Friday, April 29, 2016

Crack Addict

I think animals can be good patients as well as bad patients, when it comes to injuries. In the past, Ashke has been pretty good. He was calm and relaxed in the stall when he had the gash over his eye that required stitches, he's been good about doing the physical therapy needed for his right hamstring and left stifle. Over all, he is a very sweet and kind horse that seems to roll with the punches.

That has all changed with this barn. He is a turnout seeking demon horse, like a crack-smoking junkie looking for his next high. The first day of his injury Ashke stood balanced on two feet, keeping the left hind off the ground while simultaneously banging the bottom of the split door with his right front with his head hanging outside. Very talented, my little crack-smoker is, and demanding. Once the ground outside was dry, he was allowed to go into his run (10 x 10) for the sunshine and the socialization.

He was still not happy. And like any addict, he started searching for a way to get what he wants, whether it was a good decision or not. That is how addiction works, you know. I don't know if he did online research or just queried his neighbors, but my crack-seeking idiot managed to finagle his way through the double looped and secured chain on the back of his run and set himself free in turnout yesterday.

 He was a mess.

He rolled in the mud. He played with Cory. He evaded arrest when the sheriff came to return him to his stall, preferring to gallop madly around the turnout field with his head flung high than to politely acquiesce to his capture. Yes. Chasing happened. I'm pretty sure the words "freedom or death" rang in the air as he made his point. I'm sure the BO was not happy with him. We suspect he had 30 to 45 minutes of freedom before he was finally bound under law.

I couldn't believe how he looked when I pulled him out of the stall. He was a disaster. His mane was rubbed and pulled, his tail a mess, and the places that weren't mud caked were covered with pee. J took his bucket to wet while I pulled him out of the stall. He spooked badly as we walked past where she was and swung his leg into one of the tack boxes in the aisle in front of the stalls. He felt like a bundle of dynamite as I tied him to the hitching rack. He pulled back hard as I brought out the grooming box, blowing and snorting like something was going to eat him.

He is not a good patient.

After grooming him, pulling most of the braids out so as to not lose any more mane, brushing out his tail, we tackled the leg. The swelling had gone down enough that the bandaging was sagging around his fetlock, and covered with mud from turnout. Ashke was a snorty, bitey mess and let both J and I know he was happier just ignoring the large wound than to have us treat it. He was shaking with the anticipation of pain as I carefully cut off the bandage. There was a bit of blood, but considering his antics in turnout, I am not surprised. The main wound has sealed and a lot of the swelling has gone down. Once I got the water on it, he stopped shaking and I was able to actually feel around the wound site without his reflex lifting of his leg.

 There is a flap of skin that will have to be removed, I think. I doubt very seriously there is any hope for it now.

The redness has retreated as well and I couldn't feel any heat in the leg after twenty minutes of cold hosing.

 When I replaced the pad with the antibiotic ointment I was able to put a bit of direct pressure on the wound, holding the pad in place, while waiting for Ashke to place his foot on the ground. He did and left it there while I wrapped the leg and fetlock with a thick cotton gauze, then vet wrap and finally Elastikon. The vet wrap allowed me to apply a bit of pressure without feeling like I was cutting off circulation with the Elastikon.

Wrapped and back in his stall.

Ashke will be restricted to his stall for the next three days (as will all of the horses since we are having another snow storm in Denver) and I will rebandage again on Sunday. I have to take his antics as a sign that it is healing and not causing him a ton of pain, considering he was galloping wildly away from the BO. Although I do think it was sore when we were changing the bandage. He has not had any pain reliever since last Sunday.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016


I went to the barn to check on Ashke today and found that the bandage had slipped down his leg. The leg was slightly swollen about the wrap and I decided it would work best to try again with the wrap job. I walked Ashke over to the wash bay and unwrapped his leg, which he was mildly protesting, then cold hosed for almost 30 minutes. The slight swelling at the top of the cannon bone went down and the overall swelling in the leg went down.

The leg after 30ish minutes of cold hosing.

Ashke was protective of his leg, but not pain reactive. There was no discharge and the wound smelled clean. The slight bleeding that happened on Sunday did not happen today. The swelling was pretty localized to the wound and he was walking sound on it. The biting of everything around him was minimized and he ate the treat in his bucket eagerly while J was holding him. 

Second wrap

I used Elastikon this time, to keep the wrap from slipping. Ashke weighted the foot for me while I was wrapping and the Elastikon should stick to his hair on his leg and keep the bandage from slipping down. Ashke didn't want me to touch the wound while I was bandaging, but it was more of a toddler's reaction to being bandaged (Owwww, mom, that hurts. And I haven't touched the cut yet.) than the pain he was in two days ago. Overall, I am very pleased with how it looks and with how quickly it is healing.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Biteyface Crankypants

Ashke has been getting better, although he is still getting Banamine once a day to help control the pain. The vet wanted me to limit the banamine so Ashke would stay calm, but he is on stall rest and unable to move much and I really would rather he not be in pain. I don't think he would have needed it today, except that it was our first bandage change and that caused him a bunch of pain.

