Thursday, December 14, 2017

When Good Horses Go Bad

I rode Monday night after having five days off (freaking December is killing my riding mojo) and although Ashke and I got grumbly at each other (he will stop spooking at the far end of the arena or we will both be grumbly for every ride until it happens) but the ride ended on a good note. Although, I was once again thrown into the "why would I ever want to show again if I can't get my horse to ride past that end of the arena without reacting". He's not even looking at stuff when I hand walk him, nor is he when we are walking or trotting past the obstacles and jump standards. It's when we start cantering that the attitude comes out. He did get smacked on the neck for being an idiot and balking, but then I rode him in a circle back to the spot where he stopped his canter and made him pick it up again. We did canter half circles at that end of the arena until he would do them (because he can do it - that's not the issue) with proper bend, proper cadence and no giraffing. But it left a bad taste in both our mouths.

I do have to say that the arguments we are having now are much less intense, difficult or reactive in comparison to a year ago. A year ago, I would have ended the ride in tears and Ashke would have been tense and distrustful. Monday, it was just grumbly, not an all out fight. And after the open slap on his neck and me telling him to knock it off, he was much better.

Tuesday, we were both warm and affectionate with each other. Kind of like a married couple after bickering about socks. I hand walked him around the arena, passing all of the jump stuff in both directions, and his only reaction was to try and tip the barrel over and eat the plastic flowers out of the jump boxes. We did walk-trot-canter in various combinations and although he did react a bit to the jump standards, a twitch on the rein brought his attention back to me.

One of the other riders at the barn came in while we were riding. Her horse, a QH build like a brick shit house, has been laid up for almost 18 months. He tangled with an electrical fence tape about the same time Ashke degloved his left hind leg. D has been through two surgeries on the injury and his owner, G, is just now getting him back into work. Since I was there and riding, G decided to hop on D and walk a bit around the arena. She had ridden him a week or so prior, and he had been fine, although he gave his trainer a bit of a handful when she was up on him. G thought that all of that had been resolved in the subsequent rides.

She saddled him and stood him by the mounting block for a bit, making him stand still til she was ready to get on. Ashke and I were working the double slalom pattern, although I was changing it up by making him do circles all the way around each pole before doing a transition through the halt to change leads. He was listening well and I really wasn't paying attention to anything other than my communication with him.

G swung up on D and the next thing I know D is bolting across the arena and G is hauling back on her reins trying to get him to stop. Ashke and I halt in place and I add my voice to G's, yelling "D whoa!!!" I could see that G was in trouble. D wasn't listening to her at all, he was in a simple snaffle that gave her no leverage and had a running martingale on. G was trying to do a one rein stop, but the martingale wasn't allowing her to pull his head around to disengage his hind quarters. It also prevented her from pulling his head up, since it was holding his head down. The second turn around the indoor and they almost hit the wall of the arena, and when D circled toward Ashke and I, I really thought he was going to crash into us. The scenes from those driving classes where the horse and cart go careening around the arena crashing other horse and carts flashed through my head, but D dodged at the last moment and missed us.

Ashke didn't move. We were both of the opinion that less movement would not contribute any more energy to the explosiveness that was happening.

On his third circuit, D started adding crowhopping to his resume, and at that point the writing was on the wall. I didn't think it would end well and I think G came to the same decision. Additionally, the saddle was slipping to the outside. G looked for a soft place to land and dropped off  the outside. D managed to get free without stepping on her. G rolled over in the sand and began to crawl out of the arena. She was moving and conscious.

I swung off and grabbed D before he could continue to rampage. He was pretty wild and it took a moment to get him. By that time, G was up and had found her glasses (I do not miss wearing glasses for just that reason) and confirmed verbally that although her back hurt, she was moving and not broken and didn't need an ambulance.

I took Ashke over and put him at the tie rack in his halter, then took a lunge line and D back to the middle of the arena. I removed the martingale, tied his reins around the horn to keep them out of our way, straightened out the saddle and tightened the girth, then ran the lunge line through his bit and up over his head to the other side. Then I asked him to move in a circle. G warned me that he didn't lunge well, but once I got him going in a circle he continued on his own. I just asked him to move until he stopped trying to bolt, his head came down a bit and he was licking and chewing. Then we reversed direction and did it the other way. He choose to travel in a rapid trot for almost 30 minutes before I stopped him because he was short striding on his left hind.

He was pretty sweaty. G walked him for a bit to let him cool and dry. I had thought to have her get back on him, but it was pretty obvious when we went to attempt that, that he was going to explode again. G put him away and we gave him 1g of bute, since he had just done a bunch more exercise than he had in the past 18 months. G agreed to get help from her trainer before trying to ride him again in the form of lunging, ground work and maybe a lead line lesson. And she agreed to wear her helmet next time.

