Sunday, June 13, 2021

First Show in Two Years

 The last time we showed in Working Equitation was June of 2019. It rained all weekend, so the show was inside. Ashke had just started getting injections for his hocks and although our dressage was okay, his behavior in the EOH was atrocious on the second day. I came away from that show having made the decision we were hanging up the effort for good. I stress too much about our performance and he really only wants to do speed all the time. It just wasn't fun. And since my last show was also on the same day that my divorce was final, I wasn't sure what my financial outlook was going to be long term. I made the decision that I would invest in our training with Amanda and put my show ambitions on the back burner.

Some time between then and now, maybe both Ashke and I matured, developed additional skills and listened to our trainer. I completely changed my tack and attire, Ashke got injections, we've rehabbed a serious leg injury, and have consistently taken lessons with Amanda. Last Monday, Ashke and I had a huge fight in our lesson. After the lesson, I walked back out to her and said "he's for sale". She kind of laughed and said why? I answered "because I suck as a rider and I hate fighting with him". She said, "when are you going to learn that you will never win that fight? He is a 1000 lb animal with a mind of his own. The trick is to not fight. And you need to remember that he is Loki in horse form. You need to respond with humor not anger."

Chris agreed when I talked to her later that he does have a bit of Loki in him, and that most Arabians do.

I thought a lot about that conversation over the week. I also thought about the fact that Amanda has been chasing two scores on her FEI Grand Prix horse for the entire time I have been taking lessons. She doesn't get angry, she just keeps working on the things that need to be better. It's humbling. And recognizing that changed something for me this weekend.

For the first time in a dressage test, when I knew I had made a mistake, instead of feeling frustrated or upset, I gave myself a nod and kept riding. No one in the history of dressage has ever scored a perfect 100%. We are going to make mistakes. And with Ashke, there is a likelihood that there are some movements we will never score better than a six on, so a six it is. I was still anxious, but it felt different this time.

The gate during Speed

I also talked to Ashke on Friday when I went to bathe him. I told him we had two shows this weekend and I needed to wash both his face and his forelock, since he needs to be clean enough to glow. Damn if that horse didn't drop his head and let me wash his face. When I put him back in his stall I asked him to not lay in his poop so that he was still clean the next morning, which he complied with. He was amazing at the show. He stood calmly at the trailer when he needed to and was responsive under saddle. We were there from 8 am to almost 4 pm (the show was over about 1 pm, then we ate lunch together and then we had to reset the course for the following day. I was exhausted and humbled by my horse's attitude. He came back and did the same thing the following day without complaint.

We did two solid dressage tests in two days. We scored 62.11 on Saturday and 61.36 on Sunday. The biggest differences were the walking pirouettes (2x score) and his changes across the center line were all early. The one thing I was able to correct was our entry down centerline (on Saturday I completely forgot to salute the judge and was saved by the fact that the test they had was the wrong one and so I got a do over). The other item I addressed was making sure our canter down the left side of the arena was straight rather than bigger. We were consistent. On Saturday I didn't have a score lower than 5.5, but on Sunday we had more 7's. 

Bell Corridor during speed. We cantered in.

The EOH on Saturday was harder for Ashke. There was a jump (which I practiced at our home barn on Friday for the first time in two years) and the double slalom was seven poles. I knew that both of those would be difficult. We also had a back foot slip in the gravel around the figure 8 barrels. He wasn't the only one and the judge changed the location of one of the obstacles to avoid that slick area on Sunday. We scored a 61.11 on Saturday. We were the only ones in our division so it would have been easy to not race on Saturday, but even when I have the best of intentions of not racing, we end up going fast. 

I was worried about Sunday's EOH ride. The last time allowed Ashke to race the Speed on the first day of a two show weekend, he was out of control in EOH the next day. When we were in the warm up arena, I talked to him and asked him to remember to go slow on the first course, that it was the EOH and he needed to listen and be with me. When we first got in the arena, I asked him to canter around the outside of the arena nice and collected. It told me he had listened and was willing to do the EOH course correctly. There were a couple of bobbles. I should have approached the single slalom differently and the change on the figure 8 was entirely my fault for cutting the back of the circle off and not getting him straight for the change. Other than that he did really awesome! We ended up with a 65.0 in the EOH.

Then we got to run speed and run we did. But even when I let him out fully, all it took was a halt from my seat and he came right back down to me. It was so much fun.

We be flying . . . 

