Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Tale of Two Rides

I have tried really hard, since I first brought Ashke home, to do the right thing, where he is concerned. Vet care, dentals, barefoot hoof care, proper nutrition, BoT products, proper saddle, a plethora of bits: we have spared no expense. I think I am fairly knowledgeable, and if I don't know something, I have no problem reaching out and asking for help. For the most part, I think I have accomplished a great thing: Ashke is healthy, living in a safe place, well cared for and has a job he enjoys. That's why, when I mess up and it effects him, I feel really bad.

Saturday, at the end of our ride, he was dry and mostly cool, considering it was 75 and he is still somewhat shaggy. J and I debated the necessity of putting the BoT fleece cooler on him for the trailer ride home. We opted not to, since it was so warm. My gut was telling me I should, but then I second guessed myself and left it off. It was the wrong decision. When I unloaded Ashke at the barn, he was stiff and his back was so tight I could see the tension in his muscles. I put some Sore No More on the area, which he really did not want me to touch, and promised him I would be back the next day.

Random cuteness to break up the text.

On Sunday, I took Ashke to the round pen and let him move around for a bit. He rolled on both sides a couple of times, walked in circles, trotted some, and then attempted a canter. He was short-striding and sore at the trot and short-striding and cross-cantering at the canter when moving to the left (pushing off with the right hip). I didn't push it. Instead I walked him over and rinsed the urine off of him (all over his right side), squeegeed him dry and put him in his BoT fleece cooler. I gave him a pretty good massage on his right hip (he was twisted into a pretzel letting me know his hip was sore) and gave him 2 grams of Bute.

Monday morning I stopped by on my way to work to pull the BoT off of him and to check his hip. His back was warm and loose and he was non-reactive to my testing his back for soreness. I fed him his mash and told him I would see him on Tuesday.

Tuesday night, I went into the indoor (the weather was awesome and I expected the jump lesson to happen in the outdoor arena) and set up a small course with 5 slalom poles, a low jump, an L shaped corridor with the bell, a pole for sidepassing, two barrels and the quintain for my lance work. Then I hurried in and got Ashke ready in record time. I got back into the arena with my garroucha by 5:20.

Ashke walked around the outside of the arena for several loops, listening to my horse and feeling him move. He was loose and relaxed, swinging through his back, and watching the obstacles with pricked ears. There was no spooking or paying attention to anything else. We started with the corridor and we worked out how to make the turn (seems counter-intuitive to move your horse's head to make a backwards turn, but it works) and he stopped next to the bell regardless of the direction we were moving in.

We then worked on the sidepass pole. I think, in hindsight, I need to walk him up, position him so the pole is at my stirrup, pause and then step sideways. He starts moving sideways before he is positioned, which means his front feet are too close to the pole. You are supposed to walk through at an angle, which allows the horse to cross front and back as they step without hitting the pole. We went in both directions a couple of times. I know that next time I will take a moment and make him stop, when he is in position, before moving over the pole.

We practice the jump in both directions and I figured out that if I look forward instead of at the jump, we do much better. He hit the pole a couple of times, but he recognized his mistake and corrected it the next time through. I would say I helped him with that, but really all I did was point him at the jump and got out of his way. He managed to make it over without hitting anything at a canter in both directions.

We did the barrels and the slalom poles. We kind of struggled with those two obstacles, because the last time we had worked them, I was asking Ashke to bend very tightly around the pole or barrel and this time I wanted to work them like we would for a show. He was confused. I was confused. The slalom was way too tight to do at anything faster than a trot, and I felt very dissatisfied when we were done. Although, I did repurpose it and completed a sidepass between the poles just for kicks and grins. Plus, we also went around the barrels backwards, for practice.

 Nuno Matos Clinic

We picked up the lance and carried around the arena several times in each direction at a trot and a canter. I lifted the ring off the standard a couple of times, but couldn't really do the obstacle at speed, since I don't have open barrels to put the pole into at either end of the arena. Or even one open barrel. I discovered that it doesn't work to lean it against the fence or wall. It is angled the wrong way.

After we had worked all of the obstacles individually, I mentally set up a course and ran through it a couple of times. The slalom was the only thing that really didn't work well. Ashke tried hard and did pretty good, although I am struggling to get some bend. He had a couple of missteps, but for the most part, didn't have any issues with his hip.

Tonight, when I got there, he was waiting for me. Our weather today went from rain to heavy snow to sunshine all in the day. Swear we had two inches of snow on the ground at 1 pm and it was gone by the time I got off work. Ashke had been out in the rain for some of the day, and in his stall the rest. He was warm and dry when I got there. I spent some time grooming him, trying to make a dent in the flying white hair that is his existence right now. I had put a bunch of cookies in my pocket and we spent a half hour or so playing the begging game. When I went to put his exercise boots on, he kept offering to bow, which earned him a treat, but didn't really give me what I needed. Finally, we were ready and headed for the indoor arena.

I swear he looked around when we walked in, didn't see any obstacles, and decided he didn't want to play.

