Monday, November 28, 2016

Thanks Full

Thursday, which was Stuff-yourself-day, I spent cooking and watching TV. The cooking was followed by watching my almost seventeen year old eat five plates of food in eight hours. And not small plates of food. The part of me that exalts in feeding others was temporarily satisfied with the amount of food consumed and astounded when he finally announced he was full. I was beginning to worry he would eat all of the leftovers without stopping to breathe. Then he proceeded to sleep for twelve hours. I guess that's what happens when you consume half of a 18 lb turkey, at an average of a little more than a pound an hour.

J and I decided to do a short ride from Adams County Fairgrounds along the South Platte. It was close and an easy trail, considering we were both food lagged from the day before. Ashke was excited and interested in being out and my focus was on letting him move at whatever pace he picked for the duration of the ride. It took almost an hour of riding to get him loose and the sound of his hooves back to normal. The right hind "plops" onto the ground when his right hamstring is stiff and sore. The trail was closed south of the platte so we just tooled around the trails that were open. Managed nine miles in two hours without rushing at all.

The race up the riverbank toward J was so much fun I had to do it twice. He was feeling very good at this point, since he bolted into a hand gallop coming up the bank.

It was wonderfully relaxing and enjoyable to be able to ride in shirtsleeve weather Thanksgiving weekend. It looks like winter might be making its way into the state in the next week or so, so I rode fully cognizant that this might be the last shirtsleeved ride until next spring.

We hauled back to the barn, unloaded and said goodbye to the boy. We got home in time to meet Tia, who came up for the weekend. We went to see the Accountant (made my top ten movies of all time - a most excellent film) and had dinner at 3 Margaritas. The high point of my night was when T, who had NOT wanted to see the film and had instead been arguing we should see Fantastic Beasts again, turned to me and said it was better than FB. He wants to go see it again. It is almost good enough to spend the money on to see twice in the theater. It was a good day for all of my peeps.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

And Another

Last Sunday I did a ride at Hidden Mesa that I haven't had time to process and post about. I will work on getting the video off of the GoPro and into a blog post. One of the issues that cropped up, however, was Ashke being a bit off on his right hind.

This played a part in last night's lesson. I think the changing weather is effecting how comfortable Ashke is under saddle. He struggled a bit to get warm and loose enough to bend, even at the trot. We started out with lots of walk, some trot and a brief canter before the lesson started. He was rough on the left lead, which is indicative of that hamstring being tight. The weather is much colder and chilly than it has been, so I am going to need to address methods to help him with that particular injury. I have some thoughts and we will see. Luckily, he was not cross cantering or bunny hopping, both are compensation methods for that hind leg, and Amanda said he was tracking up nicely when we started our lesson.

We started with some more canter so she could assess what was happening with him. After a short canter in each direction, Amanda had us working on a 10 m circle at the trot until he loosened up and began to bend. Once we had that release in one direction, we moved to the other direction. Finally, he was able to relax into the bend and we began to get some swing in his back. Amanda had me start the canter circle coming to a walk at the rail. On the right lead, he was soft, quiet and collected and after three circles we stopped. It wasn't going to get any better than that. When we turned to the left, we struggled a bit. He was trying very hard to maintain the proper lead, but it must have been somewhat painful, because he got pissy about it. More pissy. Instead of flaring back at him, we stopped and I rubbed his neck and face, until he finally relaxed enough to try again. This time we got three or four decent circles before stopping.

Next was trotting serpentines, working on maintaining bend and our cadence regardless of direction. He did awesome. I was too tired and my legs felt like spaghetti, which I have been reassured, means the lesson was good. Next we did shoulder in along the rail. Then haunches in. Then Amanda had us do haunches in moving from the far side of the arena to the near, while watching myself in the mirror. That was very good, because it gives me a way to check if we are doing it correctly when I am riding by myself. Finally, we worked on the shoulder in at the trot.

We took lots of walk breaks in between and Ashke stretched down a lot. I know that helps him when his hammie is bothersome.

Finally, we worked on cantering a figure eight. Amanda is trying to get me to really be clear in my seat before the up transition to a canter in the other direction. Ashke bucked once when we were going to the left (harder on his right hind leg) and so we walked a bit before I asked again. We finished on those.

