Thursday, July 31, 2014


We practiced dressage tonight in the dressage arena in the sun, which hasn't been seen in three days. Can I say this is the strangest summer I've ever experienced in Colorado. The past three days have felt like fall, with cool, crisp nights, grey days and non-stop rain. It's reminding me of the rain we got last year that caused the massive flooding. Some places got 4" in 90 minutes. We still haven't put every thing back together from last summer's floods. We certainly don't need to be dealing with more flooding this year. Our July and August is usually marked with upper 90's weather, and our forecast for the next ten days barely breaks 80.

It scares me.

I started off just letting Ashke walk. He's still resting his left hind leg a lot and I'm thinking the patella he broke there is sore. When I run my hand lightly over the area, he flinches and pins his ears. I don't think the weather has helped, with both the cooler temps and the humidity. He was a little hesitant when we first started walking. It took a couple of circlets around the arena to limber up his hind legs, and once he was swinging at the walk, I asked him to collect and accept contact. We practiced some of the elements of my test, without working on the actual test.

We started with trotting down the centerline. Sure enough, he tried to stop half way down, but I encouraged him to keep moving. We turned left and did three 10m circles at one third intervals down the rail. We did that up one side, down the other, then crossed on the diagonal and did it the other direction. I concentrated on making the circles look like circles, keeping my shoulders square and trying not to lean to the inside. Ashke did really well at maintaining a steady forward movement and rhythmic trot through the circles.

Then we moved onto 20m circles at either end of the dressage arena. I started on the right lead and we did one 20m circle three times before lining up along the rail and slowing to the trot. We trotted the long side and then picked up the canter again at the far end of the arena. Although Ashke's right lead canter is still kind of rough, it is so much better than when we started off. He struggles with lifting into the canter from the trot without throwing his head up, and he has a tendency to rush more to the right, because of his back and hips. And perhaps his stifle. After cantering to the right we crossed on the diagonal at a walk, circling several times to loosen his back and give him a chance to get his breath back. Then we did the same exercise on the left lead. Every time we walked, I worked on asking him to bend to the right. (He likes to counter bend at the canter to the right.)

His left lead canter was fantastic. It was slow and controlled and very smooth. N said we looked really good. I lifted my head a little bit, looking farther in front of us, instead of immediately in front of us, and I could feel Ashke lighten a little in the front when I did so. I was concentrating on keeping my hands still and my elbows close to my sides. So many things to remember. We did two circles to the left and then walked again. N was having a great ride on Cali and we kind of let the horses blow in the middle of the arena for a moment.

I told N I wanted one more right lead canter and then we would be done. We need multiple practices each ride so Ashke can get better and smoother going in that direction. I no longer had the dressage whip and Ashke was kind of projecting, so the first time I asked, Ashke trotted real fast. I brought him back down and we worked on getting his trot settled before asking again. Once he was trotting, I asked for the canter again.

He bucked. First time since August of 2012.

I stopped the buck and N shouted "don't get mad at him. Just focus and go on." It's a good thing she did too, since I was pretty angry. I took a deep breath, thought about degrees of separation and made the conscious decision to focus on what I wanted rather than what had just happened. I moved him forward at the trot, asking for bend, and once he was moving well, requested the canter. It was good. A good transition, a nice canter. I ended on a happy camper note.

We wandered the property to cool them off and then put them away.

Each day I feel like I take one step closer to Ashke being able to do ALL THE THINGS.

Monday, July 28, 2014


I've joked in the past about Ashke being a Princess, but tonight I got proof for real.

A week ago, we had our first trim with a new farrier that was recommended by Michelle. His name is Ben and although I was a touch worried about how he might be with Ashke, I was willing to try him on Michelle's recommendation. He was very sweet with Ashke, asking instead of demanding, with a very gentle touch. Ashke took to him right away.

Ben told me after the trim that if we had any problems to call him immediately and he would come back out.

On Thursday, when I took Ashke out to ride, he felt off. I asked N about it and she watched him, but couldn't see anything. It was only obvious at a walk and only to me. J thought he looked fine. I could feel the slightest hint of a hesitation on the RF. He stumbled three times on our ride.

After the ride, I looked at his RF and it looked like there was a slight edge on the outside hoof wall. I looked at the LF and it did not have that slight edge. I texted Ben and asked him to come back out. He said he would meet me tonight at 5:30 to take a look.

On Friday, Saturday and Sunday I rode. Ashke did not put a foot wrong and you've seen the videos of our arena work and our canter. Still, I could feel the slight hesitation.

Ben walked down with me to study Ashke's walk. I told him that Ashke was pretty sensitive and that he probably wouldn't be able to see anything, but as we walked him on the mats down the barn aisle I could hear the slight difference in his steps. We got him out to Ben's truck and I showed him what I was seeing. He looked and said, "Yes, it's not entirely flat or even." Grabbing a rasp, Ben made quick work of the small blimp on the outer hoof wall. He sat it down and said, "It was off by a sixteenth of an inch."

