Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Two Nights

No pictures, unfortunately, since J and T refuse to travel to the barn during the week. Not that I blame them. It makes for a long night if I go home before going to see Ashke.

I rode on Monday and Tuesday night. Both nights I could see a slight short stride in Ashke's RH, but couldn't feel it once I was riding him. He was willing and tried really hard to hold himself in a frame.

Our walk/trot transitions are getting better. He only tried to pop up a couple of times both nights and both times I slowed him to a walk, shortened my reins, and asked again. On his second ask, he always lifts into the nicest trot. We've started working on moving faster at the trot, varying our speed, while not falling out of the frame.

The indoor arena has been fraught with danger, though. Boxes got moved from their usual position and Ashke, Cali and Jimi were all convinced it was going to eat them. Both nights. On Tuesday, we added the stress of a horse in a jumping lesson with Cinnamon. There's nothing like trying to work calmly and collectedly on your stuff while a big rangy black monster gallops around in circles jumping a 3' oxer. I really need to change the days I ride to avoid the jumping.

During one of our trot sessions Ashke must have been feeling especially good, since his tail was straight up in the air. I also forced him to keep walking while he pooped. We need to break that habit if we want to do Working Eq.

It feels like Ashke is gaining power and strength with each ride. On Monday we did a short amount of canter (he stumbled to the left) but on Tuesday we just did trot-walk transitions. There just didn't seem to be enough room for cantering when there is jumping going on. Towards the end I stopped to one side, kind of in the middle, and got two really good turns on the forehand in each direction, a couple of really good turns on the hind, including what was almost a spin to the left, and several great sidepasses in both directions. I used the dressage whip positioned at his shoulder to help cue him to move his shoulder over, but I didn't really even touch him with it. As soon as he knew what I was asking, he stepped over. I think it was the first time he has crossed his front legs moving in both directions.

I didn't want to leave you without some kind of eye candy. Here is a video of Lili not wanting to go into the kennel this morning as we were leaving. She is such a sweet dog and I love the sound of her tail when she is trying to talk me into leaving her out.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Not What I Expected

Ashke got worked on Saturday afternoon by a woman who was recommended to me. The experience was not what I was looking for and not at all what I expected.

I am in search of help for Ashke's reoccurring muscle soreness and short striding on his right hind. I am absolutely convinced that this is muscle related and caused, not so much by damage, as by him carrying himself incorrectly when he moves out of habit and the need to avoid pain. I think there might also be some chiro adjustment that needs work in his shoulders and maybe SI joint. I thought that a massage would help loosen muscles and relax ligiments, and hopefully bring some pain relief. I had been asking around the barn for that kind of treatment and had gotten a couple of recommendations.

The first recommendation, using lasers, I turned down because I didn't think it would be a good fit for Ashke. I want a practioner who will be sensitive and responsive to his reactions and my brief interaction with this woman was not positive in that sense. The second person I was introduced to had the energy about her that I want to work with Ashke. In fact, she reminded me of Diane. A lot. And came recommended by Diane. She is who I will use after we see Diane the end of November. I had an appt with her but we needed to reschedule for a later date (and now have postponed until after the chiro). I really wanted Ashke worked on now. So I opted to have someone work on him who had come recommended by a couple people in the barn. I scheduled the appt and then I had second thoughts. I should have listened, but I didn't want to wait. He was a little stiff and sore on Saturday, having tweeked that muscle again. I wanted work done on the muscle.

What I thought was going to be a massage ended up being energy work on Ashke. And an attempt at communication. Neither of which I needed, wanted or thought I was getting.

I'm also pretty sure it had zero effect on Ashke.

Enough said. If anyone wants a run down on what I thought and experienced, message me privately and I will share.

Going forward, our intervention will be focused on the physical and trying to get him strong and completely sound. I already see the effect that riding with dressage discipline (how else to describe it?) has had on his withers, back and haunches. He continues to improve and get stronger on a daily basis. And it's kind of fun.

Working Equitation here we come!

Sunday, October 27, 2013

PISSED

I did a lesson on Saturday and it was awful.

Ashke was pissed. PISSED.

He looked for Cali and when she didn't show up he started looking for J. Then he got upset we weren't riding out. I mean, it was Saturday and we DON'T lesson on Saturday!!!


He must have ran for a good five minutes. When he was moving the other direction, his right leg got tweeked again.

Then I put him in side reins.


He wasn't happy. In retrospect, I shouldn't have tried the lesson, because if you watch the above video you can see him moving very sorely on his right hind.

He had zero forward in the indoor arena, which is where we did the lesson. There was half a dozen horses in the outdoor arena. He refused to drop his head, he refused to walk forward, he had no interest in propelling himself from his hind end. At one point I tried to use a carriage whip to move him forward at the walk, because he was completely ignoring my heel. It worked to get him to move, but was to ungainly to hold, so I eventually dropped it.

I think Cassandra was frustrated with his lack of response, so she got on him but the results weren't much better.

We did get a couple of good canters in, one in each direction, where he was beginning to move correctly. The one to the right was almost a disaster, since we were moving at a canter while two of the big friesians were coming in the gate and one was going out. We threaded the friesian needle by my asking him for more speed, but then when we slowed at the far end of the arena while turning to the right, I felt his right haunch give a little under us and knew he needed to be done.

Cassandra did congratulate us on being able to get ourselves out of trouble without getting hurt. Next time, however, we are going to make the weekends about trail riding only, at least until it gets cold.

I walked him out and then let him graze while waiting for Susan to finish a horse she was working on. I was hoping to get her to work on Ashke this weekend instead of next.



I love how he looks and how strong his back is getting. Although, he gets sore, it's because I am pushing him and asking him to do the work. I tell him it's PT. 



Susan did make time for us and worked with him for almost two hours. I will write about it when I get her summary.

Diane, Rider of Fletch, is interested in going to see Diane Wagner. We are looking at going either the 29th or 30th of November. If it's the 30th it will give J a chance to pull the trailer.

Ashke will get Sunday off and then we will ride with N and Cali on Monday. I hope the work on his right side and the day off  improves both his haunch and his attitude.

And just cuz I can . . . .

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Sunshine Award

I have been awarded the Sunshine Award by http://www.shemovedtotexas.com/ . Thank you!

The Sunshine Award is for people who “positively and creatively inspire others in the blogosphere.” The nominee must do the following: thank the person who nominated her, nominate ten bloggers of her own, answer the ten questions given to her, and post them and the Sunshine Award button to her blog. (I have no idea what the Sunshine Award button is or how to add it, so I will have to pass on that particular part.)


Here are the questions:

1. Mares or Geldings? Either. I had a mare for ten years and never noticed anything different. I've had geldings and never noticed anything different. I have no desire to own a stallion. And I shouldn't own a mare because I would want to breed her. And then what would I do?

2. English or Western? English now. I hate Western saddles and western fenders. I loved the Aussie saddle I had years ago and I love the Trekkerland saddle I own now. However, not sure I would ever want a jumping saddle or an English endurance saddle. I like the deep seat and security I get from the saddle I'm riding in now. And I really like how magnificent Ashke looks in his dressage bridle.

3. Do you prefer "younger" or "older" horses? I really do prefer younger horses. I like the attitude and the silliness. I really like the fact that Ashke wasn't broke to ride when I got him and I think it makes a huge difference in the connection between the two of us. I also really loved working with foals and miss it.

