Thursday, June 30, 2016


This was our third lesson in a row (one time a week) and we mostly worked on the things that will help Ashke canter. After the adjustment last Friday, he's just been a bit off and seemed to be favoring his right front last night. I can't see any reason why, nor can I find any tightness in his body, other than he really wants me to scratch his withers (this is normal and happens all the time) to explain the hesitation we could see.

That said, he is also really struggling to maintain his lead, when being asked to ride with contact and bend. I know this is new to him, but he needs to understand that hard is not something to be feared and that cross-cantering is never the answer. We started with haunches in along the fence line one time in each direction and Amanda said he did really well. Then we moved inside (the outside arena is a little hard) and worked on the trotting circles in random directions to give Ashke something to do that he knows really well.

He was much better holding contact and switching bends from one direction to another. Then we did the trotting spiral to help him with the bend and his leg yields out on the circle at the trot were very good. We then did that exercise at the canter. To the right he was so much better than he was a week ago and I can see where the adjustment is helping, however, he was much worse to the left. In fact, the argument we got into I'm pretty sure ended with me threatening to sell him. It frustrates me a lot and I wasn't serious (no more serious than when I threatened to sell T to the Rom). I think he may be dealing with some sore muscles in his chest and shoulders from the adjustment. And in his hips as well. They do seem to be getting better, but he is having some hesitation in pushing off with one front foot to go to the side, and it seems to be happening in both directions. He had a couple of times where he felt off and Amanda could see it, but it's not enough to even be considered lame. Just NQR.

We had a moment when Ashke was refusing to maintain his left lead canter but we worked through it and the last two canter circles were amazing (one in each direction). The one to the right even involved a leg yield to the rail coming off the circle. The one to the left, we just worked on a decent circle. Our stretchy trot was much improved and then we worked on square turns (good) and finished up with working on the two 10m half circles from the test. Ashke did those very, very good and I'm feeling like they should be much improved on the test.

We were both hot and sweaty and enjoyed the cold spray from the hose (his body and my head) and then tucked him into the stall with treats since I forgot his treat bucket. I suck as a horse owner.

I also wanted to say that I really like the TSF girth. It is a 48" jumping girth, very well made with great leather. Ashke seems to like it a lot and for the first time since I started putting a girth on him, he didn't grunt and blow up when it touched his belly. Although, I did not get it tight enough and Amanda had to tighten it one notch during our ride. Oooppss. Good thing my saddle fits well.

Monday, June 27, 2016


Some things happened this week . . . I got a settlement from Apple for price fixing electronic books and like any sane person, immediately spent it on a Total Saddle Fit girth, a new Osprey bag, The Hunger Games trilogy to donate to a school in California that is requesting help rebuilding their library and a HPA canister for T. I ordered the TSF girth in a 48" jumping girth (my Alta has short billets) and was surprised when I got it on Saturday (about a week early). I talked J into going to the barn with me to try it out.

 This was after the ride, because I forgot to take a pic of it on him.

I wanted to try the TSF girth for a couple of reasons, first and foremost being that the saddle gets pulled forward during the girthing process, especially if Ashke moves around a bit while the girth is a bit loose, and it rubs the hair on his back forward (ruffles it). The second, being that when it gets slid forward like that, it comes up over his shoulders and I wanted to make sure he had as much shoulder movement as possible.

I didn't ride for long, since he still felt a touch sore. We did w/t/c to try and loosen him up. It felt like the muscles in his chest were a bit sore and he was a touch off on the right front. He seemed to work out of it, but there was no sense in pushing him, so we rode for about twenty minutes and then he got a shampoo and condition spa moment.

Overall, he felt pretty good and J thought he was reaching out further with his front legs, so maybe the girth is helping. His canter was smooth and he picked it right up, although I can see a bit of anticipation from him right before I ask. The walk pirouette to the right was pretty good, but not as good to the left (I didn't set him up as well on either ask). We didn't do a whole lot, gave him a good shampoo after and a dose of bute to combat the soreness in his chest. I will see how he is tonight when I ride.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Doctor Visit

So, today we went to see Dr D in Henderson. I knew from the lessons I had taken with Amanda and from our struggles to bend to the right, that he definitely needed adjusted. Circumstances had kept me from getting him out to see her earlier, but I'm really glad we finally made it this week. Come to find out, when you freak out in the crossties and flip yourself, it does have consequences in your body that need to be addressed. Yes, this has been pending since March. Unfortunately.

