Thursday, August 29, 2013


Well, last night was a lesson in patience, for both N and myself.  And perseverance. And in not beating one's horse.

While we were getting them ready (they are both shedding like mad and Ashke's hair has gotten so thin and sleek that he is going gun metal grey on his shoulders and neck) N wondered out loud if she should work Cali in the sidereins, to help Cali remember that they have work to do. She opted out of sidereins, which she lamented about loudly as Cali was bucking, rearing and kicking her way in an all out battle of wills.

I was amused at Cali's behavior (I find it hilarious to watch her rear and kick when N asks her to disengage her hindquarters - although I know I would be frustrated and a little angry if I were N) while warming up Ashke, and feeling not a little bit of pleasure that Ashke had matured past the point of throwing tantrums. And you know what they say, Pride goes before a fall.

Luckily, I didn't fall, but I did have my horse suffer through about fifteen minutes of insanity. He started rearing, little bitty crowhops and a couple of loud snorts. I don't know if the issue was Tonka, complete with bright blue leg wraps which he was valiantly trying to jump out of, or something I could neither see or sense that was making both horses completely out of control. Ashke held still while I dismounted (thankfully - that's my least favorite thing when dealing with an out of control horse) but exploded away from me as soon as I was on the ground. He bolted in a circle around me at the end of the rein (roper - see earlier post) at a dead run, bucking and kicking and flagging his tail. He only made one serious attempt to get away and then seemed perfectly content to tear around doing Arabian scuttlebutt for a good fifteen minutes. In a fifteen foot circle around me until he was drenched with sweat.

N laughed at me.

I'm not sure why both horses were behaving the way they were. I think it might have something to do with fall coming, but probably more likely has to do with the death of one of the barn horses. Lady was 36. An Arabian mare who was found dead in her paddock on Tuesday morning. I'm sure that the horses know in that way that animals have to communicate with each other and both of our horses were unsettled and distraught by the event. At least that's my guess. Either that or the blue leg wrappings were evil. One or the other.

After the willies were out, I remounted and asked Ashke for some work. We did walk-halt-back transitions, walk-trot transitions, walk-trot-halt-back work, some leg yields and some decent canters in both directions. This time, I cantered the ends of the arena and then asked him to trot the length, collecting himself before cantering again. That was a wonderful piece of work and we achieved a really nice canter to the right for the first time ever with him on the correct lead. I might not have believed in dressage movement to help your horse become balanced and collected, but I am beginning to believe in it now.

To finish up, N and I walked in big circles and talked while the horses cooled down. They were pretty much dry when we got back to the barn, but still needed rinsing. Neither of them wanted to go in the wash stall. I've never seen Cali so much as hesitate and this time she snorted and shied and backed up and absolutely didn't want to go in. N was patient and finally coaxed her into the stall. Ashke and I spent fifteen minutes, a handful of peppermints and finally had to resort to a carrot to get him inside. Something didn't smell right to them.

At the end of the day, no one was hurt, no one got beat and we had a decent ride for such an eventful evening. Hopefully, Cali will be better tonight.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Halter Give Away

She Moved to Texas is giving away a cob-sized leather halter from Horze. Entry is easy, but really, you don't have to so Ashke will win. :)

