Sunday, October 19, 2014


J and I managed to sneak two rides in: one on Saturday morning and the second on Sunday. We got to the barn about 9:30 on Saturday and decided to ride the mesa. J brought her new bike and I rode in my new pack. Ashke went out in the hackamore. We did a 4.4 mile ride around the edge of the mesa to the parking lot and then back.

Ashke in the hackamore

So, the hackamore was a failure. First, I am not happy with the fit around his nose. Even tightened as much as I feel comfortable with, Ashke could flip it around on his face, which he did with regular abandon. As for how well it worked on the trail . . . well it didn't, unless you think having your horse's nose up between his ears while he is galloping, fighting and rearing down the trail, arguing with your request to slow down and watch where he is putting his feet, is working well. He braced against the request to slow more in the hackamore than he did in the Myler. It was very frustrating to ride.

J and Coyote

This is where the hill begins to get steep. That guy up in front of us totally kicked both of our butts going up the hill. J made it about a third of the way up before we had to stop and let her catch her breath.

The Mesa is almost a mile climb up and this isn't really the steep part. It's a mile climb to get to the road that rolls around the edges of the mesa. 

Taking another quick break. Once we were up the first long hill, J rode the rest of the ride without having to stop. 

One of the only issues we really have with riding together, especially on trails like this, is that I go fast uphill and she goes fast downhill. This does make ongoing conversation difficult as we play hopscotch. We do still find things to talk about when we meet up again.

 The pictures don't do the colors justice. It's been such a beautiful autumn.

When we turned for home, Ashke lost his shit. It didn't help that a lot of the ride home was downhill and J absolutely flew. We were cantering the singletrack where we could but had no hope of keeping up with her. When we hit the main road, Ashke fought and reared and twisted and did everything but turn himself inside out trying to fight out of the hackamore. We almost went off trail three times, twice on fairly steep drops (not fall and die drops, but more like, bash his legs to bits on the rocks drops). We got back safely, but it was tense. 

I went to the consignment shop at the barn and picked out two new bits to try. They were similar in style but one was much heavier and a touch wider, with longer shanks. 

Low, wide port

I tried them both on and both J and I agreed that the shorter shank, lighter bit was a better fit. I think it is a 4.75" and the other one was a 5". I really didn't like the weight of the bigger bit, so I am happy that the shorter shank one fit better. It also fit the medieval bridle that I got for my birthday much better than the hackamore.

 Ashke snorted for the first fifteen minutes. You can't really tell from this video, but he was doing little spooks and shies at the weeds.

 J rode her street bike instead of Coyote, since there was not a lot of difficult terrain to traverse.

We did the Fairmount backwards and as you can tell from Ashke's ears, he wasn't happy.

If you watch, Ashke kept turning his head back and looking back at the barn, plaintively. 
It was driving me crazy. Add to that, he was short striding on the right hind.
Going back to the Smartpak Smart Flex II as soon as I can get it here.

I think this is the first time I can remember in 27 years that we are having an extended autumn.

We climbed to the headland. He kept looking behind us with longing.

 We took the singletrack horse trail from the bottom of the switchback to the top of the headland.
J had taken off earlier from the top of the prior hill (to gain momentum for the climb) and barely beat us to the top.

I told J that when we got the point where Ashke knew where he was in relationship to the barn, that he would get more forward than he had been and maybe he would stop looking behind him. Sure enough, when we capped the top of the plateau Ashke stopped in his tracks and looked around. I could tell when he recognized Tucker lake. Then he turned and looked at Table Mountain. Then he looked back at Tucker lake and J waiting for us. I could feel it when he decided it was shorter to go ahead, then it was to turn around. He picked up a trot on the downhill headed to where J was waiting for us. Stinker.

The pack is freaking awesome. So light weight I don't remember it's there. I have the phone in a pocket on the front designed for a smart phone, that flips down and allows me to access the screen without taking it out of the sleeve. Best thing ever. I am so very happy. 
Next test is to try it on a day when we pack a lunch.

 There was a very large Siberian husky in front of us who was standing on his hind legs in excitement about Ashke.

 Very forward on our way home.