This was the first set of shows that I've had fun participating in. I let the small stuff slide off and enjoyed the partnership with my boy. It was pretty amazing. He was amazing.

Sunday, May 30, 2021


 Wow. it's been a long time since I posted and so much has happened that it might be a book to detail all of the things that have been going on . . . . that said, this is a story about Ashke.

We started working on flying changes in December of 2018 and Ashke has shown moments of brilliance, but less of consistency. His issue has been from the change from his right lead to the left. From left to right, he is flawless and it takes just a slight shift and bump on the rein to execute, but in the other direction, he can be half a step off behind. We had reached a point where he was getting it clean 90% of the time, but the consistency wasn't there. I worked on making the warm up work we did consistent to see if that helped and although it does help overall (a warm horse is more consistent than a cold horse - who knew?) it didn't fix the real underlying issue. I began to suspect there might be something else going on, since otherwise he is well balanced and we have worked on getting him equally strong on both sides.

We started with having the chiro come out. I felt like he was out in his SI area (chronic issue) which was the case, and also in his neck. He was better after that, but still kind of struggling. We brought in the vet and had his teeth done. They weren't horrible but there were a couple of points that needed to be addressed. It had been two years since his last teeth float, and as is usual with geldings, I had his sheath cleaned while he was drugged. He, of course, didn't drop and my vet, bless his soul, he had to go digging.

At the end of that adventure, my vet pulled three beans the size of my thumb out. Ashke must have known that he was trying to help, since Ashke didn't kick or thrash, but also didn't drop. The vet said to me, going forward, we need to do his teeth once a year, specifically so we could clean his sheath. That poor boy.

Guess what got 100% better? That's right, his change is now correct and balanced in both directions. Life is hard when you are a gelding. 

Mother's Day ride with Amanda on the Drum mare, Portia.

Monday, February 8, 2021

Dressage Tests

 I got to practice my dressage test this last weekend and although I went off course at the first walk pirouette, I thought we had made a marked improvement. Below you will find the last test I rode in a show and below that the test I rode on Saturday.

The dressage test from the June show (Jill Barron, judge)

February 6, 2021

Friday, January 22, 2021

Hobby Horse Farm

 OMG, this was the best move to date. I love this barn. 

We moved in on 12/26. I needed to be able to ride without worrying about concrete footings, icy roads, and moving holiday blow up decorations (the new little gypsy cob Amanda is working with tried to destroy one of them - she be fierce). The move was fairly easy and we got the horses out to ride the day we moved in.

The stall is big - 16 x 16 - and kept very clean.
They go into turn out from about 6 am until 1 pm. Ashke is in a single run turn out, since he plays way to hard with the boys. We are going to try and find a mare he can go out with, who won't be annoyed by him following her around.  

He was a little distraught at not being able to see Kat across the aisle from him and all of the horses were in turn out when we moved into the barn, but he settled within a day or so. He loves being in turn out although he keeps trying to get the black mare next to him to snuggle.

This is the outdoor arena. We are about mid way in the arena. It is huge.
 The footing is immaculate.

We were close to the north end of the arena.

The horses all seemed relieved at seeing and recognizing each other.
Laz and Ashke (who normally hate each other) seemed relieved to be riding together.

Ashke on the inside, Laz on the outside.
I got a pair of the BOT Royal Work Boots for protection and support of the right front (where he sliced himself open). They seem to be working just fine. He is also back in shoes, for support and stability. He came back into work a lot quicker than I did. My lower back has taken a couple of weeks to get the muscles strong again. It's been very painful.

This is the indoor. With 8 jumps set up (right before a show) and still plenty of room to work in and around them. The footing is even better than outside, which is saying something. It is also quiet in the indoor (well, except for the horse noises on the other side of the left wall) even when the wind is blowing.

He hasn't been real interested in running to the far end, however.
Our lessons have been just challenging enough to not kill me while still tiring us out.
There is also trail access from the barn.
We got out and rode about 4 miles last Saturday.
He had . . . moments.
 There is a lake that we will ride around next time (I wasn't sure it was allowed).
He was pretty much an ass when we turned around so we spent our ride home at a collected trot, in shoulder-in, with a change of bend every ten strides. 

I seem to be settling into a schedule. Trying to ride at least four days a week. In our lessons we are working on piaffe (getting him to really engage his hindquarters and come up in the wither as development work for his pirouette), changes and lateral work. And on me riding more like I know what I am doing than the sack of potatoes I feel like.

