Thursday, February 26, 2015

TA&WFTJ Blog Hop: Winter Woes

This winter has been a tough one for equestrians. We have seen torrential rains, deep mud, unending snow, bitter winds and record lows. Words like The Pineapple Express, The Siberian Express, Polar Vortex and El Nino have meant less riding time and more time staring out the window at the weather. This winter has left barns devastated by collapsing roofs, trucks stranded in hub deep mud and frostbitten fingers and toes. All of this has led to our first blog hop. Thee Ashke and Wait for the Jump have teamed up to ask:
1.What is the worst (and/or best) of this winter?
2. What is the worst storm/winter you've ever experienced? Did you have to dig your way out of your house through feet of snow after an epic blizzard? Did you survive a tornado? Have you lived through a hurricane? Tell us!
3. What is the best winter you've ever had? What made it so special?
You don't necessarily have to talk about snow. This is a hop for equestrian bloggers to bitch about the weather as much as they want, and to help those that are tired of winter to not feel alone! "Winter" is not limited to amounts of snow or cold temperatures. In the West Coast, winter involves torrential rains and green things. In the South, it means ice storms. In Florida, it is synonymous with the most beautiful time of the year. In Australia and Argentina, winter is all about summer heat. Everyone is welcome to participate, regardless of climate!
This winter has been a mixed bag, as far as weather goes on the Front Range.

Winter in Colorado can stretch for six months. We can get storms as early as September and as late as May. I've seen it snow in the middle of July and have seen 60 degree days in December. Typically, our heaviest snow months are March and April, with little snow in the months leading up to that. Temps in the upper 30s and low 40s are normal, with overnight temps in the teens. Usually, there is a cold snap that can last up to a week, with temps in the subzero range. One common weather pattern is a heavy snow followed by a warming trend and Chinook winds, which can hit the upper 90 mph range. We don't have ice storms here, but we do get blizzard conditions, which are defined as a storm which contains large amounts of snow OR blowing snow, with winds in excess of 35 mph and visibilities of less than 1/4 mile for an extended period of time (at least 3 hours).

This winter, we started with snow and a cold snap; that tricksy Polar Vortex, which sent temps plummeting below zero overnight and in the single digits during the day. That was late in October, I believe. Since then we have alternated snow storms with warm days, where the snow melts away and the ground dries up. Most of those snow storms have brought between two and ten inches, but none have been severe enough  to close schools or roads. The Front Range is pretty good at snow removal and most of the tenants in this region are decent at negotiating snow covered roads. I travel about 25 miles to work five days a week and although the commute has been slow a couple of times, I've always made it in. And so far, I have managed to get to the barn every day to check on Ashke since we moved to SQA. 

I can't really complain about the weather. For our area, it's been a good combination of sun and snow, since lack of snow equals no water for the Front Range and that results in increased hay prices; I would rather have the snow and pay less in board. Our area averages 300 days of sun a year, and a good amount of those fall during the winter. The snow melts quickly and the grey doesn't usually hang around too long, which is great for those with seasonal depression. 

Our worst storms this winter have been the ones where the blowing snow and dropping temperatures have created ice on the roads. Schools don't close unless we get more than +12" of snow in less than 12 hours with wind overnight, otherwise, snowplows can clear the roads. In the ten years T has been in school I can count the number of snow days on one hand. That's right, ten years and fewer than five days off of school. Our most difficult storms happen when the snow is heavy and wet and falls faster than an inch an hour, with upslope winds bringing moisture from the Gulf of Mexico. Those are the storms that result in snow totals more than 30" along the Front Range. Fortunately, or unfortunately, these storms always manage to pick the weekend to happen, resulting in normal school attendance by Monday. It makes T very sad.

The biggest level of stress for me this winter has been moving Ashke from a heated barn to a non-heated barn where he can come and go in his run at any time. In December. For the first time as a horse owner, I have had to deal with blankets (which I didn't have) and worrying about Ashke having enough to eat to stay warm (which is always an issue in the back of my mind). I'm hoping by next winter, Ashke will have the time to grow a winter coat so blanketing will be less necessary. He seems pretty happy to be able to come and go and has made friends with the horses on both sides of him. I wondered when we first came into the barn if he would self-select to stay in the stall, like Playboy next to him. The answer is a resounding no. He prefers to stay outside. I have opted not to blanket his neck, since he's not clipped, feeling that if his core stays warm, his neck and head can get wet. He seems to be thriving in this environment, considering he looks better right now then he has since I got him. He has found a delightful game of bringing snow in on the top of his blanket and shaking it all over his stall, resulting in heavy, wet shavings when I am there in the evening. Either that or he is peeing a river. Overall, he seems to be handling the temps and the blanketing without issue, which is a huge relief for me considering he has shown signs of colic when too warm in the past. That doesn't seem to be an issue any more.

