Tonight was my last lesson for a little while. . . being 6.5 months pregnant it's probably time to cut back on my riding. And not so much because I'm scared of falling or that I'm having any pain, it's more that I'm not as effective as a rider anymore. . .that, and my family worries about me riding.
So, it was a great lesson tonight, a great note to end on. We worked on a lot of lateral work- a lot of shoulder in and haunches in, with a little bit of renvers. We worked on some shoulder in down the center line, working on keeping Louie tracking where I wanted him to, haunches on the center line and travelling straight- it's a lot harder without a wall! We found I had to use more outside leg back to hold the haunches, and use my inside leg fairly strongly and intermittently to really get him to hold his withers up and bend through his body (not just his neck). When we got it right, it felt like we were really moving sideways with some thrust, not just dragging along. We would then switch to renvers part way through the straight away, just for a few strides, then turn back to shoulder in and round the corner. Julie thought our renvers tonight was really rather good. We worked this at the sitting trot.
We learned a couple of little tricks here- we tried to get Louie to stretch his neck down throughout the exercise, and when he came above the bit, I would use my hands lightly high and wide, with a lot of leg and even add some whip, just long enough for him to fill up the bridle, then I'd release and let him lower his neck. It worked almost every time, but I have to focus on staying tucked through my pelvis while I do that. And, timing is everything- if I didn't release in time, he wouldn't seek the bit and follow it down.
Then we worked some haunches in on a small circle (thinking of bringing both hands toward the outside a bit to get the bend, which is the most important part), transitioning to shoulder in, and then to canter. We had some nice canter work this way, and actually got him to carry himself, then lower his neck by doing the same principle that we did in the trot work- raise the inside rein up (and use some pressure on it) while using a fair amount of leg, then give the rein and he would seek the bit and stretch down in the canter. All the while, I need to focus on keeping my body quite still.
Overall this was a really fun lesson and Louie was really quite good (though I had to lunge him for about 15 minutes before I got on because we had a cold front and the first snow of the year come through today). It was one of my more effective rides in the past month (as my belly has grown bigger my abs and ability to tuck my pelvis have really suffered, as well as my endurance toting around the extra weight). I will really look forward to picking up somewhere near where we left off next spring (hopefully sometime around March).
In the mean time, Louie's future is still a bit up in the air. He might get a few months "off" just to sit in the pasture and be a pet. Or, we've also toyed with the idea of having Julie use him for a few lessons with appropriate riders, so that he can at least maintain his condition. My biggest fear with the idea of using him for lessons is that he will either learn bad habits or get hurt. But then again, Julie keeps a very tight wrap on her lesson students and wouldn't let them do anything that would cause him harm. That, and she gets on to ride a fair bit during lessons, and helps to troubleshoot issues regularly. If I have any concerns about regression, I can always have her put a few rides on him before I come back. But I think it would be quite beneficial for him to stay in some regular work, as this past year of dressage lessons has been probably his soundest year of his life (knock on wood).
So, we shall see! Soon Louie will have a new little rider to tote around!