Cassandra met me in the barn and I showed her the areas that are effecting Ashke, where his pain is, what's improved and what's bothering him right now. She helped me fit his shin boots (for the trail when he is in danger of knocking his ankles into rocks) and then helped me with our new dressage bridle. I got it at Dover on Sunday with N, in a cob size, since his face is so refined. When we tried it on, it fit the length of his face and the circumference of his nose perfectly, but the browband was way to small. Cassandra pulled a browband off her bridle for me to use and we got it fitted on him. He looked so darn cute.
We went to the dressage arena and I let Cassandra get a feel for him. She lunged him in both directions for a few minutes as we waited for his leg to loosen and warm up. He was pretty stiff on the RH, the same area we've been having issues with since the cavaletti poles and small jump. As he worked, the stiffness got better and so Cassandra put the side reins on him. He was so good for her. He worked at the walk and trot in both directions and he was soft on the bit. Our only moment of stress was when he backed over the carriage whip and it contacted the back of his right leg. He leapt into the air like a cat and flicked his feet the same way. I really need to do some work this winter with him and ropes. Based on the scars on the inside of his right leg, he's tangled with wire at some point in the past, so it will take time and patience to get him comfortable with them.
After working him in the side reins, Cassandra rode him for a little bit. She asked me if he had ever been ridden in spurs and I told her I thought that would be a really bad idea. He is so sensitive that the extra sharpness of spurs might elicit a response she wouldn't be happy with. Frankly, I thought he might dump her on her head if she tried her spurs. She was laughing as she took them off. He wasn't excited about her getting on him, and he snapped at me when he realized he was expected to stand still for her. When she got on, he tried to back out from under her. I was a little worried he was going to rear on her, but he didn't. He just backed up and got a little bunchy. She took her time and rubbed his neck, talking to him, until he calmed down and then asked him to move forward. He did. Then the most amazing thing happened. He reached down for the bit.
Cassandra talked to me about what she was doing while she was riding Ashke. How she was asking him and how she was releasing the ask when he did what she requested. She said he was super sensitive and was doing what she was asking with the slightest pressure. I was freaking impressed. She said he was super smart and had figured it out after being shown one time. She also said he was trying really hard to do what she was asking, but was struggling because it was hard.
Then it was my turn. Cassandra was impressed with how much more relaxed and willing Ashke became once I got on him. She took my hands and showed me the amount of pressure I needed to use when I was making contact with his mouth. Then she had me walk and trot, asking him to round his back and move from his hindquarters. She worked with me until I had a walk to trot transitions and a trot to walk transition in either direction with him still lifted underneath me. She showed me and talked me through doing the transitions without him throwing his head up and hollowing his back. It felt amazing. He was amazing. We have something to work on for the next couple of weeks, as long as I can remember how to do what she was telling me to do.
When we were done, I bedded him down with some bute. I'm hoping a couple of doses will help him come back to a pain free place.