Sunday, August 2, 2015

Bear Creek 2015

On the way home from Indian Creek last weekend, K stated that she had never been to Bear Creek. We decided we needed to remedy that immediately, so we went to Bear Creek on Saturday. I let LJ know and she brought her arabian, A Maar to play. We planned to meet at Bear Creek at 10, but due to a run away cat, it was more like 10:20. A Maar was already tacked up and dragging a rope around after him in the big arena and LJ told us not to worry, there was no hurry.

 K has decided that the most effective way to feed Eddy is in a feed bag, which seems to keep Eddy from making a mess, and encourages him to eat all of it, and has the happy effect of distracting him with the frustration of trying to get the last bits out of the bottom.

 Ashke photo bombed this photo.

 Just starting out.

I have to say the ride was an interesting one. We started out on the singletrack trail that leads down to Bear Creek. There are two horse crossings at Bear Creek, one closer that does not have a way for J to cross, or the one farther down near the entrance to the park where there is a bridge for J to cross the river. Since the river (Bear Creek) was still running fast, I didn't want J to have to wade to cross over. We headed for the furthest crossing.

A Maar is still really green and although LJ has been working with him (she's on her fourth trainer), he's still incredibly spooky and inconsistent. Eddy started out that way but by riding with Ashke for almost a year now, he has settled into a really good trail pony. K knows I've been working on getting Ashke to ride behind her without arguing or fighting me and Eddy has been confident enough to take point in our rides. On Saturday, it was hard because the good natured comraderie Ashke and Eddy hold for each other was disturbed by the addition of another gelding. Add to that, A Maar didn't want to follow, didn't want to lead and wanted to be in the saddle with me on Ashke's back. Ashke even bucked-kicked at A Maar a couple of times during the day.

So, as we were trotting down the trail, A Maar would surge past Ashke in his big trot (horse can trot at 12 mph), get twenty feet in front, slam on his brakes and shy. We would pass him and he would crowd in behind Ashke, then surge out and past. Over and over again.

Ashke wanted to lose his mind.  

I put Ashke into a jog, asking him to flex at the pole, and to maintain that pace consistently. Sometimes he would jig or dance or flip his head up and try to bolt ahead, but I just applied a little leg, kept my hands soft but firm, and asked him to maintain his trot. I asked out loud, over and over again. We maintained that trot (in one way or another) for over a mile, while A Maar surged and stopped next to us. I could hear Eddy's foot beats behind us, but I could also hear K struggling with him verbally (and physically) because of the change in herd dynamics we were dealing with.

A brief walk break.
K had Eddy doing serpentines, because he was really up.

When we got to the river crossing the water was pretty deep and moving quickly. Bear Creek park is right at the edge of the mountains, so the water is still running fast from the altitude drop to get there. I took Ashke across first and although we had a couple of missteps from rocks under the surface that he couldn't see, we made it across easily. The water was up to his belly but not quite touching the bottom of my stirrups. Eddy followed us across without hesitation, which is good because if left to his own devices, he would have laid down. Not tried. Would. He is the epitome of Yoda's saying "Do or do not, there is no try."

With two of us on the other side, I turned to watch A Maar. LJ said she would get off and lead him across if she had to, but she wanted to see if he would cross on his own. He was pretty stressed that his only option was to follow the other horses across that very scary expanse, but LJ was consistent in her ask. (This is the horse that one of the trainers spent four hours getting him to set into a mud puddle one afternoon.) A Maar moved back and forth across the entrance to the river, gathered himself and launched. I swear he tried to jump the entire span. When he landed he lunged wildly for the far side. (I think someone needs to pony him out into a quieter span of water and hold him there until he stops panicking, like the Indians used to do.) I was afraid that LJ was going to get smashed by the tree on the far bank, but they managed to make it across without an injuries. 

In the meantime, K was fighting to control Eddy, who had spooked when A Maar did his salto della morte. 

 Back on the trail. 

 K and Eddy led for awhile. Eddy did a great job and I think A Maar was a little less in his pocket.