We started by walking four laps in one direction, changing on the diagonal, and then four in the other direction. Then we did the same at the trot. He was spooky and jumpy. I was a little frustrated, since he didn't look at anything sideways the night before. When we moved to the canter he started to act up. I think, in retrospect, he was anticipating pain, but I could be wrong. He hadn't been sore the night before, and he hadn't seemed sore when I was riding him at the trot and walk. He refused to pick up the left lead canter, however, and hold it for a circuit of the arena. Plus, he kept violently shying and pogo-sticking at the end of the arena with the tarp covered panel. I had finally had enough.

I grabbed the dressage whip I had brought with me and we had a serious "come to Jesus" moment. He figured out really quick that I was not going to tolerate the going-sideways-instead-of-forward BS he was trying to sell me. And the canter five steps, cross-canter two steps, throw my head straight up in the air and stop business came to a quick end. I would not have argued with him that way, (and he got a couple of smacks from the whip, too) if I thought he was truly hurting. He had shown no signs of it, he just didn't want to make the effort of doing what I was asking. Two minutes later, I had a much better horse. (He did throw in a buck during one of our transitions, but I ignored it.)

We rode the WE Level 2 dressage test and I could not get him to bend. I thought about what CS said in our lesson about the bit not bending or moving independently in his mouth and him maybe having trouble with understanding what I was asking. I stopped and changed bits to the Myler Level 2 shank bit. It made a huge difference. Although, the speed control isn't as good as the bit I have been riding him in, the Myler allows me to ask him to bend a little bit and he does, without falling in. It will give us a place to start to work on the things he needs to be better at if we are going to compete in WE.

After the test, we did walk pirouettes in both directions. CS told me to play with the reins just a touch before we start the pirouette, and he has gotten so good that he starts the pirouette when I jiggle the reins that way. He has it absolutely nailed going counter-clockwise, but struggles more when moving clockwise. He has to both pivot and step and push off with his right leg when moving clockwise. We just need more practice.

We finished up with some leg yields. I used the dressage whip to tap his hip to get him to move better in the direction of the rail. He did pretty good. Obviously, much better in one direction than the other. More things to work on. It felt like he was crossing, but without mirrors or a person on the ground, I'm not sure. Maybe I can get J to take some pics for me.

Going forward, my plan is to ride in the arena and work on my stuff during the week (at least two rides) and then do a long ride on the weekend. If I can, I will squeeze a ride in on Sunday and maybe one on Friday night. I really want to be working him five days a week and the more lateral work we can do the stronger that leg can become.

I set up the blue war bridle with his grazing bit for the trail and I put the Myler on the other biothane bridle I have, to use for WE. The issues I've had with the Myler in the past were mostly on trail, and we have progressed a lot since then, so I am hoping this is a good compromise. I left him snuggled into his BoT for the night. No precip, so he should be nice and comfy in it. And I don't want his back and hip to tighten up.

Last ride until Sunday.


  1. might think about a chiro for Ashke..After Expo both my boys really needed an adjustment. I could feel CO being really stiff and a bit off. After the adjustment he is awesome.. I also got adjusted.. The horses always have one way that is easier for all moves. Not that they can't move easily both directions because they can. Suppling exercises are really important for all horses.. Look forward to seeing you..C

    1. Hey C - I have an appointment scheduled for May 2nd with Diane. That was the first availability that worked with my schedule. I feel that he at least needs the base of his neck adjusted and probably his hips. I also want to talk to her about him dragging his left toe. At that time we will also get his sheath cleaned and his teeth done.

  2. Looking forward where you're going instead of down at the jump when going over fences is definitely key! How awesome that you figured that out so quickly on your own! It can be surprisingly hard to *not* look at the jump when you're not 100% sure about it.

    To add to Chris's point re: horses preferring one direction to the other: they are like us. We're left or right handed and so are they. Sometimes they match us, which leaves us wondering if we've created the imbalance: most of us ride better in one direction than the other too. :) But sometimes they are the opposite of us. Lily has always been more supple to the left to a fault. She actually tends to lean on that shoulder if I don't pick her up. To the right, she likes to poke her nose to the outside of the circle. She even does this on the lunge. This can be very hard for me to correct if I'm out of shape because, while I'm right-handed in my daily life, I'm definitely left-handed when I ride and I can have a hard time getting my right leg on the horse correctly to ask for that inside bend. With consistent riding on both our parts, I can get her to the point where she is so even I forget on which side she has which issue. She doesn't need a lot of fine-tuning when she's in full work and being outside all the time now means she stays more balanced in her body on her own, but my #1 reason for the dressage cross-training is to keep her supple on both sides. Same goes for Gracie: she used to have a really hard time picking up the left lead at the canter and maintaining her gait to the right. When circling to the right, she preferred to trot. Working her at her gait on the trails has done wonders for her suppleness. She still has a long way to go with some of the basic dressage work, but she is a lot more willing now than she used to be. Lateral work is definitely a big tool for helping with a horse's natural one-sidedness! You're on the right track. :)

    I'm excited to see video of your walk pirouettes! I've always considered them such a beautiful move. I'm so excited for all of your recent progress!

  3. Yep look up (and way out) over the jump and let the horse figure it out. (keep your body in roughly the same position relative to the ground and let the horse rock under you) It helps them when they are learning to jump to do some free jumping (or on the lunge line) to sort out where to take off, and to give them a pole on the ground in front of the jump to help them know when to take off (but you need to know where he prefers to take off first)