The type of ride we all hope for.
My friend has been very nice in my unemployment and once a week she carpools me with her to the barn so I can save on some fuel costs. She works for the county in the summer as a flagger and her "home base" is only a few miles from my house making it easy for her to swing by and get me after work. A tired and hungry girl she was, we stopped at McDonald's on the way (I only had a small chocolate shake thank-you-very-much) and she passed out in her car as I cleaned pastures. Her tired and hungry little self just needed some fuel and bam! She was out like a light. Apparently Milo and I didnt know that as I opened the car door and began talking to her. Suddenly she jolted and looked around confused. Silly Clara.
It was five o'clock at the barn last night, and I knew that the lessons should be winding down. That and the fact that it off and on rained during my pasture clean, we decided to ride in the indoor arena. One lesson left after we arrived, with the other soon to follow shortly after. My friend, who is rehabbing her horse, upped his workload to ten minutes of walking and five minutes of trotting. I knew I would be in the arena longer than her, but we shared some riding time together anyways. And her funny and bottled up horse wanted to do everything but walk calmly; stare outside at the corners, check. Flip my nose away from the snaffle, check. Root the snaffle, check. Strike out, check. It was rather funny, in fact, because he wasnt being aggressively bad, just naughty. But could you blame him? Stall rest and minimal work. I'd be looking for something fun too.
Milo, on the other hand, did very, very well. A loose warm up a few laps, I drove him into the bridle working off the right outside rein. Arcing and bending here and there, pushing his hip out laterally underneath himself, all things he took in stride beautifully. I have also been concentrating more on my position when in the saddle, and I think I'm getting better. Knowing I have things to work on helps at least keep my mind proactive on them. He worked well off minimal rein cues - mostly just the balance from the outside rein, and I mostly was able to keep a quiet leg on him. He held his lifted and engaged frame on his own without my reminder from the spur every few strides. He also maintained the desired speed, no increase or decrease at his will. I could feel, however, his increase in drive as I torso twisted down the long sides a few times, but I totally allowed that remembering Sarah tell me that his "speed up" is his drive from the rear. He felt great. And with his consistency and maintaining his own balance, I was able to focus more on my position, making sure I was staying on my rear in upward and downward transitions, keeping a soft back (torso twists helps so much), soft elbows but solid secure hands, sternum to the sky, and leg back just a bit. Things came together nicely.
The arena cleared of the final lesson, but at this point I wasnt too concerned for our lope work. Milo was very in tune with me and I had no concerns about distractions, or drifting. Even when Heather brought Milo's girlfriend Missy into the arena to ride, he barely pricked an ear her direction, then came right back to me and finished our work without ever looking at her again. That is huge.
I loaded his outside hock and switched my hips for the lope departure. I wasnt in the wall reins, but remembered to maintain my outside contact and a little bend to the inside as needed. The first departure, I discovered my reins were too long. I gathered them up, and things were better for the second try, but I had rocked forward slightly. Finally I tried again and Milo stayed soft through the bridle and lifted his wither. Beautiful! Good Boy! We loped around the arena a bit and Milo felt fantastic. I softened my lower back and said Woah and Milo slid. Milo hasnt truely put the brakes on in a while. I believe due mostly to the fact that he hasnt been lifting his back up into that saddle as he was last night and by holding his own shoulders he was staying balanced and square in our loping, setting up up perfectly for a correct stop. What a good boy! I looked to Clara, who is always asking to see me stop Milo. I dont really stop him very much, and rarely in the indoor arena as he doesnt like the footing very much for a slide - too sticky and compact. But, naturally she didnt see it. Thats OK, I dont need someone's visual confirmation on the great stop that I felt from Milo.
A short walk break for Milo, then I gathered up the reins again and began trotting in the new direction. While I typically much enjoy riding where I constantly change directions all the time, in the indoor with other people riding I have to pretty much get everything done on the one side first before changing direction, as everyone has to be going the same way. But with only Clara and Heather riding with me now, we all changed. I set Milo up for the lope departure in our hard direction. He felt good, but I knew I needed to pick up the reins a bit more, and we needed to establish a better bend in his inside. I worked on that for a moment and got a nice bend. This direction is harder for him to truely bend and I knew if I didnt establish it before the lope, he would drop his shoulder throughout and it would be hard to get him balanced and over his rear again. I would prefer to step into it correctly then to work for it throughout the lope itself.
Ready this time, I loaded the outside hock, and Milo got anticipatory for the cue, popping his head up and dropping his back. So back to the trot we went, establishing a balanced leg yield. Good boy. I set him up again and he loped off nicely. No wither lift and I needed too much correction with my rein. After a lap or so I slowed him to the walk and got ready to ask him again. And this time, my rein stayed steady, I had a slight amount of bend on the inside keeping his face supple, and I sat back, shifted my weight, and he rocked back onto his haunches, and loped off, wither lifted and all. Whatta good Milo!! I said and we loped a few circles maintaining a fairly even lope, needing some correction on the inside shoulder. But it was great for the hard direction.
I cooled him out, and worked a bit on our turnarounds, which he did well at. Dismounting, I did some shoulder delineations for Milo, who was not at all tight in the shoulder after the ride - progress!
And because everyone cant stand to not love Milo, a young boarder chatted with me as I groomed him, rubbing her hand on his face as Milo zened out, and running her hands along his back admiring how sleek, soft, and shiney he was. Her mother even asked what supplements I give to him because he always looks so great. It made a Mama proud.