The pony and I had a great lesson last night! It gave us a good idea of where we are now, which isnt to bad, and what we need to do to get where we want to be. The added elements going from first to second are: collected trot and canter, 10 meter canter circles, shoulder in, simple changes and the rein backs (and thats just going from first 3 to second 1!). I have played with some walk to canter transition with him before as we use them when we jump so he had the general concept of those down pretty good. We had also started some shoulder in in our lessons over the summer.
During our warm up it became really apparent that I really need to be asking him for more bend, especially to his hard side (tracking right), and to make sure that when I ask him to yield off my leg that he does it from his rib cage and not just in his haunches like he would like to do. I can really feel when he starts getting wiggly in his hind end and tries throwing it every which way so I should be able to catch it. I just need to make sure that I am really focusing on it and not letting him get away with it at all. He started off stiff but seemed to really loosen up much quicker than he has in the past which was really nice to feel! Another thing I really need to work on is not holding him up with my reins. At this point we really need to start being able to show that he is carrying himself there fore getting the correct work instead of him holding onto him and faking it! I dont think I realized how much I have been doing it until a few moment last night when Mary told me to let go of one of my reins (the one that was trying to keep him up) and instead use that inside leg more. Even to his hard side when I was riding him well I could feel a huge difference and could really feel him carrying himself. It did however take a ton of leg! His shoulder in tracking left was good for not having worked on it and shouldn't be a problem at all by March. Tracking right was much harder for us. That is when I try compensate him not bending by me using my reins. The good thing is we have several months to get it good! Going in to our shoulder in work Mary pointed out how much I dont ride into my corners (whoops!). Basically at the level of work we have been doing it was fine but going into second level I need to be pushing him much further into the corner with lots of inside leg and a leading outside rein. Once I started really riding him into them it got much better, I just need to make it a habit to ride like that every time! After schooling our shoulder in both ways we started some canter work as we wanted to work on getting the foundation in for our simple changes. Im not going to lie... when I got off after our lesson my legs were definitely feeling it, and we didnt even do that much, from all the squeezing! Basically we are teaching him that when I start squeezing his guts out he knows that he gets to walk soon. So on a small canter circle I would half halt and squeeze 3 strides in a row before asking for the walk. Of course they were not perfect but they were not bad at all. He never just fell on his forehand and completely lost everything. He kind of stumbled into the walk a couple times but it was never anything super major.
Overall it was a very encouraging ride! We have our homework to work on until our lesson next month. I told him no more 1st level stuff, been there done that time to move on buddy! Depending on where we are at we might actually do 1st 3 in May at our first recognized show but it all just depends on how far along our 2nd level work we are :)