I've been paying closer attention to how I interact with Lilly and I've realized that we always do things to the left. I mount her from the left, I lead her from the left, when we're working on showmanship I'm on the left, when I'm standing with her I'm on the left. I've also noticed that I prefer going to the left too, both when I'm riding and when I'm longeing. I have no doubt that we do more to the left than we do to the right, even if I'm not doing it consciously. Do you suppose it's any wonder she moves better to the left?? Oops. Time to fix that too. I'm planning to make sure I'm doing as much to the right as I am to the left, or even more.
So rewinding to Sunday, I went to the barn to try a few of the ideas all of you sent me regarding Lilly in the round pen. I decided to use my longe line so I could keep a connection with her and see how she worked that way. Sure it defeats the purpose of "free longeing", but I wanted to give it a try. I started her to the right (instead of to the left like we always do!), and she did surprisingly well. She walked when I asked her to walk, which is what we have the most trouble with. Even when she was cantering she was doing pretty well. She was still bent to the inside a bit, but not like she was the last time we worked in the round pen.
I asked her to reverse directions and she turned inside instead of outside. I gave her the same cue but it was obviously because I was using the longe line. Our work to the left didn't look nearly as pretty as our work to the right. She wanted to run around and act like a goober and refused to walk. I pushed her into a canter and worked with her using transitions until I was able to convince her to walk. We ended up working for quite a while on the transitions until she finally decided walking sounded pretty good.
Next time we work in the round pen I'm going to work her without the longe line using turns to control her movement and speed and see how does. Lilly is a complicated critter and it usually takes me some time to figure out what the best method is to show her what I'm looking for.
I also learned a few other important things yesterday (thanks, Alex!), but that's for another post I'm working on. One of the most important things relevant for this post, though, was how directing my energy and my body toward Lilly's head could cause her to bend to the outside. I've also been watching the videos SillyPony posted in the comments on my last post, and they mention the same thing. Focusing on her head is seen by her as a predatory action, and if I focus on her hip or her shoulders (her body) instead of her head, it's possible that she'll straighten out or even bend to the inside, feeling less threatened.
When I'm longeing her with a longe line, I'm using it to control her and communicate with her. The line is attached to her head, so it makes sense that I'm focusing my energy toward her head rather than her body. Oops again. So I'm very anxious to try again without the line and see how she does when I'm not constantly looking at her head.
Since she's had so much time off, I almost feel like this is an opportunity to "start over" and fill in some of the holes I may have ignored the first time. I'm excited to be learning as much as she is!
In other news, I have an appointment with the saddle fitter tomorrow. I stopped by the tack shop yesterday to check out the saddles and left another message for her. She called me this morning and wants me to bring Lilly to the shop so we have a better variety of saddles to try. So Lilly gets to go on a field trip tomorrow and hopefully we can get some answers. :)