Sunday, April 15, 2012

Trail Rides are for More then Just Pleasure?

On Friday it was beautiful out and with the added persuasion of two people already in the tiny arena, I decided to take Milo out on the trail by myself. And I discovered something: that the trails really are another great place to work on training. Of course, I know this, have been told it, and practice it (sometimes...) but that day I really understood the value of using the trails for practice.

Milo and I went down the trail that really is the only one around (everything else is logging roads and such, not really "trails" in that you weave around trees on a narrow pathway) which has some nice stretches for trotting or loping. We trotted for a while and I was able to sit back, breath, and focus on my body in response to Milo's. I could feel my core muscles start to get sore and I knew I was riding properly. I kept my back soft and my ankles relaxed - which, I found, I often on the trail try and lock my legs out in front of me, probably because Milo tends to have a more sweeping stride on the uneven ground. Realizing this allowed me to put more focus on that area and remain soft and let my core keep me in place.

As I further focused on my body I noticed my hips were tight, so I relaxed ever so slightly in that area and allowed the angle of my hips to open. Once I did, it was like a switch went off for Milo and suddenly he started reaching with his back end and his back really came up and he worked in those strides.

I found a good place to lope and we did, the game changed a bit now and I once more had to relax my ankles, engage my core, and open my hips. Once I did we got a few beautiful strides before the trail made us slow down. At the end, we turned around and began to lope back the way we came. Milo got quick and rushy, and with the benefit of not riding with a friend I was able to school over and over in that spot until our lope heading back home was cadenced and not increasing in stride. We spent a short amount of time going back and forth on that stretch, working on a stop, a rollback, transitions, anything that arose. We ended with a really nice lope.

The next day my friend wanted to go on the trail as it was again a beautiful day. I conceded as once more there were already two riders in the arena. Plus I figured we would only benefit from more work on the trail. We explored to the end of the development and in the areas were we trotted and loped, I only had to remind Milo a few times to stay even in stride and lifted. At one nice soft stretch I slowed him down from the lope and he actually parked it on the dirt. I hadnt asked for a hard stop, but couldnt help but turn around to my friend and squeal as I pointed at the tracks in the dirt.

Uneven, but he was trying!

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