We practiced dressage tonight in the dressage arena in the sun, which hasn't been seen in three days. Can I say this is the strangest summer I've ever experienced in Colorado. The past three days have felt like fall, with cool, crisp nights, grey days and non-stop rain. It's reminding me of the rain we got last year that caused the massive flooding. Some places got 4" in 90 minutes. We still haven't put every thing back together from last summer's floods. We certainly don't need to be dealing with more flooding this year. Our July and August is usually marked with upper 90's weather, and our forecast for the next ten days barely breaks 80.
It scares me.
I started off just letting Ashke walk. He's still resting his left hind leg a lot and I'm thinking the patella he broke there is sore. When I run my hand lightly over the area, he flinches and pins his ears. I don't think the weather has helped, with both the cooler temps and the humidity. He was a little hesitant when we first started walking. It took a couple of circlets around the arena to limber up his hind legs, and once he was swinging at the walk, I asked him to collect and accept contact. We practiced some of the elements of my test, without working on the actual test.
We started with trotting down the centerline. Sure enough, he tried to stop half way down, but I encouraged him to keep moving. We turned left and did three 10m circles at one third intervals down the rail. We did that up one side, down the other, then crossed on the diagonal and did it the other direction. I concentrated on making the circles look like circles, keeping my shoulders square and trying not to lean to the inside. Ashke did really well at maintaining a steady forward movement and rhythmic trot through the circles.
Then we moved onto 20m circles at either end of the dressage arena. I started on the right lead and we did one 20m circle three times before lining up along the rail and slowing to the trot. We trotted the long side and then picked up the canter again at the far end of the arena. Although Ashke's right lead canter is still kind of rough, it is so much better than when we started off. He struggles with lifting into the canter from the trot without throwing his head up, and he has a tendency to rush more to the right, because of his back and hips. And perhaps his stifle. After cantering to the right we crossed on the diagonal at a walk, circling several times to loosen his back and give him a chance to get his breath back. Then we did the same exercise on the left lead. Every time we walked, I worked on asking him to bend to the right. (He likes to counter bend at the canter to the right.)
His left lead canter was fantastic. It was slow and controlled and very smooth. N said we looked really good. I lifted my head a little bit, looking farther in front of us, instead of immediately in front of us, and I could feel Ashke lighten a little in the front when I did so. I was concentrating on keeping my hands still and my elbows close to my sides. So many things to remember. We did two circles to the left and then walked again. N was having a great ride on Cali and we kind of let the horses blow in the middle of the arena for a moment.
I told N I wanted one more right lead canter and then we would be done. We need multiple practices each ride so Ashke can get better and smoother going in that direction. I no longer had the dressage whip and Ashke was kind of projecting, so the first time I asked, Ashke trotted real fast. I brought him back down and we worked on getting his trot settled before asking again. Once he was trotting, I asked for the canter again.
He bucked. First time since August of 2012.
I stopped the buck and N shouted "don't get mad at him. Just focus and go on." It's a good thing she did too, since I was pretty angry. I took a deep breath, thought about degrees of separation and made the conscious decision to focus on what I wanted rather than what had just happened. I moved him forward at the trot, asking for bend, and once he was moving well, requested the canter. It was good. A good transition, a nice canter. I ended on a happy camper note.
We wandered the property to cool them off and then put them away.
Each day I feel like I take one step closer to Ashke being able to do ALL THE THINGS.