Saturday, June 28, 2014


We went to see Diane today. Diane is a holistic veterinarian who does chiro and accupuncture. We have been to see her multiple times. The first time was October of 2012 when he showed up there with the equine equivalent of shingles. She was unable to do much other than bolster his immune system. We had two weeks off of work and then saw her again the middle of November.

In November, Diane noted that Ashke was short striding on the right hind and not tracking up at all. During her exam, she identified an old injury to his right hamstring that was keeping him from stretching up. Additionally, he was overusing his left hind and right front to compensate for the injury to his right hamstring. This is why his left wither is so much more underdeveloped than his right one. This was such a chronic injury that Diane was unsure if we would be able to rehab it. It was this injury that made me let go of my goal of riding in an endurance race. (Short striding looks like lameness.) His SI joint was out and his right fore was tied up.

We went back to see her in March of 2013. Ashke was still short striding on his right hind and this time I was able to see that he also abducted his right hind in a crescent movement inside toward his left hind as he stepped forward. He was still very asymmetrical on the diagonal (LH-RF) and he needed the base of his neck, his poll and his SI adjusted. Diane recommended a change in food, because he had gained too much weight (6 on the Body Condition Scale) and the Balance Training system to help him learn to carry himself in a balanced manner.

In October, I started dressage lessons to help both of us find our balance and to teach him to use his back properly.

At the end of November, when we got to Diane's, I told her I thought he needed the base of his neck needed to be adjusted. He "felt" tied up there. It wasn't anything my trainer had said or someone had suggested, it just felt like that needed to happen. I was right and when Diane adjusted the base of his neck, you could hear it through the entire barn. Ashke gave a great big sigh, like he had been waiting for a very long time for that to happen.

All winter we worked on dressage stuff in the arena. He gained muscle in his back and the saddle we thought we loved no longer worked. By February, I knew we had resolved his short striding. He was beginning to use the muscles more symmetrically and carry himself in a balanced manner. We stopped riding, pretty much, because of the saddle, and those of you who have been following know the Nights of a Thousand Saddles, before I finally got to the point where I just waited for the Alta to arrive. He lost some of the muscle we had developed through the winter, but was strong and unsore when the Alta arrived.

As you may know, when we rode on Tuesday night, Ashke had blood in his frothy foam. I took that as a sign that he needed his teeth done. I decided that since I would have to go to Diane's for his teeth, I might as well have him looked at and see what we would see. One of the things he's been doing that has been bothering me is resting his left hind leg whenever he can. Always the left. Made me wonder if there was something going on.

That was how we found ourselves at Diane's about noon.

There was no work to do done.


The frogs of his feet were symmetrical. He is still abducting a slight bit, but there is not short striding and the abduction is minimal. When she went over his body at the acupuncture points, nothing flared. She said his right hock is a little bit overworked, but that could be a by-product from him becoming more balanced in his movement. I told her that he was able to do flying lead changes while we were competing in the slalom course during the WE show. His left wither showed the same slightly elevated work load, which makes sense because it is on that diagonal (RH-LF). Then she checked his chiro. Nothing. No back pain. No sensitivity of any kind. No need for accu or chiro.

I am beyond elated. Diane was impressed and said he looked really, really great. He is a 5 on the Body Condition Chart. His heart rate during the exam (when he was bouncing and twitching) was 38 bpm. And she showed me where and how firmly I need to press to hear his heart beat. (I'm going to try with my stethoscope the next time I ride.) (Saiph - I don't think he has the artery under his chin that you showed me. For a moment, I thought he was a zombie horse, but Diane showed me otherwise. It could be that I am a hamfisted idiot.) He loves Diane, and although he was expressing his displeasure (at trailering without Cali) by head-butting me and nipping my forearms, he stopped when she asked him to be gentle with me.

I asked her if she thought he could do an endurance ride (deeply hidden secret wish of my heart) and she asked me what types of distances I am riding now and at what speed. She said she sees no reason for him not to do a LD ride this year. This means that not only have we rehabbed his emaciated self, his injured hamstring and his weak back, but I am riding in a balanced way. If I wasn't, it would show up in his body.

I am so in awe of this horse.

Tears, I'm telling you. Lots and lots of tears.

With nothing for Diane to do, she gave him a shot and let Syd do her work.

 Ashke in the "waiting room"

 Big, Foamy bucket of teeth tools. Ashke snorted and snorted.

 I sat and watched Syd do his teeth. Granted, the boy was hyped up on some good dope, but he didn't even try to move.

He has ETR. Exaggerated transverse ridging. Which mean his teeth grind into peaks and valleys, which locks up his jaw. He also had a couple of points, and a hook. Plus a small place where he bit his cheek. Could have happened during our ride on Tuesday.

