Thursday, February 23, 2017


I was at the barn for last night's lesson at 5:30. It only took a few minutes to brush out Ashke's coat, since he is still so filthy (I can't wait for Expo and the hot water there), even clipped. Soon he will be clean and white and not have dripping dried urine on his legs.

Once he was saddled, we spent twenty minutes walking back and forth in front of the scary end of the arena until we could walk past it without tilting an ear or trying to spook. Then we went to work. The first two canters I asked for were really rough. He was struggling. I got off and put him on the lunge to let him warm up his hind end without me flopping around on his back.

We was visibly favoring his right hind at the trot. He moved right into the canter when requested, though, and rocked the canter for a good five minutes. He was on a ten meter circle, even though I was giving him as much rope as he wanted, and he didn't try to cross canter a single time. Such a good boy. When he moved back into the trot, he wasn't off as bad. We did another canter session until he was snorting and rocking along. We cantered in the other direction as well, and then I got back on.

We did a couple of figure 8 transitions, with canter-trot-canter at X, which he was soft and easy with. We did serpentines, leg yields, canter serpentines, canter leg yields, shoulder in and some haunches in. Then Amanda pulled out the cones and we worked on the double slalom.

I had a huge ah-ha moment when Amanda told me to look up and find one of the roof braces to focus on, which kept me from staring down at the cone and helped Ashke not drop around the turn so tightly. It also helped me keep him straight in our transition, and set us up better for the next turn. He did three in a row in both directions, very well. Amanda told me after we did the double that I shouldn't be surprised by our ability to turn the double slalom, since we are doing things that are tougher than that in our normal lessons.

I'm very happy that both of the hard obstacles I was worried about ended up being something Ashke and I can accomplish. And I love my trainer.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

House of Sick

I have the plague.

I shared with J.

I clipped Ashke's legs on Saturday, despite the coughing fits that threatened to overwhelm me. (I'm pretty sure that if they were to do a chest xray they would fine the bottom of my lungs filled with little white hairs).

I haven't ridden in a week and am hoping I am well enough tomorrow to be able to do a lesson with Amanda. Sometimes, Ashke takes a jump in ability when he's given some time off. I'm hoping that is the case this week.

I think I have a cracked rib from coughing.

I have thirteen days until my show.

Friday, February 17, 2017


In December of 2013, I upgraded my helmet from a white "toilet bowl" helmet (or mushroom if that makes you feel better) to an Ovation Extreme Helmet.

Just like this, only navy blue and black.

Lasted me for three years and almost fifteen hundred trail miles. Not bad for a $75 helmet. In December of 2016, one of the harness straps pulled free of the foam and it was no longer safe to wear. We drove to Dover and purchased another helmet in the same make, model and color. It fits really nice and is extremely comfortable.

I drove back down to Dover today, while fighting a horrible cold, to exchange the Ovation for a different brand (failure of that kind after three years is acceptable, but not after two months). The woman there said that the Ovation Extreme has had this issue recently (you would think they would stop carrying something that was flawed). I tried on a One K Defender model in small, medium and large. The large was the better fit.

It's very similar in shape and fit, but not adjustable. I think the fit is much better overall.

Of course, it was three times the price of the Ovation.

Threat Assessment

I threatened to sell Ashke last night and buy a PRE. He dropped his head, got very sad and then was a much better horse after. He was being silly about the corner and slamming to a stop when we would canter by. Amanda positioned herself about 8m away and made us trot and canter in a 10m circle around her, attempting shoulder in, until he stopped staring at the stuff piled there and began paying attention to me.

Despite the scary corner shenanigans, Ashke did well. We worked on my geometry for the 15m circle, with me keeping him moving on the circle without losing his hind end. We worked on the 10m half circles with a change of bend in the middle. We did the half turn on the haunches several times.

Then we pulled out the drums and tried to work on the canter circles around them. Ashke was trying to blow through my half halt, so Amanda had us stop after the first one and back around the drum. When we moved to the second one, when I half halted him he stopped quickly, anticipating being asked to back up around the second one as well. He's too damn smart. Half my problem is getting him to wait until I ask for him to do something different. We were able to perform the drums fairly well, so I am no longer so worried about that.

Amanda agreed to help us work on the double slalom next Monday.

We will get him out on trail tomorrow, if this respiratory thing I suddenly have doesn't kill me first.

