Monday, March 23, 2020

Double Slalom

Every once in a while it is good to have video proof of what is happening under saddle. I know what it feels like and I am still doing regular lessons (maintaining social distancing) so I have feed back from Amanda. However, it is good for me to SEE what he is doing.

We have an issue with holding our body straight in our flying changes going from the left lead to the right. It could be in part due to him wanting to protect his left hock, or it could be residual from him wanting to protect his left hock, or it could be my awesome training/riding technique that has taught him to throw his left hip in and do the boxer kidney bean move. (Anyone with a boxer will understand that comment.)

Either way, I have shared with Amanda and she has a game plan to work on it. If it is partly physical, we might just need to do what we can until we can have the doc come out to do injections. Here is the video my barn wife took during our joint ride yesterday (she rides a mare so the social distance is a couple of horse lengths. :) )

Wednesday, March 18, 2020


The new saddle is now mine. The woman who had it for sale traded me straight across for the Alta (she was very happy with how her mare liked the saddle and found it very comfortable for herself). The new saddle is a Circle Y Park and Trail with a Flex 2 tree. The only issue has been the attachments for the cinch are dropped down on both sides, which makes most of my cinches way too long.

 Nice profile for my boy's short back

 This is how dropped the cinch attachment is, which for such a small girth circumference is a lot.
Not a lot of room between his elbow and the D ring on his cinch.

I replaced the nylon latigos with leather ones and then started trying to find a cinch that will work. I am trying the mohair string cinches, either straight ones or the ones with the widened area across the bottom of their belly, with the leather holder for the off side and double roller ends for easy tightening.

The straight style

The one with the widened area across the belly

My biggest issue is that the cinch that allows more than a couple of inches on either side between the D ring on the cinch and the D ring on the saddle is a 26". The draw back is the D ring on the cinch is too low and causing issues with his elbows. The 28" places the D ring on the cinch in a great spot, but only allows a couple of inches between the two D rings. 
I tried a 26" straight cinch on Saturday and Sunday. Saturday was okay (we did a group lesson that was so much fun) but on Sunday, Ashke gave me a ton of attitude and began fighting me at any gait over a walk. After about ten minutes I finally got smart, jumped off and ran into get the 28" cinch. Ashke was so much happier afterwards.

This is what he gave me after the cinch change.

Sunday, March 1, 2020

New Saddle

New saddle 

So, in October of 2018, I decided to try and find a western saddle for showing. In my head I thought that I would ride in the Alta all of the time, except in the show. I knew I would need to practice some in the western saddle so that I wasn't going into the show cold, but what I wasn't expecting was for Ashke to like it better. The saddle I found was $350 dollars and weighs about six ton. The seat is really flat and not very comfortable for a long time spent in the saddle. Ashke loves it, but I am less of a fan.

Since last October, I have been conducting a soft search for a new saddle. It needed to be used, since my budget is less than a thousand, and it needed to be lighter, especially for trail riding. I haven't found anything, although I wasn't really searching, mostly just waiting for something to fall into my lap. 

A couple of weeks ago, one of the barn ladies saddled her horse in her western gear and the saddle made me do a double take. Small footprint, curved skirt, light weight (23 lbs). It's a Circle Y Flex 2 Trail Saddle. I mentioned it to my barn-wife ( I guess that is a thing) and two hours later she shared a FB marketplace ad for that exact saddle in dark brown and black. I reached out to the woman who was advertising and after several messages back and forth, I picked it up from her barn a week ago.

It is an awesome fit. Like, perfect even. I rode in it briefly a week ago (before heading out for my newest tattoo), Wednesday night and then I rode in it in my lesson on Thursday. Half way through the lesson on Thursday, Amanda looked at me and said "buy the saddle". 

A couple of changes at the end of the lesson

We had agreed to meet this morning and I took over the Alta for the seller to try. It fit her mare better than it fit Ashke, if that is possible. The woman rode in it and it seemed to work for her. We agreed to wait a week for her to try the Alta, and if she likes it we will do a straight trade (best option on the table) and if she decides not to get it, I will buy the saddle and then sell the Alta.

