Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Turned a Corner

After this past weekend in Douglas County, watching, helping, volunteering and driving a ton to the RMIHC show, I decided that Ashke's injury was a blessing in disguise. I don't think we could have done as much at the show, or made it home in time to go to the Bronco game, if we had a horse we had to haul home. J and I helped with course resetting and I was a timer for the Speed rounds, and originally we weren't supposed to have that Bronco game. Traffic wasn't great and we were short on time getting home Saturday afternoon. All in all, it was just as well.

However, after two weeks, the newest injury is healing well and at this point, is just skin that needs to grow in. I am alternating a steriod antibiotic and silver sulfadiazine on the injury, every two days, and keeping the quick wrap on his leg. On Sunday, Ashke had managed to rip a triangular shaped hole in the back of the quick wrap in the exact spot as his injury. WTF? Seriously, we have gone through his stall over and over again and cannot figure out what he is doing. I'm beginning to think I need to put a camera on him to see what the hell.

Last night was our first lesson since the second injury. Ashke started out stiff and fussy, not wanting to ride with contact, feeling tense and not moving forward. His canter was soft and he was able to hold his lead in both directions, but I just could not get him to feel less tense. When Amanda walked into the arena, I took him over to say hi and she made a big deal out of him. I think that helped him relax. We started with serpentines at the trot, transitioning to walk and then back to trot. Then we did a spiral in and out at the trot, before doing the serpentines at the trot-canter-trot, with a halt in the middle. Ashke got lighter and lighter in his transitions, picking up the lead correctly and not rushing or pulling.

We did some leg yields from the centerline to the wall, and then I did it from Centerline to the quarter line, and while still asking him for the same bend, we took a few steps back toward centerline in our first real attempts at a half pass. He did it really well moving right to left, but it was definitely harder moving from left to right. Then we worked a haunches in down the wall, with a walk pirouette at the end, returning to do it again in the other direction. His first couple of pirouettes were very solid.

Then we pulled out the twin barrels and worked our canter around them. Things I need to remember is to sit back at the canter and allow him to lift his front end when making our circles. He is so much better when I maintain that position. To the left, I need to keep the circle symmetrical and not let him fall in on the shoulder at the back side of the barrel. It's totally my fault it is happening, since I'm the one not mapping the circle correctly in my head. We did a halt in the center of the circles, since Ashke constantly wants to race the obstacles, keeping him calm and focused is the priority. Amanda said if we school the halt then it will be much easier to attain the walk-canter transition in a show. We also change things up, like doing the pattern backwards, or alternating canter and trot circles, or doing the same barrel twice in a row, so that his predictive nature is thwarted by our deviousness. It makes him have to listen to me.

After working the barrels several times, we added the gate. We cantered to the gate, transitioned down and he was very smooth in both directions, then cantered away to do the barrels. He still gets just a bit tense in the reverse gate, but it is loads better than it was six months ago. We worked on that a few times then added a barrel to the two we had out and began to practice the triple barrels. We started with a small circle around one, then a larger circle around the same one, then a smaller circle again, before moving on to the next barrel. It gave Ashke plenty of work on proper bend, especially in his difficult direction, and blew up his idea of how the obstacle should be ridden. Perhaps next week I can set up a slalom and a double slalom for us to work on. And sidepass poles.

He got rinsed and his leg rewrapped after our ride. His leg looks great. Expect a catch up post on Friday.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Sun Day

Sunday was my official anniversary with J. We made it thru 20 years together. I think she deserves a medal.

We celebrated by taking Ashke on a short, calm, mostly walking trail ride. He walked, trotted slowly, jigged, reared, bounced and had a brief canter. Not all in that order. I wrapped all four legs (polos in the back) so he wasn't able to go out deep enough in the lake to really play (poor boy). He spent the time on trail with his tail up and his ears forward. He just felt so happy.

 His new fly mask that actually fits his face and lasted at least one day without being savaged by another horse.
It's the small things.