Syd described it as a washboard road (for those of you with access to unleveled dirt roads). The points and valleys fit down inside each other. Diane said it could be more of a problem than hooks, since it can really lock up the back of the horse's jaw.

 Stoner boy being stoned.

 Syd working on his incisors.

We had decided (meaning I asked Diane) to clean Ashke's sheath. We discussed how he is an expensive date and would take a lot of drugs. She gave him the shot and then we waited. Diane said he should have dropped by the time the tooth work was done and if he dropped while Syd was working on him, she would stop long enough for Diane to clean him. Diane offered to show me how, so I could work on getting him accustomed to it before bringing him back.

He never dropped. In fact, I had to hold his hind left leg again, for her to clean him. He struggled against me a couple of times, but I had his hoof cradled against my groin, braced by my hip. He moved me a couple of times, but was unable to free his leg. He wasn't trying to kick, he was just trying to bring his left leg up to protect himself. Diane had to go above her elbow to find him.

Swear, he has issues.

He was so much more comfortable after she got these out. The horse before us had four, one the size of a golf ball that bounced and rattled when she dropped it in the garbage can. Ashke's were much bigger than last time and more firm. He was standing square after that and even peed in the trailer on the way home. I think we found our culprit.

Now, with the endorsement of Diane, I can start lengthening our rides and increasing our speed. I don't think either of us is ready for a 50, but I really think a 25 or 30 is doable. And maybe that will be where we are happiest. (I am getting old, you know.) All I know is that I am in awe of this horse. It brings tears to my eyes to know how far he has come and what he has worked through to be right here, right now. To even be able to consider doing a 25 mile ride is beyond my dreams. 

It also means that I did it the right way. I listened to my horse. I stopped when he needed me to stop. I pushed when it was time to push. I bought a saddle that is perfect for him (and I love it a lot too). I gave him lots of cross-training and lots of things to think about. I trusted that he would get there. I let the two of us grow together.

I think we may be getting pretty close to Co-Being, if we aren't there already.

Friday, June 27, 2014


Cost of Horse Ownership

Liz has detailed her true cost in time and money of horse ownership. I, too, received my horse for free. However, in as close to detail as I can remember, here is what I have spent on my "free" horse.

Hotel for travel to see him and to retrieve him: $260
Gas for two trips to Texas: $420
Board for 8 months at Christensens: $3500
Board for 19 months at TMR: $11,500
Lessons: $600
Colic Intervention: $700
Stitches: $60
Vaccines: $450
Dex/Bute/Banamine: $300
Chiro/Teeth: $625
Supplements: $800
Tack: $6000
Truck: $50,000
Trailer: $7500
Farrier: $700

To date, my free horse has cost 83k.

Yearly costs going forward:

Board: $7320
Smartpak: $600
TC Omega Max: $104
Equipride: $130
Vet/Vaccines: $180
Chiro/Teeth: $250
Farrier: $300

Yearly costs: $9k

And that's if I don't purchase any tack.

Time commitment:

Estimated: @ 1700 hours

Since then I spend five days a week at the barn consistently. Weeknights are about 3 hours. Weekends can be anywhere from 3 to 7 hours. Riding and spending time with him consistently is some thing I treat like a second job. If I'm not working and riding him he will not get better.

Estimated: @ 20 hours a week/52 wks year = 1040 hours

That's on top of a full time job.

It's no wonder I only sleep about six hours a night and our credit card bills are not paid off.

But how could anyone say no to this face?

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Hill Sprints

We rode the mountain today. Did the 1000 feet straight up at a canter. I just let Ashke go and verbally encouraged him to race as fast as he could. He got about a quarter of the way up and just stopped. He was done. We continued at the walk to a slight overlook that is flat and off the road, where we let both horses catch their breath. Once they were ready to continue, Ashke asked to run again. I sent him ahead at a canter and Cali came behind us. N called out that they were catching up and I yelled "the hell you say" and slapped Ashke on his shoulder. He launched into his ears-back, scrabbling, all out run and stayed ahead of Cali right up to the point where we swung around the corner and met a bicycler coming down. Everyone screeched to a halt. Safely.

After we got past the bike, we let the horses walk to catch their breath, while we attempted to overtake two walkers and their dog. Once we were safely past, I motioned N to go ahead. Running uphill makes it harder on Ashke, and I was hoping the difficulty would make it easier to rate my horse. Ashke still fought with me but, although it was a real struggle, we managed to maintain our shit. N had to slow down to a trot for a few strides because Ashke had exhausted me and every time I loosened the reins even a hint, he launched into the scrabbling, wild racing run. I maintained the run though, until we were at the top.

