I am so happy, I am about to swoon . . . .
Ashke has learned so much this winter and can demonstrate it in so many different ways. . . .
Last September, I worked with Ashke on opening and closing the gate. He was okay from the left side and after a lot of work, he had the idea from the right. We struggled with him moving away from the gate (spooky) instead of moving with the gate and then stopping. It took a lot of work and extra peppermints to get that far.
Over the winter, we took lessons from Cassandra and practiced what she was teaching us a lot. One of the things we worked on very consistently was leg yields, turns on the forehand and turns on the haunches. Ashke has gotten so good that I can just tighten my leg muscles and he moves away from that leg. I can position him next to the mounting block, or the rail, or a gate without needing to do more than ask him to swing his hips around.
On Friday, I rode him over to the gate and with a loose rein, positioned him to open it to the right (his left shoulder is by the front opening) I grasped the gate and just shifted my weight and he pivoted on his haunches, pulling the gate open with his shoulder. When the gate was open, we walked around the end and through. (This was the hard part in the fall, because the gate is narrow and it's hard for him to walk through and swing his haunches around without hitting the fence post). He walked through just enough to clear the post, then stopped, stepped back and to the side, positioning himself perfectly for me to close the gate. I didn't have to do anything but guide him around the end of the gate and then lock it. I praised him a lot, and he looked back expecting a peppermint.
In thinking about it later, Ashke put two different training experiences together on his own. He combined the earlier experiences with the gate with the lateral practice we've worked on all winter, to maneuver his way through the obstacle without any real guidance from me.
Tonight we cantered on the straightaway, up the hill, between the paddocks and the fence. In control and happy. He slowed when I asked at the top, then turned and walked quietly back down. We did cantering five times up. After cantering for a while in the arena. At the walk and trot he was very willing to use his back. At the canter, I just wanted him to move forward. And that we did. He did give me several moments when he was able to use his back and on the uphill canters he was using his butt a lot. We felt like he was floating on his front legs.
It was amazeballs.
No spooks. No attempts to evade work. Willing boy. We only did five because we need to work our way up to more and I don't want him sore after the effort.
We cantered outside and under control.
I can not express my thanks to Cassandra for the guidance and training she gave us this winter. It's given me so much more confidence. It's given Ashke more confidence. And most of all it built a great foundation of trust between us.
It also doesn't hurt that I have the smartest horse in the world.