We walked Ashke back down the aisle and after three steps he began to swing at the walk. It sounded right to me. The hesitation was gone. That sixteenth of an inch imbalance, about an inch long along the front quarter of his hoof, was enough to throw off Ashke's stride.

Sometimes we really just need to listen . . .

Sunday, July 27, 2014


J, T, N and I did the Fairmount trail today. It was the first time since the dressage whip episode that N and Cali were on the Fairmount. It was mid 70's with cloud cover (so very unusual for Colorado in July - I'm waiting for the other shoe to drop.) We left just before 2 pm and did the loop in just about two hours.

N tried a hydration pack and it sucked. It was too long to fit her back. Every time we went faster than a walk, the pack bounced up and down on her back, rubbing against her neck. She liked having the water handy (so do I) but the pack isn't the one. I told her we needed to go to REI, try on packs and jump up and down. It should be a hoot.

We went to Tucker Lake and let the horses paw for a few minutes, but not too long because Cali and Ashke both strongly believe that laying in the water is the only true form of water enjoyment. Cali was feeling sluggish and not wanting to canter, so J cut N a "dressage whip" from a Russian Olive Tree. She left the leaves on the end, which we then proceeded to torture Cali with. 

I was going to go down the horse trail, but we lost our hind boots after they got wet (both Cali and Ashke threw their hind boots) and Ashke was too tender on his hinds to manage the rocks on the trail down. It is steep enough that he has to take his weight onto his hind end and that was impossible without the boots. I opted to take the sidewalk with Cali.

We slowed down quite a bit after we lost the boots. Before that, Ashke and I were practicing our letting Cali go in front while we hung back thing. He did better today. We had one moment where I was done with him trying to bolt and made him stand still. When he wanted to move off the request, we did sidepassing until he finally figured out that he needed to stand. 

As we reached the canal, there was a remote control plane doing all sorts of aerial maneuvers. N was a bit worried, but I reminded her not to project onto Cali her anxiety and that if we had to we could get down and hand walk them home. Cali and Ashke were troopers. They didn't mind at all the very loud, gas engined flying machine spinning in circles and loop de loops right over our heads. 

Kudos once again to J, who is riding her bike next to me as we are cantering. I didn't realize you would be able to hear me say, "It's not a race" over and over to my wild unicorn. The flapping objects on my back are my hind boots attached to the hydration pack. 

I am working on getting Ashke to let me wash his face. He gets sweaty there too and his forelock is a mess. There is a mist feature on the spray nozzle that I have been using.

Our average would have been better if we would have had the boots still on.

Saturday, July 26, 2014


Working Equitation Style . . .

Yesterday, mid-way up the mountain, I looked down and realized that not only was my saddlepad disappearing, but that the saddle had slid back on Ashke's back and down. There was no longer any real clearance between the gullet of the saddle and the top of his withers. We stopped part way up to let the horses blow (1000 feet in under a half mile is a stiff uphill) and I slid off to reset the saddle. I already had the girth as tight as it would go, so I regirthed it using the forward billet and the back billet (Saiph will understand since she has an Alta), which allowed me to get the saddle a little tighter. I still was not happy with the fit. When we got back to the barn, I evaluated.

I feel awful that I was not paying close enough attention. It took Michelle telling me he was getting too skinny for me to realize we had passed our optimal weight and hit the slide toward emaciation. For a person who is a feeder by nature, I don't think there is anything that I could have done to make myself feel worse.

I think we have gone from 5.5, which I was pretty happy with, to a 4 or 4.25. His shoulder is beginning to show bone, you can see the edges of his ribs, there is no fat deposit over his tail, his spine is sticking up and his hips look boney. I'm so unhappy. I don't know if it's the quality of the hay or the extra amount of work we have added, but he has lost too much weight. Beet  pulp isn't an option, since he can't stand the stuff, so I switched two of his flakes of grass to alfalfa. I may add another flake of grass to his first feeding and switch his lunch meal to alfalfa. That would make three grass and three alfalfa flakes a day. Currently, he is on five flakes of grass hay. He is being worked more consistently and for longer periods of time than he was last year and it may be he will be more of a hard keeper than an easy. Either way, I would rather he be closer to a six than a four.  Also, I would rather add forage than to add grain.

So, I know that part of the saddle fit issue I currently face is due to the loss of weight on his part. It didn't fit like this when I first got it. That was enough of a reason to talk J into going to Dover with me. Once there I found a foam lift for the front of the saddle. I figure he has lost about half an inch on either side, so picked up a lifter that will be just enough to keep the saddle from dropping down on top of his withers. While we were there I tried on some Irideon full seat breeches, which I loved and will get as soon as I can afford them. I want them in graphite and black. Two pair because I am greedy that way. I picked up a tube of Leder Basalm for my saddle, a new bright blue with silver ear bonnet for my boy, and a container of leather conditioner wipes for quick and easy cleaning of saddle, reins, etc. Loaded up, but not having gone overboard, at least by my standards, if not J's, we headed home.