 He was much more comfortable staying on the edges or verge of the trail, even though the rock was small. Four weeks from now he will get a full set of shoes on. Unless it's snowing by that point.

 As we walked past one of the lake access points (really, the only one), Ashke turned his head and stared at it longingly. I turned him around and let him wander out to the water. He didn't really drink and wasn't satisfied with just standing. He really wanted to swim. Maybe when his leg is better.

When we got back to the barn, I unwrapped his leg and gave him a good bath. He seemed to enjoy the water. I enjoyed getting all of the yellow and brown off of my mostly white horse. I also cold hosed the leg, which didn't fall apart. The combination of medicine and the quick wrap from BOT have made a huge difference in his healing this time. I'm going to start with the steroid antibiotic that I used last time (still have some left), since two people (Amanda and Saiph) have both described the red skin as possible proud flesh. That will start tonight after our ride. 

 It is healing so much faster than last time. Of course, it wasn't as bad this time around.

Once we have a scab and he doesn't need the moist wrap, I am going to get a pair of skid boots and keep the wound covered for at least six months - maybe to a year. In order to fully heal this, we need to keep him from accidentally reopening it. The skid boot I am looking at is just big enough to protect that area.

Friday, August 19, 2016


I don't know if you know this about me, but I spent most of my late teens, twenties and thirties working in food service. During that time, I spent about 18 of those years working for the fast food company that serves cardboard tacos and has a big purple bell as it's logo. It was one of my least favorite jobs (it did have it's moments, like anything) but I learned a ton about working with people, about getting work done through others, about leading by example and living with integrity. My time spent at the Bell shaped who I became, gave me the financial stability to live on my own, and for a while in the 1990's, allowed me to have a horse. It also taught me how to identify theft, how to deal with diversity (nothing like having two acknowledged skinhead men taking orders from an openly gay woman manager), how to go without sleep (longest shift worked was 56 hours) and how to smile in the face of irrational anger (exactly what do you expect from a 39 cent taco?). My time there also taught me the skills I needed to be successful working as a manager with other concepts, gave me a bone deep knowledge of food safety I still haven't eradicated from my soul, and made me very appreciative of a college degree.

I left the Bell in 1998, primarily because I knew that there was no way I could continue working between 60 and 70 hours a week and handle the physical stress of being pregnant. I was offered a job working as a manager of a pretzel store that existed to employ people with disabilities out at our airport. It paid a lot more than I was making at the time, would be an hourly position so any hours over 40 were paid as OT, and was not a 24 hour operation. I would never work later than about 10:30 pm, which seemed like a godsend at that point in my life. The motivating factor was my pending insemination and subsequent pregnancy. When I left that last day, I knew that no matter what, the Bell was forever in my rear view mirror.

Why am I rehashing this? Because of this week.

This week has been the most stressful week I have had in a very long time. It started with the surgery (which no matter how you look at it, putting your child under general anesthesia is terrifying) and Ashke's reinjury, then the slow process of recovery for both of them, the open house at the High School to get T prepared for his Junior year, and our first two days of school. My outlet for stress and exercise is broken at the moment, and although I do have an excuse to see my horse daily, it isn't the same as getting to ride.

Then the unexpected happened. T texted me from his first period of school and told me his English teacher used to be an employee of mine at the Bell. She told him that at the point she was working with me she was sixteen, homeless and had dropped out of High School. She told him that I taught her how to be a good manager and a great leader. And that I changed her life. She says that if it wasn't for me she would never have become a teacher or the manager of her department at the HS. She said one of the last conversations we had, I told her I was quitting so that I could get pregnant and have a child.

She is now teaching that child.

It's not often that we are given a glimpse into the impact we have on those around us. There are people in my past that I can point to and say "they influenced me in this way" but I had never turned that concept around and looked at the influence I might have had on someone else.

It is a humbling experience.

