I got quite a few great concepts out of our lope work. First, we addressed his rushing into it, and Sarah had me work a circle with nose in hip out, and once he was soft and on the outside rein, to simply switch my hips then and ask for the lope departure. Lately, I had been really making a big deal of it thinking "ok, I need to load the outside, switch hips, make sure I hold onto my reins", and I was normally doing this on a long-side of the arena. I was making a big deal out of it instead, as Sarah reminded, of just riding. If I make a big deal out of the departure, Milo will too. So she had me do this circle to get him relaxed and on the outside rein with a subtle bend in his body and then just change my hips to lope off. It was a great strategy, catching Milo off guard, but because he was set up correctly, he stepped right up into the lope nicely. Going to the right, the difficult way for a wither lift, we tried this new tactic, and Milo loped off beautifully. I had a great reminder too to simply wait until Milo is ready for the departure, and to not over-think everything.
So we get into the lope and Sarah says I am sitting way off center - I'm keeping most of my weight on my right seat bone. In the lope Milo was scrambling and unbalanced, and she said I needed to find center between my seat bones. I torso twisted back and forth as we loped along, and finally I was able to feel my imbalance that Sarah was seeing. I really could feel the additional weight on the right seat bone, and as I worked to finding center between the two, Milo started relaxing and coming into the outside rein. It was so amazing to see how important it was for me to make sure that my body is in the right position so Milo can follow suit. Just another reason why the issues always seem to be coming from me and my balance, and how Milo only works as I do. I made the comment though that I'm glad that my horse doesnt just tune me out and work anyways, but he makes me work properly as well. If I'm not balanced and correct, why should he be?
Lastly in the lope, Sarah really opened my eyes. She made me totally drop my inside rein as we loped on the straight line and this was to test if Milo was maintaining his own self carriage and balancing off the outside rein. I was nervous to let go of the inside rein, believing that he would drop his shoulder and bend outwards into the outside rein. I was so pleasantly surprised when I did test him and he stayed straight. I even exclaimed in the video clip how amazed and elated I was that he remained straight. Sarah said so brilliantly that if I dont test him and see if all the work I have been putting into him as paid off, he is going to learn to balance off of me all of the time. It was a real eye opener to see that I can trust that my horse is doing what he is supposed to, and that I dont need to maintain this constant control and micromanaging over him that I fall into the habit of doing.
It was pretty warm out and Milo was doing well and tired so Sarah asked if there was anything else to work on before we ended. I wanted her to watch the spin work I had been doing with him, employing more of an inside bend as I had done when riding Wesley the previous Monday. I learned that torso twisting even in the small circle before the spin was beneficial because I tend to turn into the spin direction and lock up, which in turn locks up Milo. The video only shows working on the left spin, which is a weaker hock for him, but slow and steady progress is paying off as he builds strength in both hocks.
Aww, what a productive and educational lesson this one was! I was so happy to have gotten as much out of it as I did, and Milo worked so well (if Im balanced correctly, of course). And what was really cool, was that we never even had to use the wall reins, but rather just set him up properly for the departure without rushing. That is pretty cool.