Friday, November 29, 2013

Black Friday

Just for the record, I am NOT a jockey.

Today, we did a trail ride up on the Mesa. N just got a new puppy, smooth, tri-colored collie they named Lou (for Lou Holtz).



Because of the new puppy, we needed to do a fairly quick trail ride. The weather was 57 degrees, sunny sky and intermittent wind. Just about perfect riding conditions. And there was NO Freaking way I was going shopping!

I got to the barn just about noon and Ashke whinnied when he heard my voice, then walked into his stall and up to the door to stick his head in the halter. Not that he was happy to see me or anything.

We saddled up and N let me know that Becky was going to ride her new QH out with us for the first time. Her new pony is a four year old QH that's been very well trained already and she wants to work on showing him in some type of Western class but also thinks getting him out on the trail is good for his mind. I booted Ashke and have to tell you I am so ready to change to the Renegades. I hate my Backcountry boots. The back ones are so loose they fall off and the front ones are so tight I had to use a hoof pick to get them off. (I was cussing so much that Becky and one other woman came over to see if they could help.)

We got out of the barn about 12:35, tightened girths and swung up. It worked best to let Ashke lead with Bentley behind him and then Cali. Cali didn't care about staying with the herd and was walking very slow. At one point, N stopped encouraging Cali to move and she just stopped in the middle of the trail. She didn't seem to mind that Ashke and Bentley kept going.

I let Ashke just go. I didn't ask him to collect or bring his head down. I rode most of the ride with the reins in one hand. He's spent so much time in the arena that I just wanted today to be fun. And it was. I think we both needed the break.

When we got to the part of the trail where it goes straight up to the top of the Mesa on the main road or cuts to the right and continues around the side of the Mesa, I asked Ashke to canter. He did. Cali followed at a canter and Bentley brought up the rear at a trot (he didn't want to canter.) Just as we got to the trail where it cuts to the right an idiot bicyclist cut across in front of us and then down the road. He almost got ran into by Ashke. Bentley jigged a little bit when the bike rider whipped past him. I hollered at the rider and told him to stop. He yelled "Why?" And I yelled back that we have right of way. He didn't stop, but if he gets kicked I won't feel bad.

Ashke was pretty up after our canter. We walked pretty easily; a nice, big, swinging walk. When we were almost to the parking lot I turned us downhill and headed back toward the dirt road that runs from the highway to a house nestled at the bottom of the Mesa. We walked across the prairie and I kept an eye out for barbed wire, prairie dog holes and hidden rocks. The ground was a little wet in places and I could feel Ashke's back feet slip a time or two, but overall he did great.

N really wanted to canter until I pointed out that there could be hidden wire and Becky pointed out the hidden rocks and we both mentioned the prairie dog holes. N said she had never seen prairie dogs out there, which made me laugh, because I rode through the colony a couple of months ago. We made it to the dirt road without incident and decided to try another canter. Ashke and I started in the lead, because it seems to be easier to slow him down if he is Winning. We cantered up the road and saw a culvert with a broken stick and some orange flags, and I slowed back to the trot. After the flags, we picked up the canter again.

This time Ashke was running faster and fighting me. He could hear both Cali and Bentley running behind him and it made him want to really run. I was standing in my stirrups, with the reins very short, working hard to keep him at a canter and not a dead run. N, riding up close to us, said, "sit back, Karen, and drop your shoulders." Like a good student, I did.

Ashke leaped ahead as I sat back in the saddle, running all out. N saw him jump and slowed Cali.  Or tried to. Bentley didn't want to slow either. I wrestled Ashke back under control and got him stopped. I'm thinking he thinks he's a race horse, but I keep telling him I'm not a Jockey.

While we were standing in the middle of the road letting me catch my breath, I pointed out the prairie dog colony on the far side of the road. We bushwhacked back up to the trail and made our way home. I think both Cali and Ashke felt rejuvenated by our little outing. Ashke had his swinging walk on our way home.



We finished our ride. Ashke was a little sweaty under the saddle, but for the most part he did great. The 1.5 mph had to have been when we were going up hill and had to stop for about a dozen bike riders, since Bentley hadn't been exposed to them before.


Not bad for an hour and a half. I'm thinking that I should try riding in the running martingale when we are on the trail. I am going to talk to Cassandra about utilizing that tool when we ride out. It will help keep Ashke's head down when we are cantering. I will see what she says.

Some housekeeping items: I have a sore foot. It is the right foot and seems to be the muscle between my second and third toes (the fascia). It has been bothering me off and on for a couple of months. It seems to be aggravated by my riding on the balls of my feet. I don't know if it's a use issue or a boot issue. This morning as I was walking down the stairs, I pushed off with my right foot, somehow managing to lift my entire body by that one toe and heard something pop. I have it on good authority that popping is not good. It hurt like hell. And it's swollen. I'm thinking I tore something. Didn't think of it a single time while I was riding, though.

Second, I am out of practice of trail riding and felt exhausted when I got off my horse. This is not good and means that I need to ride longer - either in the arena or on the trail. I have been careful in my rides to not get Ashke real hot or sweaty. That may need to change.

Third, I hate weighing myself. I wish I wouldn't do it. My journey really needs to be about how I am riding, how strong I am getting and how my back feels. Numbers on a scale should not dictate my self-worth.

Fourth, holidays are hard for some people. I am one of those people. It has become more fun since I had my son, but they are always hard emotionally. I get depressed. I think that is a common reaction.  I don't know what to do about it except to be aware and not let it effect T's holiday.

Finally, on Thanksgiving evening, N, J, T and R and myself took over a couple of plates of food to Henry at the barn. He was working by himself and hadn't had plans for Thanksgiving dinner. We provided. Then we let the horses run and prance and snort in the outdoor arena after dark while someone in the neighborhood set off fireworks. That was fun. Then we went up and helped Henry feed the horses. That took about an hour with J driving the truck and T, R, N and myself helping Henry feed the horses. We aren't very good at throwing three flakes of hay from the back of the hay trailer and hitting the feed tires. There was hay every where. It was good though, because Henry was feeding by himself and it would have taken him a couple of hours to complete the feeding if we hadn't helped. It was fun. And it felt good to help.

Tomorrow we see Diane. Look for a post about our visit. No riding on Sunday, because he needs the day off for the adjustment. And there is a Broncos/Chiefs game calling my name.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Oooppps.

Happy Thanksgiving to all of my friends!! Thanks for reading and sharing and riding and being part of my life. 

So, note to self, . . . make sure your trainer puts your lesson in her cell phone.

When we got to the barn I saw Cassandra's truck there and knew she had a lesson between 6 and 7, so I wasn't worried about it. I got Ashke out (letting him lick on my shirt and hands because he is so much happier when he can lick me), and realized he had hurt himself sometime between Monday night and Weds. Silly horse looked like he slid into the electric fence with his right shoulder. He has a three inch by half inch spot on his chest where the hair is gone and his skin feels abraded, plus there was a strip across his right shoulder where the skin was gone and he had a welt. He wasn't lame, but he also didn't want us touching it. He was in turn out on Weds, so I figure he was being a goofball and hit the fence. It didn't seem to effect his movement, although he really got tired of us touching it, so I got him groomed and saddled.

