Ashke and I did a ride on Sunday with K and Eddy (now to be known as Keddy or the Keds) and despite a snowstorm that left 25+ inches of snow and even deeper drifts, the trail was clear. We did the south side loop this time and had a great ride, except for a small melting of Ashke's brain when we took a wrong turn, turned back and then turned away from the trailer again. He threw a mini-meltdown until I stopped fighting with him and instead made him go forward in ten meter circles, alternating directions for ten minutes or so. That covered exactly fifteen feet of trail and he decided it was too much work. He remembered how to horse again, at that point.
We saw more Redtails than we could count, two mated pairs of Great Blue Herons, heard about a thousand red-wing blackbirds in one particular tree, and found a dead long-eared owl in the middle of the trail we took by mistake. J gently moved it out of the road (it was laying on its back with no sign of trauma) and laid it on some weeds in the grass next to the fence. (We let the State Parks people know where to find it on our way out in case they want to do a necropsy to determine cause of death.) That was a sad moment. After we wished it fair winds and strong wings wherever it might be, we continued our ride. We did 7.75 miles in an hour and twenty minutes. So far, we have ridden there four times and all four rides were an hour and twenty minutes long. Our average was just under six miles per hour and both horses looked great when we got back to the trailer.
On Monday night, Ashke and I worked on w/t/c. We also practiced going around the barrels in both directions, neck reining, small circles at a trot and canter, and some rollbacks and quick stops up and down the arena. Ashke was somewhat sweaty when we finished so I let him roll and then took my paint horse back to his stall.
Today, I got an email and found something that I must have:
They are Royal Tendon Boots by Back on Track. They come in Cob sized, which is awesome because the exercise boots I have are too big for Ashke's legs. I'm hoping these are better. I will use them for EOH and trail rides. I must have them. Mother's Day is not too far off.
So the week after Expo, Ashke got time off from being ridden. I went out on Weds and checked his right front to make sure there was no aggravation of the injury. I had hoped to ride with Leslie from HCWE at Barr Lake on Saturday, but the snowstorm we got on Friday pretty much precluded riding. Instead, I went to the barn and got a short but fun ride in on Ashke. We started working on our bend off of the neck rein (and bending in general). I might need to figure out how to get him to bend without collapsing the circle but for now I am happy just getting him to turn with bend without having to drag his head around.
By Saturday afternoon it was obvious that it would be dry and mostly clear at Barr Lake the next day. J and I and Ashke were all jonesing to get out on trail, so we made plans to go. Unfortunately, Leslie had figured we weren't riding due to weather and made plans, so we were forced to go without her. Ashke walked on the trailer like normal and fifteen minutes later we were at Barr Lake. We were the only horse trailer there, and it didn't take long to get Ashke groomed, tacked up and on trail.
Tia, T's godmother, had come up for the weekend and came with us. As soon as I turned Ashke toward the trail, he wanted to run. We did trot circles, backing, and a little bit of fussiness until Tia and J were ready to go. On the other side of the bridge, I held Ashke back to his distance traveling trot and we were off.
Except we weren't. There were issues with bike tires and air. Ashke and I trotted and cantered up and down the canal bank (about half mile total distance) until the problem was fixed and we were on our way again. Ashke either trotted or cantered the entire distance. I think we took three walk breaks all total and none of them lasted more than a couple of minutes. He was feeling good and wanted to cover some ground. We had a good half mile canter on the way out and again on the way back along a stretch of ground that was soft, but firm, with no rocks. We took a side path along a canal until Tia realized her tires were covered in goat heads, so we turned back. Tia started losing a ton of air, so she headed for the truck and J and I continued on.
Eight inches of snow on Friday and this is all that is left by Sunday.
This stretch was the half mile long canter area. We were a little more than half way through.
West End of Barr Lake.
Sometimes trees are amazing.
J taking a pic of me taking a pic.
A brief walk break. Too bad he wont stretch like that in the dressage arena.
We really wanted to go investigate this old barn, but goat heads.
A little slower than last time, but Ashke didn't even break a sweat.