Ashke watched everything calmly from his spot on the hitch rail. He really is such a great horse.

I don't know if it was saddle fit or just flat out bad attitude on the part of D when G swung up, but that was one of the most terrifying things I've witnessed. I feel very thankful that G wasn't hurt (sore muscles the next day seems to be the extent) and that D was fine the next morning. I expect that with some specific training and exercise, he will go back to the horse she had the last time she was able to ride.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Feet in Review

 This last Friday, my farrier came out and did Ashke’s feet. This was the third set of shoes since I treated him with the iodine and hydrogen peroxide for the WLD. I took some pics of his hooves, so I had them for reference, in prep for this post. I’ve been thinking about his feet over the past almost six years and decided to go back and see what the pictures showed. 

When I first brought him home, his feet were in pretty rough shape, although given his overall condition, it was not a surprise. I found a farrier and had him come out to work on Ashke, but was not real happy with the results. There was no break over, Ashke was interfering back to front, and his feet showed signs of bruising (bloody spots in the White Line. When I spoke to my then farrier about the interference and issues with soundness, his response was to unbalance the foot to keep Ashke from clipping. I was not impressed. When I moved to TMR, I was able to get him in with a barefoot farrier who worked with us for almost two years. That started our struggle of barefoot-with-hoof-boots-trying-to-keep-Ashke-sound that would stretch for four long years. 

His LF, which will be the focus of this post.

This pic was taken in December of 2012, when I moved to using a barefoot trimmer at TMR. You can see the White Line issues on either side of his hoof. We have been dealing with this since I brought him home. Michele did a good job with trimming him, however, I think the overall quality of his forage at every barn he was at prior to Morelli’s was contributing to his foot issues. The hay at TMR sucked. And Ashke wouldn’t eat the grass mix hay at all. He was on seven flakes of alfalfa, a half pound of amplify, Smartpak supposed, and equipride during this time. I finally threw out the Purina grain based feed and amplify (he didn’t need that much fat in his diet) and replaced it with TC Senior. I stopped messing with the bran mash, and just used the Senior as my base for wet mashes. 

Michele stopped trimming in August of 2014, and recommended a new farrier. He came out and did a trim on Ashke. Ashke was lame afterward. Lame enough that I called a new farrier to come out and look at him. The new farrier was concerned about the length of his hoof capsule, but suggested magic cushion and to give it some time to grow. I was still very committed to keeping Ashke barefoot, so I did some research and found Dan. Dan was a certified equine podiatrist and spent a year trimming Ashke. During that time, it became more and more difficult to keep Ashke sound. His hoof depth was short and Dan stopped trimming the flares his grows naturally. The WLD got significantly worse. The hollows on the edges of the hoof below were grooves in the WL. 

I got concerned enough about the deep hollows and untreated flares, that I called a new farrier, Kris.

On our first trim, Kris said his hoof was short, there was concern about bar abscesses, and we discovered a 8 mm stone buried deep under the frog, that had been there long enough that it had created its own little hollow in his frog. We were stabling at SQA at that point, flirting with the barley grass they really wanted to feed all of the horses, but every time Ashke went on it, he grew sore footed with ridging in his hoof wall. I was treating his hoof with a plethora of farrier recommended products. Kris wanted mine to treat the bar abscess with betadine and sugar, or No Thrush. I got a huge bottle of No Thrush and within a couple of trim cycles, the thrush was gone. But not the WLD. 

The bottom of his hoof was black from the Magic Cushion.

During all of this time, we wee also struggling with hoof boots. Ashke hated them and I hated how he moved in them. He was toe first and stumbling, stilted and stiff when we rode. I would put the hoof boots on, but we never finished the ride still in them. Even on super rocky trails, he moved better being tender and stiff without boots, then he did while wearing them. I was soooo frustrated with both the tenderness and the issues with his feet we were still.dealing with.

Kris first trim. You can see the little round spot at the top of the frog where the stone was removed.

In December of 2015, we moved to Morelli Ranch. Ashke was put on a diet of four flakes of alfalfa and a couple of flakes of grass hay a day. He gets about a pound of TC Senior and his supplements. His run is well drained and he gets two hours of turn out a day, seven days a week. In a matter of a couple of months, he went from a horse that was a hard keeper to one that has maintained his perfect weight with great muscle gain with no changes to his feed program for more than eighteen months. That was amazing to see happen. We were still dealing with his feet however.