4. Have you trained a horse from ground zero? Yep. Been a while from the very beginning. Ashke had great ground manners but very little handling (feet, ears, nose, sheath, etc.) when I got him.

5. Do you prefer groundwork or riding? I enjoyed the ground work I have done. I enjoyed the obstacle course work that we also did over a year ago. Honestly, what kind of question is this? Don't we all prefer to ride? Riding is the main reason to do this . . . groundwork is filler until your horse is calm enough, heathly enough or old enough to ride.

6. Do you board your horse or keep it at home? I board and almost keep it at N's home.

7. Do you do all natural things or just commercial stuff? Some of both. I do a lot of naturally commercial things. Or commercially natural things.

8. All tacked up or bareback? Tacked up. Too old and scared for bareback.

9. Equestrian role-model? I love Mark Rashid. I also love N and Cassandra. Respect goes without saying and I've learned a lot from all three.

10. What's my one, main goal for my equestrian journey? To get Ashke healthy and hale. To continue to explore the local riding trails. And to perhaps, someday, compete in Working Equitation. Oh, and to introduce Ashke to cows. That should be really fun considering he acts like they are spiders.


 
 

Now my ten nominees for this award, if they choose to participate. My favorite blogs (other than the one that nominated me). Hope you enjoy them.

  • Viva Carlos
  • In Omnia Paratus
  • Wait for the Jump
  • It Seemed Like a Good Idea at The Time
  • A Collection of Madcap Escapades
  • I Trot On
  • The Spyder Standard
  • Brown Eyed Cowgirl
  • Cash's Steppin' Up
  • Redheaded Endurance

Canter

Met up with N at 5:30 and we got ready. Cali was kind of snorty. Ashke was his lippy self.

Note to self: I need side reins, because using N's only works if N isn't using them. Ashke needs less of a warm up on the lunge line than Cali does and by the time N is done with the side reins, Ashke and I have been riding for fifteen minutes.

The best part of the warm up was Ashke's not just willingness but also his ability to pick up and maintain the correct lead at the canter on the lunge line. It was rhythmic and smooth, with his head in a decent position (no giraffing last night) and he didn't try to cross canter at all.

He was spooky when I got on. We were riding in the outdoor arena under the lights and there were things going bump out beyond where we could see. Fawkes and his owner were lunging in the arena and he, Cali and Ashke all spooked at the same time at something they could either smell or hear, that we humans completely missed. Our best guess is a coyote wandering back to the creek and back up the Mesa, but at best, only a guess. My other pet peeve with the outdoor arena is that whoever puts the jump poles outside the arena leaves one end hooked on the fence, which is prime spook material. I always have to spend some time de-posting the arena fence. It's a pain. It would be nice if the jumping material was actually laid down on the ground. Ashke can't be the only horse that prefers to go sideways at a canter when he goes by one of those scary pole ends.

We worked on walk and trot, with a bunch of transitions thrown in. Then, when he was nice and warm and as spook free as he was going to get, I asked for a left lead. By that time Cassandra was working another horse in the arena with us and she complemented me on our upward transition. Ashke was amazing. I relaxed enough that I wasn't trying to hold on with my legs (guess that's a bad habit left over from riding bareback in my youth) and Ashke felt really great. He was smooth and kept his head down. Our only issue is that he wants to stop when I ask for the downward transition and I have to verbally tell him to trot, while asking him with my legs.

Then we turned to the right. I haven't deliberately asked for a right lead canter for probably six weeks, but I did last night. Our first circle was rough. I have to be very careful with my seat, because the slightest shift and he suddenly doesn't know what to do. We tried a second time and that time he transitioned up flawlessly and although he was a little rough, he didn't rush to try and find his balance. I finally relaxed and moved with him and he settled a little. By the third try he was so much better, smoother, quieter, and more rhythmic. I had a huge grin on my face by the time we were done.

I was flying.

Just like the moment when I watched Ashke give to the bit and drop his head when Cassandra rode him for the first time, last night I felt the progress we were making toward him being able to canter in both directions, balanced and quiet. I was able to let go of my fear and tension moving to the right and I think that really impacted his ability to carry us safely. If tension feels like distrust, then my relaxing and not having to hold on will impact both of us.

I get to try again tonight.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Thoughts on The Horse

I was involved in a conversation on another blog about dressage and showing, and how hard it is as a type A personality to compete with a horse that isn't quite there yet. The blogger in question has two horses, one of which she has been riding for a while (endurance) and the other which she has been riding for a short time and is struggling with. She is struggling with her personal dissatisfaction with not winning the competitions she is entering.

You all know I don't show and don't want to show, so my perspective was a little different from the rest of the people who replied to her blog. For me, riding Ashke is about our spending time together doing something we both enjoy. Riding dressage is a way to further our conversation and to develop the skills and abilities we both need in order to ride for long periods of time. I like to believe that Ashke enjoys having a job. I know he enjoys being out on the trail with me from how he acts, how eager he is to go, how alert and interested he is in everything we experience. I like to believe he would rather be with me than to be alone, in a field somewhere.

The blogger (K) had a slightly different take on it. She said:
"If we are TRULY in it for the horse, we would never ask them to do anything hard. Horses were not put on earth for our enjoyment (speaking scientifically). Any time we ride them, we are creating an artificial experience for them to serve our own purpose. Horses do not require our "teaching" to become better. They're just fine out in a field without our interference. With that said, all of us who ride are using our horses to serve our own purposes to one extent or the other."
Maybe it's because I ride an Arabian and have always been in love with the breed; or maybe because I grew up in the West where the idea of the relationship between horse and rider was shaped by Louis L'amour, Jack Schaeffer and Will James, Mari Sandoz, Marguerite Henry and Walter Farley; or maybe because I was captivated by the relationship between the great horse cultures of the West - the Lakota, Cheyenne, Comanche and Apache - and their wild and free approach to the horse, but somewhere in all of that, I completely absorbed the idea of the horse being specifically created for a relationship with humans. With me. And Ashke has just reinforced that concept.

I found this online, attributed to the Bedouin:

"And Allah took a handful of southerly wind,
blew His breath over it, and created the horse.
He said to the magnificent creature,
"I have made thee as no other.
All the treasures of the earth lie between thy eyes.
Thou shall carry my friends upon thy back.
Thy saddle shall be the seat of prayers to me.
Thou shall fly without wings,
and conquer without any sword. Oh, horse."
~ Bedouin Legend ~

For me, this speaks deepest to my understanding of my relationship to my horse.
The horse was first domesticated in about 6000 BCE and was ridden by sword weilding warriors out of the steppes of Russia. Judith Tarr has a wonderful collection of books, starting with Lady of Horses, about both the conquering hordes and the lasting changes the introduction of the horse made upon the development of Western Culture and our modern world. Told from the perspective of people completely captivated by this new creature.

And again the world changed with the advent of the horse in the New World. The great Horse Cultures of the west consisted of riders and their mounts, hunting buffalo, fighting for their lives, and always from the back of a horse. Those horse cultures were combatting the calvary of the US, the cowboy culture, and the riders who made an art and a life from their relationship with their horse. All reinforced by the stories I devoured: Black Beauty, Monte Walsh, Smokey The Cow Horse, Silver Canyon, To Tame a Land, The Horsecatchers, Skyrocket, A Wind in Cairo, King of the Wind, Brighty, Black Gold, Mustang, San Domingo, White Stallion of Lipizza, and the Entire Black Stallion series.

