Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Seven Things

I've learned in the past year . . .

1. Weight

This is something that is going to be an issue with me for the rest of my life. Being over fifty means that my metabolism has slowed down and I am going to struggle to lose weight. My hormones are out of whack and I am perimenopausal. Although I feel no sorrow for my lost monthly visitor, I do know that my expected balancing of hormones has not happened. My metabolism has not kicked back in, and although I could get help in the form of creams or synthetic hormones, I am pretty committed to doing this the natural way. Taking Clomid to help myself become pregnant effected my body in ways that the doctors never mentioned, and I'm a little afraid of that happening again. Getting older sucks in a way you can't begin to imagine when you were 20, or 30 even.

In my mind I should look like I did at 20, but that's not what my reality is now. Until I took Clomid, I could eat anything I wanted, and as much as I wanted without worrying about my weight. That all changed in my late 30's. The toll of childbearing, clomid and my age are all working against me. I think the thing that is the most frustrating is that I am eating less, exercising more, and making better and healthier food choices and nothing has changed. Nothing. Ok, that's not entirely true, I am stronger and more fit than I was two years ago, and I have lost some weight, but it has not reshaped me back to my earlier body. I could try working out, but 1) I hate that, 2) I honestly don't have any extra time so I would have to exchange time with Ashke for time at the gym and what sane person would want to do that, 3) I already feel guilty about taking time away from J and T two nights a week to go to the barn. It would be even harder to justify going to the gym. Whatever calorie burn I get will be from spending time grooming, riding and hanging with my horse.

I could choose to cut calories, down to 1200 a day and lose weight. However, that's not a long term solution. I managed to do that a year ago and dropped some weight, but it was a struggle every day with hunger and anger and being cranky. It also involved fixing two meals, one for me and one for J and T. T is struggling to consume enough calories (oh, if only I could borrow a tiny bit of his metabolism) to fuel his burgeoning adolescence and so his meals need to have items I can't eat on 1200 calories a day. I try to prepare healthy food, with lots of fresh veggies and fruit, organic where possible and feel like our meals are nutritious and good for us. Almost all of our meals are home cooked. We don't eat fast food at all and try to limit our meals out to one time a week at a decent restaurant. (We haven't eaten McD's in ten years). I limit my portions. I am doing all of the things I know to do, without actually dieting. There are too many factors I am fighting. I've made the choice to be as healthy as I can and not worry about the weight. Either it will resolve itself or I will stay the weight I am.

Finally, I have to recognize that my weight does not define my ability to ride, get stronger or be more fit. The muscles that support my back, that add strength to my core, are getting stronger with each ride. Riding in the arena and working on all the gaits is forcing my body to strengthen and adapt. I can ride for several hours at a time, without being completely done in at the end of the ride. Just as I am requiring Ashke to do some movements that are difficult for him, so do I ask myself to ride for a length of time or in a gait that challenges my ability. Both my stamina and my overall strength are improving and I believe Ashke and I will be able to continue together on this path. I am pretty happy with my continuous improvement and my increased ability to ride the canter. Slowly, but surely, we will get there.

2. Endurance

When J and I first talked about me getting a horse, I really felt like I needed a goal or a job for us to focus on. That's what you do as an adult, even with horses. You find a "job" that interests you and then you work toward being successful at that job, whether it be dressage or equitation or endurance. I picked endurance. It was the one discipline, the one job, that I knew I could do on an Arabian. I had no real life understanding of what riding 50 or 100 miles would really be like, I just knew that riding for long periods of time over country I had never seen before would be the ticket for me. That was before I was introduced to pulsing down, vet checks, trails where horses could fall to their deaths, hot and rocky rides. I have no doubt I could get Ashke strong and hale enough to compete. He is a competitor in his heart. I just don't think I can do it. I don't think I can do it mentally or physically. At least not at the level we are talking about. 