We got to the indoor right at 7 pm and discovered that no one knew where Cassandra was, even though her truck was outside. J, who was there to videograph my lesson, texted her and discovered she was at the hospital with Darcy. Darcy and Armani (her freaking huge warmblood - swear that horse is almost 18 hh) had a mishap that involved the mounting block, a head thrust by Armani, and Darcy's meniscus tearing in her knee. Cassandra had driven Darcy to the hospital. She had also forgotten we had a lesson at 7.

No biggie. I had the arena to myself and was committed to riding my horse. J got some excellent video. I will have some commentary about my performance.


We are working on rhythm at the trot. Ashke really wasn't interested in bringing his head down and he kept trying to find things to spook at, which I just ignored. I thought that our ride was decent, over all.


In this one we demonstrate our work on leg yields, backing, turn on the forehand, turn on the hind and our sidepass. All are a work in progress.


Our first canter to the left. He looks better than he feels. I will be so much more comfortable once he gets his head a little lower. At least last night we didn't have a run away in either direction.


Last night was the first time I felt like my body is beginning to remember how to ride the canter. I was much more balanced and a lot less afraid. I also didn't have to hold on as much.


First time to the right. Ashke was so much better last night, although I was more tense to the right. I need to relax and trust him. At least, we had forward without insanity.


The final time to the right, Cassandra had made her way back from the hospital and came in to apologize. We rescheduled for next week and they we cantered again. It didn't go as well. Cassandra reminded me that Ashke will react to my emotions, even when I don't realize I am having emotions. Performing for my trainer is going to make me more emotional.

Fuck.

Overall, I was very happy with our ride. Ashke is so done on being in the arena and on Friday N and I are riding the mesa so we should all be happy on Friday. Saturday we go back to see Diane. We shall see if I am right about what we need to adjust.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Co-Being

Have you ever been in a relationship where you were so in tune with you knew what they were thinking before they did, you knew how they would move before they moved, where they reacted to your thought as soon as it formed in your mind, where you could swear you were two individuals in one body, where the lines between the two of you blurred and being together was the most important thing in the world?

I'm not talking about co-dependency. I'm talking about co-being.

There was an article published in the Social Anthropology journal about co-being. co-being is defined as a phenomenon that "may be unique between horses and riders, since both move as one and often physically change over the course of the relationship to conform to the other. Intense cooperation is also key."

So what they are talking about is becoming a Centaur, only with both a horse and a human head. Of becoming so close to your horse that the trust is absolute, that the rider both listens to and reacts to the horse's wants and desires, as much as the horse listens to and reacts to the rider's requests. I don't believe every rider out there achieves this state of co-being. And I suspect that not every horse has the personality or desire to achieve this state with it's rider. Some riders will always see horses as a means to an end, rather than an active partner in whatever they are shaping. Some horses will never get the opportunity to form such a bond with a specific rider, either because of their role in life (schooling horse, race horse) or because they never have a rider that meets their criteria.

According to the article, "Cooperation means attuning to each other. The rider is often in charge, expressing, through body kinetics, what he or she wants the horse to do, but unless the rider attunes to the horse's body and mind, the horse will not understand, and unless the horse attunes to the rider, the horse will not manage to perform the requirements of the rider."

It's that connection that reaches past the mechanics of dressage, or western pleasure or any other event we concoct to test our riding and our training. It's that connection that goes beyond training, or affection or goal-setting. It is created by mutual desire, mutual striving, and mutual respect.

"Co-being is, on the one hand, about moving together, but also about being together on the ground, communicating as individuals, and in order to communicate, a shared sense of the other must be in place."

Reminds me of the Little Prince . . . "What does that mean, tame? It is an act too often neglected. It means to establish ties. . . . if you tame me, then we shall need each other. To me, you will be unique in all the world. To you, I shall be unique in all the world . . . "

But, I think it goes beyond taming. Or responsibility. Or love, even. It is an act of willingness to give openly of yourself to your equine partner, and to receive from your partner in equal measure. It goes beyond affection. Or admiration. There has to be a physical component to co-being.

According to the study, "This feeling is not just mental, as skilled riders grown new muscles in their legs, butts and other parts of their body to match the body of their particular horse. The horse, in turn, will exhibit physical changes in response to the shape, load and repeated motions of the rider."

So my feeling that my progress with Ashke will NOT be helped by allowing N or Cassandra to ride him in lieu of me is spot on. If I wish to achieve the relationship of co-being with my horse, I must be the one having the conversation with him. We will both change physically in response to each other. He and I need to figure out our language so we can communicate without words.

Again, "humans and horses co-create a language system by way of the body to facilitate the creation of shared meaning. Horses are very sensitive to touch, so when  horse and rider are familiar with each other, an experienced rider need only to twitch a muscle to communicate desired direction on a trail."

I, by definition, can only co-create this language system with one horse. Maybe other people can, but I just don't think I could. I am a one-horse type of gal. It also means that it needs to be both directions. He needs to be a one-gal type of horse. I think that when I get the most frustrated with Ashke is when I stop listening to him. And when I stop asking. Asking is hard. We get focused on our goals or our "plan" and stop asking, at least I know I do, and start demanding performance instead. I need to listen better. Some things I need for us to do, because in the long run it will be good for both of us. These are the things I consider physical therapy. Transitions. Side-reins. Lessons. But even through those things, I need to listen to him. He is very clear in his communications and I need to trust that when he says I'm tired, he means he's tired, not that he's being lazy. He's going to have days when he just doesn't feel like doing it. Hell, I have those days at work, where I'm not as productive as I should be. Doesn't mean lazy, just means an off day.

Again, from the article, "Humans additionally change the way they talk in order to better communicate with their horses. The term motherese is used to refer to the way many humans talk to their horses. It is not baby talk, but a controlled and calming tone of voice. People use this language tone so as not to excite the horse. It is a kind of verbal stroking."

"Good boy."

"Settle."

"Easy."

We have our own set of words that are designed by us to communicate calm, to effectively override a horse's sense of fight or flight, to trust that we know what we are doing and they can overcome their instincts in order to do what we ask them to do. Think about that. Think about the last time you, as a human, trusted someone else to tell you what to do, when it went against everything you believe or know as a human. I don't know about you, but I think the last time I trusted blindly I was about five. Even with J, it is compromise. But with our horse, our co-being, they learn to set aside what evolution has taught them about their world and trust in our decision making ability. To the point where they will kill themselves doing what we ask just because we ask it.

Again, "horse and its rider also become accustomed to each other's smells. Horses have adapted their ways of relating to other horses to the manner in which they respond to humans."

"Horses are highly social animals that use very fine body and facial movements to communicate with each other . . . wild equids are sensitive to changes in body posture of conspecifics (other horses) and also are sensitive to the behavior of other species that form mixed herds."

In other words, horses have learned through the 8000 year relationship humans have had with them, how to enhance their ability to understand us. They have made us part of their herd. This is why Natural Horsemanship emphasizes the idea of being a "good leader" for your horse. It only seems fair to reach out in equal measure, to make ourselves part of them.