Ever since 1993, I have seen pelicans in the sky in the spring. I see them other times too, but I always see them in the spring. They are hugely impressive birds and have become my internal indicator of spring. (After seeing one eat a live pigeon, they scare the hell out of me, but they are still cool from a distance). This year was no different. On Monday night, on my way to the barn, I saw them in the sky. And not the ten or so I usually see. I saw flights of up to 50 pelicans, in groups of ten to twenty, less than a mile from the barn. I turned around and drove back.
Coming into the small holding pond just off of 168th.
Just landed in the holding pond.
It's hard to get a good idea of their size when you look at pics.
There were thirty or so landing and diving in the holding pond.
Some farmer is going to be upset they stocked this pond.
There was a lake outside of Boulder that had a gold fish problem. Someone had released some goldfish into the lake (because people are idiots) and the goldfish had taken over. There were so many fish that the lake glinted orange in over head photographs. The Fish and Wildlife department was considering draining the lake to get rid of all of the goldfish, since they are an invasive species and not native, and they didn't want the goldfish to contaminate the water ways. Then the pelicans found the lake and within a span of two weeks, they fished out and ate all of the Koi and goldfish (they were pretty good size) from that lake. I guess that is one way to encourage them to come back.
Several of the State parks have flotsam anchored in the middle of the lake to provide nesting grounds for the pelicans. I would never have guessed they would nest so far inland, but our region has an active colony.
Then on Wednesday this happened.
31 inches of snow on the top of my grill. Almost three feet on the back patio.
I haven't tried to go to the barn yet. Maybe tonight, although we are supposed to get another 4" to 8" overnight. I guess there is a massive snow drift in front of the barn on Thursday. We will see if we can get out to see Ashke after Costco tonight.
Friday we rode in the Stadium arena at 10:00 am. J and I got there about 7:30 and spent the first hour picking stalls, filling hay bags and refilling water buckets. Ashke was not as happy this year, as compared to last year, and I blame Morelli ranch for that. I think he is so happy at the stable that he has no desire to spend time any where else. I noted that his leg was almost completely normal (Leslie had to really search to find any puffiness) but walked him into the wash stall to cold hose it any way. I also rinsed the two urine stains from his belly and then took him back and groomed him to shining whiteness. I tacked him up in his blue gear (bridle, saddle pad and breast collar) and thought he looked especially spiffy when I was done. There really wasn't any place to warm up the horses before we rode, so we hand walked over to the stadium arena from the event center.
Ashke turned heads. Like he was so gorgeous that people would walk into walls, looking at him. As we walked through the barn area under the Hall of Education, a woman came rushing down the aisle and gasped "oh my gawd, that is the most beautiful horse evah!!! Can I buy him? Is he for sale?"
I was offended. Really. I answered with a curt and resounding "NO!" and then replied in a slightly less hostile tone "not for love or money" over my shoulder as we kept going. That was before I realized that the horses in that barn were all for sale. It wouldn't have mattered. I think I would have been offended any way.
When we got into the arena, Tarrin had two sets of obstacles set up, one on each side of the long side of the arena. There were nine or ten of us, all told, with varying degrees of experience.
The horse to the right of Ashke and myself is Satori, with Leslie aboard.
Warming up while they were setting up.
Working the drums during our Friday clinic.
Tarrin really focused on Ashke and I doing the obstacles at a canter.
And then at the other end of the arena at a canter.
Working the double slalom with the garroucha pole.
Working the drums again.
Ashke was getting tired and his hips were beginning to strain.
Things I came away with from the clinic on Friday: we need to continue to work on him being able to maintain his bend around an obstacle from the neck rein, which means we have to work on his neck reining, he needs to move better off my leg and seat, which ties into the neck reining, and he has to get stronger in the hind quarters so he can maintain the proper bend instead of trying to counter bend at the canter. The counter bend was the only way he could maintain his right lead canter in the back. When he bends to the inside he loses the hind end and cross canters. He is getting stronger all of the time and this is something we can work on in the arena and on the trail. This goes back to his weakness in that right hind and how his leg had atrophied and collapsed under him when I first started working with him. Lots of lateral work and small circles. These are all things we can work on and I have a couple of exercises I've already implemented.
