I discovered I dont have half the stamina that Mr Milo does. Here's the scoop:
I was going through my archives of Horse & Rider magazine, (as I love to do) when I came across an article saying how important long trotting is for muscle, wind, and stamina in horses. I thought, well Milo has stamina, but maybe this will help come show day and he's pooped after one class. Their suggestion for working on this is to long trot (at least, for Milo, briskly trot) for three whole songs (about nine minutes). Then to gradually work up to five entire songs (so thats like fifteen minutes). Its a great exercise to work on rider strength too (as I found out!) and listening to music can help keep the mind from getting too bored.
I walked Milo for the length of one song, then jogged for half the length of another before moving into our working trot. I didnt really get a good estimation of how long we really worked because we had a half song, a full song, then part of a commercial break. But my goodness, I can tell you I was getting way more tired then Milo!
To keep us working on both directions and not getting bored, we did circles, straight lines, diagonal lines, anything besides just working on the rail (although we did spend some rail time too). I let Milo have a long loose rein so he could work however was comfortable (and for him it was having his head down - go figure). But I didnt worry about trying to lift his shoulders or anything. I just wanted him to trot freely (since the day before we worked a little more constricted and I figured he could loosen his back up), and I focused on staying strong in my core, keeping a soft back, and being light in the saddle, as well as thinking of light footfalls, as suggested by Kate in the comments. After the first full song was over I was really feeling it in my core. But I was determined to keep going, after all, my horse wasnt breaking a sweat or puffing yet! Finally after a few commercials I broke us down to the walk, abs not taking any more.
Milo was content as can be. I was certainly the one who needed a walk break.
But it was a good thing, this is an exercise I would like to use at least once a week. I think that this proof of my stamina (lack there-of) and how it effects our lope work. Often I find it very hard to stay in proper position (especially loping to the left) and my legs want to swing out in front. I think working on my own stamina should help me stay more balanced and strong in the canter work, which should subsequently help Milo's lope improve.
We did end up going into the lope and wouldnt you know, we got one of the best stops we have had in a long time. Why? Cause at the lope I wasnt poking with his position or face either. I made sure he help his shoulders up in the corners and made him stay balanced, but I didnt focus on that. This ride was all about me, and at the lope I focused on my position and how my seatbones effected our ride, my hand stayed at center and I directed us by seat and leg, shaping and whatnot where needed. When I decided to ask for a stop, I let my seat deepen and my hips follow with the movement of Milo's stop. He dug into the dirt and traveled with the front. It was beautiful, I had to get off then.
So...dont think about it to much (ya, super easy when that is a focus area to work on), work on my stamina, and, within reason, let Milo be.