I think the worst travel conditions I've seen this winter, although the snow totals were right around 12", have been the storms in February. The trend has been warm, dry days where the roads and ground absorb heat, then a storm rolls in. The temperature drops 25 to 30 degrees in a matter of minutes as it starts to snow heavy, thick, wet flakes. Typically, this area is known for it's dry snow and it usually takes at least 8" of snow to equal an inch of water (champagne powder is widely sought by skiers) and more commonly it takes 10 - 12" of snow to equal an inch of precip. However, this February the temp changes have been dramatic as the cold front sweeps in, and the combination of wet, slushy roads, high wind and freezing temps, plus snow, have turned the roadways into sheets of ice. This last Saturday, the weather went from annoying to downright dangerous in the time it took to drive from our place to the barn. When we went from the barn to get T, he was thirty minutes late getting back from the ski resort where he spent Saturday skiing, the cold and wet snow had turned the road to ice. The highways were completely FUBARd with traffic and one of the ramps onto I-70 had a pile up of cars against the outside rail. Between traffic and the storm, our twenty minute drive home took better than two hours.

The best part of this winter has been the trail riding I have been doing. My goal was to do four season riding, getting out on trail in the weather rather than despite the weather. We have done that and I have managed at least 30 miles a month since October, with most months being closer to 40 trail miles. Of course, most of this riding has been done in decent enough weather, with sunshine or thin clouds and temps at least in the 40's. This is a huge jump over last year and both Ashke and myself are ecstatic at being out of the arena on the weekends. Riding during the winter brings the added benefit of being able to ride those same trails during all four seasons, of watching nature change from barren and brown, to bright green, to deep green and finally to the colors of fall.

We've had two really cold rides: the first in a snow storm with just J and I, which was magical and wonderful. This was a planned cold ride in the snow and wind. We were dressed for the weather and it gave us a chance to see what worked and what didn't. This really has been the only planned ride out in an active storm this winter, though. Mostly because we have been graced with great weather in between bouts of winter. It's easy to wait to ride out when the forecast says it's going to be 60 in a couple of days.

The second cold weather ride was the ride at Flatirons Vista with K, W and Eddy. That was completely unexpected and none of us were dressed for the conditions. 

When we left the barn that day it was sunny and 52. Ten minutes down the road, as we crested a hill, there was a wall of dark grey storm descending across Boulder and heading our way. When we parked the trailer and climbed out of the truck, the temps had dropped considerably and the sun was gone. There was a bitter cut to the wind and I immediately regretted not bringing my Carhartt coat. I had a rain coat/windproof jacket stuffed in my pack, a Northface skull cap that fits under my helmet and my winter riding gloves, which kept me from losing my fingertips to the bitter cold. W were able to scrounge up a thermal hat for W and some extra gloves. As we rode out across the Vista, I was still holding out hope that we could do the Community Ditch trail (that was the original plan), however J, W and K were not excited about extending our ride. (My kind of stupidity is what got people killed in past centuries in this kind of weather.) The temp was 19 when we got back to the trailer and I have never been happier to to have had my plans for a ten mile ride over ridden by the sane part of our group. It took the better part of the day to warm up from that ride. Note to self: always over pack for any winter adventure.

Our worse winter storm from my childhood happened when I was seven or eight (maybe?). The snowfall was fast and furious, and the winds were high. These are always dangerous conditions in the west as they result in huge rolling drifts that can cause more trouble than the actual snowfall. Our electricity went out for three days. We built a fire in the fireplace and slept in sleeping bags on the floor of the living room. My father broke out his campstove and we cooked on it or over the fire. I can remember popping jiffy pop popcorn over the fire one night after dinner. It was cold and the snow was drifted deeper than the five foot high front steps at the front of our house. When the snowplows finally made it through, the piles of snow in the front of the house were almost as tall as our roof line. Luckily, our pantry was always well stocked and we had plenty to eat, with water from our well. I don't think we had a lot of farm animals at that point, or I wasn't responsible for them, since I don't remember having to take care of them.

The worse storm I have experienced was in 2003. We drove to Idaho to my mom's house for the holidays. Traveling across Wyoming in the winter is a white-knuckled experience, with incredible wind, white-out conditions and black ice on the roads. The tried and true method of tail-gaiting a big rig at 20 mph (the tail lights are the only thing you can see in the swirling wind) got us to Rawlins before they closed the highway. By the time we reached my folks place, in Southeast Idaho, we were a frazzled mess of nerves and anxiety and we barely reached safety in time. A storm blew in that night that deposited almost four foot of snow and had sustained winds over 50 mph. A true blizzard. We woke the next day to drifts in the front of the house taller than the cars. The drive way was one solid snow drift taller than my head. Thank goodness for the generosity of neighbors. The guy up the street brought his snowblower down. It was six feet tall, eight feet wide and powered by his tractor. He backed in down the driveway and removed all of the snow, blowing it fifteen feet away into the nearby field. The kids, including T, created forts in the snow walls on either side of the driveway. It took several hours of shoveling to extract the vehicles from the walls of snow. Thankfully, that was the last of that weather until we were able to head home.

