Saturday, at the end of our ride, he was dry and mostly cool, considering it was 75 and he is still somewhat shaggy. J and I debated the necessity of putting the BoT fleece cooler on him for the trailer ride home. We opted not to, since it was so warm. My gut was telling me I should, but then I second guessed myself and left it off. It was the wrong decision. When I unloaded Ashke at the barn, he was stiff and his back was so tight I could see the tension in his muscles. I put some Sore No More on the area, which he really did not want me to touch, and promised him I would be back the next day.
Random cuteness to break up the text.
Monday morning I stopped by on my way to work to pull the BoT off of him and to check his hip. His back was warm and loose and he was non-reactive to my testing his back for soreness. I fed him his mash and told him I would see him on Tuesday.
Tuesday night, I went into the indoor (the weather was awesome and I expected the jump lesson to happen in the outdoor arena) and set up a small course with 5 slalom poles, a low jump, an L shaped corridor with the bell, a pole for sidepassing, two barrels and the quintain for my lance work. Then I hurried in and got Ashke ready in record time. I got back into the arena with my garroucha by 5:20.
Ashke walked around the outside of the arena for several loops, listening to my horse and feeling him move. He was loose and relaxed, swinging through his back, and watching the obstacles with pricked ears. There was no spooking or paying attention to anything else. We started with the corridor and we worked out how to make the turn (seems counter-intuitive to move your horse's head to make a backwards turn, but it works) and he stopped next to the bell regardless of the direction we were moving in.
We then worked on the sidepass pole. I think, in hindsight, I need to walk him up, position him so the pole is at my stirrup, pause and then step sideways. He starts moving sideways before he is positioned, which means his front feet are too close to the pole. You are supposed to walk through at an angle, which allows the horse to cross front and back as they step without hitting the pole. We went in both directions a couple of times. I know that next time I will take a moment and make him stop, when he is in position, before moving over the pole.
We did the barrels and the slalom poles. We kind of struggled with those two obstacles, because the last time we had worked them, I was asking Ashke to bend very tightly around the pole or barrel and this time I wanted to work them like we would for a show. He was confused. I was confused. The slalom was way too tight to do at anything faster than a trot, and I felt very dissatisfied when we were done. Although, I did repurpose it and completed a sidepass between the poles just for kicks and grins. Plus, we also went around the barrels backwards, for practice.
Nuno Matos Clinic
We picked up the lance and carried around the arena several times in each direction at a trot and a canter. I lifted the ring off the standard a couple of times, but couldn't really do the obstacle at speed, since I don't have open barrels to put the pole into at either end of the arena. Or even one open barrel. I discovered that it doesn't work to lean it against the fence or wall. It is angled the wrong way.
After we had worked all of the obstacles individually, I mentally set up a course and ran through it a couple of times. The slalom was the only thing that really didn't work well. Ashke tried hard and did pretty good, although I am struggling to get some bend. He had a couple of missteps, but for the most part, didn't have any issues with his hip.
Tonight, when I got there, he was waiting for me. Our weather today went from rain to heavy snow to sunshine all in the day. Swear we had two inches of snow on the ground at 1 pm and it was gone by the time I got off work. Ashke had been out in the rain for some of the day, and in his stall the rest. He was warm and dry when I got there. I spent some time grooming him, trying to make a dent in the flying white hair that is his existence right now. I had put a bunch of cookies in my pocket and we spent a half hour or so playing the begging game. When I went to put his exercise boots on, he kept offering to bow, which earned him a treat, but didn't really give me what I needed. Finally, we were ready and headed for the indoor arena.
I swear he looked around when we walked in, didn't see any obstacles, and decided he didn't want to play.
We started by walking four laps in one direction, changing on the diagonal, and then four in the other direction. Then we did the same at the trot. He was spooky and jumpy. I was a little frustrated, since he didn't look at anything sideways the night before. When we moved to the canter he started to act up. I think, in retrospect, he was anticipating pain, but I could be wrong. He hadn't been sore the night before, and he hadn't seemed sore when I was riding him at the trot and walk. He refused to pick up the left lead canter, however, and hold it for a circuit of the arena. Plus, he kept violently shying and pogo-sticking at the end of the arena with the tarp covered panel. I had finally had enough.
I grabbed the dressage whip I had brought with me and we had a serious "come to Jesus" moment. He figured out really quick that I was not going to tolerate the going-sideways-instead-of-forward BS he was trying to sell me. And the canter five steps, cross-canter two steps, throw my head straight up in the air and stop business came to a quick end. I would not have argued with him that way, (and he got a couple of smacks from the whip, too) if I thought he was truly hurting. He had shown no signs of it, he just didn't want to make the effort of doing what I was asking. Two minutes later, I had a much better horse. (He did throw in a buck during one of our transitions, but I ignored it.)
We rode the WE Level 2 dressage test and I could not get him to bend. I thought about what CS said in our lesson about the bit not bending or moving independently in his mouth and him maybe having trouble with understanding what I was asking. I stopped and changed bits to the Myler Level 2 shank bit. It made a huge difference. Although, the speed control isn't as good as the bit I have been riding him in, the Myler allows me to ask him to bend a little bit and he does, without falling in. It will give us a place to start to work on the things he needs to be better at if we are going to compete in WE.
After the test, we did walk pirouettes in both directions. CS told me to play with the reins just a touch before we start the pirouette, and he has gotten so good that he starts the pirouette when I jiggle the reins that way. He has it absolutely nailed going counter-clockwise, but struggles more when moving clockwise. He has to both pivot and step and push off with his right leg when moving clockwise. We just need more practice.
We finished up with some leg yields. I used the dressage whip to tap his hip to get him to move better in the direction of the rail. He did pretty good. Obviously, much better in one direction than the other. More things to work on. It felt like he was crossing, but without mirrors or a person on the ground, I'm not sure. Maybe I can get J to take some pics for me.
Going forward, my plan is to ride in the arena and work on my stuff during the week (at least two rides) and then do a long ride on the weekend. If I can, I will squeeze a ride in on Sunday and maybe one on Friday night. I really want to be working him five days a week and the more lateral work we can do the stronger that leg can become.
I set up the blue war bridle with his grazing bit for the trail and I put the Myler on the other biothane bridle I have, to use for WE. The issues I've had with the Myler in the past were mostly on trail, and we have progressed a lot since then, so I am hoping this is a good compromise. I left him snuggled into his BoT for the night. No precip, so he should be nice and comfy in it. And I don't want his back and hip to tighten up.
Last ride until Sunday.