At the top, N noticed that there was a bit of blood in his foam, so I stopped and checked his mouth. He nicked his tongue on the right side, back by the molar. I figure he needs his teeth checked, since it's been a year since they were done. The outsides don't feel bad, but I am hesitant to stick my hand inside his mouth without the steel contraption that keeps him from biting off my fingers. (I emailed about going to see Diane and Syd as soon as I got home.)  There was only a touch of blood, and it didn't seem to bother him. It cleared up right away and there were no more issues the rest of the ride.

While we were standing there and I was working on his mouth, Cali leaned out and sniffed his butt. Ashke flipped his tail into her face. She squealed in absolute horror at the affrontery. Ashke jumped (even though it was just noise) and did not want to get near her the rest of the ride.

In some ways, that is the heart of our issue. Cali can run up his ass and nothing happens, but Ashke has to maintain a distance of two horse lengths behind Cali or she tries to kick his head off. This has happened in the past and the danger is that she will kick out and toss N off. Or succeed in her attempt. Ashke hates being held two horse lengths behind her because THAT IS LOSING!!! Our ride home tonight was mostly him piaffing at a trot, sideways down the trail. He must have been enjoying himself because his tail was straight up in the air.

Sprinkler Bandits: So Much More Than Money Hop

Horse's Name: Thee Ashke
Age When Acquired: 7 years old
Experience/Training at the Time: Extensive groundwork as a foal/yearling, but nothing since.
Purchase Price: Free (Given to me by a co-worker)

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Best Trail So Far

Today we did the Chatfield Reservoir today. We left the trailer packed yesterday so it was fairly easy to pull the horses out and load them. Loading has become a complete non-issue for both horses. I turn Ashke toward the trailer and we walk in, then N leads Cali in and as long as I am out of sight, she walks right in. We pulled out and headed south.

As we pulled into the parking lot at Chatfield, the sky became somewhat grey. That was okay, though, because it cooled off the temp and made the ride that much better. And it gave us the opportunity to take a picture of Verga. (For Saiph).

 Verga is a weather event when rain starts to fall from the clouds, but it is so dry that the rain evaporates before it hits the ground.

Today it was raining and the humidity level was only 19%. Colorado can be very dry.

It sprinkled long enough and hard enough to coat the ground and dampen our clothes, but not hard enough or long enough to make anyone uncomfortable.

J was a trooper. I think she is more and more interested in learning to ride a horse. Our trails are getting more and more technical, although today was easier than yesterday.

We started South along the South Platte River, but there were a ton of mosquitos (add Cutter to the list of items we need in the trailer) and the path petered out, so we headed north along the res.

Most of the footing was excellent. We rode mostly on the edge of the path and it was dirt with scrub grass and minimal rocks.

We rode close enough to the reservoir that Ashke got a bit tense about the waves washing up on the shoreline. He was not interested in going closer. According to Terry, it used to be possible to ride and swim your horses in the res. I am planning on asking the next time we go, because that would be fun.

We got ourselves situated in an area between the marina and the campgrounds (where the horses aren't supposed to be, I guess) and although we could have turned around and backtracked, I really didn't want to. Instead we headed south and a bit east (I think) and found the Highline Canal.

The Highline Canal is one of my bucket list items. I rode my bike with T on back when he was two from a friend's house to the Reservoir to play on the beach. I've wanted to ride on it after I got Ashke. It is a two lane dirt path from Waterton Canyon to Sand Creek in Aurora, linear distance of 71 miles. (Some of it may be closed to horses, otherwise I would ride the length of it.) 

The footing was great and we did a lot of trot and canter along here. On one of our trot sets I suddenly halted and Cali just about crashed into us. There was a snake on the ground in front of us and I just couldn't get the word out to warn N fast enough (she yelled at me. I must get better at using my words.) It was a five foot or so long bull snake and I am pretty sure it had already been ran over and killed by a bicyclist. Bull snakes are non-venomous and are important to the ecosystem, so it was a sadness. We gave it a wide berth and then started down the canal again. 

On one of our canter sets, there was a dark blur to my right and Ashke spooked hard to the left. I heard N calling out whoa to Cali and brought Ashke to a halt, waiting to hear what had caused the spook. It was a silent but deadly German Shepard in the yard of one of the houses that backed onto the canal. It was the only real spook of the day. Although he did start something serious when a horse in a field (in a fly sheet) raised it's head and looked at us. I don't think he realized it was a horse.