The original plan this weekend was to fore go the horse and do camping instead. But, T had an xbox thing he wanted to do between 3 and 7 today, and neither J or I had managed to wrangle up a part to fix the sink in the pop-up. On top of that, we had some issues going on at the house that we needed to tend to (like three hours of ironing that I had put off for several weeks) and it just felt like too much to try and go. Instead, we talked about going for a trail ride. However, that didn't happen either. N and I were both feeling really low energy. Instead, we took the dogs to the dog park, then went to REI for a bladder for N's hydration pack we gave her (we will try it tomorrow on trail), and then headed for the barn.

The lift worked very nicely, although how lifting the saddle about half an inch makes me feel like I am perched on a platform above Ashke's back for the first three steps is a strange phenomena. He was a little unsure for those three steps and then he walked out, his back swinging and ready for work.

We started at a walk, asking for some bend and then adding a four step leg yield with slight leg pressure to the rail and then back out at the walk. Ashke did that very well.

At one point, J, N and I had a conversation about aids and what works and what doesn't. N has to use a lot of leg to get Cali to move forward. She is not as sluggish at the trot and canter on trail, but in the arena she needs a lot of encouragement. I have to be careful with Ashke, because he can be so sensitive that my shifting weight can throw him off. Sometimes he gets confused by what the question is, and he is so determined to give me the right answer, that if my aid is too strong he will start throwing answers in an attempt to get it right. J is asking questions so that she understands what is expected or what makes sense when she is riding. (Pretty cool, eh? Here is a woman who was terrified of horses and had no desire to ride, taking lessons because she loves me.) 

Ashke working very hard to find the right answer. Tracking up very nicely.

I really need to smile more. I look strange in this photo.
(And I should never wear that shirt again. I may move to flannel in the fall.)

I was very happy with where the lift in the saddle moved my position to, including where my leg was. I think the saddle was tipping me forward, because the front had sank so low. I felt very comfortable and Ashke gave me a great ride.

Our canter to the right was the best he has ever managed to do. It was smooth and rhythmic and felt so easy. I don't know if it's just the amount of cantering we are doing on trail or the mountain work we have added, but either way, his canter to the right has really improved.

Sporting the new bonnet. Very sweet right lead canter.

 Looking at this photo finally made me understand why he switches his back lead or uses both legs together when we are riding a small circle to the left. There is a point in the canter where the weight of horse and rider is balanced and moved forward on one hind leg. When we move to the right, it is the left leg that is doing all of the work. When we move on the left lead, the right hind leg has to do all of that. He switches the back lead to protect that hip when it is sore or tired, or if the circle is too tight to ride it the correct way. This is good to know, so I can monitor his physical ability to maintain the left lead in a small circle. I may employ the use of a spiral as a training and conditioning tool as it tightens the circle gradually. That and mountain sprints.

Tracking up on the right.

Tracking up on the left.

After our warm up in the big arena, we moved over to the dressage arena and I approximated my L2 Working equitation test. Unfortunately, I have not measured the arena and made my own markers for a 40 X 20 dressage arena, complete with our numbers (which are different from regular dressage numbers). I plan on printing out the letters on sheets of copy paper, taping them onto my cones, then measuring the arena and marking where my cones go. I will use poles to mark the end of the arena and the opening at A. That way, I can set it up to ride my tests, then move the cones and pole and no one would be the wiser.

So, here is the first test I rode, and my evaluation of what we need to work on:

1. Obviously, we need to work on being straight down the centerline. Ashke has the expectation that we are going to ride on the rail and kept trying to make his way there. We look like a drunken sailor. Unfortunately, I'm not good at straight.

2. Circles. I'm not good at circles either. Never took geometry. I may have to mark out a 20m and a 10m just so I know which is which. 

3. Impulsion without rushing at the trot. He can do it, he just needs to know that's what I want. He stalled out on the 10m circle on our second ride, I stopped to get the dressage whip and we started over. I don't need to do much more than flick the end and he moves forward better.

Then a few minutes later we rode the test again:

Trot-Canter and Canter-Trot transitions still need attention. Although he is much better than he was a month ago.

In this ride, I completely spaced out that I was practicing a test as we crossed the diagonal. That left me way behind the eight ball trying to change the diagonal, pick up a trot and then a canter in what felt like four inches. I swear, dressage ADHD.

He came down the centerline much straighter the final time. 

Overall, I am pretty happy with how well he is doing. I am going to go through my dressage book and see if there are any circle exercises that would help us. I also know that having the length of the arena marked and the letters in their correct position will help with the structure and feel of it in my head.

