Friday, April 28, 2017

Marriage

I think we all have those days when we just wake up grumpy. A bad nights sleep or wicked scary dream to set the tone for the day. Or maybe it's hormone related, either your own or your partner/husband/wife/child's. Maybe something changes our perspective on the way to the office (like the asshole in the fancy ass car that cuts you off with a one finger wave in heavy traffic) and we spend the day steaming in unacknowledged anger or frustration. Or maybe it's the waded up underwear in the corner of the bathroom left there by your significant partner/wife/husband/child or an open toilet at two in the morning. The point is, most adults have times in their lives when they fight/struggle/squabble with those most important to them. (Our kids do too, although I think they are cut a lot less slack when it comes to expressing emotion to the adults in their lives.) I think couples that have marriages that last figure out how to ignore those moments, letting them slide by without it upsetting the apple cart. I think that parents that maintain a healthy relationship with their kids do the same thing. You just have to let some of the shit slid off.

Last night it felt like Ashke and I were an old married couple that was a little tired of each other.

Thankfully, our marriage councilor was there and was able to keep us focused on our job at hand, rather than letting us fall into squabbling. Or outright fighting. No one wins when that happens: feelings get hurt and tears are shed. Luckily, I realized that I was spoiling for a fight, and that perhaps Ashke was as well, and turned ourselves over to Amanda to fix.

I'm so tired of the buck and bolt away from the scary corner while cantering around that end of the arena, after cantering past it without reaction four freaking times. It seems dirty and mean to me, like your partner/husband/wife/child saying you look "yuge" in those jeans. My flashpoint was sparked, but then I calmed down before any damage was done by the quiet insistence of my trainer. Sometimes we have those moments.

In the end, we had a good effort on Ashke's part to keep his butt under him, move his shoulders as I directed, got a much better result from our haunches in, and even tried a bit of counter canter. Ashke for the most part, gave a solid ride and tried to be a considerate and loving partner/lover/friend/child with only a little bit of attitude toward the end. I tried to ride better, rather than doing the motorcycle lean into the turns, with lots of leg in support. Doing the double slalom correctly and with control is hard.

We finished the lesson with some Simon Says, which included the counter canter, w-t-c, stop and back movements, with lots of transitions, while out on the rail, to give his right hind a break from the twisty pretzel movements we had been working on. Amanda reads Ashke's ears as eager and excited, while I feel like he's a tad more angry than that. Although, he did redouble his effort after she started rewarding him with sugar cubes, something that works on teenagers, as well.

In the end, we kissed and made up. We were both tired and feeling the incoming storm. Winter weather advisory makes all of the aches and pains worse. He needs an adjustment to the base of his neck, since we are struggling again to turn to the right. Seems to be where he carries stress and anxiety. We have a storm this weekend, then our dressage practice test on the 6th and then we get to see Dr D.


Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Play Pen

I have a lesson tomorrow, so when I headed to the barn tonight I wanted to just play. I haven't set up a livestock pen in a long time plus we needed to continue to work on our jump. So, when I got there I pulled out the cones and did a half circle livestock pen (outside edge at 10ft from center, and inside 5ft from center). I pulled out the gate and set up a cross rail jump for us to work over.

The livestock pen looks funny in the pic - it is set for about 3/4 of a circle.

And then I went to pull Ashke out of his stall and found this:

I swear, if I wanted a chestnut I would have gotten one.
The struggle is real.

I worked up a sweat trying to get him somewhat clean. I hate this time of year. And it is going to snow on Saturday so there is no sense in washing him yet. I have a show on May 6, so I will have to bathe him before then. As we were getting close to be ready, the garage door between the two parts of the barn went up and another rider came in. I asked her if it was okay that I had stuff set up in the arena and she said yes. She looked over what I had and asked if I did WE. I said yes, and she said she had seen me at Expo. She recognized Ashke from there. She is a trainer and she was riding a client horse (beautiful mare - gun metal gray) who doesn't get enough riding. It was nice to have another person in the arena while we rode.

Ashke was moving pretty smoothly right off the bat, so we moved through our warm up pretty quickly. He's a lot less spooky of the scary end of the arena in general, and when there are obstacles up he pretty much ignores it completely. We did some walk, trot and then some canter in big circles around the edge of the arena. I wanted him to maintain his balance at the open canter without being on a circle. We went over the jump at the walk and trot, then started incorporating it at the canter.