The winter of 2006-2007 was the most consistently snowiest winter I have seen in Denver. It started on the 17th of December and snowed 33". Every weekend for 10 weeks, we got more snow. The totals were between 8" and 10", and there was so much snow that CDOT started using bulldozers to load it into semi trucks and taking it out of the city to dump on empty lots they had to rent. Some of those lots were thirty feet high with snow and it didn't melt until late June. That was the winter T and I played The Star Wars Saga on the Wii for hours on end at home, so obsessed that we stopped doing anything else. That winter single-handedly got us out of our severe drought by the time it was done.

All of these winters were before I had a Ashke. The winters we've had since I brought him home haven't been out of the ordinary. 

I would have to say that this winter is a tie for the best winter ever. We've had enough clear and warm days that Ashke and I are having a blast getting out and exploring the trails. Being able to ride him outside the arena has really helped with his attitude and willingness to work when we are inside the arena. The combination of those activities has completely reshaped his understanding of what I want and expect when we are riding. He no longer fights to race when we canter, he is balanced and sure footed enough to handle the snowy footing and he no longer acts arena sour when asked to ride inside. Additionally, the arena work on our canter has increased his ability to canter on trail (and vis a versa) and directly contributed our cantering through the trees, laughing and giddy on our last trail ride.

The other winter that will always hold a special place in my heart was the winter I got Queenie. When I got her for Xmas the year I was 12, she was green broke and pretty raw. There was ten inches of snow on the ground when I made my way out to meet her for the first time and it hung around for the next three months or so. I spent hours riding her in the snow in the field behind our house, bareback, in a halter and lead rope. The snow acted as both a conditioning tool (harder to move in deep snow), as a throttle on her speed (hard to move fast in deep snow) and as a cushion (in theory it doesn't hurt as bad to fall into deep snow). She was smart and willing and by the time the snow melted she could neck rein, stop on my seat (which is sooo much easier when you ride bareback) walk, trot and canter on command. By May of that year, we were riding every where in my small town of 800 people. That winter though, that was one of the high points of my life. 

I have always ridden during the winter. As a kid, and especially after I was given Queenie, I pretty much rode every opportunity I got, which was always on the weekends. Most of the time, it was just me and my horse out exploring and adventuring. I can remember riding for hours in the snow, until my hands were almost crippled with the cold and I could no longer feel my feet. We would make our way home at Queenie's running walk where I would struggle to pull the bridle from her head (so much more comfortable to ride bareback because at least one part of my body was warm) and then race into the house to stand in front of the heating vent, almost crying as my hands turned from white to red. I was very careful to make sure my horse did not sweat during our rides and brought her home dry and warm. Both of my little fingers were damaged during those rides and I have been unable to straighten them completely since I was in my teens.

Some weekends in the winter, my sibs would join me on foot. Exploring and following the canal was a favorite adventure. There was one trip my sister still remembers where we were following the canal for miles and miles (we thought we walked far enough to have reached the nearest town six miles away). There were fences in the empty canal to cross, abandoned farm equipment to explore and traverse, and all matter of new barn yards to peruse in our travels. We would always make our way home, snow covered and shaking with the cold, but that never deterred our desire to adventure out again.

As I finish this, our weather has reverted to winter. Again. We have snow in the forecast for the next eight days. March seems to be coming in as a Lion. 

Updated: Denver officially broke a 103-year-old record for snowfall in February and we still managed 37.75 trail miles!!

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Sunday, February 22, 2015


It was somewhat surreal on Saturday to realize a week ago I did a 14 mile ride up Waterton Canyon in my shirt sleeves. This Saturday was spent in a garage, in my bib overalls and Carhartt jacket, with a space heater, directing, and on occasion, actually helping craft Babe. My little "I'm going to ride all winter" happiness bubble is absolutely burst like a soap bubble in the cold. Little shattered pieces of ice bubble every where. Laying on the 7" of snow we woke up to.

J and I loaded up 1 MDF panel (4 x 8), 3 ten foot 4 x 4 pine boards, 3 ten foot 1 x 3 pine boards, and 1 ten foot .5 x 1 pine board, plus various pieces of hardware, our drill, drill bits and a hammer. It was especially fun loading all of that in the truck with the four bales of shavings already in there. Once it was tied down so the MDF panel could not kite away on us, we headed for a friend's house to use their garage for the day. The husband of the house, M, was like a kid in a candy store being able to work on a project. (He was so cute.)