We rode the canal with the intention of riding to Waterton Canyon and then following the Platte back to where we were parked. I was pretty sure from looking at both the map and the GPS on the EquiTrack map, that there was both park access and a trail from where we found ourselves and where we wanted to go. N was nervous. She is directionally challenged and I think the idea we might have to back track was making her uncomfortable. She wasn't looking at the map or the GPS, so she had to rely on J and I interpreting both. I wasn't worried, since I was pretty sure you could access the Highline canal from inside the park (from the websight) and J is pretty laid back when it comes to exploring with me. I still think we could have ridden the canal until Waterton and then taken another path back along the Platte, but that will need to be explored next time. We rode along a street for a bit and then found the access to the Reservoir exactly where I suspected it was going to be.

The grass was chest high. Cali was having the hardest time not eating. She had missed lunch, you know. 

N has discovered she loves to trail ride and that Cali is much more willing to work on her dressage stuff on the trail. We've all discovered that J is a Rockstar on her bike. I'm pretty sure I would have killed me if our positions were reversed. She is thinking more and more seriously about learning to ride.

You can barely make out J in the grass. There was a lot of sand and it was tough going for her. There was a lot of grass and it was tough going for Cali. 

For amber waves of grain

Ashke did not want to canter through the grain. It was wild oats and about knee tall on me (sitting on my horse). It was hard to see what was in the grain and Ashke kept getting surprised by small aloe and sage plants that forced him to stop and gaze at them. I let Cali and N go ahead, which is one of the things we need to work on when we are on the trail. Yesterday, that resulted in a fight. Today, I put Ashke behind J on her bike. He was concerned with Cali, but he knows the rules when following J. N put Cali into a canter and rode up one of the hills. When we maneuvered past J, I asked for a canter and once around the corner, let him gallop up the hill. It was a good compromise and a much better result than yesterday. Slowly but surely, we are getting there.

Er, I mean Poisers.

We had to cut cross country to get back to the trailer. J had to portal her bike a bit to get back to the road. 


 A year ago, our average speed was 2.75 mph. This ride it was 4.2 mph.

Today we did two more miles than yesterday with almost the exact same amount of riding time.

There is so much more to explore.

I am loving this app.

Based on my history, I could do a 25 mile ride in about six hours.


Saturday, June 21, 2014


Thursday night I booted the boy and headed for the Mountain. We did about six miles in about an hour and a half, but I don't have the record to show, since my phone died before I was able to complete the ride. We did a lot of trotting and some nice cantering and Ashke was a doll. The best part is where he has zero back sensitivity after the ride. I love the Alta Esquela!!!

Today, N and I and J headed to Marshall Lake. There was traffic (construction on 93 to complete the underpass for the Community Ditch ride) and we sat just in sight of Dowdy Draw. I realized that Boulder Park and Rec was doing trail maintenance there and the side of the parking lot that is for trailers was completely empty. Woot!! I suggested to J that we stop there instead of waiting for traffic to clear. It was wonderful. One of the PnR people came over to tell us they were doing work on the trail and asked if our horses were going to be okay with the noise. We told her we would handwalk them up past the construction, but that otherwise they should be okay.

It was just starting to sprinkle when we headed out. Cali was pretty up and tried some rodeo shenanigans. I suggested we trot them for a bit and we trotted out pretty much the first mile (and yes, all of you endurance riders can stop laughing at me now). For Cali, extending distance is a work in progress and even being able to up our speed from 3 mph to 4 mph is a positive improvement. We may never be endurance riders, but we will have nicely conditioned horses. We opted to do the small loop on the top of the draw, just because it is so pretty and we weren't sure what the weather was going to do. The storm that was threatening moved away and we rode under some cloud cover for the first 45 minutes or so, then the sun came out and we began to wistfully wish for the clouds to return.

He loves being on trail. The ground seemed so much rockier this ride, and I'm not sure why.

Cali and N had a great ride as well. We both worked on a little of our dressage while we rode, and neither horse seemed to fight that idea. Cali has gotten very arena sour, so it was good for her and N to ride without a fight.

My left hand and I practiced, but I had to trade off every once and a while.

I definitely need to get an ear bonnet for my boy. He was head shaking a lot of our ride, because of the bugs.

Yes, we are posers.

J is beginning to seriously contemplate the benefits of riding a horse on these trails. The rocks kicked her butt today.

Ashke likes to lead. Cali likes to follow. We made them switch places for a while. It makes Ashke very bouncy and hard to rate.

The path we took today ended up taking us by a small pond. Both horses were excited. Cali tried to roll. Thankfully, N was able to stop her from going all the way down, was able to get her out of the pond. J, faithful photographer she is, caught it on the phone.