These were fodder for my life with horses and shaped my sleeping and waking dreams. Even now, they contribute to my romantic notions of my horse. They form the shape of my relationship. They lurk deep in my subconscious, where a bow and arrow, a saber, a sword and a horse rule, where I consider what it would take to create a chariot, where my horse curls inside my tent, with my children curled against his belly, where the horse is taken care of regardless of the damage to the man.

Always, it was and still is, about the horse. And I believe, for Ashke and for Cali and for all those other horses who really truly have both a job and a relationship, it is about their connection to their humans.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Rocky Mountain Rider's Rescue Rub

A couple of months ago, a blogger I follow, Stacey Kimmel at www.behindthebitblog.com sponsored a give away. The prize was a jar of Rocky Mountain Rider's Rescue Rub. I entered because she was looking for the best "train wreck" story and I can't resist telling a story. Imagine my surprise when I was contacted and told I won the contest.

The Rub came in the mail a couple of days later and I put it in the bathroom. One night I tried it on a sore spot on my body and was less than impressed. It didn't feel like anything. I might as well have rubbed lotion on my back. In my defense, I am a child of Icey Hot and Tiger's Balm, both of which provide a sense of warmth and relief, even if my back feels worse the next morning. My Pavlovian response was expecting the same type of warmth with the Rescue Rub and was disappointed with the results.

The little tub sat on my counter for another three or so weeks.

By then, my back was pretty much killing me. For those of you without chronic back pain, I'm not sure there is anything worse. My back hurts when I stand up wrong, when I sit, even when I sleep, and although I can mediate it so it doesn't hurt as bad, sometimes, it is pretty much with me all the time. I have a BOT back brace that I use that really helps, but the muscles in my lower back are always in pain. Luckily, I don't think it's the disc, so much as the muscles on both sides of my spine and across my pelvic girdle that are an issue. Riding dressage moments, especially where I refuse to allow my body to list, slump, tilt, or otherwise compensate for my physical limitations, has put a lot of strain on those muscles. (This is all left over from the Yellowstone trail ride and the muscles that were ripped and damaged in that fall. Of course, it didn't help that the chiro told me to cut out all exercise, even walking. That left laying on the couch and eating as a method of exercise, which I am paying for now.)

Anywho, a couple of weeks ago my back was hurting so bad I decided to try the Rescue Rub. I slathered it on my lower back and the side of my torso where the muscle has torn free from my hip bone and created a hard ball at the edge of my ribs. I liked the subtle fragrance, although I was missing the intense heat of the before mentioned rubs. I also liked that I could take my contacts out without turning my eyes into pools of streaming anguish (I never remember to take them out before puttting the rub on my body. Slow learner, that.) I curled up in bed and fell asleep.

And woke up the next day with no pain.

None.

I'm a believer. I'm telling you - BEST STUFF EVAH!!!

This shit is the best stuff ever. I don't know about rubbing it on my groin, the way a user did in their review, but I do know that I am using it after I ride and finding a great deal of relief. I'm going to try it on my shoulder and see if it helps with the crunchy cartilege noise that wakes me up at night. J asked about putting some on her back and I was reluctant. I mean, who really wants to share?

http://ridersrescuerub.ca/

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Take Two

N and I braved the weather, the cold wind, the very up horses to ride the Fairmount trail today. We made it home just before the rain and snow came. The second group from the barn didn't make it all the way around - they turned around at the frisbee golf field. At the point it got cold it was just as short to go forward as it was to turn back.

The really good part of today was the fact that N seems to have recovered from our ride yesterday and is already talking about the next time we try that trail. Hahahahahahahaha!!!!!  Her husband, J, has offered to ride his mountain bike up and down the trail in front of us to 1) drive away any snakes, and 2) kick the ass of any mountain bikers who are being stupid with the horses.

We saw a coyote today, by Tucker Lake, but I was moving too slow to get a picture. Ashke was really, really up and I mostly focused on making him listen and keeping his head lower. We had a couple of moments where I was not really in control. I really need to work on the canter in the arena for the next two weeks so that the next time we ride out I feel like he understands what I want and will listen to my cue to not do his dead ass run.


Faster pace today, which isn't a surprise, given it was mostly flat.



Saturday, October 19, 2013

Back Away From the Jacket

N and I went for a trail ride today. We got to the barn at 11:30 and got tacked up. It was pretty cool out, about 50, and we had jackets, water and sandwiches for the ride. We had talked about wanting to ride the Mesa loop (didn't I say last time I wouldn't ever ride it again?) and agreed that if she rode the loop I would go to the dentist (where N works and a terrifying deal for me). The wind was blowing and both horses were a bit up, to say the least.

By the time we reached the top of the Mesa, the edge was gone from the horses, and they were going well. We did some trotting and a short canter (in which Ashke fought me and tried to run away again.) He can't seem to do a collected or controlled canter on the trail with Cali; he always wants to race. We need to work on it in the arena. About half way across the Mesa top I needed to stop and take off one of the saddle pads and attach it to my saddle bags. It was a mistake to try using both the long blanket and the saddle pad, so I took off the pad and left just the blanket under the saddle. As I was swinging off of Ashke, my jacket hung up on my water bottle. I slipped down and ripped half of my saddle bag off completely. So a five minute adjustment ended up taking me about 20 minutes to rig the half saddle bag back on. Then when I attached the saddle pad to the straps on the back of the saddle bags, the straps tore off. It took me some time to fix everything back onto the saddle so we wouldn't lose anything.

After all of that, we decided to eat lunch. Our horses helped. They both seem to like peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. After lunch, we remounted and headed for the far side of the Mesa. When we hit the canyon with the trail down, I took off my jacket and tied the sleeves around my waist. Out of the wind it was pretty warm. We did pretty good on the trail down, with only a brief dismount through some rock. When I rode this trail last time, that part had been constructed of wood poles and dirt in steps, but the thousand year flood we had took out the trail and Parks and Rec filled in the holes with rocks. We mounted up and continued on.

N did a great job dealing with the height thing. She was calm and was having a great time. Both horses were having a great time and doing a super job with the trail. We had been pretty lucky with the number of bikers we had run into up until we got onto that trail. Then they seemed to come out of the bushes. And on the side of the mountain, if they are running downhill, they don't go slow. We were coming around a corner and there was a guy flying downhill. When he saw us he braked hard and then swerved to the side, hit a huge rock and fell forward, flipping his bike at us. Ashke about had a heart attack. The rider was kind of weird about falling, jumping up and cracking jokes. N was off Cali about the time the bike was hitting the ground, which was a great idea for her, since we didn't need two panicked horses.


Cali and N on the side of the mountain, overlooking Golden. The Mesa across from us is South Table Mountain.


Ashke loves being on the trail. He did great today. Even when it gets scarey he just follows me without any issue. Sometimes he bumps me with his nose or lips the back of my shirt. Such a great horse.


Such a great pic of Cali. This is the epitome of Cali's nature. I don't think either horse was tired at the end of our ride.

After our photo shoot, we continued on and met a pair of mountain bikers on a tandem mountain bike. Interesting, right? We continued around the side of the mountain, until the trail that leads down from cottonwood pass (part of North Table Mountain). At that point, I got back off and we were hand walking. N said, "We could ride this part. It's not so bad." I told her that I wanted to walk it because the trail was very narrow with poor visibility and we didn't want to risk running into a mountain biker going a thousand miles an hour.

