I can feel the sweat trickling down my hair line as I pull up Ashke's stirrups and loosen the girth. We are both breathing heavily, him with flared redlined nostrils and me with short panting breaths, a hint of wheeze in the sound. Gah! having asthma is still new enough that I am struggling to figure out when I am out of breath and when the inhaler might help. I can feel heat rising from Ashke's skin and the sweat slicking my skin. We rode for fifty minutes, but we are both wiped out.
Ashke follows me as we put the ground poles away. They were set in a L shape and we utilized them through out the lesson. Ashke demonstrated how much he understands that obstacle by sidepassing the L without losing where his feet were. He also demonstrated how we have no clue about going over ground poles at either the trot in a ten meter circle, or as a pole on the ground to launch ourselves over at the canter. I have no idea how to count strides and adding leg to take a long spot rather than breaking into a trot to go over the pole sounds dangerous. Although, with enough practice and Amanda yelling "MOAR LEG" Ashke finally figured it out while I was trying not to jam him in the mouth. Over a ground pole. Seriously.
As we walk back to pick up the cones we used during the lesson, Ashke paced beside me with his nostrils pressed against the skin of my arm. He is over the top affectionate lately and demonstrates daily that not only does he understand English, he is pretty darn smart as well. I think he likes to learn new things, just as much as he likes to explore new trails, and the dressage we are working on is a thinking horse's dream.
The cones were set once again in the pattern we used last week and we spent most of the lesson riding through them. I rode random circles around the cones with the reins in my left hand, riding entirely from my seat and the neck rein. My biggest thing to work on in that exercise is not leaning to the inside like a motorcycle, but rather keeping myself upright and in his middle. We did figure eights with a straight transition, and then worked on the figure eight with a diagonal transition. We rode the double slalom in both directions and he was much better than a week ago. I can feel the difference in his hind end strength. However, I had to really work on keeping my heel back on the outside of the turn to help him keep his hip in.
In between at least 50 transitions, we did a turn on the forehand around the cone. We backed around the cone. We rode the double slalom at a walk in a haunches in position, keeping Ashke's hip closest to the cone and bringing his shoulders around. It was exhausting. And hard. We alternated those activities with random patterns around the cones, riding the drum pattern backwards, leg yielding between the cones at a walk and then trot. The trot was really hard, since the distance we had to move sideways vs forward was very steep for trot work.
It took longer for his right hind to get tired, even though we are focused almost entirely on canter work and turns during our lesson. I had him really compressed during one of the exercises, and then took him out on the circle and let him uncollect from the tiny pretzel shaped knot I had tied him into. We did big circles at the extended canter, while trying to figure out how to cross one tiny ground pole. Jumpers we are not.
I wish I could point at one thing and say "that right there" is the biggest change in Ashke in the past six months. He is calmer, more focused, less reactive to my requests during all of our rides. He is enjoying the arena work and doesn't seem to hate the circles we ride over and over again. The scary corner of the arena is less scary and once we've walked past it a couple of times, we can both ignore it. If anything, he seems a bit lethargic. Not resigned, because he is still very engaged, but more willing to stand still and rest when he is given the opportunity. He is SO much more able at the canter, feeling balanced and relaxed, rather than struggling to get himself and me in the same place. It feels amazing. He is amazing.
And I am getting stronger. It is still amazing to me that Amanda has us doing stuff that makes my abs hurt, my legs shake with weakness, and the breath come short in my chest. Riding from your seat and core is no easy thing, while trying to figure out a canter pirouette in an 8m circle around a pole, on a horse that is also learning. I crawled into bed achy and sore, but grinning ear to ear at what we've managed to accomplish. I think Amanda likes applying our learning to the obstacles just as much as Ashke and I like it.
Sorry for lack of video. I had the GoPro and forgot to give it to Amanda. Maybe next week.