I didn't have any bandage materials, so I went to Murdocks bucket sale yesterday and picked up pads, gauze, vet wrap and elastikon, as well as, a year of wormer, new half chaps, a pair of Carhartt pants for J, and horse shampoo. Anything that fits in the bucket is 25% off. I looked for a new pair of barn boots, but it was not meant to be. I also got the purple bucket for free.

J and I arranged to meet K at the barn, since I wanted an additional person to help in case Ashke was being a pill. The vet had offered to come out and do the bandage change, if we couldn't do it ourselves, but I put on my big girl panties and called in K for reinforcement. When we got to the barn we found my tub of feed/supplements smashed to bits with the feed bags inside ripped open. My bale of shavings outside of Ashke's stall had big bites in it and his tail was a freaking disaster. It looked like he shoved it into something and rubbed all night long. At least half his tail is rubbed off half way down his tail bone. It's a mess. I couldn't figure out what had happened, but after talking to the BO, we were told a horse had gotten out and tore around the barn last night, having a party.  We cleaned up the mess in front of Ashke's stall, cleaned his stall, put the busted up bale of shavings in the stall, then locked the feed and antibiotics in my tack box.

K showed up and I got Ashke out of the stall. He was walking like normal, completely sound, and seemed really frustrated that I wouldn't let him out to run in the indoor. We set him up against the wall of the wash stall, with K to hold him and J to distract him with horse crack. The one thing I didn't have was a pair of sharp scissors, which I had to borrow from one of the other boarders, and with shaking hands I carefully cut off the bandage. I don't know if it was the release of pressure or just messing with that leg, but Ashke was not happy.

Once the bandage was off, I cold hosed for about 30 minutes. Ashke would tolerate the water for a bit and then lift his leg out of it. I would wait until he set it down again to let the water run over the wound. There was minimal swelling, no signs of infection and it looked better than I expected.

Even though you can see the edges at the top of the wound pulling away, the majority of the wound has sealed. There might be some proud flesh, but it should be minimal.

 Most of the damage is on the outside of the leg.

The BO said it looked so much better than it did on Thursday. Ashke was walking on it fairly soundly, although he didn't really like it when I started to bandage it. We gave him a dose of banamine between the cold hosing and when I started bandaging. Ashke saw the banamine paste and both ears came forward. I swear that he knows now what that tube means and although he doesn't like the taste, he was pretty happy to have the comfort juice. He didn't even try to spit it out. I walked him a little bit, waiting for the banamine to kick in and his leg to dry off a bit, then we repositioned him against the wall him to start the bandaging process.

I covered the pad with a thick layer of antibiotic gel and placed it over the wound, then wrapped it in place with a roll of gauze. It was kind of hard, even though Ashke was very sweet and trying very hard to hold still. By that point he was nipping at everything he could reach: J's hands, K's coat, the ribbons on the stall we were standing next to, the crosstie hanging next to his head. He was very cranky. I had warned both J and K to watch out for him biting, since that is his go to when he is in pain. Once the gauze was on, I wrapped the leg with the vet wrap. It looked okay when I got done.

My first wrap job.

I sent pics to Saiph to make sure I did okay. She said it looks like a nasty cut, but much better than she would have expected, and that my wrap job looked good. So far, it seems as though he is healing as well as could be expected. We shall see what we have when we unwrap him on Thursday night. In the meantime, I crafted a charm to go in his mane to help him heal and to protect him.

 I'm going to order bubble wrap from Amazon on Monday.

Friday, April 22, 2016


Guardian of the North
(white horse racing through snow)
of Earth and all things upon Her
I summon thee
To watch, to ward and to wrap
in a healing net 
around my Ashke 
Begin the Circle 
to heal my horse
Blessed Be

Guardian of the West
(Blue Roan horse galloping through a river)
of Water and all things that live within
I summon thee
To watch, to ward and to wrap
in a healing net
around my Ashke
Join the Circle
to heal my horse
Blessed Be

Guardian of the South
(Bright chestnut horse racing through the desert)
of Fire and all things that love the Flame
I summon thee
To watch, to ward and to wrap
in a healing net 
around my Ashke
Join the Circle 
to heal my horse
Blessed Be

Guardian of the East
(Dun horse galloping across the plains)
of Air and all things that fly
I summon thee
To watch, to ward and to wrap
in a healing net
around my Ashke
Complete the Circle
Bring healing to my horse
So Mote it Be

Bright Lady of the Heavens
Epona, Horse Goddess
Hold my horse in the palms of your hands
 Speed healing to his limbs
Knit fast and sure and true
Keep him safe under Your Shelter
So Mote it Be

Thursday, April 21, 2016


 No tendon, just skin.
Turnout accident.
Horse hoof  with shoe.

