Sunday, July 29, 2012

Eighteen Weeks

It's been eighteen weeks since we brought our broken boy home from Amarillo. He did awesome again today. My confidence and trust in our connection and his understanding of what I am asking him to do is growing each time I work him. We warmed up in the round pen but moved to the big arena pretty quick.

We trotted and I posted. It was fun. Not. Ashke had a little bit of an issue with the gate being open to the big arena. He acted as if that was an invitation to leave. At one point he backed half way across the arena because he didn't want to turn away from the gate and I wouldn't let him move forward. I finally got tired of arguing about it and closed the gate. We walked and trotted around the big arena and I did my best to post properly. We also worked on turning in the middle of the arena. There are times when Ashke is very responsive to the neck rein, but there are other times when he doesn't want to turn to the right. We will keep working on posting, neck reining and will probably add cantering to the mix. At least in the round pen to start.

After the round pen, Nicole, Abby and myself went for a walk-about. We went on the trail close to the stables that is on the way to the lake. Callie and Ashke did great. There weren't any big issues with any of the horses, although the chickens were pretty interesting and Ashke wasn't crazy about the sound of the water in the small irrigation ditch, but other than that they were all pretty comfortable.

My entire body hurts now. I think that between yesterday and today I rode enough that my entire body is feeling it. Posting has exercised the muscles in my lower back to the point of screaming pain, my shoulders and arms hurt, my hips and groin, plus the muscles in my knees. I'm having issues walking up the stairs with my right knee. And with sleeping. Although I certainly feel like I could nap right now.

Here is a picture of the scarring on the inside of Ashke's right hind leg. He was so beat up. There is also a slash across the front of his cannon bone that had to be really deep when it happened. The sore on the outside of his hock has finally healed, which I think was caused by him laying on the hard ground instead of the shavings he sleeps on now. The urine scald on the front of his cannon bones is slowly disappearing.

Nice muscle developing over his shoulder.

And in his flank. This is his "Please give me the peppermint" face.

The peppermint treat was enough to allow me to wash his face and around his ears. Peppermints rule!

This is his "Stop teasing me and give me the damn peppermint!" face.

Tomorrow is his day off. He will get Mondays and Fridays off and turn out on those days. We will be back out on Tuesday.

Maybe we will set up a new obstacle. We'll see.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Okay, I Hurt

My first step into the barn is greeted with the sweet smell of horses, a smell that speaks to my deepest soul of home and love, mixed with the dry scent of grass and alfalfa hay. Today, the underlying bite of ammonia tells me the stalls have not been shaken down and the shavings still hold the overnight contents of the horses' bladders. Ashke is head down when I walk up, but his deafening whinny greats me as he hears my footsteps despite the hay he is busy devouring. He meets me at the door, hay straggling from his lips, his eyes quizzical as he greets me with his obligatory nose shove. I strip the fly mask from his face and give him a good rub around the eyes and the sides of his face.

I can't tell you how happy it makes me to have Ashke greet me at the door, to whinny when he sees me or hears my voice or my footsteps. I love that he doesn't try to avoid the work or the contact with me. Today, he let me work my hands down both of his hind legs. I did the lift and release on his left and just a squeeze and hold on the right. I really think the right leg was tangled in barbed wire and although I don't think it hurts now, I do think there is residual emotional pain.

Today, we worked the round pen for maybe ten minutes. His trot was relaxed and he attained a rocking horse canter. After lunging him in both directions, I got on him and we walked and trotted around the round pen. Ashke did great. He finally worked forward at the trot and didn't try to run out from under me. It was a solid, collected trot. I was so happy. After we went in both directions at the trot, I got down and waited for Nicole and Callie.

Callie is a three and a half year old Friesian/Paint mare. Nicole is at about the same point in her training that Ashke and I are in ours. We had made arrangements to ride together, partly because we are interested in doing the same types of riding and in part because we share a similar philosophy. Ashke loved working with Callie. We did walking and trotting in the big arena. Ashke was engaged and interested. I was telling Nicole that I was struggling to get him to move at a collected trot with me and she suggested that I start posting. Posting helps with timing and would also be much easier on Ashke's back than sitting the trot. Strengthening his back has been a focus for me for the past nine weeks and anything I can do to ease the pressure on his back is something I am interested in.

I told Nicole that I had never posted before and had no idea how to do it. She talked me through the process and then got on Callie and showed me. Posting is a riding method where the rider lifts up their hips in time with the horse's trot (Nicole explained that you pelvic thrust up toward the pommel of the saddle). When you are riding in a big circle you post (lift up) as the inside foot hits the ground. It is easy to get the rhythm and very obvious when it you are doing it wrong. The posting is done with the thighs and knees.

Did you get that? I had to squeeze my knees and calves against Ashke and then lift my butt and belly up about two inches and then down again every two to three seconds in time with Ashke. It would be difficult to make that move with my broken and out of shape body on something that wasn't moving, let alone control my horse while doing it.

Nicole said I did a great job and that Ashke dropped his head and mouthed the bit in response to the release of pressure on his back. We trotted several circuits around the arena while I posted. It was easy to tell when I was doing it correctly and when I wasn't I sat the trot for two strides and then started again.

Can I tell you how bad my hips and thighs hurt tonight? Those muscles I bruised several weeks ago are in pain and I have strained back muscles. The outside hip flexors are very sore on my right hip. I can't wait to ride some more tomorrow and work on my posting.

After working in the arena, Nicole and I rode out and around the farm. We went across the road and then made our way around the edge of the stable on the road. Both horses did great. Ashke was so well behaved I was happily surprised. He seems to take leaps and bounds with his understanding.

Nicole and I have another play date tomorrow. I will also post pictures, since we are now at 18 weeks. J and T are going to bring out their bikes and ride while Nicole and I are riding.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Seven Snippets

1. Last night, we achieved a decent trot for half a circuit of the round pen. Ashke is still moving with his head up and not collected, but he did settle and drop his head for a few steps. It is a move in the right direction. I warmed him up easy and then rode him at a walk and a trot until we had finally met our goal. Then we worked over poles at the walk with me on him. He responds very well when I tell him to "step" as we approached the poles.

2. Ashke's back seems to be strengthening and it is easier for him to carry me. I am doing TTouch along his spine and over his withers in the hope that any residual pain will be mitigated. I also worked on his tail, to try and get him back and haunches to relax. You should see the look I get when I do that.

3. Ashke has decided that every time I mount and he holds still it is peppermint worthy. I, of course, am willing to provide "crunchies" as a reward.

4. Backing is a non-issue any more. All I have to do is stop him, tighten my lower legs around his girth, just barely touch the reins and he tucks his chin and backs for me. I'm so happy that the work we've done is paying off.