I should have started this when I was much younger. I am not willing to risk myself or my horse in an endurance race when I am still this broken (I would say old too, but there are plenty of riders out there who are as old as I am who are competing. To quote Indiana Jones, "It's not the years, it's the mileage".) There are other things we can do and places I can ride. Maybe competitive trail rides or working equitation will give us a home. Or even, some low level dressage. Or maybe we will just focus on finding new places to ride to from our barn, new loops for us to ride. I love to explore our options and I know we have barely scratched the surface of the options available to us in our area. That presupposes we never trailer out, which I know I really want to do at some point in the future. There are lots of options and lots of fun riding to be had, with less structure and fewer goals, but good all the same.

3. Training

My memory must be faulty, because it seemed to me that when I trained Queenie it only took a winter and then we were done. I know that can't possibly be the case, because I rode and showed her for five years in 4-H, adding classes and patterns as we progressed. Then I did posse work and competed in rodeos until I was twenty. I drove cattle. But mostly I just rode for hours on end with no real goal in mind, just enjoyment of my horse and the freedom she represented. I luxuriated in my riding ability.

If you would have asked me a year ago, I would have told you Ashke would be trained and finished within 90 days. That is not the case. He is really good, but there are things I want him to be able to do that are going to take more time to learn, practice and perfect. It may take another year or two or who knows how long. It may even take some lessons with a trainer on my part to be able to do what I envision us doing. I understand, now, why they talk about Dressage in levels. It's because it takes time and effort and training to achieve the movements that Dressage requires. I think that is key when thinking about working with Ashke: there is no rush. We take what is good on each ride and try to add to it on our next one. It does help to have some goals or ideas of what I want to work on, but the most important part is to keep working.

4. Fitness

When Diane announced that Ashke was sound way back in March, I really thought my work was done. Ha! There is a lot that goes into making a horse balanced and muscled and strong and fit, above and beyond being sound. Yes, he can go for long trail rides. Yes, we can go up and down hills. Yes, we can walk, trot and canter. Is he equally fit on both sides? No. We are rough at the canter on the right lead. We struggle to move from the right to the left (pushing out off the right hind foot). There is weakness in his haunches at times when I feel him give out just a little from underneath me. He still needs work and working him means working me. I get stronger as he gets stronger.

The idea of training a horse in a specific manner or direction or through a particular riding sequence was completely foreign to me prior to this last year. Committing to work on the hard, difficult movements that will help him gain strength and fitness is something I never considered as a kid. Or even the last time I had a horse. I read a lot more now about how to work with horses, techniques and suggestions that will help with muscle and strength development. I provide balance and challenge both in managing expectations with Ashke and in goal setting. And probably  most important, I listen to him when he is communicating to me. I watch N work with Cassandra and try to apply what they do to what I am working on with Ashke. And I recognize we have some things that take time to correct. I try not to get in a rush. I try to be reasonable in my expectations.

5. Pain

I have accepted that I am going to have pain. Lower back pain, primarily, but also sore muscles and joints, especially after a significant ride. Seven years ago when the disc ruptured and the pain was overwhelming and treatment didn't include pain management other than ice and advil, I didn't want to do anything that would cause me to feel that level of pain again. I told J I would never ride again, because I was tired of it hurting. I was tired of being in constant pain. It took almost two years to become consistently pain free. Even then, I was hyperaware of my disc, afraid that a wrong step or movement would tweak the disc again. Pain in my lower back had been a constant companion since I was thirteen and I had finally experienced what it was like to not hurt. To not hobble out of bed in the morning unable to stand upright, feeling broken and weak.

I have taken an active approach to managing both my activity and the pain I am experiencing now. I wear a BoT back support (suggested by N) when I ride to help give my lower back the support it needs. I use ice and ibuprophen to help manage inflamation and  have changed how I sleep to support the muscles during the night. That has probably been the hardest thing, since I have slept on my stomach since I was little. Sleeping on my stomach causes a curve in my spine, which in turn puts pressure on the disc. Learning a new way to sleep that supports my back and allows the muscles to rest has been both frustrating and difficult. More than one night was spent sleeping in my recliner, because of the support it gave my back. I also use the BoT during my work day if my lower back is feeling especially strained. I have found, though, that as I get stronger, my need to wear it during the day has decreased.

