Monday, October 7, 2019

Changes Bareback

Bareback Changes

I hadn't ridden since Weds night. The temps have changed and fall is definitely here. Snow is expected on Thursday. There was a tractor loading manure onto a flatbed trailer right next to the arena. He was perfect. Light. Connected. Listening.

Wednesday, October 2, 2019


We went from fall temps of mid-70's to early 80's to cold, wet and raining with a high of 50. When I talked to Amanda about Ashke she said he was still warm, but I might want to pull a blanket out and toss on him for the night. I was already planning on being at the barn to pick up the start/finish gates for the National Championship show and getting them over to Chris to pack in the trailer, so I figured I would throw the blanket on him when I got there.

He saw me and came out whinnying and tossing his head. I was walking to the barn in a light drizzle and said "are you cold? Do you want a blanket?" He reared and spun, trotting the length of his run to meet me at his stall. His hair was standing on end when I said hi, and I got the impression from him of a slight shiver running the length of his body. I started searching for his light weight blanket, but then was reminded that his neighbor helped strip the top layer off of it last spring and I threw it away. I grabbed the mid-weight and carried it back to where Ashke was impatiently waiting.

I said "it's a little heavier than you might need, but you will be warm. Do you still want it?"

He nickered and tossed his head.

I opened the stall door and went to step inside and he moved to position himself so that I could toss the blanket on him (he never does that). I got it snapped and buckled while he tossed his head violently up and down in a "yes do that please" movement. Once all the straps were hooked up, he took a deep breath and settled. Just like a kid curled up on a corner of the couch under a blanket.

I got a strong impression of warmth and contentment, mixed with a heart-felt thank you.

My poor thin skinned desert horse.

Monday, September 30, 2019

PSA: Portable Saddle Racks

Have you seen one of these?

Saturday, I had Ashke tied in the same spot he is usually tied in, while I groomed and got him ready to ride. One of my friend's had her Friesian in the crossties half way down the row, and we were chatting as we got ready to ride. There was a portable saddle rack hooked over the rail next to where Ashke was tied, but it was turned away from him, with the pokie part facing into the feed stall. I went into get my saddle and heard my friend yelling whoa. I came around the corner and saw Ashke on his hind feet, pulling back, with the portable saddle rack attached to his face. 

He must have lowered his head and hooked the back hook onto the side of his halter.

I dropped the saddle and said, "Ashke, whoa. Stand."

He dropped down, and although he was trying to stare threateningly at the object attached to his cheek, he stood. I calmly, but quickly, walked out and put my hand on his shoulder, using my other hand to steady the rack until I could get it unhooked. He was shaking and snorting, but trusted me to take care of it. I put it out of harms way and then spent a little bit of time running my hands over his neck and back, telling him how proud I was that he listened and waited for me to save him. I told him over and over what a good boy he was, while I waited for the adrenaline shakes to stop.

Then both he and the Friesian (who was alarmed by not overwhelmed by Ashke's reaction) got peppermints for being great horses.

Teach your horse the command "stand". That is like the fourth time it has saved either me or Ashke from a trainwreck. And be careful with those saddle racks. I had no idea he could do that to himself with one.

Sunday, September 22, 2019


Ashke seems to have gotten past whatever might have been causing pain in his left hock. I’m beginning to believe it was caused by a game of kick-me, kick-you with the gelding in the run next to him, since I caught them kicking at each other when I drove up the other day. For now, I’m pretty happy with how he is moving.

Saturday, a friend’s daughter came out and learned a little bit about horses. She learned how to hold a lead rope correctly (no loops), how to groom and pick out feet, watched the saddling process and held Ashke while I went to the bathroom. I rode him and then she untacked him, brushed him down and took him over for what is likely his last bath of the year. 

This was at the end of our Saturday ride.
He is working on keeping himself straight when we do a line of changes. 
It is definitely getting better every ride.

Don’t we all want our own 13 year old horse crazy girl groom?

What I did at work on Friday.
There were more than a 100 legal sized Banker Boxes on that trailer. T and I moved them from the office to the storage unit across the highway. Marvel handled it like a champ and none of the boxes fell off.

I wanted to share a pic of how Ashke’s neck muscle is looking. It used to be that it tipped to the left, but now it remains pretty straight in front of me. I am going to let his mane grow out and see what size it tips to.

Lily laying on my feet. One of her favorite places to lay.

Life is moving forward and hopefully in a month this part of my life will be fully behind me and I will be moving forward into a new reality.