Finally, one of the riders interviewed for the article says, "It's that connection that you start craving. Once you have it, you need more."

Just like any other relationship. You want more. You need more. This was the relationship I had with my mare when I was a teenager. We moved together beyond thought. I don't have this with Ashke yet. It is what I am striving for, what I ache for, what I want to create between us. Unfortunately, I am fearful of being hurt and so is he. We are both bringing baggage and damage with us into this relationship. I have faith that we will reach that point, however. That point where we connect beyond words, beyond goals, beyond our past. Where we are just being.

Co-being.


Sunday, November 24, 2013

Working Equitation

I decided to do a post about Working Equitation. I have been intrigued since I first came across the discipline and decided to do some research on this riding style. It is the only riding style I am interested in learning, primarily because it combines four things that I think Ashke and I would excel at. It is open to any rider and any type of horse.

This form of riding started in Spain, Portugal, France and Italy. It is based on the activities that a horse would be expected to encounter during fieldwork. Each country started with it's own rules and costumes, so there are slightly different aspects between countries, but the core of WE is determined by the International WE. The discipline was recently recognized by the FEI, but is still pretty new in the US. The National organization for each country determines the rules for that country, but the international rules are the same for every one.

There is a National level WE organization called the WEUSA. They are the ones that determine the protocol for the US. According to the WEUSA website:

Due to the differences in livestock, climate, and cultures, many different  styles of tack, attire and animal handling were specialized throughout the USA. WEUSA embraces our equestrian cultural melting pot and allows traditional as well as modern working tack and attire.  WEUSA also recognizes the horses, tack, and attire of other nations that participate in working equitation. 

The WEUSA rules were created for our country's riders along with Internationally accepted rules and imput from the World Association of Working Equitation.  Many different tack and attire options are available to WEUSA riders due to the wide range of field and cattle working horses in our country.  From the Cracker cattlemen of Florida in their McClellan saddles and bull whips, to the field and plantation horses of the deep south, to the cowpoke who used a long pole to help load the cattle onto rail cars, to the Vaquero of the southwest, to the buckaroo of California, to the Hawaiian Paniolo, WEUSA celebrates them all!

Each WE competition has four parts: Dressage, Ease of Handling, Speed Phase and Livestock penning. I'm going to use videos to show how it is done in other countries: (International rules)

WE dressage is done in a 20m by 40m ring and at the highest level is ridden with the left hand.



The second part of WE is the Ease of Handling phase. This phase is based on how well the horse does through a series of obstacles. Again, ridden with the left hand at the International level.



The third part is the Speed Phase, where the rider races through the obstacles from the Ease of Handling phase as quickly as they can.


The final phase of WE is the livestock trial. This is a team event.


Ashke thinks cattle are from the devil, so teaching him how to do the cattle trial should be vastly amusing. And finding three other "Team" members to play with us might be even more fun.

Because this discipline is just starting in the US, there are few opportunities for shows, but that's okay, since we aren't ready to show yet. I have looked at the WE group for Colorado and it looks like they did a Fun Day last year, where they worked with riders on the Ease of Handling phase. However, it doesn't look like they actually have a show. The National WE organization does an online or virtual competition. You can only enter for the Dressage and Ease of Handling phases by submitting a video of the dressage test and the EOH test. It looks like they did two or three virtual competitions last year.

IF we decided to enter one of the competitions next year, we would probably start at the Walk-Trot level. You ride the dressage test while being video taped, which cannot be edited. At the end of the dressage video, they have you video your equipment to show that you are using what they require. You submit one video for the dressage test and one video for the EOH test. (J is already willing to build obstacles.) Maybe, if I can get connected to the WE Colorado chapter, we can do something at our barn!

The EOH test would be:

Walk Trot – BlUE
1.       Jug
2.       Lance Pick Up
3.       Lance Return
4.       Single Pole Slalom
5.       Corridor with Bell
6.       Varied Footing

The dressage test looks like this:
WORKING EQUITATION DRESSAGE TEST
WALK TROT
Purpose in Dressage:
To introduce the beginner rider or the new working equitation rider to Working Equitation competition in an inviting and educational atmosphere. To be ridden in a snaffle, Pelham, or curb using two hands on the reins. Any horse under 60 months of age must be ridden in a snaffle. Rider may carry a whip in Dressage Phase. Spurs allowed. Transitions into and out of the halt may be made through the walk. While the horse does not have to be on the bit or round in the top line, the horse would show acceptance of the connection from the leg to the elastic hand without undue resistance. The walk and trot should be energetic and ground covering but without losing balance.

1.
A             Enter Working Trot             Straightness of the Center Line
X            Halt, Salute                          Obedience, Relaxation, and Balance of the Halt.
X            Proceed Working Trot          Straightness of Transition and desire to move
                                                            forward into the trot.

2.
C            Track right                           Correctness of Balance and Bend through the
                                                            corner.
M-E            Change Rein                   Straightness and accuracy of the rein change.
                                                            Energy and tracking up in trot.

3.
E            Circle Left 20m                   Correct bending.  Energy and tracking up in the trot.
                                                            Accuracy of the circle

4.
E-K-A-F
            Proceed Working Trot            Straightness on long side. Correct bend and balance
                                                            in the corners. Energy and tracking up in the trot.
5.
F-E            Change Rein                     Straightness and accuracy of the rein change.
                                                            Energy and tracking up in trot.

6.
E            Circle Right 20m                Correct bending. Energy and tracking up in the trot.
                                                            Accuracy of the circle.

7.
E-H            Proceed Working Trot     Straightness on the long side. Correct bend and
                                                            balance in the corners. Energy and tracking up in trot.

8.
C            Working Walk         Obedience and acceptance of the aids into the energetic
                                                walk.
9.
M-X-K
Free Walk on a Loose Rein   Straightness, Swing, Relaxation and Ground Cover of the Walk.
  
K            Working Walk       Relaxation and Acceptance of the Aids in the Transition to
                                                Working Walk.

10.
A            Walk Down Center Line            Straightness of the Center Line

11.
X            Halt, Salute                        Obedience, Relaxation, and Balance of the Halt

I think it's doable. I plan on printing this out and giving it to Cassandra, so she knows what I should be working on. Novice level
requires cantering and I'm not ready for that yet. Of course, I don't know when the virtual competition is going to be and maybe
we will be cantering by then. However, I think it would be best to start at the Walk-Trot level, especially since I've never done
something like this before.

Doesn't it sound like fun, though?

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Bolt

Can you guess?

I met N at the barn and we got the horses tacked up. We trucked over to the indoor arena and lunged. Ashke was stiff and a tad bit sore in the right hind. Diane may be right. He may just short stride for the rest of his life. He gets better as he gets warm and it's been cold this week. All I can do is continue to ride and work and see what happens. He lunged for a bit in each direction and for the first time in a long time, he didn't cross canter at all. He let me know when he was warm and ready to be ridden, so I walked him over and swung on.