I finally made the decision last September to put shoes on Ashke. I was done dealing with the hoof boots and the constant tenderness. The unexpected happened. Ashke needed the extra support the shoes gave him on his fronts and Dr D was so impressed with how he moved, that she told me to put the shoes on all four feet. In the year, since we made that decision, we went from pads and bell boots, with lots of tripping at about five weeks, to a completely sound and solid horse. The WLD was still there, despite several attempts on my part to get rid of it. My newest farrier, Trey (whom we LOVE), told me we had to stay on it until it was gone. I did two applications of White Lightning. It did nothing. I talked to Amanda and she suggested a mix of iodine and hydrogen peroxide. I did that. Two applications a week apart, even with the shoes on, finally fixed the WLD, 

The same hoof on Friday, after the shoe came off and the trim was done.

This is the third trim/shoe cycle since the treatment that finally knocked out the WLD. There is still some roughness where the deep pitting on the outside edges of the hoof were, but when you touch it, it is hard and dry, not soft and spongy like it had been. I expect on the next trim cycle, even that will be gone. Trey says it is gone. Ashke says his hoofs feel really good. I am really happy that we’ve finally got his feet healthy and happy.

I know that the majority of the heavy lifting in fixing his feet was accomplished by the good food he is getting on the daily. You can not underestimate the importance of great forage and balanced nutrients. 

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Necessary Skillz

I just watched the new movie, Out of the Wild, based on the book by Mark Rashid, produced and directed by Mark Rashid and just released on both DVD (Amazon) or electronic (iTunes). It was very, very good and I highly recommend it. I love old cowboys, and horses, and romantic love stories and this movie hit all of the high points. Go buy it and download it on iTunes to watch. Then buy the book and read it (I absolutely loved the book - better than the movie, even).

There was a scene that really resonated with me in the last part of that movie. Henry is leading a string of horses, each of them in a halter with the lead rope tied in a loop around the horse in front of them. Henry was holding the lead rope of the first ponied horse in his hand. He had a string of five or six horses following without issue behind him.

Rope around the horse in front like so, with a non-slip knot
(From the interwebs)

Flash to this morning when I was watching a newscast from southern California, where a news reporter was at a ranch that they were trying to evacuate. There were flames shooting high into the air in the background and you could barely see because of the rolling walls of smoke. I wanted to teleport into the scene, throw a saddle on one of the horses, link five or six behind me and lead them to safety. I wanted to scream at people to start rescuing the horses. (The good news is someone updated that all of the horses were rescued.)

From the interwebs

One of the big issues with any kind of evacuation is that not every horse owner has a rig to move their horse. Barn owners might have a trailer to move their own horses, or to help boarders moving in or out, other boarders might also have personal trailers, but there never seems to be enough trailers or trucks to haul out the trailers that are available. Not only that, but what if the road in and out of a ranch is blocked and impossible to haul a trailer down? It seems to me that grabbing a group and heading out on horseback makes more sense then just turning the horses loose. Part of the problem with turning horses loose is the prevalence of fences and barbed wire. This is why it is also important to carry a pair of wire cutters in your carry bag. 

I've decided to put "ponying multiple horses" on my list of skills to be learned. Ashke needs to know how to do it from both the ponied horse position as well as the being ponied horse position. We have ponied Eddy in the past, but I want to do other horses as well, in order to develop the skillz to handle any group at a time. I think it is an important skill set for both you and your horse to have.

In Colorado, we face flood and fire on a regular basis. It is good to have options to get the horses to safety.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017


The time between Samhain and Winter Solstice always seems to resonate with darkness as we lose day-light savings time and the days get shorter and shorter. The melancholy of the impending turn of the wheel is difficult to shake with the joy of giving to our loved ones that this season symbolizes when it's 80 degrees out. Last night, going to dinner with J, it was cold enough to see my breath in the air. The lights draping the trees seemed brighter, happier in the crispness of the air. Crazy that our Decembers are so warm.

It was just cold enough that even when I made it to the barn, when the opportunity came to let Ashke play with Ardee (TB mare owned by my good friend Ree) in the arena with the big ball, how could I say no. Ardee was very unsure of the whole thing, and I think Ashke was a bit puzzled by why she wasn't willing to joining him in playing. Ardee really likes Ashke and will let him snuffle and sniff, with soft whuffles and touches, with only a little bit of mare-warning in his direction.

Ardee, however, wanted nothing to do with the ball. She reared, jumped, bucked and did a bunch of aires above the ground during their 30 minutes of fun. Ashke was focused on his ball, but would leave it to take off racing after her when she exploded. Then he would go back to his ball and Ardee would watch with terrified inquistiveness until it was just to much once again, and then she would race off.

Toward the end, Ashke was trying slowly and carefully to get her to play with him. He would move the ball toward her, like saying "look, its okay". Ree finally had her come up and touch the ball, but Ardee never really understood the point.