6. Fear

I've been inordinately afraid that riding will reawaken my back injury, probably because that is what the chiropractor told me. It makes me stiff in the saddle and prevents me from letting my legs and back flex in time with Ashke's movement. Relearning to ride has been at least 70% learning to let go of the fear of pain and accept that this is something I have to go through in order to achieve what I want, which is to ride for hours on my horse. Riding out at speed, in walk, trot and canter, is a challenge. I have to actively focus on what we are doing, not on how my back is feeling. I need to ignore or not panic, at least, when I feel my back twinge. I need to identify the difference between muscle pain and nerve pain and not overreact to every little twinge. The muscles can and will get stronger, if I remain consistent in the work.

I have also worked through being afraid Ashke will throw me. Or bolt. Or buck. Or trip and fall on my head. Or behave in a way I wouldn't be able to handle. I wasn't afraid of falling or being fallen upon when I was young, but that was years before I had a son who needs me as his parent. I have so much to live for and to do still. I think my earlier lack of fear was at least partly a romance with death. It didn't matter to me then if I didn't make it to thirty. Now, I am more greedy and want at least a hundred. I want to see my grandchildren. Walk my son down the aisle. Watch him mature into a wonderful, sensitive, strong, loving, committed man, husband and father. All of that is lurking in the back of my mind every time I get on top of Ashke. I finally feel confident that not only can I effectively ride my horse, but I can also survive his moments of high energy and ants in the pants behavior. I know now his behavior isn't targeted at me, nor is it malicious in nature. It is just up.

7. Barn

I thought I had picked a great barn when I first moved Ashke to Colorado. It was clean and well-kept, with roomy box stalls. I knew I would need to stable Ashke separately from a herd, because he is so non-dominate when it comes to food. Otherwise, he would get beat up and driven away by the more dominate horses in the group. Ashke was a slow eater when I got him, which I thought was caused by his teeth needing floated, but now I think he just eats slow. At Christensen's, they really only wanted to feed four flakes a day, two in the morning and two at night. I don't think it was enough. He was also on the Amplify, which we provided, but I think the hay needed to be increased. Additionally, he was kept isolated in his box stall, which I never understood. Even when a horse was moved in next to him, it seemed to be temporary, a couple of weeks at a time, and then he would be alone again. The turn-out there was awesome and he was going out seven days a week with Cali and Stoli. That was the biggest thing I think both N and I miss about the barn. And of course, I met N there.

The things I like about TMR started with the Indoor Arena. It is everything we hoped it would be for riding indoors when the weather was bad. Ashke prefers to be outside and his favorite is a trail ride, but he is okay in the indoor arena as well. Once we moved in, Ashke was in a great run, with horses on either side of him. He can nuzzle and play under or through the fence with them. It isn't exactly a herd situation, but it's as close as we are going to get, because the boy needs to have his own feed. He still eats slow. One of the nicest things about TMR is that they feed four times a day, when you are in the barn, and three times a day if not. He can have up to seven flakes of hay a day and up to six pounds of grain. Right now he is on six flakes of grass and two pounds of Strategy. The grass is split between four feedings, with two flakes in the am and two at the last feeding at night. This system seems to suit him completely. His body looks awesome. We also haven't had any colic scares since we moved, which is great, since I think we had three when we were at Christensen's. There is plenty of room to ride and everyone there is super friendly. The judgement and hostility I felt at Christensen's is completely missing from this barn and I feel like we have found a home.

I was going to try and find 10 things to touch on, but I am out of ideas and have been working on this post for days. So we will settle with seven.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Rain in July

Did I mention the weather has been unusual this year. Usually we are in a heat wave, with days and days of temps in the high nineties and sometimes in the 100's. I think two years ago we had 22 days in a row 100+.