Two minutes later I stepped over a rattlesnake.

You know, the biggest issue with snakes is that you don't see them 100 feet in advance. You see them as you are hand walking your horse over them. I stammered and stuttered back at N and she figured out what the hell I was trying to say. She stopped.

At that point, we were in quite a pickle. Cali and N were on one side of the snake. Ashke and I were on the other. And whatever snake magic had allowed us to walk over it in the first place was gone and the snake was both awake and a bit pissed off. I tried tossing a couple of rocks at it in the hope it would slither off downhill, but instead it moved uphill until it was hanging on the very lip of the hillside overlooking the trail.

That was worse, because we then had a pissed off, coiled up snake at the lip of the overhang, about shoulder height on a very narrow trail. And it wouldn't move. All it did was coil tighter and rattle.

And because nothing is true without pictures:


It was pretty good sized, with seven or eight rattles. The front of the photo is where the hillside drops straight down about three and a half feet to the trail. Snake was longer than that. Where is Steve Irwin when you need him? I considered channeling my inner crocodile hunter and grabbing the snake by the tail and flipping it down hill, but knowing my luck I would have flipped it at one of us instead. Throwing rocks wasn't working and the snake was refusing to move.

By the time the snake was curled and ready to take out anyone who went past, there was a line of bikers waiting behind N. She wasn't moving and the trial was so narrow they couldn't get past. She couldn't head back up the trail to the Mesa, in part because she couldn't turn around and in part because Ashke would have lost him marbles. I couldn't continue on for the same reason. Our horses wouldn't have left without each other and it would have gotten very dangerous if we had tried.

I know it sounds silly, but I really didn't want to hurt the snake, either. It was mostly scared and had just been sunning when we showed up. However, I also wasn't willing to risk either horse or ourselves to save it. I took off my jacket (fleece lined zip hoody from Costco - thank goodness I wasn't wearing my Halo sweatshirt or we might have still been there) and flipped it over the snake. (Ok, it wasn't that simple and did result in the snake striking at the jacket - I was tempted to take a picture but thought someone would kill me if I did - but I finally managed to manuever the jacket over the snake.) We all walked by without incident.

During all that time, neither of our horses freaked out because of the scent, sight or sound of the snake.

One of the mountain bikers asked if we were just going to leave the jacket there. I told him he was welcome to retrieve it if he so desired. We told everyone we saw not to pick the jacket up, since it was now the hidey hole for a decent sized rattlesnake. I really hope no one decided it needed to be carried to the trailhead.

From the moment of the snake until we finally reached the canal, N was not happy. Not. Even. A. Little. Bit. There were lots of bikes and the trail was steep and there were snakes. She was scared and a lot pissed off. I didn't take it personal. I just walked down the trail with Ashke, trying to be cognizant of how fast Cali was going so we didn't leave her behind, and remembered why I hated that damn trail.

I am so going to the dentist. I'm sure N will make the appointment on Tuesday and let me know when I am expected.

When we got to the canal I asked N if she wanted to mount up and she stomped down the canal trail and said NO!! I gave her a 100 feet to get on or I was getting on anyway (solidarity only goes so far - I knew it was still a couple of miles home). She stopped and mounted and we headed back. Our trip back was without incident.

We laughed about it afterwards.



Longest trail ride to date with both horses. They came back still pretty fresh and ready to run. Ashke felt great and sounded like he was sound (sometimes it's easier for me to listen than to watch). Neither of them was sweaty, except when we climbed the thousand feet up the mesa.

The snake was at about the mile six marker. Actual ride time was probably 3 and a half hours. Spent at least half an hour figuring out how to get past the snake.

 

Friday, October 18, 2013

Fall in the Rockies

I ordered Smartpak (with a 50% off coupon for the first month) for the first time. It should be here on Tuesday. I ordered the joint supplement with added hoof supplements to see how it helped Ashke. It also has increased levels of Lysine, which I am hoping will help with his muscle development. We will try it for two months and then we will switch to Vet Flex, which is what Diane recommends. The only downer about Smartpak is the fact that the customer service person really tried to upsell me on the product. Well, that and the product Diane recommends is an upsell to what I ordered at less cost. Unfortunately, it is also a powder and I'm not sure how that is going to go over with Ashke. I may need to start bagging stuff again to get the powder mixed in with his strategy (instead of dumped on the bottom of his feeder).

It snowed today. About two inches. That was this morning and now the sun is out. It's supposed to be 62 tomorrow. N and I are going to ride out, just not sure where, and then on Sunday J is going to pull us down to Bear Creek. She and T will take their bikes and the four of us can do lots of riding and playing down there. Oooooooo. So excited.

Michelle does trims on Ashke and Cali today at 4:30. I'm excited to see what she thinks of his feet and to let her know about his patella. It will be interesting to see what she says about both.

I find myself wanting to practice dressage. I like it and J said that watching us ride with Cassandra on Wednesday was enlightening. She thinks we both do better when we have goals. I have put myself to sleep the last two nights by envisioning the energy flow from me through Ashke and back through me. More difficult is learning to ride without grabbing on with my thighs or my legs. That's going to be much more difficult.

I also have a secret. Maybe I will share in a couple of weeks. Just depends.

I know. Such a tease.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Freaking Rockstar!


We had our second lesson with Cassandra last night and I talked J into coming out to photo and video our lesson. Unfortunately, we are in that time of year when everything is going to be inside at night under lights. I apologize for the grainy quality of the photos, but I am pretty impressed we got any that turned out at all. (Sweet little Pentax camera!)

Before I saddled him I looked at his back. I can see muscle (MUSCLE!) filling in at the left wither and along his spine. His belly is tightening, and I had to take his girth up two notches last night. I also decided (in the evaluation of the new pad) that I am going to use the BOT dressage pad under the saddle, then afix the new pad on the top of that. There are straps and buckles to keep them both in place and I think it will work better than what I have going on right now. At least, I want to try it that way on our next ride. (Saturday trail ride with N!!! Yeah!!)

He was relaxed and loose and Cassandra said that he looked really awesome when we were doing the things I had been practicing.


I thought it was pretty cool that Cassandra walked the circle with us when she was instructing me, instead of just standing in the middle and shouting directions. I can already feel the difference in how I am sitting him when we are riding. I also discovered that our backing issue, where he swings his hip to the left when we back up is due to my hips, (HA!) and that I straighten out my hips he backs up straight. Made me laugh.


There was no short striding. Cassandra coached me into visualizing the energy of myself and Ashke moving in an infinity shape through our bodies. She wanted me to imagine it coming from my tailbone, across his croup, around his rump, back up through his body into mine, cresting along the top of his neck, down his face and back up the reins into my hand. J said she could see a difference in how he was moving before and after that visualization. I worked on the visualization last night when I was falling asleep. I need to get the pattern and feel down in my mind so I don't need to concentrate on it so hard when I ride.


We worked on me stopping him from my seat. I have some habits I really need to work on. I grab on with my thighs and legs when we go faster, which I can't do if I am going to use my seat to slow and stop him. Cassandra said that other riders learn to slow their posting to slow their horse, but I can't do that, since I never post. I have to relax my butt, basically, to ask him to walk forward, and then clench and close down to ask him to slow. I think that since I clench to hold on (habit left over from riding bareback, I think) he was a little confused about what I was asking. It is something to work on for the next three or so weeks.



