His shoulder, which was the one part on his body that moved me to tears, is now a solid slab of muscle running from his neck, across the point of shoulder and down into his leg. His neck is filled out and you can see the elegance in this photo.
Ashke is the horse on the left, and you can see the muscle in his neck and how the crest of his neck is filled out.
He still needs muscle on his top line and across the top of his butt, however, his ribs have filled in and he has muscle in the gaskin, stifle flank area. I would say he is a 6 on the body condition chart. He no longer needs to gain weight, we just need to condition and tone what he has.
Last night was a decent ride. We had the arena to ourselves for almost 45 minutes. We mostly walked and trotted, although we did get a solid three circuits of canter to the left and two to the right before we stopped. I am still being careful not to get him sweaty while it is so cold here.
Ashke has gotten so much better at coming up to the mounting block. If he walks off, I remain standing on the block and flick my reins at him and ask him to move back into position, the way Nicole does. He hasn't been trained the way Cali was when Cali was little, but he knows what I want and tries to move into the correct position. I am being very good about making him stand still, even when he wants to dance, until I tell him it's okay to walk. He is starting to figure it out.
It takes patience and consistency with a horse this smart. He wants to be an active partner in our interaction. Giving him the time and space to work through what I'm asking seems to be the best system of training for him. I don't think he will ever be the kind of horse that you can demand something from and expect it immediately. I think asking, just like with kids, is a much better process. And I am seeing the results. Last night I asked him to back verbally while giving him the leg cue. He dropped his head and backed without me having to touch the reins. That pleases me.
Now if I could just get him to relax at the trot. Getting him to relax at the trot seems to be the next thing on my list. I'm thinking if there isn't anyone in the arena tonight, I am going to give him a loose rein (tight enough I can control him if I really need to) and see if he will settle into an easy trot without any pressure on his mouth. I think I'm going to have to let him have his head completely, without interferrence, and see if I can talk him down with my voice. Even with the new bit, asking him to relax and drop his head against the pressure causes him to brace and fight. If I let him go and keep asking him verbally to easy trot, maybe he can find his way there.
It will be worth a shot.