We got up fairly early and got T off to finish his first full week of work. Yes, we have reached that point in our young man's life, where he is making his own money for the first time ever. He scored a position as a AP file clerk, making a little bit more than minimum wage and today was his fourth day of work. He was a touch disappointed that he had to wait until next Friday to spend his new found wealth, but seems to be settling in and doing well. We are very proud.

Then we raced to the barn and hooked up the trailer. We mostly only needed Ashke, so loading him was quick and easy. I had already made sure the boots were in the trailer. The Doc's barn was about 30 minutes from the new barn and we got there just at 9:30. Ashke was a little stressed when we got there and seemed a bit uncomfortable. I told Dr D that I also wanted her to evaluate how he moved with the boots on, since I was feeling something but wasn't sure what.

I have to say here, that Ashke is a lot more open and honest with her than he is with me. I think he knows why we are there and that he needs to show her the things he has been trying to hide from me. It's a wall he hides behind until she is there and then he's all like "here, it hurts here, and this too". I've been seeing some of it, like his slight hesitation when turning in the wash stall, but it's intermittent and hard to identify. So, we turned him loose in the round pen and he was slightly off on the inside front leg. Dr D thought that perhaps it was his hooves, since he was also slightly off on the inside front going the other direction as well. We put the boots on and as soon as he started to move she knew it was his neck not his feet. She said it was a good thing I wanted her to watch him in the boots, since other wise she would have assumed it was just his feet being tender.

This is good news, because it means I can use the new Back Country boots I just bought, but bad news because that subluxation occurred when he flipped himself in the cross-ties. We brought him inside and Dr D did her acupuncture assessment of him. She goes over all of the acupuncture points on his neck, chest, back, barrel, belly, hips and stifles. Some of them she checks twice and she does both sides. She measured his frogs (6, 6, 5.25, 5.5) and I was amazed his left hind wasn't more off than that, considering his injury. Then she checked his lower leg to evaluate what was happening in the base of his neck. Finally, she checked his poll. What she discovered when she was done was that he had dislocated (subluxed) his T1 and T2, with a corresponding issue in his left hind. His SI was out and rotated on the left side. This confirmed all of the subtle things I was seeing in him - his hesitation at turning on his left front foot, the almost lameness I could sense but never pinpoint a foot or leg, the squared off toe on his left hind, from him dragging it just a touch (this is a strong indicator of an SI issue).

After the assessment, Dr D drugged him good to do his teeth and the adjustment. She drew blood from his neck, injected the drugs and then placed her needles at the acupuncture points in his chest, hips and along his barrel (liver). Then she put some acu needles at his poll to help release the energy and the final one in the swirl on his forehead. He was so stoned.

Drugged out horse with his floppy tongue hanging everywhere. 
You can see the needles in his chest. Dr D put the needles in and then injected a small amount of blood into the spot. This puts a bit of pressure right over the energy point.

 His tongue was cracking me up.

 No hooks but ERT on pretty much all of the teeth. Syd got them smoothed out and the fronts fixed so his jaw moved easily back and forth. 
Dr D still inserting needles in the SI area. He had more needles than in times past.

 If you look closely you can see the edge of his tongue sticking out of his mouth.

Placing the last of the acu needles.

Once the needles were in place, Dr D let Syd finish his teeth, while we let the needles percolate. Once his teeth were finished, we decided to clean his sheath before he woke up. Once again, I held up his hind leg while Dr D managed to fish out two beans. By this time, a lot of the needles were popping out on their own, which I was gathering up and tossing in the biohazard bucket. Then Dr D started the adjustment.

First she adjusted the base of his neck and said that she could feel it move. Then she moved the left hip and adjusted the SI. Finally, she used her accuator to move his spine from his withers to the SI joint. After the adjustments, she did some stretches with his neck and checked the lower leg, which moved freely, unlike before we started. Finally, she had him lift his back from tail to withers to stretch everything out. She was very pleased with how well everything moved back into place. 