Babe from the interwebs.

J had drawn the picture I had picked off the internets onto the MDF board. My plan (which was sketched out onto a yellow pad) was to position the ball just above the horns, then have a pole with the ring a couple of feet above that, and finally, have the quintain at 7.5 feet from the ground. That way all three options are in a line on the right side of the bull. The MDF panel is 8' long, so we needed to support both ends, while making it sturdy enough to survive a galloping lance hitting the quintain. We also had to make it possible to be moved by one person.

Making the first cuts on the bull.

M did all of the jigsaw work, while J and I held the wood. He did a great job with the jigsaw.

The hind end and a pointy tail.

We changed the horns to curving upwards, to hold the ball just above them. 

The entire bull. Booyah.

Building the stands for the bull to hang on

The tallest post is set right behind the bull's shoulder and we used 24" legs for that post to give it enough stability.

We used the 4x4 posts for the stand and the 1 x 3's for the legs.

The big parts are put together.

The post on the far left is the structure to hold the ball. I have a plastic bowl I will attach to the top of the post after painting the structure. The post above the shoulder is for the ring and the quintain. We used deck strapping which was attached to the 4x4 post and then drilled holes through the MDF panel. We attached the bull to the posts with carriage bolts and wing nuts, to facilitate ease of movement. We can take the bull off of the posts and move them all separately, other wise it will be both heavy and bulky.

Back home in the basement awaiting paint.

We are still needing two brackets to attach the front pole to the horn, and the bottom of the back post to the lower back leg. The green bowl in sitting in place, but I think we need to jigsaw it so it's more shallow than that (it will hold the ball better) and then attach it. We need to purchase rings (I'm thinking Babies R Us) to hang on the L-bracket attached to the wood. When standing in front of the bull and approaching on the right side, all three targets are pretty much lined up, but have enough distance between them to be able to safe negotiate all three options. 

Once we had the parts done that we could finish in the garage, we loaded up the bull and stands. (Thanks M for all of your hard work and input. Thanks A for the pizza at lunch time, since we were about to expire.) Then we went to the hardware store to get a garoucha pole (they were all warped) and the last of the brackets. They didn't have the brackets we needed, so we will have to try the more female friendly store. 

The drive home.

The weather this weekend was two fold. We had a storm come in on Friday night and dump any where from a skiff of snow in some places and up to 10" in others. We got about 7" at the house and about 5" at the barn. It got a bit warm and the roads were running with slush and water. Then the second storm came in and the temps dropped in fifteen minutes. Everything that was wet was suddenly frozen and the visibility dropped to 50'. The snow was coming in sideways. We would have stayed home, but we had to drive out and check on Ashke, plus picking up the boy from his day of skiing.

The drive out was bad but the drive home was worse. We got to the barn about twenty minutes later than would have been normal. Ashke was in his mid-weight blanket, but had obviously been out in the snow since there was two inches of snow sitting on the top of the blanket. The blanket was wet and Ashke was too. He was wet from his head through his shoulder (the mid-weight blanket doesn't fit as well through the shoulder) and I was afraid the mid-weight would not be warm enough with the cold snap that we were expecting. I swapped it out with the heavy-weight blanket, which fits much better. J and I unloaded the shavings and picked out his stall. Then we went to get T. He was thirty minutes late. In that hour, the traffic situation became completely crap. It took us two hours to make a twenty minute drive. Thankfully, we were in the truck.

We woke up Sunday morning to about eight more inches of snow. Every thing under that snow is icy and very slick. Instead of doing something fun, I cleaned the house. Then J and I braved the roads and the snow to go out and feed Ashke. He was warm and dry. It was obvious he had spent the night inside, since there were several piles in his stall (he almost always goes outside to poop) and the shavings were very wet. I cleaned out the mess and we gave him another bale of shavings. It's supposed to be close to zero tonight and I wanted him comfortable.

Tomorrow, we ride and I get to play with my garoucha pole. T, lucky dog, gets to sleep in.

Friday, February 20, 2015


I was noting Ashke's conformation last night. He is probably shading close to a six on the BCS, with no ribs showing, but easily felt with the fingers. His wither on the left (which has always been underdeveloped in comparison to the one on the right) has filled in, which was obvious when I was riding him since the saddle is level side to side. Additionally, along his spine are wide bands of muscle running from the withers to the loins. I am thinking of mapping his back as comparison, especially at the withers. The combination of the Alta Escuela and all of our trail miles is shaping the muscle and his form.

The question then becomes how does all of this new muscle translate under saddle when asked to perform in the arena?

