A few rasps and clips from the farrier's knowledgeable hands, and Milo had newly balanced pretty footsies - just in time for the horse show on Saturday. I wanted to have every manageable balance provided for Milo for optimum success. I tacked up the eager pony and we headed into the arena.
Not before I almost forgot to tape the diaper onto my rear. The joke, by the way, comes from Sarah reminding me after my lesson on Saturday, to "remove my diaper" after dismounting. I think the term has just stuck now because, well, its a felt shim attached to my rear and it feels like a diaper when I walk with it on.
Huggie in place, I mounted Milo. We warmed up one handed at the walk and trot, working on the snake exercise allowing Milo to osculate at the poll and follow his nose, coming up over his back and relaxed from side to side. He was honest to both sides as well and not stiff to the left as he had been before. Two and three track work as well, and Milo and I were feeling synced together and things felt terrific.
I put Milo into the lope, working on our one-handed walk to lope departure - which was good. We loped along on an even but light contact on the rein, and my outside leg back behind at the rear girth, a practice I am trying to make a habit to help Milo understand the lead change cue more clearly. This also helps me keep my seat bones level as well.
Throughout the week I have further experimented on the new shift of weight to the inside seat bone through turnarounds, by using my weight on the inside for a typical turn as well. Wouldnt you know, turning, circling, and spins have all come much easier (as well as serpentines and the snake exercise) with this new way of weighting my seat bones. I dont feel like I am leaning at all to the inside, just slightly shifting my weight to the inside, to center, and to the outside where needed. It really has been fun to experiment with. I have been using the weight shift as a single cue as well (not holding in the same position throughout a circle), to not allow myself to "lock" into a position, but I felt it would also keep Milo more sensitive to my subtle seat change needed for lead changes.
We loped along on a steady and nice circle, and I learned the benefit of riding every stride.
As we came to the center of the arena on a circle to the right, Milo anticipated a lead change (I believe) and tried to duck out the other direction, and also started tail flinging and getting hollow. This happened because for that moment, I wasnt riding. I had pretty much taken a back seat and was just enjoying the ride. But this told me two things: one, I had to pay attention to the weight in my seat bones, the positioning of my legs, and staying strong in my core; two, it was a reminder to not work on lead changes in the center of the arena.
I corrected Milo and loped a few more circles, then decided on a whim, to lope him along the diagonal and attempt a lead change. I chose the diagonal because it offered the most space to attempt the change (as I had done at my last lesson as well), and also because we wouldnt be schooling in the center of two circles. I brought my legs to center, for a moment my horse straightened, and then I moved my new outside leg back and slightly shifted my weight. My horse cleaning changed leads, so well in fact, I had to look down at the new leading leg to confirm we had changed leads. It felt so effortless from Milo with no fuss or anticipation and from very subtle cues. I was floored. I praised Milo, but kept loping.
I loped a circle or two on the new lead, and had a crazy thought; why not try a lead change the new direction now - without working on a counter canter before? It seemed somewhat ludicrous, and that I would be pushing my luck after such a nice change. But the horse show would require this, lets see what we've got.
So I rounded the corner and came across the diagonal again, changed my legs, followed by seat and leg again, and voila! Milo changed right over to the other lead. How was it this easy? I was one handed to boot! Then it hit me: one handed or not, a lead change is through the body - the seat and the leg. I really dont need to be hauling on the outside rein, just lifting for a support if needed (which was not these first two changes). I was ecstatic. But could we keep going with this? Would I get three, and maybe even, four clean changes, consecutively? I thought I was pushing my luck too far, but the thrill of those clean changes just tantalized me.
I loped a few more circles, and came across the diagonal again - clean change. Third in a row. It felt a little rushed and hollow, however, and I should have known to school a little more before trying the next change. The tape from my diaper had failed, and the shim slipped out from under my rear. I knew I should have used a fourth piece of masking tape. But we continued on, and the fourth change resulted in a buck and a dive thrown in. Oh boy, no way Milo can you do that. I schooled him a little more, and Milo started rushing on the diagonal. Remembering Melissa and Grace's extra lead changes, and the suggestion Sarah gave to them, I decided to work a little on the counter canter. To get Milo kicking the hip out again and not anticipating the change. I started wondering if my hip angle was out of wack again now without my trusty diaper (shim), but I was determined to get a change regardless of the support.
Back across the diagonal, and again he threw a buck into the change. Down to simple one step changes I decided to try, and after three or four of those, we got another absolutely beautiful change. I stopped Milo right then and jumped off, giving him a huge and happy pat on the neck, and kisses on his beautiful white face. I couldnt believe how well he had performed. I walked out of the arena with a huge smile across my face. It's coming I remembered the many texts received from Sarah reading. The effort is paying off. Good horse show or bad horse show this weekend, we just achieved the impossible, my Milo and I.