Thursday, July 11, 2013

Thunder and LIghtning

I decided before I got to the barn that I was going to work on being soft with Ashke at the trot today. I find myself bracing against him so often that I wanted to see if we could reach a point where we understood each other without my pulling on his mouth.

I groomed him for a good twenty minutes. He is still shedding a bunch of hair and he loves being groomed. He wiggles his nose and stretches out his neck like he would love to be itching some other horse's withers while I am giving him a good rub. Makes we wonder about some people . . .

There is a woman I know who only sporadically grooms her horse. Actually, I can't even say she grooms her horses - she takes a brush and kind of brushes off the areas where the saddle is going to go. Both of her horses are shaggy and ill kept. I just don't get it. When I first started working with Ashke I knew that grooming - I mean a thorough cleaning of him with soft curry, stiff brush and soft brush, plus my hands - would be a way to show him he could trust me. I wanted him to know that being taken care of by me would feel good - that I wanted him to feel good. I still want him to feel good. One of the things I really like about being at the barns I have been at is that all of the horses look well cared for, groomed, loved. My friend's horses never look sleek and every time she has seen Ashke she asked if he is shaved. I keep saying, "no, just groomed."

I saddled him and headed for the big outdoor arena. The jumps had been pulled out and there was lots of room to ride. By the time I got there, Ashke was shaking and snaking his head. There was no one else in the arena at the time, so I turned him loose and let him tear around.

He did something similar to this ^

I sat on a mounting block and watched him race around me like a fool. He was doing the high stepping trot of an Arabian, snorting and shying the occasional hind hoof my way (he wasn't serious, just in high spirits).  By the time he was done his nostrils were flared and he was a little bit sweaty. I tightened the girth (BTW he's lost about three inches around his middle and I can feel his ribs now) and mounted.

It felt like riding one of these.

He spooked at everything and felt like he was ready to explode. I made it around one circle of the outdoor arena and he spooked at fifteen different things: a rake outside the arena, a blowing bush, the edge of the outdoor booth, the shadow of a bench cast inside the arena, and finally, one of his own hoof marks. I got off and walked him back to the barn. I got one of N's sidereins, my long lunge rope, and the carrot stick. Then we walked back to the big arena.

I put the siderein on the outside side, then ran the lunge rope from a ring on my saddle through his bit and then to my hand. We trotted, bending to the inside, with his head down and back lifted for a good fifteen minutes. We altered direction. He understood we were there to work, and work he did.

I got back on him and he was very respectful. We walked a couple of circuits of the arena at his fast walking pace on a loose rein, then did some smooth trot work, mostly with him in a frame and his back and butt engaged. His trot to the right was pretty good, but his trot to the left was fantastic. We only had one moment when he saw a horse at the other end of the arena and I could feel him asking to race, which I declined. When only worked on walk/trot and only for  about twenty minutes. Then I worked him on the diagonal with a leg yield at a walk. His tendency when I apply a little heel is to want to trot. Tonight I held him to a walk and asked him to move away with minimum pressure on his face, using more of a neck rein pressure and pressure from my leg. Doing gate work requires I guide him with only one hand, so getting him to move sideways while on neck rein is important. And doing it slowly instead of racing through is important too.

He moved on the diagonal very well. We did four or five steps moving right to left and then four or five steps moving back the other way. Once he realized I wanted him to walk while we did it, he did awesome.  I didn't have any one to tell me if he was crossing in both the front and the back, but he was moving sharply enough that we are only a short move away from a true sidepass, which is an important movement in working equitation. 
After that we left the arena and went to play with the gate. We worked on it from the right and started by pulling the gate toward me. He pulled away because another horse came out to join us and he was a bit excited. I didn't react except to let him look a moment and then asked him to work again. We moved right up to the gate, worked around it, got to the other side and then moved back to lock it. He did exactly what I asked. We rode over the bridge and then tried again. This time I pushed the gate open, we rode through, made our turn and then he had to sidepass three steps to close the gate and position his body. I barely touched him with my heel and he did just that. It was perfect. 
Our next attempt was with the rope gate, which he's always been really freaked out by. This time he let me unhook it, walk through to the other side, which for some reason was the hardest part, it was almost as if in his mind the rope was still there or a threshold of some kind. Once we got through he swung around to face the posts with the rope looped under his neck to my right hand. I passed the rope over his head and across his face to my left hand, asked him to walk forward and then hooked it back on the gate. Success!! I don't know if that's how you are supposed to do it, but it really doesn't matter. He did it on the first try without freaking out.

Then we went for a brief trail ride with Cody and Handsome. Handsome is a nice looking QH cross of some kind, rescued and rehabbed. He walks slower than Cali and trots slower than Ashke. I think someone must have shown him in WP, because that western jog is his only gait. The lack of speed aside, the ride was good and Ashke did pretty well. He's not nearly as secure riding out without his herd, but overall he did okay. Although there was one really scary fallen branch that moved in the wind that he thought would eat him.

Back at the barn we unsaddled and he walked right into the wash stall. The trick is no peppermints unless he is in the wash stall.

 I don't know what the deal with the ride time and the stop time is. We didn't stop. All I can think is that as slow as we were walking, the app thought we had died.

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