Tuesday was the second time I rode in the new arena. I longed Milo before getting on again, and was pleased to see he was far more respectful and fluid then the first time. He wasnt coming over his back but wasnt as concerned with his surroundings as before, and he was listening and not giving me attitude, so I was pleased with this day's longing.
When I mounted up I kept a few things in mind while we ambled around at the walk and trot in straight lines and in circles. I remembered Sarah telling me in my last lesson as she rode him how incredibly sensitive Milo is - leg, hand, and seat. Further, how you could ride him with just two fingers he was that sensitive. I knew that Sarah was right, but at the time did not want to admit it as I was having to use whole hands to feel like I had any control.
But today was different. In the last week I was really getting back in tune with my body, could remain light and responsive in my seat, and was finally getting that lope I knew we had in there. My first ride in the new arena was ... interesting. Not terrible, but the lope work was a hot mess and I was incredibly awakened by how small the arena is. I should say smaller, but at 100x60 it still allows room to work in. Nonetheless, I was upset with myself after driving home with how much rein I had used in that ride. I knew I was reaching for the reins before my leg and today I was determined to do the opposite.
The walk and trot work was beautiful. I continued to remind myself that seat comes first, leg comes second, and the hand comes last. I found myself breaking sequence from time to time and when I did was when Milo hollowed out and got quick. The proof was in the pudding: when I used my seat before leg or hand, Milo was calm, responsive, and elevated. I was riding with just the tips of my first two fingers and thumbs.
Then I discovered something incredible as we trotted along. I could control all direction from just my seat. I knew this before, but had never truly been testing it. Where I had the most fun was changing the size of my circles with just the steadier pressure of my inside seat bone for a tighter circle, and softer for a larger one, while still maintaining the same speed and fluidity. This totally made sense - I was just keeping the inside hock to the ground longer, just as when we are spinning and I hold the hock down (btw, the spins were incredible tonight!). I logged it in my brain to remember this strategy when loping to try and control the lope direction with seat before leg or hand.
No matter how much I thought of it however, when the time came to lope and Milo rushed, my hand came first. He dropped away from it and rushed more. I tried to lift my seat but I only seemed to fall forward onto my pubic bone. However, the times I did lift my seat he did round up and slow down a touch. It was frustrating, but in hindsight now I still should have been giving him much more rein and only using it as a last resort. He has the sensitivity, why cant I get it at the lope?
I noticed another interesting thing at the lope as well. As I would try and cut the arena in half and lope a circle on the half, when it was time to turn in on the center of the arena, Milo would speed up and drop away, jutting his nose into the air in anticipation for a bump from the rein. Even when I gave no such response he still anticipated it. It made me wonder if a lot of the problems at the lope is simply anticipation of discipline. I tested this theory and when directing him to the center fought every urge to hang on the outside rein. Milo flicked an ear back to me, waiting for the bump. When it never came, he chugged along and on the next turn to the center he waited again, but loped along fine. This spoke loudly to me how completely sensitive my horse is and how much I simply have not been soft and listening.
As I drove home, I had another thought; maybe I have been approaching this smaller arena in the wrong way. Instead of thinking of it like an arena, one where I could say perform an entire reining pattern, maybe I need to look at it as simply a training area. I know that you could call an arena just that, but I think I need to approach this new arena without the notion of the "center" at X, and see maybe the whole perimeter as the circle. To look at this training area as a place to work on specific maneuvers, or better yet, concepts. Rather then try and ride the "long side" I shouldnt see that as my only opportunity for straight lines. Does anyone get where Im going with this? I think I could be much more productive with considering the arena as not an arena with two long sides and two ends. I think I might get more accomplished that way and see it as a lot less "small".