Nicole at the barn today said it takes about a year for a horse and new rider to really bond. I feel like Ashke and I already have. J thinks that we were both at a point where the bonding didn't take that long, primarily because we both needed each other so much. I think, and J agrees, that we have applied as much consistency to our relationship with him as was humanly possible. And it has produced the above listed results.
Today, after we progressed through our grooming and tacking up, we went four times around the outdoor arena. It was already incredibly hot. (Today is the 1st of July and we have already had a bunch of days over 90. July is really going to suck.) After we had walked we made our way into the round pen and set up the reins. Ashke is worked with tension on the reins to encourage him to lower his head and engage his back and butt. After doing research on tying up and then discussing everything I found with J, I am going to follow this work out regime until the heat breaks. At that point, I am hoping his back and butt has developed additional strength, making it easier for him to work under saddle.
Ashke can be worked at a trot almost as soon as he is settled into the round pen. We do eight circles in each direction at the trot, with a stop and love in between directions.
The reins aren't incredibly tight, just enough to remind him to lower his nose when he is working. He is no longer afraid of the whip, but he is respectful of my request to move forward.
You can see from how close the front foot is to the hind foot when he is trotting, that he isn't breaking over quick enough. Hopefully, the next trim will shorten the toe enough that he will be able to move his feet out of the way a little bit quicker.
Again, this picture demonstrates how incredibly close they are coming. I can hear them clicking on each other as he moves.
He stops when I ask "Whoa" and is relaxed when I walk up to him. I flip the whip around in my hand so that it is trailing behind me so he understands that I'm not trying to get him to go forward.
I love that he isn't afraid of me and understands that when we are working, I get to decide what we are doing. Sometimes when I ask him for a faster pace he will throw up his head, but for the most part, he is willing to do what I ask. It is a real change from when we first started this lunging process five or six weeks ago. At that time he would flip his tail, buck, kick out and toss his head in protest. All of that has been worked away.
At the canter, carrying his head in a comfortable position, moving easily and at a rocking horse gait.
Mane flying in time with his stride. He moved well in both directions.
Ashke will decide he shouldn't have to continue at a canter and move himself to a trot, which means I have to chase him a little bit to get him to go. Not nearly as much as I used to, however. You can see he is carrying his head down and using his haunches to propel himself forward.
After our workout, we walked around the outside of the big arena twice, untacked and rinsed off. Then I let him graze a little while before putting him away. I didn't even need to tie him in the wash rack. Slowly, but surely, we are building trust and understanding. Fueled by consistency and apples and carrots.