Today the high was 72 with rain.

We rode. The horses were not happy with us. They dragged their feet. Ashke attempted an Arabian buck protest, which involves kicking out with both hind feet, when asked for our first canter. They. Didn't. Want. To. Go.

It was fun.

It finally got to the point where both of them were balking, backing and refusing to move forward. I got off and led Ashke part of the way, but it became very obvious they were done with going out. We rode the canal and they are both smart enough to remember the way out is the way home and when we turn around they know exactly how to get home. Our other trails are all loops, so this is the only one with this issue. The fight was getting bigger and harder and the rain was coming down in droplets instead of a drizzle. There was a large black rock next to the trail and I told N that when we reached it, we would turn for home. I swear the horses understood, because they walked right up to that rock, touched it with their noses and then turned for home.

The ride home was much more energetic and forward than the ride out. There was a lot of trotting. Cali shortened her strides and Ashke lengthened his and we rode side by side at a trot through the mud puddles and standing water. When we got to the street we debated going down the road to the barn, since it is much shorter than riding to the soccer fields and then into the neighborhood. However, there is a fire department located at the canal and the street which had one of it's truck's lights on and we decided NOT to ride past it and down the road. It scares me a little to think of how freaked out Cali would be if a firetruck were to go past us. Like N said, we were already wet, a little more wasn't going to kill us.

When we reached the sidewalk leading to the neighborhood, there is a huge field to the North. We decided to trot. Ashke was very bouncy and so I asked him to leg yield to the right. N, who was watching me as we rode, told me to weight the right stirrup. I did and all of a sudden he was flying sideways. We worked both directions. I really need to force him to work to the right.

When we got to the footbridge it was covered with about half an inch of rain. Neither horse was excited about crossing and Cali stopped on her way over to paw at the water on the bridge. She was surprised when it didn't splash.

We got back to the barn pretty quick and very wet, but with huge grins plastered on our faces. Both of us have rain coats, but neither of us brought them.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Drop and Roll

This summer has been quite the unusual one, considering the weather. We had a day today that was partially cloudy, in the low 80's, with a nice breeze. J and T decided to ride with us and so we met N at the barn just before noon and got our stuff together. I had to groom and saddle Ashke in his stall, because there weren't enough grooming stalls and letting your horse stand in the grooming stall and dry takes precedence over someone who needs to saddle their horse. I mean, really?

The arrogance and inconsideration of some show riders . . . .

Finally, we were ready. I rode Ashke in the running martingale again, because he was so good on Thursday. N and I talked about why I was using it and what it changed for Ashke. N thinks maybe it gives him some support and comfort while we ride and he does better with the pressure of the martingale. All I know is that when I ask him to slow down, his head comes down and not up. There was no brace. We had several wonderful canters, he went up and down hills properly, and his trot was very good. We did have a couple of trips over really rocky ground, but I think that's a function of the boots.

Cali was very uptight today. She and Ashke spent at least part of the ride trading off pinning at each other. N felt like she was a bundle of dynamite waiting to explode for the first half of the ride. She got off a couple of times rather than risk an explosion.

We did an unusual route today, wandering through a fairly swank neighborhood looking at landscaping while J and T found a geocache. We ended up back on the Fairmount Trail and made our way back to Tucker Lake. The horses love Tucker Lake. Ashke has completely gotten over any hesitation about getting his feet wet.

I've experienced horses pawing the water, but Cali takes it to a completely different level. She deliberately tries to make as large a splash as possible. And I have never, never seen a horse splash with her hind feet.

And then this happened . . . .

One moment we were splashing and playing, and then . . . drop and roll. It was a very soggy ride back home. We stopped for about fifteen minutes and I took off my boots, poured water out of them, and wrung out my socks. His saddle pad was completely soaked and really muddy. Ashke seemed pretty happy with himself.