We have a fun day with the obstacles, a schooling show (all three phases) and a Mark Rashid clinic between now and the show on the 5th of September. Hopefully, I will gain skill and grace and maybe a couple more abdominal muscles between now and then. 

On the way back to the barn we did this:

Tomorrow, N braves the Fairmont trail for the first time since her confrontation with the biatch from hell. I believe we will be carrying dressage whips. :) and T will be riding his new and wonderful bike with us.

Friday, July 25, 2014


We rode early today, on by 8:45 am. A brief ride to the top of the mesa and back.

Still so green. At least for Colorado

We trotted and cantered as much as we could. All of the uphills were at the canter and then we would stop and let them catch their breath. Ashke and I led at the canter on the way out. Cali led on the way home. Ashke and I had a very nice canter, after a brief fight, when Cali was in front of us. I refused to give in and refused to allow him to act out to get out of having to ride second. We had a bit of a canter where he switched leads very stride for five or six strides and I just kept asking him for a nice, relaxed canter. I had to hold him pretty tight on the ride home, using my legs and abdominal muscle (I only have one) but still had to have a pretty tight hold on his mouth to keep him from racing past Cali. We piaffed all the way home. Or at least trotted slower than Cali can walk. He was grey and dripping sweat when we got back to the barn.

There is a pond at the top of the mesa. At this time of year, usually, it is a small mud pit, but this year it is huge. It has long pond grass and ducks and today it had five pelicans.

I guess Pelicans summer over here, having their babies on the huge mounds of wrack the Parks people anchor out in our lakes and ponds. Pelicans nest on mounds in the middle of ponds and lake (even man-made ones) to keep their fledgling safe from foxes. I think it's wild to find Pelicans in Colorado.

This was the distance between Cali and Ashke for most of the ride home. He HATES IT.

Last note of interest: Thursday night riding I was walking back toward the barn from the dressage arena to drop off equipment before tooling around the property with N when we surprised a skunk. Ashke looked at the skunk. The skunk popped up on it's tiptoes, head in the air and tail straight up. It was the cutest thing ever. Then the skunk turned and went back down to the creek. 

Tuesday, July 22, 2014


Decisions have been made:

No endurance ride this year. I may shoot for three rides next year or I might just enjoy trail riding and horse camping with my family and skip the endurance rides all together. Endurance has been off the list for a couple of years based on Ashke's limitations, and it wasn't even a consideration until Diane told me she thought he could do a 25 mile ride. I do want to ride at Vedauwoo, but I don't want to experience an overnight with my horse for the first time amongst a group of horses we don't know. I also need to work on rating him without his front feet leaving the ground. I don't want him anxious. I want him relaxed.

Part of the reason for this decision (along with the above list) is the fact that I can do a one-day clinic with Mark Rashid the end of August. The cost of the clinic (one hour one on one, plus watching the other riders the rest of the day) is the same cost as the endurance ride. This is a no brainer for me. I adore Mark and would LOVE to be able to listen and learn and apply all of his training and philosophy to my relationship with Ashke. So, I am sending my deposit in for the clinic and skipping the endurance ride.

The other thing I am doing is an afternoon WE obstacle practice in Fort Collins with Allison on August 9th from noon to 4 pm. And then I am going to show at the RMIHC in Working Equitation Level 2. This is a three phase show with the dressage test on Friday and the EOH and Speed test on Saturday. I need to practice the two barrel obstacle at a canter and the garoucha pole at a canter. The other thing I am worried about is the dressage test.

I wish I had a trainer I could work with on this that understood the dressage tests for WE, but the only one I know I'm not allowed to bring to the barn for training. It really sucks. I'm just going to work on the pieces by myself and then after the show, work on whatever suggestions they make on the test. I do need to ask someone about the shallow serpentine trot. Maybe the riders at the Obstacle practice will be able to give me some direction on that part.

August and the first part of September are going to be WE busy.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

No Bounce

J and I did the Fairmount trail this morning before T was awake. Ashke was a little teeny tiny bit tender on the right front. I think the boot is a little small because his feet are incredibly long. He wasn't lame, just the slightest hesitation that only I could feel. We did it fairly fast, with an 4.9 mph.

This was the second day wearing a new piece of equestrian gear: Enell Plus Size No Bounce Guaranteed Equestrian Sports Bra. I got a tip from another blogger (Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! You know who you are!!) about this piece of riding gear that is absolutely a requirement for anyone who is chest heavy. I'm talking too big to fit in a normal sports bra. And who is tired of throwing off their horse's balance by the ten pound weights with a mind of their own bouncing around in front. It absolutely works. Although I am a bit bigger than the size I ordered (purchased what would fit around my torso) it still worked. J said that the hydration pak was bouncing on my back, but I wasn't bouncing in front. No blisters. No bruises. No pain, except some fatigue in my shoulders holding all of that weight. I couldn't be happier.

