Today could not have gotten much better.
After school I headed north to work Cayenne. Her owner had recently underwent a somewhat minor surgery, who, while still able to be outside with us, would not be able to assist. Which was fine, just on Saturday she was fresh out of surgery and couldnt even be outside with us so I had worked Cayenne entirely on my own. It was a good thing for her to stand quietly as I groomed, saddled, and booted her up. It was eventful as well with the footing in the roundpen being soggy so I headed to the arena - her first time out of the roundpen. This would also test her steering skills without having someone in the center of the roundpen to help direct her as needed as we had been doing. She did very well on Saturday.
Today, she did even better - completely retaining everything we worked on the ride before, and going beyond. Where previously she was nervous of the treeline next to the arena and the noisy hidden goats on the other side, today she only needed to pass by a few times before just keeping a watchful ear on the area. On Saturday, we stayed on a circle most of the time with some direction changes and figure eights, since the circular roundpen was a familiar pattern. Today, we worked everywhere in the arena, some straight lines, on the rail, circles, and even down to the far end of the arena where previously she had absolutely no interest in heading towards.
But further, her steering skills greatly improved from the ride before and I had stopped on Saturday with introducing her to the outside leg and moving away from single leg pressure, instead of speeding up with both leg pressures. Today, we further expanded on this and she began to nicely step her shoulder away from the outside leg pressure, following her nose in the direction pointed. Her rate of speed is progressing as well, I can slow down the pace of her trot, and even her canter! I was so excited when we loped along and not only could I slow her down, but I for the first time felt I had control over her direction - not only was she not freight training and gaining speed with every stride, but as I expanded the size of the arena there were a few moments were I felt we could have just continued down the length of the arena. She really impressed me and I could not have been happy with the quality of the ride - and it only being the seventh one!
I arrived in Seabeck at Milo's barn a while later, eager to spend time with my own horse. I sang praises about Cayenne to a fellow semi-self-care boarder (who owns the Fjords) as I cleaned Milo's stall. She reminded me that Milo can still do things that Cayenne cant, which I couldnt deny. I still love Milo beyond measure. I groomed him and saddled aboard, then headed to the arena.
I had no real "game plan" in mind as I walked him around. I focused on my seatbones for our direction, going from circle to rail, rail to diagonal, and keeping his shoulders and hips in line. If I felt his hip drift to the inside instead of moving his shoulders away, I used my seat bones to redirect his hips back into line. I focused on using my hands to lift Milo's front end, but remembered Sarah's warning to not hold him up. Pick him up, then let him go - test to see how long he can stay there. When he deviates, bring him back up, then let him go again. I focused on this in the walk and trot and tried to make a mental note distinguishing the feel between when he was lifted on the front, or falling forward. Then we moved into the lope.
He was a little quick, but I still focused on picking him up, then letting him go and testing where he was. When he sped up, I brought him back. When he drifted his hip in, I (attempted to) put him back in line. I got unbalanced and when trying to push the hip back to straight, turned my hips out. What did Milo do? Change his lead! But only the front changed and we cross fired for a half circle or so. I asked him to change his hind, which he did. Then I wondered, as we counter cantered a couple circles, if I could change him back to the correct lead?
I loped him down the long side (haha! long side...) and tried to focus on my hip placement as I redirected the direction of my hips, and changed my legs to the wanted new arc. Milo changed his lead! Hmm...I wondered. Could we change leads now .... when I asked? I loped him a couple circles, then sent him across the diagonal, then asked for the change. I tried to not lean forward, remembering Sarah reminding me to not fall forward and ask with me hands. I sat on my pockets, but stayed square in the saddle, and redirected my hips and legs. Squoosh! Milo changed his lead! We loped the perimeter of the arena, and I wondered if we could do it again. Without ever breaking down to the trot, we loped a couple circles on this new lead, and I sent him down the diagonal once more. I asked for the change, and he changed once more! A few strides later I stopped him lightly, and patted his neck eagerly, singing praises, a smile spread broad across my face. After only a few strides at the walk, I dismounted and lead him back to the barn, slapping his neck with nearly every stride.
Good sorrel horses. :)