And if I can get to Dover to exchange my brand new helmet, since this is the second Ovation where the straps holding the helmet on my head are popping out of the foam.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017


I decided to take the advise in the comments on my FB post and plan a fun ride for Ashke and myself. I decided before I got to the barn to mix it up a little bit and give Ashke something new to think about. When I got there I set up the gate, three barrels, figure 8, a jump made of shavings (really bad idea) which got changed to a cross rail, and sidepass pole. Ashke whinnied at me when he first saw me, then watched with rapt interest as I set up the obstacles. He was engaged even before I took him out of the stall.

I set the jump up facing the scary corner, which made the spooky end interesting instead of spooky. Funny how giving him something to think about changes his focus. I originally tried setting the jump with bags of shavings, since the jump in a show will either be strawbales or shavings, but he wrecked both bags by dragging his hind hooves across them the first time over, so I got off and reset the jump poles. The cross rail was set at about 18" and he overjumped it the first couple of times, then figured it out and just did enough to clear the jump. He is getting so much better about not deer leaping the jump and he might actually be developing some form. The reason for practicing it is really about me getting in rhythm and lifting myself a little bit out of the saddle, which I accomplished. I am riding from my seat and knees, rather than holding on to make the jump, so I'm kind of proud of myself. I didn't stare at the jump and I didn't jam him in the mouth either. The only issue we had was tripping in the deep wet sand on the far side of the jump and almost falling into the other rider in the arena. Pretty sure we scared her. Scared me. I told Ashke that we would jump straight and then stop, rather than turning into the deep sand. That was better.

We did the jump, the gate, sidepass, and figure 8. We cantered between obstacles, but never really put the course together. The footing is a bit iffy and I didn't want to risk Ashke hurting himself, so we worked obstacles independently. I made sure to verbally stroke him with every try, wanting to get us both back on track in our connection. He snorted and was very proud of himself. He liked knowing the answers. I think sometimes, since we are both struggling with some of the dressage movements, that it is good to go back to the things we both have all the answers to.

He was Phe - Nom - In - Nal at the gate. In both directions. Calm, focused. Didn't throw his head up. Turning off my leg. It was amazing. According to the Assessment Criteria in the rules, the horse's action should be fluid and without any hesitation. The horse should pay attention to and participate in the opening and closing movements without showing any signs of insecurity or disobedience. The rider's action should be easy, precise and free from hesitation. We got the gate down.

Same thing with the sidepass. He is keeping his body bent in the direction of the movement much more than in the past. It is easy to position him over the rail, I just need to make sure he is far enough forward he doesn't interfere with the pole when he crosses his front legs.

We need to work on the figure 8 a little bit, maybe outside or in the center of the arena, where I don't have to worry about him slipping. I need to be more clear in my set up, so he has a clear idea from my head, what we are about to do. We walked the drums but didn't try cantering, because I didn't like where I had set up the barrels.

I hope that Amanda and I can work on the figure 8 and the drums on Thursday, after working on the other stuff first. The drums and the double slalom are the only things I am worried about.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Conflict Reluctant

Sometimes things just fall apart.

Like cantering past the "scary corner" at one end of the arena.

That became the fight this weekend. Most of the time, I cheat that corner and make our circles smaller by design. Partly because the sand down there is heavier, partly because I don't want to deal with the spook. On Saturday, Ashke decided that everything south of the mid point in the arena was terrifying and going to destroy him.

I need to use the entire arena in order to work on some of the elements in my test (like leg yield from F to X to M), plus the way the arena is watered does leave mud pits in spots and due to Ashke's propensity to slip on the RH, I am trying to ride around them. This does create some amusing twists and turns as we negotiate the drier spots.

To the left, Ashke is good, even in the scary corner, and even at the canter. To the right, however, we saw the return of the head-in-the-air balking/slamming to a halt when asked to canter past that spot like a reasonable horse. (That hasn't happened in about three months and the last time was in a lesson). It resulted in me getting angry and frustrated and him becoming more and more convinced that something was going to destroy him.

I got off and got the lunge line. We cantered in circles by that corner until he finally made two complete circles without bolting or breaking gait or being a butthole. Then I put the lunge line away and got back on. We finished with ground poles and a little bit more canter.

