Thursday, December 14, 2017

When Good Horses Go Bad

I rode Monday night after having five days off (freaking December is killing my riding mojo) and although Ashke and I got grumbly at each other (he will stop spooking at the far end of the arena or we will both be grumbly for every ride until it happens) but the ride ended on a good note. Although, I was once again thrown into the "why would I ever want to show again if I can't get my horse to ride past that end of the arena without reacting". He's not even looking at stuff when I hand walk him, nor is he when we are walking or trotting past the obstacles and jump standards. It's when we start cantering that the attitude comes out. He did get smacked on the neck for being an idiot and balking, but then I rode him in a circle back to the spot where he stopped his canter and made him pick it up again. We did canter half circles at that end of the arena until he would do them (because he can do it - that's not the issue) with proper bend, proper cadence and no giraffing. But it left a bad taste in both our mouths.

I do have to say that the arguments we are having now are much less intense, difficult or reactive in comparison to a year ago. A year ago, I would have ended the ride in tears and Ashke would have been tense and distrustful. Monday, it was just grumbly, not an all out fight. And after the open slap on his neck and me telling him to knock it off, he was much better.

Tuesday, we were both warm and affectionate with each other. Kind of like a married couple after bickering about socks. I hand walked him around the arena, passing all of the jump stuff in both directions, and his only reaction was to try and tip the barrel over and eat the plastic flowers out of the jump boxes. We did walk-trot-canter in various combinations and although he did react a bit to the jump standards, a twitch on the rein brought his attention back to me.

One of the other riders at the barn came in while we were riding. Her horse, a QH build like a brick shit house, has been laid up for almost 18 months. He tangled with an electrical fence tape about the same time Ashke degloved his left hind leg. D has been through two surgeries on the injury and his owner, G, is just now getting him back into work. Since I was there and riding, G decided to hop on D and walk a bit around the arena. She had ridden him a week or so prior, and he had been fine, although he gave his trainer a bit of a handful when she was up on him. G thought that all of that had been resolved in the subsequent rides.

She saddled him and stood him by the mounting block for a bit, making him stand still til she was ready to get on. Ashke and I were working the double slalom pattern, although I was changing it up by making him do circles all the way around each pole before doing a transition through the halt to change leads. He was listening well and I really wasn't paying attention to anything other than my communication with him.

G swung up on D and the next thing I know D is bolting across the arena and G is hauling back on her reins trying to get him to stop. Ashke and I halt in place and I add my voice to G's, yelling "D whoa!!!" I could see that G was in trouble. D wasn't listening to her at all, he was in a simple snaffle that gave her no leverage and had a running martingale on. G was trying to do a one rein stop, but the martingale wasn't allowing her to pull his head around to disengage his hind quarters. It also prevented her from pulling his head up, since it was holding his head down. The second turn around the indoor and they almost hit the wall of the arena, and when D circled toward Ashke and I, I really thought he was going to crash into us. The scenes from those driving classes where the horse and cart go careening around the arena crashing other horse and carts flashed through my head, but D dodged at the last moment and missed us.

Ashke didn't move. We were both of the opinion that less movement would not contribute any more energy to the explosiveness that was happening.

On his third circuit, D started adding crowhopping to his resume, and at that point the writing was on the wall. I didn't think it would end well and I think G came to the same decision. Additionally, the saddle was slipping to the outside. G looked for a soft place to land and dropped off  the outside. D managed to get free without stepping on her. G rolled over in the sand and began to crawl out of the arena. She was moving and conscious.

I swung off and grabbed D before he could continue to rampage. He was pretty wild and it took a moment to get him. By that time, G was up and had found her glasses (I do not miss wearing glasses for just that reason) and confirmed verbally that although her back hurt, she was moving and not broken and didn't need an ambulance.

I took Ashke over and put him at the tie rack in his halter, then took a lunge line and D back to the middle of the arena. I removed the martingale, tied his reins around the horn to keep them out of our way, straightened out the saddle and tightened the girth, then ran the lunge line through his bit and up over his head to the other side. Then I asked him to move in a circle. G warned me that he didn't lunge well, but once I got him going in a circle he continued on his own. I just asked him to move until he stopped trying to bolt, his head came down a bit and he was licking and chewing. Then we reversed direction and did it the other way. He choose to travel in a rapid trot for almost 30 minutes before I stopped him because he was short striding on his left hind.

He was pretty sweaty. G walked him for a bit to let him cool and dry. I had thought to have her get back on him, but it was pretty obvious when we went to attempt that, that he was going to explode again. G put him away and we gave him 1g of bute, since he had just done a bunch more exercise than he had in the past 18 months. G agreed to get help from her trainer before trying to ride him again in the form of lunging, ground work and maybe a lead line lesson. And she agreed to wear her helmet next time.