He walked off before I was seated. We stopped, backed up and I swung off. We walked back over and this time I told him to "Stand". He did until I was in the saddle, rewarded him with a pat on the neck and a good boy, then asked him to walk on. He did. We walked in both directions a couple of circuits around the arena. I turned him to the right and asked him to trot. It took two turns before he relaxed, dropped his head and moved into a frame. We did a couple of transitions and then I realized out of the corner of my eye that N had asked Cali to canter.

I had a moment of insanity. That's the only explanation. I had a fleeting thought that I hadn't worked Ashke enough to canter yet (he was feeling fresh), but did I stop? Oh, hell no, I asked him for a canter. He moved into a canter, but on the incorrect lead. I slowed him, repositioned him and asked again. This time he picked up the canter on the correct lead. He saw Cali cantering in front of him and started to pick up speed.

Did I mention there were seven horses and Cassandra giving a lesson in the indoor arena?

Ashke could see Cali cantering in front of him and started to gallop. In the indoor. With a ton of other horses. I started to ask him verbally to slow down. N heard me and asked Cassandra if she should stop. She did, expecting Ashke to slow down and stop when he passed her. I was holding on with my left hand and trying to stop Ashke with my right. He blew past her like she wasn't even there and paid zero attention to my ask. A quarter turn around the arena and he was still ignoring me.

I was pissed. I said to him, "ok, you Mother Fucker! You want to run, run!" I booted him hard in the sides with both heels.

He bucked and then bolted.

Everyone moved away from the rail and into the center of the arena. And then watched us run around the outside of the arena at a gait just short of a dead run. Cassandra started talking to me, trying to coach me into easing him down. About the fifth time we went around the arena I was beginning to despair of him ever stopping. He is an Arabian and bred for endurance. Could he run for an hour? Riding him to the right is tough and I was wondering how much longer I could stay on, if I would just go limp and slip off. You have been to the circus, right? Have you ever seen the monkey perched on top of the dog going hell-bent-for-leather? That's what I felt like. Monkey me.

On circuit six, he finally pulled to a stop. I just sat there and gasped for breath, feeling the sweat pour off of me, shaking, with tears leaking from my eyes. The adrenaline made me feel sick. N walked Cali over to me, talking softly and I'm not even sure what she said. All I could focus on was the sight of my hands resting on Ashke's withers.

I finally caught my breath and turned him to the left. We did walk-trot transitions for ten minutes. Ten steps walk. Ten steps trot. In a frame. Then N cantered in front of me and Ashke cantered behind. On lead. Under control. To the left for four circuits. Cali stopped after one and a half, but I kept Ashke going. This time he came back to a trot, in a frame and under control. Then I stopped him and we turned to the center of the arena. We sat and watched Margaret ride one of the Friesans she shows, marveling at his flexion and his collected canter.

I told N I wanted to ride to the right one more time before I finished. I let everyone know that I was going to try a canter again. Everyone moved off the rail and I took Ashke out. I listened to what Cassandra had told me and locked the outside rein in my left hand while holding the front of the saddle. I asked Ashke to slow and listen to the inside rein. He did for a couple of steps. This time, when I asked after two circuits, he moved back down into a collected trot and then a walk. I was very pleased and we were done. Ashke got lots of praise.

Cassandra told me later she really wanted to holler, "Yeehaw!" when I booted him into a run. N told me she was thinking of moving Cali to the rail to block Ashke. They both suggested that next time I try a one rein stop, but when I've tried that on the trail, I've run into issues with him feeling unsteady on his feet and there were nine horses in the arena at the time that I didn't want to have to worry about. One of them was on a lunge line. It could have been really messy. He can turn so quick that I worry I could pull himself off balance and go down. I'd rather not have another horse fall with me.

On a good note, Cassandra said that I didn't look out of control or scared. It never looked like I was unsteady on him or ready to come off. N also told me that she wouldn't have kept riding Cali if something like that had happened to her - she would have gotten off for at least a little bit. I didn't even consider it. However, I was really sick walking back to the barn. Adrenaline can do that to a person. Good news was, I didn't throw up.

Friday, November 22, 2013

400

This is my 400th post. I thought of listing 400 things about Ashke, but decided you all would kill me . . . and I was afraid I wouldn't be able to stop. So, instead, I want to list some of the things he is getting right and all of the stuff he has learned. This is going to be a long ass post. I apologize in advance and give you a great pic of the horse being scratched.

Don't judge me. I have four layers on.


However, first I need to tell you about my ride tonight. We had a storm come through Denver and drop just enough snow to make things slick and annoying. Our awesome bosses decided we could leave early, so I headed out from work about 4:30. I stopped and grabbed a burger for dinner and then headed to the barn. Ashke got a good brushing, saddled and then covered with a cooler. About 5:45pm I headed to the indoor arena with a lunge rope and my horse. I was determined to just ride and enjoy myself.

We took it easy and I let him set the tempo at first. He trotted and cantered. When he cross cantered to the left, he immediately broke to a trot and then picked up the correct lead all on his own. He threw a couple of stiff, insincere and half-hearted bucks going to the right, but nothing real serious. When he was warm, I walked him over and swung on.

I had decided to ride with the reins in one hand, to not ask for contact and basically just give him the night off. He reached down looking for me. After a couple of turns around the indoor (we were there alone) I asked him for a trot and he immediately moved himself into a frame, looking for the connection with me. I gathered the reins into both hands and gave him a gentle contact. We transitioned down. When we moved back up to the trot from the walk, I took in a bit more rein and asked. He gave. It was amazing.

When we went to canter I transferred the reins back to one hand, with the shorter rein to the inside, kissed and let him canter. I gave him just enough contact to have a connection to balance on the outside, if he needed it, but for the most  part I just let him canter. On the fourth circuit he was beginning to wonder if he should stop and I clucked to him, asking him to keep going. We did six turns around and then slowed into a collected trot. As we slowed to a trot, I transferred the reins to both hands. We went to the right, which was harder and he wanted to gallop faster. Instead of tugging or demanding he slow down, I gave him just enough contact so he could balance and then used my voice to ask him to slow. Two turns around and he stopped trying to gallop, realizing I wasn't going to grab at his mouth. I asked him to slow and he kept cantering, so we went another circuit before he was willing to slow down.

By riding him this way, and holding onto the pommel with my left hand (which goes against everything my internal 12 year old believes) I was able to keep from flopping around in the saddle or bouncing against his back. I kept my hand in the same place on the reins and let him figure it out on his own. I tried to stay out of his way and let my body figure out the rhythm again. Plus, he was able to actually settle into a fairly comfortable lope. WE ARE FIGURING IT OUT!!! Until I can ride the canter without holding onto the saddle (there is a screaming in my head) and be able to be balanced and comfortable, I can't expect to be in a position where I can ask him to lower his head. So, we aren't going to ask. Instead, we are going to canter and see if my body can grow muscle where a baby used to be. (Childbirth completely destroyed any abdominal strength I had left after my appendectomy and 20 years of not being on a horse.)

After cantering for two different sets, I stopped him and asked him to back. He backed. I barely tightened my fingers on the reins and stepped into my outside stirrup and he sidepassed. We went back the other direction, just as easy. He turned on the forehand and then on the haunches. Everything I asked, he did. He was amazeballs tonight!

