Monday I wanted to ride Milo because, well, Mondays I have off for cleaning at Sarah's and the pastures at Milo's, but considering how my work schedule was panned out, it would be a good day to ride. Knowing he had been worked pretty steadily this last week however, and the horse show of course the day prior, I knew I didnt want to work him that hard. I tacked up and we trotted around a bit, doing the usual warm up exercises one-handed.
Finding straight, staying centered between the reins, staying centered in my body, and keeping Milo engaged, our trot work was nice. He easily moved his hip out, crossing his inside hind over the outside, further building hock support and strength. Everything was going nicely.
I sent him into the lope and he worked well, so I decided to touch on the lead changes, maybe just simple changes, depending on how well Milo was reacting. I loped him on the canter circle, then off onto the counter canter, spending more time on the counter canter than the other to help fatigue the lead. I tried to stay aware, however, of not only maintaining straight in Milo and lifted shoulders, but also in the position of my body, making it very obvious the direction my hips were holding, as well as the positioning of my legs. I started bringing Milo down the quarter line, wanting to work on the lead change in a location where I had the longest stretch before me, instead of a location such as the center of the two circles, which doesnt allow for much time before reaching the wall.
The first pass down the quarter line on the counter canter, Milo got a little excited and anticipated a change in my body. He lost the all important straight element, and I knew it would be ridiculous to ask for the change. Back onto the counter canter circle, and then to the quarter line for straight again, and we had a nice counter canter straight line. I let him counter canter the rail, and brought him into the quarter line once more. If he maintained straight and balanced, I would approach the lead change. He did, so I remembered Sarah's words to change my legs and achieve bend through his body first, then change my hips. I did so and Milo seemed to bounce into the air. I picked up on my outside rein, but didnt hold or balance off of it as I was doing at my last lesson with Sarah. It took great thought from Milo, but I felt the change and looked down at the leading shoulder in amazement - we got a lead change on the first try. I praised him heavily and came down to a halt, patting him and letting him know that that was exactly what I wanted.
I let him walk for a few moments to catch his breath, and went over what was different this time around. I stayed engaged in my core, lighter in my cues, and broke it down for Milo. Changing the bend in his body first, then ask for the change, support with the outside rein when he needed it. Moreover, I stayed centered and where I should be - not leaning forward as is habit when asking for the change.
Soon I loped him off on the other lead, developing a cadenced and balanced lope on the correct lead circle. Milo felt great, and I repeated the counter cantering to help fatigue. I needed to remind myself to stay engaged and not allow myself to pump with my seat. It took some work, but I got balanced counter canter circles, and straight counter canter lines. The second counter canter line on the quarter line I came to and Milo felt straight and ready. I asked for the bend in his body first again, changed, and this time needed only a more subtle assistance from the outside rein. Initially, Milo only seemed to be moving laterally away from my inside leg for the new bend, and he drifted over to the wall. I didnt think we would get the change as I half halted with the outside rein, but Milo lifted and changed to the new lead. I stopped him only a few strides after the new lead, and again, heavily praised him. That was about as good as I could have asked for, so right then and there I got off of him. I lead him around and around for our cool-down on the ground, Milo licking and chewing complacently.