I need to be sure to be riding four days a week. The best thing for his stiff hind end is consistent work. I'm also going to attach my BOT insert into his turnout sheet so it will help with keeping that muscle and ligament warm and loose.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Indian Creek to Chatfield

I have a story to share before I share our latest ride. Last Sunday, J and I got up and left the house early. I met K and we did a ride, while J met up with A and they did a singletrack bike ride near A's house. The plan was to be back to the house before 11 am, when Mom would be up to watch TV. K and I rode out around the edges of the fields behind Morelli's, which I had ridden a year ago. It ended up being about five miles and was a decent ride. There was a point where we were riding through short grass and came to what appeared to be a ditch. I approached slowly, looking for a ditch or hidden holes, but still didn't see the wire hiding in the tall weeds until Ashke had stepped across  it with one foot and gotten it tangled in his front feet. It has always been one of my fears that we would get tangled in wire and he would freak out. I told him to whoa! firmly but not fearful, then asked him to stand. He did. I dismounted and untangled the left front which had not crossed the wire, but had trapped the wire in his royal tendon boot. Then I untangled his right front, reached down and lifted the hoof out of the wire and then asked him to back up. He did everything I asked calmly and without even twitching a muscle until I asked. It was an amazing moment. He seemed completely unphased by the incident, although I stood and shook for a good fifteen minutes afterwards. Thankfully, it was not barbed.

Okay, now for the ride we did on Saturday.

We did this ride in June, when the weather had finally turned toward the beginnings of spring rather than the end of winter. This weekend was the opposite end of that, with what could possibly be the last of fall and the beginning of winter. The temps were in the mid 60's and although K, J and A were a little cold, I rode the entire day in short sleeves and was incredibly comfortable. It was beautiful, with bright, deep blue skies and incredible views.

I took a bunch of videos with the GoPro. I think they turned out pretty well. We started at Indian Creek, rode up to the Colorado Trail, turned north to Waterton Canyon, then rode the river trail to our normal parking spot at Chatfield. K and I rode 16 miles, while J and A rode 19 or so. I didn't take any videos of Waterton, since it is a road through the canyon and not real exciting. Although, A did share some pics she took which I will post.

The trail starts downhill for about a mile. Not too steep but a consistent downhill. Then we head up.

There is a combination of dirt and rocks. The rocks can get very gnarly.

The main part of the uphill was pretty steep. Ashke was breathing very heavily at the top.
We stopped and waited for their breathing to normalize before going on.

Eddy led a lot, especially in the mountains. The trail was pretty eroded by the traffic and lack of moisture this year. Some of the rocks were pretty intense to traverse. I did get off on one, where the slick rock was convexed and wider than a single step. Ashke handled it well but I was glad I was off his back.

The Colorado Trail has a very intimidating drop off on one side.

At the top of Waterton, K and I ate lunch while waiting for J and A to arrive. I was kind of surprised that they weren't there when we arrived. Both of the boys got a couple pounds of feed dumped out onto the ground for them to eat, plus Ashke got a handful of baby carrots to gobble up. After we finished up lunch, we headed down the canyon to try and find our wayward company. We met them ten minutes down the canyon. J had issues with the bike pump and it took her a while to get air back in the tire (after flattening it), plus they had been waylaid by bighorn sheep.

This is the River Trail along the South Platte. Love this trail.

Wait for it . . . .
So much fun.

Eddy did get kicked by Ashke, who hates that Eddy runs up on him. It might have been better to have Eddy in front of Ashke, but I don't trust Eddy to stop and not run over J and A on their bikes, so he has to be behind me.

Doing a log across trail. There were a lot of trees down due to beaver activity.

Ashke drank well at the river both times he was offered water and again at the trailer. Eddy didn't drink at all, which does not bode well for his possible endurance future. Even at sixteen miles and he sweated heavily. K may need to think about salt or electrolytes to help trigger him drinking. Ashke sweated early on the mile uphill we did, but was cool and dry the rest of the day. Eddy had sweat dripping off his shoulders and chest. He is such a mountain goat, I swear.

We loaded the horses as the sun dropped behind the mountains. Six more weeks until Solstice and possibly snow on Thursday. Really happy we got this ride in.

Thursday, November 10, 2016


I grieve for our Nation, for our Children, for each person who lives in the United States.

I am grieving for the opening this election has given groups of people whose existence is rooted in hate to make of their hatred, National policy.

I am grieving that the structure of our primary religious culture has encouraged the hatred being directed at "others" in our society, that they spew that hatred while claiming to be Christian. 