He goes back on the 30th of July for a follow up and to make sure nothing is out of place after my next show.

Thursday, June 23, 2016


Last night I had my third lesson in a row (weekly) and the difference in how Ashke handled what was asked of him was both marked and amazing. I got to the barn about 6:15 and had enough time to give Ashke a good grooming before saddling him up and walking around to warm him up. I was walking big circles in the arena when Amanda got there. She had about fifteen minutes so she saddled her mare while I was warming up.

After walking for about ten minutes, I started working on walk pirouettes. These are coming along and I have figured out how to ask for them and get myself out of his way. Amanda was walking around behind me at that point, telling me when it was going correctly. We did a couple in each direction and by that time Amanda had handed her horse off to her sister to ride and got Ashke and I focused on our lesson.

We started with serpentines, which were okay to the left and stiff to the right (really hoping the chiro on Friday helps with this).  The one thing he was doing really well with was maintaining contact and staying on the bit. The flailing and fighting that much contact has pretty much diminished and he seems to know that this is his job. After the trot serpentines, Amanda suggested we go right into the canter work before Ashke got tired. We are trying to develop both myself and Ashke the ability to do the counter-canter serpentine without him losing his bend. This is exceedingly difficult for both of us. Amanda had me try the spiral circle first but Ashke was having a hard time and broke his lead, so Amanda walked us through haunches in for the first time. To the left, Ashke had a great haunches in (I have to take her word for it, since I was concentrating on holding my body in the required pretzel position to attain it), but to the right he really struggled to get any kind of bend. Amanda said that instead of three distinct tracks (left hind in line with right front) he could only move that hip in about two inches. We didn't try for a lot, and she immediately had me ask him for something he could do well - which in this case was a leg yield, with lots of praise. She said that if we are asking something really hard and he is struggling, then to follow it up with something they can do easily will help them maintain their confidence.

Then we worked on the serpentine loop from one end of the arena, loop to the quarter line and back to the rail all on the same lead. To the left, Ashke was able to do what I asked and the second time, I was able to get him into a balanced and not rushing trot which we rode in a stretchy circle and although he did not stretch too much, he did stay at a slower trot.

Then we tried to the right and although Ashke knows what I want him to do he was having a hard time maintaining the canter. It almost devolved into a fight, but Amanda talked us out of it and we tried again. We tried again and that time at least we made it to the corner before he broke gait. I was gulping for breath and we stopped to hash out what was going on with what we were trying to do. We decided to put a couple of cones up along the rail right where we would be looping to the quarterline in an attempt to help this make sense to Ashke, which it did. He did really well that last attempt and then we turned the other direction and tried. I could feel that Ashke knew what he was supposed to do and made a valiant attempt to maintain the lead through the exercise. He got huge pats and praise for the try and we moved on.

I need to note here that I think one of the reasons we have gotten into fights is because I am expecting too much of the collected canter work too soon. He still struggles to pick up the canter while being on the bit and he does get pretty tired pretty quick. I also think that working on the canter first before he is tired is a great idea. I will implement it on my next ride.

We decided to work on my 10 m half circles, which Amanda had me ride a series of 10m circles in random places all over the arena. The only requirement was that we make a full 10 m circle before jutting off into another circle in the opposite direction. This was a great exercise and I can't wait to do it again. It really enforces the idea that Ashke needs to listen to my leg and seat when I am picking the change of bend. He was very good and I got better at keeping him from falling in on the circle.

We then worked on square turns (great!) and entering the arena at A with a square halt, which still needs a bit of work. She was having me stop anywhere but at X so he doesn't memorize the spot he's supposed to stop. There was one final thing she had me work on, but I can't remember what it was now and I was so exhausted at that point that I was shaking with it. Ashke was a bit sweaty, but I had sweat rolling off my shoulders.

I think that's how lessons are supposed to go.

So, for this week, I won't ride Thursday, he will get adjusted on Friday and his teeth done, then Saturday off and I will ride him early on Sunday. Maybe I will talk J into coming with me to take video. I will have an arena ride on Sunday and Monday. We will work on cantering, a few trot-canter transitions (the need to be a touch more immediate) where I don't throw the reins away (I think this is left over from riding when I was a kid - forward means faster) and try the loop to the quarterline a couple of times, plus the 10m circles (those were fun). Hopefully, the adjustment on Friday will help with him being more flexible to the right.

