Today was our first lesson in a few weeks. I didn't expect much since we have only ridden 'dressage' twice since our last lesson. I swear, my horse does better with more time off between sessions! We didn't back track at all and we actually made huge strides forward today!
Our focus was on lifting his shoulders by me sitting up and trying to bring him back with my body. It was amazing the difference I could feel in him when I would sit up and open my shoulders with the intention of adding energy 'up'. They say your legs control the back legs and your shoulders control the horse's shoulders. I could really see that working today. I was surprised that I could actually see him lift his shoulders.
The next thing we worked on (and worked on and worked on) was controlling his shoulders laterally. Boomer tends to push his right shoulder out, so we started by moving it in towards the inside of the ring. I just pushed it over with my leg. I also had to work on keeping a slight inside bend at his poll around the ring. He did really well with this but when he would resist he would swing his hips in and I would have to push them back out and straighten him up. We did a bit of shoulder in at the walk and trot also. To the right, he tends to fall in towards the inside so I had to push him out with the right leg and keep his nose tipped in which was easier than going left. He seemed to really get this once we made just a few rounds.
One huge lightbulb moment for me was that the horse I ride to the right is not the same horse I ride to the left. I have to ride them both differently in order to achieve straightness.
We also worked on the canter a bunch. Mostly, we were trying to get him straight and listening to my aids. It was the most we have ever cantered at large around the arena. Karin had me canter him through the corner, then tip him inside at the poll- just enough to see his eye. I had to keep my inside leg and rein on him, which was totally backwards to me and I had a hard time 'letting go' of that concept. But, after about 4 laps around he just relaxed and dropped at the poll and I felt like I was riding a different horse. I could use my inside rein to get the slight flexion, my inside leg to keep him on the rail, my outside rein to lead him into the corners, and my outside leg to keep him moving- if needed. Phew! What a lot of work! Going to the right was easier than the left and he actually felt light and like he was sitting back, waiting to go forward.
We also worked on using the corners to get him to give and soften his jaw. The corners are the only place in the arena that naturally let you 'use the bend'. So we worked on creating the softness and bend in the corner and keeping it on the long side.
Boomer tends to tense after the canter, so we kept right at the trot work and really got deep into the corners to get him to give his jaw/poll. Once he was back lightly on the bit, we worked on trot/walk/trot transitions and I have never felt him be so light and responsive!
Once at the walk, we dealt with his rude 'rooting' habit. After we canter, he thinks we are done (my fault) and want his reins NOW! So, every time he pulls on me, we trot. Or canter. Then we try walking again. Once he softens, I give just an inch of rein. If he roots, we trot. So, I give the rein incrementally as long as he is not being rude. It took about 3-4 laps before he got the full rein. I think that will improve with time.
Obviously, it was an action packed lesson with a ton of huge improvements and a lot to work on! I didn't get and 'homework' but I will just keep working on controlling the shoulders, w/t/w transitions, cantering more, and my own equitation (grrr- sit UP, toes IN, elbows BACK, left hand UP, look UP).