Moreover, my entire way of thinking around horses has changed. From a very dominant-based belief system, to one that encourages working in a partnership, fluidity, and open-mindedness. One of the best ways I could think of to give "outsiders" (those that are not directly involved with Milo, myself, or Sarah's program) a visual change, I thought comparing between the first reining show I competed in after working with Sarah, to the most recent one in September. See if you find the most visual changes that I did (because you cannot see the non-visual ones where I have changed).
November, 2010 - one lesson with Sarah
September, 2011 - nearly a year after working with Sarah
I chose the Dave Reaume class over the Novice because the pattern is much closer to that used at the winter schooling series.
I want to first compare some of the differences in me and my body, because I know it subsequently had/has a great effect on the way that Milo's moves. Firstly, my body position. From most basic being the position in the saddle, more upright and on my seatbones, to the strength in my core and raised sternum. At this show I was also using (and still am) my diaper, aka, a shim on the saddle under my left seatbone, helping to keep my seatbones level. In turn, the correct position in the saddle allows my legs to fall more "correctly" underneath myself, while I try and maintain relaxation in my ankles. Moreover, I think as an entire image, I look far more quiet, and much more engaged than in the early video. While I still see things to work on, I also see things that have improved since just Septemeber, thanks to continued lessons on Milo and lessons learned from Wesley.
Now onto Milo. Again, aside from the obvious that Milo's "frame" looks prettier and his head is down, I see a much more relaxed and complacent horse. While Milo still maintains some of his 'tude through tail swishing, it is much less frequent and mostly shows up from a request of mine. But note on the circles he keeps a relaxed and swinging tail, much different than before. This, to me, shows a much happier horse in his work, as well as a much more comfortable horse as well. Continuing onto movement, Milo is traveling much more balanced and unrestricted then before, starting to use his body instead of dragging himself along. This comes from two reasons, I believe; one, the change in my body, as I too am trying to use my body more effectively, rather than sitting atop Milo and asking him to do all of the work while I just enjoy the ride. This easily provides reason number two, which is that Milo's body has physically changed. Just look at the two videos, would you not agree that Milo looks like an entirely different horse (except for the similar markings)? A powerful large hind end with impulsion lifts the developed and stronger back, aided by an engaged core as well. This flows into a lighter and more fluid shoulder released of a lot of tension and allowed the move more freely, which releases the tension in Milo's neck as well, showing off a well toned head and neck.
These different qualities all come from some of the same few changes that follow with Sarah's three "F's": Feet, Feed, and Fit. First, we started with Fit, that of the saddle. It has truly been amazing to me so see how hugely the fit of the saddle effects the movement and well being of the horse. I look at Fit as not only that of the saddle, but of all of the equipment used; from a proper bit for the job that the horse enjoys as well, to the fit of the human on the back as well. A properly fitting saddle does nothing for the horse so long as the human is not riding the horse in a way that benefits him. While Feed has not been a huge change as far as hay goes (I have no control over the hay the barn feeds), I have changed the supplements and nutrition that Milo receives. I believe that the Dynamite products have helped my horse in more ways than I have even noticed. From a shinier coat, to a stronger body, the high quality products I have used from them, all natural too I might add, have definitely changed the overall well being of my horse. Last to change was the Feet. This was one I was reluctant to change, mostly just to the fact of human ego and embarrassment. I wasnt sure how to tell my kind farrier that I simply did not like the way Milo's feet were being handled. Moreover, however, I did not truly see the problems that his feet were creating, it was simply the word of Sarah that there was a problem. I am glad that I trusted her knowledge to change, otherwise, I believe a lot of the progress we have made would not have happened. The feet really make the horse, and Milo's previous hooves were not helping his body at all, they were exacerbating problems in the shoulder, ribs, and back, and not allowing our progress to move forward.
Do you see some of the same things that I do? Lets see where we are in another years time.