Cassandra is really good at demonstrating what she is talking about when she is going over a topic. Here she is showing me what she means when she is telling me to open my hips and then to close them, as cueing for his forward movement and stop.

 

I have been asking Ashke to carry his head too low, probably partly because I don't really know where it should be, and partly because Cali carries herself behind vertical. It's much harder to get Ashke to carry himself in the correct position than to just push his head lower. Cassandra also said that I can tell he is going correctly when he asks to stretch himself out at the walk and to alternate the collection with letting him really stretch. It will help him develop.



His walk to trot transitions are getting better and better. Cassandra said she could tell we had been working on them. He only tried to pop up a couple of times last night and both times were after we tried the canter. The lift up into the trot feels so powerful. And his transition down into the walk was picture perfect, Cassandra said, at least  one of the times we did it last night. He is so smart and willing.


At the canter, Cassandra tried him first to show both of us what and how we should be going. She tried it to the right and he picked up the canter for maybe ten steps and then broke. She said she could tell he wasn't strong enough for that direction yet and we wouldn't push it. She turned him the other direction and tried, then stopped and asked how I was cueing him. I told her and she had better luck the second time. However, you could see he wasn't as willing to go for her as he was for me. I tried to the left and we had an amazing canter. He was willing to pick it up right when asked with a verbal cue and minimal leg pressure and listened when I asked him not to rush. It is definitely something I'm excited to work on going forward.

We stopped then, and let him cool off. I showed Cassandra how the rump rug kept his muscles warm and loose but not sweaty. He wasn't sweating anywhere when we were done. And I was floating on happiness.

One of the things I realized when lunging him is that he is moving both hind legs at the same time when cantering to the right. He is on the correct lead, in so much as the hind leg is moving forward at the same time as his front leg, however, he almost bunny hops both back legs at the same time. It's a wonder that he isn't rougher than it feels already. That means that when working in a circle, he selects cross cantering when moving to the left and moving both legs at the same time when traveling to the right.

We are going to continue to work the trot in both directions, doing up and down transitions, with the walk, and add transitions to the left lead canter for the next few weeks. I will also add in cantering to our warm up in the side reins to see if we can start strengthening his muscles and getting him to carry himself correctly when I'm not on him. (He did the left lead canter correctly for two circuits when I was lunging him before our ride. Slowly, with patience, we will get there.) This weekend we will ride the Mesa at least one day and do a trail ride somewhere else the other. Long slow miles with walk, trot and canter should help him continue to get stronger.

I'm also getting a supplement for his joints and the inflammation as support and long term help. Diane recommended Vet Flex, but I had already ordered Smartpak, since they were having a sale that ended yesterday and I was afraid to wait. I will probably use the Smartpak for two months and then go to the Vet Flex on Diane's recommendation.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

(Almost) Wordless Wednesday


 
I received my birthday present yesterday. Back on Track back warmer pad. In retrospect, I'm not sure it's supposed to be used as a saddle pad, because it has a wide velcro strip down the center. However, the velcro strip fits up under the saddle and doesn't impact his back. I rode him with it as the saddle pad and rump rug. I love the thickness and how warm it kept the muscles on his back.
 
It worked. Or at least it seemed to work. He was loose and relaxed and moved well, with propulsion. We rode for a good forty-five minutes and he was perfect. Not a single short stride.
 
We have another dressage lesson tonight, so we will see how he does.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Some Answers

I want to cry . . . . 

For those of you following this blog, when Diane Wagner first saw Ashke in November of 2012, he was short striding on his right hind leg. When she did her original exam she told me that the short striding was from a chronic injury, that at some point in his past, she thought his hamstring had been injured by him being dropped on his hip. He has had weakness in that leg and hip and he swings it inside in a half circle when he walks instead of swinging it forward.

In March, after months of working with Ashke, riding him slow and being aware of his pain level, Diane evaluated him again and pronounced him sound. I was ecstatic. However, that wasn't the end of the story.  Diane recommended that I get the balance training system to help strengthen his topline and butt. However, when Cassandra worked him in it while I was on vacation, she noticed that he counter bent to the outside and protected that right hind leg.

In April, when Bev mapped Ashke's back for the saddle, she noted that his left wither was significantly under developed, which I believed was a product of his compensating for the RH. Again.

In the spirit of strengthening his back, I decided to start working Ashke over cavaletti. This was a mistake, because it aggravated his injury and caused him to short stride again. The limp became more pronounced for a couple of days due to the strain of being asked to frame himself and collect, so we slowed down and I asked for less.

On Sunday, I recognized how difficult Ashke finds moving to the left at a canter while staying on the correct lead. I think he does fine when we canter in long straight lines, but when he is asked to bend and flex around the circle, he really struggles. I didn't push him very much, but I did ask him to move out of his comfort zone for at least two circuits of our circle. He is also very rough to the right and that has never gotten better.

After riding him, I spent some time talking with Susan about his injury and we talked about the possible causes. Because of that conversation, I decided to email Mellisa Robillard at Arabians Ltd to see if I could find out anything about his younger years. Susan and I had speculated that there might be some connection between his weaning, his castration and his current injury. Mellisa replied and let me know this:
                 Born: 4/17/2005
                 Weaned: 7/28/2005 (3 months and 11 days old)
                 Castrated: 7/18/ 2006 (15 months - they wait to geld to make sure they don't want to keep the colt a stallion.)
                 Sold: 9/1/2006

I thanked her for the information and asked if she had any pictures of him as a baby and she said she thought they did and she would look.

Several hours later, I got another email saying that after she started researching Ashke's background and realized he had broken his patella at 10 months old. He underwent surgery at Texas A & M and recovered before being castrated. I cried.

Three things: I can't believe the breeder actually paid several thousand dollars to have his leg fixed rather than putting him down. Two, no wonder he compensates for the injury and no wonder it's taken time to get to the point where I can push him to move correctly. It's been going on for 7 years. Third, he only had five months to recouperate before being castrated and then a month and a half later he was sold. Then he went to a home where they did nothing with him for years. Then he was starved.

I'm really glad I'm not set on doing endurance, because this would completely derail that goal.

I emailed Diane with the particulars and am waiting to see what she says we should do now. Then I called N and cried on the phone with her. She told me that this is good news: we know exactly what the issue is, we can deal with what it means and he's getting better not worse. (All of which is right.) I do know that working over cavaletti is out for right now. I don't want to stress that joint by asking him to jump or elevate his legs until he is stronger. I have never wanted to jump him, so I am good with avoiding that activity. N thinks as he continues to get stronger and we continue to ask him to travel correctly, this will get better and better. J thinks it's good to know it has a physical reason for him short striding, instead of tilting at windmills. She also thinks he will be completely sound before we are finished.

I called Cassandra and talked to her and she said that now we know what the issue is, we can work with Ashke to strength the muscles supporting that joint. I can give him supplements and feed that will make it easier to move. I can have chiropractice work done and accupuncture, massage therapy and healing touch to help him move better, freer and stronger.

I still cried though.


Sunday, October 13, 2013

It's My Birthday

But first, a service announcement to all listening horses:

DO NOT EAT THE PORCUPINE!!