Sunday was the same. Only this time I was hangry and tired and just didn't want to have this conversation again. And I wasn't feeling happy or nice. So it became a bit of a fight, although I got off and got the lunge line again immediately. He cantered and cantered and cantered for a good ten minutes, without breaking gait or being a butt. When I got back on, he did leg yields, canter circles and figure 8 circles with a change at X (test stuff) with no issues. We ended with some awesome canter-trot-canter transitions in both directions.

I am conflict reluctant. I hate fighting. I hate fighting with J, or T or Ashke. There is no such thing as righteous anger or drawing a line in the sand. Which is what I did on Sunday, despite knowing better. Ashke does not really do line drawings. He tends to spook at them and rebel. Teenagers are the same way. I should learn. The counterpart of that is that Ashke does not get to dictate what part of the arena we are using. He doesn't get to draw a line in the sand, either. Sometimes, we just have to buckle down and do what we need to do.

However, I was left feeling like I should never ride again. With a post hangry hangover that lasted all day. I even contemplated not showing at Expo. Of giving up. Of selling him (gosh that hasn't happened in at least a year). I was thinking I had destroyed his trust. That he would hate me. That I had ruined him.

Then I watched these vids. They are from Saturday. After our conflict. After our ride. And I see our bond - which is strong enough to get over or past a momentary conflict. Just like with a spouse or kid. You get past it.

He chooses to be with me.

I choose to be his safety.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017


Sometimes, when one is working toward an elusive goal, the sudden weightlessness of achieving that goal can cause surprise or shock. Or awe, in our case.

Ashke finally achieve apogee in his canter last night during our lesson. He was attentive, tried hard, and for the first time, felt light and responsive. There was a couple of times where he got a tiny bit tense in anticipation, but calmed back down to an easy response. We even had a moment when we were working on figure 8's and he offered a flying lead change, with a lifted right shoulder. I was so thrown off balance that we didn't do anything other but stutter to a halt, but the offer was there.

No pinned ears. No kicking out at my heel. One stride transition.

I floated the rest of the night on that canter.

We have been working toward this for five years. 

I think the new supps are working. Yesterday was our third ride in a row, the first time that has happened in months. We did a lesson on Saturday, a ten mile ride at Barr Lake on Sunday (in the sunshine with a 5 mph pace) and another lesson on Monday night. We did ground poles, then played with patterns around them: Figure 8 work, with the transition between the poles, back out of the poles, sidepass over one pole, then pick up the canter in a random direction (which Amanda called out for us). We did leg yields at the canter, serpentines with w-t-w-t-c-w transitions, and shoulder in/haunches in along the rail. He was so smooth, not sore at all (which I was expecting) and so very responsive.

It didn't hurt that he knew Amanda had cookies in her pocket for him.

The apogee feels wonderful. I'm sure there will be some free fall before we start climbing again. But for now, this feels pretty spectacular.

Monday, February 6, 2017


Last Wednesday, there was ice. Too dangerous to drive out to take a lesson, even if my trainer could have gotten there. Instead, we rescheduled for Saturday during the day. So daylight. But also wind. It was gusting up to 40 mph during the day. J came out with me to put more reflective tape on the edges of the trailer and then came back in and got lots of media for me.

Trailer tape.

Ashke felt very good as soon as I got on him on Saturday. He's been on his new supps for three days and I could already feel the difference. The increased levels of MSM seem to help his hip and the gut support seemed to be making a difference in how touchy he was about the girth. It also helped that it was in the upper fifties and not as cold, since he warmed up a lot quicker and was moving easier fairly quickly.

We started with leg yielding at the walk.
This is part of the test for L3 (Novice B) of WE

Leg Yield at the trot clockwise.

Leg Yield in the other direction

Working on the lead change at X on the diagonal

Working on our jump timing.
And trying to get us both comfortable with the concept.

Then over the very small jump at the canter.

We fail very hard.

Working over ground poles.

We are bad at these.

But we did get a bit better.

It's good for his butt.

Then finishing up with some more figure 8

I love this horse!! Hopefully, we will get lots of practice before Expo, since he just gets better and better.

Friday, February 3, 2017

Truck Upgrade

For those of us who own rigs and haul trailers, I think one of the biggest challenges is hitching up alone. It's part skill, mostly luck and a lot of practice to get the ball under the hitch at just the right spot to be able to drop, push, pull or kick them into place. Technology has helped this a lot and back up cameras are a wonderous thing. That is, until sun and shadow combine to mask the joining of ball and hitch.