I know we didn't travel as far as it says we did. Based on past rides, we rode about nine miles. But the stopped timer worked on this ride, since I paused the app while we were stopped.

Can't wait for tomorrow.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Running Martingale

It has been months since I consistently rode with a martingale. Part of me believes I shouldn't have to, but I think that part of me could be wrong.

One of the things Ashke has taken to doing at the trot is pop his head up and kind of pop-bounce on his front feet. It's a similar feeling to him wanting to canter, but it's kind of more disjointed than that. He still braces against the bit. He still juts out his chin and throws his head up when we trot. He gets stiff and rigid and rough when he does that, and short of forcing him to lower his head by bracing my hands and the reins against the front of the saddle, I can't get him to soften and get his head down. I'm tired of fighting him constantly for half a dozen decent steps at the trot. I don't want my hands to be that hard on his mouth. I don't want him braced that strongly against me.

So, after a lot of thought, I put the running martingale on him last night.

It made a world of difference. He was great. He was magnificent. He was beyond words.

His head came down. He stopped bouncing against my hands. We stopped fighting. His trot was smooth and forward. He did every thing I have been asking him to do, including a nice canter to the left where we went around a couple of times. I had very little pressure on the bit to get him to respond. He turned on the forehand and on the haunches. We sidepassed and worked on the diagonal. He stopped and backed much better than before. I rode most of the night with the reins in one hand. If we are going to do working equitation, that is the way we need to ride.

Hard to think about riding without it, going forward, when I got such great results last night.

He seems so much more comfortable and responsive. And I'm going with what makes him feel better.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

He Done Good

Rode tonight while N was taking a lesson with Cassandra. Ashke did really well. I think he was sore in the lower back and his right hip, but we started with a slow warm up and he got better with movement. We walked and trotted, although he still pops his head up and tries to bounce into a canter, instead of dropping his head and trotting. I kept him moving forward and tried to keep my hands as soft on his mouth as I could. We had several  moments where he was relaxed and collected and soft on my hand at a trot, but they were hard to come by. I'm thinking we are still rehabbing muscles in his back and hips and that he will get better as we go.

I asked him to canter. I had to hang onto the pommel to feel secure, without increasing the pain in my back. I may have to ride that way in the arena until the muscles get stronger. At least we cantered at a smooth, rhythmic gait for several circuits of the outdoor arena. When we turned to the right it was harder for both of us, even with me holding on. He really struggles to bend that direction and keep his balance. The first circuit was smooth, but that's because he was on his left lead. When we switched to the right lead, he was rough and difficult to stay with, and I could really feel him trying. It's a lot more painful for me too, so we did as much as we could before I turned us back to the left. This was the first time we were cantering in the arena that I didn't feel like he was trying to take off or running downhill with me.

We finished up with lateral work. He can turn on the forehand and the hind in both directions. We can move across the arena on the diagonal, although he moves more sideways (like a sidepass) than diagonal (like in dressage). I'm actually okay with that since working equitation uses the sidepass at speed vs the diagonal for the obstacle course. Maybe on Thursday night I will pull the poles into the big arena and do some pole bending with him.

Overall, he did awesome. I cold hosed his back and hip tonight, after he followed me into the wash stall without hesitation. Hopefully, he won't be sore on Thursday when I go to ride him again. I'm so proud of him I could cry.

Sunday, July 21, 2013


I'm beginning to rethink the whole leave-the-horse-barefoot thing. Ashke is tender on his front feet again. Just like last summer. I think between the rain and the constant pawing he does in his stall, he has managed to wear away the tips of both his toes. I got more foam core to go into his boots, so that he has a little bit of cushion when we trail ride, but I can't ride him in the boots if we are going to be in the arena.

Insert four letter word here.

So, today, I went to the barn with J. Liz was there photographing another horse, who was misbehaving, so she asked me if she could get some shots of Ashke at Liberty in the arena. I said sure, and took him out.