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

Total Fuck Up

 So, when we moved from Owen's we had two barns that we really looked at. One was a big facility, just having gone under new management, with two big outdoor arenas and a huge indoor. The stalling option was a run with a shed or inside in a box stall. That barn was big, with lots of horses and riders, very often busy with five trainers. The huge drawback was we were told that Amanda wouldn't be able to train us until one or two of the other trainers left. And there were only five spaces available. The second barn gave us the opportunity to have all of the horses in one barn, with a huge tack room, stalls with runs, two outdoor arenas and an indoor arena. We opted for the second barn, with the exception of the woman I was sharing lessons with (the other barn is within walking distance of her house) and Amanda decided to put Laz, her Grand Prix horse, at the other barn. We moved in the 18th of October.

Our first time in the indoor in our new barn, Amanda walked us over to show us this:

It's about a foot wide, 12 to 15 feet long. And concrete.

And about an inch down.
Our best bet is it is a footing for a building that used to be here and when the arena was built, they covered over it rather than digging it up. Amanda found it while lunging a horse that tripped and fell over it. It starts about two feet off the rail and runs almost to center line at about the K marker on a dressage court. Makes for some interesting mental notes while riding.
Additionally, the arena is not level at all. There are some spots that are high and hard, mixed with deep pockets of sand that kind of fall away under your horse's hooves. Plus, they neither water or drag it on a regular basis, which at least gives you an idea of where the holes are in the footing. Add in the five minute walk from our barn to any of the arenas (literally five minutes of meandering around buildings and cars and trees and bushes to get to the indoor) in the dark and I was beginning to regret my life choices.
November 1st, a Sunday, enroute to the barn, the owner called to tell me Ashke had hurt himself and probably needed to see a vet.
Sorry for the lousy angle on the pic. I was pretty distraught.
He sliced himself pretty good on the bottom of the moving door between stall and run.

I got it cleaned up and called the vet.
Dr S put eleven stitches in (five inside and six on the outside), told me the collateral ligament had been cut, and he thought the joint capsule had been injured. He cleaned it, stitched it, shot Ashke full of drugs to stave off a joint infection and suggested I pray.

We moved Ashke to an indoor stall and he was on strict stall rest for at least the first two weeks.
Bandage changes happened every three days, he was on antibiotics for ten days and his only activity was a walk outside his stall, turn in a circle and walk back in.

The first bandage change. No signs of infection. No swelling.
Barely off at the walk.

Two weeks in. I was finally starting to breathe again, since I figured no joint compromise or infection at that point.

The bandage change after the stitches had been removed.
At this point, walking up and down the barn aisle was allowed. 

This was at close to seven weeks. We were walking a lot, around the barn, and Ashke was almost uncontrollable. I ended up getting a nose chain because he was too difficult to try and lead. It kept his feet on the ground when we were outside.

Finally, after eight weeks we were cleared to start work again.
He is staying in the stall for the foreseeable future.
Here's the deal. On the morning that Ashke hurt himself, five other horses in the barn were either hurt or scared by something unidentified. Ashke was injured, as was the horse next to him, but the other horses have lost their freaking minds. We went from horses that were settling into the new place and beginning to work again, to horses that are a struggle to handwalk any where on the property. They are definitely in fight or flight mode.

I think there was a big cat. I don't think it came into the barn area, but I think it got close enough that the horses could smell it. At the back of the property (which is 50 acres) is a field filled with tall trees and deep grass and deer. The property runs along a ditch, that leads back to the St Vrain river. The deer and elk have been pushed out of the mountains from the massive loss of food due to the rampant fires that hit us in August and September. There have been reports of big cats on the east side of I-25 in the past month, following the deer that are feeding off the harvested fields. Single males can have a range of almost 400 square miles and they follow their food source. The horses know something is off and although it could be a bear, those should be hibernating and not stalking horses.
Amanda moved one of her horses to the other barn where Laz is living. She went from a wild, unsettled horse to calm and focused in a day. With the exception on one of our barn family, we are all moving on the 26th.

We have started back under saddle, with leg support until he is stronger and back in full time work.

 This was a couple of weeks ago.
I just can't even.

This is set up between the barn and the indoor, next to the ice covered path. It has been joined by three other inflatables. One of the horses walking to the indoor on Saturday, slipped and fell on the ice. Thankfully, no one was hurt.
Ashke got shoes put back on in support of his injury. The stability in the arena seems to be much better with shoes on. He is being ridden in front boots (BOT Royal Work boots) and that seems to be helping. We have limited our lessons to half an hour and I look forward to being able to wash him enough to be able to clip him at the new barn.
Happy holidays, everyone! May the returning light bless you in the year to come.


Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Moving Early

 So, when shit hits the fan, all you can do is duck or move out of the way . . . 

I have been taking lessons on Thursday night for several years now. Sometimes it moves to Tuesday or Wednesday, but we always gravitate back to Thursday. I have been riding with one of my barn mates and sharing lessons with her, because we are both working on the same things. It gives the horses a break between pirouettes and half-pass and sometimes you can figure things out by watching them in front of you.

The barn we were boarding in had a huge indoor arena with decent footing and horrible lighting. We ride outside as much as possible, but late fall, winter and spring, we have to ride inside. Its a necessity. And its why we were willing to pay $600 a month for the privilege. Mind you, that's for the stall with run, cleaning the stall and run, water, hay, safe choice grain and use of the facilities. No blanketing. No turn out. An indoor arena that leaks badly. Snow sliding off the roof of the arena. Tree branches scrapping and banging on the walls in the wind. Flooded runs and a tack room with a wall that rains water like a waterfall during inclement weather. It was impossible to ride early in the morning because the barn owner uses the indoor for turn out. They watered and dragged the arena on her schedule, which meant that some nights the indoor was wet, muddy and slick. But, we made it work for us, the hay was premium quality, and the horses seemed happy. And no one ever really wants to move barns.

On the last day of September, the barn owner gave us notice of the board increase (with no upgrade in facilities - every improvement made in the past two years we've paid for) of $100 a month. We were bound by contract to give a 30 days notice, which meant we needed to find a place within two days. Not a lot of time to work with, but we made it happen. Once we knew where we were going, we all gave notice. Thirteen horses were leaving. Eight of them went to my new barn, three of them went to a second barn and the other two went their own way. I'm not sure what the BO was expecting, but it doesn't seem like this is what she thought would happen. Instead of seeing her profit margin increase, she took a huge hit in potential income. It made her a bit surly.

Two weeks ago on Thursday, we were taking our lesson with Amanda. All of a sudden, with no warning (door!) at all, the BO yanked open one of the doors on the show barn, which shrieked horribly and scared the bejesus out of both horses. She glared into the arena and then stomped off into her side of the barn. No greeting, no acknowledgement of her poor choices. She left the door open, which her husband shut about twenty minutes later. This last Thursday, my barn mate and I went into the indoor and started our warm up. We had walked around the arena a little bit and had just started a jog when once again the door was yanked open. (No warning). This time both horses spooked pretty hard and I'm not sure another rider wouldn't have hit the ground. The barn owner stomped across the arena while we turned to watch her. Two strides from the light switches she said "I'm turning off the lights. . . . you might want to get off." Then the lights in the arena went off. My barn mate had gotten off her horse but I was still swinging down off of Ashke when the arena was suddenly in pitch blackness. I pulled my phone out of my pocket and got it turned on which helped us get out of the arena safely. 

I was beyond pissed. It was unprofessional. Reckless. Dangerous. Horrible horsemanship. And a breach of contract.

Amanda had received a text from the BO about the time we were swinging into the saddle saying that if we wanted to use the indoor at night we had to pay her an extra $20 to ride. Everyone was pretty pissed as well. There were at least five of us riding in the indoor in the evening that this would effect. The BO expected it in her Venmo account prior to turning on the lights. We were already paying a premium price for board, it was flat out extortion to ask for more, a poor business decision on her part, and just petty.

We texted the new barn owner and made arrangements to move the horses two weeks early. I took Friday off to move hay and then we moved everyone over the weekend. I will post the new barn photos next.

Monday, October 19, 2020

Crater Lakes

 After the trip to Diamond Lake, I was bit by the backpacking bug. However, there was no way I was going to be carrying 40+ pounds on my back up big mountains any more. The pack I was using was purchased in 1997, had an external frame, was heavy and didn't really fit any more. The tent weighed almost nine pounds, the camp stove was white gas and weighed almost 4 lbs. Things just needed to change. So, for my birthday, I gave myself a new outfit. 


This is the Osprey Rook 65. Empty, it weighs 3.52 lbs and the sales person at REI helped me get it fitted properly to my torso. I opted for an Osprey, since I have several hydration packs already, and the Rook would allow me to add the hydration pack inside. Having carried it up and down a mountain, I can say it is an exceedingly well balanced pack and balanced the weight very well. I never felt like it was pulling me forward or backward.