Blue, a 18 year old Mustang, living in the upper field, should have known better.

 
Silly horse, should have known they didn't taste good!

I got up early and watched two episodes of The Good Wife (one of my favorite shows that my family hates), and ate breakfast, then headed to the barn. I wanted to spend the day doing the things I love most - ride my horse and watch Bronco football. (And hang out at home with J and T: that goes without saying). 

Ashke was pretty happy to see me. He was standing in the sun, with his eyes closed when I got there. He looked sleepy and surprised to see me. I wrapped him up in the BOT and put him in the crossties. His winter coat is coming in and I find the thickness kind of surprising. Beginning to think we are going to have a cold, snowy winter. He enjoyed my scratches at the edge of his cheeks and across his chest. I can't wait to get my birthday present -  I have a 3' by 4' BOT saddle pad (that goes from under the saddle to the end of his butt) coming on Tuesday. I'm hoping it will really help him stay loose and comfortable while we are riding. 

We went into the outdoor arena and worked on the lunge line to start. Ashke was still tight in the hip but got looser as we worked. After ten minutes or so, I put him in the side reins and discovered what Cassandra was talking about when I was on vacation in June. He struggles to bend to the inside on the left lead and I really have to force him to canter in that direction. He threw his head up and stopped himself a couple of times, trying to turn in the other direction and the look on his face says it all, "I can canter in the other direction, mom. Just watch." We only did two complete circles on the correct lead before we stopped. We are going to continue to work on it every time I work him in the side reins, because he needs to relearn how to carry himself. He's going to have to be forced to do so. I am thinking of it as Physical Therapy. He is thinking he doesn't like it. He has a horrible habit of cross cantering, because it's easier.

He did great with me on his back. We are still working on W/T transitions and on finding a solid, forward, collected smooth trot. I was happy with how hard he tried and how well we did. We have a lesson on Weds with Cassandra and I want J to come out and watch what we are doing. 

After our ride, I rubbed him down with Sore No More gelotion and then put the BOT on him. I was meeting Cassandra and a woman she wanted me to meet, Susan. Susan does Ttouch, energy work and massage with horses. I wanted her to meet Ashke and for me to see what I thought. Ashke grazed, but seemed really comfortable with her. We talked about Ashke's history and what I thought was going on with his hip. She thinks, and I agree, that the injury is probably older than I first thought and she thinks it might date back to his gelding. Especially, when you combine his issues with his refusal to drop. She showed me some Ttouch massage to use on him to encourage him to relax and drop, but agrees that the trauma of being weened and gelded at the same time, could have created an emotional resonance that he is having problems letting go. I am also going to work him on the fan shaped cavalletti to help strengthen his back.

We have an appt on the first Saturday in November. We will see how much work we can get done.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Changes

Our fall lasted all of 7 hours, I think.

Last night it started to rain as I reached the barn. The temps, due to the wind and rain, dropped low enough to turn on the barn heaters. Because it was after 6, the barn crew had left, expecting the night feed person to close up the barn. Instead, Denise, Emily and myself raced through stalls and closed up all of the doors. I can't believe colder weather is here already. The barn heaters are set to turn on at 45 degrees.

Every day I see improvements in Ashke's back. On Thursday, I ordered the BOT 3' x 4' saddle pad/rump rug for myself for my birthday. (That's how J and I roll. I know it's from her, but it's just easier to order it myself.) It should be long enough to cover his back and rump while we are working, and it will be wonderful this winter to ensure he won't cool down and stiffen up after we ride. Not to mention, the BOT stuff I'm using is making a huge difference in his comfort level.

I, once again, met Ashke at the stall with the blanket, haltered him and blanketed him, giving the BOT about 15 minutes to work. I left him in the stall in the blanket while I raced around shutting doors and closing up the barn. By the time I moved him to the grooming stall, it felt like his back was pretty loose. I did some massage on his withers and then across his rump with the blanket in place. Then I groomed him and he played with Cassandra. We headed for the indoor arena.

I lunged him first for about 10 minutes, just letting him move around me at his own pace, then put him in side reins and asked for both the walk and trot. By the end of our lunging session in the side reins, he was loose and moving freely. We were only in the side reins for maybe six minutes and then I got on him.

Ashke did great. He is beginning to know what it is I want and he is trying really hard to deliver. Last night was more difficult, mainly because there were two other horses in the arena with us and Cali is in heat. Ashke gets more focused on where Cali is in relationship to the other horses then he is in what I am asking him to do. And he wants to lift his head up. I spent some time redirecting his attention. He was able to go longer last night in a frame with collection, then the last time we rode. I'm hoping this is the trend that continues, since it makes me happy he is getting stronger and more aware of what is happening between us. We also worked on transitions and finally (I know, it's been so long) he is able to transition up into the trot without hollowing his back and flipping his head up. He's also not "popping up" into the trot as much. I was very pleased with his effort.

We rode for about 45 minutes, all walk and trot. Maybe we will be at a point on next Weds. during our lesson with Cassandra, that she will get on him and try him at the canter. I'm really hoping that all this work with him lifting his back will make him more balanced and capable at the canter. I am hoping he will find a gait that isn't a dead ass run.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Progress

Ooooo. I had a great night. Ashke felt loose, with just a little short striding, when I got to the barn and I was very happy considering the last time we rode was straight up the mountain and back down. I grabbed the BOT cooler out of N's bag prior to greeting Ashke, haltered him and then covered his back to allow it to warm and loosen. After I tied him in the crossties, I went to get my stuff and found one of the boarders and a new woman in the tack room finishing up a session. My ears pricked. After they had finished, she came to look at my horse.

Her name is Tracy and she does a combination of massage, Ttouch and craniosacral, and best of all, she's worked with and close friends to Diane. She came to meet Ashke and he told me he liked her. He really liked her energy and wants her to work on him. I liked her energy and can't wait for her to work on him.

After his back was warm and he was groomed, we headed to the dressage arena. I let him warm up on the lunge line, which involved trotting fast, cantering some and a lot of head flipping. When he finally slowed down, I asked him to stop and we attached the side reins. He fought against the reins for the first time, throwing his head up, bracing through his body and fighting the pressure of the reins. I just let him. He figured out that it wasn't comfortable and that he was doing it to himself, gave to the pressure and continued to work. Once we had done several rounds in the side reins in each direction, I stopped him and got on.

We started with walking, and I focused on asking him to keep his head down, reducing the amount of looky-loo he was doing. He felt really comfortable and his stride felt good at the walk. We moved to the trot and he tested me a couple of times, especially to the left, where he didn't want to maintain contact and lift his back. He even threw in a couple of gimpy strides. I wasn't buying what he was selling, however. I remembered what N had said about expecting him to try to get out of work. I knew from the lunging and side reins his back wasn't bothering him that badly, and so when he responded to my request to move into a frame with his head down by throwing his head up and pinning his ears, I swatted him on the rump with my dressage whip. He wasn't happy. It was more of a tap than a swat, but it got the point across, especially since I don't typically ride with a dressage whip. He immediately responded to my request and moved forward into the collected trot. There were a couple more attempts to gull me, but every time he responded to my heel bump and did what he was asked. (I provide immediate feedback to him verbally when he does what I want. He knows what good boy means, just like he knows walk and trot.) We did a couple of transitions from walk to trot and back down, and he's beginning to get it. We also rode in figure eights at the trot, changing our direction and bend, which he did great at. By the end of our ride, he was doing what I was asking, without fighting me, and with good impulsion.