I could tell from the moment I turned him loose that there was something off with him. He just wasn't moving like he was last night when we let him loose with Cali. I thought maybe it was the fact that this was the third day in a row and he just really wasn't interested in running. I got him to move around and Liz got some nice pictures. Then, after I put his halter back on, he demonstrated his ability to jump a crossbar. After we did that a couple of times, I made the crossbar a vertical and he went over it twice more.

Again, the photos you are about to see are copyrighted by Elizabeth Lord.

He would trot right at her, all arched neck, flared nostrils and pricked ears, never getting too close.

I remember a year ago when he couldn't trot over cavalletti or jump a simple raised bar because his back and hips were so weak. He's still not sure about the timing, but he certainly was willing to try.

After our photo shoot, I took him in and groomed him. His right butt was sore. I'm thinking the little bit of jumping we've done in the past three days has made that right hip sore. I did some massage on it before saddling him up. He seemed eager enough when I got on him, but he was really short striding on the front and his trot was rough. I couldn't get him to stride into his walk. I asked him for a short canter and got this:

I stopped, took him back to the barn and unsaddled. I gave him a little bit of bute and some apple bites. We will rest it and see how he is on Tuesday night.

He was so sweet walking back to the barn from the arena. He kept reaching out his muzzle and just barely touching the back of my shirt. I think he was very confused by why we had stopped riding so soon.

Not the Tevis and Some Videos

So, the Tevis Cup race happened yesterday. For those of you who are not familiar, it is an 100 mile race from Tahoe, NV to Auburn, CA, and was my professed goal when I started talking about getting a horse and the main reason I wanted an Arabian. The temps in the canyon were 120 degrees and most of the ride was above 100. One horse was put down during the race yesterday after falling off the trail. 47% of the riders and horses that started the race, completed.

I was following the race on FB and reporting to J the posts I was reading. She told me I'm not to ride that race. I think she's right. The three reported falls this year all occurred with experienced riders and horses. I'm not willing to risk either myself or my horse. I'm thinking we need to do something other than endurance. Trail riding for sure. There is a group based in Denver that does backcountry riding and camping that might be fun. I'm just going to have to see.

Spent the day with my family and N's. At a pool. It was a lot of fun and T had a great time horsing around with R and J. N's Mom was in town and it was great to meet her. After the pool, we went back to N's house for dinner and then over to the barn to let Ashke and Cali run.

They seemed pretty happy to be able to play. After they tore around for a while, I demonstrated to N and the watchers how Ashke has learned to go over the little crossrail. J videoed it.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Friday Night

. . . is usually Family Date night for the three of us, but I hadn't seen Ashke since Tuesday and J told me to go see him after work. We both knew I wouldn't have time to ride him, but I could at least go out and let him know I was still alive.

I got to the barn about 4:30 and pulled him out of his stall to give him a good groom. He has definitely lost weight since I pulled him off the alfalfa, and overall looks pretty darn good. I took him out to the big outdoor arena, since no one was in there, and he was tugging and head bobbing as soon as I got the gate closed. I released him and he began to race up and down the arena at a canter to a dead run for about fifteen minutes.

He ran himself until he was pretty sweaty. My fav is when he got to the far end of the arena and turned toward me, his head stretches out and you can tell he is running as fast as he knows how to run.

I had to ask three times before he would let me approach. Not that he was being disrespectful, he just wasn't done. Once he was finally done with racing around like a wild Arabian, I put him on the lunge line and fixed up a cross rail in the arena. We started very low and I asked him to go across it on the lunge line. I wasn't trying to force him, rather I was asking him.

He jumped it the first time and I said "good boy". He stopped and looked at me, with his ears up and a bright look on his face. I made a big deal out of it, petting and praising to let him know that's what I wanted. Once he had it figured out, he went over the cross rail in both directions at a  trot with no hesitation. My only issue was flipping the lunge line up and over the jump standard without tangling the line.

