Thursday, June 22, 2017

Four Days

Before my trip to see my mom in Arizona, Ashke and I were fighting. I don't know if the maxim of "distance makes the heart grow fonder" works with horses, but we both seem to be past that point. My ride on Sunday, although short, was very good. My only issue was finding his left hind swollen and with a scab on part of the scar tissue.

I went out on Monday and clipped the hair around the scar tissue, finding the skin kind of swollen, although not hot, and scaley. I put some medicine on it (antibiotic steriodal cream I got from the vet) and covered it with an equisleeve. J went out on Tuesday to hold him for shoes and the sleeve was still on. When I got there Weds night, he had managed to shove it down under his fetlock around his pastern, and the leg was a little puffy both above and below the sleeve. I swear, horses!! I pulled the sleeve off and was happy to see that the leg looked better. The scaley part of the scar tissue was smooth.

Based on a conversation I had with Saiph, I covered the scar tissue with hydrocortisone cream. Hopefully, that will help keep it from itching and he will stop scratching it open.

I took him over to rinse him off since he was a dull yellow. I realized as I tacked him up for our lesson that I hadn't given him a good grooming in quite some time because he is always urine soaked. I told him that I would give him a good grooming at the end of the our ride.

He was fantastic during our lesson. I was quiet and calm and he was responsive and willing. We've managed to get past ourselves and I think the time apart made our hearts grow fonder. Now, if I can just maintain my calm on Sunday, we could have a great show.

After our ride, I spent a long time grooming Ashke. I used the sleekez (great tool), a rubber curry and a soft brush. We went over all of the parts several times until the sand around us was littered with piles of white hair. He was so happy he completely dropped. Like dangled. Even after I took a peak at it. It must have felt really good.

This weekend will be super busy. Keep your fingers crossed for me that we maintain our cool. I'll see you on the flip side.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Home Again

The trip was fairly uneventful. The dogs only tried to kill every motorcycle or bicycle on the road that they saw. The boy spent the night before the drive playing xbox and hanging out with his friends on line, then slept the entire drive. At least we didn't have to hear "are we there yet?"

 Skittle thinks she must be the closest to traffic in front of us.

Lily takes a turn after Skittle gets in the back seat again. Neither of them fit well with the other adult in that seat.
They are not small dogs.

 Cliff Swallows with nests.

I love swallows.

It was hot. Like 110 hot. We spent the week hanging out inside keeping my mom company, getting her drinks, food, ice, helping out around the house  and watching Criminal Minds. Oh. And playing Wooden Block on our phones. If you've never tried it, don't. Wery, wery addictive. 

 Morning we left. Sun coming up in the East over the mountains. 
I can never figure out where I am in Arizona. Mostly because the mountains are in the wrong direction.

 Salt River Canyon.
Saw the wild ponehs.
Didn't get pictures.

 More mountains.
It was very pretty at 5 in the morning.
Already 80 though.

 The one thing I love about Arizona is the Saguaro.
Don't know why. I just think it's cool.

 On the drive down, I saw this house.
It needed windows, a roof and a wall.
I thought "gosh, what a cute place, it just needs a little work and I could live there."
J thought, "that house was abandoned because everyone living there killed themselves."

 Everyone tried to pass the time by sleeping.

We were an hour away from home. Skittle was done.
I mean done.
She needed snuggles big time.

Ashke seeing me for the first time after ten days.

I had to wash him off before I could ride. He was sweet and responsive. We worked on transitions at our marks in the arena. Not much of a ride, but productive. The only bummer was that he's been messing with the scar tissue on his left hind. I think the long hair there is making it itch. I ended up clipping the hair off of his left hind fetlock which exposed strange scar tissue. It's almost like there's a scab there and the skin isn't smooth. I put some antibiotic cream on it then put him in a equisleeve (I bought these a while ago on sale). I'm hoping that keeps him from tearing it open. 

Wednesday, June 7, 2017


I finally realized last night that both Ashke and I are tired and we both need a bit of a break.