Our first time over was pretty solid. I am getting better at being able to support him in the approach to the jump and he feels like he's figuring it out. The second time we headed for the jump at the canter he tripped three strides out, stumbled, righted himself and went over the jump anyway. And I managed to ride it without jamming him in the mouth or falling off. Then the next two times we rode it, he was perfect and I got up out of the saddle with my hands forward. The thing we need to work on is that he doesn't seem to see the jump until we are about three strides out. I think the time he tripped was because he was startled to find the jump suddenly in front of him. We are the opposite of "hunting jumps" - we sudden have them pop up in front of us.

We cantered to the gate, worked the gate and then turned to canter away. It's getting it through his head that we can canter up in balance, then canter away without losing our shit. The gate is awesome, because he KNOWS what the answer is in both directions. It was good to add that in after doing the jump, because it helps his confidence. I did figure out that if I lift the rope he will begin to back up. If I wait at the side of the gate for an extra fifteen seconds, he will stand quietly. I just need to drill it into me that I need to be quiet for a few seconds before reaching out for the rope. 

At the beginning, I cantered around the outside of the livestock pen. Then I stopped and walked the pen. Then we trotted it. Then I cantered the outside again. Finally we tried the inside loop. He managed to do it on the right lead the second time we tried. I really have to keep my leg on to keep him moving forward at the canter. It's a much tighter circle than we've been riding. 

After we had done it to the left, I got off and put the jump away, leaving the poles out in an L. We worked that in both directions, another obstacle he KNOWS. It's a great way to get him to do lateral work, without having to work on leg yields. He is much more able to hold his body in a half pass position now than he has in the past. 

Then we went back to do the livestock pen again, this time on the right lead.  The first time through we lost it about half way around and trotted out. I said to him "you need to get your shoulders up. You can't do this with your head down or your shoulders low." Then we walked the pen with him in haunches in a couple of times. Then trotted it the same way. Then I tried it at the canter. We struggled but made it further than our first attempt. I said to Ashke, "if you can do this, we can be done with it." He gave it a great effort and I gave him lots of leg and verbal support. He did a very nice canter around that tight turn. 

I made a huge deal out of him and then we followed the mare for a while. Finally, using my legs and neck reining, we wove through the orange cones at a walk. That was really hard since they were set very close together and on a bend. The fourth time we went through I let Ashke stop while I gave him lots of attention. I asked if he was done and he agreed.

It was a fun night and a great ride. Ashke keeps stepping up and answering any question I ask him. It makes me very happy and he seems to enjoy the challenge. Looking forward to my lesson tomorrow night.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Physical

So. A lot of things have changed in the past year. A year ago I was dealing with a degloving injury which pretty much sidelined us for the year.

 This was the picture texted to me by BO.
Thankfully it was just the skin. Still.

 Clipped, cleaned and ready for bandaging

Just as the injury was about healed, Ashke cast himself and kicked it open again. That happened in early August and Ashke has spent all of his time since then with that leg in a BOT quickwrap.


Happened overnight. Pretty sure he cast himself, based on the scraped skin on his face.


Clipped, cleaned and ready for bandaging.
Got some antibiotics from the vet, but otherwise treated it myself.

Back on track Quickwrap


The BOT quickwrap was a life saver. Or at least a leg saver. It reduced the swelling (the scar tissue is pretty thick) and kept him from scratching it open with his other hoof. Because yes, that is a thing. And yelling at him to knock it off doesn't work. Go figure.

After the body work with Tracy in March, his overall movement improved. He is so much more centered and focused through his body. And so much of the emotional turmoil was healed, which was strongly reflected in the how he was moving. I decided to try and ween him off the quickwrap because the additional sweat as we moved toward warmer days was not going to help the scratching thing. I don't want to keep him in them forever. At some point the training wheels have to come off.
For the record, I used both quickwraps on the one leg and they are both torn to shit. The padding is still in one piece, but the outside wrap has holes rubbed in it from him scratching with his other foot. At some point we needed to just pull the wrap (although neither myself or the BO really wanted to) and hope he wouldn't tear the skin open again.