 I opted to take the horse trail down the switchback instead of the sidewalk (short cut) and to give Ashke some practice with steep, downhill terrain. There is one part of the trail that I swear we stood on our head. Even with my feet braced I felt like I was too far forward (this is the only part of western saddles that I like - how far back you can lean while going downhill). The last time I tried this part of the trail I freaked out and almost caused us to die.

This time I asked him to go slow and leaned back. I trusted him to find our way down safely and he did. He didn't put a single step wrong.

The ride was fairly uneventful, with the exception of the gentleman who told us there was a snake on the bridge at the bottom of the hill. J went ahead to scare the snake away, but it had already moved on.

When we were almost back to the barn, J took the following video:

I thought he looked pretty good and as you can see: No Bounce.

Saturday, July 19, 2014


We went to Chatfield Res again. I'm so happy we bought a year pass, because it is such a great place to ride and easy to get to via the barn.

N arrived at our place by 8:30 bearing breakfast burritos from our favorite restaurant (it was the only place I wanted to eat when I was preggers with the T-man and we went there five days a week for a while.) We got out of the house by 9:15, got to the barn, loaded up and pulled out by 10. It was already 85 degrees (we were trying to ride before it got hot). We pulled into the parking lot at Chatfield, unloaded the ponies (who now walk right on the trailer without any hesitation) and began grooming them. Two more trailers carrying four horses pulled up behind us and unloaded.

N and I always take time to really groom, even when we are on the road, because it makes our horses happy. We like happy horses. We had just finished bridling them and N walked around the trailer to get something from the other side of the rig leaving Cali standing quietly next to Ashke with her reins stretched back behind the cantle of her saddle. I was messing with Ashke's fly bonnet when all hell broke loose at the trailer just behind us. Something spooked the horse standing tied to the trailer closest to us, he pulled back and his feet slipped on the gravel over pavement he was standing on (he was shod). He lost his balance and fell, landing on his side with his head at an angle, held in the air by his lead rope. Cali jumped and spun around to see what happened, but stood and waited for N to get back to her. Tia, T's godmother and good friend who was riding with us, calmly took ahold of her reins to hold her still.

Meanwhile, the horse is laying on the ground, his head held up off of the ground by the lead rope. His rider walked over and nudged him with her foot and told him to stand up. He didn't. I muttered, undo the rope you freaking idiot. She must have heard me and released the rope (thank god for quick release knots). The horse just laid there. N wondered quietly, watching with me, if he might have broken his neck. He made no move to get up. The rider walked around  to the front of him and pulled on the rope, raising her voice and commanding the horse move. He didn't even try. I thought the rider was going to kick him in the belly to get him up. I think N would have exploded on her if that had been the case. I was beginning to think it was going to be a very bad day, when one of the other group walked over and undid the saddle (he was completely tacked up - I don't know why western riders haul their horses that way). Once the cinch was released the horse scrambled to his feet. He was fine, but it was kind of a surreal incident to start our day.

We got our stuff together and headed out.

Our goal was to travel north along the sidewalk to the entry to the road that led to the stable, then turn south along that trail to Waterton Canyon Park. That was as far south as we had gotten the first time we took the trail. From there I was hopeful that we could make our way south to the Platte and cross at the ford just a little south of the bridge that crosses the river. T was on his new bike, which he loves, so all would be right in the world.

I figured it would add some mileage to our ride and allow us to see some of the park we hadn't seen yet.

Both horses were very up and Ashke had a really bad spook just as we got started. He spooked and stumbled during the spook, which torqued my lower back. Thankfully, Tia gave me a great back rub tonight before bed and I also applied some Rider's Rescue Rub to the area. We trotted with a lot of loft for the first couple of miles. By the time we reached the dirt road, they were warm and we alternated cantering with walking all the way to Waterton Canyon.

I rode with the Osprey hydration pack again today, but with only water in it instead of my lunch and snacks. I managed to drink 100 ounces of water in about two hours, and although my back was sore, it wasn't any worse than it would have been after a normal ride. I used my cantle Stowaway bags on the back of the saddle and absolutely loved them. They held everything I wanted to pack, plus had room left over. I think that N is going to get a bladder for a shell we have (it's very simplistic) because she can't carry enough to drink with just the pommel pack she has. She is going to order a set of the Stowaways for trail riding.

We stopped for lunch, pulled saddles and ate in the shade. That was when the angry 14 year old appeared. I think it was finding out one of his friend's just got a new Xbox One and T wasn't at home to hang out and play with him. Or maybe it was not eating enough at lunch. Or maybe he was just hot. It was 93 by that point. Love the look.