J hates that.

This week we corrected the issue by installing small truck lights on the back bumper, angled to illuminate the hitch.

Installed in the back and wired to the cab

Installed button for the back up lights

J is happy. This was something she wanted for the holidays, but since we got a furnace, she had to wait until now to get the lights. Now we can hook up in the dark, all alone, and in various shades of sunlight without struggling to see past the solar flare!!

Weds I couldn't take my lesson because of ice, so we dropped by on Thursday to check on Ashke and provide a warm mash. I let him out to dirty himself and play with his ball.

My fav is when he rears over the ball, which he does a lot of as long as I am not videoing.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Dressage is Hard

When I first started riding, my primary focus was on staying on, directing the horse where I wanted him to go and stopping when I wanted. With Seabisquit, I did not accomplish any of the three with any consistency. The first time I got on him, which I still experience in my memories as if it were yesterday, he reared, spun and bolted toward the apple trees. I was slung to the side, clinging with a heel, two fistfuls of mane and sheer tenacity, the pad saddle slipped to the side. Is that the true definition of a horseperson: the inability to just let go and fall off? I clung on despite his clear focus on bashing my head into an apple tree trunk (remember, we didn't have helmets at that time), until exhaustion and slippage spilled me onto hard ground and windfallen apples. He kicked out at me as I fell, adding more danger to our relationship and left me to sob out my dreams of a sweet, loving pony into the dirt.

I was no quitter. I rode that little SOB for four years. I learned to make him go where I wanted, although he controlled the speed at which we returned. I learned to ride him at a working walk, western jog and gentle canter on the rail with one hand on the reins, which took at least three hundred million hours of riding in a circle over and over again in the stockyard of our farm. I even earned blue ribbons at the county fair. I traveled around our county on his back and finally, courtesy of a big stick in my hip pocket, figured out how to slow his return home enough for me to safely eject from his back a block or so from home. Mostly. Although there were plenty of opportunities still for him to run me through the liliac bushes and under the clothesline just to make his point.

Riding didn't really become fun until I got Queenie.

But still, it was mostly about staying on, directing her to where I wanted to go, and stopping when I asked. It just wasn't as dangerous or difficult to do those things and Queenie and I shared a thirst for adventure, a love of the long trail, and a comradeship that shaped my teenage years. She was a joy and a blessing and a savior, all wrapped up in horsehide.

From 1984 to 1992, horses were a thing of my past. I was able to catch ride a couple of times when living in LA, got to put hands on horse flesh about once a year, then moved to Colorado, where I actually got paid for riding the buck out a granddaughter of Secretariat. It was a good time and I enjoyed taking a green horse and turning it into a solid trail horse. Then I got crazy and bought Kieli because I had an idea I wanted to compete in dressage on her. She was a National Show Horse with horrible ground manners, inability to stand tied and a nasty habit of whipping her head sideways into the middle of my face.

Once again I was back in the position of riding to stay on, which was very challenging, since she could cut sideways at the drop of a hat or the sight of a shadow. Often times, that cut would cause me to launch from her back in a tight ball (sometimes even landing on my feet) while she bolted in the opposite direction. We never once got to the point where I could consider what riding dressage meant, since I was spending so much of my time chasing her down and getting back on. Finally, we parted ways before someone was killed.

Then I went almost 20 years without a horse. I rode once in that time and ended up severely injuring my back, which took years to recover from. But it was still a passion, still a dream in my deep subconscious. And then I lucked into Ashke. For the first year, I was right back to figuring out how to stay on, not because he was difficult, but because I was twenty years out of shape, had lower back issues, was still carrying baby weight and hadn't actually thrown a leg over a horse in years. It took me awhile to get strong. It took a while for the consistent riding to improve my back pain. And it took a while for Ashke and I to figure out what we wanted to do together.

So now, instead of staying on, I am learning to slightly shift my weight from one side of his back to the other, while sliding my outside leg back about two inches behind the girth, and gently touching my inside leg to his side at the girth, to ask him to lift up into a canter in one stride. Without rushing or pinning his ears or getting upset or falling in on his inside shoulder, while still maintaining contact with the bit.

I must be insane.