I ordered a tent off Amazon, which was on sale for 45% off. It weighs 4 lbs 2 ounces, so just about half of what the one I took last time weighed. It's a bit of a pain to set up, but once you figure that part out, the inside was very spacious. 
This is the best little stove and uses compressed propane, which is super efficient. It weighs less than a lb, with the fuel weighing in at 230 grams. It was about a third of the weight of the stove I carried for my trip to Diamond Lake.
I also updated the water filter. The one I had needs a new filter and they don't make them any more.
I really liked this one, especially since it came with a connector that will hook directly into my hydration bladder. It was quick and efficient. 
I also decided that my hiking companion could carry her own stuff.
The pack fit pretty good and she didn't seem to mind it at all. She carried a down blanket, her fleece lined Dover jacket and some freeze-dried dog food (and holy fuck is that expensive). The pack weighed 5 lbs fully filled.

I also changed the inflatable sleeping pad I had, thinking that the lighter weight one would work just as well (bad choice), packed a single hammock instead of the double, and didn't bring any Dr Pepper. The pack with the hydration pack filled to one liter and carrying 24 ounces of gatorade, weighed 33 pounds. I brought a light weight winter jacket (down filled that could compress), a micro-fleece top, a long sleeved shirt, thermal leggings, one pair of socks and one pair of underwear. I don't think I could lose any more weight when doing three season camping (fall night time temps) but I could have left the hammock. Since I think one of the only real reasons to camp is to be able to lay in my hammock, I don't think I would be making that decision.
Tonya and I, with Bernie (her dog) and Skittle (my dog) headed out early on Saturday. We got on trail about 10 am, and I was feeling pretty strong. We had pre-hiked the trail the weekend before and knew where the trail markers were and what to expect. The mental preparedness helps a lot when backpacking.
Skittle's only issue with her pack was the sides sticking out more than she was expecting.
She was pretty proud of herself for carrying her own stuff with her.

I was really much more excited that it appears.
I felt strong and determined.

 The first trail marker one mile in.

Most of the trail was about like this.

It is a beautiful hike, but parts can be very challenging.

This would be the more challenging part. One of them.

One of our many breaks. Skittle isn't about the selfie.

This is the second mile. Lots of ankle breakers. Not horribly steep.

Getting closer to the end of the hike. It's a nice overlook to take a break and rest.

Skittle was happy to rest against me. 
Before we really started climbing, we got the dogs down to the creek and let them splash and drink. 

My trusty companion just before licking the inside of my nose.
She has the fastest tongue in the west.

Crested the top of the trail. 3.2 miles with 1000 feet of elevation gain.

My tent, which I am very happy with. It was more than enough for me and Skittle and is big enough to accommodate two adults, if that ever happens again.

Really gorgeous pair of lakes. 10,900 ft high.
Took us 4.5 hours to get there. 3.5 hours of hiking and about an hour of rest breaks.

Just before sunset.

Definitely worth the hike.

Skittle loved her blankie and her jacket

Bernie snuggled into a down filled vest brought just for him.

She will lay anywhere I put her blanket.
So, I made a strategic mistake. I used T's inflatable pad instead of my hammock pad due to weight. What I didn't recognize was the hammock pad has "wings" and was insulated. The new pad was not. Both Skittle and I were cold, even with the fleece jacket on her. I finally had to pull her against my chest, then cover her with all of my extra clothes to get her warm. I won't make that mistake again.

Skittle suited up and ready to go.
It was 37 degrees and we could feel the storm coming in, so we headed out.

Ready to head out. 

Part of the trail I got a pic of going down. The last mile up is hard, but the last half mile is a son of a bitch. 

We hiked straight through, without stopping for a break. There were a couple of times where Tonya had to wait for me due to my careful approach to anything that might break me (loose rocks, steep steps) and Skittle was patient too. It was just as well we made it in one long hike because it was spitting rain mixed with snow as we hit the parking lot.

Two hours down. It snowed pretty good on Sunday afternoon. I'm glad I didn't have to try the rocks wet.
My recovery was much better after this trip. I drank better and ate better both going up and in camp. And I just think my body had started to adapt to the work, even after just a couple of trips. we were hoping to do one more adventure, but between the weather and all of the other craziness happening this month, I think I will have to wait until next spring.