We got in a bit of a fight on Monday over going back to canter work after sitting and talking with a barn fellow for twenty minutes. He didn't think he should have to work and so he resorted to balking and throwing his head up. It is his go-to temper tantrum. He got swatted on the neck with an open hand and then I threatened to sell him. He must of understood, because respectful and obedient Ashke returned and we spent 20 minute cantering in big circles. We would slow and walk until I caught my breath and then canter again, switching directions between walk breaks. We were both hot, sweating freely and pretty much done with each other at the end of our ride.

One night after our ride, just hanging out

I could barely walk on Tuesday. I pulled my right calf muscle on Saturday when we were riding at PVF, plus my groin and thighs are hating me right now. I had a lesson last night and both Ashke I felt off when we started. Except he felt off on the left hind. I basically hurt all over.

 More random video

I talked to Amanda about it during our lesson. He was obviously stiff and we worked a lot on stretching out the left side. We had a great ride and he was very responsive to my requests. Our transitions are getting better every time. However, we both felt tired.

I realized that I have been riding four days a week, mostly dressage stuff, consistently since Expo. The things we are working on are more and more difficult. I know I am feeling sore and old. Like really old. I can imagine that Ashke feels the same. He's seemed tired and a bit lethargic over the past couple of weeks. I was reevaluating whether or not I needed to adjust his feed (I really don't want to add oats because of his feet, but am considering some amplify, since his ribs are beginning to show and the extra fat will increase his energy) but I think we will try some rest first.

I love watching him move

We are going to give him four days off in a row. I am going to Arizona for a week to visit with my mom, and I will have our next show the weekend after I get home. I don't want to let him just sit, so Amanda will put three rides on him while I am gone. I will do a lesson where we will ride the dressage test on the Tuesday when I am back and then we will just hack and hang out on Thursday. Then our show day is Sunday. After the show, I think we will both take a break for the week and do a trail ride of some sort the weekend after. He's learned so much in the past three months and gotten so much stronger that giving him a break might be exactly what he needs.

Monday, June 5, 2017

WE Playday

We have a show in three weeks, at Plane View Farm, where Ashke and I will be showing at L3 (Novice B). I had hoped for an opportunity to ride an EOH course before then and the BO at PVF heard my spoken/unspoken wish and scheduled a playday for anyone interested in working the obstacles. I signed up for a ride on Saturday, and then encouraged Amanda to join me with her Maggie. We ended up going and her sister and mom joined us. I was excited since it would give me the opportunity to look over the venue, would give Ashke and I some practice and exposure in a new environment.

We got to PVF way earlier than we expected and spent time outside warming up our horses. Ashke was looky but not too bad and once we were warmed up, he was really good. When it was time to go inside, I was feeling pretty confident that he would listen and not fight me to go faster. I tell you, getting him to understand the difference between EOH and Speed may be our biggest challenge. It's a real struggle. It's amazing to me that he will do any obstacle without hesitation, but I can't keep him from racing when I ask for the Canter. It became a fight because I didn't have the patience to do otherwise. I should have slowed down but I was feeling like I only had an hour to work through all of our issues. And I was a bit frustrated with his behavior. Plus, I might have been fighting the hangry monster as well.

At the end of our ride, I really wondered why we were still doing this. WE is hard. It's really hard to do well. Ashke is more fond of doing things fast than doing them right. I need to develop better coping mechanisms, remember that we should be having fun and that my relationship with him is the most important. I made a comment to Amanda and she said we did better than I thought we had. After reviewing the videos that J took, I can see that she is right. However, I can't allow the upfront fight we sometimes fall into to derail the really great moments we had.

Santori and Leslie

He's so brave doing new stuff in the arena but a complete skatterball when it comes to items on the fringes of the arena.

Maggie refusing to go through the water. Again.
She just decided no.

The first time over the jump was exciting.
Ashke completely took a long spot and jumped me completely out of the tack.

I think that a huge part of my issue on Saturday stemmed from my feeling like I was going to run out of time. That, and I wanted to treat it like a show, where there isn't an opportunity to school the obstacles. Ashke was of another mind. Once he overjumped the jump, we went back and schooled it at the trot, then the trot to canter and finally the canter. He was much more reasonable in his jump effort after the first time. 

