Saturday, September 29, 2012

Lesson: Half Halts and Release

Today we had a challenging lesson. 

When Julie first got there, I had just started warming up at the trot and she was surprised at how good we looked.  She asked what we had done to make such an improvement and how I was riding differently than normal.  Well, I didn't think I was really riding differently than normal, he was just somehow being really good- reaching down for contact and a nice controlled, cadenced trot. 

Well I think she was satisfied with our posting trot, so we moved on to a new exercise of very frequent half halts- every stride in the sitting trot.  So, I had to apply inside leg and stomach every time the inside front leg went forward.  That was a big challenge- for me!  Contracting my muscles and releasing them with every stride is a lot of work!  The half halts weren't huge, but just enough to get Louie thinking and his hind legs moving more than anything.

We worked on this for a little bit, and then added an element of allowing forward motion after several half halts.  So we would do 3 consecutive strides with half halts, then release forward and "tap tap tap" my leg lightly with each step and almost allow the energy forward through my stomach. 

Sometimes, we would do a 10 meter circle working on this, then proceed into shoulder in down the long side of the arena.  I need to remember to stay really tucked, and if Louie ignores my aids and runs through me, get really tucked under with my seat, raise and widen my hands, but keep my fingers light, and use whip if he won't listen to my leg to move sideways. 

We then worked on this exercise, but instead of allowing a little more trot, we asked for the canter.  I need to really focus on keeping my feet light in the canter and riding each stride, being prepared to downward transition after 3 strides, or after 3 circles. . .  All of our canter work is being done on about 10-15 meter circles at this point.  We had some very nice left lead cantering.  Our right lead canter is still a bit rushed, higher headed, and not as connected as the left lead.  I think this is just due to Louie's mild chronic left hind leg lameness.

I need to remember not only to keep my feet and legs light in the canter, but also to think towards the stretch just like we do in the other gaits (with inside bend via inside leg and rein, and some half halt and release). 

I think we've made really great progress in the past month or two.  I'm hoping to get a schooling video soon to share Louie's "new canter" as well as hopefully catch his nicer connected trot and stretching skills. 

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