Wrapped leg. 
No stitches.
Antibiotics for seven days.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

My Barn

I'm not sure I thought about barns much before realizing I was going to be bringing a horse home that needed an indoor stall to himself. My experiences with horses when I was younger did not include the concept of a barn. Horses lived in a pasture. They got fed hay when needed and that was about the extent of their housing needs. In the winter, they grew thick coats, grazed the 40 acres of alfalfa and grass behind our house, and when a storm came in, they turned tail to the wind and continued to graze. There was some limited shelter, but mostly they turned and moved away from the wind.

Riding in the winter was a matter of choosing to ride despite the cold, the wind, the frozen fingers. I knew when I brought Ashke home that because I work all day, and he wasn't under saddle yet, that I need a facility to ride in after dark. So suddenly I needed a barn with an indoor arena that I could ride in later in the evening. That limits the choices when searching for a place, especially if you don't want to spend an arm and a leg on board.

None of my earlier experiences prepared me for choosing a barn or for the concept of a "barn family". In fact, I hadn't ever heard of that concept until I started reading blogs. And in some ways, that is just as important as finding the proper stabling, or a decent indoor. The "barn family" becomes the people you share riding space with, share tack rooms with, interact with in the aisles and talk to about riding. Finding the right combination of people is more important than I ever suspected and it's taken a while for me to figure that out.

When I saw Ashke for the first time I knew I would need a facility that allowed several things (none of which have really changed from that first decision): 1) an indoor stall where he could be fed separately, 2) a facility that had an indoor arena and 3) a barn that wasn't closed early so I could be out there at night. That was pretty much it. Those are the core of my needs in a barn, but so much else has changed in the questions I ask and the things I really want to see in a place I spend so much time hanging out at.

Without further ado, here are ten reasons why I love my barn:

1) Ashke's stall. The interior of Ashke's stall is 10' x 16'. It is nice and roomy, with plenty of room for him to lay down inside. It has floor mats and they will bed it however I ask them to as long as I let the BO know. (I provide the shavings.) The stalls are cleaned at least twice a day and the manure is stored far, far away from the barn. The stall is stripped every other week, or as needed to keep the bedding fresh. You would think this would be a no brainer, but it is not. At TMR, the stall was only stripped if I insisted on it, then stood over the guys to watch that it was done. It was not part of their process and the barn smelled like pee a lot. At SQA, I had to provide shavings and would always strip the stall before opening a new bag. A bag there would last me about five days. At my new barn, the stall is always clean and well bedded. We can add more bedding when Ashke will be locked inside (like for a snow storm) and then use a little less when he's allowed in turn out and his run.

Additionally, the front of the stall is low enough that Ashke can hang his head out and interact with the horses on either side of him. He can also interact with the people and horses as they wander past.  This is his favorite thing to do. He is such an engaged horse, that the more stuff going on around him, the better. He also has several toys (a ball, a safety cone and a hanging thingie) for him to mess with. The BO and I had a good laugh the day we pulled the cone out of his outside watering tub because we both knew who had thrown it in there. He loves to play with all of the things. He is more playful here than anywhere we have been.

2) Ashke's run. Although his run is not huge, it allows him an opportunity to be outside in the sun and to interact with the horses on either side of him or in turnout. It is well tended with pea gravel and has a slight slope to discourage standing water. Colorado clay is nasty stuff, slick as snot and deep, so this spring the barn brought out a landscape dude to scrape the runs flat (or angled slightly for run off) and then put down about six inches of pea gravel. It cost me a little less than $100 but it will keep his feet out of the mud and cut down on our thrush issues. At TMR, I paid for at least $300 worth of gravel for his run but the runs were never leveled first, so there were huge puddles and the gravel always disappeared into the underlying clay. At SQA, there was gravel added to the runs (not ours but others) but it always disappeared into the mud because the runs were not sloped at all. Anytime there was precipitation, he had huge mud puddles and muddy feet. That was a huge disadvantage to being at a barn built in a flood plain.

Ashke has lots of time in the sun in his run. The barn does a great job of getting them out during the day, even when it's fairly cold.  He has horses on both sides of him that he plays with, and I think the social aspect of living here has made him a much happier horse.

3) Turn out. OMG, this is huge. We had two hours of turn out a day at his original barn, part of which I paid extra for, part of which we managed on our own. He had Cali and Stoli to hang out with and graze the field, sometimes tearing around like bats out of hell prior to settling down and munching the grass. When we moved to TMR, the turnout was not nearly as appealing. The horses were taken out three days a week into a lot that was a dry lot part of the year and filled with weeds the other part of the year. Most of the horses were in turnout solo, although Ashke got to go out with Cali while he was there, but it really wasn't an environment that was horse friendly.

At SQA, for an additional $65 a month, I could have had him turned out in the round pen for 30 minutes five times a week. By himself. No grazing. No socialization. Just a pen or dry lot that he could pace or stand or fret in. I opted not to partly due to the cost and partly because I did not want to encourage the fretting, dirt licking or chewing on the bars that would ensue. It wasn't optimal, but neither was the turnout situation. I think that was one of the reasons Ashke was so depressed at SQA, especially as time went on. He had limited interaction with people and limited interaction with other horses.

