Monday, November 30, 2015


This is my last blog of November, which leaves X,Y and Z out in the cold. That's okay, I was pushing my creativity limit on the earlier posts.

Winter has started here and we have started our winter riding campaign. The trip up Waterton Canyon was after our first winter snow and included temps starting in the low 40's to the upper 20's. Our ride on Saturday started in the 20's and ended in the upper teens. For anyone else who might be crazy enough or daring enough to ride in true winter weather, here are some tips from me, interspersed with photos from our Saturday ride.

Winter Wear:
On our trip up Waterton Canyon I wore my new pair of Kerrits I scored for $40 at a clearance sale at Murdocks last June. I think they were last year's pair of the Sit Tight N Warm Windpro KP. They are nice and thick and I love how they feel. They are much more durable than the Irideons I was wearing last year and the fit is much better. On our ride up Waterton Canyon I wore them by themselves and was very comfortable. On Saturday, I added a wind/water proof shell from REI over the top to add protection. Plus, I layered a pair of insulating long underwear under the breeches. I was really comfortable even after riding for two hours in temps in the low 20s (I don't think it got above 22 degrees on Saturday). I was thankful for the waterproof layer after we walked under an overhanging branch that dumped snow all over us. And then the second time it happened and I was standing in my stirrups leaning forward. It kept my butt from getting wet when I sat down on the pile of snow covering the fleece on my saddle. That was fun.

Forest Service person who took a pic of us crossing the river, which Ashke did not want to do.
Eddy led. I pony club kicked him until he finally gave it up and crossed.

For my top I wore long underwear, a thermal shirt and my Carhartt Rancher Coat. I can not say enough good about Carhartt. It is kick ass at keeping one warm. The Rancher is quilt-lined with water and wind proof outer layer. It has a double zipper so I can raise the bottom zipper just a bit, plus side splits with snaps, so the coat fits well without bunching when I am in the saddle. I was comfortably warm and we didn't ride hard enough to break a sweat. The footing just wasn't that great.

We only had about five minutes of sun. This was it. Otherwise, it was grey.

I wore a Burton ski cap under my helmet. It is made without seams, so it fits under the helmet pretty well. It helped keep my ears and head very comfortable. However, my face was really cold (especially my chin) and if we had gone much longer or if there had been any wind I would have worried about frostbite. I have a balaclava I wore last year, that I will pull out next time. It is fairly thin so it should fit under my helmet and has a drawstring so I can close up the opening around my face. I also have a neoprene face mask that I can wear that will protect my chin, my cheeks and my lips from wind or frost burn.

The boys seemed really happy to be out, although it was a spook fest through the trees.

For gloves I wore a pair of work gloves we got at Murdocks. They are insulated and super warm. I was well enough insulated that I didn't actually wear them until after lunch, because my core was warm and that warmth translated to my hands. K wore a pair of wool liners and leather gloves over the top. She added hot hand handwarmers in between the layers, and her hands were really cold. She's going to try something different next time we ride, since she was pretty uncomfortable by the time we got back to the trailer.

Do you see the grey?

For my boots I wore the boots I got last winter that worked really well last winter. They didn't work on Saturday. I thought I was going to lose a toe my feet were so cold by the time we got back to the trailer. On top of that, the boots didn't agree with the stirrups I am using. They were super slick and I lost my stirrups four times before lunch because Ashke would not stand still. I obviously am not working him hard enough. Time to start dressaging in the indoor. I think I will try my North Face fleece lined winter boots (they have a heel) and see if the slickness is eliminated. I will also add toe warmers to my boots like all of my compadres. (I blame J, since she didn't tell me we had them.)


Heading south. J had a great ride and seemed really happy we were out.

The clouds were banked to our south. It got colder the further south we rode.

We stopped for lunch at the gazebo. Eddy was sure he was supposed to be fed.

K wore her Carhartt overalls. She was very warm, but her flexibility was hindered by the Carhartts. Watching her try to bend her knee to get her foot in the saddle made me happy I was just wearing breaches. I have Carhartt bibs I plan to wear this winter, but just not yet.

Not going to take no for an answer.

Ashke was a bit more subtle.

Lover's eyes. Really working his charm.

After lunch, I was much colder than before. The temps had dropped but I also think adding fuel to our bodies, standing around in the cold and not moving dropped our core temps a lot. That was when my feet started to get cold. The boots I have really aren't designed to stay warm if you are in the snow.

This was one of the overhanging branches covered with snow that caused me to look like the abominable snowwoman.

South Platte River.
We saw Tundra Swans (about 20), Cooper's hawk and some unidentified Eagle.

This is the part of the river trail we usually canter. 
We were luck enough to travel at a fast walk.

We blended into the landscape.

Following us through the snow.

There were parts of the riverbank that Ashke was really cautious about.

He was fairly brave right up to the point where a six point buck came out of the underbrush.
Then every bush was viewed with distrust.

It was very pretty.

By the time we reached the truck I was ready for the hot chocolate I had in a thermos, which didn't work the way it was supposed to. The chocolate was barely warm and not very satisfying. I'm going to look for a small thermos to carry a hearty soup for winter lunch. That was K's idea, but I like it. And find our other thermos to carry hot chocolate in.

We did five miles in about two hours (half an hour stop for lunch). Not super long or fast, but still fun.

Sunday, November 29, 2015


 Means fast.

