Monday, October 26, 2015


Since we had hauled so far on Saturday, we really wanted to do a closer ride on Sunday. I had been reading in my Riding Colorado book and the excerpt on the Highline Canal said you could ride the canal west to Waterton Canyon. That meant to me that we could ride the west side of the South Platte and cross the river to ride the Highline Canal. The west side trail along the Platte is an incredible experience and we hadn't ridden it since the flooding. It sounded like a nice adventure and I love exploring, so Chatfield it was. We were actually on time to pick up K and Eddy and hit Chatfield before 10:30.

This is the new bit I got for Ashke. He likes it a lot, ends up slatherly even on trail and is much more willing to relax and give to it than anything else we have tried to date. He also loves to play with the copper rollers with his tongue.

We crossed the South Platte and headed south. The trail was pretty cleaned up, which was kind of a surprise. Either the damage was minimal or this is a very popular trail and the Parks people cleaned it up first.

It was breath takingly beautiful. The colors and the sky and the temps.

It was a bit cool and both K and J started out in jackets.

 J in all her colors.

 The trail south weaves along the river, winding in and out of the trees. Ashke was a bit spooky on our way out, so we traveled the trail mostly at a trot.

 The river was breathtaking.
There are no good words for how beautiful it was.

K and Eddy lead for a while. Ashke did a really nice collected canter intermixed with a lengthened trot behind them.

 He really hates being second, but he was also getting touchy about Eddy riding up on his heels.

 The color was intense.

J was having fun with the camera. She was going to take some trot video, but we slowed to a walk. This was one of the few places where it was rocky and Ashke was bare.

Ashke's very eloquent ears will tell you what he thinks of having to stay behind Eddy.

I really need to remember the GoPro camera, since it would be so much easier than holding my camera in my right hand and trying to wrestle Ashke with my left.

A lot of the trail was close and narrow singletrack, with bushes tight on either side of us.

 Some of the trail required stepping over logs, walking around fallen trees, stepping over fallen trees and going down a very steep bank. The steep bank we got off and hand walked, mostly because of a tree stump with a sharp pointy top compliments of beavers. They we had to bushwhack through the underbrush due to the chest high oxer created by two fallen trees we couldn't walk over.

Just after our bushwhacking adventure, we stopped to derobe. J took off her jacket and K did as well. For K, that required unhooking her backpack and swinging it around onto her pommel, removing the jacket and then packing it away. Eddy stood completely nonchalant as she did so. The last time she tried something like that, Eddy spooked and spun and dumped her on her head. Trail pony Master Level unlocked! I did stand Ashke next to her in case Eddy wanted to be a turd, but honestly he didn't even get anxious as she was stowing her jacket.

 South Platte. The picture does not do it justice.

At the point that the trail made it back to the river via a L gate. An L gate is fencing that forms a tight L, intended to allow people to move through but should restrict other travel. We dismounted and handwalked through. The most dangerous part of this particular gate is that part of the L was fenced with barbed wire. It might have been an issue for a larger horse, but both Ashke and Eddy made it through without any issues.

Artistic interpretation of the South Platte.

Mounted back up and waiting for K to use the small rise in land to get on Eddy.

Moving further downstream, we were now riding a singletrack trail with a barbed wire fence to the west of us. That barbed wire fence marks the boundry of some private gun club just outside of Waterton Canyon. We were close to where we should be able to cross over and reach the Highline Canal. The barbed wire fence was somewhat disconcerting, just because it was so close to the trail.

Sluice way with steel grid. We hand walked it just to be safe. Both boys crossed without hesitation.

 J leading. You can see how close the fence is.

There was a bridge we crossed that was edged on the right with barbed wire and nothing to the left. It was wooden but looked sturdy enough to hold a horse. We dismounted and led them across. At the far side of the bridge, right at the edge, was a six inch deep by a foot and a half deep hole. Ashke stumbled through it getting across, but Eddy managed it with nimble feet. Then we followed J to the bridge. The trail ended at the bridge. After doing some scouting, K and I decided to ride down the river and under the bridge that crosses the Platte. We would ride up the other bank on the far side of the bridge. I really thought based on maps on the internet that we could reach the Highline canal from that bank. We rode up the river, rode up the bank, skirted a bog and ended up at the base of a hill I'm not sure we could have climbed up, even from the ground.