Ashke watched everything calmly from his spot on the hitch rail. He really is such a great horse.

I don't know if it was saddle fit or just flat out bad attitude on the part of D when G swung up, but that was one of the most terrifying things I've witnessed. I feel very thankful that G wasn't hurt (sore muscles the next day seems to be the extent) and that D was fine the next morning. I expect that with some specific training and exercise, he will go back to the horse she had the last time she was able to ride.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Feet in Review

 This last Friday, my farrier came out and did Ashke’s feet. This was the third set of shoes since I treated him with the iodine and hydrogen peroxide for the WLD. I took some pics of his hooves, so I had them for reference, in prep for this post. I’ve been thinking about his feet over the past almost six years and decided to go back and see what the pictures showed. 

When I first brought him home, his feet were in pretty rough shape, although given his overall condition, it was not a surprise. I found a farrier and had him come out to work on Ashke, but was not real happy with the results. There was no break over, Ashke was interfering back to front, and his feet showed signs of bruising (bloody spots in the White Line. When I spoke to my then farrier about the interference and issues with soundness, his response was to unbalance the foot to keep Ashke from clipping. I was not impressed. When I moved to TMR, I was able to get him in with a barefoot farrier who worked with us for almost two years. That started our struggle of barefoot-with-hoof-boots-trying-to-keep-Ashke-sound that would stretch for four long years. 

His LF, which will be the focus of this post.

This pic was taken in December of 2012, when I moved to using a barefoot trimmer at TMR. You can see the White Line issues on either side of his hoof. We have been dealing with this since I brought him home. Michele did a good job with trimming him, however, I think the overall quality of his forage at every barn he was at prior to Morelli’s was contributing to his foot issues. The hay at TMR sucked. And Ashke wouldn’t eat the grass mix hay at all. He was on seven flakes of alfalfa, a half pound of amplify, Smartpak supposed, and equipride during this time. I finally threw out the Purina grain based feed and amplify (he didn’t need that much fat in his diet) and replaced it with TC Senior. I stopped messing with the bran mash, and just used the Senior as my base for wet mashes. 

Michele stopped trimming in August of 2014, and recommended a new farrier. He came out and did a trim on Ashke. Ashke was lame afterward. Lame enough that I called a new farrier to come out and look at him. The new farrier was concerned about the length of his hoof capsule, but suggested magic cushion and to give it some time to grow. I was still very committed to keeping Ashke barefoot, so I did some research and found Dan. Dan was a certified equine podiatrist and spent a year trimming Ashke. During that time, it became more and more difficult to keep Ashke sound. His hoof depth was short and Dan stopped trimming the flares his grows naturally. The WLD got significantly worse. The hollows on the edges of the hoof below were grooves in the WL. 

I got concerned enough about the deep hollows and untreated flares, that I called a new farrier, Kris.

On our first trim, Kris said his hoof was short, there was concern about bar abscesses, and we discovered a 8 mm stone buried deep under the frog, that had been there long enough that it had created its own little hollow in his frog. We were stabling at SQA at that point, flirting with the barley grass they really wanted to feed all of the horses, but every time Ashke went on it, he grew sore footed with ridging in his hoof wall. I was treating his hoof with a plethora of farrier recommended products. Kris wanted mine to treat the bar abscess with betadine and sugar, or No Thrush. I got a huge bottle of No Thrush and within a couple of trim cycles, the thrush was gone. But not the WLD. 

The bottom of his hoof was black from the Magic Cushion.

During all of this time, we wee also struggling with hoof boots. Ashke hated them and I hated how he moved in them. He was toe first and stumbling, stilted and stiff when we rode. I would put the hoof boots on, but we never finished the ride still in them. Even on super rocky trails, he moved better being tender and stiff without boots, then he did while wearing them. I was soooo frustrated with both the tenderness and the issues with his feet we were still.dealing with.

Kris first trim. You can see the little round spot at the top of the frog where the stone was removed.

In December of 2015, we moved to Morelli Ranch. Ashke was put on a diet of four flakes of alfalfa and a couple of flakes of grass hay a day. He gets about a pound of TC Senior and his supplements. His run is well drained and he gets two hours of turn out a day, seven days a week. In a matter of a couple of months, he went from a horse that was a hard keeper to one that has maintained his perfect weight with great muscle gain with no changes to his feed program for more than eighteen months. That was amazing to see happen. We were still dealing with his feet however.

