Monday, June 1, 2015


Sunday we rode the East-West Regional Trail. It has been somewhat drier and today we hit the low 80's. My goal since I first looked at the map of this trail has been to ride to Redtail Park. The map indicated that there was water there and the distance was about 10 miles, which would make a 20 mile round trip. We had almost ridden that far in November (when temps were lower, but the landscape was barren) and I have been wanting to ride in the green. The weather has cleared and dried up a bit, so we were pretty convinced the backcountry would be dry enough that J wouldn't brick her bike. I recruited PJ and K to come with us, since neither has seen the Backcountry. We picked K and Eddy up at 9:30 (Eddy just walked on the trailer straight out of his paddock) and we headed for the Spring Gulch Equestrian Area.

J wanted some video of Ashke walking. He has gotten stronger and stronger and his right stifle looks pretty normal to me (again). We go to see Dr D on Thursday and I am hopeful she will give us a passing grade on our rehab.

Pretty boy. He is moving so good under saddle and feels the best he has felt since I first started riding him.

Margo and Eddy in the lead. Ashke lost his mind. Seriously.

I was asking him to move laterally back and forth across the path. He was fighting with me every step of the way. Nice cross over in the back though, right?

Ashke demonstrated race brain yesterday. He cantered in place, he jigged, he refused to relax if there was a horse any where ahead of him. He tossed his head and flopped his tongue around in protest to the bit. His head was straight up in the air. I had completely forgotten to change the bit from the Mylar to the straight curb and he pretty much fought me the entire time. I tried to hold him with my core and thighs, but there is no way to realistically do that for 20 miles. I even smacked him on the neck with my open hand to try and redirect his attention, which did not work. I was so frustrated. He was lathered, like dripping sweat and lather from the reins, within the first two miles. I moved him to the front to allow him the time to cool off and calm down. (This does not bode well for an endurance ride.) I also did not want to ride him all that way in a frame (especially since he was behind vertical) for that long of a time, because I did not want him sore. There was one point where he was almost cantering a sidepass down the trail and not even that tired him out.

Once in the front, he picked up the canter and cantered for the next couple of miles, interspersed with brief moments of walking. He was so fun of energy. He hadn't been ridden in four days and it was apparent he was ready to move out.

The beginning of the Backcountry. It is so incredible that this exists just outside of the city and goes for miles.

Ashke actually acting like a reasonable horse. He didn't mind Eddy being in front so much as he minded Margo in front. Eddy stopped because of a broken down cinderblock shack at the bottom of the hill. Ashke was like "no big deal, dude."

Once again fighting me. Margo spent most of the ride in her running walk, which means Ashke and Eddy have to trot to keep up.

Both PJ and K were impressed and awed at the country we were riding through. It was so verdant and there were so many wild flowers blooming it was just amazing.

The scrub oak was still bare of leaves, except where it was growing up from the ground. The early cold snap the end of September, where it went subzero for four days did the damage.

The scrub oak forest that I love. This is hands down my favorite part of this ride.

This is the same place that J videoed me from last November.

My fav pic from the ride.

About 7 + miles in we stopped for lunch. Margo wasn't interested in eating and so we offered her a drink of water from a water bottle K had thought about bringing. PJ said she didn't know if Margo had had any water that morning, since she is out on pasture and there is no way to monitor if she had drank. Margo slurped up the water we had out of a ziplock sandwich container, and then started to graze, interspersed with cadging apples from PJ. We had the option of turning around or pressing on for another two and a half miles to reach the park and water. We made the correct decision to press on.

At Redtail park there was a water fountain, with a place for dogs to drink. It was turned off. I knew with the temps we were experiencing, that I was not going to try riding back without getting them a drink. J and I went across the street and started knocking on doors. A wonderful family of East Indians not only offered their hose and water, but a plastic bucket (yes, because I left my collapsible bucket in the trailer - it is now in my Osprey Hydration pak, where it will stay) for watering the horses out of. Margo drank two full buckets of water - maybe seven to ten gallons all told - while the hose was running into it. We let her drink her fill. I rinsed off Ashke's neck and chest, rinsed his mouth with the hose and then let him drink until he started to play with the water. Eddy drank at least five gallons, and then he started to play. While we were watering them, the father of the family came out of the house, clapped his hands and said, "thank you so much from bringing us this good gift of beautiful horses."

The orange bucket in the background and the young woman holding it were the family that helped us. Much thanks to their generous and hospitable nature. 
The horses were all much better after the drink.

Ashke either led or fought me the rest of the way home. Here we were leading. I let Margo and PJ go in front, because I didn't want to travel faster than Margo was comfortable with. Ashke was still asking to canter at 15+ miles.

This is my second favorite pic of the day.

Can you see her?

She kind of blended right in to the scenery.

Wild flowers all over the hillside.

Wild flowers zoomed in on. There was the most vibrant Indian paintbrush. So pretty.

