Sunday, February 24, 2013

Snow Day

I didn't go to the barn today.

This is why. The barn got 20" of the white stuff. We got about nine.

We did venture out to Costco for eggs and puppy chow, because I am a bad planner. The wind was blowing the snow sideways.

The plains are known for these kind of blizzards. They come up out of no where, create white out conditions and kill unwary travelers. At least, they used to. I think J has heard that story a million times, any time the snow starts to go sideways.

We spent most of the day doing this . . .

Our Lily Bear

And Skittle Bug

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Coyote Trail

I went out a little after noon to ride. So did everyone else. All of the grooming stalls were full. Per the email sent out by TMR yesterday, I groomed and saddled Ashke in his stall.

It would have worked better if I had cross-ties, which I intend to install, but I made it work. Ashke hated it.

He wanted to be outside in his run with his buddies. And he also thought saddling him in his stall was the worse idea ever! I had issues with being on his right side, picking out his feet, tightening the cinch, and getting him to give me his head. He nipped a lot. Although, he did seem to enjoy the grooming since he is shedding like a banshee.

His "I really just want to hang out in the sun" face. I finally got him to turn around and face me.

Saddled and ready to go. We went back to the Equipedic blanket, because the thinner blanket made his back hurt. The Equipedic is supposed to shape itself so the pressure is even across his back, which it does.

We headed to the indoor. He was quite high energy. Rachel moved her hand and Ashke went sideways. It was fun. After walk, trot and canter I was pretty over it. There were a bunch of people riding and at least two lessons, so Ashke and I took to the hills, where we are always going to want to be.

There was about four to six inches of snow, with puddles of melt where the rock was. That was interesting because Ashke hates to cross water. He did, however, once he got a good look at it and realized he didn't have a choice. I can safely say, we were the only horse out on the Mesa today.

We followed the coyote tracks out from the barn. They keep coming down, but I figured out they are coming down to get water from the creek that runs past the barn. It was pretty cool to watch how the tracks wove through each other, zigzagging through the brush (following the scent of rabbit, I'm sure).

We did our two mile loop in about 40 minutes and Ashke loved it. He was breathing pretty hard and got nice and warm, but didn't break a sweat. It was a perfect work for his right hammie.

We met several runners, but no bikes today. There were coyote tracks all over the place.

When we turned the far corner for home, the wind hit us in the face. Ashke stopped dead in his tracks, head up and tension sang through his body. I figure a coyote had crossed the trail only a little bit before and the scent was fresh. We both searched the area and the bush for the culprit, but didn't find it. I waited patiently for Ashke to decide if it was safe. After a thorough search, we moved forward.

Typically, Ashke prances and trots real slow downhill on our way back. I let him, as long as he is respectful. Today, however, we didn't do that. There was just enough give in the snow that he really had to concentrate on keeping his butt underneath him while we were going downhill. He stumbled one time and then figured it out. He stepped carefully and deliberately on our way home.

As you can see, we were able to use a grooming stall when we got back. I took these pictures to show the compression marks from the saddle blanket. They seem pretty even on both sides.

And pretty even front to back. He still needs to gain some more muscle across the top of his back and butt. I'm hoping Diane can give me some idea of how to do that. And in the meantime, we are going to ride the Mesa and finally make it to the Lakes.

Ashke gets a break tomorrow and probably Monday. Colorado has finally remembered it's supposed to be winter and we are under a Winter Storm Warning with an expected 6 to 10 inches of snow. I am planning on staying in my PJs for the day, even though Nico is coming home tomorrow.

I left him chin deep in bran with carrots and apples.

He opens his mouth to take big bites of the mash. He likes the mash from Murdocks better than the mash from the Coop in Brighton. It's thicker and meatier, I think.

And because life wouldn't be complete without some puppy yummy-ness - here is your fix for the weekend:

They are exhausted. We only allowed them three 30 minute naps today in the hopes that they will sleep through the night.

They were introduced to the joys of peanut butter.

Wanting to know where their dinner is .. .


I went to the barn on Thursday afternoon to ride Ashke. I hadn't seen him since Sunday. He lifted his nose and sniffed my fingers like he wasn't sure it was me. I'm such a bad mom, but the puppies are taking up a ton of time, there was a pretty decent storm on Weds, which caused my commute home to be over two hours, and it's freaking cold. Add all of that to no sleep and a strained hamstring and working the horse just didn't seem real appealing.

