Although it has been a difficult year for training, I am very pleased with were the big paint horse and I are at (and the cute little yella fella).
Milo got his sliders put back on this last Tuesday and for the last few weeks (weather permitting) I have been working as best I can to get him not only in physical shape to ask for harder maneuvers, but also mentally ready for the more difficult work to come. In fact, recently I have been riding without spurs in an effort to make myself more in tune with my own body and help Milo be more responsive to my aids. Yet again I am finding that Milo is happier and more willing to do his work when I don't ride with spurs. This encourages me to see how much we can get accomplished without the use of them - and I've been finding that when I give him the opportunity he will surprise me.
For example, coming into spring I decided not to wear my spurs but was worried that I couldn't get him to pick up his back without the spurs. I found this to be true, however it actually showed me that my body was out of position and he needed to respond better to the bit. After only a few rides with this in mind I am happy to find that he is responsive to the bit and my legs - even one handed!
Although this has been a great "re" revelation, I still held a little concern for working on more difficult maneuvers, such as rollbacks, spins, and the all important lead changes. However, with some steady focus and work on it, our spins are coming back together nicely with minimal cueing from me (mostly a seat bone and hand position, with a tap from my leg if needed to keep him in the bend, to speed up, or to redirect weight back onto the inside plant foot). Rollbacks are subsequently being pieced back together too after emphasis on shoulder control and neck reining thanks to the spin work and working more one handed.
I even dared counter canter last night without spurs. I had previously determined that I would not school lead changes unless I had my spurs on - I wanted a sure "back up plan" in case Milo decided to try and take the easy way out of a lead change. However, this standpoint might be changed now after the good ride last night. We counter cantered both directions nicely and with a rather quiet leg. I was pleased that he even was responsive to moving his hip to the inside off of my outside sans spur leg. We also had to work a few small circles and shoulder direction due to sharing the arena with two other riders. With both of these small victories being difficult maneuvers to get (ESPECIALLY without the use of the spur) it really makes me happy. It also makes me consider trying the lead changes this weekend without my spurs (however I may bring up a dressage whip for the just in case).
I'm still on the fence about whether to wear them at the May 2 NWRA show, however.
Baby Whizkey is doing awesome too! He is learning (and growing) fast. Its amazing how much he looks less like a "baby" now, and more like a "horse". It's exciting to see him grow but also sad knowing he'll never have those baby qualities again. In the meantime, I enjoy every opportunity I can to enjoy the baby-esk that he portrays.