We have always incorporated lateral work when riding on trail, either in leg yields from one side of the sidewalk or trail to the other, or a strong shoulder in when trying to race forward. Nothing settles the fractious Ashke quicker than being asked to trot sideways. (Insert evil grin here). And over the past year, he has settled into a very solid, senior trail horse: forward, confident, trusting, with a low spook zone. I couldn't be more pleased. At some point in the future we will find ourselves in a place where the only thing between us and true disaster is that solid trail behavior and he will carry us through. (If you don't believe me, you haven't ridden on trails enough).
So this last winter, our rides in the arena were about becoming comfortable in our new digs (which we still seem to be working on) and getting Ashke and I comfortable enough to have a solid working canter, without the out-of-control headstrong gallops of yor. Or even last month. Especially to the right where he has a tendency to rush and where his canter is not as smooth or easy to ride as it is to the left, which is strange given his right hip is weaker than his left. We have progressed far enough in our quest that I believe we could do a WE Novice dressage test without embarrassing ourselves. In fact, we have progressed to the point where I asked J to come out last night and film our progress. I rode in the Myler bit and we had some decent success in riding with contact and some roundness. I need eyes on the ground to tell me if we are achieving a decent bend, although he does feel decent with me, and we have just gone back to this style of riding. (For months I was riding with very little contact and just barely asking him to round, waiting for him to get stronger and more able.)
There are a lot of videos, which you may skip if you want. I'm including them for my records and for the masochists out there that love watching horses move in circles. :)
He's still messing with the bit in his mouth. He is a very mouthy boy, so I think this will settle once he's a little more accustomed to the Myler.
Started with a lot of trotting.
For some reason, he did not want to cross on the diagonal toward that corner at all.
We did circles in the corners and middle at the trot, just trying to find some consistency.
In both directions. It was a good exercise and one we will incorporate in future rides.
I think having some kind of pattern helps with training rides.
He was also expecting the canter cue when we were doing the circles.
And then at the canter.
And in the other direction. He did pretty good at this direction, considering his right hind leg. He only cross cantered once.
We did have a pogo-stick moment at the end of this video, where he is cantering with his head up and all four legs stiff. He was reacting to being at that end of the area and wanting to be spooky. We ended up trotting figure eights in those two corners until he was tired of gawking. And then we moved on. I did figure out that if I tightened the inside rein it kept him more focused on what we were doing.
He was much better after we took a moment to regroup.
He tried very hard to do as I wished. You can't hear me, but I was telling him "good boy" over and over again.
We did figure eights, working on canter-walk transitions.
And then practiced some walk pirouettes.
I'm not sure if these are good or not, but he loves doing them. Saiph reviewed and said a great pirouette happened at 1:18 into the video. Talking with her taught me a lot about the difference between TOH and Walk Pirouette.
When I twitch the reins the way CS showed me, he immediately moves into the pirouette. Such a good boy.
I need to make sure I am set before asking for the halt, however.
He missed one lead cue, but otherwise, he was a rock star.
I don't think flatwork will ever be Ashke's favorite thing (although that might change when we start learning canter pirouettes) but it is a necessary thing if we want to compete in WE. When I rode as a kid, we did W/T/C in the show ring. We didn't worry about bend or stepping under, all we worried about was staying in the saddle and moving fluidly. Lateral work is new, and figuring out how to communicate with Ashke in an effective manner so that he understands what I am asking is a learning process. This was a good ride and we worked on a lot of different stuff. I think in reviewing the videos that it went much better than it felt like it did.
Good news though, Ashke can carry himself without his head straight up in the air and we can canter without racing. Those are both huge. Second bit of great news . . . we rode for about 40 minutes and although he was warm he was not sweaty. Most of our "working" ride was at the canter. Third, every time he started to dive into the inside when we were on the left lead, I thought "lift your left shoulder". It worked.