At Morelli, Ashke gets turn out with other horses seven days a week. Sometimes he's in the track turn out, sometimes he is in the field just behind his stall, and he has gone out with pretty much all of the horses in the barn. I think we are working toward getting him in a gelding herd in the track turn out every day once the farm is expanded with the additional land the BO is buying, but for now they don't want to mess up the herd dynamics. He would go into a new gelding herd, with horses he gets along with. We are hoping that putting him in a herd where he can gallop with other boys will cut down on the face fighting over the fence with the other geldings. (We are trying to cut down on him hurting himself - he's smashed the side of his face, given himself a pretty good bump on his cannon bone and has hair scrapes on his neck, shoulders and face.) However, turnout is his favorite thing, ever. He gets very unhappy and head whippy when he isn't allowed to go out.

There are feed tubs in the turn out runs for the horses, with a full bale of hay in the tubs, for the horses to munch on when they are done tearing around the track. It's so awesome that they are allowed to graze together, which is also why the BO is so careful in selecting the groups of horses that go out together.

4) Arena TV. Ashke's stall faces the arena and he can hang his head over the wall and watch what is happening in front of him. I think he must spend most of his time watching the other horses and riders practicing whatever discipline they are doing (he's always watching if I get there and there are riders in the arena.) I think it might be making him smarter and more willing to do dressage. He is such a social horse that being able to watch what is happening (almost being involved) makes him feel so much better, so much happier than being locked behind a set of bars. This barn doesn't care that the horses can pick up their halters and toss them around, or mess with their blankets at the front of the stall, or reach out to people or horses walking by (they can't touch, although the mares can make it pretty intimidating on the geldings walking by). It's such a comfortable and welcoming environment. And it keeps him really entertained.

5) Feed. Ashke gets six flakes of alfalfa or alfalfa/grass mix in two feedings in slow feeder bags. He does very well with the hay this way and it is hung low enough that the horses can feed with their heads down, like they do naturally, without wasting any of their feed. None of the hay is mixed into the shavings, trampled under foot or peed on. They get to eat it all. The hay is great quality and he is looking the best I have ever seen him. In fact, on Saturday when the vet gave Ashke his shots, he said that Ashke was at his optimal weight. 

Not only that, but the BO is very much in tune with the horses and pays attention to how the horses are eating. Early in our tenure here, Ashke got a bag of hay he did not like (I don't think he likes Broome) and he pulled the hay he wouldn't eat out of the bag and scattered it around his stall. I saw it and thought I might need to talk to the BO about it, but she saw what he had done and immediately changed the hay he was being given. Without me saying anything! At TMR, I swear to you, the hay could be more than knee deep in the stall (from horses pulling it out of the feed bin) and the horses not eating anything, and the barn staff would continue to heave hay into the feeder. This actually happened a lot and not only with Ashke. I'm kind of surprised that Ashke won't eat bad hay, given his background, but I'm glad that he is picky.

The BO says that one of the great things about feeding in a hay net, is that she inspects every flake that goes to a horse as they are filling the hay nets. That reduces the possibility of feeding moldy or weedy hay to the horses by accident. That was a huge problem at SQA, since the guy they had feeding didn't care of the horse got bad hay or not. That was pretty frustrating, considering they advertised that they had their hay tested. The other thing that is awesome is that if Ashke needs extra hay (starts to lose weight) they will feed whatever he needs at no additional charge to me. Currently, he is getting two flakes of alfalfa and a flake of alfalfa grass mix twice a day. It is rare that I see his hay net completely empty. He does not gobble, but rather rations his portion to give him food to munch on throughout the day and night. Whatever is left in the bag at feeding time gets taken out and put in the corner under his hay net. It's a great system and he is looking better than he ever has.

6) Water Bucket. They use muck buckets for water bins, which provides 30 gallons of water pretty much all of the time. The amount of water available is more than a horse could drink in a 24 hour cycle and the buckets are filled every morning and checked twice daily. The brilliance of this option blows me away. They don't even get a layer of ice on them in the winter, because they are so deep and wide. The barn is not heated, but the size of the buckets and the fact that the horse bodies help keep the barn temp in the mid-20s even in the coldest part of the winter means that Ashke never runs out of water.

Ashke drinks more at this barn then he ever has anywhere else. I love the fact that the BO cleans the buckets about once a week. She even has toilet brushes hung all over the barn for scrubbing the buckets clean before dumping the water. You would think that wasn't such a big deal, but I had to clean buckets at TMR. In fact, they wouldn't even empty the ice out of them if the water froze. I had to raise a huge stink about that in order for anything to get done. I don't know how many times I arrived at the barn at 10:30 and both of Ashke's buckets were empty. He did have an automatic waterer, but it was shared with a horse that dumped his food in it and Ashke refused to drink from it. Plus, the automatic waterers were inconsistent in how well they worked. This system is awesome and it always makes me feel warm and fuzzy inside when I see the bucket.