I also hope that I will be able to move again by Sunday. I woke about midnight and could barely move. My body was pretty sore. I'm sure Ashke is a little sore as well. 

Monday, June 20, 2016


Tonight when I got to the barn it was in the upper 70's, with a light breeze and cloud cover. I was ready to work on our stuff. Ashke bellowed his greeting when he saw me, eyes wide and nostrils flared. I went in and snuggled him for a bit, rubbing his head and neck right where he likes it. He was sweet back, both of us apologizing for being a bit of an asshole the past two days.

Pulled him out and gave him a good curry, working on all of the itchy spots and watching the hair fly from his belly while I chatted with the BO. A couple of times, Ashke pressed his face into my chest and heaved a big sigh of relief, while I scratched behind his ear. Melted me right away.

Then I got on and we walked for a good five minutes, in both directions, loosening and relaxing into the ride. I asked for a bit of a trot on a loose reins and he seemed really confused. I think he understands that we need some contact and he was looking for it, so I shortened my reins and we started some walk-trot transitions. We took a walk break and then did riding in a square for three rotations around the arena in each direction, while I worked on my hand and body position to help him manage a square turn. Then a break to walk again, telling him what a good boy he was being. The next trot set was serpentines, asking for contact and inside bend as we worked up and down the arena. Those were not as good as the square corners, but decent for the most part. We did a couple of sets of those, with a walk break inbetween, and then it was time to work on the canter.

I verbally told Ashke that we just needed to do a decent canter in both directions with a 15 m circle included and he could be done. He got pissy almost immediately, with pinned ears and swishing tail, but picked up the sweetest little canter when asked, which we rode about half way around the arena, where he promptly spooked and tried to bolt.

It's the same move he used at SQA in the arena there EVERY TIME I TRIED TO CANTER. And his behavior always worked. I quit asking for the canter. I was pretty lit up as I got him halted, made him back up and then trot in a circle back to the point where we lost the nice canter and asked him to pick it up again. I didn't lose my temper and I was very quiet in my ask for the canter again.

He cantered with his head in the air, fighting the bit, pogo sticking on his front legs and refusing to canter nicely. About half the arena later we fought our way to a stop and I yelled at him, then smacked him on the neck. He acted like he was being beaten to death (so dramatical) and could not believe I had whacked him on the neck (with my open hand - I do not carry a whip). I told him he wasn't going to get away with this behavior at this arena. Then I asked him for a trot. We did trot-canter transitions for eight circuits of the arena, with him changing gait every ten steps. He was begging for a break by the time I allowed him to slow and stretch.

When we turned to go in the other direction, his transition to canter was immediate and smooth. We did a couple of transitions and he was quick and responsive. I rode him in a 15 m circle and he maintained both his balance and his lead for the entire circle.

We ended on that note. He got stripped of tack and a nice cool rinse in the wash rack. Then tucked into his mash with kisses and carrots. I rode for about 40 minutes and the squabble only lasted about four of that, so I was pleased.

I think in part, Ashke is not really the most comfortable with a lot of contact. Or with a lot of leg. Getting him to do what I want without fighting is going to be an ongoing thing until he figures out that I am serious about pushing through until he gives me what I want. There is no reason why we can't get better at this except my horse has figured out how to bully me out of it. You would think that after four years of riding I wouldn't still need to argue with him about maintaining a balanced canter. He's been such a jerk that we haven't been able to do the spiral exercise except by accident. We did practice the stretchy trot at the very end of our lesson.

He gets tomorrow off and then I have a lesson on Weds. I wonder why he is so much better in lessons. . . . I wonder if its because he knows he's going to get called on his shit or if it's because I am more relaxed with someone else there.


Ashke and I had a fight on Saturday. It was hot and we both were cranky. It was at the end of our ride and Ashke really wanted to be done. I told him, like I always do, that I just wanted a spiral circle to the left with a leg yield to the rail and we would be done. Instead, I got a falling in circle, then a brace with his head thrown up in the air and stiff front legs, cross canter behind. It threw me right back into where we were a year ago, trying to work on the canter.

