Thursday, March 15, 2012

Lesson 17: Stretch Over The Back

Louie and I had a great ride tonight!  One of the other instructors was there to watch again and she was super impressed with how great we did tonight, and how much progress we made from 2 weeks ago.  I think it helped having Julie ride Louie a few times. 

The weather was awesome, I rode in a tee shirt!  We worked on all 3 gaits, and stretching the neck forward and down.  We worked on 10 meter walk and trot circles, getting Louie to stretch down with inside leg and inside rein.  He has it figured out pretty nicely, but we still need to work on getting him just a bit deeper (using legs/whip, but using my stomach to encourage him not rush), and we also need a fast response to get that stretch into the free walk right when asked.  Our walk-trot transitions were pretty nice, and we worked on the sitting trot-canter, which was surprisingly very easy to transition him just by positioning my legs and sliding my inside seat bone forward and up.  I still need to work on keeping myself from "wiggling" a bit in the canter and sitting trot.

We worked on a little bit of shoulder in, working on looking for opportunities to release and give, and focusing on posting straight forward, not off to one side. 

We also worked on getting my shoulders back and I showed Julie my "shoulders back" strap system that I recently purchased and she liked the results we got wearing it.  She is hopeful that if I keep wearing it, it will help me to avoid some comments from judges regarding my forward shoulders when I show.  I think I should just wear it 24/7.  We worked on the "exercise of the week" also which is to occasionally lift the foot up out of the stirrups to make sure that I'm not bracing in the stirrups, which I tend to do when Louie gets "looky."

Throughout the ride, we kept coming back to the concept of asking Louie to stretch over his back and lengthen his neck.  He starts to get a little "curly" in the neck/behind the bit when frustrated or when I ask him to do something difficult, so we spend a 20-meter circle or two "making up," quickening the pace, and getting him to stretch back out to the bit again.  He seemed to do quite well with this.  Julie also thought that he had a very nice frame tonight and was working over his back nicely.  She likes the frame that we've developed over the past few months, and she thinks that the judges will be in for a treat to see a Saddlebred with such a nice beginning dressage frame (as she said not many of the Saddlebreds out there competing in dressage really get their necks long and low).

Julie figured out in her rides this week and last that Louie is challenging, and he likes to be inventive and change the game just when she thinks she's got him figured out.  So I'm guessing this is where my experience with him and hard work will come in, as now I think Julie is more equipped to help us, but I think I need to keep trying to ride and push buttons and try to feel out how Louie is responding and what he needs to learn what he needs to do.

Overall, we had a really nice ride, and I was very happy with Louie, especially when Julie said "Jill wants to ride your horse!" in the middle of my ride.  That's always a good thing when an instructor likes your horse, though I don't know why anybody wouldn't want to ride a beautiful nice Saddlebred like Louie!

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