I started to put my new plan into effect today. I rode Ashke with a loose rein as much as possible. I used my words to cue him and we rode most of our six miles at a trot. But I get ahead of myself.
J and T brought their bikes out to ride with Ashke and I. We left TMR and rode through the suburb to the trail access. Ashke was pretty up and convinced he should be in J's hip pocket. He behaved as those J and T on the bikes were his herd and he got more difficult when they both got way out in front of him. For the most part, J biked next to me while T went free range.
After we got on the trail, we decided to ride the canal instead of going around the lake. This was a great decision, since the wind was blowing pretty hard in our faces going home, and T got kind of grumpy. T had said to J that he hated having to wait on the horses, so I made a real effort to keep Ashke up and moving.
We did a lot of trotting. It started a little rough, but got better as we went along. I think Ashke was a little confused by the release of pressure on his mouth and kept looking back at me when I was asking him to trot. I just kept asking him to move forward. He has developed some really bad habits based on his feeling like I was asking him to move forward and stop at the same time. He reacts with a conflicted trot where he keeps trying to pop up and canter. I didn't realize until the last time I rode him how badly twisted up inside he was. It's going to take some time to unlearn what he has internalized. The nights when I am working him in the arena I will focus on moving forward without trying to get him to release to the pressure. I also want to continue working on neck reining and backing with light pressure.
We had a couple of very nice canters. When we turned back on our trail for the barn Ashke broke into a canter that became a real struggle between us. I really think he would have been very happy to run the entire ride home. I got him down to a dancing trot for a couple of miles. I had to have a tighter hold on him than I wanted to for a bit, just to get him to settle, but as soon as he started listening again, I released the pressure. I found he was lowering his head and bringing his head vertical much more frequently with little to no pressure when I was trotting him on a loose rein than he has been giving me in the arena with a lot of contact on his mouth.
We had a couple of decent spooks. And one pretty scary moment for Ashke when we had to stop and inspect a hoody someone had thrown over a sign post. He is so pretty when he is arched and quivering and focused on something that might eat him. His feet seemed to be okay. J says she can't see anything, but I can still feel just the hint in the front right. I treated his foot with the farrier stuff before we rode out. It actually made it much easier to take the boot off after our ride.