I was a tad bit frustrated and once again verbally told Ashke what I was looking for, and again he gave me the exact same thing. It might have just been coincidence that he can maintain the lead around the far end of the arena just fine, but can't continue on the same lead at the end of the arena where the tie rack is, since he consistently asked every time we went past the tie rack to be done, but I am thinking he was finished and didn't want to continue.

I broke it down for him, asking for the canter along the long sides of the arena, with a downward transition and trotting around the short end. It took several times around the arena before he was doing that with some bend (rather than counter bend) and then we got one final circle all the way around the ring without breaking gait and with him at least trying to bend properly a little bit.

When I got off him (wasn't going to try walking him dry - wanted to hose him off) he stood at the tie rail with his head down, completely exhausted. I was too. It's hard work to push past your limitations and to not let the past dictate the future. Doing this stuff is hard work for both of us and it makes me feel like a bully to push him past it. However, I am not going to continue to treat him like he is incapable of accomplishing a balanced canter with contact for a full circuit of the arena, especially when he can go 20 miles through the heat, the altitude change, and varied gaits and come home still raring to go. An hour of w/t/c with plenty of breaks inbetween is not too much too ask.

The argument carried over on Sunday, just a little bit. He was fine in the arena, but I didn't ask for a whole lot (it was much hotter on Sunday) and after a decent w/t/c ride, we went outside to ride the edges of the property (during which we tried out a new pair of Back Country boots) and then play with the obstacles. He wanted nothing to do with any of the obstacles, spooking sharply at everything, refusing to back at the gate, and turning his head to stare at the horses still in turnout rather than paying attention. We backed half way across the field until he decided to pay attention to me rather than the other horses. (It did take a slap on his neck to break him away from whoever was out). I think, in hindsight, the boots were an issue. He does better without. I am going to see if Dr D can evaluate how he moves in the boots before I decide which way I am going to jump on the boots vs shoeing.

Tonight, I will arena ride again and hope that cooler heads prevail. It's supposed to be much cooler today, and I am hoping that results in better riding conditions. At some point, he has to become a grown up horse and understand that arena work has as much importance in our lives as being on trail. I also need to figure out how to deal with him unemotionally, how to ignore the slight hesitation as we approach the tie rail, how to motivate him to go forward without getting angry about it. I've mostly figured out how to do it with T, now I have to figure out how to do it with Ashke.

Friday, June 17, 2016


Last weekend we went camping at Vedauwoo, at a campsite we've been camping at for twenty years. We camp there unless someone else has beat us to the spot. We know the trees and the forest and the rocks. On Thursday when we pulled into camp, T jumped out of the truck to herd the dogs while we parked the pop-up, turned to the downhill part of camp and gasped. His voice sounded heartbroken when he said "Mom, the trees are gone."

I walked around the truck and sure enough, they were gone. I felt like I had been punched under the ribs and it took a few moments for me to get my breath back. At that point, I went about setting up camp. I think we would have moved camps because no trees, but friends were following us up and I didn't want to deal with trying to find them if we moved. There was a tiny stand of aspen we set the jack-toilet up in way down the hill, which I did while burying my anguish at the state of the forest.

The next morning I was up with the sun at about five. I took the dogs and went on a walk-about. I had been really angry the night before thinking the devastation was man-made, but as I walked the land that morning I became more and more convinced that it was a tornado that had caused the destruction.

Here, in pictures, is what a forest looks like after a tornado has blasted through. I think it happened in May sometime, because there were riders out on ATVs nailing the barbed wire fence back on the fenceposts and removing deadfall from the fence line. They run cattle behind that fence and if it had happened earlier they would have addressed the issues earlier. I'm pretty happy that events transpired to keep us from camping there the end of May.

I will say it over and over: the trees were just gone.

One of those trees was the tree Taz climbed when he was a kitten and we brought him camping.
One of the other one's was the tree where my BFF strung a dream catcher in it's branches.

What was left of an Aspen grove you couldn't see through.

There were huge swathes of Aspen pulverized into kindling.

The world's wood chipper

This grove was unbelievable, since there was a circle of destruction around the trees left in the middle.

There were stumps standing up in the debris, where the trunks had been twisted free, not pulled up or unrooted.