We got back to the trailer at about an hour's worth of riding, so I suggested we ride on the other side of the road. Everyone agreed and we went to the light to cross. J opted for what looked like a flat ride, but which turned into a downhill and very rocky path. We turned around and headed back. N and I had had limited opportunity to ride at a canter and I suggested we try cantering up the hill. She was game and so we started off. We ran into trouble. See, Ashke canters fairly slowly and Cali has a huge stride, but if Cali leads than Ashke becomes a speed demon monster with zero control. We can't ride next to each other, because then Cali kicks at Ashke (mares!!) Going up that hill, trying to stay behind Cali enough that she wouldn't kick at him, and still maintaining our sanity did not work. Ashke and I got into a fight. We ended up spinning in a circle until he stopped and then went on at a trot. (We can do the trot, it's just the canter that gives us both issues.) 

I lost a back boot at that point and neither N or I realized it until J said something about it when we got back to her. I got off, fixed the boot and then crossed the road again before getting back on. We had one more canter, where Cali waited a little bit before following us and that seemed to work pretty well. We will continue with that until Ashke is listening to my aids a little bit better. We just need more work on the canter.

 Not bad for Cali's third trail ride this year.

Tomorrow the plan is to try Chatfield Reservior.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Left Hand

I rode tonight with the reins in my left hand, for our entire ride.

When I told J, she asked me how it went. I told her she knows my left hand is stupid.

The other thing I did was try not to be afraid of contact. I am. I'm afraid that if I use too much contact my horse will end up like Seabisquit. So, what happens is I am inconsistent (this is not helped by the fact that my left hand is stupid), and then when the contact happens it jams Ashke in the mouth and he throws his head up in the air. Poor baby. I'm a moron.

Today, I rode in the Myler with the shank. I focused on keeping a steady pressure between the bit and my hand, and asking him for some roundness. We worked on impulsion at the trot. And some on the canter, although by the time we got to the canter he was pretty tired and was struggling to find roundness. He was very good at the walk and trot though and seems to be figuring out what I am asking him to do.

We went over to the WE course and he went sideways over the pole with very little encouragement. In both directions. Then we did the jug. The biggest issue there was to stand square and wait, instead of swinging our hiney out away from the barrel. Every time he swung his butt out, I put him into a sharp trot in a small circle and then came back to the barrel. I had to do that twice and them he figured out to just stand still. I shook the water, poured it out onto the ground and even poured some over his shoulder and he just stood there. I picked up the garouche pole and carried it around at a trot. No biggie. We also worked on the clover leaf, but he wasn't as bendy to the right as I would have liked. He did better on the two barrel pattern, mostly because it isn't as tight.

Over all, the ride was good and I think we both learned some things. I need to find a series of exercises to force my left hand to do so it isn't as stupid as it is. I can't even scratch my ass with that hand.


I still remember my first 4-H show with the Shitland pony when I was eight. From the very beginning I was cocky about my riding ability, believing I could ride anything with four legs. Being fearless around horses helped with that because everything felt limitless. However, being able to stick on a horse (or pony in this case) is not the same as being able to ride in a show. My first county show I rode in three classes. Seabisquit was true to form and a complete asshat. We careened around the ring. He refused to stand square. He bit me during our halter class. He stepped on the heel of my boots (this was one of his favorite things to do. I hate ponies.) He refused to pick up the canter, preferring to trot at a bone racking rate, which bounced me around on his bare back like a ball on a tether, which was quite amusing in the bareback class. He bucked in the western pleasure class.

None of this prevented me from watching with envious eyes the other pinto pony in the class, who cantered with a rocking horse canter, his head near his knees. His rider didn't even move from her position in the bareback class, and neither did her long curly blond hair streaming out from under her Black Stedson cowboy hat (I did have hat envy as well). He was pristine white and chestnut, unlike my grass and poo stained pony (yes, he had been bathed, but then rolled as soon as he was unloaded from the trailer in the first pile of fresh poo he could find. Little bastard.) She and that pony were everything I thought I was going to be.

That girl and her pony won the Blue Rosette in every class (1st place), while I and the shithead received a white ribbon. (Everyone got a ribbon. You had to be pretty bad to get a white one.) There is a picture of me after that show (lost somewhere in the boxes of pictures at my mom's place) holding my white ribbons with a mulish look on my face. My dreams were devastated. I was not very happy, to say the least.

However, instead of giving up, I refocused. I knew now what I needed to do and I had an inkling of how to get there. We practiced a lot. I rode that horse in a circle for hours on end. He trotted until he no longer thought about how to do it. We worked on our walk for hours, as well, until he could stride out at a brisk pace. We cantered and cantered and cantered until he no longer even hesitated when asked to canter and he always picked the correct lead. I put hours and miles on that shithead and the next year we pulled two blue and one red ribbon. But, I figured something out that summer - that riding and hard work are needed to succeed in the world of showing.