Monday, August 26, 2013

Sea Horse

N and I rode on Friday night in the arena and both of us were very pleased with the results. . His right haunch was definitely sore on Friday when I saddled him up, and he let me know by dropping his hip and turning his back so I could rub the muscles over his loin, his haunch and along the hamstring. I gave him a pretty solid massage (10 minutes or so) until he let me know it felt better. I warmed him up slow, walking the indoor arena in both directions four times before asking him to trot. I can tell when the muscles are loose, because he really stretches out and moves at the walk. Ashke is giving more to the bit, and his canter is coming along in both directions. We do need to work on trot-canter transitions, but not until his canter is better. It is still difficult for him to canter to the right, although I do see improvement, and I have to continue to move slowly with him so we don't reinjure his right haunch. Once we were warm, we did some trotting and then N and I took turns with our canters in both directions. I started working Ashke on figure eights with a lead change between directions (we slow to the trot and then pick up the other lead). This is how I know we need to work on trot-canter transitions, because he doesn't always want to slow down. I can ride four or five circles at the canter before my body needs a break, then it was N's turn. By the time we were done both horses were in a light sweat so we walked the arena and talked for about ten minutes to let them cool down.
Sunday was our next day to ride. We thought about exploring a new trail, since both horses are so familiar with where we ride now that they are getting somewhat anticipatory in their behavior along the route. However, the thought of being able to let them play in the water at Tucker Lake was too good to pass up. The temps were right about 90 (we've been really spoiled with temps not getting that high for most of the summer) and the thought of playing in the water sounded too good.
Both horses were really up, but not acting too badly, for the most part. Cali did have a couple of moments where she bucked instead of cantering, which N rode easily. Ashke was very forward and moving very well. I only booted his front feet, since I think the hind feet are a little loose and have a tendency to make him feel unsteady. Michelle said his hind feet were rock solid and in great shape. That seemed to really work for us this ride. Unless we move onto the mesa or somewhere equally rocky, I think that will be our norm going forward.
I also got a new pair of reins that are soft cotton/poly mix, roping style, but a little longer than the black nylon reins I've been using, plus they are round, not flat, so they slide through the martingale very nicely. I have a pair that are made the same way, only the rope is twice the thickness, and they are super heavy - dragging on his mouth, even when I don't have pressure on the bit. I wanted something thinner and lighter but that worked the same way, especially the part where they don't hang up on my martingale (sometimes the boy goes super behind vertical and hangs up the buckle on the black reins). I am happy to say that they were perfect, perfect length, perfect weight, and no hang ups. They look like this, in case you wondered.

By the time we got to the Lake, we were all pretty warm. We stripped gear and let the horses out on long lead lines. They seemed to love it.

I grabbed the camera but missed both horses laying down. At one point not only did Ashke lay down in water deep enough to cover his back and most of his neck, but then he tried to roll, which effectively dunked his head under water. He came back up snorting and confused, splashed the water with his nose and tried again. There was no part of him left unwetted. Silly boy.

Cali laid down three times, but in shallower water. She, however, didn't attempt to roll.

This picture above is about the depth of the water when he went down. I was afraid he was going to drown himself, but I guess he is smarter than that.

They were both in the water for twenty minutes or so. N and I were out in the water up to our thighs. We've decided that next time we are bringing a lunch, bathing trunks and pulling both our shoes and the horses boots. (I need to find a set of saddle bags that are going to work with my saddle to carry all this stuff. At least I have attachment points, N only has the two pommel points.)

Eventually they tired of the water and moved to dry land and grass. We took time to wring out our socks, and drain our boots before saddling up again. I don't think either of us will ever be willing to ride deep water with the saddles on, since they have both shown willing to roll in the water.

The rest of the ride went pretty quickly, although we had issues with Cali's easyboots. She keep slipping them off when we canter. The gators on the back boots are completely torn up and N is now thinking about trying the backcountry trail gators. Or possibly a half size smaller glove. I think it would also help if we stopped allowing them to go in the lake without taking the boots off. I'm sure the water is causing them to stretch.
If you look at the map below, we cantered pretty much continuously from the top part of Tucker Lake where we turned West to the area above the switchback just before the 5 mile mark. That was a wonderful stretch and Ashke loved it. We did have one moment where I was on one side of the sidewalk, Cali was on the verge on the other side of the sidewalk and there was a bike rider on the sidewalk in front of us. Ashke thought it was a race and I had zero control. I was trying to stop him, but there was no stopping until Cali eased down and then Ashke slowed too. I swear he thinks he's a race horse.
I got a new phone and downloaded the app while tightening my girth so my settings were FUBAR'd, but I didn't want to not track the ride. So, here you go.

The last canter of the day, which is an open field right before we go into the neighborhood, is always exciting. Ashke seems to think he needs to jump over random patches of alfalfa. The canter is actually more like a run and the intermident jumping adds a bit of spice to the dead ass run he prefers. I really need to work on his stop. Overall, it was a great ride.

Friday, August 23, 2013


Borrowed from

Looked like fun . . ..

1. Western or English? Neither, really. I'm riding western dressage in an English Prestige Trekkerland saddle. I don't post. But, I do wear breeches and riding boots with half chaps. I am most interested in Working Equitation, which combines dressage, working cows and obstacles.

2. Colorful tack or classic?

Classic. Black or dark brown is the best.

3. Bareback or with a saddle?

Thirty years ago it would have been bareback. Now, I don't feel safe without a saddle.