We all have the power to make things better for each other, or to make them infinitely worse. It reinforces the concept that we are all connected, that a kindness done to one, is a kindness done to all. In a year where hate and divisive rhetoric are ruling the airways and filling our social media feeds, being reminded of how easy it is to make a difference can be a profound and surreal experience.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Groundhog Day

Remember the movie where Bill Murry keeps coming back and doing the same thing over and over?

Friday felt a little bit like that.

It started with T undergoing general anesthesia to have four wisdom teeth removed. Although this was not his first surgery involving being put out like a light, there are always risks and my stress level was pretty high. They took him back into surgery about the time I was driving to drop off the prescriptions so we would just be able to pick them up on our way home. I had just gotten back to the dentist office when my BO called.

My blood pressure spiked.

She told me Ashke had ripped open his left hind leg again. And that it looked just like the first time. Only this time he was in his stall when it happened and she couldn't figure out how he had done it.

I wanted to cry.

She cold hosed him for a little bit and then put him back in his stall until I could get out to tend to him. In the meantime, I had a very drugged and hurting child I had to take care of first. We got him home and settled with applesauce and pudding, plus got good drugs on board and I headed to the barn.

 This is what it looked like when I got there.

Close up pic

K was there and opted to forgo her ride on Eddy to help hold Ashke and had given him a dose of banamine prior to my arrival at the barn. He was very good at standing still while I got him clean. I had to use the clippers to get the hair out of the way, since his fetlocks are getting shaggy already. He got washed out with Betadine and then wrapped up with antibiotic ointment. The vet opted not to stitch, fearing that the scar tissue from the earlier wound would not hold stitches, but gave me antibiotics to give him for the next eight days.

Washed clean but before the betadine.

We still have no idea how he did it. My two theories are 1) he cast himself in the stall, struggled to get free and kicked himself right at the point to the original scar tissue, tearing it open. This is my most likely scenario, since he also had a bump and scrape on his face in addition to the leg. or 2) he managed to wedge his hind foot under the pole at the bottom of his outside gate and ripped it open when he was freeing himself. That scenario does not explain the bump on his face. And you can also see where the scar tissue of the original injury is bloody in the above picture. I really think the first scenario is the most likely, and although I am really glad he freed himself and didn't die, I could hope he doesn't do it again in the future.

Four days later, the skin seems to be holding itself in place and he is just a touch off at the trot. There is no additional bleeding when he moves (that is a good thing) and I am holding my breath hoping the flap of skin actually scabs up and heals. It would be so much easier and shorter if it would do so. He gets ten days of fresh bandages and on/off in the BOT quick wraps I got to help protect his leg, before I rinse it again. It will either be healing properly by that point or the vet will have to come out and remove the offending piece of skin. The wound is clean, there are no signs of infection and very little heat in that leg.

I pulled out of the show that's suppose to happen in two weeks but am holding off on HCWE's show at Circle Star arena. I am hoping that he will be more sound and we will be able to show on that Sunday. 

I am ready for this year to be over.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Spaghetti Legs

If you've been following along with me for a while, you might remember this video:

The part of this video I would direct your attention to is at 36 secs

He was so weak in that right hind leg, that you could see it collapse under him trying to move to the right at the sidepass. This was in March of 2014, almost exactly two years after we brought him home. I honestly did not think we would ever really be able to get better at Working Equitation, despite how committed I was to doing so, primarily because I didn't think I could help him get better. This was just at the beginning of riding season in 2014, before I put over 400+ trail miles on him that year. I think the trail riding really helped him get stronger and able to carry us at w/t/c. His right hind began to straighten out and although he still adducts a bit and drops that foot straight down instead of extending into the stride, he is working through his physical issues.

After the show at Expo, where we scored the same score as our show in September the year before, I knew I needed to do something different. I needed help from a trainer that was going to work on the test I was going to ride, and who would eventually be willing to apply that training to the obstacles we struggle with. I had listened and watched Amanda with several different clients at our new barn and thought she was a very gentle and patient trainer, but still able to push her students when they were ready to be pushed. Then I saw her ride. She has an amazing seat and very soft hands and the horses seemed to love her. Watching her ride Electra, a sweet, amazing but very sensitive Arabian mare, sealed the deal for me and I approached her that day.