Last night I planned on doing some of the elements from the dressage test portion of the Working Equitation Level 2 test, prompted by an exchange on the WE page on Facebook yesterday. See, I have a very bad taste in my mouth left over from my dressage experience of a year ago, combined with riding my horse in a non-accepted non-dressagey bit. However, the comments on FB were correct. The principles behind dressage are necessary for both the dressage test and the Ease of Handling phase of WE. If I want to be competitive, we need to be able to be successful at those elements, in the bit we are riding in right now, which Ashke loves.

We started out the way we always do with a free walk in both directions. Then I asked for contact and flexion at the poll at the walk. Ashke gave it to me immediately, except when moving right in the corner of death. After walking with contact for a couple of turns, I thought "trot" and he lifted up into the sweetest trot without flinging his head and maintaining the contact I had. We tried that a couple more times. It was a bit tougher to the right, but overall, much improved from the last time we deliberately tried.

Then we moved on to the canter. For over a year, we have worked on being more forward and less flexed at the poll when traveling at the canter. For one, a lot of our canter work has been on trail and I want him to be able to use his head and neck to balance when needed (especially when cutting through the trees). Having his head behind vertical makes it more difficult for him to judge distances and make decisions about where to put his feet, so although I do ask him not to giraffe, I let him chose how to carry us. Second, when we were cantering last winter, head low and maybe a touch behind vertical, he was very heavy on the forehand and did not feel balanced at all. Last night, when I asked him to flex at the poll and maintain contact with me, he felt much more balanced at the canter than before. Additionally, he was able to lift into the canter with one step, in both directions.

This is huge progress for us. I actually feel like we might be able to be successful in riding a dressage test.

The things Ashke is getting correct:
  • Picks up correct lead every time
  • No longer on the forehand when flexing at the poll
  • Maintains his circle when moving to the right
  • Has nice bend (can see his eyelashes) when moving to the right
  • Has a great upward transition from trot to canter, and a decent one when going from the walk to the canter
Things we still need to work on:
  • Rushes both the trot and the canter to the right (especially when the Evil Corner is behind us)
  • Bend to the left is more difficult (As with all things, this used to be our good side)
  • Is falling in on his left shoulder when circling to the left (I'm pretty sure this is an outside rein thing, but didn't seem to be able to correct it last night)
  • Downward transitions seem to be a bit abrupt, especially from the canter (need to work out the difference between Stop-Right-Now and Slow-To-A-Trot, since Ashke seems to think the SRN is the only appropriate response)
  • Geometry (I don't do anything straight. And circles are wobbly)
I have asked J to come out and video us one of these weekends (since the weather is definitely going to curtail our riding out) so I can show you how we look. Maybe ride the dressage test for level 2, which we have never attempted in the curb bit.

Tomorrow we build the bull and I get my garoucha pole made. I'm looking forward to doing some of the Doma Vaquera exercises with the pole just to get Ashke completely desensitized and because I think it's cool.

And, as a final not, I think pulling the barley fodder was the correct choice. Ashke was completely sound on all four, and his hooves seem to be growing in without ridges. 

Wednesday, February 18, 2015


After our wonderful ride on Saturday, winter returned.

We got several inches of heavy, wet spring snow between Sunday afternoon and Tuesday morning. Tuesday topped the snow with sustained winds of about 20, which picked up the top layer of snow and threw it around like it was still snowing.

Why is it I was so ready to ride in the weather (snow and cold be damned) back in December, but now that we've had a couple of weeks of mid-60's temps I am all about the coming spring.

Ashke is getting several days off.

I might ride on Thursday night, after work, in the arena. I may even try my Raised Rockin' S snaffle and see how he does in it, since it's been a year since I have been riding in it. Then he's going to get some more time off over next weekend. The temps are going to dip into the teens with snow from Friday night until Monday morning. Next week looks like the weather will continue.

Mid-winter break is not a bad thing. My decision not to ride is based on the temps dropping low enough that he might have issues with his hip, plus my body is still and sore when it is cold, and finally, we have a bull to finish.

On another note, Ashke's feet seem to be growing in smooth, so taking the barley fodder away seems to have corrected the issue.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Valentine's Day

My Valentine's Day had two parts:


 Friday night I pulled into the barn at 4:20. I was on Ashke by 4:45. We rode across the street at Van Bibber Park. It was mid-60s when we rode out and I was in a short sleeve shirt with a fairly thin vest.

The light was incredible.

Ashke was very good, even with the chill night air and the deepening shadows.

We went to the Apex Field House and rode the edges of the soccer fields, then rode back. By the time we were half way home it was coming on full dark and the t-shirt and vest were not enough. I was so cold.

We were still a mile and a half away from the barn when I took this pic.

When we got back to the barn, I stripped tack and put Ashke away. I was so cold I threw Ashke's blanket on him. This came back to bite me in the ass when I got home, showered, got warm and realized the low was going to be 40 and it was still in the mid-50's. We had to drive back out and take the blanket off. Ashke was pretty sweaty on his shoulders when I got there. I think he was pretty happy to have the blanket off.