After the clinic, we tucked him into his huge stall with plenty of food, and went to find lunch and goodies. I ended up buying a customized blue and silver breakaway halter with his name on the side piece. It looks really good on him. We found food and stopped by several booths. We stopped and watched a clinic by Anna Twinney, who I had met briefly at her booth earlier that day. She had her three year old son asleep on her lap and I mouthed "three?" at her. She nodded and smiled. It was a connection. I was interested in her Reiki energy healing for horses, so we wandered over and watched. At the end of the clinic I walked up and had K introduce us, since K has taken a bunch of clinics with her. She recognized me from our earlier moment, and agreed to let me in her clinic the next day. I was pretty excited to see if Ashke would allow someone else (besides me) do energy work on him.
Then we headed back to hang with the horses until it was time to go to the Mane Event. This is a production put on by the riders who are at the Expo. It was not as good as last year: there were fewer performers and some of it was the same as last year. And the Dance of the Garroucha did not happen. It was still fun. I was pretty exhausted and it was time to go home.
Saturday, we headed in a little later in the morning. We didn't ride until 1:30 or so. There was a James Shaw clinic we watched. The riders in the clinic were riding Fjords and using Tai Chi to move between gaits. I am going to keep an eye out and see if I can take a clinic with him. I love the idea of riding the energy flows. Eventually, we headed back to get Ashke for the WE clinic. The Reiki clinic was immediately afterwards, so we would do one and then the other.
Tarrin had a course set up, some of which we did while handling the garroucha. Once the course was worked slow, we did a speed run.
Tarrin explaining how to practice the drums to help Ashke strengthen his hind end and build the muscles he needs to get better.
There was a woman there with a very green horse who really wanted to learn WE.
Her horse wasn't real excited about the garroucha, so Tarrin had Ashke and I walk on one side of her horse, and she walked on the other holding the pole.
It was cool that Ashke is such a solid presence that we would be asked to help.
You can see her horse dropping his head and relaxing, even with the pole right there.
This was our mini-course. We took it fairly slow, since Ashke was starting to tell me he was done.
Our speed run.
Ashke is showing more and more willingness to work the obstacles at a canter. He offered canter during the speed run through the double slalom. He wasn't as "on" as he would have been in a show, but he was also getting really tired by the end of the ride on Saturday. He was also telling me he was a bit back sore from all the collected canter and small circles we were doing. I told him at the end of the ride on Saturday, that I wouldn't ride him any more that weekend. And he would get the next week off. As much as I wanted to ride with Tarrin, he was telling me he was done and there was no reason to push it if he was sore. I want him to love doing this, not hate it cuz it hurts.
After the WE, we went to the Anna Twinney clinic. She was doing the chakras and used him as her demo horse. She said his throat was closed (didn't want to communicate), his heart was closed (not really closed, just very, very full) and his sacral-illiac was closed (this was the one I was expecting to have issues considering his ongoing sensitivity with his sheath). She paired us with some of her students, who offered a chakra balancing and reiki energy. He was really not happy and showed it by shoving me with his nose, flipping his head up and down; just anxious behavior. He had picked a girl he wanted to work on him, but she was sent to a different horse. Instead, two other women were picked to work on him. On of them he liked okay, the other he did not. He flipped his nose, whinnied, fretted and stomped. He pinned his ears and flipped his nose at her. He shunted off the energy from the one he didn't like and it ended up tangled inside me. I had hoped that the energy work would help him, but he really wasn't very receptive, which was just fine, since it is his choice and they leave it up to him.
After that clinic, we bedded him down in his stall and went home. By that time I was so sick J had to drive. I was nauseous with a migraine. I wasn't hungry and just felt very ill. We had cold cereal for dinner and about half way through I asked J if she would smudge me. We pulled out the sage and she did, which took a while since the other energy was pretty tied up in me, but finally I felt the pall lift and I felt a hundred and ten times better. I need to remember to shield the next time I'm involved in energy work like that. And holy smokes is Ashke strong.
Sunday I was kind of done with the Expo. I was exhausted mentally and physically and the excitement of last year had worn off. I planned to enjoy Ashke's clean status one more day, watch a bunch of clinics and planned to pull out as soon as K was done with her final clinic. As we were driving in, I got a phone call from the Twinney group asking if Ashke would be a part of Anna's Round pen clinic that morning. I said sure, not really knowing what we were signing up for, but since it wasn't under saddle, I figured he could handle it. They were interested in having him be a part of the clinic, since he is stunning and would garner a lot of attention.
