Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Barr Lake and Crossties

 The first Saturday in March was amazing. It was warm and kind of sunny and our first opportunity to really ride out in a month. We opted to try Barr Lake since the trail around the lake is ten miles and is a loop. It's also a wildlife/waterfowl refuge and would offer plenty of bird sightings if we paid attention. Ashke seemed very happy to step on the trailer and even more up when he stepped off the trailer. Eddy seemed happy to be there too. We got them groomed and saddled up, then headed out.

Both horses were very up. And ready to move out fast. We crossed the bridge to the trail and headed counterclockwise around the lake. It was flat, kind of brown with hints of green peeking through, and very fast. We extended out trot and intermixed it with canter.

 Danger ahead. We had about two inches of clearance.

Kate adjusting her pack to keep it from bouncing.

 The view across the lake.

Ashke and I battled for about half the loop, since every time we cantered he wanted to race. I finally, at about the six mile spot, told him that if he would stop trying to race and just maintain a nice canter I would let him go. He complied. I need to remember to talk to him outloud because he responds very well to verbal direction. 

At the far end of the lake, the trail runs right next to the railroad tracks. 

I was okay when we started on that part, because there was room to move the horse from the ground, if a train came, and there was a fence between the trail and the railroad tracks. But then the trail moved right next to the railroad tracks and the fence went away. I had watched a train go by about fifteen minutes before we reached that part of the trail and after a brief discussion, decided to canter the mile along the tracks. We did the majority of that trail at the canter, but then slowed to an extended trot to finish out the last little bit. Another train came by about ten minutes later, so I had the timing down, but I won't ride that section again. Ashke is so reactive that I wouldn't be able to control his reaction if we were that close to the tracks. I won't risk it again. Instead, if we decide to ride Barr Lake again, we will ride a horseshoe, which should make it about 18 miles.

The lake was pretty, but it was pretty grey.

It was a good beginning ride.

No elevation.

A random mare in a field we rode past.

 It's a very flat ride.

J had a good ride. She kept stopping to take photos.

Bit o' canter
We hit the trailer an hour and twenty minutes after we left, with mileage of just about ten miles. It was the first time we have ever broken the 5 mph mark and Ashke was still raring to go. He still had a ton in the tank. We ate lunch while Eddy cooled out (Ashke had been sweaty earlier but had dried with a yucky brown crust of dirt) and then loaded up and headed home. By the time we pulled into the barn, it was 73 degrees out and I decided to rinse the sweat off Ashke, then let him stand in the sun until he was dry.

I took him to the wash area and put him in crossties. The bay where the water spigot is has a drain in the floor and you cross tie your horse facing the stalls with their rumps toward the outdoor arena. It is, however, about twice as wide as a normal wash stall. I started rinsing the sweat and dirt off of Ashke, which he was tolerating okay, then moved around behind him to wash the shit off of his hocks. He wasn't happy that the cold water was that close to his privates and started to move forward.

 Me washing his hocks. His head went up and he started to move forward.

 Because the stall is so wide, he was able to swing his hip in line with the crossties, which put pressure on both crossties. During that particular move, he crashed over a trash can sitting at the corner of the wash stall. At that point he began to thrash.

 Ashke managed to get himself twisted up in the crossties, with his front feet off the ground, trying to simultaneously go forward and pull back. During this time I said "whoa" maybe three times in my most soothing horsemanship voice.

 I honestly can't tell you if he slipped or is he just got himself so crosswise in the crossties that the leverage tipped him over, but he crashed down onto his back on the concrete. His head was closest to the arena and his butt was closest to the stalls. There he became a turtle, square on his back, unable to roll in either direction, four legs thrashing in the air, his head held up by the crossties. The most terrified, horrendous sound came out of him. As soon as he was down I lunged forward and released the crosstie (quick release) and once the right side was unhooked, he was able to roll to his feet. He bugled in fear as soon as he was on his feet, but didn't fight any longer. I released him from the other crosstie and lead him out into the indoor arena to assess him.

The entire sequence of events lasted maybe twenty seconds. 

He walked out sound. I couldn't believe it. There were a bunch of women at the barn who came rushing over to offer support and to clean up after us. I walked Ashke for ten minutes, crying inside and shaking like a leaf. The BO was told and after talking to me, immediately went around and hooked up all of the crossties with baling twine, so they had breakaways. I also bought a breakaway halter, since Ashke doesn't sit back and pull, to ensure if it happens again, he can break free before hurting himself. I walked him back through the wash stall and outside, then back in. He shook and was scared, but he did it anyway. I didn't want him permanently scarred from the ordeal.

 Rope burn from the crosstie across his face.

There was also a couple of skinned spots on his withers and a scape on his butt next to his tail.

I gave a dose of banamine and called the vet. Since he was eating and drinking normally (he acted like nothing had happened), wasn't lame and showing no signs of trauma, the vet declined to come out. I mostly wanted to make sure there wasn't anything internal I needed to have assessed from his fall. As long as he wasn't showing signs of colic and wasn't lame, I didn't need vet assistance. The vet recommended I give another dose of banamine the next day, to help with inflammation, which I did. Ashke came away no worse for the ordeal.

I will never crosstie again. I had no idea it was possible for a horse to flip itself, but since this accident, I have heard story after story. I am also very pleased with my BO, since the breakaways were installed within an hour or so of our accident. Talk about proactive. Kudos to them!!

So, Saturday was the best of days and the absolute worse of days.


  1. The only item I haven't crossed off my bucket list is to ride a horse alongside a train. In a safe manner, if that is possible.

    Even the most reliably safe-tying horse will have one thing, one day, that will cause it to try to break free. I need to remember to use my leather halter only when tying, it will break. Poor Ashke.

  2. eegads. terrifying re: cross tying! The wash stall in our barn is set up the same as your drawings...complete with trash can. My two don't like the closed space and it's always a delicate dance to keep them from pulling what Ashke did!

    I did love your drawings though. Especially how your character grew hair halfway through!

  3. oh, how scary! I was excited for your good ride, but now I just hope Ashke continues to be OK (his poor face!). I don't use our two cross-ties, we have other hitching areas, I've never really understood the cross-tie concept (but I started life at a western barn where we only ever tied to posts or trees).

    But back to your good ride: I do think it would be fun to have a few wide open trails like that, 10 miles of mostly flat, I can't even imagine how much fun the horses would have on that! As Ashke proved!

  4. My heart was in my throat reading this. I am glad he is ok and didn't get hurt. Great reaction time on your part in releasing him so quickly.

    I am not sure I would be brave enough to ride beside live rain tracks even with a fence between us.