Shoulder-in is much better!
We are still working on making sure he understands weight shifting. The most fun is the poles, though it takes the wind out of me to run over them too. (Hanna didn't tell me that *I* should be trotting over them, but I could stand to get in better shape)
I set the poles up for either lifting or stretching and then ask for upward head or forward head. I even tried combining the two: I had him walk over one set in stretching and 10 ft after, the lifting set. He is getting better about not banging his feet into poles. He definitely knows to stretch out but the lifting up is more challenging. I get him going over top of the collected poles and ask for a head up but he doesn't appear to do anything. Maybe he is doing it just before he reaches them and I'm not seeing it. Or maybe I'm expecting a higher head than is necessary? I'm going to watch that more closely. He's still not perfect about lifting the head in the saddle but it's coming and he is getting better about responding to the cue.
In even better news, his shoulder-in improved loads when I figured out the second half of the puzzle! We can do a reverse shoulder in (head toward the wall) because the wall helps him balance and stops him from walking out, but if I flex him into the center of the arena in a true shoulder in, he starts to walk off the wall. Fail.
Hanna showed me that part of this was a balance issue so we taught him to put his head up to lighten the shoulders. However when I tried shoulder-in again and I asked him to lift his head, he still walked off the wall. Then I figured out that the second missing piece was he didn't understand the leg and rein cues to move his shoulders back toward the wall. The videos on Lateral Flexion (Riding with connection course) are what helped me solve it.
Part of teaching lateral flexion in movement is teaching Aslan to move the shoulders over. While I taught him to move his shoulders over at a stand still, for whatever reason, it wasn't making sense to him in movement. Add to this his downhill plowing tendency...I'm sure he found this movement difficult at anything more than a standstill So we reviewed shoulders over and this time I also added the "neck rein cue" that was brought up in video #2. (It would take too long to describe, but it's slightly shifting your hands over the withers toward the outside of the bend). Then we went back to wall and tried again. Walk forward, attempt a shoulder in...attempt to walk off the wall, shift hands towards the outside of the bend and .... voila he stopped walking off and his shoulders moved back to the wall. OMG YOU GET IT!!!! Eventually he was doing several steps of shoulder in and not trying to walk off the wall at all. Even after the saddle work, I tried it on the ground and with the new shoulder cue he was finally doing shoulder-in without cutting me off.
The new saddle is also enjoyable to ride in. It is a lot less bulky, and once I get the anatomical girth in, I think that will help even more. At first I was worried that Aslan didn't like it, because he stopped lining up at the mounting block and didn't even want me to hop on from the ground. I kind of got after him and he started lining up better for mounting. I had a few laughs when he aimed his bum at me. Uh no, I'm not getting on via your ass.