Not once tonight did I try and force a frame. Not once tonight did I get frustrated. When I didn't get the answer I was looking for, we moved on for a bit and then came back. He got lots of praise and pets and pats and he knew he had done a great job. Tonight was a night when I remembered why I have a horse in the first place. Tonight was a night when I remembered that we were partners and friends. And I asked.

And he gave everything. It was amazing!!

Now onto the rest of this post.

I wanted to highlight the areas where Ashke has made progress since I brought him home. So, in no particular order, a list and grade for all the areas we have worked on or are working on:

Trailering: A-
It took a couple of hours the Friday we got to Amarillo to get him on the trailer the first time. Once he was on, we gave him hay and cookies and just let him stand there for a bit. Saturday morning he was much more willing to approach the trailer and we were just standing there giving him a chance to think about stepping on when Steve's teenage daughter walked out of the backyard. He took one look at her, looked at me standing in the trailer and leapt onto the trailer. He couldn't wait to be gone. When we stopped at lunch he untrailered with ease, wandered around for an hour, and then went right back on for a couple slices of bread.

He now trailers fairly comfortably. He is more comfortable getting into a three horse by himself, then a two horse, but he has zero issues with following another horse onto the trailer, regardless of the trailer size.

Grooming: A
I'm not sure he had really been groomed since he left Arabians Ltd. From the brief conversation with Steve, he was tied up and sprayed with a hose a couple of times a year. In fact, they offered to do that for me before I picked him up. I declined. I don't think they owned more than a shed blade and a stiff brush for brushing off the saddle area before riding. Not only that, but Ashke was covered with bites and sores, his coat was super long and completely matted with mud, shit and weeds when we unloaded him. Thankfully, the first Sunday he was in the stable, the weather was nice enough we could bathe him. It took a couple of months though, before a new coat began to come in and it was comfortable to actually brush him. A friend asked me what I intended to do with him. I told her we were going to begin with grooming. And we did.

I started with a super soft rubber curry and soft, finishing brush. There were definitely places he did not want to be touched. His belly, back, hips and legs were all off limits. I went slow and talked to him. Pretty soon, he was looking forward to being brushed. He likes to be clean. He lets me know where he is itchy and what feels good. I used Ttouch methods for the areas that he took exception to, and stayed calm and slow.

Now, I can brush every where. He is still a tad sensitive on his belly near his sheath (we are still working on that) but every thing else can be touched, handled, leaned on, fondled, etc.

Feet: A
Steve had someone come out to trim his hooves a couple of days before we got there to pick him up. Whoever did so, didn't even bother to rasp them. They just clipped off the extra hoof and let him be. I could see the clip marks on the underside of his hoof when I first started working with his feet. He was long in the heels, super long toe and his hoof wall showed his malnutrition. I have heard the time frame for growing out a new hoof is a year. We did it in about four months. He had a real problem with his breakover on his fronts and kept clipping himself. I talked to the farrier I was using (a barn farrier) and his professional decision was to unbalance his hoofs so they were longer on the outside. That kept him from clipping himself but didn't help us with anything else.

I knew when I moved from that barn that I wanted to find a new farrier. The farrier I was using didn't impress me, wouldn't return my phone calls, paid no attention to anything I tried to talk to him about and seemed happy when I stopped using him. I found a barefoot farrier and couldn't be happier. He hasn't clipped himself since Michelle started trimming him and although we went through a sensitive sole period earlier this year, all of the signs of laminitis I was concerned about have disappeared. His white line looks great and there is no bruising or abscesses in his hoof.

His feet hadn't been handled much and it took me some time to get him comfortable with having his feet picked up and cleaned. He wasn't impressed with Dan the Farrier at the first barn, but absolutely loves Michelle. He now picks up each hoof when I ask and if I start at the front left, he automatically will pick up the hind left and hold it up for me after I set the front left down. Then the right hind and then the right front. The only time we have an issue is when I am trying to get the backcountry gloves on his feet. He's not as fond of that. I'm hoping the Renegades make it much easier and comfortable for him.

His behavior for the farrier went from him struggling to stand still and hold a foot up in crossties, to being trimmed by Michelle without a halter or a handler.

Tack: A+
It only took a year, but we finally have the tack and gear worked out. Mostly.

I ride in a Prestige Trekker Land Saddle: The seat is suspended and floating thanks to an intertwining webbing. On long-distance rides this assures comfortable seating that is cushioned against movement. Ashke loves it and we haven't had any issues with back soreness since I got it. The sweat pattern is even and my weight is equally distributed. It is fitted with a 26" fleece dressage girth. We tried the leather, but it was rubbing him, so fleece it is.



My bridle was bought at Dover. It is Cob sized with a Warmblood brow band I had to buy special. It has a cavesson for his nose and I could fit a flash band on it, but have no need to do so.



My bit is a Raised Rockin' S snaffle bit, size 4.5".

This bit is designed to decrease discomfort at the corners of the horse's mouth. It will not pinch. The extra 3" rings at each end of the mouthpiece float independently to disperse the pressure across the lip and cheek, making the horse more responsive to the rider's cues. The raised snaffle bit offers less tongue pressure and decreases pressure on the palate for better feel at the bars and lips.

I couldn't be happier with it. Ashke couldn't be happier with it.

My current saddle blanket is the BOT 3' x 4' blanket insert. I had no idea when I purchased it that it was designed to go inside a regular blanket (thus saving the blanket owner about $100) and covers hm from withers to butt. I am using it as a saddle blanket and haven't had any issues so far. It seems to have helped him with his sore hip. He is nice and tosty warm when I take it off, but not sweaty the way the earlier neoprene saddle pad was.



The only piece of equipment that I regularly use that I am not 100% satisfied with are the Easyboot Backcountry Gloves. I guess I am the only one having issues with them. Maybe it's just me. However, I am tired of dumping a ton of rock out of them when I go to take them off of his hooves, plus there is the little issue of him bruising his hoof wall from a small pebble stuck in the tread. I'm leaning toward Renegades in the spring. We will see how the BCG work over the winter.

Body Condition: A
I think he's an A now. We started at a 1 and Diane said he was a 6.5 in March. Since then we have adjusted his feed and his average work week. I think he is between a 5.5 and a 6. I will know for sure when we see Diane on the 30th.

Currently, he is fed six flakes of grass hay over four feedings (I love my barn.) He gets two flakes in the am, one at lunch, one at dinner and 2 at 8 pm. He is also getting 2 lbs of Purina Strategy, split between am and dinner feeding, plus the Smart Flex II supplement for his hocks. His ribs are not visible when you look at him, but are easily felt when you run your hands over his ribs. The dressage has thickened his neck, we've added muscle to withers and back, plus he has added bone to his cannon bones and legs. He has a classic Arabian shape and his eyes are always bright.

So far, since I started tracking his mileage in April, we have ridden 235 miles. He walks at a 3.75 mph rate and can average a 7 mph trot over some distance. We are still working on stamina. His longest ride was over 10 miles in about 3 hours. (Dom rode a fifty in 4 hours and 17 minutes, so we have some ways to go.)