This was on Sunday, 3/1

We have been struggling with the right to left lead change (hocks, my riding, hocks) but they are miraculously much better. I can't wait to try my first trail ride in it. Although, the muscle pain in my back is a thing right now. That tells me I am sitting differently in this saddle and moving differently. Hopefully, the muscles will adapt quickly and get strong.

Sunday, February 16, 2020

I See You

House warming gift from my friend, Lori.

I cried.


I've been sitting on this post for a while, trying to decide if I wanted to write it. It chronicles a series of emotional events that came to a head the night after my last post and really showcases Ashke as healer.

The night my ex asked me for a divorce, two things happened. She cited Ashke as the reason she didn't want to be married, saying he was too much and she was tired of him. The second thing that happened was a wall came down inside me that locked any feelings away: I was focused on doing whatever needed to be done to get myself, Tristan and his girl into our own place in one safe piece. Amanda called it momma-mode. Everything else became unimportant. Uncle Daniel, my dead Indian friend/guide, whispered to me "Be like water".

That became my mantra: be like water. I interpreted those words to mean don't argue, don't sweat the small stuff, handle anything my ex did with grace and don't show any emotion in the face of betrayal. It was not easy dealing with what became blatant attempts to illicit an emotional reaction from me but I weathered the storm and tried to protect T as much as possible from the emotional repercussions of bad choices made by his other parent. During that process, which locked me down emotionally to the point where I shut off almost completely, I only cried one time and that was in reaction to my ex taking Stazi from the home during the middle of the day when I was at work without warning. T was told he had ten minutes to say goodbye. It was mean and petty and designed to maximize the hurt it caused me and by extension T and B.

 Riding on 2/15 in the snow.

By the end of October, all of the proceedings and stress were navigated: we were settled into our new (wonderful) home, with the beginnings of our new routines established. This house has things I will need to address in the future, but I love being here. Tristan loves being here. The dogs have settled and although they still bark at all five neighbors who have dogs, overall they are so much better here than they were at the condo. The yard is awesome. We've added fur babies to our new family. Life should have been good.

I was still struggling with Ashke. I know that the reason that was given for the divorce was bullshit. It had nothing to do with Ashke but she picked that reason thinking I wouldn't argue with her about it. (I wouldn't have argued either way - I was well aware of her affair with the woman she is currently buying a house with.) The issue wasn't what excuse she used, the issue was my emotional reaction to the reason. I haven't wanted to ride, or spend time with my horse, which has progressively gotten worse over the ensuing months. I've felt awful about it, felt awful about blaming him, felt awful about not wanting to go ride. Just everything.

And resentful.

 Working through the trot in fairly challenging footing which caused him to have to use his butt.

So in my last post I commented that there were issues brewing between him and I that would eventually surface. They did the next night in the indoor arena with just the two of us. 

His behavior over that two week period of time had been escalating: he was spooky, resistant, uncooperative and down right annoying. He was pushing every button I had and I just got more and more frustrated by my time spent with him as well as my time spent away from him. I was struggling to justify keeping him, and playing with the idea of putting him up for sale. I hadn't gotten so far as to write the sales ad, it had crossed my mind. Monday night it all came to a head. He just kept pushing and pushing.

Trotting half pass to the left

It was a hard spook from an object that has been in that arena since we moved to the barn that caused me to snap. He got smacked on the neck and a full on fight ensued in which he bounced and spooked and reacted while I screamed in frustration and rage and pain and loss. It ended up in the middle of the arena, where I screamed at him that it was his fault I was divorced and my life turned upside down and that we didn't like each other any more, and that I was going to sell him. He stood quivering beneath me with the oddest sense of waiting . . . like the other shoe was going to drop at any moment.

