On Sunday, J and I went for a ride at Chatfield. It was just the two of us, so it was perfect for an exploring ride (which J knows is my favorite). We packed a lunch and headed out. This weekend, Ashke walked right on the trailer after pulling back exactly one time. We got there and I got him tacked up fairly quickly. He was being a snorty, spooky idiot however. I have no idea why, but think maybe it was the number of horses being ridden in the area that had him on edge. I hand walked him to the end of the parking lot before getting on and he seemed pretty edgy but listened well. He stood for mounting, then we headed out.
We opted to follow the sandy road/trail that cuts south from the parking lot along the east side of the South Platte, toward Waterton Canyon but on the other side of the river.
The footing was really sandy, which is okay for Ashke, but not so good for J. Sand is hard on a bike, because it causes the front tire to not want to travel in a straight line and it bogs down the tires, making it harder to go forward. Sand also means the downhills aren't as fun, because having your front tire suddenly turn perpendicular to the frame of the bike results in a rotational fall.
We must have seen at least eight groups or individuals riding out on Sunday.
Ashke was telling me there was a lone rider to our left he really thought could use a companion.
Coming up on Dead Horse Lake.
Legend has it a QH horse was ridden into the lake in full tack, got bogged down and drowned. Hence the name. I think it's Urban Legend, but have no proof either way. This lake has a gravel bottom, at least close to the edge, which leads me to think we could play in the water if the name wasn't so forboding.
Ashke heard the geese and ducks on the lake.
J got herself a pair of arm sleeves for her bday. She got them to protect her arms from being sunburned without having to wear a jacket, which is hot. The sleeves acted as coolers, allowing the air to flow through and keep her skin cool. She had goosebumps along her arms after putting them on. For all you endurance riders out there - this might be a great thing to try. She really liked them.
At the end of the lakes (there are three) we took the trail up to the Highline canal, instead of crossing Willow Creek (was a little cool for J to take her shoes and socks off to cross the creek) and then going up to the Highline Canal.
Can you see her? They were very well camoflaged. There are actually three does in this photo, but I can only find the one. They were very curious about the beautiful, magical Unicorn who was visiting. They followed us down the canal for a bit, until they got spooked.
Ashke was very interested in them. Although he was only distracted from the grass for a short time. This was where we stopped for lunch.
We did a lot of nice trotting. J had to laugh at my massive arms (wind filled the sleeves).
We cantered a lot of the canal, where there were no obstacles, after Ashke shied sideways at a dog behind a fence and almost landed on top of J.
I made her stay in front when we were cantering after that.
We came down off the canal to play in the river bottoms.
This is Plum Creek. The Highline Canal (which I had hoped I could ride all the way around the Reservoir on) ends at Plum Creek. There is a private residence (Boarding Stables) at that junction that is closed to the public. Ashke and I wandered into the water. He didn't drink but he did offer to lay down.
We wandered down through the trees.
Although there was a lot of sand and rough going for J, she still said that Chatfield is her favorite place to ride.
This tree looked like a flame. I wish I could turn it into a tribal tattoo.
I would get it tattooed on my back (like the Briar Rose in the Kushiel Series by J Carey) from the top of my butt to the base of my neck.
It was starting to get green. Some buds and leaves on early trees.
Lots of bugs already.
Exploring all the ways.
J and her many colors.
I don't worry about losing her when she's in front.
It was beginning to get hot. It hit all of 64, but it felt hotter. We took a second break and let Ashke graze for 20 minutes or so while we rested and ate chocolate.
The trail back along the edge of the water.
The tail end of the ride and reservoir.
The last hill before the trailer. We were all pretty much done in. It was hot and Ashke was acting a touch lethargic.
When we got back to the trailer, Ashke refused water and his mash (he's never done that before). I used the five gallons of water I had to rinse down his neck and back, but he's still so hairy that the water didn't really penetrate. While I was trying to decide if I had broken my horse, a car going by on the nearby road, suddenly squeeled to a halt, threw a quick U turn (on a blind curve no less) and came screeching into the parking lot. The stopped abruptly by us and three or four people piled out of the car and came running up behind Ashke gushing about the horse. I was not in the mood. I snarled at them to not run up behind my horse or they were going to get kicked (Ashke could have cared less, but still).
One of the guys said, "Uhh, my girlfriend wants to pet your horse."
I snarled back, "I am not a petting zoo." Then I turned away to deal with Ashke.
