Nicole on Cali, Denise on Wrangler, Dessa on China and I on Ashke went for a trail ride on the Mesa today. It was upper forties and the sun was out with no wind. You can't ask for better riding conditions in January in Colorado. Ashke was so happy to be out of the arena!
After saddling them, Nicole and I went to the arena to warm up and make sure neither of our younguns was going to be nutso in the wild blue yonder. Ashke was great at the mounting block, standing still while I got settled and not moving off until I was ready. He had a great, brisk walk. Then when we moved to the trot, he got all riled up. It got bad enough that Nicole moved to the center of the arena and talked me through working him around the arena until he finally settled. He is finally starting to bring his head down once we get to the point that he's no longer cantering in place. Nicole had us doing half-halts, where I tighten the reins but push him into the bridle with my legs, making him maintain a controlled trot. Once he finally relaxed and trotted correctly, we left the arena and headed for the Mesa.
Denise was already out on the Mesa waiting for us when Nicole, Dessa and I started out. Her horse, Wrangler is 17 and just had most of his incisor teeth removed from his mouth because of some type of tooth nerve decay. It wasn't keeping him from eating the grass on the Mesa, however. He has had a month of rest and Denise was pretty ready to ride. From Wrangler's disposition, he was pretty happy to be out, as well.
All of the horses seemed to really enjoy themselves. It was fun to have a couple of other riders with us. It was a perfect temperature.
Wrangler led most of the day, which was really good for Ashke. All four were pretty well suited for riding with each other.
We did the same circuit as the last time we rode out, with a slight adjustment. China has laminitis and the steep hill coming down off the mesa is difficult on his feet, so we used the cutoff that heads to the bridge and went back down there to the same trail we took out.
Cali did great. There were no bridge issues this time. I rode Ashke across and at the far side I swung him around to face the bridge. His eyes got really wide, like he was trying to figure out why the bridge had made such an intense noise the last time we were out.
Ashke walked the entire ride. It was hard work. A lot of slow up, which is great for his back and butt. His feet were a touch tender and I'm going to talk to Michelle on Wednesday about boots for his front.
At the top of the circle we made, there were deer on the hillside, feeding on the old grass. Ashke stopped and perused them. Nicole thought they were very cool, not having experienced a lot of wild life prior to moving here. She's from New York City, after all.
None of the other horses even seemed to realize there were deer on the hillside. Ashke stopped and counted them.
Nicole and I rode back together, which gave us the opportunity to have a brief photo op. Cali is such a great horse. She's so different from Ashke, and yet such a perfect match for Nicole. She also knows that I have treats for her so she is very affectionate with me.
Nicole said something really special on our way back. She pointed out that Ashke was so much more relaxed now. I answered that we just needed to get out of the arena and stretch ourselves a little bit. She laughed and said he was lucky he came to me, since he wouldn't have been very happy being owned by someone who wanted only to do dressage, or western pleasure. He is going to be happiest with me because I want to do the kind of riding he really loves. I thought that was pretty cool.
Nicole suggested that we do other stuff in the arena besides just riding in circles. I told her that we had been, that I was working with Ashke on turning left and right with neck rein pressure and weighting the stirrups. I was inadvertently doing just that as I talked to Nicole, and Ashke responded by turning just like I wanted him to. Nicole recognized what he was doing and pointed it out. I was pretty delighted with his responsiveness.
When we got back to the barn, I helped Nicole install her new stall gate. I want one. Just saying. I want one that has Ashke's name on it.
And the detail from our ride:
I think the snarl down by the barn is the GPS having issues with trying to figure out where we were. I figure we rode 3 miles in 45 minutes. Not too bad.