Ooooo. I had a great night. Ashke felt loose, with just a little short striding, when I got to the barn and I was very happy considering the last time we rode was straight up the mountain and back down. I grabbed the BOT cooler out of N's bag prior to greeting Ashke, haltered him and then covered his back to allow it to warm and loosen. After I tied him in the crossties, I went to get my stuff and found one of the boarders and a new woman in the tack room finishing up a session. My ears pricked. After they had finished, she came to look at my horse.
Her name is Tracy and she does a combination of massage, Ttouch and craniosacral, and best of all, she's worked with and close friends to Diane. She came to meet Ashke and he told me he liked her. He really liked her energy and wants her to work on him. I liked her energy and can't wait for her to work on him.
After his back was warm and he was groomed, we headed to the dressage arena. I let him warm up on the lunge line, which involved trotting fast, cantering some and a lot of head flipping. When he finally slowed down, I asked him to stop and we attached the side reins. He fought against the reins for the first time, throwing his head up, bracing through his body and fighting the pressure of the reins. I just let him. He figured out that it wasn't comfortable and that he was doing it to himself, gave to the pressure and continued to work. Once we had done several rounds in the side reins in each direction, I stopped him and got on.
We started with walking, and I focused on asking him to keep his head down, reducing the amount of looky-loo he was doing. He felt really comfortable and his stride felt good at the walk. We moved to the trot and he tested me a couple of times, especially to the left, where he didn't want to maintain contact and lift his back. He even threw in a couple of gimpy strides. I wasn't buying what he was selling, however. I remembered what N had said about expecting him to try to get out of work. I knew from the lunging and side reins his back wasn't bothering him that badly, and so when he responded to my request to move into a frame with his head down by throwing his head up and pinning his ears, I swatted him on the rump with my dressage whip. He wasn't happy. It was more of a tap than a swat, but it got the point across, especially since I don't typically ride with a dressage whip. He immediately responded to my request and moved forward into the collected trot. There were a couple more attempts to gull me, but every time he responded to my heel bump and did what he was asked. (I provide immediate feedback to him verbally when he does what I want. He knows what good boy means, just like he knows walk and trot.) We did a couple of transitions from walk to trot and back down, and he's beginning to get it. We also rode in figure eights at the trot, changing our direction and bend, which he did great at. By the end of our ride, he was doing what I was asking, without fighting me, and with good impulsion.
Cooled him off and hand walked him back to the barn. Covered his back and let him graze for ten or fifteen minutes until his back was warm and relaxed, then threw him in the stall with carrots.
Can't wait to see how he does on Thursday night. . . .