There were a bunch of people in the arena yesterday, despite the wonderful weather. There were three different lessons going on and I just couldn't see competing with them. We went inside for a brief time, while I tested Ashke's temperment, but I just couldn't stay in. I had Ashke's boots on him and wanted to give him the opportunity to get accustomed to them.
N said there were people going in all different directions and she almost crashed into a couple of different horses. That didn't sound like fun to me.
Ashke did great going out by himself again. There was a lot of head shaking, but no serious argument. For the most part, he spent his time looking up the mountain.
This time I didn't walk Ashke up the hill. I rode him. He kept trying to jump forward into a trot, but I kept asking him to walk the incline. It's pretty steep and he was sweating by the time we got to the top. First time he's sweated during a ride.
We did take a breather half way up the climb to the top. Ashke was puffing and we both enjoyed the opportunity to gaze at the vista.
There was no struggle going up this time. I didn't feel any weakness in his haunches. We did have a couple of moments on the ride where he moved forward without being centered, where it felt like he dragged his right hind leg, but it was more of a hitch than a collapse (which is what it felt like a year ago).
On the top of the Mesa, heading south on the Mesa Top Loop. Lots of rocks but Ashke did great in his boots. We went over rocks, through mud and some water, on grass and on gravel. We even crossed some granite slabs. The boots never slipped.
There were big piles of rock and the ground is basically granite and shale in some form of erosion or other.
We were riding on the south side of the Mesa top, about when this picture was taken, when Ashke took a step or to and was totally lame on his right front. I immediately stopped and swung off to check his boots. I couldn't imagine why he was suddenly lame. I undid the boots and discovered a rock the size of a quarter had somehow gotten between the top of the boot and the back of his pastern. I got it out, checked his heel bulbs and then redid the boots. We were good after that.
After the incident with the boots, I turned my iPhone on music so we could listen while we rode. Ashke liked Dobby Gray's Drift Away, but when Kate Bush's Running up that Hill came on and Ashke tried to run away with me. He did not like the music. I turned it off.
This is the start of where the trail drops off the top of the Mesa and snakes around the hill.
Ashke did great. He even stepped down some rock steps that had been created. He walked through a couple of small run off streams. I rode all of the trail I had led him down last time.
He kept turning his head and looking up hill. I'm really not sure why. I kept thinking he needed to be paying attention to the downhill. Some of the drop offs were worrisome.
It was such a beautiful day and Ashke was such a willing participant in our ride. We worked on walking past all kinds of boulders.
He was a lot less stressed than I was about the drop off. I hate heights and had to work on not focusing on what might happen if he shied away from something on the hillside. He walked along like we were on a super highway.
We saw a skunk hiding under a rock, (could just see it's eyes and the stripe down the middle of it's face) and had a peregrine falcon soar over us almost close enough for me to touch. This was one part of the trail that I walked. The drop off was pretty steep and the trail was narrow. There were also a ton of bikers on the trail and it was starting to rain.
Do you see the fence to the right? I thought it was a horse catching fence and laughed to myself for a good five minutes. It's actually for catching rocks.
The way down from the ledge on the side of the Mesa to the canal was a series of switchbacks. Ashke got really nervous, so I ended up hand-walking him down them. That was probably between a quarter and a half mile. Once we got down to the bottom by the canal, I mounted back up. I figure next time I will be able to ride the entire route. Ashke was awesome about standing and waiting for me to get on him. Lifting my right leg and swinging into the saddle is difficult once I start to get tired.
It was raining, okay, sprinkling by the time we got to the canal. Our only bad spook of the day came along the canal. There was a house with a big poodle-golden mix who had raced to the fence and was watching us ride by. He waited until he were just going past him to start barking and lunging at us. I think both Ashke and I had dismissed him from our minds, thinking he was just going to watch. When the dog went nuts, Ashke spook and spun, then stopped right on the edge of the canal. Thankfully he stopped, because I could have been tossed off him and into the canal, which would have been a fifteen to twenty foot drop. That could have been very painful. Goes to show you he's not really trying to get rid of me. :)
When we got back to the barn, I unsaddled and took the boots off. His feet looked great. No heat or rubs. I took him into the wash stall and rinsed his back and legs off, removing the sweat and mud we had accumulated. I released him into his stall with peppermints and carrots. His favorites. We shall have to see how he is feeling on Sunday and how sore his butt muscles are. Overall, this is a great ride and one I expect to do again soon.