The guy said, to his girlfriend, "I guess the bitch isn't going to let you pet him."
Dogs and horses seem to be public property when you are out on trail. I am usually a little more pleasant when dealing with little kids, however, I don't have to tolerate adults acting like fools.
Ashke still was not interested in any food or water. He kept pulling me toward the trailer, so we loaded up and headed home. My gut feeling was he was overheated and I needed to get him cooled out. I didn't even think about walking down to the river and letting him go in. I could have ridden him in bareback. I just thought we needed to get home. Panic will do that to you.
One thing to note, he had a handful of gravel between the gaiter and his pastern on his left front foot and a three inch stick in the same spot on his right foot. I could feel that something was not right, but hadn't thought to check the gaiters. Note to self: check the gaiters at all stops. It didn't rub or cause a bruise, but I do think it was annoying him.
When we got back to the barn, I took him out and sprayed him off with the hose. I could see him sigh with relief as we sprayed and squeegeed him until the water ran off him cold. We did the same distance this week as the week before in about the same temperature and in the same area of the state. However, someone suggested that when the hair begins to loosen but hasn't come off, it can be even hotter than they are used to. Either way, the cold water did the trick. Ashke looked great afterwards and had a good long drink and his mash when he got back into his stall.
I resolved a new game plan going forward, at least until he sheds out.
Stay consistent with my riding (4 or 5 times a week).
Except for the very cold, very snowy last two weeks of February and the first weekend in March, this has been pretty consistent. Of course, I have not pushed Ashke when he is feeling off, but we did manage to work through the soreness issues we have faced and gone on. It was hard during that three week period to find the energy or desire to ride in temps in the teens when we had enjoyed some incredible riding weather with temps in the upper 60's. February was the month that had a record breaking high temperature of 72 and record level snow fall. Guess which came first . . . . Colorado is bi-polar at best. Going forward, it's probably going to be four days of riding each week. I have too much to tend to with a 15 year old, Driver's Ed, Cross-Country and daily house stuff to really stick to five days a week. My goal is two trail and two arena rides per week.
Four Season Riding
We got the winter part in, at least where riding on trail was concerned. Last year for the first quarter, I rode 19.25 miles on trail. This year I rode 109.25 miles. That included a three week break where we didn't ride in the snow, plus time off for the expo and WE demo day. That's a huge increase and I'm very happy with where we are. So far, we have only tried one new trail (Barr Lake) but we do have plans to explore more terrain as the spring and summer goes on. Ashke is still loving trail riding and J and I are putting together a list of our favorite rides (love East-West and Chatfield is amazing). And goals. Like riding all of the way to the start of the Colorado Trail up Waterton Canyon. Maybe next weekend. Who knows. And some of my buds in HCWE are interested in meeting up to ride Dowdy Draw, which would be incredible!!
Ride 500 miles
We have managed to ride 109.25 for the first three months of the year. Finishing up with the same amount of mileage as we rode the final three quarters of last year would put us over the goal. I am pretty confident that it is doable. However. Things have changed since I made that goal and I am okay with the changes. In fact, I'm really excited for once to work on my dressage tests for WE and to see how we progress this year. When I set this goal last year, I had no idea that HCWE would become a club, or that there would be an opportunity to work with a WE specific trainer, or that there would be more than one schooling show I could show at. If I don't make the 500 miles it's because I have goals with WE that I didn't realize I might be able to accomplish this year when I was goal setting in January. Time spent in the arena working on my WE will be time taken away from the trail, although I do hope to do a lot of work during the week in the arena. Also, I have a good trainer now and will need to schedule lessons with her, which by default has to be on the weekend. Plus shows and practice and play days, all of which are a great trade off from meeting my mileage goal. I am so excited about the WE Club and all of the events that are planned. We have so much to learn and practice.
Work on my Working Equitation
This is the area where this year might see the biggest change from what I expected to what it will end up being. In so many ways it's more exciting than I have words for that I am on the ground floor of this discipline, at least in Colorado. Keith (on Cody) at the Demo day said that WE is "this" tall, and it has the potential to be " T H I S" tall and he's right, the sky is the limit.