We stopped for lunch at the same place we had stopped to eat last time. I checked my Equitrack app at that point and we had ridden 6.75 miles at a 5.2 mph pace. Not to shabby. When I pulled my saddle I had my arm looped through the reins with the lead rope hanging from the halter on Ashke's head. As I set the saddle on the rock, the lead rope attacked Ashke by brushing his front leg and he jumped like he'd been attacked by rabid wolves (I have very good reason to be afraid to leave him tied or to worry about how he would handle ropes). When he jumped back and tried to get away from the very scary rope, it jerked the rein up my arm, leaving me a pretty darn good bruise and rein burn. I spun around and said "Whoa, Ashke" and he stopped. Darn good thing he loves and trusts me. As we ate lunch N and I talked about doing Parelli work with ropes over the winter, which was the exact same conversation we had a year ago when something similar happened. Maybe we will be able to work on his rope phobia this winter. I will need to put it on my list.

After lunch we headed out to Waterton canyon, thinking there would be access to the Platte at the ford. T was really grumpy because he hates exploring (sometimes I wonder who's kid he is) and he hates taking the same trail back that we took out. I ignored him. Instead, as we were walking up Waterton Canyon, I began guiding Ashke back and forth across the road with my legs. We even did a couple of circles with just my legs. It was pretty darn sweet.

About a mile into Waterton Canyon we discovered that there was no way to cross the river there. The land on the other side is all private reserve and the ford I was looking for was not as far south as we ended up. We were at 7.4 miles when we turned around. I think at that point I lost my GPS signal, because the app lost us completely. 

 So very green this year.

We headed back, but I knew from talking to one of the bike rider's we had seen that day, that there was a short cut back to the trailer. It also had the added benefit of not being the same track we had ridden out on, which would make T happy. Except that when we got to the turn off, T refused to go down the track. N and I didn't wait or argue. Tia followed us pretty quick after, while J sat and exchanged words with T. She finally gave up and followed us. T at that point, waited another three minutes to make his point) and then came on. Teenagers can be herd people too. The trail was singletrack and cut to the east around the lakes. I figure it safely cut three miles out of our ride. So, if we had followed the same track back we would have had a 15 mile ride, but as it was we probably did 12 or so. 

 Cali loves to trail ride. I think that both horses love being out.

As we got close to the truck we got separated. I thought everyone was at the lake watching the kayaks and so when we crossed the bridge over the Platte, I started looking for a way down. The single track was there and in less than 15 seconds, I was off the trail and wading into the river.
N was going to try and take a pic of me, but Cali kept laying down in the river. She didn't put anything more than her chest in it, but that was enough. I didn't want N to drop the camera.

The channel gets pretty deep and somewhat swift and the far bank is heavy with undergrowth. However, I would love to pull my saddle and swim my boy across. Maybe before the end of the summer we will do so. The bottom is rocky and offers fairly good footing.

It was an awesome way to finish the ride.

Just for the record, we did not travel in a straight line from Waterton to the truck across two lakes. In fact, it looks like the app stopped working at lunch. We went at least a mile up the canyon and then back. And the trail back to the truck at that point was at least 4 miles. So, I figure we did about 12.5 miles or so in two hours and eighteen minutes of ride time.

That's 5.36 mph. Not too shabby.

Friday, July 18, 2014

To E, or Not To E

That would be the question.

I have a bunch of reasons why I want to ride endurance. The bottom line, though, is that I love the idea of being on a trail for hours at a time, with no one wanting to stop (except maybe me). However, I also have huge reservations.

So, here are the Pros and Cons of doing an endurance event (either a 25 or a Intro ride)


It's at Vedauwoo. Vedauwoo. My heart place. I place I want to ride at more than anything.
Ashke is ready. And hale.
They are offering an Intro Ride, so we could try it and get our feet wet without much difficulty
It's what I wanted to do before I got Ashke. Before I realized how much stronger I really needed to be.


Ashke has never really done the whole "hang out at the trailer" thing. Or been highlined. And I don't have a pen, or electric fencing pen options.
Ashke is still pretty afraid of ropes, so any incident involving a rope would be much more disastrous than for other horses.
I've only done one sleep over with my horse and that was in a stall. In a barn.
My back has been very sore since I got my new saddle because of the amount of canter work I have been doing. The strain of a 25 mile ride might be too much.
It will cost a couple hundred dollars to haul up, enter, ride and haul back. We will have to provide a companion for T for the weekend, plus dog sitting of sorts.
It's at least a two hour haul, maybe two and a half.
I will also need to take a day off work on Friday to haul up there.

There is a WE practice day the weekend before that I want to go to. I have limited resources, so I need to put my money where I really want to be, which means I can really only afford the gas for one of those events. I want to ride in the rated WE show in September, which means practicing our obstacles and our canter and riding with one hand as much as I can between now and then.


Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Cantering. Still.

Tonight we cantered.