This weekend brought back that first show something fierce, but without the feeling sorry for myself or the sullen and pissed off rider. (See? Maturity.) Considering I had never even watched a Working Equitation show in person (and I watched all of the AA and Pro competitors make their runs on Sunday) it was a learning experience. In some ways it did feel the same, since I placed last in the EOH phase in both classes (fifth and third collectively) and Ashke was a hot mess. I know that my inability to take a deep breath, my anxiety at showing even in a schooling show, and just my over all tension made him feel insecure. He was definitely in flight or fight mode and my anxiety would not let him settle.

However, there were some sweet moments in both of those classes that we can build on. He was great in the speed classes (first and second) and watching him switch leads was amazing, in part because I stopped worrying about how round he was or if he was going to stop when I asked. I also think that part of what was setting him off in the first two classes was his desire to run. He LOVES the speed course. I need to work him on EOH and not even let him run at speed unless we are in a show, otherwise he will become like a seasoned barrel horse who can't do anything but run when pointed at the obstacles.

So, my goals for the next month until the clinic in Eire, is to work him with contact and encourage him to be round. I need to be more consistent in my hand and only ride him with the reins in my left (which is my stupid hand). We need to start the way we are going to go forward. I need to work on small circles and shallow serpentines. I can also practice the slalom poles at both the trot and the canter, ensuring the half circles are symmetrical and evenly paced. We can continue to explore our flying lead change. One of the things I realized watching the show is that when he gets bouncy he is actually changing leads. We just need to figure out how to when we need to. And I need to let him move with more impulsion, so we are going forward. He has a powerful, very forward trot that I need to get comfortable with, because that will be our working gait for Level 2, if we can ever get past our issues.

Lots of miles and lots of practice. Lots of time under the saddle where we work on the things he needs to know. And I need to start studying Baroque dressage, which may suit us better than the modern dressage we have been learning.

Sunday, June 15, 2014


I had such high hopes, after the clinic we had yesterday but practice is never the same as a show. At least not in my one time experience as an adult amateur.

I should have known it would not be a smooth or relaxed thing, when midway through breakfast I thought I was going to hurl. I don't know why I was so stressed, since it really was more about learning what I needed to work on rather than thinking we were going to do great. Although, I think somewhere in the back of my mind I thought we would wow everyone. People would be throwing roses into the ring and wanting to touch Ashke.

Pride goeth and all of that.

Ashke was tense, hollow, unable to stand still, refusing to bend, head-tossing bundle of nervous horse. He was spooking at stuff he's never spooked at before. We were a mess. Here is our first Working Equitation Ease of Handling test, Level Intro.

If it had been a dressage test, we would have scored a 59%. I was off course on the bending poles, not having understood what the judge said, and wove them up and back. He spooked at the garouche pole, something that he didn't do yesterday. He was a hot mess. We tied for fifth place in a class that had six people in it. (Pretty pink ribbon)

Then we sat and fidgeted for about an hour and a half. I worked him some in the small arena. He would not stand still. He was incapable.

Then we did the second precision test: Level 1

You know, just for the record, I should have read the expectations and judging criteria before doing the show. It might have helped. Or, maybe not. He was better this round and the judge complimented me on his improvement. There were some very nice moments and we scored a 66%.

Then they held the speed rounds. This is where my little white horse rocks. He loves the speed rounds. He does flying lead changes in the speed rounds. He has already memorized the class and knew what we were going to do next.

Here is the Introductory Speed round.

We placed second, but it couldn't have been by much. Nicking the poll in the corridor with the bell cost us 5 seconds, but then we got -10 for knocking off the ball. And Ashke had a blast.

Then we ran the Level 1 speed run.

After the WE EOH part of the show, they offered a Western Pleasure class, an English Pleasure class and then at the very end of the day, they offered fantasy costume. Come to find out I should have had a story ready to tell the judge about me and my horse. I thought we looked pretty regal and we placed first (out of two people).

 The pants are pirate pants. They were incredibly comfortable and I want twenty pair. 

Two take aways from today:

1) I need to figure out how I am going to ride Ashke, which bit I am going to ride him in, and then stick with it. I need to stop trying to migrate back and forth and set out to get him to ride with contact in the shank bit, if that is what I am going to ride in. I need to work him every time I ride him: asking for contact, bend and impulsion. In so many ways, this is a dressage test done with obstacles. It's not going to be easy. I am really going to concentrate on practicing with the shank bit, because that is the way this discipline is ridden.