The ride home was the test of the new bit. Ashke was still being very spooky at rocks and grass. And the occasional shadow, so I made him trot this long path. And then we cantered the rest of the way home. There is a singletrack path that Ashke is always allowed to gallop up and he loves to race as fast as he can. I discovered at that point that the curb strap was a bit loose, so I got off and tightened it while we waited for J to catch up to us.

You can see him pop his head up and test the bit a couple of times. Both times he dropped his chin and accepted contact. Much better than with the Myler or the Kimberwick.

Last canter on the way home. Overall, a good ride. 7.8 miles at 5 mph.


  1. Karen,
    Every time I watch one of your videos of you cantering I think, "This lady is awesome!" Then I saw your header -- 50-something. I figured you were in your 30's. I loved seeing the walking couple turn their heads as you and Ashke flew past them.

    1. The funny thing about those two people - they were watching me rather than where they were going and almost tangled their dog's leash, and their dog, with J's bike.

  2. He certainly looks happy as a clam cantering along there! Y'all look great.

  3. Love the current header photo! The Saturday ride sounds really scary; I'm glad you were able to ride him through all that safely. I think I would have freaked out over him almost falling off of the trail. When you purchased your hackamore, were you able to choose a size? The good thing about mechanical hacks and S-hacks is that you can switch out the noseband. The Distance Depot sells the hackamore noseband by itself, and you can select Arab/Cobb size:

    I'm very happy that you've possibly found a bit that is a good compromise for the trail! Beautiful photos, and Ashke looks like he could canter on forever in those videos. J is a rock star for going out with you on these adventures. It's awesome that you get to share this, and I'm thrilled for both of you that she is having so much fun with Coyote!

  4. If I thought I would continue trying with the hackamore, I would try to find a smaller noseband, however, I knew it was a temporary thing, since I can't compete in it in Working Equitation. My long term goal had been to find a decent curb bit and work him in it over the winter. I have been searching for this style of bit (could see the shape I was looking for in my mind, but couldn't find it on the interwebs) to try, since it has a low port (nothing to bash his pallet), wide port (so it adds tongue relief) and narrow enough to fit his mouth, without being overly heavy. The other bit I tried had to weigh two pounds, which is way too much for his sensitive mouth.

    Ashke is already decent with neck reining in combination with leg aids, so perfecting our circles and our simple changes (and possibly our flying lead changes) while collecting and slowing our canter will be our goal this winter. There is no sense in going on in something that we can't show in, especially if I have lucked into something simple that will work on all the things.

    J is having just as much fun getting stronger and more fit with her two bikes as I am with Ashke. Our next goal is to have T come out and run the 3 mile loop with us, to build his strength and depth of breath on this mountain. If he does this run maybe once a month, it will make him a much better long distance runner. His stated goal is to make varsity next year without any reservations. We will see if this goal also progresses to the "I want to be the fastest at this" competitive edge that seemed to be lacking in all of the boy runners this year.

    As for Ashke cantering on forever . . . he might be able to but I am still having issues with riding the canter. It's getting better but I feel like I still don't have my seat completely back yet. When I was a kid, I rode bareback at the canter all the time and even in the saddle I was balanced and rode without thought. Since I came back to riding (after my 20 year hiatus) I have struggled to find my seat at all of the gaits. Canter is the last hold out. Those videos do not do justice to how it feels. It looks smooth, but to me it feels energetic. I use a bucking strap at the canter because he has been known to stop on a dime at an imagined monster disguised as a bunch of weeds.

  5. "he has been known to stop on a dime at an imagined monster disguised as a bunch of weeds." Oh, hey there familiar spooking tactic! I know that one! lol

    LOVE the aspens <3<3<3

    T running that trail with y'all will so complete your super fit little family exercise sessions. So very awesome! And at elevation! I'd go out there and die a slow death for a few weeks, I'm certain, haha.

  6. oh, the new header photo is so gorgeous!

    I wondered about the hackamore. As much as I would love to try one, I think Major would need about 20 miles first, as I like to have immediate brakes, even if I don't use them! Hopefully you can find a compromise.

    And your canter looks great. I wish I had some nice open spaces to get such beautiful videos. I have landscape envy....until the snow falls!