So, now we've been in training with her (doing weekly lessons) for several months and Ashke has just gotten better and better every ride. He has demonstrated that he can do what we're asking of him, especially since our lunge session where he was in side reins. His set evasion of throwing his head up and bracing against the bit with stiffened front legs has evaporated (knock on wood), and he is more willing to try what I am asking him to do. And he just shines in our lessons. He's figured out he can do this without needing to worry that it is too much for him.

This last Saturday, on trail with J, I recognized that he was more willing to pick up a soft, easy canter rather than trying to rush himself through whatever we were doing. His canter was much easier and he was able to maintain it for quite a while before getting tired. It almost felt like we had turned a corner. And then last night happened.

We started the lesson with Ashke doing square turns and working on maintaining a working walk, rather than a short stepped, bunchy walk (that's what it feels like). He did that really well, so Amanda had us do the turns at the trot, which he also showed improvement doing over last week. I'm finally figuring out how to help him lift his front end, move the shoulder off my knee and keep his hind end where I want it. We did leg yields from the quarterline to the rail and then from the centerline to the rail, since the quarterline was so easy. A couple of rounds with Ashke on haunches in in both directions, which he is improving on every ride, and then it was time to move to our canter.

Amanda started us doing circles between 10m and 20m, at random, with walk to trot, trot to walk, trot to canter and canter to walk transitions at random moments in the exercise. Once those were easy and comfortable, we added walk to canter transitions. Ashke was showing signs that he wanted to demonstrate the serpentine along the rail (which he was also insisting on doing on Monday) and it took a little work to get him to refocus on our circles. Once he stopped trying to anticipate what I wanted him to do, he stopped fighting my cues and began listening to what I was asking.

Then we pulled out two barrels and I told her what I was having trouble with schooling them on Monday night. He was really rushy and wanted to drop his shoulder and twist around the barrel instead of maintaining his circle. I didn't think about it on Monday, but did recognize last night that the reason he was rushy was because the last time we worked the obstacles was the speed round of our last show. He was trying to race them. Amanda had us trot the circles, coming to a walk in the middle, then trotting the other direction. Once we had that pretty solid, we cantered the right barrel, transitioned to a walk and trotted the left barrel. Every time Ashke started to get amped up or anxious, we just stopped. He got lots of praise and at least part of the focus of the lesson last night is getting him to canter without getting anxious about it. We would walk into Amanda, who would rub Ashke's head and neck while we both told him how good he was. He would snort and agree, but most importantly relax.

Next, we worked the barrels with circles in both directions at the canter, transitioning to a walk in between, which Ashke did very well, without getting upset and tense. I would ride through, stop out a ways, do a turn on the haunches and then work through the barrels from the other side, sometimes cueing the left lead and working the left circle first, to keep him from predicting what we were going to do.

Then Amanda, with a wicked grin on her face, put those barrels together and had me work on canter serpentines, transitioning to a walk for the change. That was good, although I could really feel it in my upper thigh and knee. Amanda said that there was an exercise she was going to have me do that would start to teach Ashke a rollback, which I said we already had, so we demonstrated a couple of times up and down the arena, with a turn in each direction. Then I had to calm my hyped horse down and get him resettled to work on our calm and focused canter.

Then she had me do the serpentine with a stop in the center, turn on the haunches and then a walk to canter transition in a random direction. Ashke picked up the wrong lead a couple of times, but I think I worked out how to make it clear which direction we were going to go. I added a reinback if he was beginning to feel tense and made sure to give him lots of vocal praise when he did what I asked. Finally, we went back to the figure 8 barrels and he did them incredibly well. I think we both figured out that if I can keep his shoulder up and his body more straight, we don't lose the haunches on the turn. That was enough canter work for the day. It was a good thing too because my legs felt like spaghetti. They still do hours later.