Doing the drag an object for the first time

Again, I really thought this would be an issue for Ashke, especially since he is so nervous and anxious about dragging items behind him. But Braveheart was Brave. He was more anxious about the rope in my hand than the drag behind us. 

Maggie would do the water obstacle in hand, but not under saddle.
She finally followed Ashke through the water without a big fuss.

When we were fighting. He just was so reactive about the far wall.

And more.

Bridge. No biggie.

Double slalom

Dragging the log. 

He will not stand.

Hand on my hip telling him to stand still.

Rounding an Obstacle


Sidepass poles

At the end of the session, Ashke was hot and tired. His right hind was showing signs of fatigue and I was hot and sweaty. We spent the last few minutes just walking from point to point. Then we unsaddled, loaded up and headed home. I have some stuff to talk to Amanda about on Tuesday during our lesson. I want a solid strategic plan in place to help me deal with my frustration at Ashke's behavior. 

When we got back to the barn, I clipped Mez. He's a huge guy, very sweet, but covered in long hair. I offered to make him more comfortable and so we did that after our ride.

He didn't move. I had to use a step stool to reach his back and ended up covered in long black hair. He was so much happier when I was done. 

We picked up pizza for dinner then headed to bed. J rode Elephant Rock on Sunday.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

A Week

Time sure flies when you are busy. My week included playing driver for the young man suddenly inhabiting my house, which resulted in 200 miles of driving in three days so he could spend time with his new girl. We are hoping this will motivate him to find a job, because the only thing holding him back from being a licensed driver is having the means to pay his insurance. Whole new levels of terror await. You'd think surviving the new levels of independence would get easier as they got older, but not really.

I had a lesson on Tuesday, May 23, then rode the back 40 at the barn on Wednesday.

We did 4.5 miles around the perimeter in about 45 minutes.
He was on fire.

Such a beautiful barn. I love where we board.

I skipped riding on Thursday. I rode early on Friday in the arena. Saturday I skipped riding, mostly because it rained all day, and we did stuff around town. Sunday we rode the South Platte trail from Adams County Fairgrounds. The ride started with what sounded like pig slaughter from the barns closest to where we parked (Ashke is not a fan), although I'm pretty sure it had something to do with 4-H.

 Mostly traveled at Ashke's pace.

 Goofy boy

 Pretty boy

 Grazing the deep green grass

 Friend A, not amused by the camera

 He wouldn't drink from the river
He drank from every puddle we came across.

18 miles in just under four hours

Monday I was super sore and ended up only do a brief ride mostly to keep us both moving.

 Skittle growling at her sister

 Sleeping Skittle

 Lily. Stalking the baby black kitten.

Little Black Kitten (she's 10 years old)

Monday, May 22, 2017

Barn Party WE Style

 One of the reasons I spent Mom's Day working on obstacles is because of our pending Barn Party and Intro to WE we were having at my barn. And Babe, the Big Blue Bull, perished this winter so I needed the Burro Bull, anyway. So, by Saturday, most of the stuff was done, including painting the obstacle numbers and putting the stencils on them. The only item that still needed work was the bridge.

We bought more 3" nails and a piece of mdf to go over the top of the bridge. We headed to the barn to fix the issues (hole through the top) and get it set up for Sunday. Luckily, our BO had pulled it out of the field and left it for us next to the barn. We carried it over to a power source and took a look at what we had to do. The mdf board was too wide, so after a quick call to the barn owners, we carried it up and cut it with their table saw (seriously need to get one of those!), then went back to affix it to the bridge. We strengthened the bottom board from the bottom, adding two additional layers under the hole, then laid the new board on top.

T wanted to work the power tools, so I left him and J to fix the bridge (they also had to reaffix the side pieces with screws rather than nails) and went to soak Ashke's feet. He has WLD and I am doing an anti-fungal soak every time I am at the barn. He was surprisingly sweet and didn't even fuss when I put his foot in the soaking pan.

 Power Tools FTW!

They finished the bridge about the time I finished with Ashke's feet, so we headed home.

Sunday morning, J headed to the gym (she is working out to prepare for her 40 mile bike race in three weeks) and I cooked lunch for the barn potluck. Then I created risers out of some of the spare wood from the bridge project. I want to replace them with the potty seats from IKEA, but until then, they will work. When J got home, we loaded everything up and headed to the barn.