He is still a little rough going to the right but he is trying very hard for me. I didn't worry much about asking him to be low, since he is actually more balanced with his head higher (he feels super heavy on the forehand when his head goes low) and my goal is for him to be comfortable at the canter. We have to find our rhythm first. To the left he was smooth and managed a 20 m circle without needing to cross canter.

We did some trot serpentines, where I pretended we were doing the slalom poles without the poles being set up. He gave me good bend and some great changes of direction. If I ride on Friday, I am going to set up poles for us to practice our trot on. He was very good inside but distracted and hyper when we finally tried it on the WE course outside.

We also pulled out poles and everyone in the arena tried the L shaped sidepass. Ashke was very confused when we did the L with his hind feet to the inside of the L instead of to the outside. Two tries, though, and he had it.

We also did a couple of jumps over the straw bales, but the last time he felt weak in the hind end, so we stopped. He's not lame, but he still has some things to strengthen.

There is a WE fun day in Fort Collins in August I may try to go to. Marquette might haul up with us and check it out. N will be in NY or I would make her come with us too.

Our plan is to take T and his brand new bike out for a ride on Saturday to Chatfield. Hopefully, the new bike will cure his woes.

It was 66 and raining hard on my way to the barn tonight. The projected high for next Weds. is 106.

Colorado is psycho this year.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Nuno Matos Clinic Day Two

So, I need to back up some and recap yesterday better. I was so exhausted that I couldn't see straight by the time we got home. There were a number of reasons for that.

First, we were at the barn by six thirty. Ashke walked right on the trailer after the slightest hesitation and then whinnied his head off when he realized that Cali was not coming. We got to Plane View Farm in Eire by 7:45 (great and safe driving by J) and after a bit of confusion, we got Ashke settled in a shed with a run. This was all firsts for us. Ashke was a bit stressed and I could hear him whinnying from inside the indoor arena I would get up and go to comfort him.

Second, this was my first clinic. I was stressed. I wanted to make a good impression. I knew no one. J left after we got settled and didn't come back until it was time to saddle him up for my ride. (The people were all very nice and I expect to stay in touch with the organizers, plus also the people from Fort Collins who are organizing some of the events). I was nervous and stressed about the newest of the situation. Although I want to be there and participate, I still have to deal with the stress of a new situation. the stress of the unknown, having strangers judge me.

Third, I had to ride Ashke to another barn after my lesson. I think we were both completely fried by the lesson we had done and to ride another mile and a half to put him in a box stall in a brand new barn and then leave him there was the last straw. I worried he wouldn't be there in the morning. I worried he would cast himself in his stall and no one would notice. I worried. A lot. He seemed to be a bit stressed when we left (although we had ridden over with another horse and they were stalled next to each other, so he wasn't completely alone).

Fourth, we went to dinner with Nuno and some of the other attendees. Then we had to run to Murdocks for fly spray. Then we finally came home and by that time it was after nine and we had to get up and go again today.

That's why my post yesterday was a bit thin in the words department. I was brain dead by that time.

Today was a bit better. We slept until the dogs woke us up. I was not as determined to be there by the time the clinic started but even so, we managed to make it to the overnight barn by 7:45 or so. Ashke was ambivalent to see me, in part I think, because he was sore and still tired. I'm not sure he slept last night. Under saddle he was snorty and spooky. I rode back to the first barn promising myself that in the future I would always pack my Easyboot gloves in the trailer, whether I needed them or not. We walked the mile and a half to the other barn, with a couple of easy trots through short, cut grass. We had one really good spook when a guy got out of his car just as we were going past. The first time Ashke has really spooked and tried to bolt. The man apologized and asked if we were okay. Once Ashke knew what it was he was fine.

Today, he settled into his run and ate his hay. Rolled in the mud. Didn't whinny for me at all. Seemed to think he understood what we were going to be doing. When I pulled him out to saddle and warm up, he was up but not spooky like yesterday. I was much calmer. We went to the round pen and started our warm up. When I asked him to canter it was obvious that something was NQR. He was really struggling to maintain a canter to the left. On the curve he has to really use his haunches and I think we overworked him yesterday. He really protested, to the point where he almost reared. I thought I needed to push him past it and tried, but even after getting two solid left lead 20m circles, it was obvious that he was not going to be doing any flying lead changes today. I figured we could work on other stuff and Ashke and I could work on the canter on our own.

Here are some videos from today:

Cantering to the right. 

One of the things I learned today is that one always enters the obstacle and turns to the right. This makes sense when you consider all of the obstacles are ridden with the left hand so the right one is free to manage the obstacle. Today, I rode with both hands on the reins and that seemed to help Ashke be calmer. 

More cantering

At the first part of this video, Nuno and Jennifer were explaining how I need to swing my outside leg back and just curl it around his barrel, holding but not bumping. I was bumping which was making Ashke jump. One of the things that concerns me is how he is resting his left hind leg. I'm thinking that learning to use himself properly has caused some weakness or discomfort, which we will need to address.