I finally made the decision last September to put shoes on Ashke. I was done dealing with the hoof boots and the constant tenderness. The unexpected happened. Ashke needed the extra support the shoes gave him on his fronts and Dr D was so impressed with how he moved, that she told me to put the shoes on all four feet. In the year, since we made that decision, we went from pads and bell boots, with lots of tripping at about five weeks, to a completely sound and solid horse. The WLD was still there, despite several attempts on my part to get rid of it. My newest farrier, Trey (whom we LOVE), told me we had to stay on it until it was gone. I did two applications of White Lightning. It did nothing. I talked to Amanda and she suggested a mix of iodine and hydrogen peroxide. I did that. Two applications a week apart, even with the shoes on, finally fixed the WLD, 

The same hoof on Friday, after the shoe came off and the trim was done.

This is the third trim/shoe cycle since the treatment that finally knocked out the WLD. There is still some roughness where the deep pitting on the outside edges of the hoof were, but when you touch it, it is hard and dry, not soft and spongy like it had been. I expect on the next trim cycle, even that will be gone. Trey says it is gone. Ashke says his hoofs feel really good. I am really happy that we’ve finally got his feet healthy and happy.

I know that the majority of the heavy lifting in fixing his feet was accomplished by the good food he is getting on the daily. You can not underestimate the importance of great forage and balanced nutrients. 

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Necessary Skillz

I just watched the new movie, Out of the Wild, based on the book by Mark Rashid, produced and directed by Mark Rashid and just released on both DVD (Amazon) or electronic (iTunes). It was very, very good and I highly recommend it. I love old cowboys, and horses, and romantic love stories and this movie hit all of the high points. Go buy it and download it on iTunes to watch. Then buy the book and read it (I absolutely loved the book - better than the movie, even).

There was a scene that really resonated with me in the last part of that movie. Henry is leading a string of horses, each of them in a halter with the lead rope tied in a loop around the horse in front of them. Henry was holding the lead rope of the first ponied horse in his hand. He had a string of five or six horses following without issue behind him.

Rope around the horse in front like so, with a non-slip knot
(From the interwebs)

Flash to this morning when I was watching a newscast from southern California, where a news reporter was at a ranch that they were trying to evacuate. There were flames shooting high into the air in the background and you could barely see because of the rolling walls of smoke. I wanted to teleport into the scene, throw a saddle on one of the horses, link five or six behind me and lead them to safety. I wanted to scream at people to start rescuing the horses. (The good news is someone updated that all of the horses were rescued.)

From the interwebs

One of the big issues with any kind of evacuation is that not every horse owner has a rig to move their horse. Barn owners might have a trailer to move their own horses, or to help boarders moving in or out, other boarders might also have personal trailers, but there never seems to be enough trailers or trucks to haul out the trailers that are available. Not only that, but what if the road in and out of a ranch is blocked and impossible to haul a trailer down? It seems to me that grabbing a group and heading out on horseback makes more sense then just turning the horses loose. Part of the problem with turning horses loose is the prevalence of fences and barbed wire. This is why it is also important to carry a pair of wire cutters in your carry bag. 

I've decided to put "ponying multiple horses" on my list of skills to be learned. Ashke needs to know how to do it from both the ponied horse position as well as the being ponied horse position. We have ponied Eddy in the past, but I want to do other horses as well, in order to develop the skillz to handle any group at a time. I think it is an important skill set for both you and your horse to have.

In Colorado, we face flood and fire on a regular basis. It is good to have options to get the horses to safety.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017


The time between Samhain and Winter Solstice always seems to resonate with darkness as we lose day-light savings time and the days get shorter and shorter. The melancholy of the impending turn of the wheel is difficult to shake with the joy of giving to our loved ones that this season symbolizes when it's 80 degrees out. Last night, going to dinner with J, it was cold enough to see my breath in the air. The lights draping the trees seemed brighter, happier in the crispness of the air. Crazy that our Decembers are so warm.

It was just cold enough that even when I made it to the barn, when the opportunity came to let Ashke play with Ardee (TB mare owned by my good friend Ree) in the arena with the big ball, how could I say no. Ardee was very unsure of the whole thing, and I think Ashke was a bit puzzled by why she wasn't willing to joining him in playing. Ardee really likes Ashke and will let him snuffle and sniff, with soft whuffles and touches, with only a little bit of mare-warning in his direction.

Ardee, however, wanted nothing to do with the ball. She reared, jumped, bucked and did a bunch of aires above the ground during their 30 minutes of fun. Ashke was focused on his ball, but would leave it to take off racing after her when she exploded. Then he would go back to his ball and Ardee would watch with terrified inquistiveness until it was just to much once again, and then she would race off.

Toward the end, Ashke was trying slowly and carefully to get her to play with him. He would move the ball toward her, like saying "look, its okay". Ree finally had her come up and touch the ball, but Ardee never really understood the point.

