Saturday, October 23, 2010

And Then it Hit Me

I was sitting on my horse with his pink bareback ad on, mulling over the ride on Thursday night.

Thursday evening began with cleaning overdue pastures, than lounging Milo on the loungeline, knowing he hasnt been ridden let alone worked on about seven days.

Milo was great on the lounge. Just a tad bit frisky, but dropped his head down, lifted his back and generally went right to work. Deciding it wasnt suicide to ride that night, (remember riding in my saddle is out of the question right now) I went to put his headstall on.

Things started out well. He was distracted at the three other riders in the indoor arena with us, and wasnt working and lifting his back as well as he knows how. My strained legs were working harder than he was, especially since I opted to not put the bareback pad on.

Well he seemed to be working well enough, so I laid my leg back and asked for a lope. Milo threw himself into a canter, than started crop hopping and tucking his head down with the evil look in his eye that he gets at drill team practices. Executing my emergency stop and throwing his rear around to the outside I told him No, No, No!

Pushed him right into a working trot again. Once he seemingly appeared to be listening and working well again, I laid my outside leg back onto him. This time we got about three "lope-canter" strides before he swiveled his ears around in a fashion Im all too familiar wish learning what the coming results are. See, Milo knows what he is doing is wrong. He gets this gleeful look in his face and his ears lift up but turn outward. He looks like he has little devil horns popping out of his head. When this second attempt happened and he threw his head down to begin a buck, I whipped his head back around for another one rein stop and moved his butt to the outside, taking away his engine. I worked him long and hard at a trot after that.

Finally, I asked one last time for a lope, upon which Milo obliged buck-free but tense through his back and beck.

So last night I sat there after a longe over poles to warm up and remind Milo to lift his back, pondering how I was going to approach today's ride and reflecting on the previous night's mini-rodeo.

I had also been slammed with a reminder last time we worked cows at Diamond Hill Ranch, that Milo's lateral aids arent as responsive as they should be and once were.

So I began riding working on his lateral aids. Moving his hip to the outside, two-tracking (with IMPULSION Milo!) really emphasizing reaching up underneath himself with his hind. He seemed to be getting better. But the thing that kept coming to mind was forward, forward, forward. I was working harder than he was.

So he was getting better. We moved into some trotting. He had some really nice impulsion at the trot. We worked on circles and two-tracking out of the circle. He was doing well, working up over his back nicely. But than I noticed he was working especially through a tight turn, that he was turning on the forehand. About 35% of our turns were with weight thrown to the front. I worked on that a bit, but knew I could only work on so many things during one ride.

I pushed him into the lope. (Goal: I would really like him to two-track at the lope instead of just speeding up) I soon realized I was having to pick up too much on my reins and my legs were seeming inadequate in aiding him to lift up his back. I got a semi decent stop out of him and let him catch some air. I sat there pondering things.

Pushed him back into a lope. I remembered a few weeks back when I would lope him and my lower legs would seem to swing effortlessly with each stride. Not constantly bumping on him to lift his back. So I tried something. I remembered to use my reins as merely support, and he was needing to be driven from the rear. Remember, work your horse from back to front.

As I relaxed my seat and tried to take the tension out of my legs, I slowed him down into a more accepted lope instead of a canter, and squeezed with my calves. There was a small effort from Milo to drop his head. I drastically removed my legs from his sides. I did this a second time. This time, when my legs came off of him he let out a huge sigh, dropped his head, lifted his back, and engaged from he rear. Being in this correct frame, brought Milo down from a semi-lope, to an actual cadenced lope. It was a miracle moment.

It hit me that I was over-using the aids. I was insistent on so much round round round that I never was really giving him a chance to get a release from my leg aid, I think fearing that if I released, he would stop being round. I was over-riding.

All Milo wanted was for me to give him a real reward for relaxing. And that reward was for me to relax.

I loped him another circle or so, with a loose rein, and a relaxed rhythmically swinging leg. Milo sure seemed to appreciate it. And I sure enjoyed the relaxation.

I brought him down to a walk and cooled him out.

Sometimes, it seems, I really do need to just shut up and ride.


in2paints said...

I love those 'ah ha' moments! And we can have so many of them if we just stop and listen to what our horses are telling us.

I'm so happy for you and Milo! Sounds like you had a great ride. :)

Anonymous said...

Nice thoughts - less is more - I have to keep reminding myself of this.