2) I need to put more miles on my horse. Show him at more shows. Practice, practice, practice. Rome was not built in a day and I do not have a made horse.  I think he has the potential to excel at this sport, and he really loves the speed part of the course, now I just need him to work on the finesse and control for the precision part of the test. And I can't tell you how happy I am that he is able to do a flying lead change, now I just have to work on the cue.

J is happy there will be no more sparklies in the house for a while.

N is thinking that she might try her hand at the WE stuff, after all.

And as a bonus, Ashke walked on the trailer without hesitation going out and coming home. So did Cali. FTW.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Working Equitation Clinic


I was so excited and nervous about the WE clinic today that I could barely stand myself. J and I worked like a well oiled machine getting the shavings for the trailer, hitching up, loading up and getting all the other parts that are a necessity when spending time away from the barn. Ashke loaded with the come-a-long, but I feel like it won't be too much longer before the trailer is as much of a non-issue as the wash stall. We had a pretty straight forward drive to the Salisbury Equestrian Park, except that the address in Mapquest dumped us in the middle of a subdivision, about five miles north of where we really wanted to be. I figured it out and got us back on track after cursing my phone and using google maps.

There was one other horse trailer there when we pulled up. Most of the other riders got there about fifteen minutes early, but I was pretty happy being there almost an hour early. Ashke looked around and was a little twitchy while I was grooming him, but overall he was a rock star! Once we had tack on, we headed to the arena. I walked him around and over all of the obstacles, letting him get a good look at everything. Then TJ, our awesome clinician, started the group out. Our first hour or so was spent practicing the eight obstacles that are going to be the course tomorrow for the schooling show. After our practice, we got to ride through it as if it was the class.

 Ashke had SO much fun.

 There really wasn't anything that upset or spooked him inside the arena.

(I had a hell of a time with the bit/no bit/bit situation. He was really not liking the shank Myler and was really refusing to bend or round during the obstacles. He wanted his head straight up in the air. I pulled the bit and tried the sidepull, but he wasn't any better that way. I ended up leaving the clinic to pull the D-ring Myler snaffle off of the other bridle - where it was being used as the bit on the bridle I am planning on using for the costume contest tomorrow - so I will have one more thing to fix on the costume between classes. The snaffle was much better for the most part. It will be what I ride in tomorrow.)

This was the ease of handling part of the practice. I would have lost points for little bend and no rounding. I plan on riding in the bit tomorrow and warm him up with some dressage, so we get some bending and collection before we ride into the arena.

After this run, I changed to the snaffle and asked him for some roundness. We did another couple of practice runs, one of them at speed. At the very end, I did one final run because Ashke had decided that the very first obstacle, which was a corridor with a bell and then a reinback, was simply a reinback. He was anticipating something awful, so I rode him through that obstacle a couple of times. J caught this one on tape.

The thing that stands out for me about this video, is the flying lead changes on the poles. Yes, go back and watch that part again, because my boy rocks! 

I have one more video of our sidepassing during the practice session. TJ saw us and told me I couldn't do that, since it's a Level 2 or 3 obstacle. I asked if I could garner extra points for the attempt and she told me no. Then later on, after I switched the bit, she told me Ashke is a Level 2 horse. I need to pull the dressage test and begin working on the elements in it, in case we ever get the chance to ride in a full show.

I was so happy with Ashke and thought he did magnificent. We retired to the trailer and fed him mash.

It was every where.

We loaded up and headed home. I washed him and trimmed his tail. J got all of the things we needed in the trailer for tomorrow. Now all we have to do is sleep.

Friday, June 13, 2014


Saiph from Wait For The Jump asked several months ago what I use to keep Ashke looking soooo white. That question actually made me laugh outloud, because on most days he has several "pee or poo" spots from laying in his bedding at night. This is especially true during the winter.

So, to answer her question, I mostly just groom.

It is the activity that began my relationship with Ashke. I went out every night and pulled him from his stall and groomed him. He was so dirty. It took three or four baths before the encrusted crap that was permanently bonded to all of his hair came out. He was so dirty that it hurt him to use anything other than the softest curry and softest brush I could find. I went really slow. Once he had shed out the horrible hair he was covered in when I first brought him home, the grooming was much easier.

Now, two years later, his coat and hair look really good. His body color is mostly white with chestnut sprinkles. He still has his skull and crossbones on his hind left hock. I spend a great deal of time (most days) brushing and rubbing him before riding. He loves it still. He leans into the brush and lets me know when something is especially itchy. He loves it when I rub the long muscles in his butt. And along his neck and back. I go slow and pay attention, making it a moment of love and benediction, as much as a method of getting the crud off of him.