The wall to the left is the base of the road. The hill directly in front of us went straight up.
J and her bike climbed it to see if there was a good reason for us to try the hill. The parking lot to the Highline Canal was closed with a huge gate and locks. Not something we could cross.
Maybe there were bears.

At least we didn't have to try and find a way up. Instead, we turned around and headed back to the river. We both walked through a field of cockleburrs, so Eddy was covered and Ashke had them at the edges of his saddle pad and his tail. That was fun. We made it back to the river.

 Riding the River back to the trail.

 As soon as we were back on the trail, I found a nice spot with two logs and announced we were stopping for lunch.

Ashke was more interested in the apples J might have than the river.

The bridge on the way back. Notice the barbed wire to the right of the video.

Going back I knew was going to be sketchy. Eddy was leading and refused to cross. One of his things is stepping into or over water that is small, like a puddle or a rivulet. K and I both backed the horses up (there was no room to turn around) and Ashke and I went first. I gave Ashke plenty of rein and trusted that he would get himself over the hole without landing on me. Which he did. As you can hear on the video, Eddy was not so good. He basically jumped into K and threw her into the fence. K could have let go of the reins because I could have caught Ashke, but we didn't really think of that until later. She was hung up on the fence and struggling to keep him still while she freed herself from the fence. I was pretty scared because Eddy was scared and almost stepped off the bridge trying to stand with K. 

I hate barbed wire. Hate it. With a passion.

K had lost most of the left sleeve of her shirt, most of the left side of her shirt, and part of her pack to the fence. She had deep scratches on her left forearm, her left bicep and her left breast. Thankfully, J had her medical kit and was able to not only clean, antibiotic and vet wrap or bandage the wounds, but she also had a safety pin to close up the gaping holes in the front of K's shirt. K was a trooper. Got bandaged up and got right back on. I stood and kept the horses calm while they fixed her up. Ashke was really stressed out by the whole incident. Eddy was worried but not so obvious about it.

K and J with the medical kit, getting all of the used bits gathered back up.

We mounted up and headed down the trail. Some of the magic had seeped out of the day and I was looking forward to being away from the fence. There was a spot where there was a fallen tree leaning at an angle over the trail. I had cracked my helmet (and my head) on it on the way out and wanted to make sure I cleared it completely going back. I had the reins in my left hand (my stupid hand) and the underside of the fallen tree in my right palm as I rode under. Something about how I twisted to clear the tree must have caused my left leg to arch away from Ashke's side and two steps later my stirrup and foot hung up against the fence. I had a T-pole wedged against the top of my boot and a strand of barbed wire tight over the top of the stirrup. It stopped both Ashke and myself and bounced Ashke off the fence. He humped his back and kicked out with his hind feet like he was trying to free himself and I heard him hit the fence. Him being tangled in the fence would be worse than me losing the foot. I whoa'd Ashke and held hard with the reins, trying to get him to move back enough to dislodge my foot (thank the gods we practiced that for WE) and he stopped, although he was a bit freaked out. At about that moment, the barb that was holding us in place cracked through the top of the stirrup cage (cracked the plastic at the top) and we were free. Ashke almost leapt away. As we moved forward, K called out that Ashke was bleeding. It took a couple of minutes to get to a place where I could safely get off him to assess. The bleeding was minimal, so I got him through the L gate and then assessed.

 Scratch on the outside of his LF just below the knee. Barely skin deep.

 Long, but shallow, scratch on the outside of his fetlock.

I hand walked him to the river where we could get down in the water. (I am a deep believer in the healing power of water.) I talked him into going in deep enough that both scratches were under water. The cold and the wet did their job. The bleeding had stopped and the cuts were clean when we started out again. Ashke was walking fine and in fact was offering a nicely collected trot once I remounted. There was no sign of lameness and the bleeding had completely stopped.

 The up bank going back home. It looked so much scarier in person.
We almost felt like eventers going up it.

