This afternoon we had another lesson with Gayle, Winston's fourth. It was warm and breezy in Riverside, in the low 80s F.
I went first. We began the lesson with me giving Gayle a recap of my work with Winston over the past two weeks, since our last lesson. I told her about my discovery that I was gripping in the knees at canter. She said that I lean a bit forward in canter and that would also cause my knees to grip. I told her that I was trying to weight my seat bones and my pelvis equally. She laughed and told me that was a very painful route to go and most of my weight needs to go into the seat bones. This keeps you upright, your seat deep, and engages your core. Try it. Lean back in your chair and notice that your abs naturally engage. A-ha!
I spent the entire lesson thinking about leaning back (but not behind the vertical). It worked great. It was especially effective when Winston threw his head up and tried to pull on me. With my core engaged and my seat solid, all he did was pull me deeper into the saddle. (neener-neener)
We started out working at walk and Gayle was very impressed with how he has improved. He was taking big strides and accepting the contact. I was happy that the work I did at home advanced us in a noticeable way. I wasn't able to rest on my laurels for long.
We worked on walk-trot and trot-walk transitions. He understands that my leg means forward, and he is doing an excellent job of staying in front of my leg, so now he needs to learn that my leg can also mean bend. The upward transitions are still high headed but we had some very nice downward ones. I ask for down with just my seat by posting slower and slower and then sitting when he goes into walk. It works like a charm.
Trot work was focused on bend. He is accepting the contact so now we need to add bend. This is all about inside leg and outside rein. She laughed at one point and said that young horses are so funny -- they run as the solution to everything. When he got worried and tried to run off, she had me keep steady on the outside rein and push him out with my inside leg. No half halts. Nothing with his mouth other than steady-Eddy on the outside rein. When he gave, he gave with his whole body and it was awesome. She laughed again and said he looked awfully pleased with himself when he gave, got it, and received a bunch of praise from me.
Canter work was next. And it was lovely. He was forward without racing and he never sucked back at all. I was able to work on the outside rein/inside leg thing. I sat tall and straight instead of doing my usual canter lean towards the head. I swung from my hips. I kept my legs draped and steered around the circle with my outside leg when he drifted. It was awesome. Did I already say that? Smooth transitions, no right elbow chicken wing action, heaven on a horse.
I thought we were done. I was wrong. We started lateral work. Leg yield to the rail from the quarter line, working our way out towards starting at center line. He was totally confused at first but he was getting the idea by the end and we had a couple very nice lines. More to work on at home. Then, finally, we were done.
Brett and Flash were up next. I was busy taking off Winston's tack, hosing him off, and walking him around so I only got a few pictures. I had Winston on the lead rope with me as we peeked over the arena fence and snapped pictures. Winston kept bumping me so most of the pictures are just a blur. Brett and Flash had a very good lesson. They established trot and canter, worked some more on leg yield, and then Gayle introduced them to shoulder in.
They did very well. I managed to get a bit of it on video. It's like the dressage light bulb has clicked "on" in both of their brains and they are cooking.
Tomorrow we are trailering out to participate in a local play day: trail riding and an introduction to working with cattle. Stay tuned!