Ashke and I argued about what this meant for us. He was tossing his head, bracing against the bit, jigging sideways, dancing and cantering in place. I finally turned him away from the others and made him stand quietly. I didn't get angry, nor did I let him bully me into letting him do what he wanted, which was race after the other horses until he was in the front. When I turned him around he was much less frantic and more willing to listen. Although he did continue to trot very slowly. I could not get him to walk. Maybe next time.

These are necessary tasks he must master if I am going to consider riding in an endurance race.

 Turned away from the other horses, waiting for J.

We climbed up a fire road to the top of the plateau. On the way up, Ashke was cantering and began to kick out and flail. There may have been a buck in there somewhere too. I could hear K yelling at me to stop, so we did. Ashke had managed to fling away three of his four easy boots. Mind you these buggers take twenty minutes or so to pound onto his feet, so I have no idea how he managed to fling them off, but he did. J, who was following us up the road, saw them and gathered them in. I got off and stripped the last boot off his front right and stuffed them all into the saddlebags. He was a little tender when the path was really rocky, but for the most part he handled the terrain really well. We, however, didn't do a ton of cantering. I didn't want him to hit a tender spot and flinch at the canter.

 Waiting while I put the boots away.

 The view from the top of the plateau.
And where we stopped for lunch.

 Stripping the bridle off so Ashke could graze.

 Ashke wanting to know why J wasn't sharing her chicken.

 We headed down the plateau because we decided that we weren't going to try to cross the ditch.
 K had cantered Eddy a couple of times when she could, plus we had followed a path that led through the river bottoms where the floods from 2013 had left huge piles of sand in our way. Slogging through that had taken the starch out of his shorts.

At the bottom of the hill we had crossed a ditch via a bridge, which LJ had gotten off and handwalked A Maar across. Then we turned north and followed the track out to the road, turned west to follow it along the road (did this at a trot and A Maar was fine with the traffic) then turned south again. Somehow we ended up on the other side of the ditch from where we had eaten lunch. We had the choice of crossing the creek or backtracking. LJ was talking about leading A Maar across but it was relatively deep and somewhat soft. I rode Ashke across and Eddy followed us without issue. But A Maar was pitching a fit.

I crossed back over and asked LJ if she would like me to try ponying him across. We decided to give it a shot. (It is moments like this that I wish for a saddle with a roping horn.) I took A Maar's lead rope and headed back into the water. There was a four foot wide chasm between the banks that led to the water, with a lot of that mud. A Maar would not touch it. Instead, he began throwing himself from one side of the bank to the other, with these huge leaping jumps. Each time he did, Ashke would move a touch deeper into the water. We were facing him so we had the opportunity to move if he decided to try and jump on us. When he got to the edge of the southern bank, he had no where to go. No matter which direction he looked, there was water, and the rope was keeping him from going back up the bank. He gathered himself and launched into the water toward the other side. I turned Ashke and we headed up the bank, keeping the rope loose between us and not wrapped around anything. A Maar frantically battled the water and the bank and then heaved himself out.

 No worse for the wear, but covered in that dark, almost black, stinking mud found at the bottom of most irrigation ditches.

 Ashke was splattered too.
I'm so proud of my horse. He did awesome and was such a solid trail poneh.

 Mud flats left from the 2013 flood. There may have been more damage to this area this year.
Under that crust was very soft ground.

A bend in the river.

As we were traveling through the soft sand, Eddy suddenly collapsed. It's like his legs were cut and he just dropped as he was walking. He's done this before, in the snow at Chatfield last December, and in the water a couple of times with K. He wanted to roll and so he just dropped. I could hear K yelling and cussing at him and busted up laughing because I couldn't see them, I knew what he was trying to do.

Then we got to the final river crossing.

Ashke making his way across

LJ leading A Maar across.

No one was hurt but LJ had forgotten her phone was in her half chap. It is toast.

Eddy crossed like a champ. K's challenge was getting him to stand still and wait for A Maar to cross.

We made decent time going back to the trailer. J said that she enjoyed doing a ride we had done last a year ago because 1) Coyote was better than the old bike, and 2) she was a lot more fit. 

IDK if we will go back again this year, since Chatfield is a better ride, but it was fun to ride there with K for the first time.

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