5. The biting is a done deal. He still lips, which I'm okay with, and I am still doing the mouth touches because he likes it so much. His favorite thing to do while I am rinsing him off is to nuzzle the edge of my hair at my neck. It gives me goosebumps.

6. Tightening the cinch is much easier now. We move it to a specific tightness in the grooming stall and then I tighten it when we reach the round pen and a final time just before I mount. Ashke seems easier and happier this way.

7. I am able to do the lift and release on Ashke's left hind leg, but still not able to on his back right. He must have some kind of residual injury there, because he will flatten his ears and try to kick me when I work on that leg. I have progressed to being able to do a gentle squeeze with both hands around his leg, which is an improvement over where we were a week ago. I will continue to work on it until all of the pain, discomfort and fear is gone. (We are pretty sure he was tangled in barbed wire on that leg, considering the number and manner of the scars running down the inside.)

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Big Jump Forward

The TTouch has helped a lot on Ashke's legs. So has pulling the shoes and trimming his feet. I noticed last night that he is stomping or pawing in his stall, because his right front foot is starting to chip up. I lookedat moving him to a new stall, but that would mean losing the window that opens. He loves to put his nose up to the window to listen, sniff and interact with the outside world. I don't know if moving him next to another horse would be better, or leaving him in the stall he is in and waiting for the stable to fill up.

He is no longer favoring his legs when being asked to work at a trot or a canter while unridden. This is really great news. I am still doing the lift and slide TTouch on his front legs and working on him letting me do it on his hind. I am now able to run both hands down his legs at the same time, applying squeezing pressure. The next step will be the lift and slide. It seems to help a great deal.

I think I will start doing the TTouch along his neck and back, plus his tail, to see if I can't get him to relax and drop his head when I am working him. When he is being worked from the ground, his stride is smooth and easy, he is relaxed and his head is lowered. As soon as I get on him, his head goes up, and he drops his back. I'm sure the saddle fits, since its been checked several times, I just think his back is still not as strong as it could be. In watching some of the attached video, I think we need to work on lengthening his stride when I am on him, and getting him to move off his rear instead of his front. Any suggestions on getting his hind legs up under him when I am riding?

The other thing I want to do is make sure there isn't anything wrong with his structure. There is a woman who does chiropractic/massage/manipulation that I think I will call and see if she can come out and look at Ashke. There may be something going on that I am not aware of. I am a big believer in chiropractic, being pain free for the first time in my life, and I just want him as comfortable as possible. If there is nothing physically wrong with him, then maybe its just a "getting used to it issue".

This video was shot a few nights ago, when it was raining. This was the night when he was kicking, head tossing, etc. I pulled it off the video camera and figured I would include it.

Last night when we started working in the round pen, Ashke must have been feeling better because he immediately went to work at a trot and then moved right into a gallop. I just stood in the middle of the arena and let him get it out of his system. He refused to stop when I asked him to slow, so I just let him keep going. I did get him turned around at one point, and he took off again in the opposite direction. Finally, he stopped when I asked. He was already warm at that point, so we put some poles in the arena (4).

As soon as Ashke saw the poles he dropped his head and moved right over them. But he would only do that when moving clockwise in the arena. He had no problem doing them clockwise and would either jump or trot over them. It was a different story, however, when he was asked to move counter clockwise. I'm not sure why he refused to work that direction. He would turn and race by me to move over the poles in the clockwise direction. In the counter clockwise direction he pouted and shook his head and wrung his tail.

I kept asking, not forcing, knowing that he knew what I wanted him to do. He finally went through them, but he was watching me not his feet and knocked a couple of the bars. Since what he needs to do is drop his head and step through the poles. We moved the rails down off the bottom pole and closer together. Then I asked him again. This time he went through under control, paying attention to his feet, and not stressed about the task. Once he had done this a couple of times in the difficult direction, we were done.

I only rode him for a fairly short amount of time, but in that time I couldn't get him to move easily at the trot. I plan on working his back tonight when I am grooming him, try getting his back more engaged and then work him less before I get on him. I don't want him too fatigued before I am riding him. And if we have time, I want to ride him through a longer cavaletti in the round pen. Maybe eight or ten poles just on the ground.

Anyway, I was very pleased with last night's work. I have to say that hearing Ashke whinny at me when he hears me walking down the aisle in the barn and continues to whinny until I give him kisses on his nose makes my heart very happy.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Spoiled Toddler or Willful Teenager

I've been thinking about last night a lot and wondering what my best approach is to correcting Ashke's behavior. I think my mom is right and part of what we are working through is his having to do directed work for the first time in his life. So, the question becomes is he acting like a spoiled toddler or a willful teenager. The difference in the two is a question of self-awareness and intent. Is Ashke behaving the way he does because he is focused on what he wants and that's all that matters? Or is he behaving the way he is because he is deliberately challenging me and trying to assert himself, because I don't matter?

I have to go back in time to the other two horses of significance in my life. Queenie and Kieli. (There was Sham, but we have already established that Sham was deliberately and maliciously intent on causing as much mayhem and chaos as he could.) I keep comparing Ashke to Queenie, at least in my mind, but I am beginning to think that Kieli has more in common with Ashke than I previously thought. There are some things that are similar and many things that are different, thank goodness.
Queenie was only three going on four when I got her and she had been started prior to being given to me as a Christmas present. She was calm and mellow without being lazy and the work I did with her that first winter and summer stayed with us for our time together. There was absolutely nothing I couldn’t do with her. I took her in our house, I rode her inside both the Junior High and High School where I grew up, we crossed the Snake River, we trail rode all over the mountains, and we once crossed a canal by using a railroad bridge (pretty darn scary.) I could ride her all day long and she would never balk. Once I turned her for home, I would drop my reins on her neck, cross my legs over the horn of the saddle and pull out a book. I would read while she walked. Even after she fell with me, I was never afraid to be on her back.
Kieli on the other hand was four or five when I got her and she had never even been tied. She had a wicked habit of violently throwing her head and smashing me in the face. She bucked and kicked and fought like a wild thing the first time she was saddled. It took several weeks for her to be rideable and that was back when I wasn’t worried about whether I was thrown or not. She busted down fences and broke more halters than I can count. When I would ride her it was never a relaxed easy thing. I was always on the outlook for anything that might spook her. She was fun to ride, sometimes, but never easy. And she didn’t react the way you would expect a horse to react. She once spooked at a cement mixer, ran into the middle of the street and then backed into the truck. Thankfully the driver had stopped and I’m sure he was very bemused by the horse’s reaction. I wasn’t able to get her to move forward until her butt had been rammed into the grill of the cement mixer. Anything could set her off. One time I was riding and there was a root in the pathway. We were cantering and I saw it just before Kieli did. All I could do was tuck up and grit my teeth, because Kieli went sideways in a heartbeat and I flew off over her head. The final straw was when Kieli freaked out at the tie rail and broke the railroad tie off at the ground, then proceeded to beat herself senseless with it. I put her up for sale the next day, since I knew if I kept on she was going to kill someone.
I think, in looking back over the past sixteen weeks, that Ashke has some qualities of both horses. In some situations, he has the calmness and responsiveness of Queenie and shows that he really wants to connect and interact with me. He wants me to be pleased with him. (Toddler). At other times, it feels like he has the energy level and willfulness of Kieli. Thank goodness he doesn't also have her absolute terror of everything. I think the energy level and willfulness is an Arabian trait, and I just need to channel it correctly. (The absolute Terror trait is from the Saddlebred part of her, I am absolutely convinced.)
So. Back to the original question of what is the driving force behind Ashke's behavior. I believe it is more the acting out of a spoiled toddler than the willful teenager. The reasons? He hasn't had set and consistent boundries set for him. He hasn't ever had consistent expectations. No one has ever taken the time to show him what is okay and what won't be tolerated. And my guess is that any time he has misbehaved he has been turned loose and left alone. I think he loves the attention, the treats, being fed and turned out. He even enjoys the baths and the grooming. I think that if I continue with my expectations and be consistent in what I am asking him to do, he will eventually understand that acting out will cause him more work than just settling down and doing it.
He may never lose his energy level though . . .

