Ashke has felt pretty darn good under saddle. I haven't been riding as consistently as I would like, mostly because life is pretty cray-cray right now, but the rides I have had have been very good. His canter is becoming stronger and stronger, with great rhythm and decent balance. On Monday, for the first time I can remember, it felt flowing and easy for both of us.
Gratuitous Dog Pic
Last night when I drove up the driveway to the barn, Ashke saw my car coming and bugled in welcome. It was the best thing ever. When I got out of the car, he bugled again, then followed me down the fence to his stall, whinnying at me. He walked into the stall as I came around the doorframe and whinnied again when he saw me.
I think he might have missed me. I had been way to tired to ride on Tuesday night after my not so great day at work and food shopping. It was good for my soul.
I got him groomed (blowing out his summer coat so the aisle was knee deep in fine white hair) and saddled. He followed me into the indoor and I stepped into the saddle to start our walk around the arena. We always ride in the same area, since it is marked off and is just a hair smaller than a 20x40 court. As we walked past the jump standards (same ones as always), he spooked at the mounting block. It was kind of right at the end of our riding area, so I got off and moved it out of the way. I was too tired to fight with him. He did cock an ear the next time we went by and tried to sidle away, so the following times, I put him on the bit with bend to the inside and told him to knock it off. He stopped.
That may be because things got so hard.
I did shoulder in and haunches in for warm up, then practiced our ten meter circle with the leg yield to the rail from our test. He was very solid for those. We did some trot circles and serpentines, then a medium trot across the diagonal in both directions. By that time he was moving fairly freely.
They are like Lays, you can't have just one.
Amanda had us start with something along the rail (I forget what) and at my first request for a halt, he blew through my leg and hand. She had us start at the walk with me only asking from my seat. Then we moved to trot. Then we incorporated varied trot circles - going in different directions with various turns, trying to randomize it as much as possible, since he knows where he's supposed to stop in the serpentine work. Then we moved to the canter. He was much better, and Amanda reminded me to continue to work on the transitions from my seat in my practice rides. It was a good exercise to employ to get him listening to what I am asking.
We then worked on half-pass at the trot on the diagonal. We have a tendency to be too steep in our diagonal line to the rail, so I was really focused on a spot on the rail and trying to make the track we rode follow my line across the arena. It was much more effective then staring at the back of his head. Who knew? We then added in the very difficult task of starting in half-pass then moving to shoulder in without changing our bend.
Ashke was like "oh, hell no!"
See, he likes to know what is expected of him. He gets predictive and tries to hard to do whatever he imagines he should be doing. It is always fun to break him out of that anticipation by changing the activity. He threw his hip, he tried to argue that we should continue on our path since he is the best at half-pass. He tried everything from throwing his hip, to barging against my leg, to pinning his ears at me. It was pretty hilarious. I finally figured out if I changed my focus from the rail to the end of the arena, he was able to continue forward without losing his bend. It's amazing when something so simple like changing where you are looking or weighing your seat differently or shifting focus can make such an impact on your performance.
We then did it at the canter, which was difficult until I corrected how much shoulder in we should be doing. Once it was a little less, he wasn't fighting his body to move forward and then it was easy.
After our walk break, we worked on the medium trot across the diagonal and me properly setting him up for it (square corners at every turn). He nailed that. We did a couple of turns on the haunches where he actually kept his impulsion better than he has in the past. We finished off the ride with the medium canter circle to collected canter circle. He did great but I was really wiped out by the end.
He got rinsed, since we are in the middle of an Indian summer, and then tucked away with grain and carrots.