It's been almost two weeks now and he seems to have gotten past the "scratch til the skin breaks open and bleeds" desire he was acting on the last time I tried to take the wrap off. There was a little blood one day when I was out, but it was lower on his pastern, away from the scar tissue, and I figured he did it on something else. Cuz horses. The leg swelled a bit when I first pulled the wrap, since the point of the quickwraps is to keep the blood circulating and to help with wind puffs or stocking up. The swelling went down with exercise and wasn't tender to the touch, so I figured the leg just needed to stop being lazy and make all of the blood circulate properly.

So the leg is better, but he is a bit tight through the right side of his body. I have an appointment in three weeks with Dr D and in the meantime, I just have to do plenty of lateral work to help loosen that side up. J is pretty sure that he needs some accupuncture to rebalance his energy, and I'm sure he needs to have the base of his neck adjusted again. I did some carrot stretches last night and he is very tight there. He will also have his teeth done and we will attempt to clean his sheath.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Nature

First thing this morning I had an appt with my saddle fitter. Ashke has had a couple of dry patches bilaterally on his back, not after a dressage ride, but clearly there at the end of our last trail ride. She could feel what I could feel and agreed the flocking needed a touch more just under my seat bones, which is also right where the billets attach. She added more flocking on each side, then smoothed it out with her little mallet. When we placed the saddle on Ashke's back the slight gap was gone and the middle of the saddle was solid against his back.

After that was finished, we loaded him up and took him to Barr Lake.

It was a wonderful ride with lots of nature.

It started with Black-Bag Trolls. They were crouched by the edge of the trail and it took a long time to get Ashke to walk past them. There was snorting and backing up and more snorting. Then some quick sideways steps as we went past them. The large herd of Black-Bag Trolls was not as scary as the two single Trolls sitting right next to the trail. Sideways at the edge of a deep canal, not as much fun as one would think.

We were trotting at a solid pace, when we came to a screeching halt and let the very large Bull snake sunning in the middle of the path to slither his way into the bush. Then back to the trot. Ashke moves so effortlessly on trail now, it's such an amazing feeling. And then we came to another big ass Bull snake. They are pretty hard to see.

We saw some Black Scoters (a kind of duck), a Cooper's Hawk, a Redtail Hawk, pelicans (yay!!! they were back), cormorants and their rookery, Canada Geese, red wing blackbirds, Blue Heron, a Osprey and a couple of deer. It was a feast for the eyes.

We stopped at a big patch of grass and stopped to let Ashke munch some. There was a huge splash and Ashke spooked pretty hard. And then another Splash. I turned around in time to see a big ass fish flop out of the water. It had to be 8 or 10 pounds. J got it on video.




We saw them at the bottom of the canal on our way back to the trailer. Very good sized catfish, I'm pretty sure.

J commented several times about how strong Ashke looked, how good he was moving and the solid rhythm of his trot. So J captured this video:



On the way back we spooked another snake. So happy that none of them were rattlers.

We were almost back to the trailer and saw a couple of hikers who had just seen a couple of Bull snakes. I told the woman that there were snakes on the trail the way they were headed. She asked what kind. I answered. Then when we walked off I said to J, "Big, motherfucking snakes, is what kind." J almost fell of her bike with laughter.

Lots of wonderful wild life. Nice temp during the ride. Even sweat patterns under the saddle when I pulled it off.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Two Horse Tack Update

I didn't write about this when it happened, but I have decided since that point that I need to say something about the halter I was given by Two Horse Tack.

Remember this?

Hunter Green halter - Arab sized

I liked the halter and thought it looked really good on Ashke's head. J was less impressed but mostly because of the color and my desire to have everything matchy-matchy. I purchased a cotton rope lead rope at the Expo that matched the color of the halter and decided I would use it but store it in my tack box, leaving the beat up, faded blue one for the barn to use. And I haven't rushed out and purchased a bunch of green gear, although I've wanted to.

So the 19th of March, I stole the truck from J, hooked up the trailer by myself and hauled Ashke to Circle Star Arena to work cattle for a couple of hours. When Circle Star hosts events, we park in the pasture, with a solid fence between us and the road, which has a lot of fast traffic and big trucks that whizz by. When it's just a few of us, as it was that day, it's easier to park in the gravel lot at the end of the dressage arena. I was the first one there and parked as close to the edge of the dressage arena as I could, but we were still twenty yards from the road, with a partial fence between the trailer and the traffic. I got Ashke out, got him settled with his bucket and started tacking him up.