Waterton Canyon

Saturday dawned early. I asked T if he would do a ride with us on Saturday as my Valentine's gift. (It was also a gift from J, since she got to deal with him the most). We wanted to do the same ride as last weekend, because we thought it would be easy enough for T to do and enjoy. We got out to the barn about 20 minutes late, hooked up the trailer and loaded Ashke on the first try. (He was awesome). When we pulled into TMR, Eddy went nuts in the turn-out pen he was hanging out in. He was galloping, bucking and squeeling in excitement. We got K's tack loaded and then Eddy walked on the trailer, first try.

At the parking lot at Chatfield, we discovered that Eddy was a bit wound up. He was being a bit up and we had one really bad spook, which included rearing and knocking K onto her butt (she's pretty darn tough woman, that one). Once they were both tacked up, K spent a few minutes lunging Eddy, who was perfect with her, but the lunging allowed K the time to focus, relax and center herself. We got on and both of them were very good.

Crossing the South Platte

I think Ashke is still figuring out the exercise boots. I like that at the end of the ride, his tendons are tight and his legs cool. Of course, it doesn't hurt that we are in the water four times on this ride. 

Proof the T-beast was with us

He had a lot of fun throwing stuff into the water (mostly sticks and small trees).

It was supposed to be in the 60's, but I'm not sure it got that warm. There was a high wave cloud hanging over the area all day.

If you were impressed by J's videoing skill before, this video will blow you away.

T didn't actively hate the ride.

Although this was the look on his face most of the day.

The rocks are amazing in this canyon.

And on top of the rocks . . . . do you see them?

The boy did good and kept his complaints to a minimum.

We wandering into the river. The boys splashed but didn't drink. EVER.
Peed a lot though (4 times altogether)


We stopped for lunch at the same place as last time. K tied Eddy up but I just looped the lead rope over the pommel of the saddle and let him graze. You can do this when you are traveling overnights: alternate tying one horse up and turn the other one loose to graze. The loose horse will not leave his companion. 

Such a great canyon and so incredibly beautiful!

We went up another mile and a half. We were about two miles from the top of the canyon.

K had a great ride today and Eddy was stellar.

I was having a good time, too.

There was a sluice way that slowed down and backed up the water, allowing ice to form.
T spent a lot of time throwing the biggest rocks he could find onto the ice, trying to bust through.
It was the high point of the ride for him.

 K and I headed a little farther up the canyon.
Found this little gem.

And this one.

Next time maybe we will get to the top of the canyon.

T was happier on the way home. Because it was downhill, he started to tuck his right leg up behind him, making it look like he was pedaling with one leg only. It was pretty amazing to watch the reactions of the people watching him. 

 He is too cool.

We reached the single track trail along the South Platte river and followed the river bank. T and J rode in front of us and K and I cantered as often as was safe. Ashke got really good at dodging around the trees, cantering up and down slight inclines, and predicting where the path was going to go. It was so much fun that I was laughing out loud in pure joy. 

Overall, the people we ran into were very nice and courteous. Eddy got spooked on the way back and the woman riding up behind us on her bike apologized and asked what she should do differently next time. A lot of people reacted to the horses as if they had never seen horses on trail before and we received a lot of compliments for both of the boys. It was a great ride and a fun day.

It was also Eddy's longest ride to date.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

FOO Blog Hop: A Day in the Life

Tracy of Fly On Over posted this last week and I thought it was such a good idea, so I’m glad she turned it into a blog hop! It’s interesting to see what a typical day in everyone else’s life is like, especially since we all share in the same struggle of trying to balance horses, work, and life. Here’s what a typical day for me looks like:

 5:20 am: The alarm goes off. J hits the snooze for herself and I disentangle myself from the dogs. Skittle stretches and nuzzles me as I try to fight myself clear of blankets and dog legs. The little black kitten trots off the bed and Lily launches herself in pursuit. I pull myself out of bed and stumble to the bathroom.

5:20 - 5:35 am: I sit on the toilet with the little black kitten purring and demanding attention on my lap, while I check my text messages, facebook and emails. Lily plays peek-a-boo with the kitten, who alternatively swats at her nose and tail marks me, murring in demand for attention. J finally gets out of bed, gathers the dogs and heads downstairs. The kitten follows her and I am able to move.

5:35 am: I put in my contacts then climb in the shower.