Cooled him off and hand walked him back to the barn. Covered his back and let him graze for ten or fifteen minutes until his back was warm and relaxed, then threw him in the stall with carrots.

Can't wait to see how he does on Thursday night. . . .

Monday, October 7, 2013

N: Ten Things


Have you ever met someone who completely changes your life in such a wonderfully positive way that it makes your life look completely different? N has been that person for me. When I thought about getting a horse I hadn't really thought about what that would look like - at first it was J and T with me at the barn every night, but I think it's really hard for non-horse people to understand the passion and compulsion of working your horse. It's not an occassional thing, if you really want it to work and your horse to be fit. I guess I expected that once Ashke was able to ride out, it was pretty much going to be me riding solo. I thought that would be okay, right up until Ashke dumped me on my back in the dirt on our first solo ride around the Lake, then I figured out that having someone with you was so much safer. (I never did figure that out as a kid.) Finding someone I click with, that I genuinely like and want to spend time with, someone I respect and admire, that's a pretty tall order for anyone to meet.

N was a Godsend. Or sent by God, whichever way you would like to look at it. I think our relationship has changed as much in her life as it has in ours. It started with meeting the tech in Lenscrafters while getting T's glasses fixed, who told us his roomate kept her horse out at the barn and that it had a really long mane, which was a big deal, and that his roomate's name was N. That guy was very obviously gay, and since I was already feeling some angst about our reception at Christensen's barn, it was nice to know there was someone there that wasn't going to care that I was a lesbian. It was a couple of days later when I walked in the barn and Cali was standing in the crossties, with N wrapping her legs. Cali's mane caught my eye and I stopped. I said, you must be N. She looked up and gave me a grin. That started our friendship.

When I started looking for a new place to board, I made a special trip out to tell N. I didn't want to stop riding with her, but I also wasn't going to stay someplace that T wasn't welcome. N, too, was really bummed about it. It was a weekend later that N and I were in Christensen's arena with eight other people and both of us realized how incredibly difficult the winter was going to be to get solid training rides in. There wasn't going to be enough room, even in the evening. I started looking. When I found TMR I thought there might be enough upside to the barn to justify to N the extra distance she was going to have to travel. I talked her into coming out and seeing it. She loved it. Then she brought out J and R. Then they found their house and the rest is history. In the year since our move to TMR, I feel like N has become like family. So, I thought I should do a post about the top ten things I love most about her.

1. N always says what's on her mind, straightforward and blunt. I love that. I have been caught off guard a couple of times, but not in a bad way. Most of the time people cloak themselves in what they think you want to hear, instead of speaking their truth. N speaks her truth.

2. N and I have been talking and sharing stories for over a year now and neither of us has run out of anything to say.

3. N and I have a lot of similiar interests outside of horses, which contributes to #2. We like Friends, we have the same sense of humor, there's just a lot of things that click. Makes being friends easy.

4. N and J and R are comfortable with and enjoy spending time with my family. They love T and his energy and T treats R like a little brother. J and J are very similiar in some of their personalities and things they like. We enjoy spending time with each other in a group and really enjoyed the camping trip we took together. We are now starting to celebrate important events together; birthdays, holidays, etc.

5. N's infectious grin, her wonderful laugh and her ability to laugh at herself. Those are all qualities I like and admire in a person, and ones that I feel I share.

6. She can cuss as good as I can. And she tells great stories.

7. I can ask her questions and talk to her about Ashke and she answers honestly and completely, not treating me like a noob.

8. N can talk me through moments of difficulty I'm having with Ashke. We can be each other's support and sometimes we talk each other off the cliff.

9. She's a great coach and very positive with my attempts to learn a completely new discipline. She is brave and willing to try things she's never done with her horse before, in part, because she trusts me not to put us in harm's way.

10. We have each other's back.

And as a bonus, I love riding with her.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Table Top

We got to ride out today. The pictures tell it better than I can. Most of our ride was on top of Table Mountain Mesa and I had a wonderful time. N is even thinking of doing the entire circle route with me, provided we have food and water for our ride. That would be amazing, considering how difficult it is for her to deal with heights.


Heading out to the trail with N on Cali and B on Jimi.




We ran into Liz on the trail. She took a couple of really great photos. 


Quick breather on the trail up to the top. We rode up the fire access road. Met a couple of volunteer park rangers who were yelling at bike riders for us.


We stopped for a photo op. 


Jimi is a six year old Sacred Indian grandson. He is Paint and mostly TB. Really nice horse. He hasn't trail rode much, but did great, including crossing two bridges for the very first time.


Coming to the edge. The trail we were following went down into the canyon, which we didn't want to do, so I bushwhacked us across country (lots of rocks and cactus) back to the trail. 


Ashke's back was wonderful today. No pain. We worked on our dressage stuff while we rode, just like N does with Cali. It was fun and he seemed to be more willing to try when I asked.


What a great photo of N and Cali. 


B and Jimi at the edge.


We rode around the top of the Mesa to the road down. It was way too steep for me to even consider. I was off and leading him, with N joining me. B got about a hundred yards down and got off too. Her easyboots didn't fit Jimi's hind feet and were hurting him on the downhill.


We were gone two and a half hours and made about 7.5 miles. I didn't get a picture of the map because I changed the app before I did.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Today

I rode.

It was colder and a little windy. We had snow yesterday. I didn't want to miss out on an opportunity to ride before we hit the Mesa tomorrow. I borrowed N's BOT fleece cooler and draped it over Ashke's back to give it time to warm up his muscles. I groomed him by moving parts and pieces and leaving it on while I was getting him ready. I showed J the difference in temp when the cooler is over a healthy muscle and how hot it gets when it's over damaged muscle. I decided that leaving the cooler on was a good idea while we walked out to the dressage ring, but didn't want him to tangle in the straps, so I hooked them onto one of the loops on my saddle.

Can you see it, yet?

We walked out to the dressage arena, him snorting and blowing at everything. He was so UP. As we reached the far end of the arena, the wind caught the cooler and flipped it off his back. Unfortunately, one of the hooks I had looped through the saddle loop, held. Suddenly, I was holding on to a 1100 lb, panicked animal who had a freaking 8' by 5' black sail attacking him from the side. I don't remember dropping the stuff in my hand or even how in the world I held him; all I knew is that if he got away, he would be running for his life from the death kite into the road and beyond. I couldn't let him pull away from me, regardless. I held onto the reins with my right hand (thank god, I had the reins I did, my old rope reins would have pulled right through my hands) and managed to wrap the blanket up in my left arm. Once the black blanket wasn't billowing in the wind, Ashke listened and held still. I had pretty good burns on my right hand from the rein, but we completely avoided the whole "get killed on the Highway while running away from the blanket" thing. One more thing to NEVER do again.

The list of things to work with him on this winter has expanded by one.

After I gave J the blanket to take back to the barn when she walked back to get my helmet (duh!) and gloves, Ashke and I went into the dressage arena.

J got some decent video:


He was very up, which N had warned me about. The change in weather and not being worked for three days is having an effect.


In sidereins he knows exactly what is expected of him and he never even tests the reins. If you watch closely, you can see the slight short stride in his right hind.


It is less noticable when that leg is on the inside of the circle and he is bending around it.


