Saturday, August 8, 2015


Sometimes we see things very clearly before we start, the details etched like futuristic hopes in the center of our minds, and it works out exactly that way. Sometimes, however, clarity is only found in retrospect - hindsight is twenty-twenty - and we are left looking back over our shoulder at what has been made clear.

Last night was one of those nights.

I should not have ridden my horse. We have had a couple of really awesome rides Monday and Weds nights, short, focused rides that made me feel like we were making progress. Those rides meant that Ashke had been ridden dressage style for three rides in a row. That was the first issue. The second issue was me. I had a really bad, very stressful week, capped by driving 300+ miles, staying in a hotel and orchestrating our companies largest layoff. It was not something we wanted to do, or something any of us felt good about, but changing economic conditions forced the decision. I got very little sleep, had to drive home in traffic, drank way to much caffeine and was feeling the stress. It was not a good time to ride. I should have gone out and enjoyed the companionship, the touch-release of being with my boy, but instead I rode. J was with me and willing to video tape our attempts at a trot-canter transition and that became my priority.

I think the pressure was too much for Ashke. And I had violated our agreement of two dressagy rides and two trail rides a week. This made for the fourth dressage focused ride in the week and I think he was done. Plus, the arena was set up for the show on Saturday, with a bunch of jumps, it was trending toward dark, there were a pair of Redtail juveniles (one of which flew over/past us close enough that his wings brushed my helmet) screaming in the treelines for their parents, who have flown away and left their fledglings to figure it out on their own. Weaning is such a traumatic time of the year. To add to the commotion, Ashke was being spooky and reverted to throwing temper tantrums mixed in with the twisting, frantic attempt to leave me in the dirt as he bolted away from the eastern end of the arena. It's the first time in over a year that he tried, three times, to unseat me. And it pissed me off.

Not conducive to a soft, relaxed and responsive ride, in case you were wondering.

Dressage is not designed for explosive bolting and frustrated anger. But some days you have to ride the horse you saddled, not the one you remember from two nights ago.

Saiph found me a YouTube video of an exercise on a square working on the walk pirouette.
We need more inside bend, but at least he is still moving his hind feet rather than planting and pivoting, like before. 

I really like this exercise.

Last one.
Ashke gets what he's supposed to do, I just need to firm up my aids and work on inside bend.

J missed the transition to start this circle.
Ashke is getting better about cantering properly and did not need to cross canter, even on a slow, small circle. That counts as a win.

I still need to work on not throwing away contact when I first ask for the canter.

Between the last canter video and the final video I will post, was our fight. I was so frustrated. He's been at this barn for almost a year and he still spooks in the same places. When he tried to bolt, rearing and twisting in his attempt, I screamed at him in frustration. I don't think he's scared. I think he's avoiding. Or protesting. Or making his opinion known. Taking advantage of my own internal dialog assessing his ability all the time.

He's not weak any more. He's not starved or abused. He's being asked to walk, trot and canter like a properly trained horse, which he can do when he wants. Last night was a temper tantrum, only I couldn't resort to taking away his Xbox One, so it devolved into a fight. Which I won, I might add. We did figure eights, backing, trotting in a small circle, spinning, trotting in a bigger circle and standing still in that corner until he walked past it on a loose rein. We did not attempt to canter, which was what led to the fight. 

By now, it was trending to dark and I was fighting tears exhausted. I asked Ashke for some stretchy trot, which he did fairly well, and we called it a night. I hate rides like that. Hate them as much as I hate having to be a mean parent to T. But just like T needs discipline, so does Ashke. I think my biggest issue with being insistent with Ashke is that I am unable to use words and logic with him, the way I can with T. Instead, I get harsh with my aids and my hands get unyielding. I don't beat him, although I may want to, but I have resorted to pony club kicking and blocking him with my hands. And just like I hate it when I have to resort to taking away the Xbox, I feel like I failed afterwards. 

So the plan is to do a 20 mile ride on Sunday, just J and myself. Get him out and moving on trail. Then on Monday, I'm setting up obstacles in the indoor and working on probably the weave poles, the gate, the garrocha and the barrels. We will give the straight up dressage a bit of a rest.


  1. I've been so busy lately I haven't been keeping up commenting on your posts, so this one counts for the all ;) Your trails are absolutely ridiculously gorgeous. Someday I will have to make it out to CO to ride. I know with Gem, that too many focused rides in a row (even trail rides if I push the pace a lot) gets her really stressed and I am guaranteeing a bad ride. I think he will really enjoy being out on trail with you.

  2. It does suck being the bad guy. :-\ I hope the trail ride Sunday helped get everyone's minds back to a better place. Sounds like you have a great plan moving forward to get things back where they need to be