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

We Are Going To Do Up-Downs Until Blue is No Longer Tired

Tonight we had a moment.

When we got to the barn, Chris had a class in the big arena. I rushed through grooming Ashke, although I did spend some time working on his hind legs, which I think is beginning to have a positive effect on him. I got him saddled and out to the arena before the class let out. That gave us the opportunity to work with the other horses. His walk and trot were much better and he felt really balanced under me. We went around the big arena in both directions several times. And then the other horses left.

At which point Ashke decided he was in charge. He crow hopped and bucked a little bit. I settled him and held him still for a moment. Then I asked him to move forward and he tried the same thing. So I, being smarter this time than the last, and with little pride, got off him and went to the round pen.

I don't think he was too happy.

I turned him loose in the round pen and he cantered in both directions for 20 minutes or so. There was some bucking. And some head tossing. And a lot of racing around like a mad horse. I walked in the middle of the round pen facing him and let him work it out of his system. I didn't let him stop until he was showing signs of fatigue.

Then we put three poles in the arena off the bottom rung of the pen. This sparked another set of frantic galloping  and spinning and stopping and rearing to avoid having to set over all three poles. We kept that up until he was lathered and streaming sweat. Once he finally trotted over all three poles in both directions we pulled the poles from the arena and I got back on him.

We went nicely (although not very peacefully) around the pen in both directions at a trot. Then I asked him to back. He did.

We were done. I walked him out and rinsed him off. Then let him graze until he was dry.

While he was tearing around the round pen I kept thinking of the line from Remember the Titans, when they are at training camp and Blue complains about being tired. Denzel Washington says, "We are going to do Up-Downs until Blue is no longer tired or thirsty." I kind of had that attitude tonight.

I really hope he got the message.

I hope he begins to understand that bucking and protesting is not how this is going to go. I expect a well mannered, well behaved horse. I wonder how long this is going to take. . . .

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Bring on the Games!

This morning we went out early before the heat was supposed to start. J and I set up a labyrinth, the tarp and a cavaletti. By the time we were done, I was soaked with sweat and swearing at the temps. The course in the big arena looked pretty good and Ashke snorted at it as we went by. I worked him in the round pen first, at a trot and canter in both directions, and then rode him at a walk and trot. He's pretty much done with going in circles and was pretty eager to move to the big arena.

I still haven't cantered. Maybe on Tuesday. Honestly, today was just too darn hot and we had other things to do.

Two things of note in this video: 1. Ashke is paying attention to my requests and although he wants to hurry through, he is pausing when I ask and waiting until I tell him to make the next turn. This is part of the "learning" he is doing in the labyrinth. 2. Do you see that nice little piece of backing action? No fuss, no fight. Just ducks his chin and backs up. I love that!

The tarp was no big thing, once he got a good sniff of it. In fact, he was willing to stand in the middle of the square to show another horse that the tarp wasn't going to hurt him.

Then we moved onto the cavaletti.

Things to note: His reaction to being ridden over the raised bars started with a step, then a jump and finally a bucking rodeo over the final one. I was afraid of what would have happened if there had been four.

We worked through these items several times in both directions until he was pretty comfortable. One of the other riders asked if I was going to do trail and I explained that I wanted to do endurance, but thought that the more tools I can employ and the more looks I can give him, the better he will be. He did good. I do need to teach him to stand still when the reins are touching the ground (ground-tie) and I think I will work him inside a box or circle to teach him to turn on the front and on the haunch.

My goal is too have him trained enough for me to feel 100% confident by Spring of next year. Then I can start focusing on riding distance and at speed to work him up to his first endurance ride.

Rain, Rain, Why Now?

Yesterday the mercury topped out at 100 or maybe a touch higher, which is too darn hot, in my opinion. It also means that working Ashke has to happen first thing in the morning or wait until early evening. In Colorado, waiting for evening also means the possibility of rain.

My plan had been to work Ashke in the big arena over some obstacles - labyrinth and cavaletti - first on foot and then on his back. Instead, we found ourselves warming up in the round pen in the middle of a small storm. This did not please the boy. At all. In fact, his attitude was "What the hell are you making me do, Mom?"

This is what Ashke looks like when he doesn't like what I am asking him to do. He reared a couple of times, kicked out and let his displeasure known. I applied the same philosophy to him that I would a child - the more you protest, the longer this will go on.

I don't know if it was the wind, the day off yesterday or boredom with the round pen, but Ashke wasn't really excited about working. The good news is my saddle is conditioned well enough that the rain didn't soak into the leather.

Ashke did work enough for me to feel safe riding him inside the indoor arena. It was a downer compared to what I wanted to do outside. Ashke doesn't feel as comfortable in the indoor arena, because of the walls, the other horses, and the increased noise of the rain on the plastic roof. I also think he finds the sand in that arena to be too deep to work in comfortably. The round pen is perfect, because it is firm and yet soft and not so deep that he bogs down.

Ashke really only protested a little bit. He got warmed up and we moved inside. I rode him at a walk and a trot but not the canter (haven't cantered since I was tossed, if anyone is keeping track). I can't tell why Ashke's trot feels off. I can't tell if it's because he has a different stride than what I am used to or if he is still favoring a foot. I'm beginning to think it's just his way of going. My goal today is to get him to relax at the trot.

He looks collected here and I would love to have him feel this way while I  am on him.

The new girth seems to be working well. Ashke protested yesterday while I was tightening it. I could still put both hands on top of each other underneath the girth. He was being a wimp. Ashke is going to have to come to terms with the cinch. I am tightening it slowly, not too much at a time, but he still doesn't like it.

Time to go play . . . .

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Ten Things I Know

1. I have no desire to show my horse on a professional or semi-professional basis. I do want to play around in the gymkhana sponsored by the stable, since I think it that's just plain fun and a good training tool for Ashke.

2. I want to use the tools I've discovered through reading the TTouch book to work on deepening the trust and connection between Ashke and myself.

3. Ashke didn't even flinch when I put the fly mask on him, including the ear covers. I think it might be a little big but it seems to be working. He does flip his nose a bit more than usual, though.

4. The trim on Ashke's feet went really well. He stood fairly well for the farrier, who did his work efficiently, although he doesn't know what a mustang roll is. I was very pleased with how Ashke moved after the trim and most of the old hoof is gone and the splay on the front is trimmed away. I can't believe how fast his feet have grown. We scheduled the next trim in six weeks, mostly because I don't want his front feet to begin to splay again. His movement seemed much easier and listening to him walk on the concrete pad in front of the barn sounded the most even and consistent that I have heard since we brought him home.

5. Ashke  is really sensitive around his hocks and fetlocks on both hind feet, which I knew from the TTouch. He really takes exception to the lift and slide on his hind legs - to the point of pinning his ears and threatening to kick. I have gone over both hind legs checking for heat or sensitivity to touch and haven't found a particular location or injury. I am going to continue to work on them with a different TTouch than the lift and slide, until either the injury has healed or his legs become less sensitive.

6. The playground has been very helpful in building trust between Ashke and myself. His reaction to many of the obstacles has been surprising. Today, I hope to work him through the labyrinth and the cavalettis from both the ground and his back. Hopefully, we will have video to post.

7. We got a Chevy 3500 HD truck to pull a horse trailer we don't have yet. It's dark blue and will be referred to as the Beast.

8. Ashke is much more comfortable riding with a running martingale than without. I tried riding him on Thursday after his feet were trimmed without the martingale and we struggled. I put the martingale on and not only did he trot without fighting my hands, but he backed easily for ten steps. Makes me think he was ridden at some point.

9. The biting has pretty much stopped. Ashke loves the TTouch for his mouth and it helps a lot that I'm not over reacting to his lipping at me. He has only tried to bite one time since I started the TTouch and that was because he didn't want to be cinched up. He pinned his ears and snapped at me. I ran him around the arena for behaving that way. Now, in my defense, his girth, even after I tightened it, was loose enough I could pull it away from his side by almost half an inch. I purchased a longer, wider girth made of the propylene material and that seems to have help with any residual sensitivity issues around his front legs. I do need to set the saddle back on the left side another two inches and make sure that it is in the same place on his back on both sides.

10. All of the issues we've been dealing with seem to be resolving themselves and I am hoping that my riding time will go up in frequency and length over the next month. We are keeping Ashke on the same diet he is currently on, since the Amplify seems to be working well with his metabolism. His weight is good and the only area that could be better is his haunches and shoulder. I don't want bulk, but nice, strong, lean muscle so he can go for a while.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Ttouch Triumph

If someone would have told me sixteen weeks ago that the key to working with Ashke would be found in a book by Linda Tellington-Jones, I would have laughed at them. I had never even heard of the Tellington method, or Ttouch. A shout out to Heather for suggesting there might be a way to get Ashke to stop biting. I didn't realize that the Ttouch method could be used for so much more.

Last night before I groomed Ashke, I used the Ttouch for his ears, face and mouth. We spent about ten minutes on his mouth. He loves it, although he tried to suck my fingers in between his teeth. By the time we were done he was slobbery mouthed and happy. He made the relaxed and happy noise when I was finished. I curried him with the soft rubber curry, then with the stiff brush. I then did the lift and slide touch on his legs. Front legs, no problemo. The back legs were another story. He took exception at the hock on both hind legs. This is a sign of soreness or tenderness, so I slowed down and did some circles over his tendons. I will have to wait and see how they are tomorrow. I can tell you that since I started doing the lift and slide down his leg, he is not nearly as gimpy when he is working in the round pen.

J went to brush Ashke's tail and he clamped it into his butt. I went back and began doing some of tail ttouches recommended in the Tellington book. Within five minutes, Ashke had relaxed his tail and back, and I could move his tail up and down and side to side without fuss. At one point Ashke looked back over his shoulder at me (just like Linda said he would) but other than that, he was fine.

I took him out to the round pen and worked him in both directions at the trot and canter. He got a bit energetic at the canter, bucking and tossing his head, but it was short lived. He took his commands from my voice and moved with his head down and chin tucked, fully engaging his back and haunches. He stopped when asked and backed up with voice command only. We only worked for about ten minutes and then decided to change it up.

I left him in the round pen and went to get the tarp and poles. Ashke got all snorty when we dragged the poles over, but settled as soon as he got a good sniff of them. I left him loose while J and I stretched out the tarp and tagged the four edges with the poles. And then I put the lead rope on him and walked him toward the tarp. This is what happened:

Pretty anticlimatic, eh? He pawed and bit at the tarp but otherwise couldn't have cared less. I worked him forward and backward over it, but he had no hesitation. The next time out, I am making a hollow in the middle and putting water on it. That should be interesting.

Once again I released him and we folded up the tarp. I took the four poles and put one end on the bottom rail of the round pen to elevate it and left the other end on the ground. This creates an obstacle for him to step over that can be at differing heights. We worked back and forth over them several times in both directions. Ashke had some issues with the third pole, kept hitting it with his front feet and causing it to roll along the fence and then tangling his hind feet in it. He would spook and not want to go through it. I high stepped over the poles to show him how to raise his feet. He finally went over the four of them without bumping or spooking. I praised him and gave him peppermints as a reward.

After we had successfully completed the poles, J and I put them away and then I bathed Ashke. It had been several days since he was washed and he was pretty messy. While I was bathing him, he kept nibbling with just his lips on my back, the pockets of my shorts, my hair line, my ears, and anything else he could touch. He's no longer flaring back like he used to, and he seems very happy that he can "mouth" me without me getting angry or upset. He's not using his teeth, he's just touching with his nose.

Tonight (Weds) I groomed Ashke and did the mouth touches. I tried to do the leg touches but he threatened to kick me. I'm not sure why, but he really doesn't like them. Instead of doing the lift and release, I squeezed my hands around his leg and did long strokes down them to get him used to being touched all over his legs with my hands. I also did some of the tail touches. Then we went outside to play.

We started with the large blue tarp and then covered it with water. Ashke snorted but walked right onto it. He nosed the water and wandered around on it like it was no big deal. Nice. Then I left J to clean up the tarp and went to the round pen. Ashke worked a few circles in both directions at the trot and canter. Then I pulled poles out and set them up on the bottom rail of the round pen. Six this time.

Ashke and I worked through them at a walk, with me exaggerating my steps to show him how to raise his feet. He went through in both directions without any problems. The last time we went through side by side and I jumped the poles and then so did he. That made me laugh. After we worked through the poles with me leading him, I took the lead rope off and asked him to lunge.

Talk about starting World War III. He knew exactly what I wanted him to do and he so did not want to do it. He bucked and squealed and kicked out at me. He galloped in a small circle, going as fast as he could in the area of the pen where the poles were. When he tired of galloping he would trot as fast as he could around the rest of the pen and then gallop past the poles. We did this in both directions while I stood in the middle of the pen and was vastly amused. T kept saying that Ashke wasn't going to go over the poles. I told him that I thought Ashke would if I gave him enough time to work it out himself.

Ashke galloped and trotted and galloped some more. He finally slowed when I asked him to and walked toward the pole. He sniffed it over pretty good but when asked to move forward and attempt the pole he whirled and took off again. I intervened and penned him against the rail and the poles, not letting him work the entire arena any more. He spun and fretted and then suddenly capitulated. He turned and in a nice trot he went over the first four poles before he broke to the outside and skipped the final two. It was enough. He was praised and stroked and fed peppermints. Then he was left while we put the stuff away. He was rinsed off, walked and then put away. It was a great session and he definitely is thinking about stuff.

Tomorrow his feet get done.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Seven Snipbits (or really long discertations) on Sunday

1. We have conquered the biting, nipping thing. I was turned onto a particular process for training by a friend; it's called the Tellington TTouch Training program. The process involves touching the horse in a specific way, as identified by Linda Tellington-Jones, called Ttouch. There is a group of touches for the horse's mouth to help with biting. Linda's perspective is that a horse is biting to communicate an emotional need and by touching them around the mouth in a specific way, it fulfills the horse's emotional needs and removes the horse's desire to bite.

I started the TTouch mouth touches on Saturday. I did circles on the sides of his mouth, worked on the end of his nose and chin, and worked inside his lips with my fingers. On Saturday I got nipped once. Ashke knew he had caught me (I don't think he did it on purpose) and tossed his nose in the air. I didn't react, calmed him with my voice, and continued the massage, making sure he couldn't pull my finger in between his teeth again. When I was done, we went outside to the outdoor arena. On the walk out he reached out and lipped at my hand. He immediately stiff legged and threw his head up in the air. I talked calmly to him and started the touching on his mouth again. I worked on his lips for a good five minutes. I asked him when I was done if he was okay now. He shook his head and blew out his nostrils.

On Sunday, I did the mouth touches again prior to working Ashke. He didn't bite or lip the entire day.

2. The colic symptoms are gone. I have started Ttouch's for stomach and digestion. This involves stroking Ashke's ears from the root to the tip and doing special stroking on his belly. He loves the ears. He closes his eyes and lowers his head. I think it is helping relieve the residual tenderness left from last weekend. His stool looks awesome and he peed a ton between Friday and today. He seems to be doing good on the hay and Amplify, which is the perfect diet to prevent any more colic. The only thing I could do to add additional nutrition is supplementing with beet pulp, which he isn't working hard enough to justify.

3. Ashke and Callie have spent some time together his weekend. On Saturday, I built a playground in the arena for the horses to play in and experience. I built a labyrinth, a fan with alternating heights on the bars, a plastic walk through. a jumble of poles for the horses to pick their way through, cavaletti with two low jumps at the end. In front of the jumps I put pinwheels which spun in the wind as the horses went over them. Finally, there was a couple of poles with a hammock strung at the top for the horses to walk under. Ashke managed to hook a pole between his legs and completely freaked himself out. I tried a body wrap, like Tellington recommends, but that didn't really work. It made him more anxious. I was getting very frustrated, which was being communicated to Ashke and making things much more tense then needed to be. The biggest issue was that Ashke had completely gone frozen with fear and confusion. I went back to the come-along and he was able to move through all of the obstacles without fear or a lot of balking. After we had gone through all of the obstacles with the come-along, I took the rope off and he went through all of the obstacles without much coaching.

It seems like the colic episode caused Ashke to revert to some of his behavior when we first moved him out here. It's taken some remedial work to get him back where he is willing to work with me again. I think we have made progress.

Today, Ashke worked in the round pen briefly, in the surcingle and bridle. He looked great, did what I asked and didn't fuss. We then took a mile or more walk with Callie. During the walk Ashke jumped a ditch (didn't even hesitate) to greet a couple of horses. After we jumped the ditch back to the walk way, he got fussy and reared. I told him no in a firm voice, but otherwise didn't react. He settled right back down and we went on our way. He was very responsive and does so much better when I don't over react. His rearing wasn't directed at me, I think it was directed at the other horses, but he still needs to understand that it's not an acceptable behavior.

4. The farrier returns on Thursday. It will be interesting to see what he says and how Ashke moves when he is done. I don't plan on making another appointment, wanting to talk to the woman from Berthoud out natural hoof care first.

5. This weekend was full of purchases. We got a Chevy 3500 and a stethoscope. The truck is necessary if we decided to do endurance, because we can put a camper in the back and still haul a horse trailer with it. It is a gorgeous truck. J looks wonderful driving it. The stethoscope I purchased for the horse. Being able to monitor his heart rate will be key if we face another colic situation. It will also let me monitor his condition by tracking his heart rate once he is working again.

6. I may have to have the vet out to check out Ashke's left shoulder. He had a lump there that felt like he had been kicked. It may still be impeding his movement. It's right at the point of his shoulder. Next time JD is out, I will ask him to take a look.

7. Ttouch has helped me reconnect with Ashke too. I think that having made the decision to put him down changed how connected I was feeling to him. I had to distance myself in order to deal with the loss. It's both a relief and a source of anxiety to discover that you aren't going to be taking that step. TTouch has allowed both of us to move away from that move and connect to each other again. J thinks that Ashke has the emotional maturity of a two year old, even though he is much smarter than that. Anything that scares him or brings him pain is going to reduce him emotionally and I need to remember that I need to be calm and patient in order to help him grow. I think the Ttouch exercises will help. It certainly has moved me back to the "I can fully rehabilitate him" and he can do anything camp.

Leaving you with some final pictures: doesn't his ass look great?

Friday, July 13, 2012

A Different Sort of Challenge

A friend, H, turned me on to a training concept called TTouch which incorporates specific massage of the skin and training tools to correct behavior and increase trust. Since trust is a key part of what I am trying to build and since I can't ride until his feet are fixed, we are going to try the TTouch method. I ordered the book off the interwebs on Thursday and it should be delivered on Saturday. In the meantime, I am using some of the training tools they recommend from the website to work Ashke from the ground.

I have to confess that I am at my wit's end with Ashke and the biting. He is snatching at treats, nipping at my clothes and closed his teeth on my upper arm. My response is to whack him on the shoulder, which isn't very effective. He has responded to my getting loud and angry with him, but last night when I used an angry voice and stomped my foot at him, he freaked. He must have reared over and over again ten or so times. I tried to get him calmed down, but he didn't respond until I changed my voice and tone to a soothing sound and told him to be easy. He stopped immediately and tried to make amends. I am sure from his behavior he really didn't know why I was angry, just that I was. I've yelled at him before - used a stern voice and told him no - and his response has never been that extreme. He was shivering and shaking after the rearing session and streaming sweat while standing there. It took him awhile to calm down. He had gotten past this issue and had stopped nipping altogether. Something about the colic has destroyed his sense of safety at the barn. And yet, he did everything I asked him to do in the playground. Poor confused boy.

The TTouch method says that horses who are biting are trying to communicate with their owners and instead of getting angry or upset, the owner should try to find out why. The trainer recommends increasing the amount of mouth contact the owner is having with the horse. There are several touch techniques which will help with increasing trust and a feeling of safety. Horses lip each other all the time and it is one of the few movements the horse has to connect with the rider. They can't use their feet.

I will try the massage in the morning. And some additional obstacles at the barn. I'll let you know how it goes. In the meantime, here is some video of our games last night. Please ignore me and concentrate on the beautiful white horse.

Stepping over for a Peppermint

Nothing is scary after a peppermint


Hammock part one

Hammock part deux

And part three

Saturday morning I am meeting N and her horse Callie at the stable at nine for an adventure in playground making. We will have to take it down when we are done, but it should be fun for a while. I am planning on getting hoola hoops and a large bright blue tarp, maybe a tractor tire and hopefully a pile of pick-up sticks, plus the cavaletti for our horses to work through. It should be fun. I hope to have pictures to share.

Wish me luck that I have discovered a cause and a cure for the vicious biting fiend.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Small Step Forward

We did better last night, except for the biting.

I didn't have a ton of time, so we used Nicole's surcingle and his bridle. I did a rush grooming on him, got him tacked up and out to the round pen. He worked well with the draw reins (attached to the girth between his front legs, ran through the bit and then attached to the side rings on the surcingle) which allow him to move his head, but encourage him to keep it low. He kept the pressure of his bit while he worked, which is really nice to see.

I had him do three rounds at a walk, ten at the trot in each direction. I praised him in between direction changes. Then he worked at a trot for two rounds, then moved him forward at a canter for ten circuits, then back down to the trot for two more rounds. His canter was smooth and he kept his head low instead of throwing it up in protest. He was favoring his front feet at the trot, but not horribly, and at the canter showed no signs of favoring. He kept trying to slow down or stop before I asked him to, which resulted in me chasing him around the ring several times. I figure its a good workout.

At the end Ashke wasn't breathing hard, but he was warm. I rinsed him off and then let him graze until he was dry. We shall see how he is tonight.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Sliding Backwards

1. Ashke has gotten very lippy and nippy again. This behavior had almost completely disappeared until this weekend. Now it is back in force. Nothing like having your horse lunge for your hand with his mouth wide open . . . .

2. Only able to work him in the round pen for 10 minutes last night before he was beginning to stumble and slow. J said he was paddling with both front and back feet. I know he is toe-first on his front feet, because he's not breaking over. Very frustrating, because I told the farrier I thought he needed done at six weeks (last week) instead of eight, but the farrier insisted that eight was soon enough. You'd think that if I was willing to pay, he would be willing to come.

3. I feel that the set backs to our progress are outweighing the progress. I am doing less with him now then I was three weeks after he got here. It feels like the more time goes on the less he is able to handle. I wonder and worry about his mental state of health and how able he is going to be going forward. He is so smart, but doesn't seem to have any mental toughness. I don't know if that is because he hasn't healed mentally from the lack of food and neglect, or if it is part of his personality. I don't know how to determine that, but I do know that a lack of mental toughness will doom our chances of riding endurance. I need a horse that doesn't know how to quit, instead of a horse that has mentally quit before he gets started.

I also wonder if I shouldn't find him a new home and find a horse better suited to the style of riding I want to do. But then I think that perhaps I am being a bit hard on him and should give him more of a chance to adapt. I need to decide a realistic time frame for his recovery and when I am going to give up and cut him loose.

4. Ashke did not enjoy our grooming or bathing session as much as he has recently. He reacted the same way he did when I first brought him home. Again, a severe loss of progress. I guess I should be happy that he wasn't pinning his ears, lunging at me with his mouth open or threatening to kick like he was behaving on Sunday. All I can do is proceed like normal and hope that my consistency brings him back to himself.

5. Ashke did whinny loudly and a couple of times when he heard me in the aisle way and seemed genuinely happy to see me. Hopefully, the grumpiness of his colic time will pass with time.

6. I'm not ready to give up on him yet. I want to get his feet straightened out and get some work under him before I make a decision. However, I never wanted a horse that I could only ride in an arena for 45 minutes a day and then we were done. I want a horse that wants to go, has no quit and has the heart of a lion. A horse that enjoys trails and riding alone and with other horses.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012


I know you all have been waiting to hear what is going on and I'm sorry for keeping you waiting. I have been so exhausted that I can barely speak. Saturday was an incredibly stressful and terrifying day for all of us.
We got to the barn about 3 pm (because we were cleaning house and shopping at Costco). The weather had cooled down from the low 100's to the upper 70's with rain, which has been a real relief. Unfortunately, that is one of the triggers for colic in horses, according to a lot of people at the barn. Me? Clueless as ever.

Saturday was the first time Ashke didn't whinny when he heard us in the barn. I thought maybe he was distracted by the other things going on. But then Ashke acted a bit squirrelly when I was tacking him up. I thought the flies were bothering him and sprayed him down with fly spray. He didn't seem to enjoy his grooming as much as normal and he was very cinchy when I put the saddle on his back. He has been getting better at not protesting about the saddle too much but he always lets me know he really isn't interested in having the cinch tightened. I should have been more cognizant of his reactions. It's just that I don't think "colic" when a horse is acting up . . . I think . . . storm moving in, cooler weather, general grumpiness. Colic didn't even enter my mind.

We went to the indoor arena, since the outdoor ones were wet. One of the other owners had turned her two horses loose and were chasing them around the arena with a carriage whip. Both horses are Arabians, so they were flagging, snorting, kicking out and tearing around. Ashke acted like there was a mountain lion about to eat them and started acting up. I ended up taking him to the round pen and turning him loose. He trotted and cantered around the round pen by himself for five minutes or so, until he finally settled.

I took him back into the indoor arena and worked him for about 25 minutes. He went okay at the walk, but was sluggish at the trot. J told me he was paddling with his hind feet (he so needs a trim) and I could feel him bog down a little in the sand, so I didn't push it. I figure there will be time for that when his feet are finally worked out. After our ride, I rinsed him off and he posed for pictures.

In none of the pictures we took on Saturday, which was 14 weeks, does he have his ears forward.

In retrospect, I am sure he was colicking when we got there, I just didn't recognize the signs. Grace said later that night that it was an indication of how bonded he is with me that he would work while he felt so awful.

See his ears. Not happy.

You can see how much mass he has gained in a little over three months.

Right side.

Left side.

From the front.

And his butt. Nice, huh?

After the photo shoot, we put him back into his stall. Ashke could hear the hay truck coming and he was whinnying and carrying on like the other horses. I put carrots and apples in his bin, but he wasn't interested. I thought that was unusual, but figured he was holding out for his nightly grain. We left the barn about 4:45.
Grace called me at 5 pm and said Ashke wasn't eating and was trying to lay down. Everything clicked and I knew he was colicking. All of the little clues clicked in my head and I was suddenly terrified. It felt like this was it and he was going to die. Seems like a extreme reaction? I had two horses die on me in my life: Crystal and Ace. Both of them colicked. Both of them died. One quickly and one slowly in a great deal of pain. There was nothing we could do for either of them. I think that might be playing in the back of my mind. We turned around and headed back for the barn.

I got Ashke out of the stall and we began to walk up and down the stall aisle. That was the only thing I knew to do. Grace was there and she administered a dose of banamine orally. He was warm and a little sweaty under his mane. She said that most times the banamine will resolve the issue. If it doesn't resolve within 30 minutes to an hour, then we should call the vet. The banamine took the edge off and his temp dropped, but he was still uncomfortable. After 45 minutes it was obvious the banamine was wearing off so we called the vet. I told her what we were doing and she said he could be in his stall as long as he wasn't rolling violently. I put him in the stall and waited for her to get there. It took about an hour and 45 minutes.

During that time, Ashke showed signs of being more and more uncomfortable. He pinned his ears, snapped at his belly, backed and paced. The vet finally got there and examined him. She said she thought there was a displacement and we should really take him to CSU. The initial examination would be about $1000 and surgery would be $5000 - $8000. I knew there was no way we were doing surgery. I called L and asked if she could transport him to CSU for us. She dropped what she was doing and went and picked up her horse trailer. While she was doing that, the vet told me that if we weren't going to even consider the surgery then there was no sense in driving him to CSU. We had L bring over the horse trailer anyway, but figured we wouldn't need it.

The vet left us pain medication and told me to monitor him for increased pain. She said if his bowel twisted it would be downhill pretty quick. We administered a dose at 10:30. When he came out of the pain medication he ate a little bit. By 12:30 the boys were done and J took everyone home. I spent the night in a chair, leaning against the wall where I could see him when I opened my eyes. I gave him a second dose of medicine at 2:00. By 3:30 he was pacing and in constant motion. He pooped a little bit a couple of times during the night, but it wasn't close to his normal amount.  At four, he cast himself in the stall, managing to wedge himself between the door and the waterer on his back. I opened the door and managed to help him move himself enough to get up. He scrapped the skin over his right eye and banged up his back left ankle. But he was up. I moved him to the indoor arena at about 4. He went to the far end of the arena and laid down with his legs straight out and stiff. And then he laid there for the next two hours.

At 5:30, I thought he was dying. I called J to tell  her. She woke the boy up and said they would come out. I called the vet and told her what was happening. She agreed it sounded like we needed to put him down. She made arrangements for his body to be picked up. She told me she would be there about 6:30. I texted Grace and asked where she wanted us to put the body and she told me. When the vet got there we went out to get him up and move him. It took some encouraging to get him to his feet, but he finally made it. The vet checked his heart rate. It was 40 bpm. Normal. He walked outside and started to graze. The vet did another rectal and said things still felt displaced but as long as his heart rate was down, we wouldn't take any action.

I put him back in his stall after letting him graze for 30 minutes or so. Then I went home and showered, slept for an hour, ate and drove back out. We spent the majority of the day with him. Ashke was pissy and didn't want to be bothered. He was also very hungry. He farted for 45 minutes at a time and had several nice, good looking poos. We left him about four and went home.

Ashke seems to be fine. He is hungry and kind of snatchy when it comes to giving him treats. I think he has some mental issues with food and being hungry so hopefully this will resolve itself as he begins to understand he's not being starved. All's well that ends well.

I still feel tight inside, like its not over. I don't know how long it will take for me to feel better and not edgy or worried or watching every move he makes for signs of another disaster.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Seven Snippets

1. After doing some  research and talking to the farrier, we are going forward with him pulling the shoes and trimming him on the 19th. After that, I am going to talk to a woman farrier who does natural horse trimming. We are going the natural way.

2. Ashke is still forging and clipping. He is starting to paddle with his rear feet and not breaking over in the front at all. Until we get his feet straightened out, the amount of work he can do is limited.

3. We will be ending the Amplify. He is no longer eating it, which means he no longer needs the extra fat it provides. The bag has a statement indicating the horse will self-select off of it if they no longer need it. Ashke will only be on alfalfa and grass hay, with the occassional carrot/apple fix.

4. We went from incredibly hot weather to inclement weather, including 2 - 3 inches of rain in an hour several times over the past three days.

5. Moving from hot weather to cooler weather can cause colic. Symptoms of colic should include sluggishness, being "cinchy", refusing treats, being tender along the flanks and general grumpiness.

6. Colic is a sleep-depriving, soul-sucking, confused, painful experience for everyone involved. And it leaves the horse very grumpy during recovery.

7. Making decisions based on the price tag sucks, although in the case of this last weekend, the decision was also based on not believing in major surgery for horses. Their recovery and survival rates are not great and its incredibly difficult for them. It's even more difficult in talking to people about your decision, because discussing horses in terms of cost effectiveness vs replacement cost feels cold and unfeeling to them.

PS. Having a stethoscope in your medical kit is a nessecity. It is the only way to measure your horse's pain and stress levels, especially if your horse is a wimp, which Ashke seems to be. I thought he was dying but his heart rate never got higher than 52 bpm and if I could have monitored that, we wouldn't have had to call out the vet the second time.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

A Little Happy, A Little Sad

I am seriously thinking of moving to natural hoof care. It is a process by which the hoof of the horse is returned to a state similar to that of a wild mustang. No shoes and frequent trims. I am considering this because I despair of Ashke ever being sound. He already mets most of the criteria: fed grass and alfalfa, no grain, worked daily over solid ground. The only thing he doesn't meet it the turn out 24/7. That's just not going to happen any time soon. I am going to call the woman who does this type of farrier work tomorrow and talk to her.