His hip is getting better each day. I don't see as much short striding as I have in the past, however, I wonder if that was part of the issue on Tuesday. He struggles to collect and hold a frame when those muscles are bothering him. Hopefully, that will be less and less of an issue as we continue to ride.

Riding/Horse: A-
When I first brought Ashke home, he was not broke to ride. When Steve had him, he had been sent to a cowboy trainer, who first dragged him onto a stock trailer, kept him for two weeks and then brought him back very sick. Steve said he almost died. The cowboy said Ashke couldn't be broke. (Some people aren't as smart as my horse.) I believe that during that two weeks two things happened: 1) Ashke had a rope wrapped around his hind legs and he was dropped on his right hip (this is standard training practices for a lot of "cowboy trainers" I have known) and 2) someone jerked the cinch tight as quickly and brutally as they could. Both of these things are still with us today.

Cinching is still an issue when we are in the crossties. Ashke still throws his head and pins his ears, regardless of what I am doing or how I am doing the cinch. I can slip my fingers through the cinch and play with it (not even making it tighter, just running my fingers up and down) and he will pin. However, when I go to tighten it before getting on, he stands comfortably and doesn't protest.

On the trail, Ashke is brave and very forward. He is willing to go into new territory, either in the front or by himself. He actually struggles more when he is second in the group, rather than out in front. His favorite method of spooking is to startle and stop with his legs braced. I've never had a spin or bolt, except when we are chasing Cali. The only gait we need to continue to work on while riding the trail is his canter. I am hoping this will be a non-issue by the time we get to Spring.

Ashke is trying very hard to do dressage the correct way. He tries to get it completely right and lives for the praise. He is very receptive to leg pressure and knows how to move his shoulders, his haunches and to move in a side pass. They all need work, but he is making strides every time we ride.

Riding/Human: B-
I hadn't ridden since 1996 when I brought Ashke home. I've had a child and gained a ton of weight since then. Additionally, I stopped doing every thing physical due to my back. No biking, no hiking, no rock climbing, limited camping, no rollerblading. A job where I sit behind a desk all day. You name it, and I stopped. I also tore muscle in my left side, which makes coordination with my left leg more difficult. The physical rehab is hard, but the mental rehad to get past the fear and to accept that some things hurt has been the most difficult. I'm afraid to go back to that level of pain. That fear makes my body stiff, because I am even afraid to try to relax and see how significant the pain level really is. I stop before I really get a chance to test my limits.

That said, I can ride a walk and trot for fifteen miles.

I can ride 10 miles one day and 8 miles the next without destroying myself.

I am no longer exhausted by a five mile ride and riding for an hour in the arena has become the norm.

I can get off and on my horse without a mounting block from the left side. On trail.

One area I need to work on is mounting from the right. It is much more difficult to swing my left leg over and step up with my right, then the other way around. Although, I have stopped dragging that leg and toe, and my limp is much less noticible and only happens when I am physically exhausted.

I am beginning to be able to post for a short time. This tells me that my core strength is getting better. Cassandra says I am straighter in the saddle, rather than tilting to one side to compensate for the torn muscles.

My sitting trot is pretty solid.

Moving with Ashke at the walk is very good. Riding him at the canter is going to take time. I need to stop trying to brace at the canter and let my hips move with him, trusting that the pain will be manageable. That movement (call it the Pelvic Thrust) is the most painful thing I do and it can cause weakness in my lower back the next day. Again, the weakness and pain are getting better, but I have to stop being afraid, mentally. Hopefully, by the end of the Winter I will have gotten to that point.

So there you have it. The world's longest post for my 400th.

Thanks for reading.

And thanks to those women I've met through blogs: Dom, Saiph, Liz, Lauren, Jessica, L Williams. You all make my day and I wish we could sit and drink whiskey or rum or wine, eat plates of amazing food and laugh and share horse stories with each other. I'm pretty sure that would be an amazing meal. I appreciate all that you share and the laughter you bring into my life.

Thanks to J and T for letting me spend lots of money and time playing with Ashke. They are wonderfully supportive of my horse addiction and have no issue with riding their bikes while I ride my horse. They also let me off the hook when dinner is late, the house is dirty and laundry needs to be ironed.

And special thanks to N, who has become one of my best friends, my riding buddy and my dressage mentor. I can't begin to tell you how important you are to me.

Thanks to Cassandra, who has taught me that trainers aren't a bad thing and who has the patience and sense of humor to put up with my theatrics.

And thanks to the Universe for bringing me my heart horse, who is the most loving, smart, beautiful and forgiving animal I have ever had the pleasure to work with. He gives me hope and makes me believe it is possible to be completely healthy and active once again.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Agenda

But first, a follow up on the cat . . . .


Zero stomach issues. Zero biting of fingers, toes or armpits in the middle of the night. Already he looks slimmer. No more emptying his food dish five minutes after he gets fed. In fact, there is still food left in both dishes when we go to feed more.



He hasn't been this happy or content since he moved in. You can feel the happiness come off him in waves.

Yeah for Blue Buffalo.

And, because all of my animals are jealous animals, I had to share pics of the puppies. Although, I can't really call them puppies any more, since they turned one on Monday, November 18th.

 Our Lili Bear
Protector of the house
Defender of the homeland
Destroyer of small fluffy chew toys
Soulmate to the Little Black Kitten (who hates her)
My heart dog, who reminds me of our Red and my Spike
Who is more Malinios than Boxer, and who would destroy our next door neighbor if she could.

Skittle Bug
Pure Boxer personality in a whip thin body
Cuddle bug who thinks her spot for snuggling is my chest
The first one on the bed. Last one on the floor.
Horrific chewer (responsible for destroying my iPhone)
Loves pears and apples and bread and bacon and anything else her humans will give her.
Should have been named Piglet, because she is not very brave
Or Phoebe, because she very much is Phoebe.

Now back to our regular scheduled programming . . . 

Riding with an agenda.

Not my forte. Something I am now doing because I am doing dressage. I got frustrated last night because I had an agenda and my horse did not. I like how he looks and feels when I am riding him in a frame. I like the way his body is reshaping with the directed work. I like the feeling I get when he does what I want him to do.

I need to recognize that sometimes he needs a break. His forte is trail riding. He is a solid partner and brave trail explorer. He is calm and focused and willing. He really does not like arena work. He gets bored and honestly I don't blame him. I was worried that if I didn't "work" him that we would back slide and forget what we are doing.

I need to get over myself. I'm not riding for a show or to impress any one.

I can ride him without having to be in a frame (I asked Cassandra and she said yes). I can work on his neck reining and getting him to canter without struggling to keep him in a frame. We can canter more and I can work on getting in rhythm and balance with him. He can work on stopping when I want. We can work on being a team at the canter the way we are at the trot and walk. I can learn to trust that he will take care of us at the canter.

We can work over obstacles and I can work on riding him with one hand. I can change it up. I can make it fun. We can still do dressage, but it doesn't have to be the only thing that we do. I can bring in my cones and the poles and we can work on patterns. Or we can do cavelletti. We can work on spinning (yes he has spun, just a little bit, when we were working on turning on the hindquarters.)