I love watching the muscles over his withers ripple as he moves. He has a huge, floating trot now and I made the comment to Ree that it's no wonder his trot has become so difficult to ride in a sitting trot.

I groomed him really well after, then put on a heavier blanket for the night. Tucked him in with a solid feed of TC Senior and some sweet potato treats with marshmallows.

Sixteen more days until the Sun is reborn and the energy of this slow, sleeping, melancholy time is turned into the growing awakening of Spring.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Looking Back

I missed my goal by two letters, since this is the 24th post in November and there are 26 letters in the alphabet. It couldn't be helped. My life right now is cray-cray. Instead of doing an X-Y-Z post for today, I wanted to take a look back at what we were working on in our lessons a year ago, versus what we are doing now.

This was cantering a year ago

We were working primarily on getting the canter down and starting our lateral work. November was the first month where he showed signs of slowing down and being balanced. We were having issues with bend. He was still struggling with some physical issues with both his feet and his haunches, however, he was in consistent work and weekly lessons. 

This was a week ago

We are now working on half pass, shoulder in and haunches in at the trot, the beginnings of flying changes, developing the medium trot vs the collected trot, developing the medium canter vs the collected canter (the video above shows this is a work in progress), trot circle to leg yield. Amanda said in our last lesson that it is amazing how far we've progressed in the past year. 

We have sacrificed a lot of time on trail to developing our skills in the arena. I would have thought we would both be miserable, but I think we both like this. It is amazing to me that a shift in my shoulders by an inch in either direction is the difference between a flowing half pass and a tied up, pretzeled attempt. 

It is hard. Maybe one of the hardest things I've ever worked consistently at. I have a small muscle at the top of my ass that is sprained right now because I am trying to use my legs consistently in ways legs shouldn't be used. But we are getting closer. We are still learning. We are progressing, regardless of what our show scores say.

Ashke and I are no longer arguing about the South end of the arena. If he starts to get silly, a soft pop on the bit reminds him to stay focused, and I am no longer allowing him to derail our conversation. Shoulder in ridden through deeper footing, at the trot is enough to convince him perhaps it is less work to do what I ask then to play silly buggers. 

Our warm ups are easier than a year ago, with walk-trot-canter being available immediately. I am still walking for the first five to ten minutes, doing shoulder in, leg yields and reminding him to stay on the bit at the walk during warm up. The issues of short striding, cross cantering, and feeling rough have evaporated in the past six months, resolved by the myofascial release done by Tracy Vroom. (I can't say enough good about that session and how much has changed under saddle for the two of us because of it). A year ago, cantering was still hit and miss, and he protested the attempts a lot, kicking at my feet frequently because of it. 

In our last lesson, we walked down centerline while I shifted the bend from haunches to the left, the straight and then haunches to the right while keeping the shoulders on the line. I will be working that exercise in a figure eight pattern, using it during our transition at the walk, with a change of lead and canter circles on either side. I need to do this exercise more than he does, so I can build the muscle memory of that movement. I recognized last night that what is keeping us from flying changes is not him, but me. I don't have the muscle memory to make that ask in the .005 of a second I have available to me when we are working on the change. I need to work this exercise until it becomes second nature and I am able to do it in a single walk stride. At that point, I should be able to do it for a flying change. It should also become crystal clear to Ashke which lead we are after. 

I have to laugh that dressage has become so delightful.

Monday, November 27, 2017


T and J at Winter Park for their first trip of the season. The lift lines were very long and the snow was ice.
Not to mention, only about 18” at the base.
T’s helmet is a Ruroc called the Reaper.
It is lit.

J’s ski bike.
I guess it is very swoops.
And Orange.

Saturday, while J and T were skiing, I took Ashke out to the back forty and we did five miles.
I tracked it.
Five times around the perimeter of the property.
He was very bouncy and not listening very well.
This stretch of ground makes a great galloping track, so much so, that we walked and trotted it.

Every time we got to this point, homie wanted to breakneck gallop.
We did half pass instead.
I know, I’m a complete downer.
However, still alive today, so there’s that.

Got some of my lights up this weekend outside, but had to order some new light strings for the front.
What is it with projector lights?
Costco tree perfectly fits the space we have for it. Will let it relax for a day and decorate it tomorrow night.

I have had some excellent rides on Ashke the past couple of days. I have continued handwalking past the end of the arena and it has helped, although he has been spooky the past couple of days, just in general. So have my dogs. And so have all of the other horses. Something in the air, I think. 

We have worked on lateral work, canter transitions through the walk, cantering on the right lead with haunches in, all of our lateral work and last night we did collected to medium trot and back. He did good. 

