Yes, I am talking about beer. Today's lesson focused on an exercise that resembles a six pack of beer.
We divided the arena into six 10 meter circles, resembling that iconic packaging that used to so often contain our favorite beverages. We worked at a sitting trot for the most part, and while trotting each circle, focusing on sitting DOWN, keeping the heels light and the thighs open. Also, Julie reminded me the importance of sitting back in a confident position to help keep the horse in front of the leg.
As we worked each circle (whether 3 of the same circle or just a half before moving on to the next circle), we practiced all the different kinds of bends- bend in, bend out, shoulder in, renvers, reverse shoulder in (shoulder out, counter bend- like a leg yield basically), etc. This was a great exercise for Louie because it kept him guessing as to where I was going to put him (good for his spookiness of late) and also kept him really loose and helped keep him relaxed as he turned and changed. We worked on changing the bend within and between the circles in a rather random order, using the inside bends to help with softness and enlarging the circle (and when we found something scary) and the outside bends as a bit of a restricting rein to limit the size of the circle.
We also worked a little bit of canter on the circles- maybe doing some revers, then changing the bed, half halt and cantering a few strides at a time.
Once we worked a few circles, we would change it up and go up the center line then leg yield, down the long end in shoulder end, or across the diagonal in an extension (all things that I want to work toward as our goal for this year is to show 1st level). In the future we could probably start to work toward a little bit of counter canter as well with this exercise.
This six pack exercise was great for Louie- got him working his hind legs more, and got him relaxed and paying attention. Some things to keep in mind while doing it were to keep the trot moving, keep both of us really relaxed and loose, keep the reins light- use some wide leading rein, then loosen frequently, and to sit down and keep the knees and thighs open.