Anna was doing a clinic on communication with horses, in the sense of using eye contact and body language to speak to the horse. It's kind of what Parelli thinks they are. The horse was working at liberty and it was really wonderful to watch. It was very interesting because I don't usually work Ashke in the round pen, partly because of his haunches and partly because it bores me to death. I will, on occasion, toss him in the round pen to blow off steam, where upon I sit on the mounting block and let him lose his mind around me until he quiets, or I am using it to check for soundness. In this case, Anna was opening a conversation with him.
We weren't sure how it would go, because he was kind of a basket case in the arena outside of the round pen. The horse working with Anna first was very sweet and intent and completely ignored the screaming white idiot I was flying around the arena. When Anna took him I wasn't sure how he would do, but he locked right onto her, listened to what she was saying and offered a very nice canter when asked. He was very receptive to her style of communications and backed, turned, and moved out at the slightest ask, whether in touch or eye contact. Anna told me after that he had done better than she was expecting based on how he was acting while waiting.
After that clinic, J and I went to the early clinic with Tarrin. At one point K was struggling with Eddy (who was using the garrocha as an excuse to act out) so I went down into the arena and took ahold of Eddy's reins then handed the garrocha to K. I held the left side rein next to the bit and walked Eddy around the course, while K handled the garrocha. Eddy was a little spooky at first, but overall did very well. The second time K was supposed to do the garrocha, I just went down and put my hand on his neck. K was able to lift the garrocha out of the barrel, do the obstacles (I let them get further and further away from me as they went) and return the pole to the barrel without Eddy throwing a fit. Huzzah!!! Huge breakthrough for the two of them.
After that we got food, got the truck, loaded all of the stuff from the tack room and waited for K to finish her clinic. This year was much better as Expo did not require we stay in the stall until four. We managed to have everything loaded and headed for home by 2:45. Both horses unloaded without incident and we headed home.
Overall, the Expo was a success. I learned a lot and so did Ashke. L has already talked me into doing a ride in the Mane Event next year, so there is that to look forward to, plan, practice and come up with costumes for.
I realized about a week, okay, more like five days before the show that maybe this wasn't a schooling show and I didn't have the proper attire. See, because I ride in an Alta Escuela saddle (Spanish riding saddle) I have to wear Spanish riding attire. Do you know how easy it is to find Spanish riding clothes? Not easy at all. Through one of the people at HCWE I got ahold of Viva Iberica and they had a jacket they mailed me on Saturday for Monday delivery. She sent two jackets (the two largest they had) for me to try. Both were in charcoal grey. I figured if they didn't fit, I wouldn't show.
See, one of the biggest issues I have in showing is how I'm going to look doing it. I'm not so worried about how I'm going to do, but rather in how people are going to see me. It already sucks trying to find breeches or shirts in a size that fits, but the thought of trying to find a coat and wearing white breeches in front of other people has kept me from any real dressage shows. Now, I was facing the make or break point in Working Equitation. At some point, I need to cowboy up and put on the clothes. Ashke doesn't care how much I weigh or what I look like, he just cares about working with me. And having fun.
So, with the knowledge that a jacket was on it's way, I set out to put together the rest of my outfit. I got a pair of pants from Costco in dark grey (they matched the jacket exactly, even though I hadn't seen the jacket yet). Then J and I went to two different Joann's and found some spangly dangles that could be worked into caireles for the sides of my pants.
Caireles. My interpretation.
Who knew you could use fishing spinners for so many things.
I had ordered a white shirt from Equestrian Collections that I thought would work for under the jacket and I was going to wear my paddock boots. On Monday, when the jackets were delivered I decided on one and tried it with the pants. It looked really good. The jacket had two scarves with it, but I wasn't really a fan of either one. You wear the scarf tied around your middle, where a belt would go, and it adds a hint of color to the outfit. I was trying to decided between the blue, white and pink or the black, white and gold (none of which are my colors) when I happened to look up at the scarf hanging around a photograph on my wall. It was a scarf given to me by my bestie for our wedding and our cake set on top of it for the reception. It is a watercolor in blue, purple and rainbow colors. Perfect for me and Ashke.
