I decided to take the advise in the comments on my FB post and plan a fun ride for Ashke and myself. I decided before I got to the barn to mix it up a little bit and give Ashke something new to think about. When I got there I set up the gate, three barrels, figure 8, a jump made of shavings (really bad idea) which got changed to a cross rail, and sidepass pole. Ashke whinnied at me when he first saw me, then watched with rapt interest as I set up the obstacles. He was engaged even before I took him out of the stall.
I set the jump up facing the scary corner, which made the spooky end interesting instead of spooky. Funny how giving him something to think about changes his focus. I originally tried setting the jump with bags of shavings, since the jump in a show will either be strawbales or shavings, but he wrecked both bags by dragging his hind hooves across them the first time over, so I got off and reset the jump poles. The cross rail was set at about 18" and he overjumped it the first couple of times, then figured it out and just did enough to clear the jump. He is getting so much better about not deer leaping the jump and he might actually be developing some form. The reason for practicing it is really about me getting in rhythm and lifting myself a little bit out of the saddle, which I accomplished. I am riding from my seat and knees, rather than holding on to make the jump, so I'm kind of proud of myself. I didn't stare at the jump and I didn't jam him in the mouth either. The only issue we had was tripping in the deep wet sand on the far side of the jump and almost falling into the other rider in the arena. Pretty sure we scared her. Scared me. I told Ashke that we would jump straight and then stop, rather than turning into the deep sand. That was better.
We did the jump, the gate, sidepass, and figure 8. We cantered between obstacles, but never really put the course together. The footing is a bit iffy and I didn't want to risk Ashke hurting himself, so we worked obstacles independently. I made sure to verbally stroke him with every try, wanting to get us both back on track in our connection. He snorted and was very proud of himself. He liked knowing the answers. I think sometimes, since we are both struggling with some of the dressage movements, that it is good to go back to the things we both have all the answers to.
He was Phe - Nom - In - Nal at the gate. In both directions. Calm, focused. Didn't throw his head up. Turning off my leg. It was amazing. According to the Assessment Criteria in the rules, the horse's action should be fluid and without any hesitation. The horse should pay attention to and participate in the opening and closing movements without showing any signs of insecurity or disobedience. The rider's action should be easy, precise and free from hesitation. We got the gate down.
Same thing with the sidepass. He is keeping his body bent in the direction of the movement much more than in the past. It is easy to position him over the rail, I just need to make sure he is far enough forward he doesn't interfere with the pole when he crosses his front legs.
We need to work on the figure 8 a little bit, maybe outside or in the center of the arena, where I don't have to worry about him slipping. I need to be more clear in my set up, so he has a clear idea from my head, what we are about to do. We walked the drums but didn't try cantering, because I didn't like where I had set up the barrels.
I hope that Amanda and I can work on the figure 8 and the drums on Thursday, after working on the other stuff first. The drums and the double slalom are the only things I am worried about.