One of my biggest regrets was not having any media from the Speed Trial at the Working Equitation show. This was one of the most fun things Ashke and I have ever done and it was an amazing event. After feeling like we sucked rocks the first two phases, he came out and kicked ass and took names in the speed round. And now I have the photos to prove it.

The only rules for the Speed round is that there are no rules. Speed it the only thing that matters. Yes, form does help, and you can go faster if your horse can do a flying lead change and a tight canter pirouette. However, as long as you do the obstacles correctly (move objects with your right hand only, enter and exit the obstacle correctly, ring the bell, etc) then however you manage to get it done in the shortest amount of time possible is how you win the phase. It counts the same as the other two phases.

The first change in the Speed round was we were required to do the double slalom first, instead of the single slalom. I could feel Ashke's confusion when I reined him around the first pole.

He could only hold the canter for a couple of poles and then we reverted to a fast trot.

Maybe one of my favorite photos of Ashke of all time.
We were galloping to the second obstacle - the three barrels.

We galloped to the front of the obstacle, I sat back and said whoa, and he slid to a stop.
We did a rollback into the obstacle.

Trotting the obstacle.

Making the turn on the second barrel.

Exited the obstacle and cantered three steps to the gate.

K said it only took us 20 seconds to do the gate.

Galloping with garroucha.

Slowing down to make sure it goes in the barrel.
Dropping it requires getting off, picking up the pole and remounting.

We did a great turn at the canter, but then trotted the second pole.

Very fast into the corridor and a very good reinback.

He sat down right between the poles.
This was the point where I was having issues breathing.

Flying lead changes in the single slalom.

Head straight up in the air.

We were cutting the poles so close, but not touching them.

We slowed enough to go onto and off of the bridge, instead of vaulting it, which is what I was afraid he was going to do.


And over. We will never be eventers.

He jumped me out of the saddle on the way back over after the Livestock pen.
We still made the turn to the reinback corridor.

He started head high, but tucked his chin and powered backward.

I don't think there was a moment where I was more proud than when he stopped and sidepassed flawlessly.

Our race for the finish line.

We finished almost a full minute faster than anyone else. 

Two things we've worked on that really helped: slide stop on whoa, and rollbacks into a gallop. Once Ashke knew it was the speed round, he really kicked it into high gear.

Saturday, November 28, 2015


I got pictures from one of the organizers of the High Country Working Equitation Club. They were pictures of the Ease of Handling and Speed Round, which I didn't have before. They are enlightening.

 Can anyone tell me how to teach him to stand square?
Do you teach it from the ground? I got docked on his stance every time he stopped.

 He stood quietly and without moving. I would have had a better score if he had stood square, and if his chin was tipped down just a bit. (Scored 6)

 I think he looks fantastic here. 
(I wish I looked better.)

 Geometry. Need to work on geometry.

 I like the bend and his reaching with the inside hind leg.
I wish I thought he was doing this naturally, instead of his leg collapsing from his injury.

 He looks pretty good again, but needs more inside bend.
(Scored 6)

 We both look pretty good here.
He's tracking up nicely.

Any time we get to something that requires backing, his head goes up in the air.
That is his look of concentration.
(Scored 6 - Needed to halt on approach to gate.)

 And we need to work on him picking up his feet when he backs, instead of dragging them.

 He's so good at the gate. He knows the moves without me even touching the reins, but he struggles to do it with any relaxation. He looks so braced here, even when he knows how to do the obstacle.

 He is able to relax once we are through it.

Ashke looks very relaxed here. Not worried about the garroucha.

 Picked up the ring.
(Scored 6 - loss of straightness after picking up the ring. Note the ear.)

 Dropping off the garroucha

 The two barrel obstacle.
(Score 5 - no bend or engagement)

 Not as relaxed as he could have been.

 We transitioned to a walk too soon.

 Halt not square.

 Score of 5 for the obstacle.

 No notes on his backing, so that must have been okay.

 Halted crooked, but square.

 Immobile. (Scored 7)

Moving between obstacles is just as important as doing them.

Geometry. Bend. Too darn close to the pole. Turns are not symmetrical left to right.
(Scored 7)

 Approaching the bridge.

I thought he did the bridge very well, considering the decorations.
(Score 7 - loss of rhythm over the bridge)

 Livestock pen. First time ever doing this.
He was very hesitant going through (noted as loss of rhythm) and we made our turn on the forehand way too close to the pen. We should have moved out a couple more feet and not rushed it.

 He did okay with this obstacle considering he had never done one before. And the decorations were very terrifying. (Score 5)

 We do not jump well to begin with. We had not jumped anything like this in two years.
I had schooled him briefly over two straw bales in the warm up pen, but he was still very suspicious.
We hit the pole. (Score 5)

 We stopped before the end of the corridor (should halt with my leg even with the final pole).
He knew we were going to back up and instead of standing still he fidgeted.
(Score 5)

 His reinback was better.

 He was counter bent on the sidepass. He will score more points if he can sidepass with the bend in the direction we are going. 

 And if he could do it without sticking out his chin.

He did better moving in the other direction. 
(Score 6)

We scored a 57.778 on the Ease of Handling, which was almost exactly our score on our dressage test. Those two tests put us at the very bottom of the scoring at the end of those two phases. We kicked ass in the speed round and ended up fourth. All I need to do is bring the first two phases up ten points and I could place in the ribbons. We can improve our transitions, our halts and our rhythm to bring the scores. And continue to work with Ashke to get him to relax through the obstacles he is familiar with.