It's funny that Spanish clothes are either really fancy - bright colors with lots of lace and fancy designs - or very plain. For working riding the clothes are plain, which includes dressage tests and working equitation. But not black. I was wearing dark grey, not black. Black clothing is reserved for funerals only.
Thursday started really early, and despite a slight hickup in our drive to the Event Center, K and I made it in plenty of time to get tacked and warmed up before the show. J arrived about 7:20 or so and found me in the stall assessing Ashke's right front leg. He was a little puffy. No one else noticed, but I could see and feel it. I wondered if it was wind puffs (we had cantered a lot the day before) and it seemed to be, since the little swelling went down as soon as he started moving. I would have wrapped his front legs but they can't be wrapped for the dressage test.
We got out to the arena and warmed up before the show started. K had the first ride and she did pretty good considering she has only ridden the test one time the day before. I didn't watch any of the rides. Instead, I kept Ashke walking and moving so he would be loose and relaxed when it was our turn. We rode fourth. I decided about the time the second ride was happening, that I should find a bathroom.
A friend from the barn who came to watch me ride took this pic.
It may be my favorite one of all time.
K's ride was pretty good for her very first time showing, and only the second time riding the test. Eddy was a little strong, but they haven't really practiced the test and I expect that they will do better if K decides to keep going with this discipline.
Ready for our test.
Doesn't he look majestic?
Our dressage test.
We ended up with a 59 on the dressage. That put us in third place.
After the test, I took Ashke back to his stall, untacked and then iced his leg. After cold hosing for ten minutes or so, I put his BOT exercise boots on and gave him some hay. J and I watched the rest of the dressage rides and then I did the EOH walkthrough. There were fourteen obstacles for Novice in the following order: gate, pitcher, pick up the garroucha, livestock pen, ring, bridge, deposit the garroucha, figure eight, corridor with the bell, double slalom poles, three barrels, switch a cup, sidepass, jump and we were done.
I ate a little bit, then tacked Ashke up and warmed him up.
I don't know why we had such an issue with the EOH. I don't know if his leg was bothering him (he was sound) or if he was still really tired and just wasn't feeling it. I had originally planned to canter between obstacles, but decided to just trot. I wasn't sure how willing he would be at the canter.
It was not our best ride.
We ended up with a 56.232 in EOH, which put us in fourth place.
There was only one phase left and it was the phase Ashke does the best in. I was certain I could place 1st, which might have put me in Reserve Champion. However, Ashke's leg was a bit more swollen when I pulled the boots off of him. I cold hosed him again and could see where he had interfered with himself the day before. It was on the inside upper fetlock. I scratched him. Although he was sound and willing, I wasn't willing to race him around a course and possibly do more damage to his leg. There are always other days.
I am very happy that we were competitive for this show. I am very, very happy that WE is now operating with AA and Open classes, so I'm not competing against the professionals. I am also very happy with how supportive and kind the people doing WE in this area are: everyone was discussing routes and angles and approaches, with no thought of retaining an advantage over someone else. It was a great experience and a fun group of people.
This year, High Country Working Equitation hosted a Tarrin Warren clinic, show and then riding in her clinics during the Rocky Mountain Horse Expo. It was sold as a package deal and I immediately jumped at the opportunity. On Tuesday, we took a half day at work and since K was running behind, J and I headed to the NWSS grounds. We unloaded the shavings and got the stalls set up so we could unload the horses and walk them right into their stalls. Then we headed for the barn. J and I had already packed the tack trunk and trailer, so all we had to do is pick up hay and the horse.
Ashke seemed pretty interested to load on the trailer, although I do think he was regretting it by the end of the weekend. We drove north to pick up Eddy. K had her stuff loaded in her car, so all we had to do is load Eddy (who walked right on) and hay, which we plucked from the stack and threw into the back of the truck. K followed us down as we drove back down to NWSS. Once there, we unloaded the horses and got them into their stalls. This year, we paid a little extra to have a separate tack room and each of the horses was in a double stall (10' x 20'). We used the handtruck to unload (see, we can learn from prior mistakes) the hay and got the horses set up with slow feeder haynets, big buckets of water, and a mash. Then we organized the tack room, locked up the saddles and then went to wash the horses.
