I was finally getting the rhythm down with my body, my horse, and most importantly; my outside rein.
When I rode on Monday I realized that Milo was having a lot of difficulty when switching from one outside rein to the other, particularly switching from the left (my dominant) to right. This most certainly was stemming somewhere from my body, as well as what muscle memory has emphasized for both of us.
So yesterday I spent a long while serpentining back and forth, switching my body and my outside rein with every turn. It seemed to be really helping - I was really able to feel my body twist out of it's locked and "natural" position with my hip to the left, my dominant direction. I was actually feeling what sitting centered was, and balancing off of my right rein. Milo was getting it too and we fell into a steady rhythm: left to right, right to left. We repeated at the trot and things were coming together nicely.
I started moving from serpentines into a three piece figure eight - so three circles all interjoined, giving me more chances to chance outside rein and body. Again, Milo and I were moving together and I was really understanding the feel behind the outside rein.
Although Milo was repsonding beautifully to my aids for arcing and counter arcing, I moved him onto the simple figure eight pattern we have been working on, mostly because I was striving for the leg yield which we hadnt worked on yet since my last lesson with Sarah.
Initially, I was having a hard time actually cueing for a leg yield, I kept cueing for a half pass. But I established a good working circle again, then tipped his nose away from the direction of travel, pointing my hips inward for his hips to travel that direction as well. When his shoulder would lag, I would reduce the amount of twist in my body, but I would loose the hips again. We should get it in time though, as the half pass and leg yield require a bit more effort from both parties.
Feeling good, I pushed Milo over into the lope. In the post with the video, Sarah commented that there were a few times when I would cue for the lope crookedly. I pushed his hip to the inside, a "trick" I had developed from watching BN(reining)Ts online. But this only sets the horse up crookedly - its an easy way to just ensure your lead, but doesnt allow the horse ot depart into the lope straight.
So with the voice of Sarah in my head agian, I pushed him away from our intended lope direction, hips that direction as well. Then, with a subtle half halt and a hip direction change, we loped off straight into the lead. It felt great. I lost Milo's head in the air for the actual departure, indicating to me that I didnt give him enough outside rein to balance on.
In the left lead lope, I was trying to find my outside rein again. Initially, I seemed to have it, but I ended up losing it somewhere in our first circle. Finding it again, my horse moved straight on on the outside aid for a few strides, and when I felt his shoulder drift out, I twisted that direction briefly, then back to center or the inside. We are always adjusting ourselves for our horse when needed. He felt pretty good, so I pushed him into the counter canter. The first few steps in it, I realized I hadnt set him up properly, and he was hollow and crooked. But I found the outside rein again, and pushed his hip to the outside, counter arcing (on the circle) but arcing on the counter canter. I gathered ourselves back into rhythm on the canter circle, then really emphasized a hip in before the counter canter. This time he counter cantered the circle nicely, so after coming back to our first circle, I gave him a break.
I had noticed though that my tilting forward body was coming back, but I felt that I was getting a better grasp of my outside rein again, and wasnt locking into a fixed position. Progress!
Well then I loped him on the right lead. This should seem like cake because its the direction my body wants to travel, and the outside rein is my dominant one. But I found I have a greater problem on this side. Firstly, finding the outside rein is no problem, but riding off of it correctly is. Because my body is inclined to ride with this hip forward, so basically always with a twist to the right, I essentially just get locked in this position. I can change it momemntarily to the outside for when Milo's shoulder drifts, but I can't seem to find straight in this lead/direction. Because my body was "locking down" Milo's started too and I began to ride too much off of my hand. Then I tried to move into the counter canter which was a trainwreck. Bless Milo's heart he kept the counter canter, but it was all sorts of unbalanced and crooked, my fault naturally.
Getting frustrated, I put him into the trotting figure eights again, trying to get back in tune with myself and my horse. We switched from outside rein to outside rein, I arced him and counter arced him. I felt I was doing a bit better, and loped him off again. Initially, the first few strides were straight and nice off the left rein. Then my body got locked again with that left hip just slightly forward. Tired rider and tired horse, I called the last few decent strides good, and cooled him down on some turnarounds and walking fencing.
I felt a little defeated as I led him to the barn, but looking back I dont think I really should. I had discovered how to ride off of my right rein, and was making progress in unlocking my body at the lope, at least on the left lead. I had a few strides of straightness on the right lead as well, before my body fell back into it's muscle memory. I shouldnt be so down on myself, or my horse, really. We are progressing, I just need patience.