Wednesday, July 8, 2015


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.

Friday night:
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.

Monday night:
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.


  1. I'm having a lot of trouble cantering with my mule right now too. It's such a bigger struggle than trot work. Everyone just says to keep practicing.

  2. I agree with Olivia: cantering is more difficult, for both the horse and for us. With arena work I'll still periodically come up with random issues at the canter, and I do exactly what you did: if there is a lot of resistance, I'll ask for one good step and then either move onto something else entirely or end the session there, just like what you did. With Lily, who has a hard time collecting and gathering herself up because of her TB conformation, I found that she worked best with a warmup *very* similar to what you are doing, progressing into trot and then I would include cantering as part of it, all on a longer rein with no requests for bend, collection or organization. I'd just let her move out however she needed/wanted to. Then we would start over from the walk or trot with more focused work. I would do the canter work in the middle of the more focused work and end with more trot work (so I basically split my trot work in half). I found that *usually* (not always) I could do more collected trot work with her this way initially, and then after the focused canter work she would be able to do some lovely, more extended trot. Putting the canter work in the middle meant that she wasn't tuckered out for it but was completely warmed up, so she was able to do some pretty awesome work. Of course, she still had her days where she was crooked no matter what I did or she simply wasn't feeling it: it wasn't perfect 100% of the time, but about 85% of the time this type of progression worked well for her.

    You know what works best for him, and of course his conformation is different from Lily's, but I'm just describing something that helped us a lot, in case there's a chance it helps you and him too! :)

    1. Thank you for this. It has given me a tool I will try out tonight. My new plan is to canter on a longer rein, without worrying about bend or flexion, to start. Then going back to more collected trot work before moving toward more collected canter. And then finishing with some long, low stretchy stuff and maybe lateral work. It will also keep him from predicting what we are going to do next, as the request for cantering stresses him out.