We moved forward at the walk and I burst into tears. Not soft, gentle streams of tears sliding down my face, this was full on body wracking, loud sobbing of the kind that happens after you lose something you love. I was shaking so hard I had to hold onto the horn as tears swelled my eyes shut and snot ran down my face. Ashke just walked. In a big circle around the edges of the arena (no longer spooking at anything) while waiting for the storm to subside. It was a moment of grace and forgiveness and love that I didn't deserve. At the end, I was empty but cleaned out of everything I had shoved down inside me; all of the pain and betrayal and loss (loss even if the end result was better and we are all happier for it), all of the moments of deliberate cruelty on her part that I had refused to react to. Everything was swept away. 

The connection between Ashke and I reestablished. Finally. Last Tuesday, walking out of the arena after our lesson, he reached out and touched the back of my neck with his muzzle. He was missing me as much as I was missing him.

His heart is so big.

Sunday, January 26, 2020

Spring in Winter

It's been unseasonably warm this January. No snow for the month to date, which has only happened four other times in recorded history. It has made for some pleasant riding outside on the weekends, provided the wind isn't blowing. Today was no exception.

This picture sums up everything about our current relationship that you might need to know.
Coming back into work is hard and he would much rather be a pasture poneh, thankuverymuch.

Half-pass through cones at the trot.

It was a difficult ride. We are both in a difficult place and I need to seriously channel my inner patience to weather this storm. I know there is something brewing beneath the surface for me and I am trying to work through it. After working on our arena stuff, we did a bit of a ride out of the arena, which seemed to help both of us immensely. I am looking forward to trail riding this spring.

Sunday, January 19, 2020

Rhythm Beads

I spent the day on Friday at the Stockshow with a group of barn friends, which included lots of laughing, food and some retail therapy. We ended the evening watching Gambler's Choice jumping show and enjoying the fact that I have zero desire to careen around an arena at mach 10 with limited steering and am thankful for the sport of Working Equitation.

One of the items we found was a set of Rhythm Beads. I've thought that it would be helpful to have them for some exercises in the arena, and would help me with confirming our rhythm, besides that, music is supposed to sooth the savage beast, so what would it hurt, amiright?

Bareback pad and Rhythm Beads

They are a turquoise blue-green, with purple accents and round orange beads that turn colors when they get warm (remember the mood rings in the 70's). The center piece is feathers and a shield wheel for weight. 

They also came with three strands to be hooked into the horse's mane, which were on the other side of his neck.

Center piece that hangs on his chest.

We had a very fun ride. Amanda (my trainer) and her sister K were riding together. Amanda started on her FEI Grand Prix horse, Laz, and K was riding their mare, Maggie (3rd-4th level). I was riding bareback with the rhythm beads on, listening to the music Ashke was making. About the time we were warmed up and ready to start working on our more difficult things, Amanda's mom hollered out and suggested we play follow the leader. By that time, Amanda and K had switched horses, so I started following Amanda on Maggie. 

It was so much fun!!

We did shoulder in and haunches out, changes of bend and 10 meter half circles, half pass with changes, shallow serpentines with changes, pretty much anything Amanda could think to throw at us. I finally had to call a short break because I was starting to feel my exhaustion (bareback vs saddle - the struggle is real). I sat in the center of the arena and watched K get a very soft, very relaxed piaffe for a couple of steps and several moments of passage. Then we did another session with all three horses again. Laz led that round with Ashke and I taking up the rear behind Maggie. It was amazing. And like always, when I am not concentrating on each moment and just relaxing with the flow, his changes improved. 

We talked about organizing a ride with six or eight of us, where we do a drill team ride. There's things its easier to figure out in a group and it teaches the horses to relax and move together. Plus, its fun to ride with your friends. I thought yesterday, while we were cantering behind Maggie, that Ashke doesn't rush or try to race the other horses at the canter in the arena, even when following another horse. I wish I could train that behavior on the trail as well, since we still struggle at the canter on trail.