Ashke was better on Thursday. The extended rest seemed to have helped his hamstring and he was able to give to the bit and pick up the correct lead in both directions. He did feel as though he was charging when he was on the right lead, heavy on the bit and not real responsive. Riding him to the left is always so much better. I know it has to do with his right hamstring but really don't know how to make it better, so I emailed Diane and asked her about seeing him again. I have plans to go out on March 30th to have him adjusted and talk to her about rehabbing the hamstring. (Supplements?)

I decided to change it up and rode up and down the arena instead of around in a circle. We worked on serpentines, neck reining, some leg yields which he's not doing as well as he was before, and then asked him to canter the length of the arena and stop. He almost didn't, ending up with his neck and chest pressed against the rail. That wasn't acceptable.

I started at a walk. We walked. I asked for a stop. He stopped. I asked for a back. He backed and then I asked him to stand. It didn't take long for him to start anticipating what I was asking him to do. We moved to the trot and then at the canter. He was very willing to do whatever I asked him to do. We had to change it up a little to keep him from stopping and backing before I asked him to. He really responds the best to verbal commands. I kept it short and stopped on a high note.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Puppies are a lot like Babies

I got up 10 times between midnight and six last night. Some of those times were due to needing to poo, some of those times were just because the puppies wanted to play in the snow. At three in the morning. Eh.

They are thirteen and a half weeks old and they seem to be upside down with their schedule. They seem to think night time is the time to play. Unfortunately, they also are going through the "put everything in their mouths", which includes socks, towels, drywall, carpet, so they can't be left out unsupervised.

They also have zero boundries. They bounce the old dog. They bounce the cats. Siska chases they with his claws out, which is pretty darn funny. They tackle and lick all over T. They lay on the back of the chairs. They try to chew the electronics. They play in the laundry.

They are not even close to sleeping through the night. J and I think we need to do more with them in the evening so they are at least a bit worn out when we go to bed. I think we should run them up and down the stairs, take them for a walk in their new "comfort" harnesses (love these), wrestle, play in the snow and otherwise do as much activity as possible before bedtime. I don't think I can handle another night like last night.

She really is sitting on the rung of the chair.

T told me this morning that he was really sorry that I didn't get any sleep last night. I answered that it couldn't last forever. Hopefully, not more than another two months. I'm so tired that I am having trouble staying awake on my drive home from work. And I haven't been out to see Ashke all week. They are replacing the lights in the arena (out of 170 lights, 107 were burned out) and expected the arena to be closed on Wednesday. It should be exciting to ride in there with full illumination.

I also hope to get my new pentax camera today. It is drop proof, shock proof, crush proof, dust proof, waterproof, cold proof, 16 megapixel, 5x optical zoom, 7.2x digital zoom, max resolution of 4608 x 3456 pixels and max video resolution of 1920 x 1080 pixels. And it takes great photos. It comes with a carabiner strap and should be pretty horse riding, picture taking perfect. I've been using J's Nikon coolpix, but am always worried I am going to fumble it getting it out of the case I carry it in. This one I can just dangle from my hydropack (once summer gets here) or on a lanyard around my neck (during the winter). Looks like it should be pretty bomb proof for the price.

Monday, February 18, 2013


Have any of you read the Valdemar books by Mercedes Lackey? (Magic's Pawn, Magic's Promise, Magic's Price) They are set in the world of Valdemar and the one thing that makes this series unique are the Companions.

Companions are white horses with a human-like soul inside them. They are Companions to the Heralds, who are Chosen by their Companion to serve Valdemar. This is also the series of books I took Ashke's name from, which is just about as perfect as it could be, seeing as Ashke is my Companion.

I love the well-muscled curve of his neck and how he arches it toward me when he wants something. I love the quiet, deepness of his eye, bold when needed, but soft and quiet with me. If a horse can have the heart of a lion, then mine does. I love how thick and healthy his mane is as it is growing back in. I love the muscle we are building in his rump. I love how thick the bone in his legs are getting (they were toothpick thin when I brought him home.) I love being able to ride him out - just the two of us. I love being able to ride with Nicole and Cali.