For you hunter/jumper types, I don't plan on jumping. This is mostly rehab and an opportunity for Ashke to figure out how to go over obstacles while we are on the trail. Mostly, though, it is rehab for his back and butt. A year ago, he couldn't trot over poles without dragging his hind legs, now he was hopping over a 18" crossrail without issue. And it keeps him interested in what I am doing with him, which I honestly think is going to be a real challenge. I want to create a set of raised cavelletti poles, like the ones Dom was working Traz over, so we can work on timing and him lifting his feet to work through them. Maybe not as high to start with though. And I need to find out the correct spacing for Ashke.

Friday, July 19, 2013

20 Things

I haven't done a post like this in a while, thought it would be fun.

1. His Eye

2. How he very carefully takes my shirt into his mouth without ever touching skin and just holds it, kind of feels like holding hands.
3. How he wiggles his nose and waggles his head when I find a real itchy spot when grooming him.
4. How when we approach an obstacle and he hesitates and I say "good boy" he moves forward.
5. His interest in everything around him.
6. How he looks for and follows J on her bike when we are riding together.
7. His growing trust that he is safe with me.
8. How protective he behaves toward me.
9. How he will whinny when he hears my voice, even if I'm not in the barn.
10. How he whinnies when I walk out of the tack room to groom him, like he missed me terribly when I was only gone for 30 seconds.
11. How he whinnies when he hears N's voice.
12. How he and Cali nicker sweetly to each other when they see each other after an absence.
13. How much more relaxed and happy he is when we are riding with N and Cali.
14. How he walks without hesitation into the lake.
15. How he is figuring out the gate thing and becoming an active partner with me on that obstacle.
16. The pawing and splashing in the lake. Makes me smile.
17. How he carries his tail flagged when we ride together.
18. The fact that he is willing to jump over ditches and low logs and even a crossrail. Tells me his back has gotten so much stronger.
19. His eagerness going out and his unflagging energy.
20. How he listens to my requests to go slow, even when Cali is cantering away from him.

I can't begin to tell you how incredible this horse is. He might not ever show, and that's just fine by me. We may never do a competitive trail ride, and that's okay too. We will ride for hours and hours, with J and N and T, and I will never tire of that.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Best Ride Ever

T spent the night at a friends house. The sky was grey and threatening rain. Most of the Front Range was under a Flash Flood warning. It had rained heavily and noisily the night before. It didn't stop us, however. We loaded up saddle covers, rainslickers and brought halters, figuring if it got really nasty we would cover the saddle and hand walk the horses home. Everyone we saw at the barn thought we were crazy or stupid or some combination of the two.

Ashke knew when he saw J and her bike that she was part of his herd for the ride. He would look for her to make sure she was still with us. J said afterwards that it was really obvious he was making sure she was still there.

Can you see the heavy grey clouds? The temps were perfect - in the mid-70's for most of the ride. It would have been blazing hot if there hadn't been cloud cover.


We moved pretty quick. Our slowest mph was 4.4 per mile and our fastest was 16.5 mph. They didn't break a sweat until we were almost home, mostly because the sun came out.

We did a lot of trotting at first. I'm still struggling with balance and pain when we canter. I think my pain reaction is setting off Ashke, causing him to react in a not smooth way, which increases my pain issue. 

It also doesn't help that they want to race each other when we canter. We tried with Ashke in front and with Cali in front. Cali did fine in both positions, but Ashke fought me so hard, with his nose straight up in the air, that we were doing more of a stiff legged bounce than a canter.

Cali is much faster at the trot and canter. Ashke struggles to stay with her when she is moving that fast. At the walk, however, Ashke kicks butt.

We only had a couple of spooks and most of those were due to foreseeable obstacles, like the large piece of cardboard behind Cali. Both horses are becoming trail rock stars.

It was such a fun ride.

More trotting. This would be a perfect place for a canter, but we always ride it downhill. Maybe next time we will go the other way. Although, I'm not sure J will be interested in doing the switchback uphill on her bike. The long downhill would be fun.