Absolutely mind boggling.

That is a tree stump without the tree.

A lot of tree stumps.

I cried.

Some of the trees were splint lengthwise, but most were just torn apart.

This tree stump was 10" across.

The shredded remains of juniper ground bushes.

Walking down to the meadow.



Meadowy bog filled in behind a beaver dam.

More Rocks

T and C went climbing to the top of the rock

We hung out under a rock in the shade.
The heat is taking me hard this year.

A rare T sighting. He got so sunburned but still seemed to have a great time.

I was less angry but still sad when I worked out that nature had devastated our camp site. I am thankful for the little voice that says "not this weekend" although I don't know for sure when it happened. We will go camping again, just in a different place. Someplace with trees for the hammocks and rocks for us to climb and fewer moose (Skittle saw a moose in the forest and was gone. We got her stopped but it was a close thing and she didn't want to come back. It was lucky we had Lily on a tether or it might have been really bad.)

Thursday, June 16, 2016


OMG. Riding correctly is hard. Very, very hard.

I had a lesson with Amanda Moore today and I have to tell you that she is amazeballs! She knows her stuff and she knows how to help Ashke and I become better at the things we aren't doing so well. She had watched the video I posted a couple of days ago of my dressage test, she remembered the test elements from our last lesson, and she came to the lesson with an idea of what I needed to work on to improve my ride. That was awesome!!

We started with some square turns at the trot, and then incorporated some bending turns, and then we went right into working on the canter. Amanda is really good at making us do the things we are struggling with and she started us doing leg yields at the walk from the quarterline to the outside edge of the ring. We worked to the left first. Once Ashke was moving off my leg and doing the exercise at the walk, we moved right into doing it at the canter. The point of this exercise is to get the two of us moving out to the quarterline and back to the rail without using my hands as much and with Ashke keeping the bend he needs to properly execute the exercise. We were fairly successful to the left.

To the right was another story. We were both really struggling to do the exercise correctly. Ashke really wants to do haunches out when he canters to the right, with a lot of counterbend. He bends his neck to the outside and leads with his right shoulder with his hips to the outside. AM got to see it in person during our ride. I think he is still tight through the hamstring and it is uncomfortable for him to do this correctly. Or maybe it's just habit and hard for him to break. And I haven't been insisting that we do it correctly, but Amanda immediately identified what he was doing (what I was allowing) and worked to help us correct it.

She had us break the exercise down even more, starting with a spiral in and back out. Ashke was much better at the spiral during this lesson, maintaining a consistently tightening circle without dropping down to the inside too quickly. That was much better than the first time we worked on spirals. I could feel him struggle to maintain his canter as I asked him to spiral out again, but I kept my leg consistently on at his girth and verbally encouraged him. We did that exercise twice with improvement the second time. Then we did the spiral in, spiral out, straighten out the line parallel with the rail at the quarterline, then leg yield out to the rail. This would be the second part of the loop to the quarterline required in the test. It took a lot of work, but finally Ashke was able to do it. It wasn't pretty yet, but he was maintaining contact and bending his body correctly while moving to the rail.

We took a walk break, changed direction and worked on the serpentine loop in separate pieces. We started the canter, did a 15 m circle, straightened out to go deep into the corner for our turn along the rail, then came out to the quarterline along the long side of the arena. We curved around the bottom of the arena and went back up the long side of the arena while leg yielding from the quarterline to the rail. It took a couple of tries to get Ashke to understand what I was trying to do. The first time he thought we were going back to the rail in the loop we do in the test and tried to make that decision for us. When I closed that door and sent him forward, he broke to a cross canter and we came back to the trot. Amanda told me to ignore the break and just try the exercise again. The second time we did the canter circle to the rail and back out to the quarterline, he was much better. When we swung around the end of the arena and I asked for the leg yield to the rail, I could feel when he realized what we were trying to do. I could feel the click in his mind as he worked it out.

One of the things Ashke does after cantering is get really reactive and tense about cantering again. Amanda told me to ignore him and keep him moving forward until he released the tension. I did and sent him into 10 m circles or a series of turns until he had finally relaxed into the trot again. We had to do that several times in between cantering sets. Sometimes we just walked because I had to catch my breath. It's hard work. Really.