I always ride in the Alta Escuela and when I go to put it on him, I usually have the girth hanging over the seat of the saddle. I have short billets and the girth is jumper long. On that Sunday, it was over cast and blowing in the 10 - 15 mile an hour zone. I hadn't had a chance to work Ashke since the Expo, which had been more than a week prior (traveling for work). The combination of those two things made him a bit antsy. As I was trying to adjust the saddle pad and the saddle, I must have lifted the flap on the saddle too high and the girth slipped out and hit the ground next to Ashke's front leg. 

He startled, spooked sideways about six inches while giving the girth the death stare, and managed to dump the saddle off his back. At that point, he spooked and pulled back.

This is not a horse that pulls back very often, but he is still a horse. And on that day he was pretty spooky (in fact the saddle hitting the ground made such an impression, we had issues with lifting the saddle onto his back from his right side for a couple of weeks - he was pretty sure it was going to eat him). He sat back one time, fairly hard, but without any of the thrashing side to side or butt almost on the ground behavior you might expect from a younger or more volatile animal. It was one hard spook.

Imagine my surprise when suddenly he was free. Twenty yards from a dangerous road and a blind hill. I couldn't process what had happened. I thought maybe I hadn't secured the halter correctly. I watched in horror as he trotted off. Thank all of the Gods that he headed into the property at a trot, rather than heading for the road. Uncle Daniel and his horde of Indian angels were riding flank that day. I had nothing but the lead rope and a bucket to entice him back to me and although he is usually a dream to catch, the day was going bad enough that I was worried he would consider this a game and decide to play. I didn't have a back up halter, which I usually do in the trailer, but I had emptied the trailer of all extraneous stuff for the Expo and hadn't moved it back in yet. 

As I walked around the end of the trailer, carrying the bucket in one hand and my lead rope in the other, Ashke spotted the cows and headed toward them. That meant he was boxed into a 20 x 20 arena and I had a really good chance of getting a rope on him before he decided he really wanted to play Spirit, Wild Stallion of the Cimmarron. Thankfully, the BO of Circle Star had seen him running loose and had come out of the house. I asked her if I could borrow a halter and she headed to the barn to get me one. Ashke let me walk right up to him, throw the rope around his neck and lead him into the arena, where if he freaked out and got away from me, he couldn't go very far.

This is what the halter looked like:

 As you can see the crown piece of the halter ripped through.


An up close look at what ripped out.
It tore out right along the seam.

I do not believe that the break away halter I got at Expo a year ago would have broken, because I don't believe that Ashke pulled back hard enough to tear apart the leather crown piece. I think this is a defect in the material used.

I reached out to Two Horse Tack (the woman who had contacted me about reviewing the product) and told her what had happened. I got back an email that 'splained all of the ways in which I could make sure, going forward, that Ashke did not break another halter. Her offer to replace the crown piece was at the very end of the email, and after the lecture, I read the offer as being given grudgingly.

I didn't get another crown piece. Honestly, I would never trust it to hold him again, and let's face it, halters are designed for one thing. I went out and purchased a web halter in the same color green (slowly but surely, I will win the matchy-matchy war) and have been using it when I have him out. This was the second time I got something from THT. I still have the bridle and breastcollar I ordered from them in 2013, but would probably not spend the money for more gear. I certainly would not tied Ashke in a halter they made.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Beefcake

Ashke has really put on muscle over his withers, along his shoulder, across his chest and in his hips. I credit Amanda and dressage for the transformation. I had the saddle fitter check his back a couple of days ago and we have plans to adjust the flocking in the saddle just a bit, however, he is not sore at all.

One of the things that has changed is his attitude. We have been spending a lot of time in the sandbox, which he used to hate, but now he seems to like it. My last few rides he has seemed almost lethargic, although he has plenty of energy when I ask for it. I've been worried and concerned, wondering if I need to tweak his feed (although he looks awesome). Last night it finally hit me.

He is being both obedient and submissive. With a ton of try.

That's what this is? No wonder I didn't recognize what was happening. We are in a brave new world. He's meeting me more than half way. He's trying even when it's hard. And he's sore. Because he is meeting me in the middle and letting me dictate the terms. He's trying so hard. I just have no words.