Saturday, November 25, 2017


In my lifetime I have been around a lot of horses. The majority of them were amazing, loving and safe animals. A couple of them were not. Sham was definitely on the “not safe” side of the coin, and we were all very lucky he didn’t kill someone by the time we sold him. Keile was the second horse that was unsafe. Riding her was an exercise in coming off a horse safey and no amount of distance or wet saddle blankets was enough to make her safe. Keile was a sensitive and over reactive horse. I think it was a product of her breeding and based on her behavior, I think the National Show Horse was a horrible cross. Sham, however, was what I would consider an outlaw and if I had been an adult when I had him, I probably would have had him put down.

So, where is the line to be drawn?

I have a story to share. I know a guy that owns a beautiful gelding, kind of that wonderful mouse grey, with black legs and tiger stripes on his upper limbs and a deep eye. His mane and tail are thick and black, and he has a stripe down his back. He is from old QH stock and is built like a tank, weighing 1150 pounds on a 14.2 frame.This gelding is one of those horses that just absolutely takes your breath away from sheer beauty.

Pros: loves to trail ride, having over a 1000 miles in two years in rocky, desert terrain. He has crossed water, bridges, been around bikes, is sure footed as a mountain goat. He goes barefoot and is a fairly easy keeper. He has started some Western dressage and has been learning quickly. He has over a 1000 hours of round pen/ground manners training. Has shown in Western dressage and some Ranch hand. He has had five solid years of training with various professionals.

Cons: hates to trailer, and can be very difficult to load. Has little regard for people or their space and has no problem running over the top of someone. Is a “dirty” spook and likes to wait until the rider is off balance or not paying attention to pull a spin and buck move. Can not be housed with other horses since he is really food aggressive. He can sunfish with the best of them and is very likely to go after the person who just came off his back as he is to run away. Has been known to bolt on trail. Has been known to rear and strike at his handler. Doesn’t always stand tied and has been responsible for broken lead ropes. Is inconsistent under saddle. After years of training with various professionals, he is still unpredictable.

This horse has already hurt several people. When he goes over the top of someone, he deliberately steps on them. Two riders were left with concussions. One broken leg. A shattered hand. A broken nose. He has unpredicable, aberrant behavior and is more likely to charge over someone when he’s decided he is done then he is to run in the other direction. There is no indication that additional training will resolve the above issues so the owner can house him separately and treat him as a stallion, understanding that riding and handling him involve a lot of risk. 

I was worried when I first brought Ashke home that I was going to have a “broken” horse . . . One with behavioral problems that I was going to have to deal with and I thought about where my line would be drawn. I don’t want a horse that I have to be scared of or cautious around. Ashke was a perfect gentleman from the very beginning. In five and a half years of handling him I have only been stepped on once (he caught the very edge of my boot) and I have long ago stopped being worried that he was trying to get rid of me. Even in tense and scary situations, with loud noises and frightening things around us, he has never come into my space. It was something that was strongly instilled in him when he was a foal and he has never forgotten. I knew two weeks into working with him that he was not mean, not trying to hurt me. I could trust what he was telling me, because he was honest and straightforward. He has continued to be the same way under saddle. And even when I have come off of him - like the incident that happened in June - even with him rearing and panicked above me, all I had to do is say whoa and he stopped. 

It’s not just a question of trust, although there is that, it is also the question of what lies in the heart of your horse. 

My line is if a horse is trying to hurt you deliberately, after training and bonding and creating relationship, then that horse is not to be trusted.  That he is not in pain. Not terrified. But deliberately seeking to harm a human being. One time may be a fluke, but when it has happened numerous times, in many different situations, with different handlers, after years of training, that is an undeniable and unredeemable offense. That horse is a danger and shouldn’t be trusted. 

At what point do you make the decision that the horse is not safe and shouldn’t be handled? Where is the breaking point for you? Do you believe that all horses are good and just need the right handling? Or do you, too, believe that some horses are unredeemable? Would you keep this beautiful QH and handle them like a stud? Would you sell him to the first buyer that offered money? Would you send him to the kill pen, where someone in the public will save him because he is beautiful? Or would you call the vet and have him humanely euthanized? 

What would you do?

Friday, November 24, 2017


For my land sharks, who make me laugh every single day,

For Little Black kittens, who tease the landsharks and curl up in my lap at night when I sit down.

For the honor of being the mother of this bright eyed, sarcastic, sweet, loving young man.
And for his survival to adulthood.

For Family

My mom. Enough said.