Then we did the same exercise to the right. This side is much more difficult for Ashke. Amanda thinks that the issue is actually his left shoulder/wither area, which corresponds to his right hamstring issue (remember, Ashke was very underdeveloped on his left wither up until about a year ago). I know he doesn't stretch well in that direction, so I will start incorporating stretches before we ride (complete with treats) with his neck and his right hind leg. The circle helps get him into the correct bend, although I really have to remember what to do with all of my parts. I'm so used to riding without holding my leg on him, that he thinks leg means go faster, not bend here. We worked on it until we got the leg yield out to the quarterline and back to the rail on the other side of the arena, without breaking the canter.  And without flailing. I need to remember to keep my leg on. He can't do this without me (nor does he really want to . . . ) and I need to remember to hold him, support him through the exercise.

At the end of the canter, when we dropped back into the trot, Amanda  wanted me to keep him in the trot and let him stretch down on his own. He always stretches at the walk and she thought we could begin to teach the stretchy trot by allowing him to do so, plus she wanted me to keep him moving very slow (jog) after the canter to help him regulate his tempo, so we don't rush across the arena. I have been struggling during the test to get him settled in the four strides between the end of the first canter and the start of his stretchy trot across the diagonal. She said horses associate the diagonal with extension, so trying to teach them to slow down is important. He actually did that really well for our first attempt. I was so pleased, I got off. Ashke heaved a huge sigh of relief. He tried so hard to do what I was asking of him.

I was so sweaty, it was running down my back in a river and my legs were trembling with fatigue. It was good though. I could see the things that I have despaired of figuring out how to teach Ashke come together in the exercises Amanda had us do. I have stuff to work on for the next week. It's going to be too hot to ride out, so I will ride either late or very early in the indoor arena.

Things to practice:
  • Spiral circles to strengthen and increase correct bend
  • Maintaining consistent contact and letting him find his sweet spot.
  • Keeping my hands still - using my seat and legs 
  • Stretches before and after every ride (with treats) to help limber and flex
  • Doing the 15 m circle to the leg yield out and leg yield back to the wall on opposite sides of the arena for now. Maybe by the end of the week, we will be able to do them the long side of the arena.
  • Canter, Canter, Canter with support and correct bend. It's good for both of us.
  • Throw in some transitions from walk - trot - canter, walk - canter, trot - canter
  • Turns vs loops
  • Practicing using my seat and legs until it becomes more of the go to than my hands (important enough to list twice).
I have another lesson next Weds. We will see how much we can do better on between now and then. We have four weeks until my next show and I am hoping we can accomplish much between now and then.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Soapstone Prairie Natural Habitat

One of the challenges with my new barn is location. Not that the location is bad, but that it is one the opposite side of our metro area than where I have been boarding, which means trails that used to be 30 minutes away are now over an hour away. More, if there is traffic. Some of those trails I really love and will continue riding (Chatfield, East-West, Buffalo Creek, Indian Creek) but it also means that I need to find trails on my side of the metro area that are just as fun to ride. This has the added benefit of providing my adventure boy with new vistas to explore (he loves that) and new country for me to peruse.

Sunday, J and I headed to a nature preserve called Soapstone Prairie. It is nestled at the edge of the hills just south of the Wyoming/Colorado boarder (you can ride into Wyoming from these trails) and sits just east of Red Mountain Open Space. It is rolling prairie with well-maintained trails, that houses one of the oldest Folsom archaeological sites in the US, and some Clovis sites as well (which I find so cool). It is also the home of a small herd of pure bison (without brucellosis) who are calving on this land for the first time this spring. I've been fascinated since I first heard of the space (maintained by Fort Collins) and have been itching to go there. I had scoped out the exit on Thursday when we were driving North to Vedauwoo for a three day camping adventure, so I knew where we needed to go.

Ashke whinnied and whinnied when he saw me on Sunday morning (the heart does grow fonder) and was very excited to hop on the trailer. He is now walking on the trailer without me having to back him up and try again (our process) and all it took was patience and time. Once on, we headed north.

The ride took about an hour and a half, which is about the same length of time it takes to drive to Chatfield, although there was no traffic coming or going. It always feels longer the first time you go somewhere new, in part due to the unknown. Going back it should feel shorter.