He and Sal explore a Bromance

Our lesson was a great one, hard but great. We did a lot of lateral work, adding in some new exercises to help strengthen and develop his inside right hind. And teach both of us more flexibility. We had a couple of steps of decent half-pass in each direction. It will take more practice for Ashke and I to figure out how to do it by ourselves, without Amanda calling out suggestions and commands behind us. That's more about me. It will take a while to make it pretty and do it on purpose, but it is a start on our next level for WE. 

Afterward, we took some pics of the little beefcake. 

Beefcake

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Pupper

There was a post going around on FB with an exercise for dressage riders to practice riding from their seat. I liked the pattern and thought Ashke and I would enjoy playing with it. On Saturday, when I got to the barn the only rider, I'll call her Sara, was riding one of her two horses, Sal. She finished up and saddled up Rain while I was getting Ashke ready. I asked her if I could put up some cones and she said yes, so I put up this pattern:

The spacing in the diagram is 36 - 48 feet. I set the cones at about 25' apart, with the two lines of cones closer to 30' apart, which made it seem really huge. I also only used one ground pole at the far end (near to the scary corner) because I wanted to leave enough room for us to work around the cones on the rail. Plus I put it at the top of the pattern in the middle rather than on the right side, so we had to make the turn, line up for the ground pole, and then turn again for the single slalom.

I started my warm up around the outside while Sara warmed up Rain in the inside. Sara and I ride together at night, sometimes, and we do our lessons back to back with Amanda, so we know each other fairly well. I had to spend five minutes or so walking back and forth in front of the scary corner with turn on the haunches at either end, before Ashke decided spooking was too much work. About that time, Sara asked me what the pattern was so I trotted Ashke through it.

I realized the first time through, that it was set a lot bigger than the stuff Ashke and I have been working on, so it would be a "loose" pattern for us. Sara said she could probably trot it, but didn't think they could canter it. We started with the above pattern, and rode through it as directed. Ashke did it great at the trot and even better at the canter (the trot was to show him the pattern). Rain did it handily at the trot and I think even Sara was surprised. Then I tried it at the canter, which Ashke did very well, as long as I was changing my legs properly. We did have a bit of bounce from excitement, but we backed up a bit and kept going. I think we must have inspired Sara, because she and Rain tried it next at the canter. They did really well.

I was showing Sara the double slalom pattern next, when Amanda got to the barn to ride Laz (Her Intermediare I horse). She was so excited about playing with the pattern she threw her western saddle on Laz and hurried out to join us. Sara tried the double slalom at the canter, then rode the first pattern again. By that time, Rain was getting pretty excited about what they were doing and when Sara asked for a canter, Rain crossed the diagonal with dolphin bucks. Sara had to go back and calm her down by doing simple circles, with soft transitions, until Rain had her brain back. By that time, Amanda had joined us in the arena.

Laz was amazing to watch, which shouldn't surprise anyone, considering. Watching Amanda play with him around and through the random patterns she was riding was pretty amazing. Sara rode through the pattern one more time, to show Amanda how they were doing. Then she was out of time to ride, and ended up having to leave. We did have fun riding together, though, and she suggested we play like that again. She is coming to the barn potluck in May and we are going to set out a small course for people to play at WE if they are interested. I think she and Rain would really be good and would enjoy it.

I ended up playing follow the leader with Amanda, until Laz smoked us because his changes were so smooth, Ashke and I couldn't keep up. Ashke did the double slalom in both directions and he was very good. We also did the sidepass pole. Amanda said that in the Western trail class the horse is taught to stay completely straight along the pole and it took Laz a couple of times to recognize he could angle his body to make passing over the pole easier. It was a lot of fun to ride with Amanda and play with the cones.

That was Saturday.

I rode again today. Put up the same pattern, except I set it to 20' (double slalom standards) and warmed up. Then had J video me so there is proof of what we are doing right now.

Doing the circle, pole, slalom 
Still having difficulties finding our distance and stride over the pole.
I am not a jumper.

Double slalom starting with a left first turn

Starting from the right.
He picked up the wrong lead at the end because I wasn't being careful with my legs.

After the last double slalom I was done. I'm still feeling tired and the pollen level is really high, which is effecting my breathing and overall energy level. Ashke seemed a little lethargic today too. I should have taken him out and rode around the field, but I just didn't have the energy.

Heckin golly gosh big pupper doing me a follow