I love my Companion.

Sunday Trail Ride

I didn't ride Saturday, which was okay given how tight Ashke's right hamstring was on Friday. It was still tight when we started the ride on Sunday in the arena and he couldn't move at a trot at all. So we opted for walking the Mesa. Diane said the best thing was to walk hills because it would help stretch the hamstring, so that's what we did.

After a brief warm up in the arena, I headed out. I really wanted to ride to the lakes, but decided that would be a better trip with someone, then alone. If something happens on the mesa, Ashke should be able to get himself home without having to tear down a busy street. I didn't see anyone to ride with, so the two of us headed out.

Ashke is always willing when he go, even when we are alone. We went around all of the bridges, primarily because the bikers never slow down and the last thing I need is for Ashke to think he is going to have a bike enema at the end of a bridge. I swear, people on bikes believe any road or trail they are on is theirs alone and we are all interlopers.

We worked the trail that runs around North Table Mountain, heading first west and then south. We rode all the way to the parking lot before turning around. At the parking lot you have to head up, and I didn't want to use his hamstring that much.

He spent the ride with his ears up and his tail raised. I rode almost exclusively on a loose rein. We did the same speed out that we did on the way home.

We did quite a bit of elevation, although none of it was steep grade, just a lot of little ups and downs. Ashke did have issues with the wet parts of the trail. Colorado is known for its clay, which is very slick when wet. He did slip twice in places I thought he should have been more sure footed. Overall, it didn't seem to effect his hamstring. Although, I am sure the hamstring is the reason he slipped in the first place. His strength in his haunches is weak when the hammie is sore.

This was the second bridge we went around. It was narrow and longer than the first and the trail was full of riders, so I opted to be safe.

As you can see, there were groups of riders, lots of walkers out with their dogs, and we even passed one guy on a very sweaty horse. One of these days Ashke will be healthy enough that I can ride him enough to make him sweat.

Heading home with the same "will do" attitude we started out with.

When we came down to the second bridge close to the barn, there was a group of people wandering up the trail. It looked like two sets of grandparents, mom and dad and a little girl about threeish. As soon as the little girl saw Ashke she started saying, "I can ride?" As we got close, I dismounted and let him pet Ashke, then told her dad to let her sit in the saddle. Her eyes were almost as huge as Ashke's. (He's not particularly fond of really small children. He stood stock still when I asked, however. Even if he did give me a "what the hell are you doing mom?" look.) When the dad took the little girl off and everyone was thanking me, I murmured, "this is how it starts, you know. Now she'll never stop wanting a horse." The dad, who was probably the only one who heard me, looked startled.

Not a bad ride, especially alone and with a tender hamstring. As you can tell, we mostly walked. He did jig down one hillside. I held him in and just let him move at his own pace.

As you can see, lots of ups and downs.

Honestly, though, I can't wait for Nicole to get back from Hawaii. I'm very happy she and her guy got hitched, but enough already. There are trails to ride!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

So Depressed

I went out to work Ashke again last night.

He was happy to see me and very willing. Every time we work together, he gets a little bit better. We walked to warm up and then moved to the trot. His head came down, he lifted his back and we moved at a nice, active trot in both directions. He felt like he was floating.

We moved to the canter. He picked up his lead correctly. To the left was easier than to the right, but both are improving. I rode the right first, like I had planned. He was awesome, but tired easily.

When we moved back down to the trot, he struggled. His head was up and I could feel the hitch in his stride. It was more obvious to me, although no one else could see it, I could feel it. We walked out and cooled off, then I put him away.

I think asking him to lift his back has put undue strain on the right hamstring. That combined with the slip he had in the snow on Saturday seems to have set us back a bit. On Thursday, I am going to ride him lightly, with no canter, and see if we can loosen it up a touch. This weekend I will see if I can get him out on a trail and do some flat work toward the lakes.

Part of the problem in the arena is the deep footing. It is fairly thin on the outside of the ring where most people ride, but the interior of the ring is deep and spongy. This makes it so much harder for him to move, since there is no firm footing for him to reach and the sand moves as he strides down. I can't lunge him indoors, since the deep footing is the only place to lunge.