Additionally, there is a huge water tank outside in his run that he shares with the horse next to him. He prefers that water tank if he can get to it (when the doors are open) and drinks deeply (3 gallons or more - I counted swallows) when he can get out there. The BO told me they will pull the muck buckets out of the stalls and just use the outside tubs (100 gallons or so) during the summer when the barn is always open.

7) Feeding Supplements.This has been an issue since I moved to TMR. Part of the problem is that I have powered supplements that are being mixed into pelleted and grain feed. Fed dry, Ashke will sift the power to the bottom of the bucket and eat the other stuff. Since the other stuff is mostly a vehicle to deliver the supps, this kind of defeats the purpose. I started Ashke on Equipride when I moved to TMR in 2012. For a while, N and I split the supplement and the barn crew would feed them dry. The biggest issue was that the Equipride was left in the bottom of the bucket and would eventually turn nasty and gross. I needed to find a way to feed the supplements wet.

At some point I was approached by the dressage trainer there and asked if I wanted to join her feed program. Each person would purchase a bag of Equipride (taking turns) and she would set up the feed buckets for the horses, with all participants sharing the Equipride. In exchange for feeding my supps five days a week, I would commit to feeding on her two days off. I readily agreed and joined the program. In eight months I purchased three bags of Equipride (feeding solo, a bag will last me six months) and the fourth time the Equipride ran out the trainer switched the feed to another supplement that a different client was using without checking with the owners. Or even communicating the decision. I was pissed about the change and about buying so much supp without anyone else contributing, so I went back to feeding on my own. After a couple of months of having to be out at the barn five or six days a week, I got set up with a group of boarders who helped each other out by setting buckets which the barn crew would feed. That worked really well until I moved.

At SQA, I fed Ashke daily. I was able to swing by the barn after work and give him his mash, plus I would drive out during the weekend to give him his feed. It was a pain when we needed to be out of town, but it was also good to have the excuse to give him kisses every day.

At our new barn, the supps are fed after the horses have been in turnout. This means they get fed three times a day. The BO has no issue with adding a touch of water and mixing the supps up before dumping them in his bucket. Ashke gets hay while he is in turnout and then he gets his bucket when he comes back inside. The feeder in me is very happy with this arrangement.

8) Amentities. Like blanketing, which we didn't need at TMR because the barn was heated and the horses weren't let outside in the cold, but which I had to pay extra for at SQA. SQA did a great job of blanketing, switching weights of blankets, or changing out blankets if the one on the horse gets wet. It seems like this barn is the same way and it is included in the cost of the board. Trailer parking is free and the BO has been very accommodating about us parking it in a place where we can haul out without getting stuck. (It only took once.) The BO is wonderful and someone I could talk to for hours. More importantly, Ashke loves her. A lot. The facilities are incredible and Ashke is very comfortable being ridden there. None of the spookiness of SQA, great footing and a place for my things so I can play with it whenever I want.

9) Barn community. This was the one thing I didn't realize I wanted when I first brought Ashke home. I ride at night after work a couple of times a week and it's more comfortable when there are people around. The people I have met are really nice, and they all know Ashke by name. A week or so ago, I was getting ready to ride and a woman there said something about going outside, so we went. It was really nice to be able to ride the property line and just chat about nothing. I had that, kind of, at TMR (mostly I had N to ride with) and I did ride once a week at SQA with C, but I never really connected with anyone else at either barn, except K. And K and I have bonded on so many levels over miles of trail. It's comforting to know that most nights there will be someone there to share space with.

10) Trainers. The barn is open to any trainer, so I can bring in someone if I wanted, but I really like the resident trainer I took a lesson with last week. In fact, I can't wait to be able to ride with her again. For the first time I am excited to practice my dressage. I've practiced dressage in the past because its a necessary evil that I have to do in order to do the speed round, but now I think we can really do this. We could get better. We could get good, maybe.

Anyway, that is my list.

Sunday, April 10, 2016


I did a pair of rides this weekend: one at the Teller trail and the other at Barr Lake. K is in Florida on vacation so it was J and I hauling out.

On Saturday, we hauled to LM's place where Satori is stabled. The Teller Trail is directly across the street and then the East Boulder Creek Trail heads north from the barn. The northern trail was the first trail ride we did with K and Eddy, and it would have been fun to do it again, however the bridge has fallen apart due to the torrential rains in 2013. Instead, we did the south trail.

 It was a nice relaxing ride.

 Dictated by the almost three year old, who was not interested in riding.

 Ashke loved the flag, once he got to sniff it.

 I really love Boulder and wish we could live there.
However, that would require winning the lottery.

 The trail on the south side is very flat.

The trail winds around a couple of lakes.
We saw pelicans.

 The grass is getting very green.

 Ashke was very relaxed.

 Ashke and Satori seem to like each other.