I finished the lesson doing trot work along the rail, letting him lengthen his stride on the long side, then shorten and slow on the ends. We tried to do some stretchy trot, but we both think he was too tired to try it without rushing. We called it a day. He wasn't even sweating after all of that work. 

Last night demonstrated to me what he is capable of and what we can accomplish together with our great coach. I've been very happy at this barn and am even more ecstatic that it brought me to a woman that can help us unlock all of the things we need to be able to progress in this sport. I am finally on fire with wanting to practice and work on these things, to feel us both believe we can do it, even if we end up too tired and weak to walk the next day.

Monday, August 8, 2016


 J and I were able to get on trail this weekend. I had hoped to have a full set of shoes on Ashke before hand, but he managed to shed both fronts in fifteen minutes of arena riding. The left was reset a second time, but when he managed to twist off the right front, I decided to just remove the shoes and wait until after our show in September to try again (by that point his left front would have had three sets of holes). We thought about doing Soapstone Prairie, but the pending stormy weather made J uneasy, so we opted for Chatfield.

 It was incredibly green, especially in contrast with every where else.

 I set up Poke eggs to hatch while I was riding. It tracked distance really well, except some of our canters were too fast. I managed to hatch all nine on our ride.

 I mostly let Ashke pick his gait. This was a refresher day for both of us.

 This was J's view. It was so overgrown and actually difficult to ride through.
She ended up getting stung by a bee pressing through overgrowth on one of the trails.

 Ashke kept wanting to be very close to her.
A couple of times he would reach out to touch her and pin his ears. He wanted the peppermints she had in her pack.

He seemed very happy.
And he obviously knew when she was filming him.


Cantering. His canter on trail has gotten very soft and slow.
I think it will be even better once his feet are taken care of.

We got down to Plum Creek and he splashed and played in the water. When he came out he was lame. I stopped and pulled off his boots, finding them completely full of gravel and rock. They went into J's pack and we did the rest of the ride bare. He actually felt better bare and we were riding on mostly grass. Very little rock there. 

Then we got to the lake and he drank very well, then played in the water. He really wanted to lay down. Maybe next time, I will pull tack and let him really play in the water. 
Riding the verge on our way to the trailer. He cantered most of the way from the lake to the trail. I just got a bit tired of trying to predict which weeds he was going to decide to launch himself over. We did 12.5 miles in just about 3 hours (with a stop about half way to let Ashke graze).

On Sunday, we hauled to Dowdy Draw in Boulder, at the base of Eldorado Springs. I met B and L there and we did a walking trail ride along Community Ditch, with a loop at the lower edge of Marshall Lake, then back along Community Ditch. It was a great ride and wonderful company. J got pretty toasted, since it was supposed to be cloudy and rainy and instead it ended up at 91 degrees. It was hot.

Me with L on Satori behind us.

 Heading for Community Ditch.

Dazee, B's mare, will cross bridges, provided another horse is willing to sacrifice themselves first. 
So, we worked on it.

The ride was beautiful. The lower loop from Community Ditch down to the Marshal Lake parking lot and then back up to the Ditch is on my top ten list of trails in the area.

 And you can't beat the views.

 L on Satori.

Ashke decided Dazee was his girl and was a good, head wagging trail poneh as long as he was close to her. He got jiggy when Satori was between them.

Best pic of the day.

B on Dazee, me in the middle and L on Satori to the right.
Our version of an oreo. 

I am so sore, especially my left shoulder, since I spent as much time as possible using my left hand on the reins to get it strong and working correctly. Six hours in the saddle over two days. We did about 9 miles on Saturday in just about 3 hours. J was over hot and pretty sunburned, but otherwise it was a great ride. 

 Back at the barn, hosing Ashke off, I found this sticking out of the back of his hoof/leg.

It was just under the skin, but still. Really?

I'm so done with the freak injuries. 2016 can be finished with me now. 