For my bestie and her family

For barn friends too numerous to count

For laughter and adventure

And friends brought into my life through my blog

And for my trainer who inspires me every day, who understands Ashke and is willing to push just enough.
Bonus for the orange breeches

And for my lovely, honest, smart, unicorn without whom I would be dying inside.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Simply Fabulous

Every once in a while I have a ride that reminds me of why we keep doing dressage lessons. Ashke was simply fabulous.

To start, I have stopped referring to the “s-p-o-o-k-y” end of the arena that way - instead I am referring to it as the “jump storage” area of the arena, the jump box area and the arena drag area of the arena. I am refusing to fall into his trap of seeing that end as different from the other areas. I’ve also walked him in hand past that end before getting on him so he can inspect the obstacles. He no longer has any real interest in inspecting anything. He did put his teeth on the baby gate around the arena drag, but other than that it was no big deal. That has also been the deal under saddle. If he flicks an ear, he gets a shoulder in and some admonishment “you do not need to be that way with the jump standards” and “do we need to make this harder” or “Theo/Ardee/Laz trots past these spots without even flicking an ear”. Sometimes, shaming is needed. The bonus part of that end of the arena becoming less significant is that we can now use the entire arena, rather than struggling to use 3/4 of the arena. 


We started with walking around the arena in both directions, then went to the trot. I let Ashke really stretch out and open up his trot for a couple of circuits, just asking him to use his back and not travel hollow. We even went between a mare being lunged and the jump boxes without any issues, other than a flicked ear at the mare. Then Amanda arrrived and we started our lesson. Ashke was relaxed and seemed very happy to be working.

We started with leg yields from the wall to x and back to the wall. Then Amanda had us leg yield out to x, execute a turn on the forehand maintaining our bend, then walk off straight. I guess that was one of the exercises they practiced at their clinic last weekend, Wilz had a total meltdown trying that exercise and the clinician ended up schooling him in hand. Ashke nailed it the first time in both directions. We moved onto our serpentines, using the entirety of the arena without having to fight with Ashke, since he was pretty focused for me. We did w-t-w serpentines, with me really focused on keeping him working off my seat. Amanda has me ride it with both hands, and then move to one hand for short time frames, then back if he needs the support. After the w-t-w we moved to t-c-t serpentines and when those were going really good we went to work on the livestock pen I had set up to one side almost in the middle of the arena.

Amanda moved one of the cones to allow us to exit the pen on both sides of the cones, just to give us more variety to ride. We started with a canter around the outside of the pen, then rode through the pen to the opening on the far side, making it a 10 m half circle (the outside edge is 10 m). We rode around and reentered the pen from the far side, exiting out the “opening”. Then we rode around the outside, then through the pen at the canter. And he did it easily.

The last time I had tried it at the canter, he lost his hip and scattered cones in every direction. This time he was able to keep himself without knocking over anything. I was so proud.

The purple is the first time through, the blue was the second time through and the green was the final time through.

One of the things that was very apparent to both Amanda and I, was Ashke’s struggle to keep his hip in when cantering on the right lead. That was the same information I had received at my last clinic with Tarrin, but I could feel him struggling on such a small circle. Amanda acknowledged that we had just clearly identified an area that we need to strengthen through exercise during my rides to make this easier for him to do. His pinned ears and pissed off snort every time I asked him to canter that tight of a circle while not letting him flip his hip to the left was fairly amusing to both Amanda and I. She had me canter him around the outside of the pen, in a counter bend, to help him keep the hip in. It will need to be something I work on with each ride. It is a hole that I can work on going forward. 

We did some of the c-w-c transitions on the straight away, to which Amanda had me add the circle around the outside of the pen, before a downward transition at x and a change of lead going straight forward. We used the circle to help Ashke balance for the straight forward canter transition. By that time he was saying he was getting a bit fatigued with all of the canter work. So, Amanda had me move to the shoulder in along the rail in both directions.  We worked a lot on the shoulder in while riding with one hand. 

Then we worked on a new pattern.

The pattern we worked on

Ashke was to trot down centerline, circle the outside of the pen (10m circle) then when we were back at X we leg yielded to the rail, rode the short end of the arena straight, then leg yielded to X from M, circled the pen again and then rode to A with a little shoulder in. It was complicated and required a lot of focus on his part, since there were lots of changes in direction and bend. He did great though. So fabulous.

We ended there. However, I stripped tack and rode him for about fifteen minutes on the buckle bareback, while Amanda rode one of the Friesans at the barn. He looked back at me a couple of times, but I was able to ride without clenching with my butt and thighs. I rode until he was relaxed and cool. I hope that as long as I can continue to practice after our rides (when he’s calm and tired) perhaps I can regain some of both my balance and the confidence I had in spades when I was younger.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017


C and I went on a roadtrip to McCook Nebraska yesterday to check out an arena where we are going to hold a WE show the first of October next year. It will be a Region 3 show, but not a Regional show, since that requires qualifying scores.