4. Stock horse or sport horse?

How about the horse that started it all - the Arabian. Although, for what we have in mind, much more a sport horse than stock, I think.

5. Greenie or push button?

I like that I was the one who trained Ashke from start to finish. I like that he still has attitude, but that he really wants to do what I am asking him to do. I don't think I will ever be happy with a push button horse, but that's also because I want one that will think on the trail.

6. Ring work or trail?

Both. All things in balance.

7. Shod or barefoot?

Barefoot with boots when needed.

8. Local county fair or rated show?

Maybe a schooling show at some point in the future. Especially if we can get some WE stuff going on.

9. Recreational or competitive?


10. Chestnut or Bay?


My opinion on:

11. Racing?

I watch the Triple Crown. I have since I was a kid. But I only watch as long as the Kentucky Derby winner is undefeated. I watched Affirmed win the Triple Crown by a nose over Alydar in 1978. And I watched Secretariat win the Belmont. At some point I would like to see another horse win the TC again. Otherwise, I don't watch. Would I be sad if they stopped racing altogether? Nope.

Did I want more than anything to be a jockey when I was a kid? Yep.

12 Drugging?

I don't even know what this is in reference too . . . .

13. Proper age to start a horse?

I think you should start handling them and doing ground work from day one. I don't think you should be riding before 3 and a half, and even then it should be minimal. By four and a half, they might be ready to show and should be strong enough to ride for some distance/time by then. I think there are a lot of horses being ridden way too young.

14. Natural Horsemanship?

I think it works better than the crash and bash of the old west. I enjoy the relationship with my horse and making that a priority.

15. Breed Debates?

I assume this is related to high powered showing of some sort. I love my Arabian and admire and love N's Friesan/Paint. And I'm not crazy about QH's overall, but that said, I think any breed or color can be a good horse.

Have you ever . . . .

16. Cantered bareback?

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away . . . .

17. Rode Tackless?

Inside a corral - yes. Outside a corral the closest I came was a piece of rope around Queenie's neck.

18. Jumped over 3 ft?

Nope. And I don't wanna.

19. Competed in rodeo?

Yes ma'am. Roping, bareback broncs, steers, posse.

20. Fallen off?

Fallen, thrown, tossed, slammed, slid, fallen with, fallen on, thrown free, and all more than once.

21. Doubled with someone?

Is this a sex question?

22. Had a bad riding accident?

See #20.

23. Lost a horse?

Not lost. Had two die on me - one with a genetic condition that ended her life at five months and the other who severly twisted an intestine at the age of 5.

24. Sold a horse?

A couple. Felt guilty and relieved at the same time when we sold Sham. I really hope he didn't kill anyone.

25. Taught a lesson?

Was a 4-H leader at 17 and 18.

26. Trained a horse/owned something really green?

Queenie, Ace, Shadow, Keili, and Ashke. Broke other people's horses to ride for money or hay when I was a teenager.

27. Watched a mare give birth?

Missed it by fifteen minutes. Sneaky mare.

28. Galloped in an open field?

Open field, down a lane, up a trail, alongside the road, any damn where I could find when I was young and fearless.

29. Done vaulting?

I had to google this to know when it meant. . . . no. But I have ridden my horse standing up, without a saddle, stepped from the back of one horse to another while moving, but only for fun.

30. Been to the Olympics or any other high level equestrian competition?

Olympics in LA in 1984.

Fill in the blanks:

31. I have been riding off and on since I was four.
32. My discipline of choice is trail riding or working equitation.
33. The horse I ride is my equine soulmate and owns me completely.
34. My favorite breeds are Arabian, Appaloosa (old style - not QH's with spots), Friesan, Shire, Andalusian, Mustang, and Lippizzan.
35. The equestrian I look up to is Mark Rashid
36. My favorite thing about riding and owning horses is his nicker greeting me when I arrive at the barn.
37. My best riding memory can't be identified. I do know that currently I love riding with N on the trail, either with J or without.
38. My worst memory is being thrown in Yellowstone on the trail ride.
39. My ultimate goal is to have a sound, healthy horse that I can ride for hours all over the place.

At Liberty

Last night was Ashke's latest trim appointment with Michelle. I, unfortunately, was late due to replacing my phone last weekend. Well, that and old age, which causes me to completely forget times and dates, to my chagrin.

