I met N at the barn about 5 and we got saddled up. Ashke was in a good mood, but I made the mistake of putting cookies in my pocket like I did last time. He could smell them and spent our entire ride worried about when he was going to get a cookie.
The indoor was filled to the brim. The H/J trainer who is leaving was holding court in the indoor with a group of 8 or so teens on big-ass horses. One of things I really hate about her classes is that she acts like she owns the place and encourages her riders to do whatever they want.
I started out with the figure eights again. Ashke was completely unfocused and refusing to pay attention to me, because of all the horses. N and I were working the inside of the arena and staying off the rail, so the students could ride the rail. H/J watched what we were doing and how we were riding and came and stood in the exact spot where Ashke and I started and ended our figure eight. Then called a group of girls to stand with her. They didn't have horses. I stopped and asked them to move, since I was riding a pattern and had been riding a pattern since I started. They all acted like I didn't have the right to be in the arena. My being pissed off about it didn't help my connection with Ashke, because all he knew is I was upset.
Finally, the group of them drifted to the end of the arena and were talking. N and I started playing follow the leader, where Ashke and I would follow N and Cali at whatever gait in whatever pattern they were riding. It was fun and challenging, because Ashke wants to race whenever Cali is in front of him. Twice tonight, while I was cantering after N and Cali, the H/J trainer sent one of her students right into my path. Ashke did a sliding stop with his head straight up in the air to avoid the crash. The second time it happened, I was done.
Our take away from tonight happened while we were cantering. Both times Ashke started trying to run faster to catch up with Cali. In the past I would have wrestled with him to try and get him to slow down. This time, instead of pulling up and back with the reins and jerking his head up, I asked him to slow with my seat and my words, then moved my hands down and to the sides. His head came down and he slowed. We just cheated and short cut the corners and ends so he could stay close to Cali but he did it at a decent canter. It was the first time I felt that way and instead of panicking and jerking on him, I was able to think my way out of the situation. It's beginning to feel instinctive instead of fear driven. That's a good thing.