Last night I had my third lesson in a row (weekly) and the difference in how Ashke handled what was asked of him was both marked and amazing. I got to the barn about 6:15 and had enough time to give Ashke a good grooming before saddling him up and walking around to warm him up. I was walking big circles in the arena when Amanda got there. She had about fifteen minutes so she saddled her mare while I was warming up.
After walking for about ten minutes, I started working on walk pirouettes. These are coming along and I have figured out how to ask for them and get myself out of his way. Amanda was walking around behind me at that point, telling me when it was going correctly. We did a couple in each direction and by that time Amanda had handed her horse off to her sister to ride and got Ashke and I focused on our lesson.
We started with serpentines, which were okay to the left and stiff to the right (really hoping the chiro on Friday helps with this). The one thing he was doing really well with was maintaining contact and staying on the bit. The flailing and fighting that much contact has pretty much diminished and he seems to know that this is his job. After the trot serpentines, Amanda suggested we go right into the canter work before Ashke got tired. We are trying to develop both myself and Ashke the ability to do the counter-canter serpentine without him losing his bend. This is exceedingly difficult for both of us. Amanda had me try the spiral circle first but Ashke was having a hard time and broke his lead, so Amanda walked us through haunches in for the first time. To the left, Ashke had a great haunches in (I have to take her word for it, since I was concentrating on holding my body in the required pretzel position to attain it), but to the right he really struggled to get any kind of bend. Amanda said that instead of three distinct tracks (left hind in line with right front) he could only move that hip in about two inches. We didn't try for a lot, and she immediately had me ask him for something he could do well - which in this case was a leg yield, with lots of praise. She said that if we are asking something really hard and he is struggling, then to follow it up with something they can do easily will help them maintain their confidence.
Then we worked on the serpentine loop from one end of the arena, loop to the quarter line and back to the rail all on the same lead. To the left, Ashke was able to do what I asked and the second time, I was able to get him into a balanced and not rushing trot which we rode in a stretchy circle and although he did not stretch too much, he did stay at a slower trot.
Then we tried to the right and although Ashke knows what I want him to do he was having a hard time maintaining the canter. It almost devolved into a fight, but Amanda talked us out of it and we tried again. We tried again and that time at least we made it to the corner before he broke gait. I was gulping for breath and we stopped to hash out what was going on with what we were trying to do. We decided to put a couple of cones up along the rail right where we would be looping to the quarterline in an attempt to help this make sense to Ashke, which it did. He did really well that last attempt and then we turned the other direction and tried. I could feel that Ashke knew what he was supposed to do and made a valiant attempt to maintain the lead through the exercise. He got huge pats and praise for the try and we moved on.
I need to note here that I think one of the reasons we have gotten into fights is because I am expecting too much of the collected canter work too soon. He still struggles to pick up the canter while being on the bit and he does get pretty tired pretty quick. I also think that working on the canter first before he is tired is a great idea. I will implement it on my next ride.
We decided to work on my 10 m half circles, which Amanda had me ride a series of 10m circles in random places all over the arena. The only requirement was that we make a full 10 m circle before jutting off into another circle in the opposite direction. This was a great exercise and I can't wait to do it again. It really enforces the idea that Ashke needs to listen to my leg and seat when I am picking the change of bend. He was very good and I got better at keeping him from falling in on the circle.
We then worked on square turns (great!) and entering the arena at A with a square halt, which still needs a bit of work. She was having me stop anywhere but at X so he doesn't memorize the spot he's supposed to stop. There was one final thing she had me work on, but I can't remember what it was now and I was so exhausted at that point that I was shaking with it. Ashke was a bit sweaty, but I had sweat rolling off my shoulders.
I think that's how lessons are supposed to go.
So, for this week, I won't ride Thursday, he will get adjusted on Friday and his teeth done, then Saturday off and I will ride him early on Sunday. Maybe I will talk J into coming with me to take video. I will have an arena ride on Sunday and Monday. We will work on cantering, a few trot-canter transitions (the need to be a touch more immediate) where I don't throw the reins away (I think this is left over from riding when I was a kid - forward means faster) and try the loop to the quarterline a couple of times, plus the 10m circles (those were fun). Hopefully, the adjustment on Friday will help with him being more flexible to the right.
I also hope that I will be able to move again by Sunday. I woke about midnight and could barely move. My body was pretty sore. I'm sure Ashke is a little sore as well.