I didn't have a lot of time to warm up, so we walked a couple of circuits around before starting with a couple of walk pirouettes. Ashke has pretty much figured out how to do these, even if I am still a bit foggy on the difference between a WP and a turn on the haunches. I can feel the difference, but I'm still not clear in my head of what I should be getting from Ashke. The pirouettes were solid and he didn't peter out into stoppage on either one (more leg would be the answer). I was able to do them sitting straight in the middle of him, rather than shifted to the outside and trying to push him around with my body.
Next was leg yielding at the trot to the rail from the quarterline. This is an exercise we were struggling with our last lesson. It was good to feel how much more comfortable Ashke was when bending and moving his body around. He is able to hold himself much more straight in the movement rather than throwing his shoulder out when he moves sideways. After the leg yields we did some canter work, a spiral to the right side, then spiral out, and leg yields from the quarterline to the rail at the canter. He struggles more to move from the right to the left on the right lead canter, but last night by the third one, he was crossing nicely to the outside. I need to remember to lower my left hand and open the door for him to move his shoulder toward the rail. We also did some figure eights with simple changes in the center, until I had to take a break because I couldn't breathe.
Then we worked on the serpentines with w/t/c transitions. I love this exercise, because it completely befuddles the boy. He gets all "Rawr!! Canter!!" and I am like, nope, stop and back up. Now walk. Now trot in a circle. It gives me so many opportunities to change the conversation from tension and anxiety about cantering to relaxed, happy, not predictive horse waiting to see what I want from him next.
We did some haunches in, which he has mastered well enough that Amanda thinks we can start seriously addressing a half pass movement with him. Then she made us do the leg yield, shoulder in, leg yield down the centerline. He can do it. I really struggle to get all of my parts operating correctly to get him to move the way I am asking. We managed a couple of really good movements in each direction and then stopped with that exercise.
Finally, we finished up with a canter figure eight with a simple change in the middle. Amanda wants me to really focus on the seat and leg aids for this exercise, which even I can see that it is in prep work for a flying change. I need to weight my outside hip, bring my leg just behind the girth, then cue at the girth with my inside heel. As we come into the change, I let my legs return to neutral while transitioning down to the trot, then shift them to the proper position to cue for the other lead. Ashke did it really well, no longer pinning his ears and getting fussy about the request. We finished up with that and gave Ashke lots of praise and attention for his try.
Things that have changed in the past few months, even in spite of the lack of work.
- Ashke and I are no longer fighting up front. He has not thrown his head up and braced his front legs since I put him in side reins to work out his own damnation. He loves the spanish bit we are riding in and he was soft and foamy at the end of our ride last night.
- The canter is now able to be achieved without him throwing his head up. We are actually beginning to see a solid transition from walk to canter. He still gets amped or anxious when we go from canter to do something else, but it is getting easier to redirect him to something else. All of our canter demons are being defeated each ride.
- Amanda is gifting me with some little tricks to redirect him when he starts looking for trouble (he gets spooky). Making him bend and move sideways toward the object of his distraction was a subtle reminder to him last night that life can get a whole lot harder if he doesn't want to pay attention.
- A good solid extended trot will help unpretzel him when we are doing the movements that require him to move a shoulder or hip.
- He is capable of achieving all of the things I had hoped we could learn to do, as long as I understand I need to be very specific in my aids and how I ask.