Monday, June 20, 2016


Ashke and I had a fight on Saturday. It was hot and we both were cranky. It was at the end of our ride and Ashke really wanted to be done. I told him, like I always do, that I just wanted a spiral circle to the left with a leg yield to the rail and we would be done. Instead, I got a falling in circle, then a brace with his head thrown up in the air and stiff front legs, cross canter behind. It threw me right back into where we were a year ago, trying to work on the canter.

I was a tad bit frustrated and once again verbally told Ashke what I was looking for, and again he gave me the exact same thing. It might have just been coincidence that he can maintain the lead around the far end of the arena just fine, but can't continue on the same lead at the end of the arena where the tie rack is, since he consistently asked every time we went past the tie rack to be done, but I am thinking he was finished and didn't want to continue.

I broke it down for him, asking for the canter along the long sides of the arena, with a downward transition and trotting around the short end. It took several times around the arena before he was doing that with some bend (rather than counter bend) and then we got one final circle all the way around the ring without breaking gait and with him at least trying to bend properly a little bit.

When I got off him (wasn't going to try walking him dry - wanted to hose him off) he stood at the tie rail with his head down, completely exhausted. I was too. It's hard work to push past your limitations and to not let the past dictate the future. Doing this stuff is hard work for both of us and it makes me feel like a bully to push him past it. However, I am not going to continue to treat him like he is incapable of accomplishing a balanced canter with contact for a full circuit of the arena, especially when he can go 20 miles through the heat, the altitude change, and varied gaits and come home still raring to go. An hour of w/t/c with plenty of breaks inbetween is not too much too ask.

The argument carried over on Sunday, just a little bit. He was fine in the arena, but I didn't ask for a whole lot (it was much hotter on Sunday) and after a decent w/t/c ride, we went outside to ride the edges of the property (during which we tried out a new pair of Back Country boots) and then play with the obstacles. He wanted nothing to do with any of the obstacles, spooking sharply at everything, refusing to back at the gate, and turning his head to stare at the horses still in turnout rather than paying attention. We backed half way across the field until he decided to pay attention to me rather than the other horses. (It did take a slap on his neck to break him away from whoever was out). I think, in hindsight, the boots were an issue. He does better without. I am going to see if Dr D can evaluate how he moves in the boots before I decide which way I am going to jump on the boots vs shoeing.

Tonight, I will arena ride again and hope that cooler heads prevail. It's supposed to be much cooler today, and I am hoping that results in better riding conditions. At some point, he has to become a grown up horse and understand that arena work has as much importance in our lives as being on trail. I also need to figure out how to deal with him unemotionally, how to ignore the slight hesitation as we approach the tie rail, how to motivate him to go forward without getting angry about it. I've mostly figured out how to do it with T, now I have to figure out how to do it with Ashke.


  1. Try anticipating that slight hesitation instead of ignoring it. He's pulling a green horse stunt and he's not a greenie anymore. Every once in awhile Gracie will try this when she doesn't feel like riding in the arena (as you know, she is just like your boy in that she prefers to be out and about! :) ) Nudge him with a heel about a stride or two before he hesitates at the tie rail, either into a higher gear in the same gait (from canter to extended canter/hand gallop) or even request an upward transition into the next gait (trot to canter). If he doesn't respond to a slight heel nudge, immediately tap him on the shoulder with the dressage whip. He might give you an angry tail swish or pin his ears, but praise him the second he obeys your request and soften your fingers slightly on the inside rein as a subtle "give" to his response. I guarantee he'll stop hesitating at the tie rail within the same session! :) Best of luck tonight; I hope the weather gives you a break from the heat!

    1. I would have to carry a dressage whip . . . which makes him unable to relax at all. If he is being laggy all I have to do is pick up the dressage whip for exactly 4.2 seconds and I have a very forward, very tense horse, at which point I drop the whip and work on getting him to relax.

      That said, I take your point and know I need to ride every step. It makes him cranky to have my leg on, which we are working through, and cranky to have to canter with contact, but as long as I keep riding, it should get better. He is making strides . . . I'll have to see if I can get J to come out and video one of these days.

  2. One thing to remember is that the dressage work is very different from riding the trails. Dressage is like weight lifting and uses the muscles differently. So just because he has trail stamina doesn't mean it translates one for one. However if he is capable of doing a collected canter for a full circuit of the arena then it is not unreasonable of you to ask for it, and insist until you get it.