I can find some other things for us to do that he likes. And yes, we will still be riding dressage. It just won't be the only thing we are doing.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Learning

I almost had a really bad night. A night to rival the one a week or so ago. A night where I get frustrated and angry and take it out on my horse.

Almost.

It started with Ashke not wanting to give to pressure. Any pressure tonight made him want to stop moving. At any gait. A firm outside rein made him bend to the outside. Asking him to soften to the inside made him turn in a tight circle. Asking him to trot in rhythm made him jig and try to pop up into a canter.

So very different from our ride on Saturday.

I was getting more and more frustrated when N entered the arena with Cali. She could tell I was having a hard time and asked me what was going on. It just made me more frustrated. I could tell I was going to lose it. I realized I needed to do something different. I got off and went to get the lunge line and side reins. I needed to get Ashke in the headset for what I wanted him to do.

The walk from the indoor arena to the grooming stall helped me calm down and refocus. Ashke is so sensitive to my mood and energy, that my being upset puts him on edge. It does not make things better. I got the reins and the lunge line and went back to the indoor arena. We worked on the side reins.

He did awesome. He even cantered to the left without cross cantering except for three strides and all I had to do was say, "No" and he broke for two steps to the trot and then picked up the correct lead again. After ten minutes of lunging I got back on.

He was much better. He gave me a great trot in both directions and we even managed to canter for several turns. I did realize that cantering when we are out on the trail hasn't done either of us any good. When I ask him for the canter we get really out of whack because he is anticipating that I am going to grab at his mouth and tell him to stop. I need to get him cantering and forward on a loose rein before asking him to canter with pressure.

N suggested doing a lunge line lesson, where I don't have to control him and can just figure out how to balance and ride. I talked to Cassandra about it before I left the barn. I think we are going to try one next Weds.

I was in tears. She was very supportive and encouraging and told me not to rush and not to give up. I asked her if I had to ride Ashke in a frame every time we rode, because I think tonight he was done. He just wanted to have a fun ride with me, with his head up and looking around. We didn't get out on the trail and he was missing it. Cassandra told me it was okay to let him have some time off - it wasn't going to ruin him and he might be even stronger the next time. That was good to hear.

Thursday night, my goal will be to get a decent canter/lope out of him without pulling on his mouth. I want him to know we can canter without him getting jammed or me getting scared. I want him to figure out he can canter without it being a dead run. We are going to work on the gait and then the collection.

His turn on the forehand and side pass was incredible. Turn on the haunches still needs a little work. He's getting there.


Sunday, November 17, 2013

Siska

Or the incredible vomiting cat . . .



In 2008, in August, I was at work and J and T were at home. I received a phone call saying that someone had dropped a cat off at the complex where we live and he and T had bonded. I came home to meet Siska, our new tabby cat. According to T, he had been wandering around in front of the condo meowing. T, who will someday run a homeless shelter for cats, dogs, lizards, sheep, and horses, sat down on the front steps and Siska curled up in his lap. T walked with J to get the mail and Siska followed them to the mailbox and back. J took T to get the newest Transformer (allowance and planned before the cat showed up). When they got back, the cat was gone. T stood on the porch step and called "Jeffrey". Siska, from clear at the top of the complex, meowed back and tore down the sidewalk to his boy. When I got home, T couldn't wait to show me. I walked up and Siska wound his way around my ankles, purring and looking up. I looked up at J and said, "guess we have a new cat."



In some ways, even after having cats for all of my life, Siska is unique. For one, he has black pads on white paws.


This is both unusual and unique and actually the source of his name. His name is white foot in Lakota. He has been T's cat since he came in the house. He was unneutered (of course) and probably didn't have shots, but he was box trained and sweet. He quickly became part of our family.

Unfortunately, as with a lot of rescues, he had an issue with food. He gorges to the point of vomiting. It's like he can't stop himself. We've tried free-feeding, but that resulted in vomiting. (I am an animal owner who believes in free-feeding, thinking that if an animal has unrestricted access to food, they will self-regulate.) We tried restricting his food to twice a day, which had the unfortunate effect of making the situation worse, since he would eat everything he was given as quickly as he could, and then vomit even more. This has been going on since we brought him home, but has gotten worse as time has gone on. And, as he has found new places to vomit on, including my computer, T's homework, the washer and dryer, pretty much any where.

It's not hairballs. There is no hair and it's almost entirely food in the regurgitation. I thought it might be emotional, caused by stress.

However, we did try a hairball remedy and a calming supplement, to see if we could take the edge off. Instead it caused projectile vomiting. This was not an improvement.

I did some research. Yes, it was bad enough that we needed to figure out why it was happening. It had gone from annoying to "he needs to stop vomiting or we need to get rid of him" and we never get rid of our animals. I was beginning to feel like this wasn't a behavior issue, but maybe an allergy.

I found a new food for us to try.

We are trying Blue Buffalo. Fed twice a day, in controlled portions.

So far, no vomiting. No gorging. Lots of purring and ankle wrapping.





Saturday, November 16, 2013

Clicker Training

Yesterday was N's birthday. We didn't ride, but we did do dinner with her and then walked over to the barn before having cake. It was about 9 pm, brisk and dark. We kicked on the outdoor lights and let Cali and Ashke be idiots for a while.

They had a great time. I can say Ashke is always respectful, even when really up and bouncing from it being both dark and cold. The lights were just beginning to turn on when we let them loose. They flew around the arena like they were being chased by wild dogs. Cali showed that she is half Paint every time she turned up the arena, head stretched out and flying. Ashke can usually hold his own with her, but not last night. Last night she kicked it into high gear and left him trailing her on the inside of the arena.

After they had raced around the arena four or five times, Ashke broke into this beautiful, high stepping extended trot that was amazing to see. I haven't seen him move that freely since I brought him home. He looked magnificent. And of course we were under canned lights and a full moon, neither of which provide enough light to video tape the action. At one point, both Ashke and Cali were high stepping and flicking their hooves out in front of them. Then they stopped and blew big, snorting, WTF blasts at the world around them. Ashke must have done it four or five times. Then we gathered them up and took them in.

So, about the clicker training. N is getting a puppy next week and has been researching clicker training for dogs. She is a bit obsessed, which doesn't surprise anyone who knows her. She decided to try it with Cali. Cali has a tendency to try and mug you for treats and N wanted to change that behavior. In ten minutes she had. We will have to wait to see if it works.

I decided to try it with Ashke. You may or may not know, but he has a nasty habit of biting. He plucks at your clothes with his teeth and is very lippy. He chews on my hoody strings, pulls at buttons, licks me and sometimes bites. He has bitten J as she walks past and he has nipped T. Any time he actually catches flesh, he always knows, because he throws his head back like he's expecting to get whacked. I have tried a bunch of different things, T-touch, biting him back, yelling, stomping, etc. to get him to stop and none of them have worked. I figured after seeing how quickly Cali picked up on the clicker that it was worth a try.