5:55 am: I get dressed and do my hair, then head downstairs to fix meals. J gets breakfast and lunch in her box: carnation breakfast drink and milk for breakfast, sometimes with a muffin or bagel, leftovers for lunch or on occasion a frozen meal, with snacks and a drink for lunch. T gets a sandwich, chips, fruit and a drink for lunch, or sometimes leftovers to heat in the microwave at school. (He hasn't had school lunch since first grade.) I pack leftovers and fruit for myself. Then I make breakfast for T and I: bacon or sausage, plus some kind of carb (waffles, hashbrowns, toast, muffins, occasionally hot cereal for me). As breakfast is cooking, I run downstairs and fill Ashke's mash bucket with TC Senior, TC Omega Max, Amplify, Equipride, joint supp and Lysine. Then I come up and add a pound or so of carrots cut into chunks, one or two pieces of which I have to share with Skittle.

6:20 am: Holler at T to come and eat. Breakfast is served with OJ. I run through my blog list while we eat and he watches YouTube videos.

6:40 - 6:45 am: Load dishwasher and straighten kitchen. Check for T's keys in his backpack and load all of the things in the car.

6:45 - 6:55 am: Brush teeth, put on shoes, walk dogs, clean back patio (if time - sometimes J does this), load car, holler at T to get downstairs.

7 am - drive T to school. Then drive the 30 minutes to work

7:30 am - 4:30 pm: I'm an HR manager. I routinely handle questions, manage benefits, manage payroll, answer emails, work on projects, talk football with the CFO, eat lunch, find snacks, attend meetings, field phone calls.

4:30 pm: Leave my desk. On days when I ride, I go to the bathroom to change into riding clothes and then head to the barn. On days when I don't ride, I head to the barn. Either way, I'm usually at the barn at about the same time.

4:45 pm: On days when I ride, I start by giving Ashke some alfalfa, then groom him. Pick his feet. Apply exercise boots and then saddle him up. Finally put his bridle on and lead him to the indoor.

On days when I don't ride, I'll go over him with a shedding comb and soft brush, while he eats his mash. Then I pick out his stall and add shavings to it if necessary.

5:15 pm: I walk around the indoor and then begin our ride. We do w/t/c in both directions, interspersed with long stretchy walks and some standing around time. I try to ride for at least an hour.

On days when I don't ride, I'm on my way home.

5:45 pm: On nights when I don't ride, I get home, walk the dogs and grab T to take him to run.

6:15 pm: On days when I do ride, we are finished with the ride by 6:15 and back in the barn. I pull the bridle and feed Ashke his mash, then pull tack while he's eating. I cover him with the BOT fleece cooler and leave it and the exercise boots on while I wipe down my saddle and pick out his stall. When he is cool and mostly dry, I pull the BOT and blanket him for the night. One last kiss and I'm on my way home.

On the nights that T runs, we are at the gym by 6:15 where I sit and time his run, shouting encouragement and suggestions at his angry face as he runs by.

7 pm: Home again. I start dinner, or help J finish dinner, depending, and we eat. T regales us with stories of the xbox or funny things he saw online. J and I catch up and then peruse social media. After dinner we clean the kitchen while T plugs back in for another hour or so.

8:30 pm: We all head upstairs to camp on the bed and play with the dogs. T and I read, J plays with her apps, the dogs wrestle and play.

9:30 pm: J has usually crashed by this time. I poke and prod T until he is in bed. Then I sit and read or watch videos (Castle is my current obsession) until 10:30 or so. Then I crawl into bed, feel the dogs settle themselves against my back or legs and drift off to sleep.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015


We are so close to having enough light at the end of my work day that we could ride across the street or along the canal instead of having to ride in the indoor arena. We have 25 more days until Daylight Savings Time begins again, at which point our riding in the indoor will only happen due to high wind or inclement weather. We can handle 25 more days.

I got Ashke groomed and tacked up pretty quickly while he munched on his alfalfa. I paid attention to his hooves, noting the things Saiph had mentioned, both on the blog and in her email (with picture diagrams) explaining and teaching, for which I am immensely grateful. I painted his hooves with Farrier's Fix, which works for thrush and for hardening and taking away the pain. Saiph was correct when she thought that perhaps the shedding frog was making Ashke's RF a little tender. He was completely sound with no hesitation at all on our ride tonight. I wrapped his legs with the BOT exercise boots and headed for the outdoor. There were two horses in the outdoor when we entered, but by the time I hand walked the perimeter a single time and mounted up, the other horses were leaving. Ashke got very agitated, which in turn irritated me, so I dismounted and we headed for the indoor.

When we walked in I turned on the indoor lights. They are halogen vapor lights and take a while to warm up, so we spent the first ten minutes walking in the growing light. Ashke was spooking at the green wall of death, which normally amuses me, but for some reason last night I was highly irritated. It ended up being a small fight, which didn't help either of us. I ended up making him stand still in the corner, with his butt to the fence, until he was motionless and breathing again. I just wanted him to stand without fidgeting or trying to walk off for one minute. It took us almost twenty minutes to achieve that goal.