I am grieving that the anger and frustration of our populace fueled the belief that electing a man who spews hatred and encourages white nationalism will fix the underlying issues of our working poor.

I am grieving the loss of safety and security I felt last week on a personal, national and global level.

I am grieving the loss of safety and security for people of color, people of differing religious beliefs, the poor, the homeless, the gender-nonconforming, our LGBTQ community, women, children, refugees, immigrants and the global community.

I am grieving the lesson my bright, beautiful, inclusive young man is learning from this election and the risk it puts him at going forward.

I grieve for my friends who are going to lose their health insurance and those who mistakenly believe Obamacare is the issue, not the for-profit health management organizations and big pharma.

I grieve for the wilderness we will lose to clear cutting and oil production, for the increasing carbon emissions and increased number of pipelines, for Standing Rock and all our Indian nations who are the only ones standing up in protection of our nation's water supply.

I grieve for the loss of compassion, empathy and selflessness.

I grieve for all sexual assault survivors who now have to face a sexual predator as our President.

I grieve for all of my friends and family who voted Republican out of some misplaced sense of loyalty to a party that sold its soul a long time ago and who, in doing so, have condemned myself and my family to increased risk of violence.

I grieve for all of my friends and family who voted for the President elect or Gary Johnson out of outrage at the establishment's treatment of Bernie and who, in doing so, have condemned myself and my family to increased risk of violence.

I have never felt so scared in my life. "Terrified" does not really do this overwhelming feeling of anguish and fear justice, but it is the best word at my disposal.

Terrified for what this election means for my retired parents.

Terrified for what this election means for my Latino and Latina friends and family.

Terrified for what this election means for my Black friends and family and all those who believe Black Lives must Matter as much as white lives.

Terrified for my friends and family who are Muslim, Wiccan, Pagan, Jewish and atheist.

Terrified that it will be a small step from the vocalized hatred of the alt-right in this election to concentration camps, lynchings, brutality and bullying directed at "diversity".

Terrified that the nuclear arms race might have been reignited by this election and the potential for using nuclear weapons exponentially increased.

Grief stricken and terrified.

Maybe by tomorrow I will have found the resolute commitment I need to survive the next four years and to face the fact that the civil rights we have worked for over the past fifty-five years could be wiped away, for everyone. Maybe by tomorrow, I will have found the courage I need to work for change in our government: term limits for Congress and the Senate; an amendment to the Constitution changing the election process for the Presidential election; state laws to prevent gerrymandering and voter suppression. Those things will make a difference going forward.

Maybe by tomorrow, I will have regained my emotional equilibrium and be able to see a way past my grief and fear.

That day is not today.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Trail Riding Tips

Due to riding in different sizes of circles in an arena, which is not great blog fodder, I decided to put together some tips for people who are interested in or are trail riding. These rules do not apply to endurance riders, since that requires a lot more than I am going into here. These are guidelines for pleasure rides on a variety of trails.

1. Plan Your Ride
There is a great app called the MTB Project. It is a crowd sourced trail guide built and developed by mountain bikers and it covers everywhere in the US. J and I really like it because it gives great detail about the trail and pictures as well. Included in the description is driving directions, elevation gain and loss, recommended direction of travel and footing. Although all of that information is directed at bikers (which I ride with) there is still a lot of good information to be gathered from the app. Usually, it also provides trail hazards and indicates when the trail is closed to one type of traffic or another. We rode Little Scraggy and Soapstone because of this app. Finally, it gives both J and I an idea of how difficult it will be for her to ride, what kind of obstacles Ashke and I might have to maneuver, and what kind of grade we will be facing.

Then we do some research. I look at the trail on mapquest or google earth (how I found the East-West Regional trail) and try to figure out what we might be facing, how long the trail might be, and if there is water available on trail. I look at the parking lots and what is safe for horse trailer parking (which is how we found the trailhead for the South Platte). Last, I look for water sources (like cattle tanks on the Soapstone) to provide water for the horses. Water and heat can really limit where and how long the ride is, because although we can haul water for people with us, I have no way to haul in five gallons of water for Ashke. Fifteen miles is about the maximum I am willing to ride without water for him to drink.