By the time I made it to the barn at 4:40, Michelle was finished with Ashke. She trimmed him at liberty in his run with absolutely no issues. She did have to put the halter on him for shaping the final front foot, just because he likes being so involved and wouldn't hold still, but overall, she said he was wonderful.

For those of you who don't remember, we have been dealing with thin soles and tenderness due to the unusual wetness in our region and the amount of trail riding I have been doing. The last two trims, all Michelle was able to do was shape and balance, not taking any hoof off at all, except with the rasp. Last night she was actually able to trim him and she reported that the thin sole we've been protecting has grown thicker. The coffin bone tip is no longer so close to the surface and he should get more and more sound, even over rocks. Not sound so much (since he is that already) but more tough. Those were the fronts. The backs are magnificent.

And, I want to point out, we have gone from a horse who wouldn't let me groom his haunches, let alone pick up his feet, to one that can be trimmed at Liberty without me there.

Tells me Michelle is good people.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013


I rode with N last night in the big arena, sans jumps. Gives us a nice big space and fewer spookified moments (although he spooked EVERY.DAMN.TIME. we rode by the jump poles laying outside the fence). We have had lovely riding weather until the past three days. Colorado finally realized it was August and turned up the heat. N and I did a couple of walking laps of warm up, chatting and enjoying ourselves.

Then we started trotting and I discovered Ashke was keeping his head low and his back lifted for most of the ride. When he collapses out of collection, from being tired I expect, all I needed to do was raise my hand and gently bump my inside leg for him to move back up under himself. N said he looked awesome and now I just need to work at getting off his face as soon as he brings himself to that position. (I shouldn't hold him there - just ask him to hold himself there).

We also cantered a couple of times and that is when I had my insight. At the canter, I am drawing up my legs and trying to hold myself on with my calves.

Ta-da! Light bulb moment. I am trying to ride bareback in a saddle. When you ride bareback (without a pad) you draw your legs in at the canter, squeezing with your calves along their barrel. It is much easier to do on a narrow horse, then on a wide one, but one can acheive a secure seat that way. At least I could when I was younger.

Now, however, it is causing me to perch on the saddle, lose contact with Ashke and sort of flop along, mostly because my legs can't find a solid connection with Ashke's sides. And no, I have no desire to try it bareback to see, thank you very much. My wild Indian days are long behind me. No, what I have to do is teach myself to ride and balance with my legs down, heels down, weight in the stirrups. At a canter.

Oh boy.

Monday, August 19, 2013

By Request

Although it wasn't part of the ceremony, T wanted to walk J down the aisle. Or sidewalk, as the case may be.

We walked in together as T played the Halo Theme (instrumental) on his trombone with Adam Bartczak.

 The hug at the end.

T with his trombone at the end of the ceremony.

We are wearing matching Boulder Mountain Range Rings from Cronin Jewelers in Boulder.

We pulled Ashke out for a photo shoot. He just doesn't take a bad picture.

He was all up for being adored. And then he ate my lei.

Can you tell that the woman who took the pics of Ashke also did our wedding. She loves photographing Ashke, because he is so beautiful. I think her photos rock!!

The dinner reception afterwards was a great hit. The food was good and we had our closest friends and family.

Table Top

I have been MIA for the past week, mostly because I have been doing this:


Colorado finally passed a Civil Union bill that allowed J and I to be "married" with all the legal rights that entails, on Saturday past. It was a simple, but significant moment in our 17 year relationship. We had the reception afterwards at the barn and through hard work and a lot of elbow grease, we managed to make that dirty, dated clubhouse magical. The reception was small, just family and our really good friends. T was pretty happy to have his parents married.

Sunday, I met N at the barn early and we saddled up. We had talked on Saturday about doing the Mesa, since we hadn't been up there in weeks, and even though we didn't talk about it, I wanted to get N and Cali to the top. The issue isn't Cali's fitness, but rather N's phobia of heights.

Phobias are not fun, mostly because reason doesn't work on fear like that - I know because I have the same type of fear around dentists. Which is really ironic when you think about the fact that N is a dental hygenist.