He shifted. He tried to walk forward. He sidepassed. He turned his head and tried to bite my toes. He messed with the fence. He shied. He stretched forward and then walked off. He flipped his head. He pulled on the reins. He did everything except relax and stand still.

With a horse like Ashke, who is always willing to move forward, who has a lot of energy and enthusiasm, sometimes the hardest thing is to stand still. I have yet to ask him to stand when riding and have him drop his head and cock a leg in relaxation. We are more likely to shift and fidget and move and snort and blow and shake and rock.

We got one minute of relative calm and then I cued him to move forward. He sprang out in a six mile an hour walk, happy to be able to move again, almost jigging in his enthusiasm.

We worked on trotting and did some consistent canter in both directions, although I did get a tad bit tired of fighting him to slow down on the right lead. (I was grumpy. I have food to eat tonight before going to the barn. Low blood sugar can cause me to react this way.) It was warm in the arena and Ashke was wet from ears to flanks when we finished. I walked him until he was cool, then headed to the trailer to get the BOT fleece cooler to put him in when we got back to the stall.

The ground between the indoor and the trailer is covered with rock. Ashke negotiated them without even flinching. I was reminded of a year ago when we couldn't walk from the barn to the indoor at TMR without him reacting so badly he almost went to his knees. His feet are definitely better than they were, much stronger with much thicker sole. His colateral grooves are almost an inch deep. I was proud of my pony. We are moving from Princess to Prince, slowly but surely.

I unsaddled Ashke while he munched on his mash, then covered him with the BOT cooler, leaving the boots on his legs as well. I cleaned all of the shavings out of his stall in prep for adding an additional bag of shavings. Even with turning his stall twice a day, the odor of urine was getting strong, and removing all of the shavings is the only way to really offset that. Once the stall was clean, I pulled a 8 cu bag of pine shavings in, sliced the bag up the long end and then across the short side and dumped it in a compressed pile in the middle of the stall. I walked out to throw the bag away.

Ashke turned away from his food to inspect the pile of shavings, snorting softly. He walked on top of them and then, using his nose and his feet, he proceeded to scatter the shavings throughout the stall. He kept turning like a dog looking for a place to lay down, using his front feet to move the shavings, until he had them the way he wanted. He stood for a second and surveyed his kingdom, then went back to eating. Funniest thing I have watched in a long time. Just wish I had gotten it on video.

I pulled the cooler and then did some grooming. I hate leaving the salt from his sweat in his coat, but it is still too cold to wash him off and this barn doesn't have a heated wash rack, which we use even in the summer. I will groom him very well tonight and then walk for a longer time tonight at the end of our ride in an attempt to dry him off. I figure that he sweated so much because of the overall temps, not the work per say.

Tonight, my goal is to stay calm and be in harmony with Ashke instead of irritated and frustrated. We aren't working on anything but getting into rhythm at the canter. I think he was rushing last night because he could feel that I was frustrated and upset and he was reacting to that. Food is good and tonight it will be better.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Chukar Partridge

I am a bird watcher. I have been known to almost wreck the car craning my neck to check out some flying creature or other. I watch for the pelicans that migrate here for the summer, notice the Blue Herons that move back and forth over the city, listen and watch the nesting pair of Redtails in the cottonwood trees across the street. We have two bird feeders in the front of our place and have had gold finches, house finches, sparrows, chickadees, doves and an albino pigeon feeding there. Today,. however, we found a new bird. Then, we found a whole flock of the new birds.

 Chukar Partridge

There was a flock of eight or so birds hanging out at our condo complex this morning as I was leaving to take T to school. They are native to Afganistan and Nepal, but are raised domestically for bird dog trials (according to a friend of J's who has bird dogs). She suggested they have probably escaped from a breeder and are worth $10 a piece if T wanted to catch them. J and I think that if he were to catch them it would be to make pets of them, instead of turning them over to hunters to kill. 

There are some areas, like the Western slope of Colorado, where there are feral flocks of these particular birds, but not on the Front Range. I don't have a bird book where I record what I see, like some bird watchers, but I still make a note when I see something I haven't seen before.

Sunday, February 8, 2015


This post is for my educational purposes mostly.

Ashke has been barefoot for over two years now, since I first started using M in December of 2012. His feet have looked pretty good for most of that time but now I am seeing stuff I haven't seen before, and frankly, it's freaking me out. He was trimmed by my barefoot trimmer on 1/17.

Front hooves.

There is ridging which has not gone away, so I am taking him off the barley since that was the newest feed introduced. Everything else he has been eating in the past.

It doesn't look like it, but he was standing square. 

Flaring on the inside of the hoof 


Right Front. Lots of flare. This is the hoof I'm the most concerned about.

Ridging almost to the toe.

Right foot. The heel on the inside is low and the bar is almost gone.

Back feet, which have been great for months and I have no real concerns about them.

So, what saith thou, Saiph?