Cantering in the other direction.

We struggled to do the gate. Although, we did manage a decent gate handling experience before the end of the day. Ashke is completely freaked out by the rope. It took a bit to get him to understand what I wanted him to do.

He rocked the sidepass.

Which, funnily, is not an actual sidepass. It's more of a shoulder-in, where you pass over the pole at an angle. That's why they can do it so fast in the speed round. I was watching today and ended up going out to ask him, along with a group of others who had the same type of questions. We did a straight pole and a set of poles set in an L shape. He did that without any hesitation. 

More practice

Off-set poles. You can see the diagram in my notes from yesterday.

Ashke did the poles pretty good today. Although, the side door on the arena was about half way up and every time we came around that pole and Ashke saw the horse legs without the horse, he stopped. Overall, though, I was happy with his bend and how he switched directions. One of the things we can work on is 10m trotting circles and 20m cantering circles. He was a lot less protesting of the contact with this bit today and I need to continue to work on his collected trot.

One of the things Nuno said yesterday is that I need to continually play with the bit with my fingers. He wanted me to see if I could feel his tongue through the bit and carry on a conversation with his tongue. It will take a lot of work on my part to continue that communication while still doing other stuff, like cantering.

Three barrel obstacle

The three barrels are not a cloverleaf, like barrel racing. You enter between the two front barrels and immediately turn to the right. You circle the right barrel then switch directions and circle the top barrel, but only about 3/4 of a circle. As you come back to center, you switch directions again and circle the third barrel moving clockwise in the circle. You finish by completely circling that barrel and exiting the triangle at the point at which you entered. The barrels are fairly tight, mandating a tight 10m circle around each one.

I totally did not expect the pole to fall over when I aimed the end of the garouche pole at it.

I love the garouche pole so much. It's incredibly fun and Ashke didn't blink an eye when I picked it up.

Take aways from the weekend:

  • I can't tell you how proud I am of my horse. He walked on the trailer without hesitation in both directions. He managed to spend the night at another barn without losing his shit. He was focused and attentive both days, although he was much more relaxed the second day.
  • We survived our first clinic. It was emotionally stressful. It was physically demanding. I do not think I have ever been as tired as I was last night when we finally made it home.
  • We need to continue to work on our dressage. Ashke and I need to get to the point where we can do a Level 1 test for the rated show in September. I have every hope that we will be able to show and be competitive, even if we don't win.
  • I found a network of people who are working diligently to put together events, schooling shows and rated shows for this wonderful sport. I found a network of other women riders (and one man) who are active participants in WE.
  • Canter. Canter. Canter. Canter. I can work on the outside leg back, inside leg at the girth thingy too. And trot-canter transitions. And some walk-canter transitions too.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Nuno Matos Clinic Day One

 Today was the Nuno Matos Working Equitation clinic in Erie. Day One. Nuno was the Portuguese 2006 Working Equitation Champion. He ran his clinic like they do in Europe - one student at a time. I rode at 3 pm. Until then, I sat and studied the other riders, listened to what Nuno was trying to say, and made notes. At noon, they brought in an interpreter.

I am pretty artistically challenged. And yes, the rider's leg does look like the hind end of a dog.

 Warm up outside

 Explaining to Ashke where the end of the arena was.

 He was less than sure

 Recognizing J sitting at the end of the arena.

 Nuno asked me what my expectations were. I answered that I expect to be the International Champion tomorrow. They laughed. I really was serious.

 Working on softening, relaxing and bending at walk/trot/canter

I need to get over my fear of contact with the shank bit. Ashke was fighting me a bit today, but we were both hyped up and stressed. Nuno also stressed that I need to slow and collect the walk and the trot, which would then help with slowing the canter. A lot of the dressage work is done in small circles, and we worked between 10m to 20m circles. This was a challenge for most people, including us, because we have been working on larger circles.


 Pretty much all we did is canter. At the mid and upper levels, the horse either walks or canters. There is no trot.

 Nuno speaks Portuguese, but I really wasn't having any trouble understanding him. For some of the more complicated concepts, it was good to have a translator, however.

 More work in small circles.

 Trying to relax

 It's so complicated, trying to remember everything.

 Nuno told me that Ashke and I are very balanced together as a team.

 I made the mistake of switching the bit, which did not help our situation. I should have stuck with the shank. Nuno told me to ride with the first bit again tomorrow.

Nuno explaining why I should not be riding in the myler snaffle without a cavasson. Without the Cavasson, the bit is too aggressive. And not good for Ashke, since he is so sensitive.


More Sidepass

We also got a flying lead change, which we did not catch on video.

We are going to start with that tomorrow, so video proof should be in the future.

Too tired to write more. Details to follow . . .