Sunday, May 20, 2012

A Piece of Heaven

Today, my friend L brought her horse over to the stable to ride with me and Ashke. You remember L? She and her husband were instrumental in helping me save Ashke. Without them, he would have died in Amarillo because I would have had no hope of bringing him home. We planned to meet at noonish, which gave J and I time to run the flat tire on my Camry to Sears for repair. We left the tire there and went to the stables.

Ashke was completely covered on one side with poo. His coat was pooish brown-green with chucks of manure sticking to him. I did what any smart person would have done and took him immediately to the wash rack. He hates to have his rump washed and that is always one of the worse spots in terms of poo. We washed him until he sparkled. It's been seven weeks since we brought him home. I still can't believe the changes in him!

Remember this?
Our first day at the stables.

Today at the stables after our ride.

Can you see the progress he is making along his spine and across the top of his rump?

Can you see the muscle gain in his rump, stifle and gaskin? (back legs) I haven't stood directly behind him and looked at his butt in a while. I can definitely see gain in mass there.

And then there is also his front. I can see gains in his chest, shoulder and neck. 

So, to update progress since Friday night, at which time we had biting of calf muscle and throwing of rider. Saturday it was raining and very overcast. I worked Ashke in the round pen, getting him used to turning and moving when asked. He doesn't walk much in the round pen, working mostly at the trot and some canter. He learned to move off in the direction I indicated by pointing with an outstretched arm and to stay in the gait he was asked to work in until I gave him a verbal cue to slow down. We did this in both directions. When I ask him to stop he stands quietly until I approached him. I gave him rubs and told him what a good boy he was. At one point he reached back to nip me. Without hesitation I swung my fist into his ribs and thumped him pretty good. Ashke took off again around the arena and was encouraged to canter and fast trot for several rounds before being asked to stop. He hasn't tried nipping either J or myself since then. Huzzah for progress.

After lunging him on Saturday, I put him away without riding him. I wanted to emphasize what we were working on in the round pen and to solidify the new expectations. He got peppermint candies, which he has now figured out how to crunch in his teeth, and carrots, a winning combination.

On Sunday, after washing the poo from his coat, I tacked up Ashke. We went to the round pen and worked for about twenty minutes. Ashke has no problem cantering counterclockwise in the round pen, but struggles to remain at a canter when working in the opposite direction. This time I left the stirrups off so they wouldn't smack his elbows. I mounted him in the round pen for a short workout about the time L got there with her trailer. We worked in both directions for just a couple of minutes, but in that time there was no head tossing, no protest past an occasional flick of his tail.

L pulled her truck and trailer around by the big arena to unload VK. When Ashke saw the trailer he let out a huge whinny. I really think he recognized it. I got off him and walked him out of the round pen and over to the trailer. He and VK took to each other like long lost twins. Ashke thought he was the neatest thing he's seen in a month of Sundays. VK was tacked up and L brought him into the arena. We rode around the arena for maybe ten minutes. During that time Ashke didn't fight with me, didn't buck, didn't do anything but listen well and ride with his new friend. 

We walked and trotted a bit before we got bored.

Best of friends already.

It was the first time I have seen Ashke relax. His head came down and he just relaxed into the ride.

It took a little bit for Ashke to learn it was okay to be close to VK. It felt like he was worried he was going to get bit. He started a bit touchy, but got more comfortable as we continued to ride.

L and I have matching helmets. I don't feel so fashion conscious now!

Can you believe VK is 19? He looks great, although he is having some issues with his left hock and arthritis. I find it incredibly sad that L and I can finally ride together and her horse is going lame. However, we went fairly slow today and VK seemed to do okay. I am, also, pretty pleased with my posture while riding Ashke. I look balanced, with my legs tucked in and my shoulders square. I swear that the only time I have good posture is when I am on a horse.

After about ten minutes or so in the arena we decided to mix it up and go to the pasture. I got off and walked Ashke over to where the pasture was and found that there were two horses out grazing. I got back on (L was still on VK) and we walked a small circle around the lawn and then I suggested we try a small greenbelt Chris had told me about.

We walked out of the stable yard, turned left on 149th and went the length of the pasture to Pecos, where we turned right. Pecos is closed at that point. We walked south down Pecos about half a block to where the closed road signs were. There was an entrance to the greenbelt that snaked between the fields and houses and turned to the left toward 144th. The footing was grass and in some places dirt.

It was quite exciting. The greenbelt was about 20' wide, fenced on both sides, and looked into a series of really nice backyards. There were motorhomes to snort at, boats to look at funny, a kite from Costco, with long yellow streamers, and lots of barking dogs. We only had two real startles and both times Ashke startled spraddle legged and took a good look at what was going on. He didn't try to buck or run or bolt. He just startled. We walked around the circle until we reached Pecos almost at 144th. We turned north again and made our way back to the stable. It was enough for VK. And Ashke was pretty warm, but not too hot. During the entire ride, Ashke had his ears up, snorting softly, and led the way for VK. He has a nice, fast walk when we are out of the arena.

It was wonderful. The company, the way that VK and Ashke liked each other, the way Ashke listened and did what he was asked, and being able to ride outside the arena. All of those things were wonderful. L and I talked about the next time she goes to Bear Creek we think Ashke will be ready to go. 

I plan on continuing the training in the round pen and would love to get to the point where I am comfortable riding Ashke in any gait I wanted. I am hoping to be able to canter him sometime in the next couple  of weeks. Tomorrow, is his day of rest.

I can't believe how much better I feel about the whole situation. There is hope in abundance today.

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