I love watching the muscles over his withers ripple as he moves. He has a huge, floating trot now and I made the comment to Ree that it's no wonder his trot has become so difficult to ride in a sitting trot.

I groomed him really well after, then put on a heavier blanket for the night. Tucked him in with a solid feed of TC Senior and some sweet potato treats with marshmallows.

Sixteen more days until the Sun is reborn and the energy of this slow, sleeping, melancholy time is turned into the growing awakening of Spring.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Looking Back

I missed my goal by two letters, since this is the 24th post in November and there are 26 letters in the alphabet. It couldn't be helped. My life right now is cray-cray. Instead of doing an X-Y-Z post for today, I wanted to take a look back at what we were working on in our lessons a year ago, versus what we are doing now.

This was cantering a year ago

We were working primarily on getting the canter down and starting our lateral work. November was the first month where he showed signs of slowing down and being balanced. We were having issues with bend. He was still struggling with some physical issues with both his feet and his haunches, however, he was in consistent work and weekly lessons. 

This was a week ago

We are now working on half pass, shoulder in and haunches in at the trot, the beginnings of flying changes, developing the medium trot vs the collected trot, developing the medium canter vs the collected canter (the video above shows this is a work in progress), trot circle to leg yield. Amanda said in our last lesson that it is amazing how far we've progressed in the past year. 

We have sacrificed a lot of time on trail to developing our skills in the arena. I would have thought we would both be miserable, but I think we both like this. It is amazing to me that a shift in my shoulders by an inch in either direction is the difference between a flowing half pass and a tied up, pretzeled attempt. 

It is hard. Maybe one of the hardest things I've ever worked consistently at. I have a small muscle at the top of my ass that is sprained right now because I am trying to use my legs consistently in ways legs shouldn't be used. But we are getting closer. We are still learning. We are progressing, regardless of what our show scores say.

Ashke and I are no longer arguing about the South end of the arena. If he starts to get silly, a soft pop on the bit reminds him to stay focused, and I am no longer allowing him to derail our conversation. Shoulder in ridden through deeper footing, at the trot is enough to convince him perhaps it is less work to do what I ask then to play silly buggers. 

Our warm ups are easier than a year ago, with walk-trot-canter being available immediately. I am still walking for the first five to ten minutes, doing shoulder in, leg yields and reminding him to stay on the bit at the walk during warm up. The issues of short striding, cross cantering, and feeling rough have evaporated in the past six months, resolved by the myofascial release done by Tracy Vroom. (I can't say enough good about that session and how much has changed under saddle for the two of us because of it). A year ago, cantering was still hit and miss, and he protested the attempts a lot, kicking at my feet frequently because of it. 

In our last lesson, we walked down centerline while I shifted the bend from haunches to the left, the straight and then haunches to the right while keeping the shoulders on the line. I will be working that exercise in a figure eight pattern, using it during our transition at the walk, with a change of lead and canter circles on either side. I need to do this exercise more than he does, so I can build the muscle memory of that movement. I recognized last night that what is keeping us from flying changes is not him, but me. I don't have the muscle memory to make that ask in the .005 of a second I have available to me when we are working on the change. I need to work this exercise until it becomes second nature and I am able to do it in a single walk stride. At that point, I should be able to do it for a flying change. It should also become crystal clear to Ashke which lead we are after. 

I have to laugh that dressage has become so delightful.

Monday, November 27, 2017


T and J at Winter Park for their first trip of the season. The lift lines were very long and the snow was ice.
Not to mention, only about 18” at the base.
T’s helmet is a Ruroc called the Reaper.
It is lit.

J’s ski bike.
I guess it is very swoops.
And Orange.

Saturday, while J and T were skiing, I took Ashke out to the back forty and we did five miles.
I tracked it.
Five times around the perimeter of the property.
He was very bouncy and not listening very well.
This stretch of ground makes a great galloping track, so much so, that we walked and trotted it.

Every time we got to this point, homie wanted to breakneck gallop.
We did half pass instead.
I know, I’m a complete downer.
However, still alive today, so there’s that.

Got some of my lights up this weekend outside, but had to order some new light strings for the front.
What is it with projector lights?
Costco tree perfectly fits the space we have for it. Will let it relax for a day and decorate it tomorrow night.

I have had some excellent rides on Ashke the past couple of days. I have continued handwalking past the end of the arena and it has helped, although he has been spooky the past couple of days, just in general. So have my dogs. And so have all of the other horses. Something in the air, I think. 

We have worked on lateral work, canter transitions through the walk, cantering on the right lead with haunches in, all of our lateral work and last night we did collected to medium trot and back. He did good.