 J maneuvering Coyote across one of the fallen tree obstacles we traversed. This one we walked around.

Stepping over and through two fallen trees in close proximity to one another.

Once we were back on the trail that Ashke knew, he offered a canter. He wanted to chase J through the trees. It was so much fun. He was doing flying changes as he changed the direction we were turning around the trees. We did the same thing last time we were riding this trail in the spring. He had the nicest collected canter and very controlled turns. It was awesome. I was laughing outloud while we rode through it. I could hear K whooping and giggling as Eddy was making the same cuts.

The final river crossing back to the trailer.

 Eddy at the trailer.

K, her ripped apart shirt, and the safety pin.

It was only 2 pm. We had only been on trail a couple of hours and managed a whooping seven miles. It was the most exhausting seven miles ever. We decided that we like the river trail, but not once we reach the private land. There are other rides we can do that allow us to access the river trail going back that we will ride next time. It was a beautiful day that was marred by the barbed wire. Even the horses seemed ready to go home. We loaded up and hauled back.

When I unloaded Ashke I noticed blood on his LH leg just below the hock. I'm not sure why it suddenly started bleeding in the trailer but I had contributed that injury to the barbed wire incident. Now I'm thinking it just as likely that he might had been injured in the trailer. J is usually really careful when she is hauling, but we had one abrupt stop at a corner (because of an idiot, unsafe driver) and perhaps that is when he injured himself.  In retrospect, it is located on his leg in a place that could have gotten scraped by the bottom of the divider. It was bleeding and somewhat swollen when I unloaded him. I took him to the wash rack and cold hosed it, then took him in and shaved all of the places. The earlier wire cuts were clean and blood free. The, what I now thing was a trailer injury. didn't look like a wire cut but I was still thinking along those lines, and was slightly swollen but superficial. I treated them with antibiotic ointment and gave him a dose of Bute in his mash.

I checked him this morning and his legs were tight and clean. 

Ashke will have the next three weeks off again (company in town) although we will be moving him to a new barn on Sunday, hauling him back to TMR for his feet on the following Saturday, then hauling him on the 21st to the Mounted Archery clinic in Fort Collins. Woot.


  1. Beautiful trails until the barbed wire. That stuff makes me really nervous and I probably would have chickened out and turned around when I saw how closed in it was. I'm glad nobody was seriously injured by it. What type of bit is that and what made you try that one? Purely curious. I'm thinking of playing around with Gem's bit and have figured out pretty quickly that I have a lot to learn regarding bits.

    1. The bit is what they call a dog-bone (looks like what English riders call a french link) and it has copper rings around the center piece. One of the things I noticed about riding Ashke with a mechanical hackamore is that he still plays with his tongue, gapes open his mouth, flops his lips around. I know that a friend has a horse that likes to play with his bit and decided that I would try something that he could play with. It also has shanks, which seem to change how the bit works in his mouth. He hated the french link I tried a year and a half ago (gaping, tongue thrusting, etc) but seems to like this much better. When he thrusts his head out and up to get away from the pressure, all I have to do is wiggle the rein or move my hand out away from my body, and he immediately relaxes into the bit. He drips foam from him mouth even on trail when he's not asked to ride with contact all of the time. And he listens to it when I ask for him to wait behind Eddy. I had no control in the snaffles I tried - specifically I couldn't get him to stop - but I can in this bit. And so far it hasn't caused him to bite his tongue or pinched the edges of his mouth, which was a real issue in the Myler bit we were using.

  2. scary. We have some sections in our closest forest that used to be personal property (now state park) where hidden barbed wire is under the grass. I don't go off trail anywhere near there. I would think a multi-use trail would use smooth wire at least! I am glad it turned out OK, and a good reason to have a small emergency/medical kit! I always have something like vet wrap/a bandana/bandages in my saddlebag, because shit happens! So glad Jay and Coyote were prepared!

    But before the barbed wire part the trails are lovely. We don't get much color here, so many trees are pine or evergreen oak, so seeing all the lovely color is wonderful! And that river looks like a perfect place to rest.