Recycled Eye Candy
My last four arena rides have been interesting.
Thursday (after the clinic with Tarrin):
Ashke and I warmed up at the walk and I ignored his sideways glances at the things hidden behind the green tarps. We walked until he was no longer staring and sidling sideways, then turned and went in the other direction until he was soft and supple that way too. Then I gathered up my reins and we began working on walk-stop from a breath. Once he was responding to my exhalation, we moved to trot-stop on a breath. Then turn, and do it again in the opposite direction. He was soft and supple, responding quickly to my ask. Then we started working on lateral work and I picked up a dressage whip to help cue his hindquarters. After the lateral work, I asked for a canter, wanting to work on the canter departs.
All hell broke loose and was running around in the indoor arena. Very scary stuff.
Ashke started to throw himself around, bracing and throwing his head straight up in the air. This time instead of letting him stop, I continued to ask him for what I wanted, making him move forward instead of stopping. We fought. A lot. He started spooking at a wall as we went around in a 20 m circle, doing his stiff legged protest and flinging about his head. I fought back, expecting him to continue moving forward and not allowing him to stop. We finally rode through it, although I felt like I had been riding a twisting tornado for fifteen minutes or so. I dropped the dressage whip on the mounting block and kept riding him until we got a fairly nice canter in both directions. By that time we were both streaming sweat and frustration. I got off, untacked and took him to rinse off the sweat, then tucked him in with his mash.
I went home that night in tears. I felt like I should just give up. My horse hates dressage. He's going to fight with me and I don't want to fight. It was especially bad given how incredibly well he was listening to me prior to the canter depart. I felt like I shouldn't even be trying Working Equitation, that we can never get really good and we aren't going to progress like we should. I felt really defeated.
I texted Saiph. I talked to J. Then I slept on it. Next time, I will call CS and talk to her on my drive home. I just needed to get some perspective and stop feeling like I was ruining my horse. Cantering is a gait he should be able to do.
We went to the campfire gathering at the barn, ate some good food and then I rode Ashke very briefly. We worked on the same stuff we worked on Thursday night, but this time we were in the outdoor arena. This time, Ashke didn't try to fight with me, instead he gave me what I asked for with very little squirrelliness. Once we had cantered in both directions without him bracing or trying to bolt, I was done. He was very willing and tried.
It was raining and no one showed for the WE practice, so we didn't put out any obstacles. I started with the warm up I am now using and when Ashke moved to a trot, it was a very slow floaty trot with plenty of lift in it. CA said he was very arabiany. We worked on maintaining both the lift and the slowness, until I could feel him get tired. CA took Bretia outside to run and Ashke got very anxious so we did leg yields back and forth around the arena until he was not worried about her any more. When CA and Bretia came back in Ashke and I cantered a couple of loops in both directions, working on maintaining a little bit of bend. Once we had the canter, I stopped the ride.
Again it was raining. We warmed up at the walk, looking at all the things, then worked on walk-stop, then walk-trot transitions. My goal is to get him to stop or slow without throwing his head up. We made good progress. We did a few leg yields in each direction, and he moved well. Then we worked a few times around at the canter. This time, we slowed to a trot and then transitioned up into the canter again. He was excellent going to the left and our transition got a lot better. It was harder to the right and one time he tried to balk, brace and stop, but I wrestled his head down and made him continue cantering. We finally got a one step canter transition without any struggle and I called it a night.
One of the things these rides have taught me is that he is trying to evade work by the way he is reacting to the right. I've let him get away with it because I have been so worried about pushing him physically. There is nothing wrong with him right now. He is feeling better under me than he ever has and there is no reason why he can't be ridden in a frame for a period of time. I am very careful to give him walk breaks in between the harder stuff and I am making a big deal out of it when he does something I want him to do. I think as I keep demanding that he do what I want, and not let him bully me out of what I need him to do, we will keep progressing.