Thursday, September 19, 2019


I started riding when I was about 2, mostly holding onto the saddle in front of my mom while she directed the horse in the direction it was going. By six, I was clinging like a monkey to the back of her saddle, fingers wrapped around the curling edge of the cantle, short legs clenched against the flanks of the big black mare she rode. By eight, I had a shithead pony that I rode all over the county, along with several other horses and a few calves. All of the time I rode bareback. I didn’t get a saddle (other than borrowing one to use for the 4-H shows at the end of the summer) until I was sixteen. Riding bareback is one of the reasons I don’t post the trot. It also developed the balance and seat that allowed me to ride the EOH course at McCook last fall with a totally loose girth - I don’t balance on my stirrups.

That said, I haven’t really dared to ride bareback since coming back to riding seven years ago. I didn’t trust my body and I was really afraid that Ashke would over react to me being on him bare. (Amanda had the same fear last night.) I decided that since I am riding but taking it somewhat easy, that I would schedule a bareback lesson, where we could start him on the lunge line and see how it went.

Ashke being wild poneh over small leather bareback pad

My friend Chris lent me her Parelli bareback pad (anyone with one of those for sale, please let me know - I am in the market for one). It attached with one of my western cinches, and although Ashke was a fire-breathing dragon when I first put it on him, his skepticism was fairly short lived. I didn’t want to ride him without Amanda’s help to start, so I took him outside and lunged for the first time in probably three years.

As you can see he is wary, wary scardt of the pad.

I got him back inside, bridle on, and layered his halter over the top with the lunge line attached. I wanted to make sure he wasn’t going to be throwing any shenanigans our first time out. It wasn’t that I didn’t trust him, but rather, didn’t know if I could trust my body to respond correctly to his movement. Being older sucks. 

Amanda did ask me if I wanted to ride a bit to tire him out before I got on.
I told her I was pretty comfortable with her on the other end of the line.
I figured I would know pretty quick if I was going to be able to ride him this way.

We did a brief canter in each direction while still on the lunge line and he was amazeballs.

At that point, the lesson became a normal lesson.
We worked on all of the stuff that we normally work on until my legs and core felt like spaghetti.

We even got a couple of changes, which can not be ridden one handed while holding on.
Ashke was like WTF, mom?!

So, a couple of things: Ashke was foot perfect and absolutely wonderful. There was not a moment in our ride where he thought about being anything other than the gentleman and full partner he is. Second, he is always a little looky in the arena. There is a ton of stuff laying around that gets moved on a regular basis. Last night, although he peeked at those objects, his body did not fill with tension. He remained relaxed between my legs. Third, his braces through the base of his neck and Amanda reminds me during our lessons to ask for relaxation and to not brace. That was not an issue last night. He was relaxed and soft in the base of his neck and his poll. His contact was solid, but not leaning, and he was fully present and available to me. Finally, other than a small bobble on a canter circle early on, I had no issues with riding him bareback. I can feel the difference in my core and lower back muscles today, but they are a soreness, not a pain, so I am sure I was using them more fully than I have in the past. My balance was perfect and except for allowing my fear to win the battle at the beginning of our first change, I had no issue riding any of the things. I did have to lift and move myself back into position after our trot lengthening, but I was able to do that with just my legs.

I can’t wait to continue to ride bareback this winter. It will be a great option when it is cold.


Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Outlaw Ashke Wales

Awkward stall photos are the best.
New fly mask which he doesn't try to remove.
Come to find out, it was a vision issue and he can see in this one.

He even lowers his head so I can get it on.

Some nights I don't have time to ride, so he gets to run.

 His GF Kat. Friesian/Arab mix.

She is a pretty horse.
Ashke loves her.

Sometimes he runs like a rabbit.

Day's End.
Just leaving the barn.

Sunday, August 25, 2019

Nine Months

On December 2, I did a clinic with a woman named Nicole Harrington. She was there to help the competitive dressage riders with various items and Amanda suggested I ride with her one time. I was struggling with cueing Ashke properly for our flying changes and we were really struggling. This was before I realized how much his hocks were impacting his ability to collect. At this point, I was just looking to be able to ask for the change and have him understand what I wanted.

Our very first clean changes

Since that break through, we have been working on our changes every ride. Even with my sporadic riding schedule of maybe three days a week, and sometimes it’s only my lesson day, he has still progressed. I am getting better at recognizing tension and stopping to reassure him that he is okay. That kind of helps reset his brain. Sometimes I tell him what I am wanting him to do, so that the picture in my mind is really clear. That also seems to help keep him from getting muddled.

Today, working on our half-pass to flying change work.

As you can see he has a harder time going from right to left, but I think that’s because I biomechanically sit harder on the left, due to an injury that damaged the muscle in my torso in 2006. It has been pretty obvious I sit harder to the left than to the right. I am working to improve that, but its still an issue. He is getting much better at listening and waiting for me to let him know when it is I want the change. We do transition work after the changes, because other wise he just gets more and more amped.

And here is some running video of him out with Kat a week ago, stretching their legs.