Yesterday was one of my extended-lunch days, providing me with two hours to spend with Milo in the middle of the day. His hair was falling off in plumes, and he was extra itchy in his man-zone. Sorry Milo, no time to clean it today. I pulled a few of the obvious "chunks" out but saved the real cleaning for today.
Bareback pad and bridle on, we headed down to the outdoor arena to enjoy the sunshine. It was windy, but warm allowing me to take my jacket off. Over the weekend, the drill team painted the ground poles and they were now propped against the fenceline with a tarp over them. Milo eyed them a bit and took a few pass-bys to determine that they werent moving.
I torso twisted, and torso twisted, and torso twisted some more on our serpentine lines. Finally Milo relaxed and engaged and we upped it to the trot, where I realized Milo and I have two different definitions of a spur cue. Milo wanted to speed up and lift his back to the touch of the spur. I, however, want him to just lift actually creative a bit of slow down. Im not asking for a spur stop here - just lift, thats it - no speed. So we took some time re-evaluating what that cue means, and soon Milo was back on track for the spur cue. I can only assume its been lack of clarity on my part, as well as reinforcing leg with spur when needed, that has caused this minor confusion of the aid. I keep saying I need to ride with a dressage whip to reinforce by leg when he doesnt move off of it, because I want to keep the spur for lift only. I need to find someone with one to borrow, as I really dont want to buy another tack item right now.
With understanding of the aid again, we torso twisted more on the serpentines at the trot, and Milo was starting to engage from the rear nicely. I moved him onto circles, hip out for his hip out, hip in for his, etc. He was having a very hard time in the counter arc, then I found my right rein and he balanced nicely off of it.
He was listening quite well to my hips, and I was achieving a consistent neutral seat with freedom over my hips in the torso twists. I decided it might be suicide, but I asked him for the lope.
I asked just as I normally do, which was probably the problem, combined with my use of spur, which was certainly not reinforcing what I had just gone over with him. I laid my spur back instead of my leg and he swished and flung his tail around, pinning his ears, but fumbled into the lope, then broke stride again. What was happening? When I realized I was cueing with the spur for speed after we had just gone over it, Milo was saying "WTF Mom?" So I went back to the trot and torso twists, and found my outside rein - I was working on the direction that is harder for us with the outside rein being the right rein because I so much want to ride off of the left.
I have noticed the last few rides that when bareback I tend to not use my leg (calf) so much in the cue as I should be, instead I differ to the spur in my bad habit to "curl my leg up" as Sarah put it. I think without the fender to stabalize my leg I just get lazy and not maintain proper contact with him. I had even noticed at our last lesson how effective my leg was when it was steady on his side and I even noted that I hadnt needed to use my spur much at all - just seat and some leg. So, I found that outside rein with him, sat up straight, and laid my leg back setting him up straight and correct for the departure, which he stepped right into beautifully - Sarah would be proud!
I loped him around, my right rein almost glued to the bareback pad to keep my outside rein. I torso twisted out, to center, and in. I was able to move my body freely at the lope! And after a few torso twists my horse even engaged nicely a step or two. We had found a beautiful rhythm together; I twisted in on the turn, and back and forth on the straight-of-ways. I even slowed my breathing and relaxed a bit, and Milo followed suit slowing down slightly. I was getting confident in that outside rein and now didnt need it glued to the pad, I was able to hold and feel the contact myself, and I wasnt needing to bump Milo straight with the inside rein.
I put him on a large circle, and when his shoulder would drift out, Id torso twist that direction for a moment then back to center, then inside which seemed to help his shoulder for a few strides. We worked in an arc on this lope circle and when he felt really nice, I pushed him out of the circle on the counter canter, driving him to maintain his arc - which surprisingly didnt require much. Milo was balanced on this coutner canter, and came right around into the canter arc again, then once more into the counter canter circle where he did even better then the first time! After a final canter circle, I drove him out onto a straight line then hinged my back softly and said Woooah... Milo slid a good foot and a half, and I had given him his face (bad habit of mine to not push my hands forward in the stop but to hold them stationary) and he even "ran" the last steps on the front. It was incredible! I patted his neck and told him what a good boy he was!
I walked him out a lap or two, torso twisting some more, but not really needing to. I spun him a few times and stayed for upright and straight, emphasizing a torso twist to the inside throughout and maintaining the half halt in the outside rein. Milo had the footwork down and worked an entire circle with a fair amount of speed and a correct pivot foot up underneath him - both ways.
I walked him in a few fence lines, and when he gave the most underneath stop at the walk, slid off and called it a good day. I had thought about loping the other direction, but time was running out and I didnt want to "ruin" anything by escalating the work. We had accomplished something big on our harder side anyways, I can only keep building on it now.