J kept going out in front of us and stopping to take pictures.

I don't think N ever stops smiling.

Picking our way through the prickly pear.

The only issue we are still having is Ashke is still trying to figure out what to do with his butt so he doesn't hit the outside pole with his left hip. He struggles at the barn with this issue as well. I think I need to cue him to sidepass a couple more steps toward the gate, before we start to walk forward. The good news was, he didn't completely freak out and pull me away from the gate, he listened to my leg cue when I was asking him to step in, and he moved forward toward the gate when I asked him to. It was a huge win, in my opinion. Yes, there are a couple of things I can work on to make it smoother, but over all I was really happy. And he got a peppermint.

Ashke walked right into the water. I think he would have headed for the center of the lake if he could have. I'm going to need to get comfortable riding him bareback so we can pull their boots, strip off the gear and take them out far enough they can try swimming.

The trail is really pretty around the lake.

There were several opportunities to canter, some of which I opted out of but N and Cali took full advantage of.

Ashke finally figured out he wasn't going to be left and started listening to my requests rather than trying to tear away from me. Next time we will canter this path. It looked really fun.

At the top of the hill, we stripped off the bridles and used the halters to allow them a moment of grazing and to give J a breather. She kicks butt on the downhill, but we have her beat on the uphill.

He looks happy, doesn't he?

We cantered most of the way up the hill. We slowed a couple of times to give me a breather and to scout out the terrain, but overall, we cantered for over a mile. I felt like Ashke was beginning to get what I wanted from him and to give it to me, if only for a few strides at a time. I also let him run full out for a couple of hundred yards two or three times. He was more willing to be collected once he was allowed to run full out. N said Cali has such a pop on her when she is allowed to run that N is rocked back in the saddle. It's the QH in her. She can dust Ashke over short distances, although he has her beat for distance.

After the fiasco of last weekend, when we almost fell down the hill because my boy wouldn't pay attention or listen to me when I asked him to slow down and get his butt under him, he was perfection on downhills. We went down a couple of fairly steep, single horse trails and every time he walked down them with his butt under him on a loose rein. I didn't even have to do anything, he just figured it out.

Cali did so much better this ride than last. She never found a quick walk and there were several times when N thought she was exhausted, however, she was still cantering right up to the end of the ride. She and Ashke absolutely love riding with one another.

There was minimal traffic on the sidewalk for the entirety of our ride. I think the heavy clouds and flash flood warnings scared everyone off. We were both happy about that.

J says she can tell he's happy because his tail is always up and his ears are always foreward. 

We saw one garter snake, which brings the snake total this year to one rattler, one bull and one garter. The horses haven't reacted to them at all. Yet.

Cali did great. N said she had a great time and we both were grinning ear to ear most of the ride.

The horses knew they were on the last leg home. The ground gets really uneven and rocky, but we managed an uphill canter to the top of the hill, where Cali promptly shied at a police car parked on the side of the road on Hwy 93. J was waiting for us to follow her and couldn't figure out where we had gone. So limited pictures of that part of the ride.

Ashke checking in on J.

Really great picture of N and Cali.

We are coming!!

Starting to feel the miles.

Ashke loves looking for J.

Finally back on the canal trail.

I think we would have been content to walk the rest of the way home, except we were swarmed by gnats. N had to use her dressage whip to help clean them off my shirt and helmet. We decided to out run them and cantered the last bit of the canal trail.
I managed to miss taking a photo of the first page of Runmeter to post. So I had to use the history view in the calendar page. Not nearly so pretty. And the ride time and stop time are still screwed up. We may have stopped for a total of 35 - 40 minutes, but not more than that. The app isn't reading the pace when we are traveling at a walk is what I think is happening. So a better title than stopped time would be walking time and stopped time. So we walked for an hour, trotted and cantered for an hour, and rested at a stop for about 30 minutes. Our average speed is almost double what it was the last time we rode out together.