We did it though. The horses did great, although the temps were higher than we are used to - Colorado finally remembered it was August and we had a day in the 90's. We opted out of letting them run before riding them up, and when Cali started to act reluctant, we cantered up the first quarter mile of the trail, which took the edge off. They were pretty sweaty after making the 1000 foot straight to the top climb. We gave them three rest moments going up, but once up they did great. We rode for a bit up on the top, then headed back down. Our only issue was a fail on Cali's FL easyboot. Somehow she managed to get it off her hoof without undoing the gator. I got off and fixed it (my saddle is easier to get back into) and made sure the gator was much tighter than before. We didn't have any other issues, although N is going to get the security straps for the front of her boots.

It was Cali's first time down from the top and it was both steep and a little slidy. Both of the horses did great, however, and we got down in good time. Ashke has gotten very good about getting his butt up under him and going slow, with little prompting. He now understands the importance of taking his time and I bet we could go down the trail we almost died on and not have any issues.

I estimate we rode about 5.5 miles. Unfortunately, my phone picked this weekend to die (thinking manufacture's defect) and I wasn't able to track the ride on my app. N and I plan to ride up there again, and maybe I can get her to come back down the back side with us, even if we have to hand walk part of it. We will see. Just getting to the top was a huge step for her and it definitely gives us another place to ride.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

WW: Stitches

Face Fighting under the fence. Caught it on the bottom edge of the wire fencing material.
Three inches by 1/4" deep.

Drugged, numbed and shaved. Good Boy!!

Stitched closed. Patient was resting quietly when I left. Barn crew was working on a fix to prevent it from happening again.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Trail Rides

Saturday and Sunday.

Absolutely wonderful time on Saturday, riding with N and Cali. We meandered around Tucker Lake, stopping to let the horses play in the water without their tack, and then took our time on the circuit. It was a nice wandering walk, with some short trots and a couple of canters. One of the canters was the nicest canter we have had to date, with collection and control. But for the most part, we just walked. Ashke has slowed his walk to pace with Cali and Cali has slowed her trot to pace with Ashke, unless we are headed home and then it's a race.


On Sunday J came with us. Ashke loves riding with her and Cali both and he takes care to make sure they both stay with him. J loves riding with us, because it's not as fast or difficult as a straight out bike ride. I also like it because she is able to take lots of pics, although on Sunday she decided to take lots of video instead.
I find it interesting to watch Ashke move in contrast to Cali. He steps differently than she does.
And of course, they are shaped differently.
We had a great time riding together and we loved the conversation.
When we were at Tucker Lake on Saturday, N rode Cali in the water bareback. I was determined to try to ride bareback on Ashke. I haven't been on a horse bareback since I was in my early twenties. I figured it's been almost 30 years. It was Ashke's first time, ever. He was a Rock Star!! I was so pleased with both of us!
I forgot to pause the run app when we reached the lake, to show the difference in our ride once the "stopped" time had been subtracted. When we left Tucker, N had said she was getting a little bored with the same trail, so I purposed to do some exploring. There are some nice horse trails in the neighborhood, but my favorite was the hills behind the neighborhood. When we were climbing those hills Cali didn't want to go at all. She wouldn't even trot and N was worried we had broken her. Ashke on the other hand, pure Arabian attitude, was still rearing to go. I had wanted to do a longer route around the back of the hills and do some more exploring, but both J and N thought we should turn for home. I guided us back to the lake, with the intention of following our out route back and as soon as Cali knew where she was, it was Canter City.
I don't think N will be so understanding next time Cali is acting like she is dying, because we rode that last three miles at a extended trot or canter, and in Ashke's case, a dead run. He hates being left behind.
When we got back to the neighborhood, the horses were wet and pretty warm. The sun had finally hidden itself behind a bank of clouds and it was threatening rain. We walked through the neighborhood and both horses were behaving very well. At 58th, were we have to cross the road, I manuevered Ashke onto the sidewalk (like I always do) so that we weren't sitting in the road and I had room to move him around safely, if there was traffic. As we stepped up on the sidewalk his Easy Boot slipped on the curved edge of the sidewalk (its a sidewalk that's molded for the driveway - I hate those). J and N both said that at one point he was scrambling with all four feet to keep himself and me upright and I really thought we were going to go down. He kept us up, but managed to skin some hair off his left knee. None of us believe he actually hit the sidewalk. I think he managed to smack his left knee with his right boot. I immediately got off, shaking from the adrenaline and fear, and let him know how wonderful he is that he managed to save us both. There was  little bit of heat when we got back to the barn (I hand walked him the rest of the way home) and I cold hosed it, plus gave him a bit of Bute.