Two five minute sessions and then focused twitching (flapping elbows, sudden movement, startle response) to keep him from putting his mouth on me, has Ashke no longer lipping at me. He thinks about it, turning his head sideways and trying to figure out how to entice another carrot from me, but he hasn't actually touched me with his teeth or tongue since he figured out what I wanted.

How it works: I stood next to his head and ignored all of his behavior EXCEPT what I wanted him to do. In this case, I wanted his head away from me. When he moved his head to where I wanted it, I click the clicker and immediately gave him a carrot. Five minutes and he knew he had to have his head away from me to be rewarded. I did this from both sides and today I stood in front of him. When I stood in front of him, he turned his head to either the left or the right. As long as it was away from me, I clicked the clicker and gave him a carrot. I fed him the carrot directly in front of him, though, regardless of where his head was when I clicked. I am trying to train out of him his desire to put his mouth on the person standing in front of him. So far, working.

Since he is responding so well to the clicker, I am going to teach him to sidepass with a verbal cue combined with a physical cue. I am going to start from the ground and use the clicker to show him what I want. The verbal cue will be "side" and the physical cue will be a heel touch just behind the girth. My goal is to get him to sidepass over a pole. At speed. Eventually.

Our ride today was awesome. I think he is getting stronger with each passing day. There was a woman and her three year old little girl in the waiting arena watching the eight year old sister take a riding lesson from the BM. One of the times we circled past, she told her mom, "I want that horse when I am older. He is sooooooo beautiful." She said it several times. I didn't stop and tell the woman that obsession can start that young. I just smiled and let Ashke preen.

We only did walk and trot transitions today, in part because the wind was blowing hard enough it was rattling the arena, in part because there were little kids around and Ashke feels about little kids the same way some horses feel about minis. They are scary and eat horses. His trot to the right was wonderful. To the left, he was a little strung out. I kept asking him to bring his butt up underneath him and he kept trying to go faster. When I told him no, not faster, more collected, he said his head was way too heavy for him to hold up on his own. I refused to hold him up or let him lean on me. Once we got through that argument, he was much better and more rhythmic at the trot. We rode about 45 minutes or so and then I put him up.

As he gets stronger, the short stride becomes less and less. The stronger he becomes the bigger the trot gets. I hope at some point he gets strong enough to do his floaty, extended trot with me on him. And, as always, I hope I can ride it.






















































Friday, November 15, 2013

Just Cuz

1. Favorite thing about riding? My favorite thing about riding is when we are exploring a new trail or route. I love the adventure of it. I think Ashke loves it too, since he is all ears and wide eyes.


2. Draft horse or pony?
I hate ponies. I love Clydes. And Friesans. And I hate ponies. Well, Tinka was okay, but for the most part ponies are asshats. And by pony, I mean anything under 13 H, and of pony heritage. I'm not talking small horse. Fjords are small horses. Some arabians are small horses (under 15H). I'm talking shetlands. Hate them. Have a list of reasons.

3. English or western?
Calvary style saddle with English stirrups and a bucket for holstering your lance. And a scabbard for my saber. Never western though. I hate the stirrups on western saddles.

4. Dressage or Hunter/Equitation?
Dressage. This has been the beginning of an interesting journey. I can see the difference it is making in Ashke's body already and we have only been doing this for a couple of months. I like that it gives us something to focus on and homework to practice.

5.Green horse or trained horse?
Smart horse, then it doesn't really matter. I would take smart and sharp green over dull and slow trained.

6. Worst fall?
That did the most damage? Getting thrown in Yellowstone in 2006. From my childhood? The fall the winter of my 14th year. Both times damaged my back. The fall in Yellowstone also damaged my soul.

7. First fall, what happened?
First time I came off was the first ride on my shitland pony. He grabbed the bit and raced under all thirteen apple trees. The pad saddle slipped and I was riding him sideways. I finally let go right before my head hit an apple tree trunk. Did I mention I hate ponies?

8. Have you ever wanted to quit riding?
I did quit. It just didn't stick. I stopped riding for 20 years. I even said the words that I will never ride again. HA!

9. Favorite thing about your horse?
I don't have just one . . . how smart he is probably top of my list. And how he licks my hand.

10. Least favorite thing about riding?
When I purchase tack that I figure out later, really wasn't the best option. Going through this right now with my Backcountry Gloves. I always manage to figure out I need something else right after the first purchase gets stomped on, dragged through the mud and ripped or torn in some place and can't be returned. Bleh.

11. What does the fox say?
Jacha-chacha-chacha-chow!
Chacha-chacha-chacha-chow!

12. Do you prefer to ride inside or outside?
Of the horse? Can you ride inside? Seems like it would be dark and smelly. Not to mention unpleasant for the horse.

13. Do you show?
Not yet. Maybe some day.

14. How long have I been riding?
My mom has a picture of me in her belly on a horse. She was about eight months pregnant. Since then.

15. Why did you start riding?
Why do we breathe?

16. How many times do you ride a week?
My goal is 4. Twice during the week and twice on the weekends.

17. Have you ever fallen off at a show?
Nope. I haven't shown under saddle since I was sixteen though.

18. Ever fallen onto a jump?
Don't jump. Don't have any intention of jumping more than the small jump for the obstacle course for Working Eq. Hopefully, I won't fall off then.

19. Ever been bucked off?
47, 974 times. And counting. Sometimes I bailed on purpose, but that was to avoid the fast approaching clothesline.

20. Do you have a private or group lesson?
I do one-on-one lessons with Cassandra. They are held in public though.

21. In your opinion does it make you less of a rider if you don't own a horse?
I think it makes you less of a horse owner.

22. Trick riding or Eventing?
Is this a trick question?

23. What discipline do you want to try? Why?
"Do, or do not. There is no try." ~Yoda
I am doing dressage. I would like to do Working Eq.

24. Ever had barn drama?
Yes.

25. How many barns have you been to?
Abandoned? Falling down? To photograph? To explore? Or to board at?
To board at - two.

26. Do you plan on having horses in your life, for the rest of your life?
I would like to, yes. Is it in the cards? I try not to guess. I am taking it one day at a time.

27. Favorite tumblr equestrian?
Huh?

28. Favorite tumblr horse?
Humm?

29. If you could ride any famous horse who would it be?
Secretariat in the Triple Crown. I wanted to be a jockey when I was young.

30. Does winning ribbons matter to you?
It did when I was young. I have no idea how I would feel about it now, although I know myself well enough to know that if I compete I would like to be good enough to be taken seriously.

31. Worst riding experience?
The trail ride at Yellowstone. The two hours of riding after tearing muscle, bruising my kidneys and spleen and rupturing the disc at the L5 vert were the worst two hours of my existence.

32. Ever been on a trail ride?
I live for them.

33. Hunter or Jumper?
I hunted when I was young, mostly duck and Canada goose. I did high jump in High School. I don't really like doing either.

34. Ever wanted to buy a school horse?
Nope. I rode my horse to school on the last day, several years in a row, when I was in Elementary School, however.

35. Ever ridden a horse 17+ hands high?
I sat on our neighbor's Clydes. Didn't really ride though.

36. Ever ridden a horse 13hh or under?
Ridden a Fjord. Rode ponies when I was younger.