Once a trail is picked out, we do exploring. That involves driving by in the car (if the trail is local), sometimes that means driving out the horse trailer and just hoping things work out. An exploring ride is undertaken with the understanding that we have no idea what we are getting into or what we might face. J and I explored Soapstone with just the two of us, because we don't take it personal if one or the other says it's time to turn around and head back. It's fun to do the research and set expectations. Riding the Indian Creek trail was that way this summer. I had mapped it out, estimated the time it would take to make the ride to the top of Waterton Canyon, brought plenty of snacks and drinks with me, but still had the risk that something would keep us from making the ride. We ended up exactly where I thought we would be at exactly the time I thought we would be there, which worked out wonderfully. The hard part about riding a trail like that is the lack of communication with J, since cell service in our mountains is non-existent.

2. Be Prepared on Trail
  • Bring water, gatorade, snacks, and lunch. Keeping yourself fed and hydrated will help with altitude, energy level, dizziness, and decision making. Pack a variety of edibles and more than you would expect to want or need. If you are doing back country where you might get stuck for more than a day, you might consider a small water purifier. They make them now to fit inside a water bottle, which is small enough to pack on horseback. We also bring a collapsible bucket for the horse, although we have yet to have either of them drink out of it.
  • Bring treats for your horse. Carrots or apples for the moisture they inherently have, or a bag of feed (I prefer Triple Crown Senior). The last time we did Indian Creek, I supplemented the treats with a bag of TC Senior that fit in one of the packs. I knew from the terrain it would be hard to find forage and so wanted to provide a meal that Ashke would enjoy. It's easy to feed just by pouring it out onto a flat piece of rock or a patch of short grass.
  • Bring the proper attire. This will vary depending on season. The tricky times are spring and fall. During those seasons, this should always include a jacket, a beanie type hat and a pair of warm work gloves. The weather here can change quickly, despite forecasts, and if you pack for prevention, you won't ever find yourself shivering in 19 degree weather with no gloves or a hat. I would also recommend work gloves in your bag regardless, because you never know when you might have to move downed timber or wire. Be sure to wear boots that you can both ride and hike in, since there is nothing more miserable than trying to hike in godawful cowboy boots. Hiking for five miles with a poorly fitting pair of boots sucks rocks, as my son would say.
  • Bring some basic common sense items: a basic first aid kit (make sure it has waterproof matches as part of the kit), sunscreen, ibuphrophen, a multitool with a blade and wire cutters, a hoof pick, paracord, and a rope halter and lead rope. These are all basic necessities if caught out on trail with an emergency, like turning the wrong way and getting lost. (At a minimum, you can tie your horse safely to a tree, start a fire for warmth, to signal for help, or to boil water to drink. Thirty minutes with your knife and a little ingenuity will create a lean-to shelter to keep you safe and your horse will warn you of any danger. This is where having a little extra food comes in handy.) The other items will help if you need to McGuyver something on trail.
  • If you are riding in the backcountry or in an area where help is not close and immediate, or the potential for getting lost exists, I would also add a hammock (they pack small and don't weigh much), water filtration system, and an emergency blanket to your pack (the kind with the foil reflective material on the inside). Being prepared is the difference between being comfortably lost in the wilderness and all kinds of bad things happening.
Do I ride with all of these things all of the time? No. We don't go that far back into the wilderness most of the time, nor are our trails that dangerous. I do, however, follow the first four points pretty religiously. It is better to have it and not need it, than to really regret not bringing it with you. The last bullet point would be added if there was significant danger of not making it back to the trailer by dark (never ridden the trail before; in backcountry where there is limited contact with other humans; the intended distance is much longer than a normal ride). Or during a season where you could have an abrupt, unexpected change in weather (spring and fall here).

3. Share the Trail
This is an issue all trail riders are going to have to deal with, since it is impossible to find horse only trails. All of the trails I have access to in Colorado are multi-use trails, which means there are bikes, dogs, people, strollers, backpacks, umbrellas and children to contend with. I would suggest despooking your horse to bicycles before setting out on trail, since they are the most prominent, fastest moving and most silent traffic you will have to deal with on any given day. Don't get hostile or abusive with them, they are the ones driving trail access, especially in the back country. The mountain bike community works to fix trails, expand trails, and maintain access to a lot of trails in the mountains. The Little Scraggy trail we rode was cleared and built by several groups of mountain bikers.

Yes, I know horses have the right away, and just like you I can get crabby about other trail users. However, don't be a dick. Bikes have to stay on the trail and we do not. Verbally greet them, tell them you will move from the trail as quickly as possible and then do so to let them go by. Be especially aware in the parts of the trail where bikes will be traveling downhill at speed. That is their fun zone and the thing they live for and the last thing you want to do is kill their mojo. I am pretty lucky in that I ride with a bike and she acts as an ambassador to the biking community when we are out. But even when she isn't there, I pay attention to those little details.