 In the far corner is Varied Footing (14), #11 is Rounding Several Poles, and the Garrocha (#3,7)
  Amanda and her sister were there and helped us set up. 
The arena is 90'x130'.
We put 14 obstacles in there. Well, mostly.

 Along the back rail was the Double Slalom (#2) and the single slalom (#12)
The single slalom shared three poles with the Double Slalom
Drums in front (#10)

Amanda walking past the bull (#4), sidepass poles (#8), Gate (#1), Bridge (#6) and Corridor with Bell (#9). The bridge is on the far side of the gate. The Corridor was set in the scary corner, which wasn't as scary on Sunday.

And the Livestock Pen set outside the side door to the arena. 
The original plan was to do this in the outdoor, but you can see the effects of the snow we got on Weds and Thursday.

We ate our lunch first and my chili seemed to be a hit. There were fewer people there than I expected, but everyone that showed up was interested in trying WE for the first time. After lunch, I walked everyone through the course walk, explaining the obstacles and demonstrating the order they would be ridden. Once we had walked the course, everyone grabbed their horse and went to walk the arena with them. Ashke was in his stall and he got very animated when the other horses started working the obstacles. He seemed to be screaming "hey, hey, that's mine! Those are my obstacles! You can't play on them!!"

We started in hand first.

Ashke didn't need to do it in hand, but it made more sense to walk around with him rather than just stand and wait until people were ready to ride.

The only really bad distance was the livestock pen to the bridge. It was maybe two strides. Hard to get a canter transition up and down in two strides.

 Bridge approach

 Making sure it's his bridge

 SD Finnegan (Gypsy Cob) was nonplussed at all of the things
I think he would be so darn cute riding the obstacles.

 After the walk through we got saddled up.

People played around the course for almost an hour between the in hand work and riding. Then we pulled everyone to the front of the arena and had each person ride the course. Most people were able to trot between the obstacles, trot the slaloms and then do the obstacles at a walk. There were obstacles they were attempting that they wouldn't have to try in a show at Intro (Rounding Several Poles, Sidepass) and those obstacles were a bit harder. The gate flummoxed a couple of people the first time, but doing the reverse gate seemed easier, almost. The horse had begun to figure out what the point of the exercise was.

 Watching Amanda ride her Intermediare I horse through the course was amazing.
Four stride flying changes through the single slalom.
Something to Strive For.

 Hanging out next to Amanda waiting our turn.
(I went last)

So, I got that spurt of adrenaline in the pit of my stomach two rides away from our turn and spent the next ten minutes or so trying to let my energy go. Ashke had gotten warmed up prior to schooling most of the obstacles at the canter but then we had stood for quite a while and I wasn't sure how upset he was going to be at being asked to ride the course. I took him out for the warm up and asked for a canter. He threw his head up and charged. We stopped immediately and I made him back his ass up. Then we sat there for a few moments and thought about it. When I asked for the canter, he gave me the canter we have been working toward since last September. I cantered around a few obstacles and then gave my salute (might as well practice like it's a show). 

Ashke was wonderful. He was a little sluggish at the gate moving off my leg, but after that he was magnificent. Our double slalom was the best he's ridden so far and he was really moving his shoulders around for me, although I could hear Amanda say "look up" about half way through. Although, I did stop after the second pole and go back to try it again. He did not gather himself well and we did not get the canter depart. He did it much better going forward from there.

He did not veer away from the garrocha or the bull and after we missed the ring and were headed for the livestock pen, he stopped off my seat. I could hear people applauding when I dropped the pole off (I was the only one who did not stop to pick up the pole - but I was also the only one with experience). His sidepass was very good and the corridor was great. I made him pause for a count of ten at the end of the corridor before ringing the bell and backing out. We lost our haunches a little bit on the drums, but overall he did them better than he has ever done them in a competition. We wove our reinback down the Rounding Several objects on the right side and he did good. The single slalom was hard but we made it through with solid transitions. The reverse gate was easy and he didn't even hesitate to walk over the varied footing.