 A lot of open prairie land

 Metal Indian silhouette on the horizon

 C and I spent most of the time talking about WE, horses, life experiences and I don't think either of us got at all bored.

 One of two huge freaking arenas.

 Other end of the same arena

 Secretary area complete with speaker system

 Outdoor stalls with RV hookups.

We reviewed the facilities, looked at the second arena, then headed to lunch to talk about specifics and hammer out details. At the end of lunch we returned to talk to the facilities manager and to pick up a contract and grant application for the show.

 Headed home. Stopped for gas and licorice.
Still laughing and talking after several hours of constant company.

 The one part of the drive that wasn't directly into the sun.
Or after dark

Still three hours from Denver

Eight hours in the car. Three hours in McCook. Lots of time with a great friend. Solid plan for our first collaborative show with new friends from Kansas and Nebraska.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Quintessential Ashke

Or . . . the things he is good at.

Trail riding

I honestly think this is what he is the absolute best at. He is relaxed and confident for the most part, although unusual things can catch his attention and occasionally cause a spook, like the flags on recumbent bikes. (And freaking green wrought iron benches). But for the most part, he loves to explore new country. He loves to revisit places we haven't been in a while and lets me know when he is bored with the same section of trail. He is so willing under saddle and we are at our most connected during trail rides.

I am hoping that this attitude and try will carry over to the endurance field without making him unhappy. We can travel distances at the trot, which I will need to work on this winter and spring, and his "big trot" is between 10 and 12 miles per hour. I just need to get stronger and more able to ride MILES rather than feet at that pace. We shall see how it goes.


We are definitely getting better at dressage. Ashke is more willing to maintain contact with me and I am trying to develop the skills to ride better, keep my leg and seat cues subtle and my hands quiet. He loves being in lessons and trying to do the fancy stuff correctly. I like it because it has made him so much stronger and able to use his hind end properly. And no pain in his body, as determined by both how he is moving under saddle and his conversation with the communicator. I intend to continue with taking lessons (we both love it) but also to get him back out onto trail to develop the stamina and endurance I feel like we may be slipping on.

Body Condition

I can't tell you how happy I am at Ashke's condition. He has managed to maintain his weight for the past year without any adjustments in his food. The high quality of the hay fed by Morelli Ranch has helped him stabilize and maintain a healthy weight. If you would have told me how long it would take to come back into balance after his earlier issues, and everything we would have to do to root out and resolve all of his emotional/body problems, I would have laughed. Five and a half years later, I feel like we have finally reached a place where the ghosts of Christmas past have been laid to rest and he is internally at peace. Patience, persistence and flat out refusal to give up have brought us to a quiet shore. Anything is possible.

 Sweet, Affectionate and Playful

He is affectionate and verbal, playful and easily bored. I am really trying to figure out how to get out to ride him five days a week, but can only seem to truly manage four. I know he would love to see me every day, but it just isn't possible. He can be difficult at times when we are riding alone and he certainly knows how to get my goat, but for the most part he is a willing and capable partner. Time will see us develop the skills we need to do whatever we want, which is something that we both need to decide on.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Photo Dump

And by photo, I mean video. 

L4 movement
10m trot circle, leg yield to wall

Same movement, different direction

Medium canter to collected canter

More of the same

And still more

Half pass easy side

Half pass attempt difficult side

Saturday, November 18, 2017


So. I understand that I ride a horse that has a personality that is larger than life, in most circumstances. He is funny and engaging, playful and affectionate, able to understand quite a bit of what is said around him and genuinely loves people. I think a large part is his breed, since the Arabian was treated as part of the family by the Bedouins, brought inside the tent to live, sleeping with small children curled up against their belly. A part of him remembers that he is a Prince of the Desert and a Drinker of the Wind and interacts with those around him appropriately.

The flip side of that is that he sometimes forgets himself and acts like a willful toddler.

Last night, trying to honor his request to walk in hand around the scary end of the arena to look at all the stuff, I did so. We walked one direction and then turned and walked the other direction. 

I think I would be much more understanding, if he acted at all scared when we are working in hand.

Mostly he looks bored

He tried to eat the plastic flowers. Obs very stressful object.

The baby gate did elicit a snort when we first walked up to it.

But then he tried to eat it

We ended our walk-about calm and relaxed, and honestly, he never felt or acted stressed. I got on and we proceeded to ride through all of the things I work on in my lessons. We loosened up at the walk and he didn’t even turn an ear at that end of the arena. Then we worked on shoulder in, haunches in and leg yields in both directions. We turned and worked leg yields toward the mirrors so I could see if he was crossing front and back, working on getting a feel for that with visual conformation. Then we did a few steps in each direction of Half-Pass. He is so good moving right to left, but we still struggle with the bend going left to right (right side bend is always an issue). Then I asked for trot-walk-trot serpentines and that is when the rails started to come off and willful toddler showed up.