My only positive from this set back is that it seems to be minimal. It is not visibly obvious, and not as bad as he was after his last chiro appointment. I am hoping it resolves itself fairly quickly. No more riding under powerlines in the snow.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Super Sunday

I went out to the barn at about 9:30 this morning. J and T were home working on getting him caught up in math. I wanted to work Ashke in the arena, and Sunday is a riding day, so I went out.

I miss Nicole.

We got saddled up and headed to the arena. I decided to take Nicole up on her offer and try her saddle pad she got from Back on Track. The saddle fit a lot better with the thinner pad. Ashke's back has filled in so much, I don't think he needs the thicker saddle pad. I think the Back on Track pad helped keep his back warm, and I think the better fit on the saddle also helped. All I know is we had a great ride.

For the first time, Ashke came back into my hand, dropped his head at the trot and brought his haunches up underneath him. Not for the entire ride, but often enough that I can see we are making progress. He tried really hard to do what I was asking him for. Our trot was much improved and he seemed a lot more settled. He even shared time and space in the arena with other horses without going all psycho on me. His head was down for most of the ride, sometimes he even managed to get it low enough to raise his back. I was very happy at his effort.

We cantered as well. Five or six times around to the left and four or so times around to the right. Our only bad moment came as I asked for a transition from canter to trot moving to the left. He stumbled and almost fell. I think he tweeked his right hammie with that stumble. He didn't move lame or feel off, but I wondered. He picked up his right lead just fine and felt more balanced at the canter today than he has in the past. He didn't charge off with me, and transitioned down to a trot when asked. When I walked him out to cool him off, he was walking pretty slow. Ashke was one tired pony.

When I stripped off the saddle and brushed him off, he reacted to the brush running over his hamstring. It seemed like it felt sensitive or tender to Ashke, so I spent some time rubbing it. I pulled out the horse liniment and applied it liberally to the right hammie. I will be back out on Tuesday, so I plan to either lunge or ride him to make sure the hamstring stays loose. I don't want a set back at this point.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Snow Adventure

It was snowing today when we got to the barn. I was delighted by the snow and the lowering clouds and the brisk feel to the air. J and T and Tia were with me and we decided to go out onto the Mesa. I saddled Ashke up and off we went.

I choose not to warm him up in the arena, instead we headed out for the Mesa. I walked Ashke out past the outrider barns and mounted up from a bale of hay. We headed out, made it through the gate and then Ashke lost his mind. He had no desire to continue at a mannerly pace, instead insisting on lifting his front feet off the ground, backing incessantly, and otherwise being a tool. I finally got him to stand long enough to get off under my own power. He started rearing and bucking and generally carrying on. I had fitted the halter under his bridle and had the rein attached to the halter ring. I just let him run out to the end of the lead and work around me in a circle. Here are the last 30 seconds.

He was snorting and galloping in a small circle and I moved with him to try and keep him from slipping. The snow was hitting the high powerlines overhead and hissing and spitting. Every time we ended up under the powerlines, Ashke reacted poorly. I think the electricity in the air was setting him off. He finally worked enough out of his system to walk like a civilized horse next to me.

He wasn't happy from the very first step.

Big fluffy white flakes floating slowly down from an overcast sky. I hand walked him up the road to the fork that leads to the bridge, and then down that trail to the bridge. At the bridge I mounted up and rode the trail to the main road.

Ashke had no problem going forward. He had a hell of a time standing still, though. And he walks so much faster than anyone can follow that I had to wait for the walkers to catch up. J and T were geocaching and found one near the bridge. Ashke wouldn't stand still so we spent our time riding in circles around the bushes nearby. Then we walked up the trail to the main road, then paced up and down the main road waiting for the walkers to catch up.

You can see from the tracks on the ground how unwilling Ashke was to stand still.

I think he enjoyed himself, even if it was difficult to find patience, or listening ears. Overall, he was very up, but still listened. Just couldn't stand still.

This was the attempt to stand still look. We rode up and down the road while J and T found a second geocache. There were powerlines overhead and the sizzle of frying snowflakes was making Ashke antsy. His front feet left the ground several times.

The road back to the barn was steep and he was dancing. He was trotting slower than T and J were walking. I threw pride and appearance to the wind, got off and hand walked him home.