This was the most unusual flower we saw. It's called Prairie Smoke or Old Man's Whiskers. 
It is part of the rose family. There was one hillside completely covered with these. They were amazing.

Almost home.

At the trailer the horses drank well, ate their mashes, and then we got them loaded just as an afternoon thunderstorm started to break. There was no hesitation about loading and within a few minutes we were on our way. At the barn (under sunny skies) I rinsed and squeegeed Ashke off, tucked him into a clean stall with his extra mash and an extra flake of alfalfa. He was giving me squinty eyes and a soft nicker as we left.

Note to self: change the damn bit next time.


  1. Ashke is Baasha. Do you have the Backcountry Horsemen in your state? They will go out on weekend rides at a walking pace which forced him to finally cool down. He was never easy at the start of an endurance ride, but he wasn't dangerous. We did a lot of unplanned sidepassing at a trot, and cantering at zero forward progress, jigging completely perpendicular to the trail across finish lines. Lateral work didn't deter him from his goal, he was a noodle. One time we ran backwards across the finish line. He was so completely herd bound "Must Be First Or Else Death" - but I always felt safe on him. He'd growl at me if others were ahead - does Ashke growl?

    I wanted to ask you if Ashke's physical issues would register on a vet check. You seem to think they would, that he has an odd way of moving due to his surgery. But he must be sound to do dressage and WE, I think. Maybe you can explain.

    1. The issue I am most concerned about with his method of travel is that he swings his right hind leg toward his left leg in a half moon motion and then kind of drops it onto the ground. He struggles to stretch through his stifle on his right leg and so the motion is somewhat abbreviated. It shows up in a short stride on his right hind.

      We aren't showing in dressage or WE, just using it to teach him how to balance and carry his body properly. Although, I would love to show in WE, it just really needs to get a bit more popular here, I think. We still can not canter in a frame, primarily because he has a real hard time with bend to the left, where he has to balance and push off with his right hind leg. It really doesn't help that they both were injured, but I have seen a lot of progress so far, so keep your fingers crossed.

      We do have Backcountry Horsemen, but I would not ride with any one who would be upset that J was riding with me. Ashke will be better in the other bit, I hope, and in the meantime, I will continue to work with him. Luckily, I was able to say, I needed to move back to the front so he would relax and calm down, then I moved to the back again to give us some practice. He was the most relaxed when the trail was wide enough that we could ride side by side, and he certainly didn't behave that way the last time we rode together. Although, when we were riding side by side he would pin his ears and threaten Margo if she put her nose in front of his.

    2. Although I do think he looks amazing in the video. And he moved out like the wind for the entire ride.

  2. He looks great, but race brain is so annoying to deal with! (I can unfortunately attest that you "can" hold him for 20 miles, but you don't want to, it's miserable, that's why I get so sore!!). I think your practice of letting him go to the front, then go back to the back and "deal with it" for awhile is great. We like to play leapfrog, where we just switch leaders constantly, which I think confuses the horses, they don't know what is coming next.

    I'm amazed at those trails, they look so groomed and pleasant, nice that they are the type that J can come with you on. Many of our trails are not suitable for bikes (unless you are super crazy mountain rider) and some are closed to bike riders entirely (for safety, as there is no room to pass, even with 2 horses often!)

    Love that wildflower, looks like it is having a very bad hair day...

  3. Gem is a nut case for the first 10 miles of an endurance ride. She wasn't always like that and I blame my LD at Biltmore for it. It was a controlled start and the vets made everyone start together behind a car that was being driven. I stayed back as long as possible, but had to move out with the group and she was very nervous and unhappy. Since then she gets very high strung and nervous at the start of a ride even when I keep her at the trailer and get on after the others have gone out. After about 10 miles she generally calms down and is much better. I am hoping that maybe a few multi day weekends teach her that this is a waste of energy.

  4. My gelding also looses his mind if he's not in front. I just always let him be in front and we don't have the fights. I know it's not really "solving" the problem, but it works for us.

  5. I love that scrub oak forest! And J really does blend into the scenery perfectly in that one photo, which is especially funny since she was in an extra colorful outfit! It's awesome that you have such a great selection of trails that can be ridden both on horseback and bike. We have the same problem here as irish horse in her part of CA: a lot of our multi-use trails are more appropriate for straight-up mountain biking: way too rugged.

    I really enjoyed that bit about the East Indian family willing to offer water for the horses and seeing them as a gift. It made me grin from ear to ear while reading.

    Race brain is the worst, especially on a fit horse. I like to swing the horse around so that he is backing up in the desired direction of travel, which can be a nice "reset" button in a horse that is *not* prone to rearing...the times Lily has gotten race brain, this has been a great trick to get her to settle. Either that or turning her around and making her gallop AWAY from her buddies (in the opposite direction) for a bit. I'll do that once or twice and she'll get the message that she needs to calm down. Not sure if either will work with your boy, but I figured they could be tools for your toolbox. :)