It had been a while since I had a lesson on Louie. In the past several rides I had been really working toward getting sharp and responsive transitions- both up and down. While I accomplished that goal, even doing halt-canter-halt transitions, it was at the cost of relaxation, harmony, and a connection on the reins. I realized this after 2 very scrunched up rides, so the following 2 rides were spent going back to relaxation, but when asking for a transition, I would scold him if it wasn't prompt, then go back to relaxation again. This seemed to work well.
Well today we had a great lesson. Beforehand, I refreshed Louie's body clip (partial low trace clip since it had grown back in). The lesson started out with a little course in yielding to the lateral aids. Louie didn't want to bend, and move away from my inside leg at the walk. He wanted to trot instead, so we had to really over bend him, sit WAY to the right, and basically kick until he would move out. I'm not sure why, but he seemed particularly stiff for some reason today.
After we got that straightened out we had a really great ride. We worked on getting the walk to be forward marching and round. The walk seems to be the hardest gait for me since I have so little insight into my wrongdoings that I really don't notice it's not good until Julie points it out. So some of the key things we worked on in the walk (that also applied in the other gaits) were forward marching, rhythmic, quick feet, and round. The other thing that really stuck with me was having my seat bones "plugged in" and not protecting (meaning, not tightening up and blocking with my abs when Louie feels like he might want to break to the trot- just fix it when it happens, but don't try to cover up naughtiness).
We had a little trouble with roundness at first, but eventually got it. It took a little "Ninja Turtle-ing," very subtle, followed by shoulder in to get suppleness and moving away from the inside aids, followed by renvers to fill up the bridle. One technique that worked really well for getting Louie just right in the bridle was working a variety of shoulder in and renvers at the walk- and at the trot too actually. We would go down the long side once or twice in shoulder in, then switch to renvers after a few strides, then back to shoulder in.
Our sitting trot work was excellent. Julie was really pleased. Some of the things that we really focused on was getting a quick tempo (I just kept envisioning quick back feet), using a fair amount of abs, hands a little bit intermittent (saying- don't hang, but I won't pull) with periodic "gives" to see if he'd relax into it a bit. We'd get a nice sitting trot then work on the shoulder in-renvers exercise as well as some leg yielding.
We still had good half halts and downward transitions, so Julie was pleased with that. We then worked on the canter just a bit. We did a sitting trot- shoulder in-renvers-half halt-canter transition, and had pretty nice canter work too. We worked on really sitting SUPER still especially with my back, "vibrating" the legs to say, in essence, "keep going, back up, stay round, hind legs quick." I also continued to work on not grabbing with my knees, keeping my seat bones plugged in, keeping my toes down and my thighs turned out just the tiniest bit. In the end- I still had a great canter-trot-walk transition.
It turned out to be a really nice ride, so I'm hopeful our next few rides will go as well! Tomorrow... another lesson with Navello!