I know for a fact this is the first time he has been ridden in an active snowstorm. He spooked a couple of times, and was a handful, but never made a concerted effort to get rid of me. After I started hand walking him, I put T up to give him a chance to ride. Ashke was very careful to behave while T was up. T got down to try and figure out why the snow was covered by catepillars, so I grabbed hold of Ashke's breastplate to help keep me from sliding on the snow (was not expecting to hike in my cowboy boots). I could feel Ashke become more careful, bracing himself as he stepped in case I slipped and he needed to catch me. It was a pretty incredible feeling.

It was a great day and an enjoyable ride, even if half of it was spent walking.

Friday Late Night Lights

Last night I was finally able to get out and ride Ashke. This week has been so crazy I find myself fantasizing about winning the lottery and not having to work any more just so I can spend some of my time riding. Ashke is shedding like a fiend. Thankfully, he is in a heated barn and has a blanket for the outside times when it's really cold. Otherwise, everything I own is covered in white hair. Joy.

I groomed and saddled Ashke and then we made our way to the indoor arena. I walked with Ashke around the outside of the arena for a couple of circuits and then left him with T while I went to the bathroom. He was chasing T around in circles by the time I got back. In his defense, I think it was T's idea, but Ashke was acting very up. I unhooked the rein and let him take off.

He crow-hopped, he reared, he tore around like a wild boy who has just been set free at recess. I just let him run until he was no longer doing any of those things and had turned in and walked up to me. Then we had a great ride. He is still a little rough at the trot and I can't get him to consistently lower his head, but it is getting better with every try. Our canter to the left was awesome and the one to the right was on the correct lead, but a little rough. I really need to ride to the right first, and then to the left, so he is not as tired when we go to the right. Next time I ride (which hopefully will be today) I want to put some poles up so we can do weaving and practice our turns. He is neck reining fairly consistently, which is a great tool for the trail when I am riding him on a loose rein, but not as effective when I am riding with close contact.

I am beginning to think I should do a dressage lesson or two and see if working with Cinnamon would help improve my connection to Ashke. He is getting stronger and looking better every day. I really need to get his SI joint adjusted again. Will have to see if Nicole can take us out to see Diane in April.

I am hoping to do a ride out today. We will have to see if J, T and Tia are up to getting on top of the mesa. If they are, then that might be a great ride. If not, then I might have to do the flat trail to the lakes.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013


Who wouldn't love to see a picture of our adorable puppies . . . ?

So, here is an update. To give some background, we once had a female boxer dog who seemed lonely. In a fit of stupidity, we bred her to another boxer dog. She had three pups. We were sued by the owner of the male dog because he didn't want to pay us what he had agreed to pay for a puppy (it was an unusual agreement). We went to court three times and finally settled. By then, the pups were six and a half months old and we were all Pack. There was no way to rehome any of them, so we had four. Eight years later, we lost Red. Then a year after that we lost Joey. We were down to two, which we had supposed would be the perfect number. Then we lost Spike. I had said for years that we would not do any more dogs, at least not for a while, but the hole that was left in our family was too huge. Our son was grieving. We were grieving. We missed our pack.

So, we got puppies.

We've had them two weeks now and they are doing awesome. One of the things that has changed since I last had puppies is my understanding of "rewarding the try". We praise and reward the behavior we want to encourage, and gently reprimand or ignore the behavior we don't want. They are already sitting on command, asking to go outside, using the paper or pee pads when we don't see the ask. I know from research that they really don't have control until they're about sixteen weeks, which is still five weeks from now. So, we aren't sweating the accidents. They have learned the "No" when said firmly means they need to redirect their energy or to not bite.

We selected two, because dogs do better in a pack. We provided one kennel with a place for them to sleep and a place for them to go, until they gain control of their bladders. They are housed together so they can play and chew and sleep in puppy piles. We make going outside fun and an adventure with plenty of verbal encouragement , instead of punishment. We don't raise our voices to them, because they are shepards and I don't want them to be timid. We allow them to bark, because I want them verbal when someone comes to their "space". I sleep half the night in my bed and half the night in the chair, because they settle much better when I am close enough for them to smell my hand. I expect bowel control to be in place by the end of next week, since they are already showing signs they are making progress in this area.

