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.
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.
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.
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.
This has been a hell of a year. Some things have been better than I expected and some things have been so much harder than they needed to be. I have struggled to deal with an emotional exhaustion that runs deep and wide and strong. My anger and depression and exhaustion and frustration have kept me from the barn, because none of that is Ashke's fault nor his burden to carry for me. I have felt throttled from being completely honest in this space by the politics of divorce and because I don't want to be that person who is angry and bitter in public, but it has hampered my writing process. I am struggling to maintain equilibrium and peace in this space when I want to rage and flail over everything that has happened.
There has to be a balance between being honest and open in this space without coming off as a bitter old woman, cuz no one needs that, not even me. So here goes.
Ashke was astonishing this year. Our three shows resulted in qualifying scores at all three at Intermediate B (Level 5) in Working Equitation. Considering our very first flying lead change was December 2nd during a Nicole Harrington Clinic a year ago, his progress has been amazing. I couldn't be more proud of this guy and how hard he tries for me. If we can work through the tension we feel when we are warming up and ride even close to the same level at a show as we do in our lessons, I will be a happy camper.
In 2020, there are seven shows on the schedule, some with new judges and some with judges we've shown under in the past. I am excited about all of the shows, but especially the shows at the Boulder County Fairgrounds the same weekend as the Rocky Mountain Dressage Show, which means my trainer and my barn will be there as well. I also plan to show at the National Championship in McCook, NE this year, which should make a really full show season. The goal I am working on with Amanda is to ride the same level one handed this year. It will depend on how well Ashke and I are communicating and how balanced he is in the canter. And how much tension he has in the warm up arena. Steadying him is easier with two hands, and asking him to remember to be round is easier with two, but I also know we are practicing it every ride and he is getting better, stronger, fancier every ride.
Hocks and Everything
The last injections were in October, when I was homeless and it was impossible to get out to ride, and we only did the left hock. Then I had his shoes pulled at his last farrier visit. He has been very, very sound ever since. I couldn't be happier with how he is moving. I have to give him time to warm up (me too), but once we are there, he is stepping up under himself, moving straighter at the canter and in lateral work, better half-pass movement and consistently improving flying changes. The old mexican saddle seems to be the perfect fit for Ashke and he is still going great in it. Prior to not riding as much as I was, his wither and shoulder were heavily muscled. My little beefcake.
We do a bareback ride at least once a week and I think it has improved my balance and ability to ride. I am happy to report that I haven't lost my ability to ride off my butt and balance and not off my feet. I love riding bareback and love the idea of doing trail riding that way, but I'm not really sure how practical that is in the real world. Amanda has wondered if a treeless saddle would be a good option, but for now I am happy with what we are working with.
Let's start with the basics. I have lost 60 lbs since March and I feel great. The weight loss wasn't planned, nor was it due to my not eating. It was caused by the reduction of anxiety in my life. For the first time in twenty years I began sleeping heavily, solidly, and without stressing about what might disturb the other person in bed with me. I'm not sure I recognized how much anxiety I carried in worry and stress in my living arrangements, and although there was stress associated with the divorce it just wasn't the same. That was more of a "facing the unknown" type of stress (especially where the creatures under my care were concerned) and less of the "I'm never going to be good enough, sexy enough, enough-enough" to make her love me. I no longer needed to worry about her happiness or her meals (est 127,000 meals that I prepared over the course of our relationship), or how she is impacting the fung shui of our home. And I no longer have to live with or spend time with a liar. I didn't realize how those emotions impacted my feeling of safety in my home until I moved into my own house.
Boo is fearless where the dogs are concerned.
She's not too far off from wrestling with wild abandon.
Speaking of which, I love my home. I love living with T and B and nothing has been easier. I feel so safe and comfortable that I haven't done any cleansing rituals or cast a circle around the property. I feel safe and sheltered. Of course, having three big dogs doesn't hurt, but I really am very happy with our living environment. T and B seem to love their space and we had a great time over the holidays. T got a promotion to assistant manager at work, so he is moving to a morning-centric work schedule and I am looking forward to doing meals with them in the near future.
The kittens have started spending monitored time upstairs.
So far, no one has been eaten and although Mia really wants to play, she is learning to be less enthusiastic in her approach.
Our holidays were amazing and I had so much fun. The house still has outside lights and might until March. The tree was beautiful and mostly covered with new ornaments. The only bummer was an ornament that was given to me by my great-grandmother, that I swear I packed, was not in any of the boxes I moved into the house. T was pretty distressed (I've had this particular ornament since I was a year old) and reached out to see if he could get it back. Suffice it to say, the ornament was not forthcoming. I hope it brings her great pleasure every time she sees it on her tree. T and B got me a Switch for the holiday and I have been playing Pokemon Sword ever since. I am really looking forward to playing Lego The Skywalker Saga with T again (our first video game experience together when he was six). Plus, a couple of Zelda games. I also made sugar cookies (baby yoda), molasses sugar cookies, plus fudge, peppermint hard candy, and caramels. I haven't done that much holiday cooking since I was a kid. (It was a huge endeavor when I was young. My mom baked and made candy for weeks leading up to the holiday.)
I'm looking forward to 2020 and getting a year under my belt. I'm giving myself a year to mourn, grieve, process, and experience all of the events, holidays, birthdays and traditions that I have been molding my life around for the past 23 year, anew. Establish new traditions and carry over the one's we really enjoy. (We may never take down the lights.) It's not that I am sad about being divorced and I absolutely don't want to go back, but I also know that things catch me off guard and trigger me. I need to be able to work through those trigger moments without explaining to someone else why I am feeling the way I am feeling, other than T. He understands and has been really supportive.
