I had an awesome ride last night. After my last lesson, I asked Amanda for a list of things to do during our off lesson rides. I have such a hard time remembering all of the things, I don't want to ride the test over and over since Ashke will learn it and want to do it on his own, plus I get distracted and forget to do stuff. She sent me this: serpentines, transitions, shoulder in, leg yields, spirals, leg yields at the canter and more transitions. That helped a lot and gave me direction in my ride.
I don't think that was the only reason my ride was awesome, though. I read an article on FB about how treats are a more effective training tool than wither scratches. Or praise. So, I loaded my hoodie up with a baggie of treats a friend gave us for the holidays. Ashke knew they were there - he saw me put them in the pocket.
There is only one issue with riding with treats in your pocket . . . . Ashke really believes that he should be rewarded for everything, so it takes a few minutes to get him to realize that he only gets a treat at the end of a set of exercises. Otherwise, we spend our ride taking one step, then asking for a treat.
We did great serpentines with distinct changes of bend and light, easy transitions. After doing that up and down the arena he got a treat and a walk break. Then we did shoulder in. For the first time I felt like he was actually doing the shoulder in and walking at a normal pace at the same time. Sometimes we get so cramped we stall out and it is a struggle. Not so last night. Again, he got a treat after we had a good shoulder in going in both directions. (By now he has figured out no treats until the set is done. And the set will be done quicker if he really puts out the effort.) Then we did leg yields at the walk from the rail to X and back to the rail (part of Novice B test), which he did really well at. It is harder going from X to the rail when the rail is the scary corner of the arena, but we did it going in both directions and then a treat. Then leg yields at the trot. Treat. Then canter leg yields transitioning down to the walk at the end of the arena. He did awesome! Treat. Then canter circles with a transition to the walk as you approach the rail. These are very tight circles and he did them very well. Treat.
That was the end of our ride.
Notes: he was stopping off my seat very well. I'm not sure if it's because he suddenly figured it out or if stopped was the only position he gets treats from, but we only had to add a reinback twice. He seemed to be extra willing to try for me, or at least for the treat. I really wish I could figure out the trigger for his snort and ear pinning when being asked to canter. I would like it to be soft and easy, like our trot transitions.