Thursday, February 24, 2011

Straight Shoulders

The snow has been falling lightly so far here in Western Washington. It appears Kitsap County in particular is getting just a dusting while the rest of the western side is getting pounded on a lot harder. Apparently, Milo was eager to get inside to the warm barn...and receive some carrots.

He pranced and puffed a bit as I led him to the barn, not being worked since our trail ride on Monday. I pushed on his neck muscles a bit as shown by Sarah, waiting for Milo to relax and release them. Then moved onto our other stretches and lifts.

Groomed and ready to go, I led Milo and his pink bareback pad into the arena. I was eager to ride thinking that the light snow would spook people from coming out to ride. It did, but the arena was filled with trail obstacles. A boarder on the Washington State High School Equetrian Team was practicing a rather complicated trail pattern in anticipation for her meet this weekend. Just lovely, I thought as I mounted up on Milo. But with the boarder no longer riding, I figured the poles, tarp, bridge, barrels, and cones would dissipate.
Meanwhile, as I began our warm up along the rail, we rounded the scary corner at C and Milo was faced head on with a tarp on the ground, and four ground poles placed over it. I didnt think he would care much as we had worked over and with tarps before. But sidestepping with his neck down and blowing in that almost snorty fashion Im sure all horse owners know and appreciate, I got a feeling that this ride was going to be less then stellar. As I continued easing Milo closer to the tarp, he pawed a bit at it (dont rip it Milo!) and knocked the poles around as well. Then something spooked him (Im honestly not sure what) and he shot forward, sideways, then spun. With my insecure seat, relaxed in an effort to keep Milo calm, my weight was thrown to my right foot, but with no stirrup there I felt myself start to tilt over that direction. My left leg failing me to stay upright, I grasped a clump of Milo's mane and was able to right myself as Milo's spook was over. Yeah, definitely wasnt getting good vibes about the ride this evening.

I walked Milo back to the tarp, to ensure some calm in his mind about the tarp, trainer and BO (who was taking a lesson) both told me to leave it alone. Which frustrated me because he needed to learn to be ok with it. I kept him near it for a few more minutes, and after he stopped blowing over it, lifted his head and licked his lips, I dismounted to fix the dismantled trail obstacle.

Mounting back up, Milo was still feeling really high. At C I did the "butterfly" exercise,  whereby I basically do small figure eight and let the ends of the arena change my direction. I always seem to overlook this first exercise given to me by Sarah, but it really is a great way to bring Milo back to a thinking level before working. It allows him to start to listen to my legs and seat, to thereby gain control over his shoulder, barrel, and hip. After a few minutes of this infinity figure eight, Milo was feeling calm and holding onto his bit well. I walked him out of the corner and began a bit of trot work.

He started rather crooked, exaggerated as he was the first night I put the Turbo Lifter in his mouth at the lesson. With incorporating my outside rein and continuing to hear the voice of Sarah say "more outside rein, more outside rein" I was getting him back on track. I also remembered her advice that when Milo's body is unaligned (namely his shoulder bulging out) I need to look to myself to find the answer. Looking behind my inside shoulder helped push my hip out in the right direction and magically Milo regained straightness through the shoulder.

We were having great work, then I heard the trainer directing BO to the pattern laid out in the arena. Knowing I would most likely be in the way, I begrudgingly halted Milo behind the start cone, and watched her complete the trail course. Natually, when finished trainer wanted her to do it again. This time after seeing the pattern, I could see which areas of the arena I could be working at while she was at a particular obstacle. I managed to continue some trotting work while she rode the pattern again. Then there was a brief moment while BO and trainer discussed the pattern I got to work on the lope.

Thinking about straightness and utilizing my outside rein, the first lope departure wasnt half bad. Our first half lap of the arena (half because of maneuvering obstacles and avoiding the BO on  her horse) he was feeling high again. I bumped him up and into the bridle and after a few strides transistioned to a trot to try again. Lifting my outside rein and performing a momentary half halt before the lead departure, Milo beautifully picked up his shoulder and loped off nicely round and straight. Wow, I thought, as this outside rein and straigtness method was coming together in front of my eyes. Milo loped nicely as we made a few laps, and I got one more lope departure in again (which was great) before BO was directed back onto the course.

Trot work back the other direction (and even incorporating some trot-rollbacks) then the arena opened up for some brief work loping the other direction. The great outside rein and inside leg to a half halt worked beautifully, and Milo loped off lifted, round, soft, and importantly - straight. We even were navigating through all the obstacles easily with no dropped or bulging shoulder, it was fantastic. Bringing Milo back down to a trot then walk, I eased him into some turnarounds. With straightness and great shoulder control, Milo had his footwork down and even added a touch of speed. Cooling down then dismounting, I was quite happy with the ride, especially coming from the beginning thoughts of a terrible ride. Thank you Milo!


Rising Rainbow said...

It's good to hear you're getting your issue with Milo's straightness figured out. Keeping him square beneath you will improve his impulsion so much. Very cool!

paint_horse_milo said...

Yes, Sarah is helping me out so much.

in2paints said...

Darn lessons! They always seem to get in the way somehow... Sounds like you had a good ride even with the scary monsters and the cool weather.

I'm very excited for you with regards to your new saddle! I'm sure you're even more excited than I am. It's cool that it's being made just for you!