I walked up to Ashke's stall and he was hanging out outside in his run. I spoke to him and watched him focus on me, then his nostrils fluttered and he bellowed his greeting.
He had stopped whinnying at me. He had stopped being happy to see me. He had stopped wanting to work.
He really needed to work on something else. And he needed to be outside.
Even in a saddle that isn't perfect anymore, he is much happier being outside and finally being able to canter with me.
We did four sets of three or four circles in the upper half of the outdoor arena in each direction. He was so relaxed and picked up the correct lead everytime I asked. We walked in between sets. I really think he would rather canter than trot. He was very foamy at the end from working the bit. And warm but not sweaty.
I have decided that riding in this bit makes me feel more confident in my ability to control his speed at the canter. I also wield the reins in one hand, which frees up the other hand to hold on when I feel the need, and Ashke loves not being forced to put his head really low. I am no longer trying to catch my balance on his mouth. More importantly, I trust that he wants to do what I am asking him to do. We need to work a little bit on him accepting contact without trying to slide stop, especially when transitioning down from the canter. I think we will figure it out pretty quick though.
I have a secret. I covet the hill that Saiph is able to do hill sets on. It isn't too steep, and has good footing. Today, I discovered that Ashke and I have a hill similar to Saiph's hill between TMR and Shiloh (barn next door). It is the access road for North Table Mountain, and there was a woman doing hill sets tonight. I want to try it on Wednesday. We might need to start with trotting up and walking down until we have figured out that there are not killer bunnies laying in ambush anywhere. Then, we will move onto trot down and canter up. It will be great conditioning and give us a straight away to canter on.