He gets rinsed after any ride that leaves him sweaty. He gets shampooed every couple of weeks or so, more frequently in the spring because of the mud and accummulated filth from the winter. I use the Vetrolin Brite White shampoo and it seems to work pretty well. I am also using a Eqyss Megatek Conditioner that seems to help thicken and soften his mane and tail. His mane is growing out much thicker and healthier than it has been since I got him, and at J's request, I am letting it.

This spring was his second "normal" shed and I haven't been as happy with his sleekness as I had hoped. After talking with Saiph and doing some research, I have added some Triple Crown Omega Max to his diet, hoping to speed his shed and improve the overall condition of his coat. So far, it seems to be working. We added it to Cali's diet as well, since she is itching the crest of her mane bad enough to leave a bald spot and the MTG seemed to be making it worse. He is dropping hair pretty good and beginning to slick up, which will leave him an almost gunmetal gray up close and when he gets sweaty.

So, there you go. I use lots of grooming and hand petting, great diet with supplements, and infrequent baths. It doesn't hurt that the majority of him is white enough that the camera "doesn't see" the greenish spots on his coat. He will be bathed on Saturday, after the clinic, and I'll be sure to take some pictures then.

Thursday, June 12, 2014


I went to the barn tonight and hung out with Ashke. I groomed him really well and then took him out to the outdoor arena. I really didn't want to ride in the outdoor, so when I saw Dessa on Joe, we wandered over to walk around with her. I was riding Ashke in the sidepull Liz made me and was okay with taking it easy. We worked through all of the obstacles in the WE arena, except the jump. I need more confidence in Ashke before doing that obstacle without a bit. The other stuff, he was a rock star! I barely had to cue him for the sidepass. This weekend is going to be so much fun.

After the WE stuff, we did the walk-eat-walk mosey around the barn, which slowly progressed to the walk-eat-eat-eat-eat-eat-eat-eat-walk think. It was nice and leisurely. Then I put him away and gave him his mash. Adding the alfalfa and Omega Max has helped in the two weeks since I made changes to his diet. I can see the muscle in his neck and across his back. If you are going to feed a little bran mash, then make sure you compensate with additional calcium (alfalfa) to balance out the minerals in your horse's diet.

I tucked the boy into his stall and told him I would see him later. As I was driving home (almost dusk) I was surprised to see a giant freaking turtle trying to cross the road. It was about to cross the lane of an exit headed to a four lane highway. All I could see was squished turtle. I immediately pulled over, turned on my emergency lights, jumped out of the car and raced back to the turtle. She was pretty big. Her shell was about 16" long and 9" wide. I grabbed her shell, hoisted her up and carried her back to the car. There I was at a loss. I couldn't just put her in the grass by the road, because she would head toward the road again. I set her down and went around an opened my trunk. Then I lifted her again (she had her mouth open in protest) and set her in my trunk.

As I set her down she whipped her head back over her shell in an attempt to bite my jugular. She barely missed.

At that point I was thinking snapping turtle. And I was very afraid I was going to lose a finger to her very fast head and mouth.

Scared the crap out of me and made me very nervous to pick her up again. Which brought up the question of how in the hell was I going to get her out of the trunk. I called J and told her I had rescued a turtle which was now stuck in my trunk. She got on the computer and the phone to see what we should do.

Then I called Liz, cuz she's good like that. She gave me a great tip in getting the turtle out of the trunk using a shovel (snow) and then cautioned me about releasing it into water if it wasn't aquatic. I sent her these . . . .

 Turtle dubbed "Geraldine" by N in the very large trunk of my Camry. This was not a small turtle. I could hear her hissing in anger when I was stopped at the light on the way home. I had a brief nightmare of her eating her way through the backseat of the car and attacking me.

Liz took one look and said definitely aquatic. N looked it up online and said definitely snapper. The rescue guy J was talking to said to take it to a still body of water on the other side of the highway from where I found her. Or keep her and take her to him in Parker tomorrow night. We opted to let her go.

N looked up on google and we discovered a wonderful little pond right across the road from where I found her. Chances are she was looking to nest next to the pond and lay her eggs. We had unloaded her from the trunk into a plastic tub, using a snow shovel to lift her out of the trunk. We added a bit of water (per the guy) and then put the tub back into the car. The family took her to a still body of water (probably where she was headed anyway) and set her free on the bank.

 Freaking big turtle

Turtle released into the wide next to the pond.

It is almost a full moon and as we walked back to the car I reveled in having saved that amazing creature, even if it tried to eat me. I looked out at the water and saw a Beaver swimming across the pond. It seemed fitting that both the turtle and the beaver were there. 

I did not listen to either Daniel or Liz. I had no desire for turtle soup.