I did a solo ride up to the top of Table Mountain tonight. My goal was to push Ashke as fast as I felt safe and as fast as he was willing to go. He was very forward with minimal spookiness (and by spookiness I mean he only looked sideways at a couple of plants and rocks. No actual spooking happened.) Once we were off property and on the trail, we trotted.
I have to remind him to bring his head down and round a little, using his back and butt to propel himself up the hill. Once we had a straight away in front of us, I asked for the canter. We cantered all of the uphills. We trotted a lot of the downhills. He was amazing.
At the base of the really big hill, the one that climbs a 1000 feet in about a half mile, we started at a canter. I was encouraging him verbally to keep going, but all of a sudden he came to a complete stop. He looked back over his shoulder and huffed at me. I turned him sideways on the hill and let him catch his breath, and then we turned back up hill. He was trying to giraffe on me going up the hill, so I widened my hands and asked him to use his back and butt. The boy caught on pretty quick, putting his head really low and I could feel the power of his hind end propelling us upward. Once he figured out that having his head lower than his shoulders allowed him to really push with his hind end, I was able to ride on the buckle while we were walking.
I saw a lot of deer, which Ashke watched with interest, but no fear. A couple of young bucks with the velvet still on their horns, and a bunch of does. I kept an eye out for the Moose that is in the neighborhood, but didn't see it. I saw a bunch of Redtail hawks, a peregrine falcon, several bunnies (who are no longer scary to Ashke, seeing as they come into his stall to snack on his hay), several meadowlarks and two duck families, complete with babies. But no moose.
I had a lot of pain in my back this week. I think riding with the camelbak is not going to work. It puts way to much stress on my lower back and the trotting we did tonight has made the pain flare. However, we did manage almost five miles in just about an hour, so I can't be disappointed. Ashke did great.
One of these days though, we will canter that entire hill.