I was so proud of him. I think if we can do this in a show if I can control my nerves and keep him focused.

It was such a fun day. Hopefully, we will get to do it again some time. Everyone seemed to enjoy themselves.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Mother's Day

I am achy and sore this week and my body is reminding me that I am not twenty-something any more. Being very busy can do that to a person.

Saturday after I dropped Ashke and the trailer off, I went to Lowe's to gather supplies. I got five foot long pvc 1" pipe to fit into the construction cones to create bending poles, 2x6x8 fir planks (what the fuck happened to cheap ass pine?) to create my own set of numbers, and some 2x4x8 fir planks for my bell hanger. Then I picked up some scrap lumber, which was actually fairly functional, for free and a 4x8' hemlock ply sheet (not mdf) for the bull. I finished my purchases off with 3" wood screws, a couple of magnets and some liquid nail.

Then I got home and carted it all down stairs with minimal help from T (he was primping in the bathroom). By that point I was pretty tired. I drove T to the mall, came home and had ice cream for dinner and did a couple hours worth of ironing. Then I drove back out to get T, came home and had a stiff drink (self-medicating for bed) before seeking my pillows.

Sunday I got up and spent the day making stuff as a gift to myself for Mother's Day.

Much more reasonable bull painted with the trim color of paint from our hall.
It's what we had. Light weight and able to be easily moved. Just need to get the ring for the top.
Of course, more burro shaped than bull. 

Burro shaped is the best you can hope for with my limited artistic skills, using an image off of the internet as a guide and winging it on the back patio in my pjs. Talented in this area, I am not. But, it is light weight, easy to move and not the size of Paul Bunyan's big blue ox (seriously, what the hell was I thinking?)

My bell hanger for the corridor with the bell. 
Repurposed TP hanger FTW!

Fairly straight forward application of wood and metal to create a bell hanger that will not blow over in the wind. I used two pieces of 4x4 block wood for the ends of the base and am very happy with it.

 These obstacle numbers were very easy to make and I created 20 of them for about $35
I could paint the wood white first, but I was feeling lazy. I may go back and paint them anyway.

Because the wood is fir, it is fairly light weight.
The base is heavy enough to keep the number from falling down
The black vinyl numbers are 6" tall
I am very pleased.

On Monday morning I could barely move. My hands, forearms and shoulders were exceedingly sore, mostly due to the vibration of using the scroll saw and drill. Surprisingly, my left hamstring was tight, sore and I walked with a limp most of Monday. 

Still, I went to the barn and saddled up Ashke.

He was high as a kite and tight as a wire. He was spooking at the shades of sand in the arena. I opted to take him outside and ride the edges of the field. It could have been the weather (we got snow on Weds night through Friday morning - in FUCKING.MAY!!!) or it could have been that he was feeling great after his chiro appointment, but I didn't want to try and contain his exuberance inside.

We did 4.5 miles around the field in about 45 minutes. The first round we spooked at everything. I just worked to keep him at a trot, with some contact between him and I. He spooked at all of the ant hills (nine), the on-again-off-again oil drill (four times), each and every trailer parked next to our trail (seven) and dark patches of grass (four). Our second round, we cantered the quarter mile along the back fence from the far north corner to the piles of manure, then trotted past the manure and cantered to the far south edge of the trail. He didn't try to bolt or fight me, and came back into my hand when I asked, but he really wanted to go. We ended up doing a third round and by the time we were on our way to the gate, he was doing crisp leg yields, a few steps of half pass (easier when we have impulsion) and turns off my legs and seat. He still felt great, just not as up as he had.

Tuesday was my lesson. Ashke was a great and willing partner. His canter is no longer difficult to attain and we do a lot of transition work during all of our rides. He is becoming very handy and I really am excited to ride him around a set course this weekend. The barn is doing a potluck and EOH intro for the boarders who are  interested.

Any way. We finished the lesson starting our schooling for the half pass. It is so hard. Partly because I still am confused a bit about the direction we should be moving. I'm sure Amanda is tired of saying, "uh, no, that's a shoulder in." Although, Ashke tries very hard to figure out which pretzel shape I am trying to make at any given time. He really is a saint.

For your amusement, video: