Monday, September 30, 2013

More of the Horses: Day 4 Blog Challenge

Again, I do not believe I can list all of the horses that made me who I am today, so this is the next installment in the series.

Before we start, I want to say, that as a horsewoman and horse owner now, I would never condone some of my behavior or actions as a kid. I grew up in the 1970's, given free rein to roam all over our county and some days I would leave the house in the early morning and not return until dusk. I was expected home for dinner, and we had chores, but other than that, we were free to do whatever we could think up. Some of those things were dangerous and deadly, like playing Planet of the Apes with real BB guns, horses and bailing twine nets. We spent a lot of time with neighbor kids, unsupervised. Our horses were always part of that. We also grew up in the West, where kicking your horse in the belly is standard behavior for the farrier, cruel bits were normal and whipping your horse to get results, expected. I have learned to forgive myself for some of the things that I did, but because of  events in my childhood, I am also committed to brutal honesty when facing the things that happened, with my horses, as well as everything else. As all things, the events and activities of my childhood helped to shape the woman I am today. They happened and they should be acknowledged and remembered honestly.

One of the things I forgot to mention, in 1976 when I was working with Sham (I was 14) I was given a broke down old buggy. I found two motorcycle wheels at a junk yard and managed to piece together harness from rope and bailing twine and I taught that little booger to drive. I used two bits in his mouth, a curb to stop him if needed and a snaffle for most of the time. He would drive all over our county with me and my sister in the buggy seat. Our last drive was to the post office to pick up a package. It was about six miles round trip and he trotted most of the way. As we were pulling into our front yard and preparing to stop, one of the wheels on the buggy locked up and began making the worse noise. Sham bolted. For one brief moment I tried to stop him and then screamed at my sister to jump. She bailed out one side and I bailed out the other. Sham headed across the yard, up and over the 20' high pile of chopped wood we had been stacking for winter heat, across one end of the garden, jumped the gate into where the horses were grazing, tore around that enclosure at his top speed while the other horses snorted and fled in terror, dragging the buggy upside down behind him. It ended with him attempting to jump out of the grazing area by going over the wire fence, which he almost made despite the fact that the buggy was being pulled behind him upside down through all of that fiasco. He went down in a billowing pile of dust. I screamed at my sister to get the corn and wire cutters as I raced down the road to grab his head. I hung on an ear, with my hand clamped to his nose until he calmed down. Then we cut him loose, brought him back home and stitched him up. A small three inch tear in the inside of his thigh was the only injury, although we never again tried to use the buggy.

Sometimes I think it was a miracle we all made it to adulthood.

Crystal: Crystal was Tinka's last foal. I have no idea who the daddy was, because we did not deliberately breed her due to her age. It might have been our neighbor's three year old Appaloosa stallion who thought crossing ditches and fences a real lark, and who always put himself back in his own pasture before daylight. Or it might have been our one year old colt between his first and second gelding. (I'll explain that in a bit.) Anyway, Crystal was a neatly put together little filly, dark chestnut with a lighter mane and tail (she might have been liver chestnut) who was an in-your-pocket type of filly. She was born in the spring of 1978 and was a tiny thing. I spent a lot of time working with her for the 4-H county show. She was as well trained as a dog, and would stand square without cueing. I picked her up and carried her to the front door to show my mom when Crystal was only a couple of hours old. I think it left a lasting impression. I do know anytime I wanted her to do something and she wasn't exactly sure, I would pick her up and put her where I wanted. She was a sweet heart and very well trained and I had hoped to be able to give her to my little brother (he was the other riding fiend in our family, who would ride Tinka out by herself when he was four), when she got a little bit bigger. I figured she would be perfect about the time he was eight (he was 8 years younger than me). Unfortunately, at five months old, when we weaned her and sold Tinka, she began to fail. I hadn't realized that she really didn't eat a lot of grass, subsiding almost predominately on mare's milk. After several vet visits and her declining health, the vet finally determined (I'm not sure how) that she had a pre-existing condition that didn't allow her the ability to digest grass or grain. I was sick with pnuemonia at the time but I remember my mom telling me the vet said there was nothing we could do and what did I want to do about her declining state. I told my mom we needed to have her put down the next morning. When we got up the next morning she had died during the night. I really don't know in retrospect why the vet didn't insist on doing that when he was there. I didn't know until years and years later that she wasn't able to digest solid food and blamed myself for her death. I was absolutely convinced I had done something wrong and that's why she died.

One of my favorite memories of Crystal was the day my paternal grandparents came to visit and it was raining. My mother wasn't home and I really wanted my grandparents to see Crystal, so I picked her up and carried her into the house. She wasn't in the house for longer than five minutes and was wonderfully behaved and then I carried her back outside. When my mother got home and found out she was furious. I was grounded for something like a week and I was really pissed, feeling like the punishment wasn't fair because my father had been there the entire time. The next time both my parents were gone, my sister and I took all six horses in the house. We stood Tinka, Sham, Ace and Queenie at the kitchen sink eating grain out of a bucket. Then we took Crystal and Shadow Dancer down to the bedroom and laid them on the bed. (By the way, not something I would recommend. I have nightmares now about the kitchen floor of our 1940's built farm house collapsing under the weight and dropping all of us into the coal chute in the basement. This is why I don't leave T alone with friends ever!) My mother didn't find out for years. My sister finally spilled the beans in the middle of a fight (we no longer lived in that house and I know longer lived with my mom) with my mother, which derailed the fight, but got me in deep trouble the next time I saw my mom. It can still make her angry and she probably has steam coming out her ears reading this. (I love you mom!! I was a bad kid. I'm very sorry.)

I thought I was going to write about Queenie in this post, but there are so many memories surrounding this horse, that I am going to wait. She will be a post all of her own. Maybe two. It's brought tears to my eyes just thinking of it and I want to do our story justice. So, perhaps tomorrow.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Not all the horses: Day 4 of the Blog Challenge

This blog is supposed to describe the important horses in your life. It will take more than one blog to do justice to this topic. At least the stories should be entertaining.

Muffin: four year old palomino appaloosa mare. First solo ride. Earliest memory of my father being thrown from her back onto the roof of our old chicken coop.

Seabisquit: First pony of my own and probably 20 years old when we got him. He was a complete shit. Hard mouthed. Stubborn. Crafty and mean. I had bruises on my chest from where he double barreled me with his hind feet. I have a Lisfranc fracture on my left foot from where he stomped me. He was my first wreck on my very first ride. He didn't teach me to be soft - he taught me to be brutal. I broke a wooden gate with my face when he slid to a stop with his head ducked and I flew over his head and hit the gate. He was sold to us by family, which tells you something about my family. I broke my hand falling off of him while playing Civil War soldier. You couldn't turn him and you couldn't stop him, even with a gate, and I got a lot of practice finding a soft place to land when he was racing home.

Tinka: Bought for my brother, who hated horses. She was a 23 year old Welsh pony and very well trained. I learned to summersault off her back and roll to my feet standing next to her, since she would stop as soon as she felt you move. She was a wonderful ride and my sister did really good on her in 4-H. Even though she was in her twenties, she gave us two foals, Sham and Crystal, and she did a solid job in 4-H for 10 years.

There was one summer when my sister and I did 4-H camp in the Palisaides area of Idaho. It was a lot of fun. We spent three days riding all day long and our nights in a cabin with a bunch of other girls. The last full day we had, the camp did a trail ride up into the mountains. I was riding Queenie and D was on Tinka. We got up to the place they had lunch set up for us. We ate and then started back. D and I got separated in the group on our way back. D went with the main trail ride leader and they headed back to camp. The group I was with made a bad turn and we ended up going down a narrow, ravine like creek. Queenie was frantic for her herd mate and made that trip on her hind legs, whinnying non-stop for Tinka. We didn't know how to get back to the main camp, since our guides were lost and going back up the wet, slick ravine didn't seem smart. The area around Palisaides is wilderness and we could have been in serious trouble, except for D and Tinka. When they got back to camp and Tinka realized we weren't there, she turned and headed back out, encouraged by D. Tinka led D to our group, probably called by Queenie's frantic cries, and then turned and led us back to camp. She was an amazing horse and did a great job for us.

Sham: God, I hated this horse. He was half welsh pony and half something else (QH maybe). He was mean from the moment he hit the ground. The first time my brother tried to ride Tinka after Sham was foaled, Sham reared up and struck my brother in the ribs with his ears pinned and his mouth wide open, trying to remove the rider from his mom's back. He was supposed to be my sister's horse, but I was the only one stupid enough to try and work with him. He would bite at anything that came close to his mouth. He could cow kick, which meant even up next to his shoulder he could get you with a hind hoof. At one of the 4-H shows, I was cleaning his hooves and he popped me in the mouth with his hind hoof. (I ended up getting six horrible stitches in my mouth at the emergency room - four of them fell out before the end of the day - and made it back to show my foal.)

When Sham turned one, he became a hellion. He was a stallion still and I couldn't keep him in our pasture. I tried hobbling him. Front hobbles didn't work, he just moved both front feet at the same time. I tried hobbling both front and back. That didn't work. I tried tying all four feet together in a square about 18" to each side. This worked briefly, and I was feeling somewhat vindicated in slowing him down. However, after throwing himself four or five times and struggling back to his feet (I still have no idea how he managed) that sumbitch figured out how to hop like a freaking jackrabbit. I stood in the pasture with despair in my heart as I watched that like bugger hop over to the fence and then fall into it. You could hear the staples popping off the wood posts as he carried the fence to the ground, rolled to his feet on the other side and took off for greener pastures and in heat mares on the other side. I went after him, brought him back and tied him to a tree. (Have to wonder why a twelve year old was responsible for all of this stuff, but that's how it was. The horses were my kingdom.) Then I fixed the fence. Then I put Sham in a stock corral on the property. By the way, Sham was about 13.1h and could jump like a jackrabbit. The top rail on the stock corral was over six foot tall with a irrigation ditch on the back side. Sham reared up and touched his nose to the top of the corral, dropped down and jumped the fence and the ditch on the other side. (I did jump him informally over a pole placed a top a set of barrels - maybe 3'6" to 4' - and he could clear that height with me on him bareback.) When I finally caught him, several miles away from home in a pasture with a herd of mares, I took him back and used a single leg hobble and tied him to a tree. I kept him that way until the vet came out to take away his desire.

And then, my idiot father who was the FFA teacher at our school, talked the vet into Proud cutting that little bugger. Proud cut is when the vet takes the testicles but leaves the tissue that controls the hormone levels of a stallion. They left that horse shooting blanks, but still wanting to shoot. It did slow down his need to escape - instead he seemed pretty content with his small herd of horses - but it didn't help with his attitude toward humans. Me in particular.

The year my father and mother divorced I was fifteen. All of my sibs went to Southern California to spend time with my maternal grandparents and I was left at home with my horses and a ton of time. My mother and I knew we needed to thin our herd of six and we decided to sell Tinka and Sham. Thus began my summer of riding to produce a horse we could sell. I would start with lunging him in both directions for over an hour. By the end of the summer, Sham was very well conditioned. Then I would saddle him and swing on. At this point in our relationship I was riding him in a snaffle bit and a western saddle. As soon as I was on, Sham would swing his head around and try to bite me. I would jerk his head around and we would spin in a circle until we were both dizzy. Finally, Sham would give and stop spinning, at which point I would straighten him out and he would swing around to bite my other leg. His nose would meet the toe of my boot and then we would spin again. We did that process in both directions several times until he was bored. Finally, I would get him straightened out and he would lean hard on the bit, steady, relentless, and I would shorten and shorten my reins until his chin was almost to his chest. At that point Sham would rear and lunge forward, throwing all of his weight on his head and jerking me forward over his neck, then with vicious forethought, Sham would snap his head back into the middle of my face. He broke my nose twice and my glasses four times that summer. (I'm a slow learner.) I finally figured out how to let the reins slide through my hands when he lunged forward, then met his head with a stout stick when he threw it up hoping to catch my face. At that point I had some semblance of control and we would head for the back 40 where we would ride the edges of the alfalfa and wheat fields (edges of a 40 acre field) at a gallop until he was ready to relax and listen. At that point, I could work on walk/trot. By the end of the summer, he was as broke as he was going to be. We sold him and his mother to a young woman to be a 4-H project. I really hope she had better luck with him then I did.

That was four. Time for a break. I will tackle the other horses of my youth next time.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Ummmm. Well.

I bought a horse in 1992. She was a National Show Horse by the name of Keili. She was unregistered, out of Legionaire Domain (American Saddlebred), four years old with horrible ground manners. She wasn't started under saddle and she hadn't been handled very much at all. When I went to see her, she flipped her head while I was leading her and smashed me in the head, breaking my glasses. (That tacked $300 onto the purchase price.) She was the only horse I looked at and I paid $700 for her. Everything about that transaction was the absolute wrong way to buy a horse. So, you ask, why did I purchase her? Because I was stupid and thought I could do anything I wanted with any horse I brought home. And the price was decent for a horse I thought would meet my needs.

I got her, partly because I always want a horse, (it's a obsession) and partly because I wanted to do dressage. Dressage to me, at that point, was this elegant, intricate show thing and somewhere in the back of my head I could see myself riding dressage in the Olympics. At that point I knew nothing about warmbloods, OTTBs, or any of the other horses used in Grand Prix and dressage. All I knew about dressage was that it was a way of riding your horse so that it "danced". I thought a National Show Horse could be a great dressage horse.

Keili and I never really clicked. I didn't realize until several months later, that the BM at the place where I was boarding her, took it upon herself to work her when I wasn't around. Her methods weren't gentle, which increased Keili's psychotic behavior, something I wasn't understanding. Keili wouldn't stand tied and the BM decided to put a rope around her belly and run it up through the halter ring. The first time she pulled back I guess she flipped herself through the fence. I think that was the second time in her life that Keili was tied. It left a lasting impression. I couldn't figure out why this horse kept breaking halters and lead ropes. After a couple of months I was able to ride her, but she never became stable, calm or steady. And there was nothing Dressage about our riding. Usually it was me looking for a soft place to land when she went sideways at speed because she didn't like the shape of a shadow under a bush. I really think she would have made an Endurance horse, because she would go all day at speed and still have a ton of energy at the end of the ride.

I finally sold Keili after she jerked back at the end of a lead rope, thinking she was about to be eaten by a mountain lion disguised as a saddle stirrup. When she hit the end of the rope the railroad tie she was tied to snapped off at the ground and I suddenly had a psychotic mare attached to a 6 foot long, one foot square, 35 pound battering ram. It was like watching your worse nightmare come true. I was pretty sure she was going to kill herself. When the post whacked her in the forehead and she went down, I was sure she was dead. She scrambled to her feet and for once, held still. I got to her and released the rope. She was bruised and nicked up, but no major damage was done. I knew, however, that I was in over my head. I sold her a week later.

I had forgotten that barely recognized dream from 20 years ago when I first got Ashke. My focus this time was endurance riding (and once again I was as ignorant of that discipline as I was of dressage twenty years ago) and although I have the right breed of horse to do it, I'm not sure he will ever be sound enough. Nor do I think I want to trot for that long. Ever. So, the point of this post? I am now riding dressage. I had my first lesson on Tuesday and then I practiced what we went over on Weds and Friday. And the really cool thing, Ashke is doing it. Twenty years later and with my heart horse, I'm finally learning the beginning steps in this incredible dance.

At least we were.

We had a set back today. I met N at the barn at 1:30 to ride the Mesa. Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately, Cali's LF leg was just slightly swollen and warm. She had a splint there a year or so ago and it seemed like it was bothering her again. The area with the most heat however was the outside of her fetlock, so I kind of wonder if maybe she knocked it into something. N was disappointed, but I told her it was fine if we didn't ride out. It was better to be safe then to risk a bowed tendon or other issue that might sideline them for several weeks. We decided that I would ride Ashke and Cali could graze. N agreed to take some pics for me.

When we got to the dressage arena, I lunged Ashke briefly. He seemed really stiff and sore to me, but he wasn't favoring any of his steps. He also wasn't stretching into his walk, like I know he can. After a few turns in each direction, during which he was flawless, I attached the sidereins and lunged him again.

He tries so hard and he really is willing to try and lift his back to propel himself forward.

For any of you who have been following this blog, you know how much of a struggle I've had with him bringing his head down. I'm now convinced this is a product of weakness in his back from being starved almost to death AND the damage done by some idiot trainer that thought wrapping a rope around his hind leg and dropping him on his hip was a grand idea.

Ashke was tracking up okay, but just didn't seem smooth or loose. N and I talked about how he was moving, but couldn't really pin point what the issue seemed to be.

I am riding him with N's Back on Track dressage pad, to help stimulate blood flow and warmth in the muscles that need help. What I really need is a rump rug to cover his loin area to help warm his muscles before work. I have placed the 3' by 4' BOT pad on my list for Christmas.

We didn't really spend a ton of time on the side reins. Once Ashke had done a couple of W/T transitions I halted him and got ready to ride.

He was not nearly as good today as he had been last night or on Weds. I rode him for three or four circuits of an about 20m circle, and he did not want to be in a frame. He was struggling to extend his trot and he started doing the headflip, lift his front feet off the ground every time I asked. N wanted me to get some propulsion at the trot, but it was like pulling teeth to get him to move. When I turned him to the left, it became apparent why.

He was very lame to the left. Head-bobbing lame. I think I asked too much too soon. I rode him on Tues, Weds and Friday. That was as much as his muscles were going to deliver.

I immediately stopped, got off and hand walked him to the stable. Then N and I walked both of our horses back out to the arena and let them graze.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

First Lesson

Cassandra met me in the barn and I showed her the areas that are effecting Ashke, where his pain is, what's improved and what's bothering him right now. She helped me fit his shin boots (for the trail when he is in danger of knocking his ankles into rocks) and then helped me with our new dressage bridle. I got it at Dover on Sunday with N, in a cob size, since his face is so refined. When we tried it on, it fit the length of his face and the circumference of his nose perfectly, but the browband was way to small. Cassandra pulled a browband off her bridle for me to use and we got it fitted on him. He looked so darn cute.

We went to the dressage arena and I let Cassandra get a feel for him. She lunged him in both directions for a few minutes as we waited for his leg to loosen and warm up. He was pretty stiff on the RH, the same area we've been having issues with since the cavaletti poles and small jump. As he worked, the stiffness got better and so Cassandra put the side reins on him. He was so good for her. He worked at the walk and trot in both directions and he was soft on the bit. Our only moment of stress was when he backed over the carriage whip and it contacted the back of his right leg. He leapt into the air like a cat and flicked his feet the same way. I really need to do some work this winter with him and ropes. Based on the scars on the inside of his right leg, he's tangled with wire at some point in the past, so it will take time and patience to get him comfortable with them.

After working him in the side reins, Cassandra rode him for a little bit. She asked me if he had ever been ridden in spurs and I told her I thought that would be a really bad idea. He is so sensitive that the extra sharpness of spurs might elicit a response she wouldn't be happy with. Frankly, I thought he might dump her on her head if she tried her spurs. She was laughing as she took them off. He wasn't excited about her getting on him, and he snapped at me when he realized he was expected to stand still for her. When she got on, he tried to back out from under her. I was a little worried he was going to rear on her, but he didn't. He just backed up and got a little bunchy. She took her time and rubbed his neck, talking to him, until he calmed down and then asked him to move forward. He did. Then the most amazing thing happened. He reached down for the bit.

Cassandra talked to me about what she was doing while she was riding Ashke. How she was asking him and how she was releasing the ask when he did what she requested. She said he was super sensitive and was doing what she was asking with the slightest pressure. I was freaking impressed. She said he was super smart and had figured it out after being shown one time. She also said he was trying really hard to do what she was asking, but was struggling because it was hard.

Then it was my turn. Cassandra was impressed with how much more relaxed and willing Ashke became once I got on him. She took my hands and showed me the amount of pressure I needed to use when I was making contact with his mouth. Then she had me walk and trot, asking him to round his back and move from his hindquarters. She worked with me until I had a walk to trot transitions and a trot to walk transition in either direction with him still lifted underneath me. She showed me and talked me through doing the transitions without him throwing his head up and hollowing his back. It felt amazing. He was amazing. We have something to work on for the next couple of weeks, as long as I can remember how to do what she was telling me to do.

When we were done, I bedded him down with some bute. I'm hoping a couple of doses will help him come back to a pain free place.

Day 3 Blog Challenge - Best Ride Ever Redefined

This blog is filled with the many and varied doings of myself and my horse, sometimes with others and sometimes alone. My definition of Best Ride Ever changes with each new adventure. So I want to talk about something a little different - why I am able to have these incredible horse moments.

J. My wife and partner and soul home, who enables and encourages my fascination with my horse and our time sucking activities, who was the first to say, "he is going home with us." She, who is terrified of horses yet is the first to defend my need to cover myself in horse smell, has been unwavering supportive of this mid-life adventure. In fact, J is the only reason this really works.

During the week, when I go to the barn, she picks up T from football, takes him home, walks all three dogs, feeds the animals, fixes dinner, supervises homework and evening snack, empties and fills the dishwasher, and does laundry just so I can spend my evening grooming and riding. This last weekend, while N and I were touring the top of North Table Mountain, J was doing laundry, doing my ironing, replacing the internal parts of T's toilet to replace the defective mechanism there (plumbing is always my job), and cleaning the bathrooms, instead of taking it easy and watching football.

She has also recognized that having a horse is a budget issue of the Nth degree. I don't know how many times she's shrugged and acquiesced at that next thing I absolutely need (this weekend it was a cob sized dressage bridle, reins, riding gloves, treats and shin boots from Dover). For a woman who stresses about our budget and bills, she has been very supportive about the money pit that is the horse. I, in turn, try to minimize my purchases (I didn't buy the purple helmet I coveted, nor the Irideon breeches we looked at) to what is absolutely necessary or at least needed.

So, the bottom line is, the only reason I get to have my Best Rides Ever, is because of J. I hope she knows how much I appreciate her keeping our home and life together while I am out riding the hills and valleys of our neighboring plains.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

A Perfect Day

Day Two of 30 Day Blog Challenge: What we did last time we rode and where we went . . .

We rode North Table Mountain today. We were both very impressed with the stamina of our horses.

It was a bit overcast, with temps in the 70's.

The climb from the parking lot (not pictured here) to the top of the Mesa is about 1000 feet. Both horses did it at a mix of trot and canter. They were a bit sweated at the top, but a two minute rest and a little bit of walking and they were cooled off and ready to go again.

N even braved her fear of heights for an amazing photo op.

Ashke was a little wild eared from Cali being so far away.

The top of North Table Mountain reminds me a lot of Wyoming. And it is amazingly big.

I love this picture. Both horses did such a great job on the ride. They both had a ton of energy, even after carrying us to the top of the Mesa.

N thought it was a perfect ride. We did lot of trotting and a bit of cantering and there was no racing or run away horse. Ashke listened and was willing to go every time I asked.

We rode up from the parking lot and main access to the Mesa, then rode down the fire access road. Ashke has definitely figured out how to get his butt under him going downhill. I was keeping very light contact with his mouth and flexing my two middle fingers in time with how slow I wanted him to step. I found I could get him to really get his butt under him and step slow on the steep parts just by slowing the flex of my fingers.

They both came back sound, although N was worried that there was slight swelling in Cali's RH, so she booted Cali for the night in her BOT standing boots. Hopefully, there are no issues and she is sound and tight tomorrow morning. Ashke was a touch tender in his front right, but not enough that anyone but me could see. I can't tell if it's his foot or him compensating for the right hip. 

 I really have a hard time figuring out how we can get to the barn at 10:45, tack up and ride out for two hours, get back and untack and it's 2:30. Sometimes I think there is some type of time zone difference when we ride.

30 Day Blog Challenge - Day One

When and Why I Started Riding:

I think I learned this passion from my mother. She has a picture of her riding a horse when she was pregnant with me. She rode a lot when I was young. And she was always supportive of my obsession, even when times were really tough. She was the why.

My very earliest memory is of riding. My parents had a friend who owned a horse breeding farm. I knew him as Uncle Merrill. He raised Appaloosas and we would ride on the weekends. My mother was always given this big black mare with a light white blanket named Button, probably close to 16 hands high, who absolutely refused to stand still for my mom to mount. She would wait until my mom got her foot in the stirrup and then she would sidle in a circle while my mom hopped on one leg trying to get enough momentum to get on the horse. My father and Uncle Merrill would stand around laughing their heads off.

You'd think that would be enough to turn me off of riding.

My second memory was the weekend I turned six. Uncle Merrill decided that was the age at which I should ride a horse by myself. I was put on a three year old Palomino mare named Muffin. We rode up behind the ranch and Muffin turned downhill at a run. My reins were way too long and I had zero control. She ran me down the hill, through a ditch lined with Russian olive trees and ended up on the dirt road leading to the ranch, hair tore up, my arms and face scratched to pieces, in tears. That's when Uncle Merrill braced me up, told me to stop crying and shorten my reins. He told me if I didn't he wouldn't let me ride. At six, I knew I would die inside if I wasn't able to ride.

That was then.

I was told by my Doctor when I was thrown from the horse in Yellowstone that I should never ride again. He also told me I shouldn't do anything physical. There was no pain management and after months of waiting for the pain of a ruptured disc to resolve itself, I didn't ever want to ride again. All I could think of was the pain I had experienced while riding. That was all I could see. For five years I only focused on the pain.

And then I started to talk to Lisa about her horse. She invited me out to ride with her on a horse named Twist. I went because I wanted to know if I could ride or if my Doctor was right. I discovered I could ride. I discovered that I wanted to. I started talking to J about getting a horse. And then I was given Ashke and I discovered all over the joy and deep soul relief of having a horse in my life.

J told my doctor that the reason we got Ashke, even though he is still absolutely against my riding, is because there is nothing that makes me as happy as that.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Storm Wrack

We did a trail ride today. It is the same ride we've done more than a dozen times, but today it was like doing it for the first time. There was storm wrack and flotsam from the flooding and rain all over the trail. In some areas the ground was etched with 10" deep rivulets in the sand and gravel where the water washed down. In other areas, the grass was swept flat from the water that washed over it and in at least two places the trail was impassable at one point. One of those places was a bridge. The water had washed around the footings, taking trail and trees out in it's rush, but which the City of Arvada had fixed first before working on other stuff.

Cali and Ashke were both very forward. I think we are almost to the point where we could trot and canter the circuit and still have fairly fresh horses at the end of our ride. We traveled pretty quickly where we could, but some parts of the trail were so washed out it wasn't safe to canter, or even trot, for that matter. The long, downhill segment next to the road and the Frisbee golf park was washed away, deep and clinging in some spots, etched with deep trenches in others. At the end of that section, the road dips and there were road closed nets strung up across the trail. N and I decided to go around and see why they had closed the trail.

There was a fence and a couple of trees that had washed out, stretching the fencing across the road. We played with the idea of moving the fencing or flattening it down, but there was no way I was going to try to walk Ashke over it, especially since there were other ways we could go. We turned and went under the bridge and up onto the other side of the road. The berm there was very wide and gave us a great space to trot up the hill to the top, where we crossed back over. We also discovered the trail goes alongside a golf course and winds farther back into the neighborhood. We may need to explore that path one of these days.

At the top of the hill, we crossed the road again and headed toward Tucker Lake. J and T decided to take a brief rest so N and I continued toward the long hill up. As we were leaving the lake, Cali got really spooky, which was kind of a theme for both horses today because of all the changes in the trail. N turned to try and see what was spooking her and we discovered a very bright, pink girl child chasing us up the hill. N did the proper thing and gave her some pointers on the proper way to approach a horse and I dismounted (Ashke's not crazy about small children) to let her come and greet them. She asked for a ride. We politely declined and suggested her parents take her to a barn and get her a lesson if she wanted to ride. After a couple of minutes we sent her back to her parents and set off again.

When we got to the bottom of the hill, neither Cali or Ashke was in any mood to go quietly up: this hill is one of their favorite places to race and race we did. At the top we stopped and waited for J and T. Then T took off up the long hill. We walked up past the boggy part (there is still so much moisture and standing water in places) and then Cali moved in front of Ashke and galloped up the hill. I let Ashke go, but I was fighting him the entire way. When Cali is in front all he wants to do is race. We pulled up and N asked me why I didn't just let him go. I told her I was afraid he wasn't ever going to stop. (I meant that he would keep racing until he had definitely won and although that might be fun on a flat track, it's not really something I'm happy about where we are riding). N told me that all I had to do is sit back, tighten my knees and ask him to slow down and he would. (She was talking about me letting her get out in front and then cantering Ashke up to her. Except that Ashke hates being left and gets very vertical when that happens. Think Lippizzan capriole.) She suggested that I give him his head and then I would understand what she was talking about. She moved Cali into the grass and took off at the canter.

In her defense, N was expecting that I hold Ashke until she stopped and then ride up to her.

As soon as Ashke hit the grass he left the area at a dead run. This was a source of great entertainment to T as I went racing past him with a look of utmost terror on my face, reins clenched in one hand, holding the saddle in the other, trying to steer Ashke around the ground terrors waiting for us. There is one place where the road curves to the left and the two foot of mown grass veers with it. We went straight ahead. The grass is knee high and spotted with big yellow bushes and yucca plants, which Ashke delights in jumping, still at a dead run.

We caught Cali.

She took exception and shot both hind feet at Ashke as we streaked by, who responded with a double hoof kick out back. N was shouting that we were too close and I shouted back that I had no control. Ashke was going to win; hell, high water and rocks be damned. N realizing I was on a run away, slowed Cali and at that point Ashke began listening again. We stopped. I was laughing and gasping for breath, while N kept trying to apologize. We agreed that my "letting him go" wasn't a good idea and that I was right when I said he wasn't going to stop. N had no idea we were gaining on her, but Cali knew, and the double hind leg kick at us was a surprise. Then the kid joined us and laughed at me, doing screwy faces to show N what I looked like as I streaked past him. Both horses were really up and had no desire to slow down. We did give them a little bit of a break, while I checked Ashke's boots.

So hard to tell we had just ridden over a mile at a canter up a fairly decent grade. Boy, they love being out on the trail.

Can't tell I just had a terror filled ride of my life, can you?

It took a little bit to settle them down and get their heads back in the game, since we were going downhill for the next mile.

Something strange happened about then. The bicycle riders became very polite, slowing and asking if they could pass before going past us. Several of them got off their bikes and stood at the very edge of the path until we had gone by. At least one guy went completely off trail to bypass us. N was amazed, since at least part of our ride is taken up with educating the riders on the dangers of not letting us know they are there, or who has the right of way on the trail. They were so polite. So cautious. We thought it was our lucky day.**

When we got to the bottom of the hill, this is what we found.

The stream bed was destroyed. Further East, it widened into a fifty foot swath that took out the sidewalk around Arvada Res. There were huge trees that were uprooted and swept downstream.

This stream bed was maybe four feet across before our storm; it was at least thirty feet wide at this point. The bank to the right of the photo was at least fifteen feet high.

Thankfully the bridge was still there and they had filled in the huge gaping hole cut by the stream (raging river) between the trail we were on and the bridge. The dirt path they had filled in was at least twenty feet wide. It would have sucked to have had to turn around and back track to get home.

We trotted most of the way home from this point forward.

***Again, every time a bike rider came by they were very respectful, pulling off to the side or waiting for us to tell them it was okay. Even the people walking with their dogs were very polite. When we finally caught up with J and T, T asked how the bicyclists were behaving. We said that they were being amazingly polite when they came up to us, stopping and waiting. Both J and T busted up laughing.

Come to find out, they were telling people they passed, "be careful, those horses kick".

We decided we needed to have them ride in front of us all the time. At the last bridge before the neighborhood, T passed a biker going the other direction at a very fast rate of speed. The trail takes a 90 degree turn and then crosses the bridge. We were just entering the bridge when the fast biker would have hit the corner on the other side, except T told him there were horses that kick and the guy braked hard. He was also very polite going past.

We made it home in one piece.

I'm not sure I like the new display on iOS 7. And I forgot my phone, where I have the app settings so I can see what I want. J downloaded this after we were on the trail, so we get what we get. And J carried it with her, instead of me carrying it on the horse, so the map isn't exactly right, but at least there is some information.

The total ride was probably closer to eight, but who's really counting, right?

30 Day Blog Challenge

I've decided to do the 30 day challenge, but probably not 30 days in a row. On the days I have a ride to write about, I will do that instead. That way you all aren't expected to read more than a post a day. Because otherwise, how would you get anything done?

Last night, N and I met to ride in the outdoor arena. I hadn't ridden since Tuesday night but N had taken a lesson from Dolly Hannon on Wednesday. I guess Dolly is Cassandra's mentor/coach/trainer and a pretty big name in dressage circles (yes, and now you know I know nothing about dressage but what I am absorbing through discussion and blog posts). I guess Dolly didn't point out anything that Cassandra hadn't seen in N's riding, although I guess she was a little more harsh in her communication style. N wanted to work on some of her stuff, so we measured out a twenty meter circle so N and Cali could work on cantering in a 20m circle. For the record, 20m is just over 65 feet.

Ashke and I worked on warming up slow, although his hip seemed to be fine. We did several circuits of the arena at a long, fast walk, where he is working to stretch and flex, rather than taking short strides. This is the walk that Cali can't keep up with unless she is trotting. After he was warm and loose, we moved to working on the trot. My western roots are showing, because I want his trot to be slow and collected. We have worked a little on extending it, but I'm not sure I am doing it correctly. That will be one of the questions I have for Cassandra on Tuesday when I take a lesson with her. 

After the trot work, we did some cantering. We did three or so circuits to the left without stopping, then trotted and then cantered again. Ashke's canter to the left is amazing for about 3/4 of the arena and then he gets rough. I think he cross-canters to take the stress off his right hip. I gathered him up and made him continue and he smoothed out. We worked in that direction until we were both puffing with exertion. Then I walked him until he had cooled and we turned to the right. I forced both of us to go around for three circuits, even though it was tough. I have such a difficult time riding him to that direction and he is so much rougher, but we stuck it out. The only way we are going to get better is if we continue to try.

After that, I was out of breath and soaked in sweat. I don't ever remember it being this hard when I was a kid. We walked it out and then stopped and watched horse trailers driving in to train with Cassandra. N was working Cali in the twenty meter circle at a canter and Ashke was fine with just standing. 

At one point N was working the rail, asking Cali to move off her leg so Ashke and I decided to play with the cones we were using to mark out the circle. I rode him in a figure eight around the cones at a trot, using my heel to help him bend around the cone a little more quickly. I'm doing this while neck reining, rather than direct reining him. He caught onto the pattern pretty quick, so I asked him to canter. We blew past the cone the first time, heading for distance pastures. I pulled him around and we worked the figure eight again at a trot. Then we tried to do it at a canter. We made the first turn and I slowed him to a trot, then cued for the other lead. He picked it right up and circled the second cone fairly tightly.  Good boy! We ended on that note and just spent the rest of our time walking out. 

Today we get to trail ride with J and T and N and Cali for the first time in what seems like months.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Back In the Saddle

Clear skies (mostly) with temps in the mid to upper 80's. Meanwhile, the flooding has moved East to Sterling, where the South Platte continues to evade it's banks. But here, the blue sky and sunshine has lifted my spirits a touch.

The only bummer is the sun is beginning to set much earlier. Despite the puddles on the ground and in the outdoor arena, we opted to ride outside. The indoor had four jumps and eight riders in it and we decided dealing with a little mud would be easier on our horses.

When I got there I was greeted by this:

I swear this horse LOVES mud. He hasn't been in turnout, just laying down in his run. It took me twenty minutes to make him somewhat white again. Not that he was complaining, mind you. He enjoyed the extra grooming a lot.

We tacked up and went to the outdoor arena. It looked to me like he was favoring his right hind leg just a little bit and I asked N if she could tell. It was her thought that perhaps he was stiff, in part from the weather, and I should warm him up slowly. We did. I hand walked him around the arena twice before getting on and then asked him to stretch and extend his walk for a couple of circuits in both directions. Meanwhile, Cali acted like a baby to the tune of bucking, kicking, rearing and sunfishing every time she was asked to Canter. N applied the sidereins, which Cali took exception to, and then proceeded to try and do all of those things while wearing the side reins.

Cassandra came out about the time N was getting on and verbally coached N while she was fighting with Cali. In the end, N got Cali to settle and do exactly what she wanted her to do. Ashke and I rode around the outside of the arena, worked on our trot and some turns, but mostly sat and talked with Cassandra. Rachel, one of the trainers, riding China, came to join us. I told her I would wait and ride with her until she was done. N finished with Cali and headed to the barn and Ashke lost his freaking mind.

I got off of him before the fight could get out of hand, and then let him buck and kick and tear around me like a complete idiot, with blowing and loud snorts. He was so upset that Cali was leaving and he was expected to stay in the arena and be a good horse. I think it kind of unsettled Rachel, since he was rearing and striking out with his front feet in protest. Not AT me, just in protest. He did get whacked on the neck for snapping at me with his teeth, but he didn't try to bite again, after that one time. I need to bring out a lunge line when I am working him in the arena, because I don't think it's good on his haunch for him to tear around me in such a tiny circle. I move with him and the circles are more of an oval. I also made him move in both directions, even though he wanted to circle to the right (easier on his RH). After about ten minutes, he worked it out of his system.

At that point, I walked his steaming butt over to the mounting block and got back on. The last thing I want him thinking is that blowing up like that gets him out of work. Instead, we did some turning, some serpentines, and working on neck reining. Every time he got too up, we turned into the fence (makes his turns much tighter and doesn't give him any where to go) and went in the other direction. Since he was mostly up on the way TO the gate, this pretty much nipped that behavior in the bud.

Little poop.

Finally, Rachel and I were both finished. China had gotten a little up when Ashke was throwing his fit, but settled right back into work when Ashke calmed down. While we were walking them out, I asked Rachel about being able to work cows at the barn and she said they were going to have a "cow day" or maybe a "cow weekend" in October, November and December. Woot! I think Ashke might be pretty amazing with cows, if he would just stop snorting and spooking at them. If nothing else, it exposes him to one more thing and gives him something to think about. And, if I ever get serious about the Working Equitation (which I am, kind of) he needs to be able to team pen and sort cattle. It's part of the event. There is also the possibility of being able to work buffalo. That just gives me shivers.

Who knows, maybe there is a cutting horse hidden somewhere deep inside this boy.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Rain Totals between 8/12 - 8/15

South Boulder got 18.64 inches, North Boulder got 12.91 (This area seems the hardest hit early)

Golden (TMR) got 8.64

Thornton (where I live) got 6.33

Estes Park got 8.5 (over 15" if you count the entire week)

Drake (Big Thompson Canyon) got 11.34

All this water emptied into the South Platte, which is why we are having flooding east of the mountains now.

Happily, the skies are partly cloudy and we have sun.

Under the Weather

Literally. Under water and not feeling great.

I saw Ashke on Friday night and he still had some hives on his shoulders and belly. The indoor arena was very wet and I opted not to ride. Instead we got the joy and pleasure of wearing the balance system (similar to the pessoa) and a twenty minute work out.

Ashke spent the first five minutes bucking. At a canter in both directions. It was amusing. Then he settled down and dropped his head, although it is so much more difficult on a lunge line then it is when he is in the round pen. He worked til he was warm, but not hot.

I could detect a slight hesitation in his right hip. I think it's from when he was jumping the cavalletti poles a week or so ago. I think this hip would keep him from being able to participate in endurance, but it's not enough to keep us from enjoying ourselves on the trail. N says he moves that leg a little different from the others, and I am hoping that will get better as he continues to get stronger. I may need to focus some time on riding hills to help strengthen his back and butt.

I didn't make it out on Saturday or Sunday. I was feeling crappy enough that with the exception of shopping at Costco on Saturday morning, I didn't leave the house those two days. I don't know if it's the weather, the flooding, the lack of sunshine, the anxiety and depression that seems to infuse Colorado right now, my sore throat and horrible cough. I just know I had less than zero energy and spent time napping in my recliner while listening to football on the TV.

I will be back out to the barn on Tuesday. My plan is to ride Tues, Thurs, Fri, Sat and Sunday. That's the plan. We shall have to see.

I thought I would leave you with pictures of our old barn:

 The back paddocks where Cali used to live and the low area right behind the barn.

The water is about two and a half feet deep here. Maybe deeper.

Pretty smart solution to the issue. Hopefully, the horses stay calm and the indoor arena doesn't flood. Does kind of cut down on the amount of riding you can do there, however.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Friday Foto: Still Raining

Just to put this picture in perspective. The creek is on the left. There used to be a 15' bank to a cheery little creek meandering through the willows where the coyotes would come to drink. The water looks to be at least 10' deep, if not more. The wide plain of water between the creek and the paddocks is where we stood to take pictures of Ashke with Liz. Just off camera to the right is a gravel road that runs from the main parking lot between the Indoor Arena and the Main Barn to the upper paddocks.

This is the other side of the creek. You can see the gravel road leading from the parking lot to the upper paddocks. This swath of water is where a low grazing area used to be. Now, it is raging stream.

That edge you can see is what used to be a drop off into the canal. There has to be fifteen feet of water there. And a drain pipe. And there used to be a small dirt pathway between the lower creek and the upper pond, which is lined with cattails and some old cottonwood trees.

Thankfully, all of the horse paddocks are on high ground and the horses are all safe. Ashke and Cali are bedded down in their stalls, and although I'm sure Ashke is a bit bored not being able to play with Fool or Pearl, he is healthy, dry and safe. N says that his run is pretty decent too, which makes me feel good about putting the squeegee in his run.

This is where the road used to be going to the upper paddocks. I'm very curious how they are getting hay from the hay barn up there and dropping the shavings/stall muck onto the muck pile which is at the upper end of the property. The water to the right has to be eight or nine feet deep.

And then you have this. A poor little lost crayfish on the parking lot instead of in his stream, like he should be.

I am having mental issues with figuring out why this whirlpool is happening in the middle of this pool of water. There has to be a drain down there that is emptying onto the other side of the gravel road. Although the other side of the gravel road is the very first picture I posted, so I'm not sure how the water is moving fast enough to cause a whirlpool. Curious.

We are, thankfully, dry and safe at home. Our condo is on a hill and with the improvements to the building that were completed 18 months ago, there is no accummulation of water in our crawl space. The dogs aren't happy with the rain, they definitely prefer snow, but other than that we are doing great. I think our rain total is over 10" for the city of Thornton.

Unfortunately, the rain is predicted to continue until Monday. The small town of Lyons was completely evacuated by the National Guard this morning, Hwy 34 from Loveland to Estes Park has lost it's road in two places, which does not bode well for getting to Estes Park. The only way in or out of Estes is over Trail Ridge road, I've been told. Hopefully, there will be no snow until the access roads up are fixed. Estes Park has gotten 15" of rain in the past two days. At one inch of rain per 10" of snow, they could have had 12.5 FEET of snow, had this storm come when it was a tad bit colder.

Boulder is under heavy flooding. The pictures coming out of there make me very happy J and I haven't pursued our dream of living in Boulder. Boulder has gotten at least 15" of rain as well.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Hives Updated

By Sunday night both horses blew up with hives. N called the vet and he told her that horses only get hives after consistent exposure (4 or 5 times) but I'm pretty sure there was something in the water on Sunday, and only Sunday, that caused them to have hives. The reason I think this is because they both have hives right up to the line where the water reached while they were standing in the water on Sunday.

Monday, Dr Long came out and gave both of them a shot of Dexamethasone. I went out on Tuesday and they seemed to be a little better.

Dr Long was out again on Weds, for another horse, and gave both of them another shot of Dex.

N said tonight that they both look much better. I was supposed to go out and ride, but then all hell broke loose in the form of water from the sky.

There is so much water falling out of the sky in Colorado tonight that the thought of riding is less than appealing. Most of the Front Range has received 10"+ over the past 36 hours. There isn't a body of water here that isn't over it's banks. Tomorrow, though, I should be able to get out.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Pirate's Dream to Porn Star

Time to talk about boobs and riding. And the need for a great bra.

When I first started riding I was four and a half years old. At that point I wasn't much more than a big toddler taken along for the ride on any horse I was on. I was given a shetland pony for my eighth birthday and began participating in 4-H; weekly meetings and the county and state shows at the end of summer. During this phase in my life I was stick thin, wiry strong and often mistaken for a boy. I know it didn't help that I preferred to wear blue, green, brown or black and jeans whenever I could. I kept my hair cut short and played hard when I played. We jousted with broomsticks and boxing gloves. We played Planet of the Apes with real BB guns and nets made out of baling twine. My comrades and playmates were all boys and our playground the wide open fields and canals of Southeast Idaho. All of my time was spent on horses, riding for ten or twelve hours a day.

I guess my point is, I learned to ride as a pre-adolescent. Sans boobs.

Nothing much changed as I grew older, however. I stayed stick thin and undeveloped until I was almost sixteen. Even then, I was not a "if you've got it, flaunt it" kind of girl and always picked clothes that masked or obscured my developing chest. In Jr High and High School, I was known as a "Pirate's Dream", meaning sunken chest. It wasn't until I was in my early twenties and no longer riding that my chest developed into a decent C cup.

Then came Clomid and childbirth. My decent C cup grew and grew and grew. I have spent years wearing bras that were too small to hold me, primarily because 1) I hate bras and refuse to spend a ton of money on them and 2) I refuse to wear an underwire, because I hate them. My current bra was a Bali, DDD, and just has not been doing the job. I decided that after 35 years of wearing the same style of bra (little support) that it was time to break down and buy a Playtex. They make bras that have great support without underwires.

I measured my chest according to the charts. I am an H cup. Freaking Porn Star. Not that I'm really comfortable with that assessment, and no one would want to admire my 52 year old chest in the pages of a magazine, however, just based on size, I'm freaking huge. (This is what comes of praying for a large chest - several decades to late to stop the teasing in High School, however.) So finding a bra in an H cup for less than $50 is pretty much impossible. Playtex doesn't go that big. They do, however, sell a G cup for $20.

I ordered them and tried them out on Sunday. First off, the fit is pretty good. Okay the right side is still a little squished, but I can't order a bra that has a G cup on the left and an H or I on the right. It has amazing support. No pinching, no binding, and no rash.

And, the most amazing thing . . . . my back pain was significantly less. In fact, during our ride I didn't feel my back pull at all. And my back feels much better today than it has in years. I can't believe that the weight of my chest was causing so much back pain. I'm seriously going to have to look into the benefits and costs of breast reduction surgery. If it can help aleviate the ongoing back pain, which sometimes reaches crippling pain levels, it might be worth it to not ride for six weeks.

Sunday, September 8, 2013


N and I had quite the day. We met at the barn about 11:45 to do a trail ride. When Ashke saw me in the aisle of the barn he whinnied and then whinnied again. I think he was so happy to see me. I think he knew we were going out on the trail. We got them brushed and then we had to take pictures of Cali's feet with and without boots so N can send them to Easyboot and we can figure out why the boots keep coming off. Although, after today, I think getting the boots wet is part of the problem, along with Cali clipping the back of her front boot with her hind boots.

After pictures, we got them tacked up and headed out. They were both really up and raring to go. We went through the neighborhood to the trail, turned right and went over the bridge. As we were going over the bridge I realized there was a trail directly in front of us leading out across the field. I asked N if she was interested in exploring and she said yes, so we went straight out over the field. Ashke and I cantered right up to the point where we both saw a small ditch, and then the canter slowed significantly. Ashke doesn't like ditches. I held him to a trot after that, in part because I wanted to make sure his hip had time to warm up so we didn't pull anything. About three quarters of the way across the field we came up on a deeper ditch.

There was a ditch running perpendicular to the trail we were on, that had a ditch coming off of it, running West to East. At the point where the trail we were following crossed it, the ditch had split, so there were two ditches only about two feet apart. I looked at it and evaluated my possibilities. Then I got off. I couldn't see any possible way to cross those two ditches without risking Ashke. There wasn't enough space between the two ditches for him to stop, balance and then jump the second ditch. I wasn't sure I wanted to try riding it, either. Ashke was very snorty and wasn't sure he wanted to follow me through the obstacle. He managed to walk through the first ditch (which I don't think he would have done if I had been on him), and then balked for a few moments, thinking about it, then leaped like a deer. I would have been toast.

I was praising Ashke when I heard N yelling, "I'm coming off, I'm coming off" and I turned to see her trying to control Cali while hanging off the side of her, mane clutched in one hand. Cali was wonderful and stopped, even though she seemed a bit confused by N's behavior. N righted herself without hitting the ground and decided to try the ditches again. Cali walked through both going back out (downhill and the second ditch was much shallower and narrower). I watched this time as they started back. Cali jumped the first ditch and landed her front feet on the triangle patch of ground. As she did her hind feet landed in the ditch. Then she launched herself over the second ditch, with her hindquarters much lower than her front feet. She too leaped like a deer and really had to propel her haunches up and out of the ditch. That was what I was expecting to have happen with Ashke if we had tried to cross. I explained to N what had happened and it really explained why she wasn't ready for the deer jump.

We continued on at a trot on a track with prairie dog holes on either side. We found a new little lake and there was nifty little track that Cali cantered on and we trotted. We made our way to 64th and turned East and backtracked a little bit to get back onto the normal path to Tucker Lake. N needed to work Cali on some transitions and Ashke and I had a bit of a conversation about keeping his trot collected, even when extended. Both horses seemed to know where we were going and were very excited about getting to Tucker Lake.

At Tucker Lake we stripped saddles and bridles and boots. Put them in a halter and lead rope, then I stripped off my boots. Both horses went into the water without hesitation. Both horses laid down in the water. Ashke went out so deep that I was in the water up to mid chest (just under my boobs) with the lead rope stretched to it's fullest. He acted like he was going to swim to the middle of the lake. Instead he swam in a half circle until he got his feet down into the mud again. He did it twice. Finally, they were ready to come out and N and I wanted to eat our lunch.

About that time a woman with two dogs showed up and Cali tried to lose her mind. N had her working circles around her with a hill on one side of the circle. Ashke looped a leg through his rope and almost lost his mind. I had to drop the rope and hope that he would stand still (I was betting he wouldn't leave Cali) until I could walk up to him and get him untangled. It was very scarey for me and I mentioned to N that we needed to do some Parelli work with him over the winter until ropes don't bother him any more. About the time Cali relaxed enough to be saddled again, N realized Cali was covered with hives. They were on Cali's chest, legs, belly and creeping up her neck. I checked Ashke and sure enough he had the same thing. We saddled and headed for home, hoping it wouldn't get worse.

Going home was very interesting. Ashke started kicking out and bucking every time we cantered. He didn't do it at the trot, only at the canter. That made for an interesting ride. We would canter, he would buck, we would slow to a trot and Cali would canter on. Ashke did a lot of leg yields, turning and backing until he finally listened and trotted like I wanted. I wasn't real interested in cantering if he was going to buck. Cali decided she didn't want to canter if Ashke wasn't chasing her or she wasn't chasing Ashke. We had to brave two really scarey squirrels and a bizarre red car that Ashke really thought was going to eat him.

By the time we got back to the barn the hives had lessened but not disappeared. We washed both horses with Tea Tree oil and had Cassandra check them out. She thought we should wait and see, which coincided with what N and I had figured out. Neither horse was showing issues with their breathing, their face and the hives were smaller than they started out. N is checking on them now.

Well, the hives are worse. And we had conformation that at least three cities sprayed for mosquitos (West Nile). Not so good. N is calling the vet and seeing if he thinks he needs to come out tonight. We think they both need a good dose of Dex.

The good news is, he's eating. Doesn't seem to have a fever.

Neither of us even thought about the fact that they might have sprayed for West Nile.