Wednesday, August 7, 2013


You just have to do it yourself.

It was raining last night, which meant an indoor ride on a Tuesday with the hunter/jumper training group and a few other riders mixed in. Ashke was a doll, although Cali was a spaz. We did circles at the walk and trot while Cali did her impression of a Lippizzan. It was pretty impressive, although N didn't really think so. Once on, Cali was great for N and they did the W/T/C thing. Ashke and did canter in both directions and he is beginning to feel so much better to the right, but my back was so sore from shoveling rocks that I couldn't move with him. We did one circuit in each direction and I was done. He did turn on the forehand and the haunches in both directions very smoothly. We are beginning to get on the same page with that particular movement.

We vacated early.

Ashke was bedded down in the stall with carrots and apples, his door open to the little bit of rain we were getting. He was the only horse outside when I checked on him a bit later. Silly boy.

When N put Cali away she went to pick her stall and discovered a huge pool of urine in the same place as the last few times. N was furious. We are already having issues with sore feet due to the increased and unrelenting rain we have been having, standing on wet shavings is going to be even worse for her feet. I told N that I really thought there had to be something wrong for it to be consistently that wet. We moved all of the shavings away and realized the mat had two very large holes in it. The urine was running under the mat, and I'm still not convinced there isn't a leaking pipe somewhere down there as well.

We pulled the mat out, which was absolutely the most disgusting thing I have done in a while. It was covered in black mud made of rotting shavings, dirt and urine. And wet mats are very heavy. Both N and I were covered in horse pee by the time we wrestled it out of the stall. Then we went back in to inspect the hole. There was about an inch of urine (or possibly water mixed with urine) in a shallow hole under the mat. The ground was very wet and squishy. The hole was a couple of inches deeper than the surrounding ground (think shallow bowl shape). N and I went out and filled a muck bucket about a third full of peat gravel and brought it in to dump in the hole. That evened out the hole, and provided drainage. Then we went down to an empty stall and stole a mat from there.

That was just the beginning. We pulled all the mats, replacing one more, and evened the floor underneath, before reseating the mats. The underside of all of Cali's stall was damp, which makes me think perhaps there is a leak there, or maybe that's just a product of stalls and the reason why we use stall mats. Once the ground was level, we were able to lay the mats so that the edges were even and there was no lip to catch a hoof on. Then we refilled the shavings so she was bedded down well. I was very pleased with the finished product and Cali seemed pretty happy too. I know N was happy.

A couple of things to take away. 1) Stall mats are heavy and gross when wet. We used an old lead rope I can't use on Ashke any more, because it is frayed, to fold the mat over and drag it down the aisle of the barn. So much easier than trying to carry them with our hands. And it kept some of the gross stuff off our hands. 2) Next time we will take the time to get a good shovel from N's house to do the leveling. The barn shovel has a bent edge, shaped like an inverted V, which makes it impossible to get a straight edge on anthing. Or pick anything up. It was pretty frustrating. 3) I didn't mind doing the maintenance on the stall, although it was a bit frustrating that NO ONE on the staff thought about pulling the mat to see why it was so wet. Is it just me, or is it reasonable to expect the horses to be housed on material that can be maintained and kept dry?

Saturday, August 3, 2013


Today we moved several hundred pounds of rock out of the arena. We may have cleared 25% of the rock larger than 1/4" through the process of shifting the rock through a screen cable tied to a hayfork. It was over 90 while we were doing so and every muscle in my shoulders and back feel like I have been pummeled and pulled apart at the joints. I'm sure there has to be a tool or piece of equipment that will do the same thing, but we couldn't find one in Denver. We are talking with Cassandra about having her husband help the barn construct one (Shiloh next door has one they made that we can look at for a prototype.) We also raised some money to buy sand for the outdoor arena, which is the same arena we were taking rock out of.

After the rock removal, there was a potluck and a raffle. There were only two things raffled off, since Sherl wanted to wait until we had more people involved (raised more money for buying sand for the outdoor arena). The day left me too tired and sore to ride, so instead I worked Ashke in his training system.

I groomed Ashke in his stall, using the new crossties I picked up today, attached to bolts in the stall wall that Henry put in since the last time I was at the barn. It is just as well, since the grooming stalls were full. I still need a saddle rack to put my saddle on and I placed an order tonight on Amazon for a portable saddle rack, single arm, in purple. Henry has already created a hanging place in my stall where I can put the portable arm when I need to groom Ashke there. Hopefully, it won't have to happen very often, but it's better than waiting for an open bay.

