I walked along the concrete, listening to the uneven chink of my spurs hitting the ground. Why does the right one always hit and drag, flopping on the back of my Double H boots, which the spur on the left boot doesnt move? After thinking about this, I was more aware of the way I was walking. I was a little locked in my left hip. I started thinking about each step, left and right, left and right. Up and down the barn aisle-way, every where I moved I reminded myself to think about my footfalls. Now I was getting even chinks and flops from the spurs. Now I was walking even.
I warmed up on Milo the next day, after coming home from a ride that was a little more on the frustrating side then the ride prior, where I felt completely in tune with my body and the ride went great. Besides the fact that each day we are more or less present in our bodies and therefore different in our riding, I wanted to know why I have such an incredible connected ride one day, and about ten steps backward the next. I knew a large part of it has to come from the continued crookedness in my body. I swiveled back and forth in the saddle, left to right, to center and repeat. I focused on the fluidity of the turn through my body. I could easily rotate to the right, but back to the left it just felt as if my left hip was not moving like the right one. I focused on my breathing, and continued rotating, left and right.
I put the reins in my left hand, with only a few inches of tail left to spare. I wanted to ride with no rein tonight. I wanted to ride through my body and show Milo where to go. We trotted around and I had fun in experimenting with how much I could turn my horse through my body alone, no leg, just the presence of my leg, switching positions as we changed directions. Moreso, however, was the focus in my body how I could lift Milo, turn his direction, arc, or go straight.
I tried not to overthink the lope departure, carefully loading the outside hock, and just that small cue led Milo to anticipate the lead change, his head rising into the air and his back tensing. We went back to quiet trotting before he could pick up his pace, and worked on loading the hock, then back to quiet trotting, loading, and repeat, until finally I just turned my hips and smooched him into the lope. Already he was diving his shoulder in the rapid corners, and loping with his shoulder leading. I instinctually picked up on the reins, but upon realizing it, led the reins out more, just keeping a contact on the outside rein, where I could half halt to keep his hock on the ground and make him keep his shoulder up.
We loped, and loped, and loped. We loped a lot longer than we normally do. I didnt ask for circles, or direction, just loping on a quiet but cuing rein, and focusing on my body. I tried to focus on my breathing, and letting out tension in my lower back, but not allowing my seat to pump. I half halted where needed to keep Milo's shoulders in line, and maintained a nice arc to my hips to encourage a subtle bend in Milo's body. Eventually, after I was getting a stitch in my side, Milo consistently loped even, more lifted, and straight. I was finally able to find a small part of my body that rode my horse correctly at the lope. It wasnt perfect, but I felt we were onto something.
For all the lope work we had a lot of walking to do so cool out in the chilly evening, but as I asked my horse to turnaround, he sank back over his hock and turned around, not fast, but strong and correct. From just the day before where I could hear the skid of his hoof in the dirt as he dragged it back in the turn (not holding it down in the same spot for the whole turn, imagine a quarter turn, then a drag step back, quarter turn, drag step back), to tonight where he held it strong and true - both directions - I really felt I was onto something here, really trying to get into my body when riding. Because what Milo does in his body, right or wrong, comes form me. To correct Milo, I need to correct me.
Sigh. Sounds like more work.