Be polite. Say thank you. Acknowledge their patience and willingness to stop and wait. Wave them on if you can, and above all BE NICE. You are an ambassador for every single trail rider out there: if you are nice, they will remember and be patient with the next rider they come across.

4. Be Aware of Your Limits
When you are riding with a group be aware of your limits. And the limits of your horse. It would be best if that conversation occurred prior to hauling out, but if it didn't, be vocal about what you are willing to do prior to starting the ride. It's no fun for anyone if you were thinking three mile easy ride and you are riding with someone that wants to do twenty with a nine mile an hour pace. As both the pace and length of your ride increases, be aware of what your horse is telling you. On some trails, there is no easy access for any type of emergency vehicle and the last thing anyone wants to do is walk out ten miles with a lame horse.

Know what you are comfortable with as far as trail obstacles go. Are rattlesnakes a deal breaker for you? Then stay out of their habitat. Is your horse barefoot? Be aware of how rocky the terrain is where you are riding and make adjustments ahead of time. Understand how long you have to ride, when the sun goes down, and at what time you need to just turn around and head back. The law of diminishing returns applies to trail riding and the last thing you are going to want to do is ride unknown territory in the dark.

Make sure you are fit enough for the ride you want to do. There is nothing more difficult than getting out on trail and not having the strength or stamina to finish the ride. Know your limitations. If altitude gain and loss (mountains) stresses muscles and joints that are used to flat riding, don't go as far or as fast on those type of rides. It's not fair to your riding companions or to your horse if you can't finish the ride, not to mention, if you are in the backcountry an emergency like that might end up causing the kind of overnight emergency we are trying to prevent.

5. Stay with Your Group
I don't care how experienced you are, you stay with the group you started with. Yes, that might mean you have to ride slower or for less distance than you wanted, but you need to recognize that horses are herd animals and separating one from the others is going to result in a lot of undue stress on your animal. If there are only two of you, separating them is going to cause stress for both, which means that both riders need to be okay with that. If that is in your plan, make sure you communicate that up front. If everyone isn't onboard, then plan your ride alone. It creates a safety issue to separate horses on trail.

This also applies to obstacles on trail. If, for example, there is a log down and your horse clears it like the winning round at WEG, don't just keep going down the trail. Stop and make sure that all of the horse and rider combinations have cleared the obstacle before continuing on. Some of the biggest wrecks I have seen on trail have resulted in one horse trotting off down the trail and the second horse freaking out at being left behind and not paying attention to what the rider is telling them. Be aware of what might be an obstacle for someone else, but doesn't seem like an obstacle to you. Crossing water is a prime example. Keeping your horse close will help create a "safe" zone for the other horses and they won't feel like they need to rush the crossing just to stay close. In heavily wooded areas, it can be a disaster for a horse to leap over a small stream instead of walking because of low hanging branches. Be vigilant!

6. Check Your Pride at the Trailer Door
Get off your horse and hand walk if necessary. Be aware of what constitutes a serious obstacle or hazard on trail and then get off your horse to negotiate it by hand. Being too proud to get off or too obtuse to recognize the real hazard you are facing can get you and your horse in big trouble. Don't hesitate to ask for help in determining how to deal with the obstacle you are facing. I know that I will always dismount to cross large patches of slick rock, because I don't want Ashke to have to balance us both in a situation where he might slip, especially now that he is wearing shoes. Your horse should gain confidence from you on the ground with them and will negotiate the obstacles easier that way.

7. Have Fun!!
Pick your riding partners carefully. Finding someone who wants to ride the same type of trail and distance is key. Make sure you are well suited to each other and can at least laugh about the foibles you will face on trail. There is nothing worse than riding several hours with someone you are struggling to spend time with. Have fun on trail. That's why you get out, right?

Happy trails to everyone!!

Saturday, November 5, 2016


One of the things that Ashke and I really focus on in our lessons is improving our canter. I don't know if he's gotten stronger, if he finally has figured out he doesn't need to race, or if it's a combination of the two, but he has turned a corner and is beginning to understand the canter we want is as slow as he can without breaking down to a trot. On Friday afternoon, Mom came out to see the barn and the new camper and to watch me ride Ashke. J came with us to pull the battery out of the camper (should always pull it out over the winter) and she also took video.