I got him groomed and put the balance system (like a pessoua system only with bungies instead of static rope - there is more give to the ropes) on Ashke. He wasn't real excited. I took him to the round pen and let him get to work.


He is getting long and low at the trot.

He did some cantering, too. At first he was cross cantering to the left. (Damn right hip thing again). When that happened I encouraged him to speed up, which forced him to canter correctly, since the circle was pretty tight. He only cross cantered at the very beginning, and then stayed on the correct lead, both front and back, after that. 

We spent some time, actually quite a bit of time, doing trot-canter transistions. It must not have been easy because about the fourth time I slowed him to a trot, waited until he was relaxed and low then asked him to canter again, he began kicking and bucking in protest. We did transistions for twenty minutes or so. He was plenty warm by the time we were done. 

I untacked him in the wash stall, since I really didn't want to wait to rinse him off. He walked right in for me. Good Boy! I rinsed him off and then put him back in his stall with some crunchy treats. Tomorrow we ride.


Friday, August 2, 2013

Light Bulb Moment

So you may have figured out by now, I was raised in the west (in fact, to me anything east of the Mississippi is the East, and Kansas is the midwest. Drives J batshit). I have traveled east of the Mississippi four times in my life, one of those times to go to Disney World. My life has been filled with wide open spaces and western riding where horses were concerned.

So, why didn't I choose to go western with Ashke? Honestly, first I wanted to be "The Man From Snowy River". I have the hat (purchased before the thought of helmets entered my mind), the duster (also purchased years ago) and I started with an Aussie saddle. The vision of me, long bull whip in hand (yeah, that would never have happened with Ashke - can you say rodeo horse?) chasing wild horses down a vertically challenging drop, whip cracking above our heads was fun while it lasted. Alas. . . .

Something happened. My Aussie hat was replaced with a helmet, my jeans were swapped for a pair of riding breeches, I got half-chaps, Arait work/riding boots and a PRESTIGE English Trekking saddle. Add to that, my primary riding companion rides English/Dressage and has been a wonderful/horrible influence, depending on your opinion of Western riding. Am I unhappy about my conversion to English/Dressage riding style? No, because honestly I hate western saddles. They are heavy, bulky, rub massive bruises into my knees and thighs, plus the fenders and stirrups but undue pressure on my knees. Of course, on the other hand, I don't think I would have felt secure in the little postcard saddles English riders dub endurance. The Trekkerland seems perfect for me, giving a great combination of light weight and deep seat. I have ridden several sudden sideways movements without coming close to losing my seat. And Ashke seems to love it. We are no longer having issues with his back.

So, back to the western riding thing. The last time I had a horse, most of my time riding was spent holding on, trail riding long distances and trying to figure out how to deal with the psychoticness of my horse, all in an Aussie saddle. (Nice word, huh?) Before that, very few people rode English in 4-H. And I didn't have a saddle, except the one we borrowed to show in. All of my other riding - posse work, patterns, roping, and chasing cows was done in a western saddle. I had never attempted to ride English.

Enter Ashke and N. And the blog world. Most of the blogs I follow are English Hunter/Jumper or English Dressage blogs and use terms I'm not really familiar with. One of the things N said to me months ago was to anchor the outside rein and bump him into it with my inside leg. I interpreted that to mean, tie the outside rein really tight to the edge of the saddle and don't let go, right? I mean an anchor point is something unmoveable and set. I left the inside rein relatively loose and then expected him to bend and flex to the inside. However, the way I have been riding has had the effect of forcing his head to the outside when we trot and try to canter, counterflexing and taking away any bend.

Poor Ashke. No wonder he has been so frustrated with me and not understanding what I want from him. Since I put the martingale back on, I have been riding a lot with one hand. You can't anchor the outside rein when you are holding the reins in one hand. I discovered last night, when trotting, that I should keep the inside rein a little snugger, so his neck flexes to the inside (Cassandra had mentioned that he counterflexes. Now we know why. Stupid rider.) My outside rein kept light but constant contact with his mouth, and when I applied a little bit of calf pressure to Ashke's barrel, he flexed around my leg and bent to the inside.

Light bulb moment.