What that looks like for me: WE specific lessons, play dates and demos, clinics, the Expo, actual riding outfit, and WE specific training when riding in the arena. I'm so excited I am almost squeeeeeing as I sit at my computer. Trust me when I say, this is definitely a priority for me this year. Not only do I love this sport, but I like and admire the people organizing, mentoring, training and participating in this sport. At least the ones that I've met so far. Camping with my family
This hasn't happened yet, but we have our first camping trip planned for June (although we are cutting it short for a schooling show) and will probably go camping at least over Memorial Day in May. Plus, a weekend in July. Ponyboy will have to do without me for that time.
So far, I am right on track with the goals I set this January. Overall, I am really happy and excited about what we are doing and how we are progressing.
There's is awesome news for anyone who lives in Colorado (Front Range) and is interested in Working Equitation. High Country Working Equitation has joined together as a Club. They had two booths at the Expo, and I joined then. It is awesome because a Club means that they can get insurance to put on shows, and more shows mean an opportunity to hone skills. Schooling shows mean an increased opportunity to participate in a rated show (who wants to go to a rated show without at least showing at a schooling show?) All of this means that perhaps I could actually go to the Haras Cup next year and show Ashke in WE against the top riders in the US.
That is pretty awesome news, if you ask me.
For those of you who might be interested, you can find more information and ongoing clinics, play days and schooling shows at
Yesterday was High Country Working Equitation's Demo Day for anyone who might be interested in seeing what WE is all about. I went 1) because it's my club, 2) because I really enjoy the people who are at the forefront of this discipline in Colorado, and 3) even because I have been chasing this discipline for two years now, there's still a lot I need to learn. The Demo Day offered introduction to and instruction in all four phases: dressage, Ease of Handling, Speed Trial, and Cattle Working.
Currently, there are two Working Equitation Managing Groups: WEIAUSA and USFWE. These would be similar to USDF and have entered into discussions about merging the two groups into one force, but I guess a combination of politics, agenda and an argument over the proper "Uniform" for US riders when competing at the International Level has slowed that process down. HCWE is convinced that eventually it will be resolved, but in the meantime, HCWE is not affiliated, per se, with either group and will be using the tests and rules from one or the other for their schooling shows. The two groups need to resolve their issues and combine before a Working Equitation organization can be recognized by the USEF, which needs to happen if any US rider wishes to ride in International Competition.
During the Dressage Phase of the Demo yesterday, there were four tests performed. Two of the tests were from the WEIUSA and two were from USFWE.
Level 1: Introductory Test (WEIAUSA)
Rider is Kitty McLaughlin, who provided the wonderful facilities. Her place is Circle Star Arena and both the indoor and outdoor arenas are incredible. She is riding a QH gelding, whose name I am unsure of, (maybe Joey?) who is a reigning pole bending Champion. Doing dressage is new to him.
The Introductory Level is Walk/Trot mostly, with some canter
Kitty is demoing the Western style of tack and attire. She rode the Intro test from WEIUSA.
Chris Stanko and C O performing the Intermediate Test
They are a very good team.
She looks phenomenal on C O.
Dressage Test Level 4: (USFWE)
Isabel Sheets on Destiny
Destiny is a 4th Level Dressage horse and Isabel has won her Bronze Medal with the USDF. They were amazing to watch.
Destiny is Friesian, TB and Percheron. (She is especially cute herding baby cows).
Those were the four dressage tests they presented. I know, you really didn't see anything other than pictures of pretty horses. It was too dark to video though. I learned a lot. It was wonderful to have Leslie M, with whom we rode the Teller Trail last fall, there to answer technical questions. She spent the weekend of the Expo at the place where they hold the Haras cup in a Judge's seminar. Rules like: you can ride with either one hand or two hands, even in a curb bit. However, it is one or the other. If you start with two, you finish with two. If you start with one, you finish with one. We talked about attire and making sure that what you are wearing matches with the tack you have on your horse. One of the things that was pointed out, is that there were four very different horses ridden in different ways that all were able to do the dressage tests presented.
I felt a lot more confident about the dressage test for Level 2.
Then we moved to Ease of Handling. A pictoral
The Ease of Handling is the most fun, in my opinion. I really had a great time watching the different combinations work through the course. One of the things I learned is that a simple change is accomplished at a walk. So canter-walk-new lead-canter.
Then there was some cattle handling.
Keith runs a cattle penning clinic at Circle Star Arena. I am hoping that maybe in July, we can go.
Holder - to keep the sorted cows away from the others
Damn, damn cute!!
The food at the end of the Demo was wonderful. A shout out to the trainers, including Allison who did not ride, but rather MC'd the Demo. It was an incredible day.