It is definitely much more difficult for Ashke to canter on the right lead and he gets more pissy when we are moving that direction. There was one point where I was trying to get him to bend before a canter depart and he kicked up and hit the bottom of my shoe. I didn't get upset but I did make him move in a circle until he stopped trying to argue to me and finally calmed down a little bit.

He did the 15m circle (although to the left he drops in on his shoulder and I need to remember that) and then the loop to the quarterline from the Novice test. He nailed it to the left.

It was hard the first try. The mounting block did not help and the standards in the back corner makes it hard to get to the rail and back out to the quarterline, so we tried it the other direction in the arena, which made a huge difference.

I certainly love how far he has come and how well he is doing. It was awesome to have Amanda riding Cody in the arena at the same time, since she acts as a calming blanket for both of us. I also checked most of my anxiety at the door before I came into the barn.

Thursday, November 3, 2016


So, I had a lesson last night. I was hoping we would have a clean slate and be able to work on the stuff we've been progressing on, but it seemed like Ashke was still in the same headspace I found him in on Saturday.

I take full responsibility. I am really stressed right now. As an avid political science nutjob, and someone with a lot of rights I could potentially lose, I have been closely following the election. Can I just say that I am having a hard time dealing with the amount of misogyny that it takes to choose a child rapist over a woman who sent a bunch of emails that resulted in no action taken against the US; to choose a pathological liar who has cheated and scammed his way to billionaire status over a person who has spent their life in public service; to choose a man who brags about his ability to assault women with impunity over a woman who has stood faithful to her vows. I am speechless with sorrow, trembling with fear and holding onto hope with the edges of my fingernails. It's no wonder my horse is a tense freak right now.

I tried to ground and compartmentalize my anxiety into a neat bucket in the back of my head before I walked into the barn. Ashke greeted me with a nicker and seemed happy to see me. I got him brushed and saddled, then started our warm up around the edges of the arena. He was still more up than forward, braced than relaxed, head up and fighting me rather than obedient. (Amanda said I should shoot for obedient rather than submissive, because he is not a submissive horse). He jumped, spooked and tried to bolt when the garage doors came down, but I was ready for it and just laughed. He was so very tense.

We started with serpentines. Trot-walk-trot. Then canter-walk-canter serpentines. There was a single pole in the middle of the arena. We sometimes walked over it, sometimes walked past the end and a couple of times we sidepassed over it. It gave Ashke something to focus on while we were doing the serpentines. It took awhile to get some decent bend. We incorporated the spiral circle at the canter in each direction and then back out. We did the canter a 10m circle, transitioning to a walk as we approached the rail and finally after a bunch of those, he began to get light and listen to my seat. We did leg yields at the trot, shoulder in and haunches in at the walk, and then I worked on keeping the canter as slow as possible without breaking to a trot. To the left he was amazing. To the right, he struggled and so Amanda had me add in a leg yield to help him balance. At the slow, collected canter our transitions down were much better and almost entirely off my seat.

Then Amanda had me work on the haunches in on the diagonal. That was hard, but we managed a couple of decent steps in each direction. That was when Amanda told me we were doing a half pass. I was pretty stoked. We finished up with some solid, balanced working canter on the rail, with me adding the leg yield to help him be balanced to the right.

Overall, the lesson was very good, Ashke tried hard, and I was able to forget for awhile all of the fear and anxiety I've been dealing with. I do think that I need to get back to a four day a week schedule, even if that means riding three weekday nights. And Ashke is telling me he would love to get back out on trail again. If our weather holds, we should be able to ride on Saturday the 12th.

K found herself a synergist that actually fits Eddy really well for about half of what one new would be and it is an absolutely beautiful saddle. I wouldn't mind having one for Ashke. However, every time I mention it J sticks her fingers in her ears and goes "la la la la la la la". Its an affliction. I should get her seen by a doctor.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016


Saturday, October 29th, was High Country's Halloween Party. All members were invited and encouraged to dress up in costume. We hosted it at Circle Star and had a small obstacle course of six obstacles set up to ride through. They were decorated with seasonal decorations, as well. It was a potluck, so everyone brought great things to share. It was a lot of fun.