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Follow Up

Saturday morning we hauled back out to see Dr D. Eddy came with us, not his first visit to the Dr, but his first with K. We got there right about 9 and upon unloading, set about having our evaluation.

 Doing our trot out.

This was an interesting eval. Ashke has shoes on his fronts, which Dr D said he seemed to prefer. The shoes had changed how he was moving, to the betterment of his front end, but she wants shoes put on his back feet as well. She thinks he is benefitting from the increased traction and lack of pain he was experiencing (even low grade) and since he is weaker in the back, wants to see if the shoes help correct the adducting he does with the right hind. I've contacted the farrier and we should see those go on Sunday.

 Doing a bit of stretching, to evaluate the shoulder. Dr D had to put her foot over his, since he really wanted to bow instead of stretch.

 Ashke was very hands on this visit. He really likes Doc, so was very interested in what she was doing.

 He was sore through the front left shoulder and right hip. 
Not horrible, just needed a little help.
I think it is all of the proper cantering we are doing right now.

 Testing the vertebrae at the base of his neck.
The only place that was out was the L2 - L3 region, which is a chronic thing.

 Doc evaluating the L2 - L3 spot

 Eddy being Eddy Van Halen

 Playing in his water, which has thirst quencher in it.

Injecting Ashke's blood into the accupuncture spots to initiate a immune response from the body.

 This was two seconds before he humped his back and bucked in protest at the needle going into his right sacro-illiac point. Poneh is sore on the right hip.

 Laser treatment over the troubled spots.
Ashke was being a bit anxious and Doc said "I haven't even turned it on yet."
Toddler, I swear. 

Triggering the complete back lift up through the shoulders.

Two things to note: the pain and trouble spots are fairly consistent in this horse. Left shoulder and right hip. Second, this was the first visit where there were no indicators for his withers. At all. I got the TSF saddle girth and I think that is the reason why. He is not as girthy, moves his shoulders more freely, and no indicators of pain in the wither area.

 Then it was Eddy's turn.

Doc found the same issues with Eddy this time as she did the last time she saw him three years ago (prior to K purchasing him). He is tight in the left hip through right shoulder, poll and jaw. He also really needs his teeth done. There is a big hook on the right side and his incisors keep his jaw from moving side to side.

Although I do take it he was better behaved this time around.

And guess what is in Doc's used tack store upstairs?!!!
My old Prestige Trekkerland. We tried it on Eddy, since I think it will fit K much better than the Abetta she is currently riding in. It was tight in the right shoulder, but Doc wants us to wait until he's responded to treatment before making a decision on it. 

On Monday, I rode Ashke (he got the weekend off to allow the body work to do it's magic). He was soft and very good for me and we spent most of the ride working on our canter. Toward the end I asked him to do a series of three figure eights with a simple change through the walk in the middle. We've been working on walk-canter transitions. He did two just fine, then tripped on his third circle to the right, came into the middle and bucked when I asked for the change to the left. I yelled and smacked him on the neck, then circled him at the trot a couple of circles before asking for the canter again. He gave it to me, made a change in the middle and a finally circle to the right. At that point I was willing to be done.

Then I heard it and swung off. Sure enough on the circle he tripped on, he managed to put his right hind foot on the inside back edge of his left front shoe and twisted the shoe badly. I really need to stop thinking "oh, my horse will never do this . . . " because that is just a day before he does whatever I was thinking he will never do. I've already ordered bell boots from BOT (they were offered in small, which no one else carries) and while I'm pleased he is reaching up underneath himself so far, really horse?

As far as the buck goes, he is being very expressive. I think he was still a little sore from the adjustment/weekend and didn't really want to try. He thought he had done enough. It was not a horrible buck and I was in no danger of coming off (I LOVE my ALTA!!!!), it was more along the lines of him complaining about the work. As we continue to work on the canter, I expect the protest will go away. 

It's been more than four years since I started riding him and finally, finally we are making progress. Thank you so much Amanda. Without your guidance and help we would still be floundering.