I've tried really hard to ride Ashke the same way N rides Cali. It's been a very long time since I worked with a horse and even longer since I tried to train a horse to do all of the things I really want a horse to be able to do. I thought it would be an easy thing to train Ashke to do some dressage, in combination with trail riding, in part because dressage is so pretty. I have been riding him almost a full year and I can tell you we are doing worse now than we were six months ago. He knows a lot, but we still can't find and maintain a steady, consistent trot.
J came out and watched me ride today, so I asked her on the way home what she thought. She thinks the same thing I do - that trying to work with pressure on his mouth is not making him happy.
It has been a long time coming. I watch other people ride and when they apply pressure the horse lowers it's head to relieve the pressure and is given a release. Ashke braces against the pressure to the point where I'm pulling back on him and he's pushing against me with his mouth wide open. Everytime I ask him to drop his head, I get the opposite reaction. It really frustrates me. It seems to really frustrate Ashke. This style of riding isn't going to be what we are good at.
At one point today I was trying roll-backs and every time we went to stop, Ashke braced his jaw against the bit and would just keep walking into the pressure. We even struggled with backing, which he is able to do with the lightest touch and verbal command. It was escalating into a fight. Finally, I gave him his head (no pressure on the bit) and verbally asked him to stop. He did. It was like a light bulb went on in my head. I need to ride with a western style, rather than continue to fight him like I was doing.
J confirmed what I was thinking when I asked her opinion. She believes he only wants me to initiate pressure when there is a change in what we are doing. He has already started necking reining really well and he understands what I want as far as backing and turning go. I can start working on sidepassing and cantering on a loose rein. And the trot. We still need to figure out the trot.
I also got some foot stuff today that's supposed to help with tenderness. It's not a packable, it just brushes on, but it should encourage his hoof to toughen up.
Tomorrow we are doing a trail ride, come hell or high water.
And finally, J and I ordered rings today for our civil union ceremony some time in August. Woot. After 17 years she is finally going to make an honest woman out of me. :) Or at least make our relationship legal. I may be a lost cause.