The livestock pen looks funny in the pic - it is set for about 3/4 of a circle.
And then I went to pull Ashke out of his stall and found this:
I swear, if I wanted a chestnut I would have gotten one.
The struggle is real.
I worked up a sweat trying to get him somewhat clean. I hate this time of year. And it is going to snow on Saturday so there is no sense in washing him yet. I have a show on May 6, so I will have to bathe him before then. As we were getting close to be ready, the garage door between the two parts of the barn went up and another rider came in. I asked her if it was okay that I had stuff set up in the arena and she said yes. She looked over what I had and asked if I did WE. I said yes, and she said she had seen me at Expo. She recognized Ashke from there. She is a trainer and she was riding a client horse (beautiful mare - gun metal gray) who doesn't get enough riding. It was nice to have another person in the arena while we rode.
Ashke was moving pretty smoothly right off the bat, so we moved through our warm up pretty quickly. He's a lot less spooky of the scary end of the arena in general, and when there are obstacles up he pretty much ignores it completely. We did some walk, trot and then some canter in big circles around the edge of the arena. I wanted him to maintain his balance at the open canter without being on a circle. We went over the jump at the walk and trot, then started incorporating it at the canter.
Our first time over was pretty solid. I am getting better at being able to support him in the approach to the jump and he feels like he's figuring it out. The second time we headed for the jump at the canter he tripped three strides out, stumbled, righted himself and went over the jump anyway. And I managed to ride it without jamming him in the mouth or falling off. Then the next two times we rode it, he was perfect and I got up out of the saddle with my hands forward. The thing we need to work on is that he doesn't seem to see the jump until we are about three strides out. I think the time he tripped was because he was startled to find the jump suddenly in front of him. We are the opposite of "hunting jumps" - we sudden have them pop up in front of us.
We cantered to the gate, worked the gate and then turned to canter away. It's getting it through his head that we can canter up in balance, then canter away without losing our shit. The gate is awesome, because he KNOWS what the answer is in both directions. It was good to add that in after doing the jump, because it helps his confidence. I did figure out that if I lift the rope he will begin to back up. If I wait at the side of the gate for an extra fifteen seconds, he will stand quietly. I just need to drill it into me that I need to be quiet for a few seconds before reaching out for the rope.
At the beginning, I cantered around the outside of the livestock pen. Then I stopped and walked the pen. Then we trotted it. Then I cantered the outside again. Finally we tried the inside loop. He managed to do it on the right lead the second time we tried. I really have to keep my leg on to keep him moving forward at the canter. It's a much tighter circle than we've been riding.
After we had done it to the left, I got off and put the jump away, leaving the poles out in an L. We worked that in both directions, another obstacle he KNOWS. It's a great way to get him to do lateral work, without having to work on leg yields. He is much more able to hold his body in a half pass position now than he has in the past.
Then we went back to do the livestock pen again, this time on the right lead. The first time through we lost it about half way around and trotted out. I said to him "you need to get your shoulders up. You can't do this with your head down or your shoulders low." Then we walked the pen with him in haunches in a couple of times. Then trotted it the same way. Then I tried it at the canter. We struggled but made it further than our first attempt. I said to Ashke, "if you can do this, we can be done with it." He gave it a great effort and I gave him lots of leg and verbal support. He did a very nice canter around that tight turn.
I made a huge deal out of him and then we followed the mare for a while. Finally, using my legs and neck reining, we wove through the orange cones at a walk. That was really hard since they were set very close together and on a bend. The fourth time we went through I let Ashke stop while I gave him lots of attention. I asked if he was done and he agreed.
It was a fun night and a great ride. Ashke keeps stepping up and answering any question I ask him. It makes me very happy and he seems to enjoy the challenge. Looking forward to my lesson tomorrow night.