As we got close, Ashke got very fidgety, which is not like him. Typically, he is stalwart in the trailer. J said he was shifting a lot. We were assuming it was the dirt road that we had to take (for like ever) to get to the trailhead.

It appeared darker in person. And we did not bring any rain gear.
The lightning was pretty intense, right up until we got there.

There were several windmills with cisterns underneath them for the cattle to drink from.
This would be the only water on this ride.

I see clouds like this and I think Mordor.

Ashke was very shifty at the trailer too. Not wanting to stand still. I thought maybe he was anxious to get going, and then I twigged to what was really going on. Once he was saddled, I walked him over to the grass where he peed, and peed and peed. That was why he wasn't standing still in the trailer. He was holding it in until I could get him on grass.

It was a nice trailhead with a mounting block built in.

I really need to teach him to swing his butt over next to the block.

  Start of the Cheyenne Rim Trail that runs basically due north for 12 miles into Wyoming and connects to Red Mountain.

Most of the trail was decent footing, although there were spots with intense rock.
We walked the rocky spots since the gaiters on the Gloves are toast. Again.

Zero trees. Not for the agoraphobic.

Some kind of current or chokecherry bushes were the largest plants around.

And some sage.
It would have been a brutal ride in the heat. We were riding in low 80's with intermittent cloud cover.

Happy ears.

J mostly led on the day. It would be easy for Ashke and I to leave her in the dust going uphill.

This is a Not Trail sign. In the grass, because grass is all there is.

It looked like a gradual rise along a fairly flat road, but in reality, it was all uphill.

Looking south from one of our rest breaks.

J trying to catch her breath.
The slight breeze was nice.

There were several "water" crossings, without water.
It would not be a pretty place to get caught in a flash flood.

Cows. The bison are on the other side of the Open Space.

We kept moving around the sides of these slight hills.

And up. A lot of up.

This is looking back toward the parking area, which you can't really see, but gives you and idea of how high we had climbed.

We came down the high ridge to another arroyo, filled with a huge wash out from a flash flood and a ton of chokecherry bushes.

This was the point at which I had explosive diarrhea, which is not fun when all you have for cover is some short bushes and grass instead of toilet paper. I have no idea why it suddenly happened, but it was enough for us to turn back toward the trailer. We had gone exactly five miles out. It's just as well we turned around, since I barely made it back to the portojohn before having another bout of the gripe. 

There was a cistern with a windmill set off the trail for the cattle to drink from.
I rode Ashke down to see if he would drink, but the sound of the windmill was too much for him.

We averaged just under 4 miles an hour. I had the Garmin Vivo watch we got T to track him runs, that I am now using when we ride. His walk over a lot of the terrain was at a 4.3 mph pace.

I mostly let him pick his rate of speed, only insisting on a walk when the trail was really rough.

He was "ears forward, tail up" for the ride.

According to the brochure, those white cliffs in the distance are the Folsom and Clovis sites.

Ashke could have kept going. Ten miles isn't really enough to get him more than warmed up. It was good that we turned around though, since my bowels were wrecking havoc on me. Well, that and the fact that what I thought was a loop we could ride, was actually an out and back ride, since the Canyon Trail is closed to horses. There are loops on the east side of the Space, with a 10 mile loop and a 17 mile loop that is open to horses and bikes. Once we've explored those, we could always split up, with J and perhaps Tia riding north through the area closed to horses, to take the Canyon trail to where it meets with the Cheyenne Rim Trail. I could, with K, ride the Cheyenne Rim Trail out to where it meets Canyon, and then we could ride back together. That would make my ride 24 miles and J's about 22. 

Unfortunately, it will have to wait until fall. The temps are moving into the mid to upper 90's this week and are going to stay there for the next ten days at least. We were really lucky last year to have not so hot temps (upper 80's with few days in the 90's) but this year is going to be different. The temps on Saturday are supposed to break 100. I will plan on riding very early in the morning or late in the evening, at the barn, where I can rinse him afterwards and give him a cool mash to help keep him hydrated. I have moved past the need to ride trails in the blazing heat. And the lack of open water to hydrate him makes it even harder to consider.

It was a great ride and a wonderful Sunday.