They are a delight and a joy. It is so different to have puppy energy again, after the sedentary energy of our aged pups. We should have a new kennel, ordered off Amazon, by tomorrow. They are beginning to get too big to lift from the kennel we made from a $30 roll of wire we got from Lowe's. We need one with a door and sturdy panels. They have gained over ten pounds in three weeks and are too big to fit through the banister any more.

We did change one of their names: we have Lily (fawn) and Skittle (brindle). Jaime and Lily sounded too much a like and they were getting confused. Skittle seems to like her new name.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Strong Sunday

I started my morning by helping my friend Lisa move her new Straight Egyptian gelding, A-Maar, from the old farm to the place where Lisa boards her horses. We were expecting it to take quite a while. I went to catch A-Maar for Lisa, since her shoulder is bothering her and we didn't want it injured, and A-Maar turned his butt to me. I flipped the end of the lead rope at him, not touching him, and kept flipping it until he decided to turn and face me. Once he did, I stopped flipping the rope at him and stood, letting him think about it. He tried to dodge around me and I moved to block him. He stopped and let me get the halter on him. He was very excited to see Lisa (she has been working with him between when she put the deposit down on him and now.) I led him around to the trailer and Lisa started feeding him cookies. For cookies, A-Maar walked into the trailer. Completely uneventful. We trailered him to his new home and got him set up in the round pen. Lisa needs to introduce the alfalfa they feed with the grass he was already getting, so as not to colic him. In a week or so, they will move him in with Blaze. I think he has already started to bond with Lisa and was very affectionate with her. (Got to love Arabians.) Lisa is going to have his feet done when the vet floats his teeth, while he is under sedation. The expectation is that he will let Michelle trim him eight weeks later because of the work Lisa will do with him in between times.


Lisa has found a place in Evergreen where VK can be on pasture for the rest of his life. Sadly, I don't think it will be too long. You can see how badly his hip is starting to twist, and how painful it is becoming for him to move. It was bittersweet for me to see the older and the younger in pens across from each other. It felt like VK passed the torch to the new horse today. 

Then I went and spent the rest of the day riding Ashke. Nicole was really sick so it was my boy and I. There were a lot of horses in the arena and I didn't want to ride inside, so I told Cinnamon where we were going and Ashke and I took off.

We rode our regular trail up to where it meets the main road. Then we turned right and headed into unknown territory.

The plan today was for Ashke and Cali, Nico and myself, to ride the Mesa. I wasn't going to let Nico's sickness derail my plan. We headed uphill.

There is a point where the road goes straight up, at about a 14% grade. Ashke was puffing and struggling to carry us both up, so I dismounted. He was lifting his head too high and hollowing out his back and I didn't want that to continue. I led him up the steepest part and led him back down on our way home.

This is about half way up the Mesa, looking out over the valley below, taken while I was leading him. I think his right hamstring got a bit sore, but he did really well on the ride. He didn't act up, he didn't balk, he seemed really interested in everything we saw. It was amazing.

We did over 1000 feet of elevation gain on the ride. You can see where the road we walked up stretched out behind us.

I have been carrying our Nikonpix camera in a gameboy carrier attached to my belt. Takes much better pictures than my iPhone.

After we got past the really steep part, I mounted up again and we headed for the top of the Mesa.

We made it up on top, which is a lot bigger than I would have guessed before we got up there.

We meandered around a bit, doing kind of a loopy circle. The only issue I have with the mesa is that it is incredibly rocky. I'm thinking I need to get boots before we do a lot of riding up there.

There was quite a few people on the trails. Runners, bikers, people with babies and people with dogs. Didn't bother Ashke in the least.

Got close to the edge, but didn't look down. I'm afraid of heights.

There were deer, which Ashke wanted to chase. 

He got real jiggy, wanting to go after them. It was too rocky to try and do that, not to mention, not good for the deer. We motored past.

Silhouetted against the sky. It was very windy and cold up on top. 

We followed a guy with a baby border collie down the hill.

Almost two hour ride. I was pretty tired when we got back. Ashke was more than ready to tuck into his bran mash with carrots and a couple of peppermints.

Not bad for elevation, eh? 

On the map, between the one mile marker and the 4 mile marker is a patch of trail that is darker. That is the really steep part where I led Ashke on foot. We had a great ride. It would have been better if Nico could have come, but it wasn't bad as it was.