We left the barn at about 9 am and arrived at Circle Star shortly there after. Ashke and Eddy were set up at the trailer with feed while I put the final touches on the switch a cup obstacle. Then I got Ashke set up in his costume. Originally, I wanted to wear my Darth Vader outfit with T's double bladed light saber, but I ran out of time and wasn't completely convinced that I could get the black paint on Ashke correctly due to lack of artistic ability. My intention was to paint him as a clone trooper. Ah well, maybe next year. Instead, I pulled out my native arab costume and got him fancied up. I found it really amusing when I was asked what he was going as and I answered "Arabian" prior to getting his costume on. Maybe some day I will enter him in a Native Costume class.

There were a lot of cute, but obviously terrifying, things for Ashke to worry about that day.

The little 13.2 hh horse with tulle. And ribbons.
Wery, wery scary.

Ashke and I.
Original conehead due to the Go Pro mount on the top of my helmet.

Eddy Van Halen.
I swear to you, this was the most terrifying costume of the day.
Ashke would blow, sniff, snort and shy every time Eddy came near.

Sabio did not look pleased with his flowers.

Bisquick, dressed as Tigger and Pooh, was even more scared than Ashke was. 

Kitty the witch on Joe.

The second most terrifying costume of the day and the one that would have won my vote for best costume.
She had scales on her horse's hips and was followed by a helium shark ballon.

Ashke would not settle. Would not hold still.
Absolute basket case.

It is hard to want to be close to but far away from your trail buddy.

Purple People Eater.

For the first half hour we were up more than we were forward.
Lateral walk, anyone?

So very worried.

Deep sea diver and shark.

All of the Arabs were tense.

Kanga and Roo.

Rastafarian Hippie

Purple People Eater

Nothing like spooking at all the things

Keith as the Lone Ranger (who had a red necktie. Who knew. I always watched it in black and white.)

If there was one picture that summed up Ashke on Saturday, this is it.

And a mule, who Ashke really wanted to smell, but who kept pinning her ears and moving away.

I think I need to plan a longer warm up with specific tasks for us to accomplish, because even after riding for half an hour, Ashke was not focused on me, or on the task at hand. He was spooky and all over the place. Plus, we got a great fail pic.

He is so good at the gate. I barely have to touch him to get him to do what he's supposed to.

We cantered in between the obstacles. He picked up the correct leads and only did his quick change of lead after the figure 8, where it almost felt like a buck. He just wasn't focused on what we were doing and was still gawking at all of the other horses.

Going over the bridge.
Can you see the tension?

Coming off the bridge, where he hit himself on the bit, trying to bolt to the left, rather than exit the obstacle properly.

A little bit of video of our walk pirouette attempt.

Coming into the figure 8 on the proper lead. 

He made his first turn very nicely.

Finishing the Figure 8, complete with dolphin flail and change of lead from left to right to left in two steps when he caught sight of the horses in front of him.

He backed out of the switch a cup nicely.

Completing the course with the proper amount of spook at the exit posts.

Still spooking.

Immediately following our ride through the obstacles, I stripped off my part of the costume, took Ashke into the dressage arena and did trot-walk-trot serpentines until he finally started to pay some attention to me and move forward rather than laterally. Then we did canter-walk-canter serpentines until he was somewhat compliant. And sweaty. But at least not throwing his head in the air.

I got a "he's fighting that bit" while we were doing the obstacle course. My reply was that he was fighting me, not the bit, because he wanted to be a gawking giraffe the entire time. I know I was taking the opportunity to ride in front of the group too seriously, but fuck man, we've been working our asses off and instead of showcasing what we've learned and what he can do, we went right back to where we always are when we are at a show. Head in the air. Unable to focus. Kind of being a jerk.

This is not the picture of a compliant horse.
This is a picture of a horse that is completely focused on where in the hell Eddy is.

The group. Complete with a mini, because we needed to compound all of the terrifying things by adding a mini. 

Overall, it was a great day. There was lots of laughter and companionship. The costumes were awesome and everyone did great on the obstacle course. Everyone seemed to enjoy the day and the food was pretty good. We wrapped up about 2:30 and headed home. 

Ashke and I have plenty to work on and I need to think about taking him places to ride seriously (as compared to taking him places to trail ride) that challenge him to pay attention to me. We need to get past the "OMG! Everything is going to eat me. I must pay attention to everything else" rather than settling down and getting to work. I have five months to get him to realize that there are times when he can look around and be relaxed with me (like on trail), but there are also times when we just need to buckle down and walk/trot/canter on command and with control.