His trot was awesome and he could shift away from leg pressure in either direction just by my shifting my weight. Then we tried the canter. So much more balanced and collected, moving nicely with me, still bending to the inside of our circle. I felt so stupid. I know now that I've been pulling him off balance and making things so much harder on him, just because I had no idea what N really meant when she told me to do things. After our first serious canter, I told her what I had discovered and then she demonstrated what she meant. Going forward, if I hear something new, I'm asking her to show me, rather than me interpret what I think she means.

Our canter to the right was solid and much better than last night. It was still harder than to the left, but much better now that I am allowing Ashke to bend to the inside. He stumbled at one point (I knew he was getting tired - he struggles to find energy in the indoor arena) and instead of letting him stop, I immediately asked him to pick up a right lead canter. We've always stopped at that point, but this time I didn't let him. Don't want to encourage him avoiding work that way. He didn't stumble again.We ended the night with 7 - 8 circuits in both directions at a canter, part of which I rode while still hanging on. I told N afterwards, feeling ashamed and stupid, but she reminded me that we do what we had to until we don't need to do it again. We are getting closer though, and I can see in the progress that N and Cali are making, the value of working Ashke in the arena.

We finished up with some turns on the forehand and then turns on his haunches. He did great. Just such an awesome boy and he's going to be so much happier now that I have hauled my head out of my ass.

Thursday, August 1, 2013


I went to the barn Tuesday night to ride by myself, figuring we would work in the outdoor arena on cantering. When I got to the barn, I found this:

Ashke does turn out with Cali three times a week and it rained late Sunday night, so the turn out pasture was hock deep in mud, which he loves!

I didn't even try to brush him off. I walked him into the wash stall and turned on the hose. It took a good fifteen minutes to wash the mud off him. No soap or shampoo, just a cold rinse.

The worse part was his mane.

He had chunks of mud - concrete really - balled in the hair of his mane. As they washed out, mind you I just used water, no comb or fingers even, huge wads of hair came out too. He had gotten the mud balled up and then rubbed on the fence or wall of his stall. He had torn out handfuls of mane. The hair he hadn't torn out was frizzy and broken off. Think dreadlocks. His mane was thin to begin with and we have been struggling to get any good growth. I did what any good mom would do with a child who had gum in their hair - I cut it short. Left about three inches. Not short enough for his mane to stand up. Looks like a roping horse's cut.

About the time I was weeping over cut hair, I got a call about a Supersac I had found on Craigslist. Quickly I scraped Ashke down and turned him back into his stall with a handful of carrots and apples. I raced home to grab the truck, then drove to meet the woman selling the oversized bean bag. T wanted to redo his room and instead of a sofa to sit on and game from, we got him this:

It is the size of a queen sized bed and is big enough for him to sleep on. He and two friends can sit side by side, if they wanted. It's still pretty surreal to me that we effectively cleaned all of the toys and trappings of childhood from his bedroom. He wants a larger TV and small refrigerator next. His own "crib". It's in perfect condition and an absolute steal at $60.

So, instead of riding on Tuesday, I met N at the barn at 6:40 on Weds. Thankfully, Ashke was still clean, so we tacked up and went to the outdoor arena.

I am so pleased that Ashke has finally found his trot. I need to get J out to video tape it so I can see what he looks like. He is traveling collected for a much longer period of time each time we work at the trot. The running martingale has helped immensely at getting him into a frame and we are working at extending his stride while still using his back and butt.

His canter was pretty smooth to the left and N said we looked really good. I am still to much in his face at the canter, which is a symptom of my feeling a lack of control, but even when I relaxed my pressure on his mouth, he didn't race forward. We managed seven or so circuits of half the arena (N and I were working on opposite ends) before we turned the other direction.

Right is so much harder for me to ride. He is rougher and I am less balanced, which I know is contributing to making it harder for Ashke. We tried hard though. We managed six circuits before I was completely out of breath, my side hurt and I was soaked with sweat. But, Ashke found a rhythm and some balance before we stopped. We started out on the wrong lead, but I brought him down and asked him for the correct one, which he did, at least the front lead was. It is more difficult for him to bend to the inside at a canter, and it felt like he was cross cantering for the first couple of turns, but then he switched his back lead and although it was still rough, it was better, smoother, more balanced.

I feel like we made some progress last night. Going back out tonight to ride with N in the indoor (riding later than normal) and working on that canter again.