Last night after I saddled Ashke we walked around the arena. Two of the younger girls were there on their horses. Alex rides Gotcha, mostly barrels, and Haley rides Comet. Alex was working on figuring out what was happening when she was riding Gotcha around the first barrel. Since I follow a barrel racer's blog, what she was doing made sense to me. Alex had an "Ah-Ha" moment when she realized she was shifting her hips out in response to her anticipation of the first turn, which in turn was causing her horse to react. That was affecting their run at the first barrel. The thing that struck me the strongest was her response of "it's not him at all. It's completely me. I shift my hips and he's reacting to that shift."
Goes back to try. Our horses, and Ashke in particular, try to do what we want them to do. Last night was no exception. I was asking Ashke to move on the diagonal, to keep his body straight and to step sideways by crossing his legs over one another. This is difficult for him since it really requires body strength we are still working on. J said that when we would start he would cock his tail to the side, the same way I stick my tongue out, and concentrate on doing what he thought I was asking him to do. As soon as I released the cue and patted his neck, telling him verbally what a good boy he was, J said he would swish his tail and arch it up. We only did it a couple of times in each direction, but J said his tail would do exactly the same thing each time we moved into the diagonal. It would cock to the side away from the diagonal, as if he were using it to help move his hind end. I asked her how he looked and she said he looked relaxed and engaged and was trying to do what I wanted him to do.
We didn't ride long. Maybe twenty minutes. On Friday I will let him play with the ball again, but not ride. I want him fresh and comfortable for the trip to see Diane on Saturday.
After circling the arena at the walk and trot, working on the diagonals in both directions and a brief canter on the correct lead in both directions, we did this: