Friday, November 30, 2012


we move.

I'm going to go out early and ride for a bit in the outdoor arena, since the weather is supposed to be good. Hopefully, J can get some video of our last ride there. I will need to go out tonight and start working my magic to get him not to bite, lick or chew on his handlers. I talked to J and T about what they need to do to stop the madness and T is on board. J is feeling like Ashke will be losing a comfort if we don't let him lick. I think at this point he can deal.

We'll see how it goes.

In the mean time I am very excited. I know Nicole isn't planning on working Callie for a week or so to let her settle in. I'm not sure what I am going to do. We will spend a lot of time with him on Saturday and go from there.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Help . . .

. . . he's still biting.

This week he managed to grab skin and muscle on my forearm, which left a really nice welt, for which he got whacked. Involuntary reaction to intense pain. He also got yelled at. Then last night he bit my thigh, grabbing skin and pants, for which I grabbed him and yelled in his face, but did not hit him.

My actions resulted in him throwing his head up when I reach for him now. I don't think he's learned not to bite, just to avoid my hand coming at him. Not the result I wanted. Help.

We've stopped feeding any treats by hand. We've stopped giving him treats at the beginning or during the middle of our handling of Ashke. He only gets his bran mash with carrots in his bin when we are done.

T thinks he is biting more because of his ball play. J thinks he gets more nippy when he's not being worked. He's not being worked, in part because I don't want him stressed right before the move, in part because I hate riding in the indoor arena, and in part because I have no time right now.

I do know this horse has a tactile need to touch, lick and bite with his mouth. When he is stressed he licks. When he is uncomfortable he licks and bites. I want him to be comfortable and not shy away from me, but I don't want him to bite. I don't even care if he is using his mouth to communicate, but I don't want him to use his teeth. This is the only area where I feel he is untrustworthy.

T bit twice when he was a toddler. Both times I did to him what he did to me. I bit him back. He stopped biting really quick. I need something that is similar in modifying Ashke's behavior.

I just read a great article on changing the behavior and I need to talk to J and T about implimenting the process. Once we are all on the same page, and I see if we get any results, I will report back. In the meantime, any suggestions are greatly appreciated.

And, because I like you, I have videos to share:

Gads is he funny or what. In this next video my favorite part is when he stops and stands square. Isn't he a great looking horse?

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Killer Bunny

Sunday was a wonderful day. It was warm enough to be out in short sleeves. It was calm enough to ride out off the farm. And Nicole and Pam wanted to ride out at the same time.

He's so shaggy and a bit spooky on Sunday. It has been quite awhile since we did a trail ride, which I think contributed to his energy and hyper-activity. It was a fun ride and he did pretty good.

We started in the big arena. There was a woman working her QH/Arab mix who is the twin to Ashke. Same color, same size, but has a QH head and is a mare. The woman had clipped her mare. I asked if she was showing the mare and the woman said no, she just hated her horse having long hair. I then asked if the mare was boarded inside and the woman said no, she blanketed her. I just don't understand. I hate that. I hate the idea that she would strip the mare of her natural protection against the weather for no other reason than she doesn't like long hair. It seems to be the epitome of western thought and behavior where horses are concerned.

Callie was both backward and forward during our ride. I think she is more comfortable at the trot and she can really out trot Ashke. However, he can out walk any horse we have been out with to date. He has a long, easy, quick stride. And he hates to be in the back of the pack, which we need to work on. I don't want him to think that a trail ride is a race. Unless it is. Callie was a little stocked up in the back legs, although the swelling went down with work and then Nicole iced it with cold water. We are thinking it is due to going without work, or perhaps the bran mash we gave her on Thanksgiving. There is no heat and no tenderness, and it wasn't effecting how she moved, so we went on a gentle ride, ie no cantering.

Pam and Allectra did great. Allectra is an awesome horse and really takes good care of Pam. She was the only horse that didn't get testy and Pam even rode with a helmet.

Ashke was very spooky at everything on the ground. He snorted and shied at a napkin. He eyed every electrical box, water main cover, and cable box as if it were hiding a mountain lion behind it. He refused to go past a culvert in the ground surrounded by rocks. He shied, snorting, at a broken piece of pbc sticking out of the ground. Nicole and I both ended up on the ground twice, by choice, since they were both being pretty spooky and tense. This is what happens when you aren't riding out of the arena as much, especially with green horses.

The finale, however, happened on our way home through the green belt. We were on the last stretch behind a shed and thankfully we were walking. I hate to think what would have happened had we been trotting or cantering at that point. A small, ferocious bunny with big icky fangs burst out of the underbrush at Ashke's feet, attempted to attach itself to his jugular, before bounding away toward the shed and safety. Ashke went up and sideways four feet at least. Then tried to bolt. I, amazingly, stayed on him and wrestled him to a stop. Callie, who was walking behind Ashke, went backwards about three feet and Nicole stayed on only because she grapped the top of Callie's bridle to steady herself. The bunny hopped away unmolested. Allectra didn't even flinch and just kept walking. We had to ask Pam to stop and wait for us. Nicole got down and walked for a bit, before getting back up. Have I mentioned that Ashke hates bunnies, cats and really small children. They completely freak him out.

The rest of the ride was uneventful.
See the muscle in his shoulder and chest. And how strong his neck has gotten? No soreness from the saddle or our ride. He was only sweaty around the girth and the bridle behind his ears.
We rode almost three miles in just about an hour. I really need to remember to turn the app on when we first get on the horses and I also need to remember to bring my phone holder that attaches to my belt. Trying to get the phone in and out of my pockets sucked. I don't know if I am happy or sad that this was probably our last trail ride at Christensen's. I think more happy, not so much sad, only because the facilities at TMR are so nice and I can't wait to try them out.
Nicole is freaked out about coyotes and rattlesnakes. Me, not so much. I think that's a west thing. I would probably be freaked out by the idea of timber rattlers in the east, which I know they have because I used to watch the Crocodile Hunter all the time. Boy, do I miss Steve Irvin. 

Saturday, November 24, 2012


I was greeting as I was getting out of my car by my horse whinnying at me. When I walked into the barn I could see his nose sticking between the bars of his stall door. I guess he was excited to see me.

Have I mentioned how dirty he is?

I have figured out how to get him to walk into the grooming stall. First, you go all the way outside the barn. You turn right and walk to the other entrance to the barn. Enter. Turn right and walk into the grooming area. No fight. No protest. I don't know if I tricked him or what, but we didn't have any issues after that. Of course, there were a ton of horses there including Callie, so that couldn't have hurt.

Nicole discovered Callie was "stocked up" in her right hind. She thinks it might be because Callie hasn't worked in over a week and a half. There was no heat, no tenderness and Callie moved out just fine. Stocking up happens when a horse is standing in a stall and not moving enough. Nicole worked her out and the swelling was reduced when they were finished. I kind of bullied Nicole into riding, which I think was good for both her and Callie. She's having a horrible month and didn't want that to seep over into her riding.

I took Ashke to the round pen first to see what kind of attitude he was going to have. Although it was warm it was really windy and Ashke snorted at everything. The horse trailer. The other trailer. The white thing that's been there forever. He shied and spun and kicked. It was fun to watch. After he had tore around for ten minutes or so, I called him over and hooked the lead rope on, then led him out of the round pen. We were standing outside the round pen with Nicole talking when he started his newest thing. He would lip at the edge of my coat, then take it between his teeth and just hold on. He did it to the lapel, the sleeve, the edge of my pants. Such a silly boy. He was very careful not to bite me, he just wanted to hold onto me.

We moved inside and I saddled him. He is so dirty, but what are you going to do? He is still protesting the cinch being tightened. Nicole and I talked about it and she told me her trainer told her newly saddled horses will have issues with the cinch and to not make a big deal out of it. When I put the saddle on Ashke I ran my hand underneath it to check how it felt. I had it to far forward and all of the weight was over his kidneys. I moved the saddle back just a bit and it was much better. He still didn't want me to tighten the cinch, though. When I walked him into the arena, I put a couple of peppermints in my pocket. I walked him around the arena once and went to tighten the cinch. He started backing away from me. I stood still and put my hand in my pocket, crumpling the wrapper around the peppermint. His ears went up and he stood still. I walked him over to the mounting block and tightened the cinch, then climbed on. He stood stock still. When I was set, he turned his head back to receive his peppermint. So predictable.

We rode up and down the arena for 40 minutes or so. We did walk and trot, some canter. Nico brought Callie out and Pam was there with Allectra. At one point I asked Ashke for a leg yield and although he moved over he bent his head and neck to the side. Nico took the time to demonstrate the proper position for the horse to maintain and she showed me something really important. She moves Callie away from the rail and then uses the leg to get her to move back out to the rail. They are only taking three or four steps, which is the proper leg yield. What Ashke and I were doing was a side-pass, which is a much more advanced movement. I had no idea. It is much easier to get Ashke to move from the inside of the arena to the rail three or more steps than to try and cross the entire arena. Easier for him to execute, as well. And since we typically work on the rail, asking him to move to the rail builds on what we've already engrained in his riding behavior.

Ashke did awesome. He was much better with his right hind. His canter was smooth. He worked the trot easily in both directions. He was responsive and reactive. I tried taking the running martingale off and he hated it. He hates how it feels. I hate how he responds. I put it back on and he was just fine. We are just going to have to ride with it. Sometimes the tool makes a difference. In this case I don't want to fight him. He understands the cues with the martingale and I don't want to change that. He was so awesome, I can't find the words.

Tomorrow I ride again. Six more days till TMR.


The call came at 5:15. Ashke wasn't eating again.

We went by the barn at 2 to take him out to play and discovered he was in the field with Callie and Stoli. They were all eating ravenously, so we decided to leave him there and went to Costco instead. He didn't have his blanket on while he was out and we didn't know if Grace would blanket him again when she put him away. She did. We think now he overheated internally and didn't want to eat.

I asked Grace to take the blanket off of him and told her we would be out asap. We finished dinner, got dressed in barn clothes and were out at the barn about 6 pm. Ashke was outside in his run, but still not interested in dinner. His sides were sensitive, but he wasn't pacing, rolling, pinning his ears at himself, kicking at his stomach or squeeling. The last time this happened we washed him off with cold water (not an option when the outside temp is 39) and dosed him with banamine.

This time we opted for ball therapy. He totally beat up on that ball for a good twenty minutes. He has figured out how to rear up and thump the ball with the lower part of his front legs to move it forward. While he was tearing around attacking the ball, he wasn't worried at all about his stomach. (See, distraction works for horses just like it does with kids.) After about twenty minutes he stopped and began cleaning up the wisps of hay lying in the indoor arena. He had also been passing gas several times while he was playing.

I threw him back into his stall and gave him some bran mash with carrots. He started in on that mixed with some hay. Then Grace brought Jazz into the arena to try the ball. She wanted nothing to do with it. Ashke was very interested in playing with Jazz and Grace suggested we turn them out together. They both ran away from the ball for half an hour or so, tearing up and down the arena, bucking and snorting. Jazz is 3/4 Arab and a 1/4 paint horse. She sure looked Arab last night. They ended up calming down and Jazz actually touched her nose to the ball a couple of times. Ashke kept bumping it with his nose and then bumping her, almost like he was trying to tell her it was okay. At the point Jazz was no longer running in terror from the ball, I figured my work was done and snagged Ashke to put him away. Ashke followed me into the stall and started eating his hay.

Grace stayed to ride Jazz and said she would check Ashke when she did her final rounds. We didn't hear anything from her last night, nor has she called this morning, so Ashke must be eating.

I can't wait for this week to end. At the new barn the blankets go on when the temp is <40 and come back off when the temps go over 40. We won't have to stress that he is too hot or shivering in the cold.

Today, Saturday, I am supposed to ride with Nicole. It's supposed to be beautiful. Tomorrow we are taking the bikes, the boys and Lisa with Ashke and Jackson to Bear Creek for a ride. I invited Nicole but she doesn't think it's a good idea. I think it should be fun.

Friday, November 23, 2012


Yesterday was a day filled with food, football, great conversation and friends. I also found time to spend an hour or so with Ashke. He was a little tense and still short striding on the right hind. We had an issue with walking into the grooming stall. He will come out of the stall, walk across the arena, through the gate and then come to a complete stop and refuse to go forward. I have tried to move him in another direction, but whenever we turn toward the grooming stall he plants his feet and refuses to move. I can speculate about why - I know Ashke does not like Gary. He will snort and act uncomfortable whenever Gary is around, move away from where Gary is, just flat out doesn't like him. I think he is refusing to move toward the grooming stalls because Gary has a private tack room there and I'm sure Ashke can smell him.

I made a huge mistake. I have no excuse. I was frustrated and tried to force Ashke to move forward. (This is where I made my mistake. Can't really force an animal that weighs 5 times more than I do.) I tried to loop a rope around his neck to lead him forward. He refused. I finally backed him into the stall. I groomed him and saddled up. I warmed him up slowly on the lunge line and then rode him for twenty minutes or so. From the way he moved under saddle, I would say this issue with his right leg has been an issue from the beginning. The lack of strength in his hips and butt has stemmed from this issue with his right hamstring. We did some leg yields, in both directions, up and down the arena. We struggled more with this than we have in the past. At the end of ride, Ashke was moving much easier at the walk, although J said he was still short striding on that leg. We didn't canter.

When I went to take Ashke back into the grooming stall to take the saddle off of him, he refused. I tried to lead him forward and he refused. I got frustrated and tried to get him to move forward by swinging the lead rope at his butt. He moved in a circle around me, getting more and more upset, but still refusing to move toward the stall. I was getting more and more frustrated. Then he slipped on the concrete pad. I stopped immediately. The last thing I wanted was for him to be hurt by my frustration. I backed him across the arena, since that usually encourages him to move forward, but again he stopped as soon as we were through the gate. I took the bridle off and gave him the ability to move wherever he wanted. Then I moved between him and the gate and began to flip the end of the reins at him, without touching him. He moved away from me and toward the stall. I would step forward with the flicking reins. He finally snorted at me and walked gingerly into the stall. I made a huge deal about him being there, gave him a peppermint and then untacked him. While J was putting away the tack, I massaged his right hamstring. He was happy about that. I led him out of the grooming area toward his stall and then turned and asked him to walk back. Ashke balked again. This time I pulled a peppermint out of my pocket and enticed him. He thought about it and then walked back into the stall. I gave him the peppermint and then took him back to

I decided after the debacle with the grooming stall that I am just going to tie him to the tie rail outside of the tack room. I'm not even going to try to walk him into the grooming stall. We only have a week left at this barn and hopefully the new barn won't make him so uncomfortable.

Plus hill work will help with his right hind hammie.

We left Ashke eating bran mash, carrots and peppermints for Thanksgiving. He seemed pretty happy.

Wondering where his food is . . .

Oh, yes, this is what I am talking about.

And because we could, we shared the Thanksgiving feast with Callie.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

More Stuff

Ashke was back to his normal self when I showed up there last night. He played with the ball and seemed to be moving freely, cutting and turning to terrorize his evil nemesis. It is beyond funny to me to watch him play. He pins his ears and chases after the ball with his teeth bared, neck stretched down and out. You can almost see him saying to himself, "And then that other stallion tried to bite at my front leg, so I nipped at him, teeth bared, then spun and darted my head the other direction, catching him in the ribs and biting ferociously." He acts more like the ball is another horse, then that it's a ball.

After playing with the ball he chased T up and down the arena a couple of times. At that point I decided the boy really needed to be groomed, so I hauled him into the grooming stall. T stayed in the arena and played with Ashke's ball. Ashke got really upset by that. He kept shifting and trying to see what the heck T was doing with his ball. There were a couple of times when he could see T playing with the ball and got upset enough he lifted his front feet off the floor. Just to be clear, he kept his feet on the ground when I was with him. Both times he reared up a touch (a couple of inches at most) was when I was away from him doing something. It reminded me of a toddler who has had their favorite toy taken away from them by a bigger kid. When I took Ashke back out into the arena, he immediately raced over to check out his ball. He didn't play with it again, but he did make sure it was okay.

While I was grooming Ashke, I couldn't find any incidents of soreness or tenderness on his back or haunches. He was pretty happy to be groomed though, since I think his heavier winter coat is itchy. He is so muddy. And dirty. And he needs a bath, which I would give him except it will take forever for him to dry and I don't want him to be cold at all. So, we wait. Spring will be here soon enough and then the heavy coat will come off in handfulls and he will be shiny and sleek. Until then we get to deal with the dirt and the poo and the pee.

The plan is to ride every day that I can over the Thanksgiving Day holiday weekend. I hope J and T are okay with that.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

30 Things

One of the things going on in blog land right now is the giving thanks series of blogs. Bloggers around the world are posting daily something they are thankful for during the month of November. Since I haven't had the opportunity to see Ashke since Sunday morning, I thought this might be a fun blog to try. Horse centric of course and in no particular order.

1. Thee Ashke was given to me last Christmas.
2. J saying flat out we had to rescue him. Period.
3. JJ and LJ for driving me to Amarillo, for being patient with Ashke, and for driving us home.
4. His feet growing in healthy and normal.
5. Fixing the saddle so it doesn't hurt his back.
6. Losing my fear.
7. Weight gain for the horse; weight loss for the rider.
8. Watching T chase bunnies outside the pen while Ashke chases T from inside the pen.
9. Taking a chance on horse soccer and the insanely addicting ball play.
10. Lysine.
11. Taking a chance on chiropractic care and meeting Diane.
12. His incredible eyes.
13. Licking.
14. Peppermint treats.
15. Getting muscles again, for both of us.
16. Trail rides.
17. Nicole and Callie.
18. Having a new place to ride.
19. Indoor arenas.
20. Watching Ashke chase T up the arena and back again.
21. Watching the care with which Ashke allows T to clean his hooves.
22. The warm, sweet smell of horse.
23. The way Ashke bumps my shoulder with his nose when I walk in front of him.
24. His loud, welcoming neigh when he sees me.
25. Ashke's thick, even winter coat.
26. Watching him guzzle his warm bran feed.
27. How easy he is under saddle now.
28. Our Trust.
29. His Try.
30. Love.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Monday Fall Out

1. So, as I was walking Ashke from the trailer to the barn Saturday, Grace and I had a brief conversation in which she relayed to me the fact that Ashke had fallen while galloping in the field when he was turned out on Friday. He slipped in the mud and crashed down on his side. Between the fall and the adjustment, it is a wonder he could even move on Sunday. I emailed Diane in the hopes that she might have any additional information for me.

2. Watching Thunder at the Bronco stadium yesterday gave me a real life blueprint for how Ashke should look. The area that needs the most attention is his shoulder and butt.

3. Really hoping that walking hills will help with developing his butt and shoulder.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Super Sore

Ashke was super sore today.

When we got to the barn, Ashke was in the field with Callie and Stoli. We pulled him out and he was super sore and tight in the right hind. He was short striding on his right hind. Poor baby. Adjustments can feel horrible the next day. Everything hurts. I really hope his injury wasn't exacerbated by his slip and slide in the pasture on Friday evening. I didn't know he was running and slipped in the mud on Friday. It might have made a difference in what Diane wanted me to do/know. Not that I think it would really adjust what she thinks is going on, since I really honestly think we have been dealing with this issue since I brought him home.

I took Ashke into the grooming stall and tried to get the mud off of him. I think he enjoys the run and being able to move around at will. However, I'm not crazy about the mud he is collecting. It is really difficult to keep him clean if I can't wash him. After brushing him I spent about fifteen minutes massaging his right hip. He was not real happy about it. There was a pretty good knot over the attachment point right where it knotted up in June. Diane says it's a charlie horse due to the damage to the muscle, not equine exertional rhabdomyolysis. I think this injury might be the sum of everything we have been facing the entire time.

After the massage we walked around the outside of the big outdoor arena. He hobbled. By the end of three circuits Ashke was beginning to move easier and take slightly longer steps on his back right leg. I released him in the round pen and he chased around for a good ten minutes. The boy wouldn't slow down and do an easy trot to save his life. By the end he was moving easier, though, and the limp wasn't as bad as it started out.

I took him back into the grooming stall and rubbed both sides of his hips with liniment. I made sure that I started in front of where Diane made the adjustments and went to his hock on both back legs. I'm going to need to invest in Absorbine if this keeps up. Ashke wasn't crazy about how it felt, but he didn't protest too much. We left him in his stall with a warm mash mixed with carrots.

I certainly hope its not as bad tomorrow night.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Second Trip to the Chiropractor

Today was Ashke's follow-up visit to see Diane. I got up at 5:45 on a Saturday to be at the barn before 7:30 to meet Nicole. Ashke was outside in his run when I got there and Grace hadn't started feeding yet.
 See? It's barely light out.

It was pretty easy to pull him out of his run and brush him down since there wasn't any hay in his feeder.

After brushing him off, I took him out to the round pen and let him being a bucking, kicking, running his head off, fool.

I noticed while he was tearing around like a manic, that he was cross-cantering and seemed a little stiff somewhere. At times it looked to me like his back right leg, sometimes it looked like it was the front left.

When Nicole got there I left Ashke tearing around the round pen and helped Nicole hook up. First time was a success. She got Callie out and groomed and then we went to load. Callie was okay, but it took a while for her to finally figure out that Nicole was going to get her way and just accept it. Nicole was patient and consistent. Callie kept trying to shoulder into Nicole and muscle past her. She knew what was expected, she just didn't want to go.

Once Callie was loaded, it was Ashke's turn. I gave him a couple of chances and then grabbed the come along. He hated it. He spent a ton of time and energy kicking out with both back legs. I finally got it on and him moving forward. Once he stopped kicking out and moved away from the pressure, he walked right into the trailer.

Ashke with his travel helmet inside the trailer.

Nicole and headed East in her truck. Such great company!

I love the Great Plains. Nicole has a touch of agoraphobia, which J also has. I was really claustrophobic in Boston. Can't see people coming in Boston.

When we reached Diane's, we unloaded and put the ponies in their stalls. This time when Nicole took Callie out to walk and trot her for Diane, I pulled Ashke out with her. He gets really upset when she moves out of sight and I was trying to keep his stress level down. Callie was in great shape. Her adjustment last time had corrected her hip issues and Diane seemed please with her progress. Diane did some acupuncture on Callie, plus the Coggins test, then it was time to look at Ashke.

Diane saw the same hitch in his step that I have been seeing since I first brought him home. She asked me about his movement at the trot and canter. I told her about his cross-cantering and his struggle to do what I ask when I am asking for a leg yield moving on the diagonal from right to left. She had me show her where the muscle cramp was when he cramped up in June. I showed her. I finished the movement test and we went back inside.

Diane told me she thinks Ashke was injured by a fall on his right hip. He is having problems with his hamstring on his back right leg and is hampered when asked to stretch out that leg. He has some scar tissue in the hamstring on the right side. Then Diane completed her evaluation. He is compensating on the left back in order to protect his right side. He also had an issue with his front right because his back left is pulling across his body to his right front. Diane implanted acupuncture needles in his chest and left sacrial area. 

After the needles had pushed themselves out of his body, she did an adjustment. Diane used an Activator on his spine, to move the L6 - L9 back into place. An activator is basically a spring loaded thumping tool with a focused point about the size of my thumb. My chiropractor uses the same type of thing. She then tried to fix his first rib by stretching out his front right leg. It didn't work, so she encouraged him to raise his back to the point where he lifted his withers. That corrected his rib.

Diane also put needles up by his poll to try and loosen his connection between his neck and his head. She said he was really tight and it's a conformation issue for a lot of Arabians. When she pulled the needles out they had bent at a 90 degree angle while they were still in his neck.

I was a little sad at the end of the day. Diane believes Ashke crashed on his right hip at some point in the past. He crashed hard enough to really damage that hip and hamstring. It seems to be focused right where the charley horse was back in June (Diane is positive it was a charley horse and not a tie up.) She thinks it is always going to be an issue and can't really be completely resolved. She said lots of horses have that kind of thing. The things I need to do is 1) warm him up really well before asking him to do more complicated things like cantering, leg yields, small circles, etc., 2) walking him up and down hills will help strengthen the muscles, 3) massage of his right hamstring will help. 

Why am I sad? Two reasons. First, it is Ashke's back right, which also effects his front left and explains why I was having such a hard time nailing down which leg he was favoring. His first rib being tied up effects his withers and how he moves out at a walk. Hopefully, that will be resolved now and he won't feel so short in the front. Knowing he crashed down on his right hip combined with the pretty nasty rope burn scar on his right hind pastern leads me to believe someone at some point in his past, wrapped a rope around his leg and pulled him down onto that hip. I could speculate that it was the nasty ass cowboy trainer, but I have no real way of knowing. 

Second, there is a really good possibility I won't be able to ride endurance with him. Hamstring injuries are really difficult to rehab and what Diane said to me leads me to believe I can manage it, but it will never really be healed. Which means Ashke may never be completely sound. It is difficult to pass the vet in at an endurance race with an unsound horse. I could see riding for a couple of hours, but not for the time and distance I would need to ride to compete. I think I'm okay with that. I want Ashke as healthy as I know how to get him. I am willing to massage his leg in the hope that it will be better, but I'm not focused on the goal of endurance. I'm focused on getting Ashke healthy.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Horse Language

I am learning the language of horses, much like I have learned the language of dogs in the past ten years. For those of you who don't know, I made a dog breeding mistake and ended up with four boxers in a 1000 sq foot condo. Before that time, I didn't realize the multitude of methods dogs have for communicating with their humans and how subtle they can be. And I never really realized how much of our language and behavior they understand, in combination with how we smell.

My dogs sneeze to mean yes. They shake to show overall agreement. They can prick their ears, lay them flat, cock their heads and tip up their chins. And because they are boxers, they woo-woo when they want to argue with you. I have become very good at reading their language. And they have become very good at reading me, including sniffing the air to see if I really am mad, or if I'm just playing.

It brings up the question of intelligence and sentience. How much do our animals really understand and how close are they, evolutionarily speaking, to sentience? I think it's an important question to ask and answer. Although western society as a whole has not been great at recognizing commonalities amonst humans (think slavery, genocide, manifest destiny), once recognized, I believe we have a moral obligation to treat our animals the way we would want to be treated. I think this recognition, for me at least, cuts to the heart of the relationship I want to pursue with Ashke. I don't want him to be an object I use to gain a particular outcome, not even if that outcome were the Tevis Cup. I want to grow our connection in a way that he enjoys as much as I do. My only interest in endurance is to challenge both of us and to enjoy spending hours together on the trail. It is not my goal. My goal is to develop the us.

So that goes back to his method of communicating with me. We have spoken about his licking in past posts. He licks when he is stressed or uncomfortable, whether that is manifest emotionally or physically. Sometimes he bites, although his biting is half-hearted at best, and seems to migrate around him not feeling good and in some cases stress. If you don't let him bite, he immediately reverts to the licking. He communicates with his ears a lot. I used to think he didn't want to go, because he would put them back, but after working with him the past three months, I think this is more a response of listening to me, than of protest. He swishes his tail. He mouths the bit. He shakes and snorts. All of those mean different things depending on when they happen. J says he raises his tail when he is comfortable and enjoying what we are doing. He responds to verbal commands. I've never had that before with a horse. He understands that "easy" means to slow down and relax. "Good boy" means he is doing what I want him to do. When we crossed the creek at Bear Creek, when he took the first step forward and I said "Good boy" I felt him react to that.

So, what does this all mean? It means that I acknowledge that he has ideas and feelings and issues of his own. It means that I acknowledge that he isn't going to understand me everytime I ask him to do something, but he will try and figure it out. I means that I need to be patient and ask the question differently, if he is lost or confused. It means that I can never react in anger, for just like a child doesn't understand why I am suddenly angry, neither will my horse. It means that I need to give him time to adjust and figure things out, to make it fun and non-stressful, to be consistent in my ask, and to praise his try.

It also means that I have to acknowledge and approach our relationship with the understanding that there isn't a mean bone in his body, that he wants to do a good job, and that for horses sometimes trying is the most important part of any exercise.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012


There are many levels of trust in the relationship I am building with Ashke.There is my trust that Ashke is going to make good decisions and keep me safe. There is the trust that I will make good decisions and keep him safe. There is the trust that I have the capability to ride him without hurting him. And the trust that I can ride him without putting myself in harms way. Some of this trust is trust in myself, some of it is an active engagement with Ashke.

I think it is amazing that Ashke has the capacity to trust. He was almost starved to death and yet has held nothing back when it comes to interacting with me. That's not to say he hasn't been scared, because he has - thinking back to trailering him to Bear Creek for example. But even when he is scared he is careful with me. Well, except for the biting. It definitely gets worse when he is stressed.

I think right now my biggest issue is with learning to trust myself again. Trust myself to stay on when something unexpected happens. Trust myself to react properly when his feet don't stay on the ground. Trust that he is not mean spirited or out of control, but just releasing energy and excitement when that type of thing happens. Trust that he is smart enough not to react in a dangerous way.

I'm sure there will be more on this later . . .


Horse people talk alot about Try. To horse people what that means is the horse you are talking about is trying to please their rider/owner. They are trying to understand and respond the way the rider/owner would like them to. Sometimes the communication is not great and there is frustration and difficulty; as riders, we seem to think when the horse isn't getting it, it's the horse's fault.

Last night after I saddled Ashke we walked around the arena. Two of the younger girls were there on their horses. Alex rides Gotcha, mostly barrels, and Haley rides Comet. Alex was working on figuring out what was happening when she was riding Gotcha around the first barrel. Since I follow a barrel racer's blog, what she was doing made sense to me. Alex had an "Ah-Ha" moment when she realized she was shifting her hips out in response to her anticipation of the first turn, which in turn was causing her horse to react. That was affecting their run at the first barrel. The thing that struck me the strongest was her response of "it's not him at all. It's completely me. I shift my hips and he's reacting to that shift."

Goes back to try. Our horses, and Ashke in particular, try to do what we want them to do. Last night was no exception. I was asking Ashke to move on the diagonal, to keep his body straight and to step sideways by crossing his legs over one another. This is difficult for him since it really requires body strength we are still working on. J said that when we would start he would cock his tail to the side, the same way I stick my tongue out, and concentrate on doing what he thought I was asking him to do. As soon as I released the cue and patted his neck, telling him verbally what a good boy he was, J said he would swish his tail and arch it up. We only did it a couple of times in each direction, but J said his tail would do exactly the same thing each time we moved into the diagonal. It would cock to the side away from the diagonal, as if he were using it to help move his hind end. I asked her how he looked and she said he looked relaxed and engaged and was trying to do what I wanted him to do.

We didn't ride long. Maybe twenty minutes. On Friday I will let him play with the ball again, but not ride. I want him fresh and comfortable for the trip to see Diane on Saturday.

After circling the arena at the walk and trot, working on the diagonals in both directions and a brief canter on the correct lead in both directions, we did this:

I really want to be able to feel comfortable with Ashke playing like this while I am on him. His almost tripping over the ball did not make me feel that way. I'm working on it. Thirty years ago I would have felt completely comfortable and not worried about him falling with me. Not so much any more, but I'll get there.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Queenie vs Ashke

I had a conversation with J yesterday about my desire and focus for Ashke and how it differed from my relationship with Queenie. I thought it might make a good post for anyone interested in the difference.

To start, I must provide some history about my relationship with the horse. I can remember riding as young as 4 or so, mostly behind my mom on a big black mare named Button. It set the stage for the focus of my life. Close to my 6th birthday, I was put up on a green broke Palomino-Appalousa mare named Muffin, who took off with me down a steep hill, up and over an empty canal bank lined with Russian Olive trees and back to the stable. I stayed on. I ended up scratched and bleeding, in tears. The owner of the stable, known to me as Uncle Merril, told me to stop my blubbering, shorten my reins and take control if I wanted to ride his horses. I did. It became my heart's deepest desire to be a horse owner at that moment. It was the only thing I wished for on every first star, every birthday cake candle.

On my eight birthday my parents got me a Shetland pony, named Seabisquit, from my cousins on my father's side. They assured us that he was wonderful, well trained and easy to handle. That was a bald faced lie. The first time I tried to ride him I was taken under all thirteen of our apple trees, clinging to the pad saddle in terror of my life, as he tried to bash my brains out against the trunks. I finally let go and came limping back, cut and bruised, but not beaten. Our relationship was never anything other than a battle of wits and nerve. I can not count the number of times I bailed off of his back because any other choice was too dangerous. I broke my hand in one of the falls. I'm lucky I didn't break anything else. He bit. He kicked. At about the age of ten I had twin hoofprints bruised into my pre-adolescent chest because of him. He would grab the bit in his teeth and tear at a dead run for home the first moment he could. I would wait until we were close and the ground was soft to punch him in the side of the face, knocking the bit loose and allowing me to slow him slightly, so I could bail off. He was a nasty, mean piece of work, but I only ever came off of him by choice.

It did, however, teach me at a very young age, that brute force does sometimes produce results. It was not a great lesson to learn, and I am sad to say, had a lasting effect on my relationship with horses during my youth.

The year I was thirteen, I was given Queenie for Christmas. She was going on four, green broke and from an Appalousa stallion my Uncle Merril owned. She was three quarters Appy and a quarter Arabian. I spent hours training her, riding in circles and working on the walk/trot/canter for showing her in 4-H. Our first state fair she won four blue ribbons and two rosettes. I think we would have swept the State competition if she hadn't caught something at the County Fair. Most of my riding with Queenie was either transportation - I rode my horse where most other kids rode their bikes - entertainment - I rode my horse where other kids rode their bikes, watched TV, etc. - or freedom. We went every where it was possible to go on horse back and it was pretty common for me to spend 8 hours a day riding her. My only concerns were her staying sound (shoes in the summer) and not exhausting her (putting her away dry and cool). Most of the time I rode bareback in a simple bridle with either a low curb bit with a roller, or a mechanical hackamore. Although there was one summer when I spent most of my time riding Queenie with a rope looped around her neck, not being able to afford the fancy rubber riding rein that came with tiny tacks on the front edge. An idea that makes me shudder now. After we aged out of 4-H I started posse work, riding with an all women's posse made up of 24 riders that rode at various rodeos and in competitions. For ten years Queenie represented freedom and a relationship with a horse that I trusted and who trusted me. But it was very focused on riding - where, when, how long, with whom. My focus was on results, and although I loved her very much and spent a ton of time with her, I am sure she struggled to understand what I wanted. And I never really understood what our relationship could have been. My riding her was almost always results driven - we were training for a show, she was carrying me somewhere, etc. Sometimes it was about the joy of being together, but I think now that was more about the freedom she represented in my life than anything else.

I wasn't the same person then that I am now. And just like I was a much better mom in my late 30's than I would have been if I had been a mom in my 20's, I am a much better horse owner, a much more patient rider, and an all around better person now then I was when I was younger. Age does, sometimes, add wisdom.

Riding Ashke is wonderful, but so is spending time with him doing other things. I am interested in building a relationship where both of our needs are met, where the trust is high, and where his comfort and interest are as engaged as my own. I love that he loves playing with the ball. I want to create an activity where he is going to want to play, where he is as engaged in moving and protecting the ball as he can be. I want him to know that he can be himself and that I trust him to take care of us both. I want him to know he can dodge and move and even rear a little and that I will recognize that behavior for what it is. I want him to want to take care of me, not because I demand it, but because he wants for me to be happy and safe with him, the same way I want him to be happy and safe with me. With Queenie I would demand obediance, with Ashke, I am much more interested in asking him, in encouraging him to do what I ask because I want it, not because he is going to get hit or punished if he doesn't. I would rather go slow and try things outside the box to get the results I'm asking for, then to make fear or punishment a part of our relationship. And just as I recognize I have issues to confront and deal with, I know he has issues we need to confront and deal with.

And the bottom line is I never would have thought about buying a horse ball for Queenie to play with - even if she would have wanted to - because I never really stopped and thought about life from her point of view. Something that both age and experience has changed for the better.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Horse Soccer

We are beginning to learn to play horse soccer. Horse soccer is a great thing for Ashke, since it encourages him to stretch his neck down and out to bump the ball with his nose. This helps him lift his back and move his hind legs underneath him. That helps strengthen his back and butt, which is pretty much our entire focus right now. Anything that helps with the strength in his back makes me happy.

We took back the 30" ball, because it didn't fit the cover we bought. Instead, we got the 40" ball, which is a great size for Ashke to play with. It hits him in the middle of the chest.

We had to take it to the barn in the truck, because it is too big to fit in the car. It was already dirty because of his playing with it last night.

Ashke was excited when he first saw the ball. We stripped the blanket off the boy and brushed him out. He was a little stubborn about his front right foot. He kept yanking it out of my hands. We worked it out after I shouted at him. He hates when he's in trouble. After we were finished, I took him and the ball into the arena.

I'm adding a ton of horse soccer videos. I find them really funny.

I don't understand why he tries to lay on the ball. I can understand him wanting to itch himself on it, but still.

I love how he picks up the ball and flaps it around in his face. So funny to watch his attitude and behavior. Seems like he is enjoying himself.

After Ashke played himself out, I got him saddled. He was edgy so we lunged for a couple of minutes first. Ashke galloped himself around me in both directions until he got it out of his system. Then we did walking and trotting. After he was warm and relaxed we tried some movement on the diagonal. This is difficult for Ashke, but really will help his muscles develop.

Then we did a short canter in both directions after working the serpentine at the trot. Again, all of these exercises were chosen to help him develop the strength he needs to perform and be comfortable. The last thing I want is for him to be sore or uncomfortable.

The work is helping, because he picked up the correct lead going CW in the arena. And he understands the cue when I ask him for that lead. Both of which make me very happy. He still doesn't feel as collected under me when going CW, but he is much stronger and has a better canter in that direction than he did two weeks ago.

And then we brought the ball out. I picked the verbal cue of "bump" to get Ashke to move the ball with either his nose or the front of his legs. He "bumped" the ball both ways.

He figured out pretty quick what I was asking him to do. I was quick with the praise and rewarded him with lots of "good boy" and pats on the neck when he moved the ball.

There was one point when I thought we were going to collapse onto the ball, but I was able to steady him and keep him from falling on the ball. We went up and down the arena a total of four times (2 in each direction). By then it was obvious he was flagging. 

I think once he really gets the hang of moving the ball on command, I can work with him on direction. And speed. Most of my riding with the ball was on a fairly loose line. I really wanted him to lower his head and reach for the ball.

After we put the ball away, we did one more circle in each direction. I wanted to make sure he was relaxed and comfortable, since he was a little tied up messing with the ball. Then we were done. We reblanketed him, since it is in the 20's right now and we don't want him cold at all this year. When I took the halter off of him in the stall, he turned and looked at me, then looked at the feed bin. I swear he was asking where his bran mash was. I forgot it. I felt really bad. He loves bran mash a lot. I will remember on Tuesday.

Saturday, November 10, 2012


Tomorrow will be more video as Ashke learns to play horse soccer. I really wish I hadn't messed up the 3 minute video I took right before this one.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Friday Night Lights

In pictures . . .

Shaggy boy seemed pretty happy to see us. Still hates the plastic in his stall.

His chest and shoulder have taken on a lot of muscle. Lysine is an awesome supplement.

Muscle layered from his withers to the top of his leg. And his chest is soooo nice.

And in video:

He picked up his correct lead!

Ashke definitely has a harder time moving to the right, even on the diagonal. He has gained so much muscle and strength, it's like he a completely new horse. Riding him was fantastic!

A warm bran mash with carrots.

He loved it!

Thursday, November 8, 2012


Arabians Ltd., the farm that bred Ashke, is having a sweepstakes and as the prize they are giving away a breeding to Pimlico RCA.

(From their website)

He won Egyptian Event Supreme Champion Stallion in 2012. They are giving away a shot of sperm for AI to an appropriate mare. I entered.

I have a gelding.

Jenn sighed.

I figure all of that will be resolved if I win. There are brood mares I could lease. The options are legion.

Wouldn't a baby from this stallion be amazing?

It's only money.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

A Kind Eye

Yesterday, as I was grooming Ashke, the older woman who owns Katrina (big Saddlebred mare) commented on Ashke's eye. She said, "That horse has a great eye." She wasn't talking to me, but I did overhear the remark and it made me think about eyes and horses.

They say eyes are the window to the soul.

Ashke has an incredible soul. It shines through everything he does. It especially shines through his eyes.

He has his daddy's eyes. And if you look closely enough you can see thousands of years of history with humans flickering somewhere deep inside. Even when he is grabby and nosey and nippy, his incredible presence overwhelms me.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Halo 4

Tuesdays are days when I usually work. However, last night Halo 4 was released at midnight. Six months ago I promised T we would go to the midnight release at GameStop. That was last night and we did. It was awesome and exhausting. T has spent all day playing Halo, which I was involved in as well. We had a great time, but by 2 pm I was done and he was involved in online play, so I scooted out to see Ashke.

He was inside the box stall with his head hanging out but unwilling to walk outside. I talked to Samuel about leaving the plastic hung over the fence so he can go in and out. I understand if they need to pull it down at the end of the day, but I asked him to make sure it was moved out of his way in the morning. Samuel said he would and he would make sure Katie and Grace both knew that as well.

I pulled Ashke out of the stall and groomed him. I think I need to find a good conditioner for his mane. Anyway, I also cleaned his feet and messed with the breastplate. I had to shorten the part of the breastplate that runs from his chest to the girth. Ricki thought it was too high and not tight enough. She shortened it but not enough. I had to cut about six more inches off of the end of that part and re-engineer it. I finally got it to fit lower across Ashke's shoulders, and snug from the center of his chest to the girth. It certainly lowered the running martingale, which I need to decide whether or not I want to continue to use it. I also checked his back and he wasn't sore at all. I am very happy that it seems like we've figured out the issue with the saddle.

As I was saddling Ashke, Grace led Callie out to the pasture. I didn't time that very well. Ashke got very loud when he saw her walk by. I took him out to the round pen, mostly because I need to work on verbal commands and secondly because Gary was there. I didn't want to ride near Gary, since it tends to make Ashke nervous. The round pen was open so we went there.

Additionally, I want to work on the canter. I don't feel like I am riding well at the canter. Ashke and I aren't on the same page and I want to make sure we get there. Also, I think working some in the round pen going to the clockwise direction will help Ashke develop the right side of his body. He really struggles to maintain his balance and keep his haunches under him. I would like to think the reason I'm not riding well at the canter is because Ashke needs to develop a smoother canter, but honestly I think it's because I need to redevelop the muscles and balance that made me such a great rider as a kid. Although it is much easier to ride him counter-clockwise because he doesn't struggle as much. I have retaught myself to ride the trot very well, in part because we have done so much trotting. Now it is time for me to teach myself to ride the canter again.

I turned Ashke loose in the round pen and let him tear around in circles around me. Then I swung up onto him. I've also decided I need to get a lot better at getting on from the ground rather than relying on the mounting block. We walked a couple of circuits in each direction, then moved to the trot. I concentrated on tapping him with my heels to get him to raise his back and use his haunches. He did really well, although again he would much rather trot counter-clockwise (CCW) than clockwise (CW). After the trot we worked on moving from the trot to the canter on the correct lead. This is easy and comfortable for him moving CCW. I even settled into the canter and stopped feeling like I was flopping around like a landed fish. I had lengthened my stirrups before my ride and after cantering around the round pen, I got off and shortened them one hole, again. Until I get my ability back, I need them a little shorter. When I got back on I told Ashke if he would do a couple of big circles and a small circle CW at the canter, we would be done. I swear he counted.

I need to figure out how to help him find the correct lead and I need someone watching to tell me if we are on the correct lead. Even in the small circle I'm pretty sure he was on the wrong lead. I think going forward I will work the walk-trot transitions CW and see if we can get him stronger on that side. He is beginning to show some very nice muscle on his shoulder.

Out with his girls.

Monday, November 5, 2012

A Moment of Grace

Have you ever had a moment when you were so filled up with Joy that time seems to stand still and the universe holds it's breath? I had one of those moments yesterday on our ride. It carried flavors of my childhood laced through the excitement and wonder of riding this incredible boy of mine. Woven through all of that is the knowledge that I am creating something special and deep with Ashke, that we are building to the point where I will trust him to carry me through fire, and he will trust me not to take him through fire.

To completely understand the emotions evoked in this picture, I have to take you back to a place and time that perhaps only my sister will remember and understand. Our Sagebrush Place.

We found a spot on the edge of Firth, maybe five acres or so, that was wild and free. There was a slight rise in the ground as you first rode into the Sagebrush Place and once beyond it, you couldn't be seen from the road. It was a wild and free spot, filled with horse high sage and mequite, threaded through with deer trails. We rode those trails at a wild gallop, whooping and screaming at each other, trying to figure out how to hang off the side of our horses by a loop woven in their manes and a toe hooked in the far side of their flanks. It was an amazing place, like nothing I had ever seen before, and it drew me as completely as anything ever has. It was the place where my sister and I dared to thumb our noses at society. As soon as we had crested the ridge, our shirts came off and we rode bare chested and wild for hours. It was freedom. It was amazing.

That was my only taste of high prairie until the first time I drove from Cheyenne Wyoming up Happy Jack road. The shock of that land was like a spear shot through my chest, stealing breath and thought and reason. I drove the road at 10 miles an hour with my hazard lights on, fascinated and compelled by the landscape on a level that escapes description. It was like coming home for the first time. Stronger and deeper than even my love of the mountains and the West. Something that sang to me as a child, called even deeper as an adult.

Yesterday was like the arcing arrow of geese in flight, or the bare branches of a majestic cottonwood silouetted against the setting sun, or the soft purr of a tired kitten curled in my lap. It is joy, pure and simple. An emotion so complex and overwhelming it defies logic, expression. I sat, on the top of that hill, gazing on the little stretch of prairie before me and recognized the moment for what it was. A moment of Grace, of perfection, of perfect peace.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Butch and Sundance

 Nicole (Sundance) and I (Butch - because I had the worse freaking haircut of my life on Friday so I have to be Butch) went for a ride today.

I went out to the stable about 10:30 and moved some of the plastic strips out of the way and walked Ashke back and forth through the doorway until Ashke was comfortable going in and out. He really doesn't like the plastic brushing his ears. I guess it took Grace, Marit, and Anita to get Ashke to walk back into the stall yesterday when Grace was trying to take him out to the field. Samuel (the guy that works for Grace, cleaning the stalls, upkeep, maintenance, etc.) told me he loved how I worked with Ashke. That I was very patient and calm. I just figure upsetting Ashke isn't going to help anything.

Nicole got to the barn about 10:45 and we got tacked up. I decided to move my stuff up to the front tack room, since Ashke is right there and I am lazy. I put the saddle on him and tested it the same way Diane did. It felt a lot better. I made sure it was up over his withers and then tightened the breast piece and girth before letting Ashke walk off. He wasn't nearly as cinchy as he has been the past couple of times I put the saddle on him. Then I took him out and rode him a bit in the big arena. (Callie and Sundance were arguing in the round pen - which amused me to no end - but in the end, Sundance was successful.) I discovered while riding, that my posture was much better, with my heels beneath me in line with my hip and shoulder. With the saddle adjustment, it feels like it completely changed my riding position and Ashke seemed to enjoy it too. He walked out very nicely.

Once we were ready to go,  we headed out and turned right on 149th. When we were almost to Zuni, Ashke got very antsy. His neck was very tight and he was dancing. It felt like he was going to start rearing on me. I got very tense and uptight about his bouncing. Then Nicole started talking to me about what I needed to do. Listening to her broke me out of feeling like I was beginning to lose control. I turned Ashke in a circle to the left and then again to the right. Finally, he was able to walk forward (and stay at a walk) without jigging up and down. Nicole reminded me to breathe. I did and made my shoulders relax. From then on, Ashke was perfect. We still had some issues, but I didn't feel like he was being unsafe.

When we got to Zuni, we turned North and rode up to the opening to the horse trails. Turning west we stopped and both of us took off our sweatshirts. Nicole pointed out that I need to pick a different sweatshirt, since she was able to unzip hers and skin it off, while I had to take off my helmet to get mine off. She was right, it wasn't the smartest choice. Trying to do that on horseback is sort of like trying to take the sweatshirt off while driving. I had to take my helmet off to get the sweatshirt off. Next time I will make a smarter choice. I also realized I hadn't turned on my ride tracker, so I did it while we were waiting. So, I will post the map at the end of this post and that is where the map starts.

We did some trotting up the slight hill once we were moving west on the horse trail. We jogged south and then turned west again. That was when Ashke got silly. He didn't want to go forward. He backed up. I let him and then asked him to move forward. We did that a couple of times. Nicole asked if I needed to get off and I told her that I thought he would go forward if I was persistent. I was right. He moved forward the third time, although he did try to duck out to the right. I applied some leg to his right side and tapped him on the shoulder with the bat. He went forward and Callie followed. And then. . .

 This is Ashke's WTF face.

 This is Callie's WTF is that behavior.

Nicole and I wisely got off both of them. Which was a great idea since they were both snorting, dancing and acting up because of this:

 Freaking Dune Buggy for some kid's birthday party. Both horses lost their minds when it came close. We hand walked them for quite a while. The house was huge, with a swimming pool and big playground. And a freaking dune buggy!

 Callie still not sure she trusts the fence to keep the Dune Buggy away.

Ashke evaluating his options.
Nicole and I discussing the darn dune buggy.

We got back on after a bit of a walk, which is never my favorite thing to do because lifting my ass into the saddle at 50 is much more difficult than throwing my body onto my horse at 16. Getting older sucks! Anyway, we rode north to the canal. We turned right and followed the canal to Sheridan Parkway. There was a walk through that went under the bridge and Nicole thought it would be fun (as in the educational type of fun for the horses) if we went under the bridge. I dismounted, because I know Ashke is more willing to walk into hell if I am walking in front of him. Nicole thought she would try to ride through, but Callie just got to tight and so she dismounted too. As we were almost at the end, Nicole asked me what the hell was on the top of the walls of the passage way. I looked up and almost had a heart attack, thinking it was wasp nests. Once we were out, I went back in for pictures and realized it was cliff swallow nests.


 When I was a kid we had a mated pair of barn swallows who built a nest on our front porch every year. The nests are really cool and I'll beat it's a treat to watch the flock of them fly out all together.

 Don't they look like they are having a great time?

On the far side of Sheridan Parkway, there was a hill covered with huge sagebrush. We opted to ride up the hill and thread our way through the brush. Nicole thought it was great because she could use her legs to ask Callie to move around them. I loved it because it resonated with something very deep inside. I love the high prairie more than I can say.

"Coming home, Coming home, Tell the world I'm coming home."

 At that point we turned around and started home. Callie was feeling really good, so we cantered most of the way from Sheridan Parkway to the area where we could turn east for the barn. Maybe a third of a mile. Ashke wasn't handling Callie behind him very well, so Nicole moved up next to us and we tried again. Ashke thought that Callie being in front of him meant it was a race. I was nervous about the canal next to us and Callie pinning her ears at Ashke and sending him sideways. We had a bit of a tussle and I think Ashke ended up spiking himself in the mouth. We moved back down to a trot. When we turned east again, Callie picked up the canter and we followed right up to the point where Callie suddenly went sideways with Nicole. I slowed Ashke to a trot, because I didn't want Ashke suddenly going sideways. There was a scary water access hole there that could have been a horse eater. From there we walked the rest of the way.

 This is what Ashke's back looked like after I took the saddle off. The pressure pattern is much better. Ashke wasn't sensitive to my touch. I gave him a bit of a massage on both sides of his back, which he seemed to enjoy. Then he went back into his run.

 I need to add .75 of a mile and 30 minutes of riding time to this record, since I forgot to start the timer when we started the ride. So, five and a half miles in just under two hours. Not bad for where they are right now.

 Ashke looking out at the pasture horses. Callie is the dun in the foreground.

I must say Sundance (Nicole) is a lot of fun to ride with. She is adventurous but safe at the same time. Her intervention at the beginning of the ride saved Ashke and I a lot of pain and suffering. She also seems to enjoy riding out with me and Ashke. It's nice that both horses are at about the same place as far as training goes, since that puts us both on the same page with our ponies. Callie was a lot more bushed when she got home, but both Nicole and I think that's more mental than actually physically tired. She's still a baby. Ashke was tired, but not stumbling tired.

Next time, we have to pack a lunch. I have saddlebags we can throw stuff into and Nicole really needs a hydration pack. We seem to always ride over lunch. Go figure.