Inside his stall, wanted to go explore the grounds.
I don't think I have ever been so humbled by my horse's trust in me as I was when Ashke walked, shaking like a leaf, into the wash stall bay. J stood in front of him and we went really slow on the washing part. He shook the entire time we were in there. It was strictly fear from our last experience in the wash stall. He was so white and clean by the time we were done and I loved the Eqyss cream rinse conditioner I had purchased to try - it left his mane and tail soft and easy to brush out, even two days later. We wandered around the Event Center while he dried and scoped out the obstacles going up in the arena. I tucked him back into his stall with plenty of food, wrapped up in his BOT and ready for the night.
J and I went to help set up the dressage court and obstacles in the event center, then we headed home. Ashke was stabled between Eddy and Satori (and he bonded with both) so he could provide safety and security for both of them. All three horses handled being there very well over the week, although I do think they were all ready to go home by Sunday.
Wednesday was the Tarrin Warren Clinic. There were 18 riders for the clinic, so she worked with half of them in the morning and the second half in the afternoon. Most of the morning group were riders who were either new to WE or new to Tarrin, while the afternoon group was made up of the riders who had ridden with Tarrin before. The morning session started with a ride through the dressage test (mostly intro) and then the riders focused on the garroucha pole. This seems to be the sticking point for most new riders. It was interesting to watch the horses and riders begin to learn how to maneuver around obstacles with a 11' long pole tucked under their arm (for the one's who could pick up the pole, that is).
There was a break for lunch and then it was time for the afternoon group.
We started with the dressage test (which I have no pics of since the camera was having issues). Then we moved to the obstacles (which we were practicing on while other riders were working in the dressage court). When Tarrin finished with the dressage, she started working with us on the obstacles. She said that since we had all done the obstacles in the past, we would work on combining them and finding the holes in our horse's training.
Livestock pen. Worked at the walk or the canter.
Walking a lot for our warm up.
He was not nearly as enthused this year as he was last.
I think the novelty had worn off.
You can see he has his ear canted to his left, staring at the lights they had lowered and were working on. That added an element I wasn't expecting.
Cantering the figure eight.
Waiting our turn and watching others practice.
Cantering the garroucha.
Tarrin decided that the best challenge we could face was to work a bunch of obstacles while holding the garroucha.
It shows exactly where you need to practice.
We cantered between obstacles.
With the pole.
Bridge, then livestock pen, then bull.
There were plastic geese in the middle of the livestock pen.
Ashke wanted to eat them.
Cantering back to deposit.
We talked a lot about lines and approaches to the obstacles.
Taking the jump again, because the next obstacle was to my left and too awkward to make without circling.
Hardest part of this obstacle is immobility.
Backed out nicely.
We aren't so good at that.
We cantered a lot and the circles were small.
This might be my fav photo of the weekend.
He is not happy.
Itty bitty circles.
Boy has a bit of attitude.
Happy to be done.
He looks so strong here.
Three drums at the canter with a simple change between, through the trot.
We really need to work on bending to the right.
Side pass poles
And in the other direction.
I got off to wait my turn.
No need to keep my weight on his back when he was having to work so hard.
We had some really good moments.
I love the garroucha.
We cantered pretty consistently, until he got to tired to try.
Riding a small course.
He counter bends to make such a small turn.
The clinic was great, but I should have stopped cantering sooner than I did. We could have worked the obstacles at a trot, but I had hoped to canter between obstacles at the show. Unfortunately, I think the amount of work we did on Wednesday effected our show performance. I do know what I have to work on going forward and I have a plan to help Ashke and I figure out how to do more at the canter, more one handed and more off my legs and seat. We need to do some remedial training and strengthening with bend, so that is on the list too.
One of the things I need to figure out is how to ride him through these obstacles without as much contact as I had. He prefers to not have much contact and very light legs aids. It pisses him off when I touch him with my heel to keep his hip in when we are moving around an obstacle. I think he would be much happier if I rode him more "western", at least from a bit/contact perspective (not yanking on his mouth, but on a looser rein) and if I could make my aides a bit lighter. And if I could get him strong enough to hold the bend without a struggle.