Goals for 2020:
I want to camp a lot this coming summer. I have a hybrid camper that I am dying to take out and test. The dogs don't really need the option to run, like they used to, but I do need my hammock in the shade of pine trees, rocks to climb and a star filled sky to gaze into at night.
Horse shows, including the National Championship show, by myself. Our club is filled with women who hitch their own trailers, haul to the shows and show without any physical support from spouse or kids. I am determined to do all of that myself. I don't need anyone other than me and I need to start acting like that.
The idea of hitching and driving to ride applies to trail riding as well. I miss it so much and really want to get back on trail. I also think Ashke will love to go. I want to get back to Vedauwoo, where I can ride wherever I want at the pace I want and not have to worry about picking a trail the bike can keep up with me on. I hope to find a couple of people who I can ride with that I will enjoy spending time with, and who are willing to ride for the length of time I want to ride.
I am looking forward to making of my home a jungle of bushes, weeds, plants and trees (if I can keep the puppy from eating them) for the dogs to play in and around. I also have fencing to repair/replace and flooring to do. T and I are talking about building a dog shelter between the two decks we have to provide shade during the summer and warm bedding during spring and fall. I'm thinking a slanted roof, with shade walls and straw bedding (I love straw). I have 18 straw bales spread across the back yard, which has really reduced the amount of mud tracked into my house and will give the ground moisture and protection to grow something green in the spring. Hopefully the seed will take and whatever grows will come up through the straw.
I want to reach the end of next year in a place where it feels as though the past is a distant and dim memory. I'm not sure at this point that I want to date anyone. I really like having my own space, my own schedule, my own budget, and I'm not in a place where I want to compromise with anyone again. It will give me the time to support T in his process as well, since the change to his life is almost as great as mine. I'm hoping that we will be in a place to move forward with whatever we desire at the end of the year.
I also need to get to the barn on a more regular schedule. This has been a very inconsistent year as far as riding goes, and although we have made significant progress in our development, it's taken a back seat to all of the chaos I've been dealing with. I need to make it a priority for both of our sakes. I think he misses me as much as I miss him.
So, that's it. I meant to publish this yesterday, but didn't manage it. Here is to a new year.
1. Right after I was feeling smug about riding five days in a week, we got a snow storm that dumped almost 20” of snow and followed that with frigid temps. It was still pretty sketch when I tried to get to the barn on Saturday and I was thankful for four wheel drive making it down the driveway.
This was almost 12” on Tuesday morning. It snowed heavily for another day.
2. For the first time since Sept of 2016, we pulled Ashke’s shoes. It will give his hooves a rest from the nails and shoes, will allow me to ride outside in the snow without risking ice balling up on his hooves, and will let us see if he is sound without them. He got his left hock done the 16th of October and hasn’t been on the previcox since that point. He is moving fantastic.
3. We have new family members.
Meet Mia (My-ahh) Tristan’s new puppy.
She is so sweet.
She is sixteen weeks and has taken to living with us really well.
Housebroke, but a chewer.
Figuring out the ins and outs of life from the older dogs
Meet Boo. My birthday present from T
She is a cute little thing
The calico is Lia, who is B’s kitten.
She is much happier with a friend.
They play together and it keeps Lia from sticking her head in “Lily’s mouth.
4. We had a lesson today that included two big spooks resulting in almost falling on his head. There was snow and ice sliding off the roof and making him very tense. We used that as good practice for the shows, since he felt as tight and reactive as he does when we are showing. He is never going to be a bomb proof horse. I just have to learn to ride through it and ignore his antics. We finished the lesson with a figure eight with changes ridden left handed and he gave me the cleanest right to left change we have ever had. Amanda smirked and gently said “so maybe that tells us you are blocking him with your hands”. I smirked back and said “guess I should just ride one handed all the time.” So, guess what I will be doing going forward . . .
5. Sauna time happens pretty much every day and seems to be helping with the pain I am dealing with in my right shoulder. I have found some Lakota chant music to play while sitting in the hot steam.
6. We have settled into our new home. There is a tree in the garage waiting for the tree stand to be delivered by Amazon. I have a bunch of lights up and two new deer in the front of the house. We need to get lights on the tree and our new bird feeder hung but those things should happen this week. I really love this holiday.
7. We did Thanksgiving at home as a family for the first time. I prepped most of the stuff the day before, so just had to get the turkey in the oven in the morning. I woke the kids up about an hour before and told them it was time to eat. T said “wow, mom, you did all of this stuff by yourself?” Pause. “Well, I guess you always did.” The food was delicious and the kids kept me laughing through the meal. They are incredibly easy to live with and they are doing a decent job of keeping their space clean.
8. This makes me really happy.
9. We have a company party this coming weekend. Last Friday, after the hordes of peoples had mostly left the store, we went shopping for pretty clothes. T needed all the things but I think it was worth it.
I think they call this style a smoking jacket.
He sure is smokin’ hot.
10. Hope you all have a wonderful weekend and had plenty to eat, fun things to keep you occupied and loved ones around you.
The biggest issue I have faced this year has been fitting in time for Ashke around the craziness of divorce, house shopping, tending to hearts and souls, moving. Some weeks, my lesson was my only ride, and there were some weeks where we didn’t even get that done. It’s not a surprise that Ashke has lost some muscle and topline.
This week we rode five days: Sunday, Tuesday, Weds, Friday and Saturday. I think this will be our riding schedule going forward. Saturday was a “resting work” day and we went out in the bareback pad.
He already looks better.
And he got a trace clip because he was getting a little warm, plus his hair pulls where the girth runs.