He was sound at the walk but not at the trot and I didn't even ask him to canter tonight. I know his feet are long and he has the clip on his fetlock, which seems to be bothering him quite a bit. J thought he was favoring the foot that he clipped a couple of nights ago when he was asked to trot, so instead of working him in the round pen I moved him to the big arena.

I rode him up and down the arena at a walk, turning and weaving. I was working him with leg pressure and neck reining pressure, teaching him to move on the forehand or on his haunches. He tried to trot a couple of times and I always brought him back down to the walk, working with him on moving away from my legs. We practiced turning in a circle, making it smaller to shift the turn to his haunches. J brought out rails and made a box out of them. Ashke walked right in and turned in a circle and then walked right back out. J then elevated one of the poles and we went over it. No problem. The banners in the arena? No problem. Dragging the poles behind us after walking through them? Little bit of a problem, but not much.

AND HE BACKED UP!!!!! I stopped him, asked him a little bit with my hands while telling him back and he ducked his chin and backed up like a pro. Damn horse is smart as a whip. Did it every time I asked, regardless of where we were. Something between yesterday and today clicked for him.

Aside from the lameness thing, I am pretty darn happy. I can't believe how much progress he has made in the last three weeks. Tomorrow, I am going to forego the lunging and just take him into the arena to ride. At a walk only. Work on more of his movements and neck reining.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012


When I first started talking about doing endurance, which by the way requires a lot of time and energy spent with the horse, I wasn't sure how it would effect my relationship with J or with T. I was very interested in spending the time it would take to train and condition a horse to ride 50 to a 100 miles in one day, but I wasn't sure how that would work for my family.

J is a bit afraid of horses (which makes her taking off the leg wrap an act of immense courage) and has no real interest in riding. If I was spending all of my time with the horse and she wasn't, we wouldn't be spending time together. I was worried about that. I was worried that she wouldn't be interested and that I would have to choose between spending time with her or spending time with the horse.

I was less worried about T. He is already beginning to spend time with friends rather than with us and as he gets older that is going to happen more and more frequently. Right now, when he comes he plays on the play equipment, chases the rabbits or cats or goes out into the field and builds a fort in the trees. By the time Ashke and I are ready to do endurance, he will have his own life and excursions to participate in. He will always be a priority for us, but I am expecting us to become less and less of a priority for him as time goes on.

So, that takes us back to J. She has been amazing. When Steve first told me at the Christmas party that he would give me an Arabian gelding for free, J understood what that meant and didn't care that I withdrew so far into myself that I couldn't even talk. I sat at the dinner table with my hands clenched in front of me, shaking all over, so afraid to believe. She completely supported changing our timetable from October to April in order to bring him home. She spent two days in the car driving across flat land through unending construction zones to see him. And it was J who said we absolutely had to bring him home when I was struggling with the reality of his condition. She has been wholeheartedly committed to him and our success since the very beginning.

There has only been a couple of times I've gone to the barn without J. She knows our routine and Ashke loves her. She loves to feed him treats and there are certain things that she takes care of every time we go out. For starters, J brings the tack box out of the tack room and sets it where I can reach it. She then brushes out Ashke's forelock, mane and tail. She reminds me to do his feet when I forget. She feeds Ashke treats when he's being patient. I put the saddleblanket on him and hold it in place while she sets the saddle on his back. She carries the whip, stirrups and sometimes my helmet to the round pen. She helps with the shampooing and takes all of the photos and video while I am working. Then, J puts it all back away. She is patient and never in a hurry, allowing me the space to do what needs to be done.

I remember living with Roxanne when I had horses in Idaho. I wasn't able to spend any time with them because Roxanne always had other things for me to do. One day she told me to go spend whatever time I needed with the horses. I did. I spent a couple of hours cleaning out their stalls and replacing their bedding. I rode them both. I groomed them and loved on them. I was gone for several hours. When I returned to Roxanne's house all of my stuff was on the porch. She told me to move out since she was convinced that I was having an affair with someone. Smelling like horse dung and sweat didn't convince her. I moved myself and my horses soon after that.

Having a horse and spending time training and riding it takes time. It is one of those commodities that gets harder and harder to find. I am thankful and blessed to have such a wonderful partner, one who is as committed to Ashke's well being as I am and who is willing to make my dream a priority in her life.

I couldn't ask for a better wife, partner and parent to our son. Thanks J, for making the secret wish of my hidden heart come true.


I don't know if it was the temp or the small nick on his fetlock or what, but the boy was sluggish today. He walked out without a limp, but just didn't seem to have any energy. Of course, he was sleeping standing up with his eyes open when I first got there. I was leaning on the rails of his stall and he didn't realize I was there. I said his name and his eyes popped open and he kind of startled. Then he nickered and pushed his head into my hands. I spent the first five minutes rubbing his head and cheeks. It was very sweet.

I finally figured out why he was scratching his neck and messing up his mane. He had a bite at the crest of his neck and the scab finally fell off today. I'm sure it was itchy since he turned his head to the side, curled up his upper lip and flopped about with his lower while I was finally getting the scab combed out and the bite scratched. My poor boy was so beat up when I got him that it doesn't surprise me that there are still undisclosed bites showing up on his body. He enjoyed his grooming right up until I put the boots on his back legs.

The left one was fine but when I tightened up the support strap for the fetlock support and he completely freaked. All I can figure is that there is something wrong with the fetlock (a nick or injury) from when I got him and the support strap put pressure on it. Or he just didn't like how it felt. Either way, I suddenly had a horse that was hating the thing that was attached to his hind foot that no amount of freak out was going to get off (It has FOUR velcro straps). He started to panic. Luckily for me, he didn't want to put his foot down or it might have been worse. I grabbed the halter and told him to whoa. I don't know who in his past taught him to stand when asked regardless of how freaked out he might be, but it saved us today. He stood. I calmed him while J very gingerly removed both boots. We won't be trying that again soon.

We worked out in the round pen.

In both directions.

He was sluggish. It's the only word that applies. Although he did move at a slow canter.

Maybe he is getting tired of the round pen. I heard him sigh when we walked in.

I rode him for the first time since I was bucked off.  It's been three weeks exactly. He was rough. And sluggish. 

It took a bit of work, but he did back up. 

And at the end of our work, he did relax into the trot, finally.

He was pretty warm and a tad bit sweaty when we were done. I cooled him down and untacked him, then took him out and washed him off. I checked all four feet for heat, tenderness or swelling. Nothing. Hips. Nothing. I have no idea why he was so sluggish, but I don't think it had a physical reason. We shall see how he goes tomorrow. Fifteen minutes to warm up and fifteen minutes on his back. Going to continue with that program for the week. 

I know he needs his feet done, however, the farrier is not calling me back. We have an appointment on 7/19 and I have tried getting ahold of him to no avail. I may need to rethink who I am using.