He seems to work out of some of it. N thinks I should have Cassandra watch him to make sure this is driven by muscle weakness and not Ashke thinking he can get out of work.


The short striding didn't seem to be really bothering him, since his tail was up and his ears forward.


J kept yelling at me to stop looking at his head. So bad.


Some of the ride I felt like Ashke was doing what N was suggesting; he doesn't really want to try, because he doesn't want to be sore.


We only rode for about 15 minutes, if that. And overall he was okay.


He is very good at the walk, but he wasn't real interested in the trot and kept trying to move out of it.


I do think he was better than he was on Tuesday. After our ride, I covered him with the BOT cooler for about 15 minutes, then gave him 2 grams of Bute with his grain.


See how I am laying over to the left, looking at his head. It does tricks, you know.


He was very distracted by two very large black horses (Friesan and something else) tearing around their paddock after one another in the field behind the creek. He really didn't want to work then.


We will see how he likes the mountain tomorrow. It's supposed to be closer to mid 70's. Today it was in the mid 50's. Those kind of temps make this type of injury worse.

I also rubbed him down with Sore No More gelotion. We will see how he does tomorrow.

Wrapping up Day 4: All the important horses

There was one horse I did not own, that influenced me, when I still owned Queenie. There were some horses in SoCal, when I was living there, and several in Colorado about 20 years ago. I will try to be brief, but this should at least wrap up this day . . . oh, and the stories get a little less exciting as I got older, wiser, more aware of potential consequences. And like N says now, I have no need to prove anything and have no problem getting off my horse when I am beginning to be in trouble.

Blackie: She was a three year old mustang filly from the BLM of Wyoming, pretty small and very wild. One of the boarders at the first barn I stayed at, where Ace died, brought her and three other mustangs back from Wyoming, three mares and a stallion. The stallion was a handful. We couldn't keep him inside the corral, even though one of the first things Dick did was geld him. He was a powerfully muscled four year old dark buckskin, with a star and stripe. It took Dick most of the spring and summer to get that horse broke enough to ride. Of the other three mares, two were small, one black and one bright chestnut, and other than the color, they looked like twins. The fourth horse was a huge, rawboned, dark chestnut mare that Dick considered turning into a bucking horse for a short time (she fought all the time) but who ended up being a great cutting horse.

Back to Blackie. When she first arrived the entire front of her face was gone. When they were loading her into the stock trailer at the gathering corrals, she had thrown herself up and over, scrapping all of the skin and flesh off the front of her face, from her forelock to the bridge of her nose, from eye to eye.  (This is the primary reason I purchased a helmet when N offered her extra to me. I've seen the damage a horse can do to itself if it panics in the trailer. I don't think the concept existed in the 70's.) When I first saw her I couldn't believe it. In some places bone was showing through. Dick had to catch her and paint her face with medicine twice a day. This did not endear her to Dick or anyone for that matter. One day, about two weeks after the horses had been delivered, I played hooky from school. I walked to the barn from school, stashed my bag and went to mess with the black mare. I carried down an armful of hay and a couple of soft curry brushes, and set to work in the huge outdoor arena. I started by making a series of piles of hay, and then sat down next to the final one, with a small pile of fresh grass in my lap. At that point, Dick was leaving a halter with a long rope attached to it on her, in order to make it easier to catch her, considering she had to be doctored twice a day. At this point the front of her face was one large scab, which was very unsightly, but there was no infection and no proud flesh, so it was healing clean. Blackie had started out at the far end of the arena, but when I sat down on the ground, her head came up and her ears pricked at me. After waiting fifteen minutes or more, that little black mare came shuffling through the dirt toward the first pile of hay. I started talking to her as she began to eat, mostly nonsense, babble really, just familiarizing her with the sound more than the words. She finished her first pile, three or so mouthfuls really, and moved closer to me. Her ears flicked back and forth, listening intently to my rambling. I sang (only to horses and my son when he was a baby) songs and talked about school, talked about how pretty she was now that she was wormed and getting plenty of food every day, and I told her I wouldn't hurt her. Slowly, she moved closer and closer, until finally she lipped up the final flakes of hay right in front of me. We were only two feet or so apart, me still sitting and her waiting warily. She moved forward, finally, and reached out for the fresh grass in my lap. As she ate, I slid a hand up the side of her face and scratched her check, then the underside of her jaw. Even after she finished the grass, she stayed there and let me scratch her. Slowly I got up, still talking, and grabbed a flake of hay, easing back next to her and placing it on the ground. She just stood eating, shaking a little, while I began grooming her with a very soft brush. I used my fingers on the areas where she was most likely to be itchy, and pretty soon her shakes had slowed down and she was leaning into the brush. I worked all of her body, showing her how to let me lift her feet, sliding my finger into the corner of her mouth, lifting her tail and running my hands over every part of her body. She stood there, untied, hay gone, and let me tame her. By the end of the day, she would follow me around the corral on a loose leadrope, stand calmly while tied to the fence. She allowed me to approach her freely while she was at liberty in the arena (although I didn't dare take off the halter yet). I even eased my way onto her back and rode her slowly around the ring. Dick was blown away when I demonstrated our attachment later that afternoon.

From that day forward, that little black mare would greet me with nickers any time she saw me. I spent the summer working with her, teaching her to turn and back and go forward. We did several trail rides out and I found her to be honest and sure footed, if a little timid still. Her face finally healed clean, although it would always have a horrible scar. At the end of the summer, Dick took his horses and moved to another city about an hour away. I heard later that he had sold the little black mare for a $100.

SoCal: In SoCal I was approached by a man who came into my grandparents gas station on a regular basis. He lived just down the street from where I was working and he owned an Arabian farm. We talked about his horses and since I was horseless I was most eager to meet his animals. After talking off and on for several months, he offered me a job working with his babies. He had five foals that needed to be taught to lead, pick up their feet, and stand quietly while being groomed. I accepted and started working there in the afternoons. The foals were sweet, out of nice mares. This guy had the luck of owning a Bey Shah colt, coming up two, who he planned to stand at stud. The farm was clean and neatly put together and the babies were wonderful to handle. I even went with the Bey Shah colt and his trainer to a show. They didn't do great, but he was a nice looking horse. This comfortable arrangement didn't last very long, however. After I had been working there a couple of months the owner called me into his office and let me know that my employment was conditional on my sleeping with him, informing me he had this arrangement with the woman training his horses and he expected the same from me. I turned around and walked out. That was pretty much the extent of my horse experience there.

Dusty: Granddaughter of Secretariat out of a QH mare. She was four years old, red dun, when I started riding her for her owners, who had several of their children hurt trying to get her broke. She never tried bucking with me and after riding her in the round pen for a couple of weeks, I started taking her out on trails by ourselves. She was a sweet horse and her people were very happy with her when I was done.

Panda: Panda was a sweet, eight year old appaloosa mare owned by a woman I met through work. Her owner had lost interest in riding but didn't want to give her up. I offered to ride her just so she would get work. For almost two years she was under my care. She was honest and a fun ride on the trail. I once rode her around Boulder, almost thirty miles, in a day and she loved it. I stopped riding her when I got Keili and she went back to her owner.

Keili: I've told her story earlier on this blog, so I'm not going to repeat it here.

There were other horses in my long acquaintance with these animals, but these are the ones that stick out. And finally, we are done with Day 4 of the blog challenge.