It started with a cocked ear and trying to bend away from that end of the arena. I ignored his ear and told him to focus. We moved to canter-walk-canter serpentines, with me really trying to be subtle with my leg and seat. To refine the ask. When we got to that end of the arena, he threw his head up and tried to bolt.

Poopy head.

I refused to allow him to get away with the behavior. It broiled into a fight with escalating tension on his part, which was so frustrating after I had spent so much time riding soft and calm. In the midst of the battle, which consisted of him telling me he just could.not.walk.forward, I remembered two things that Mark Rashid says: one is that when you move your focus from what you are doing, you are allowing the horse to change the topic from work that he finds difficult, in this case riding with contact through walk-canter-walk transitions; the second is that sometimes what we want the conversation to look like (soft, tension free, willing) is not what the horse needs at that point. I stopped fighting. I went back to the first place he began to act out and asked him to stop and drop his head. Then I played softly with the reins until he started rolling the bit with his tongue. Then I gathered the reins and asked him to move forward. He took three steps and started to get tense again, so we stopped, dropped and relaxed. 

We did that process until he was able to walk a relaxed circle in the area he acts up in. Then I took him back to the same spot he first threw his little fit and made him pick up a canter again. We finished the ride with serpentines through the walk, and on the last circle down by the south end of the arena (I’m going to stop thinking of it as the scary end), I held him out on the circle and overbent him to keep him focused on me. Thought of it as riding a shoulder in at the canter on a circle. 

I recognized last night that he’s not really afraid, but he thinks he can derail our conversation by acting out in that corner. He does have a point. It has worked pretty non-stop for two years now. I don’t want to fight with him, but I’m pretty tired of this conversation. Just like there are things your toddler can do at four or five that is no longer acceptable at fifteen (wander the house nekkid for one) Ashke needs to grow up. And just like I am the one responsible for the tone and conversation between myself and my child, I am also responsible for the conversation with Ashke. Enough of giving up or avoiding that end of the arena because it becomes difficult. He can grow up and behave.

And I refuse to acknowledge that there is anything wrong with any place in the arena any more. It is not scary. It is not haunted. It is no longer an issue. 

Thursday, November 16, 2017


That would be me . . .

So, not only did I pay for a communicator to talk to Ashke with me, but I also told people about our conversations.

And then I promptly forgot about what Ashke had asked of me . . . and my rides went downhill fast.

The boy can hold onto resentment. And he gives as good as he gets when we fight. It's not fun. Kind of like fighting over dirty socks or leaving the toilet seat up in the middle of the night. It's all fun and games until you're ass deep in cold water.

Cute winter photo from awhile ago

Ashke asked me to walk him in hand around the arena to allow us to look at all of the stuff. It gives me an opportunity to explain to him using words what is in each of the areas. I did it once and our ride after was great, then I forgot and our next three rides sucked eggs. Stinking, rotten eggs.

Now, in my defense, one of those rides I was incredibly late to my lesson. The other times were just me being a person with swiss cheese for brains. I figure it really is exactly like being asked to put your dishes in the dishwasher a gazillion times and still forgetting too. Divorces have happened from less. 

My last ride, which ended with us tooling around the arena bareback, was amazing. I remembered his request and walked him around the arena, stopping to look at all of the things. We looked at the cavaletti, the poles on the wall, the jump standards and all of the bird tracks in the sand around the jump standards. I explained what each thing was. And we talked about the tiny bird-dinosaurs nesting there. Then we looked at the jump boxes with the flower holders residing between the garage doors. He sampled the fake flowers. Then we went to the other corner where his stuff is stored (his!!!) and the drag for the arena caged behind the baby gate. I explained that the gate is there to keep a horse from accidentally stepping into the drag, not to contain the wild, wicked iron monster hiding in the sand. 

 Still scary after two years

We walked away unimpressed. Only had one ear flick toward that corner during our rides, but when I said "focus" he kept his attention on me. And one slight spook from something sliding outside (snow on the roof maybe?) while I was riding bareback, otherwise, he was really good.

Funny how actually paying attention to what he tells me results in wonderful things happening.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Much Bling

It's a start on Ashke's request to add more bling to our outfit. He was so funny when I wore this to the barn. He was hitched to the tie rail and I pulled up my jacket to show him. He carefully inspected it with his nose, sniffing deeply, then gave me a nudge. I think he was proud of his accomplishment.