Headed back

We did a brief canter and some trotting before he lost his mind.

At which point, we began to do square turns and some 10 m circles until he found his mind again. Once we were back at the barn, the humans ate lunch while the horses chilled, then LM and I rode in the arena. We have hopes of doing a ride for the Mane Event at the expo next year. After we messed around with that for a while, Satori was done. I demonstrated the exercise of spiraling in and out in both directions for J and LM.

It really doesn't look like much, but I know what it feels like.

It was a nice day and a good ride.

On Sunday, J and I did Barr Lake. She fished and I rode. 

We pulled in and set up Ashke with food while I ate lunch. Then we headed for the trail. There is a bridge that you have to walk over to get to the trail around Barr Lake and there were two women there that were struggling with their three horses. (The woman on the Rocky Mountain horse was very nice. The other woman with two horses was kind of a snot.) The buckskin mare did not want to cross. I crossed and then turned around and went back to offer help. The woman on the RM horse ponied the white horse across, while the woman tried to get the buckskin to step on the bridge. I offered to wave the dressage whip she had at the mare's hindend to try to help encourage her onto the bridge. Finally, she stepped onto the bridge surface and then walked across. I was worried because it looked like a potential fuck-bucket. I crossed, mounted and headed counter clockwise around the lake, chasing J, while they went the other direction. I didn't see them again. I hope they did the circuit okay, since the trains were running every twenty minutes or so today. I heard or saw seven trains go by in the less than three hours we were there.

When we turned to follow J, Ashke stepped out in a solid, ground eating trot right up until he caught up to her. Then he slowed to a walk and walked right next to her, bumping her with his nose. We left her at the fishing hole and headed north. Ashke stepped out pretty nicely, offering the occasional canter in spots, but that was fairly short lived, since he kept spooking at stuff. And I was struggling with abdominal pain (thought for a while that it was another kidney stone) and what felt like a stitch in my side that eventually worked itself out. We rode out along one of the canals for a mile or so and then turned back to tour the hunting blinds. There was a very nice path of crusher fine that Ashke cantered the length of, plus some nice grassy spots we cantered as well. We turned back when we reached the railroad tracks and Ashke was very happy to be headed back. 

We found J and walked with her back to the trailer. Ashke kept bumping her with his nose. Again. 

J didn't catch anything. Ashke and I did close to nine miles in just under two hours. Not bad for what felt like a very relaxed and easy ride. Last one for at least a week, possibly two.

Friday, April 8, 2016


One of the things I liked about my barn before I moved in is that there is no established trainer. There are two women (one a h/j trainer and the other a dressage trainer) who train out of there, but I think that's mostly because they also board their horses there. I could choose to have a trainer come in, provided they had insurance, but most of the trainers I know are a long way away. So, I've been sitting on the fence trying to decide how to go forward.

It was pretty obvious after my last show that I need some help in dressage. There are things on the dressage test that I, with my background of riding like a wild hooligan, have no clue how to do or how to correct what I am doing wrong. Because dressage is basically the same whether it is for dressage competition, eventers or WE, I didn't need a WE trainer, but rather someone that does dressage. I also wanted to be able to take lessons during the evening in the middle of the week, so that I'm not giving up a weekend day hauling somewhere for a lesson. It helps our arena rides if we have something to focus on. With that in mind, I began stalking the dressage trainer at the barn.

We will call her AC. She works with several different riders, even though the barn is fairly small, and seems to do just fine with USDF dressage, general riding and western dressage. All of the people who ride with her seem to enjoy her lessons, and she doesn't repeat herself (like the dressage trainer at TMR who seemed to say the same thing to everyone). I had the opportunity to watch her ride, which she does very well. She has shown to Third Level and her horse is quiet, calm and very responsive to her requests. (I have started talking to her about coming to a WE show and showing. I think her horse would love it.) I also watched how she was with Alectra (Polish arab mare at the barn) and she was so quiet and sweet with that mare, handling her perfectly without over reacting to anything.

Right after the expo I approached her and probably overwhelmed her with questions and statements. I decided that if I was going to try a ride with her, she needed to know up front where I and Ashke were coming from. She listened calmly and agreed that everything I had shared was fine with her (curb bit, only I ride him, he has some physical limitations I am trying to work with/make better, only interested in riding in WE). A week or so later, I arranged a lesson for last night.

We started with me giving her a run down on what we have been dealing with as far as Ashke's hind end, and where I need help in addressing some of the elements on the dressage test. First on my list was the turn at E, the turn at B, and somehow making them a turn rather than a loop. AC knew exactly what I was talking about and verbally explained what I needed to do to make that turn. It's basically a quarter pirouette, which Ashke is the best at, getting the shoulder to move around the corner while keeping the haunches on the square. We started at the walk to the left and within a couple of tries, Ashke was doing a really nice turn. (We still need practice, but at least I know what a correct one should feel like). AC didn't want me to worry about the bend yet. She said that it works best to train it in two parts; first you train the turn and then you add the request for the bend. The thought being getting the shoulder to turn is the difficult part, while adding the bend after the rider has good control of the shoulder should be much easier. (I never thought to do one and then the other.)

