do it on my own. Louie is extremely smart, so I have no doubt he'll figure it out, but I feel right now this is the missing link that is holding us back from getting anywhere. So Louie, I really need you to figure it out buddy!