Then we turned to the right. This direction was a bit more difficult to keep the hind end where I wanted it while moving the shoulder. But Ashke tried so hard for me and within five minutes we had the turn in both directions. Then we did square serpentines down the arena and back at the walk. Then we moved to doing the exercises at the trot. Ashke was very successful and I'm sure, even if we didn't practice those any more it would still be a better movement on our test (I am going to practice at least the serpentines during every indoor ride). Then we moved outside to work on the canter.

I'm not going to lie, I was really impressed with the next thing AC had me work on. I told her that Ashke has a hard time cantering with inside bend (he prefers to counter bend) and that if I ask for too much he will cross canter in the back to protect his hip, although he realizes that isn't the right answer and moves to correct it. AC suggested we work on spiraling in and out. I had read about that movement on other blogs, but had no real idea how to ride it. We did it first at the walk and then at the trot to give Ashke an idea of where we were going with the exercise. It was a lot of work to shape Ashke and move him in on the circle and then back out on the circle. His movement to the inside is much stronger and quicker than his movement to the outside.

After we did the walk and trot, I asked for a canter, which was fairly good. I began to move him inside and outside on a fairly decent circle, moving from 20 m to about 10 m. He did great to the left and although he thought about switching leads a couple of times, he was able to hold the canter correctly. And then the miracle happened: his canter got better, with better bend as I pushed him from the inside to the outside. We changed direction and he gave me a flawless transition, then did the spiral to the right. His canter got better and AC said she could see more correct movement in his hind legs as we were spiraling out. We held it to three or four attempts in each direction and then we were done. AC said that the spiral out is one of the best exercises for strengthening the hind end that she knows.

Ashke was a little sweaty from the canter work, even though we have cantered longer on trail without him being sweaty. It's hard work doing things the correct way. I was really, really happy at the end of the lesson. Ashke seemed pretty happy too, even if he was tired. We have practice things to add to our riding work during the week; serpentine turns (quarter pirouettes) and spirals. Maybe by next lesson Ashke will have gotten strong enough that the spirals will be easier for him to do.

The other thing I managed to fix was the slight issue I have with my saddle. I had a wither relief lift pad that I purchased several years ago that has been collecting dust in my house. I was looking at it the other day and had an idea. I cut it in pieces and took the part that was designed to fit on my horse's back where the saddle needs adjusting, cut away the right side but left the spine channel in place. I put it where it needed to go, tucking the spine channel into the channel of the saddle to hold it in place. It worked perfectly. There was no scuffed hair on his back, despite the spiral work, at the end of the ride. Now, I just need to figure out how to flock my saddle and I will be a happy rider.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016


We did a ride on Sunday, after the cattle work on Saturday. J was pretty wiped out after Saturday and I think we need to address electrolytes with her, based on a comment Saiph made in her last post. I don't have the same issue of fatigue and headaches that J does, but overall, I drink a lot more than she does. Orange juice is my favorite, with apple juice a close second. I do feel fatigued, but not at the level that J does. K has a recipe for an electrolyte drink that combines coconut water and OJ, with other stuff, that I might see if J can drink. Hopefully, we will find the right thing to help boost her energy level when we are on trail that also mitigates the exhaustion she feels afterwards (not that I mind her going to bed at 7:30).

It took two minutes to load Ashke and even less than that to load Eddy. K's confidence and Eddy's understanding have certainly grown, and he is less and less of Eddy Haskell, and more of The Eds with every ride. I'm really excited about the things we will do this summer!

Anyway, at Chatfield we unloaded, groomed and tacked up. Both horses were full of energy but not out of control. Well, not to begin with. One of the big differences this year is the amount of energy the horses have at the beginning of the ride, the middle of the ride and the end of the ride. Ashke has become the energizer bunny.

After crossing the river, we moved to the north side of the road so J could ride the sidewalk. The ground was just muddy enough that she was going to brick her bike if we weren't careful. The footing next to the sidewalk was decent in most places, although there were a couple of places where I could feel Ashke's feet slipping in the mud. It was good enough that the ponehs could move out at a fast trot.

Ashke really loves this part of his job

We were following a sand based road, where we could trot and canter a little bit.

This was about the point where Ashke began flipping his head. He really struggles to maintain an even pace when we are riding behind Eddy, but being second in the pack is important. K and I took turns riding in front and varying our pace, so that we could work on rating our horse's speed and making sure they were actually going in the gait we wanted and not what the other horse was doing. Ashke was fighting me hard and flipping his head like crazy. I couldn't figure it out and was getting really frustrated. We finally stopped so J could shed some layers and let the boys graze while we waited. Ashke grabbed several mouthfuls of grass to eat and then he was fine for the rest of the ride. I was able to ride at the pace I wanted without the fight we were having earlier. I figured he had finally figured it out.

And then I saw this:

Silly horse had his tongue over the bit.
All I can figure is that when he started grazing he managed to get his tongue back under the bit.
Next time, I'll know to have J check.

The Eds. Being Eddy.

This loop we ride is almost 9 miles. It includes a three to four mile dirt road which is perfect for speed trotting and extended periods of cantering. When we reached the fork for the river trail we broke for lunch and both horses were pretty sweaty. It hit 74 on Sunday and was damn near a perfect day. We let the boys graze for a good twenty minutes, while we ate part of lunch, then we headed for the river trail.

Ashke would have cantered the entire thing had I let him. I kept him to a trot, because there was a lot of downed trees and hanging branches we were having to maneuver over and through. The horses were really good about the stuff on the ground, but they have no concept of hanging limbs. Thankfully, everything was light enough that we could take it on the top of the helmet at a trot, but we only cantered a couple of times, since I didn't want to unhorse myself and give myself a concussion at the same time. I know, narrow minded of me. Plus, there were a couple of times when we went around a corner and there was a blockage on the trail.

Like this:

J had to sit on the lower one and turn her bike sideways to get through.
K and I went around. 

We got back to the trailer with a 5.6 mph average (so much faster than last year but a full mile per hour). Unsaddled, loaded and headed home. The drive is now about an hour to any of our riding spots each direction, but we've figured out a route that keeps us out of the majority of traffic.

At the barn we unloaded and then I held Ashke in the wash stall while J rinsed the sweat from him. He was shaking with fear when I first led him into the arena, positioning him with the wall close enough to touch on his right side. He finally stopped shaking when I turned him around and repositioned him to rinse the other side. However, he did try to bite me several times toward the end. Yes, it would have hurt had he actually connected, but he wasn't trying to get his teeth on me. He just wanted me to know how displeased and unhappy he was with the whole process. He does nip when he is stressed. I let him bite at the palm of my hand (where he can't get anything) and as he calms down the behavior goes away. This behavior is so much less than when I first got him and I understand where it comes from, so as long as he's not really trying (as opposed to expressing his fear) I don't reprimand him. I just gently remind him verbally that we don't bite (toddlers do the same thing). 

I think J and I might see if we can get T to ride Hidden Mesa with us on Saturday.

Saturday, April 2, 2016


Today, we did a three hour cattle clinic with one of the Working Equitation trainers. See, one of the really cool parts of Working Equitation is the cattle penning phase (which happens with teams) and this was Ashke's first introduction to cattle. The little bulls are Correnti cattle with nice horns and they have been carefully raised so although they are comfortable with people, they also know their job is to move away from the pressure that horse and rider put on them.

Two of us had never worked cattle, four had, and two very experienced trainers to guide.

Keith started by telling us that we would spend the next three hours mostly walking. These bulls were faster than our horses and so rather than chase them, we had to respect their bubble and out maneuver them. If we positioned ourselves at their hip, they would move forward, in front of their shoulder would cause them to turn back or halt. Our goal was to move them around the arena without getting them or our horses too excited.

Ashke trying to chew on the tip of my boot. He does that when he is bored of standing around.

Ashke loved the little bulls. I think he would have taken one home if he could.

There was a group of eight bulls. Keith and Kitty had put vet wrap in green on three and vet wrap in white on three. That was to help mark targets for the riders.

He was so locked on them from the very beginning.

We split the herd into two groups and worked them independently from one another.

Splitting the herd.

At first, Ashke wanted to chase them. It took a couple of hours for him to understand that we wanted to move slow. It was more precise than either of us expected.

More cutting, without the excitement of a western cutting event.

It would have been better if we had increased our communication and had assigned positions.
Or had a clue as to what we were doing.

The little bulls got a bit more feisty as the day went on.

It is almost counterintuitive to think that instead of racing alongside the bull to turn it, you make your bubble bigger. Pulling further away reduces the pressure on them and they slow naturally. Unless they are the smallest of the white wrapped bulls, and they have attitude. 

There were times when Ashke and the bull had stand offs.

And then there were times when the bull was not going to be stopped.
Cattle work is as much a timing issue as any type of horse training. Sometimes, one step was all that was necessary to turn the bull, as long as the step was at the exact moment necessary.

At the end of the clinic, we moved all of the bulls into one group, then took turns pulling two of them out - one at a time. The horses that weren't actively working the bulls were in a semi-circle around them, keeping them penned. The sorter would maneuver the bull they picked until it was fairly isolated, and then they and the "gate keeper" would work together to cut them from the herd.

This is really where Ashke demonstrated how much he had learned during the day. He was calm and slow when marking out his bulls to move. He figured out which bull we were after and then singled it out to move away from the herd. If they weren't in a position to isolate, we just moved them in a circle and waited for the next opportunity. 

It was a great clinic. I think Ashke was engaged and enthralled by the bulls. I have no doubt that if we have a four phase show in September, doing the cattle work will be both easy and fun.