Monday, December 29, 2014


Blanketing is something new to me. When I was a kid, I didn't know that whole horse blankets existed, or maybe I am just so old that blanketing became a thing between my youth and my middle age (Yes, I am going to live to be over 100, so there.) My horses were never blanketed. In fact, they were turned loose on 60 acres in the fall and put on weight eating the grass buried under the snow. They grew nice thick winter coats and were shaggy and rotund from October through May. Grooming them the first part of May was one of my favorite things to do, as they dropped thick handfuls of hair under the brushes and curry combs. I made more than one horsehair saddle blanket but stuffing a gunny sack with horse hair and then stitching it shut and using it under my saddle for the summer.

The idea of blanketing, or clipping and then blanketing, had never occurred to me, nor was I around people who were showing and keeping their horses clipped for that reason. I guess my philosophy is that I would prefer to leave my horse natural, housed outside with shelter and plenty of food to eat during the winter. I want him to be able to experience the elements and changing temps, to have some say in how he experiences the weather. I might at some point in the future, decide to do a clip, but I would need help and direction and a pair of clippers. Ultimately, I prefer to manage the hairy beast and monitor my riding/his sweat in a way that precludes clipping. Not that I'm dead set against it, I just don't know enough to know how to do it without creating issues.

When I first brought Ashke home, I purchased a heavy weight horse blanket to help him until he gained enough weight to maintain his body temp. He was still wearing the blanket six months later, when the weather turned in October of our first year. Then I moved him to TMR, with it's heated barn and the absolute refusal to have the doors open if the weather is colder than about 50 degrees. This means that for the past two years, Ashke has not been in normal weather. He was locked in a box stall if it rained, if it snowed, if it was windy, if it was cold. His winter coat is slightly fuzzy, but certainly not a real shag fest. Even so, many of the horses at TMR are blanketed all year long, from sheets and coolers to heavy blankets. Some of them were blanketed under two sets of blankets when it got cold. In a temperature controlled barn.

When we moved to SQA, one of the things I was really excited about was the fact that Ashke could pick and choose his surroundings. He is in a box stall with a run. The stall and the run are separated by hanging plastic curtains, which he has learned to negotiate. He is on four flakes of grass hay a day, plus two feedings of the barley fodder. Howcver, the feed is not enough  make up for the lack of a winter coat. He is still fairly slick and as he has demonstrated, he is not very good at making the choice to stay inside when there is inclement weather. I have found him shivering several times, even with the blanket on and so was very afraid when the weather turned bad this week.

I talked to the BO about buying an extra bale of grass hay. One of the key things you can do to help eliminate shivering is to ensure your horse has access to unlimited grass hay. This morning when I got to the barn to check on Ashke, he was warm and still finishing his breakfast in his stall. There was a bale of hay sitting on top of my tack box (Thanks Mike!!) waiting for me. I gave Ashke his first mash of the day and then put about half of the bale of hay into a hay net and hung it in his stall. Ashke finished his mash in record time, then turned around and saw the hay net, spooked violently (I honestly think he would have kicked out at it with a hind foot given the chance) and bolted out into the balmy 10 degree weather.

When we went back tonight to check on him, he was standing in his stall munching on the grass hay. He got more Triple Crown Senior with carrots and felt toasty warm under his heavy blanket. I had planned on layering his BOT under the heavy mlanket, but since the temps outside were close to zero and he was nice and warm, we just dumped a bale of shavings into his stall for warmth in case he laid down overnight. He still had a flake of grass in his feeder and a little more than half of the hay still left in the hay net, plus a pile underneath the hay net. I picked his stall (he prefers to pee in the shavings but will almost always go outside to poop), and then spread out the bedding. I plan on going back tomorrow morning to replenish his hay net and give him another wet mash.

I am hoping this process helps him make it through the cold spell. I felt really bad for all of the other horses standing and listening to him munch on his unlimited hay. It is good to be Ashke.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Last Ride

Today was our last ride this year. It was sunny and a chilly 15 when we got to the barn. I made a mistake and got impatient with Ashke when he didn't come through the hanging flaps into the stall. My reaction made him less willing to try to come in and he began to shake in response to my frustration. I stopped and snuggled him for a few minutes, exchanging kisses and giving him a peppermint. He calmed down and I was able to coax him into the stall by holding all of the flaps out of his way and telling him he was a good boy. He finally pinned his ears, ducked his head and walked in. I got him groomed and saddled with the long BOT blanket that covers his haunches, checked his feet and slipped on the bridle.

I never ride in easyboots when I ride in the snow. They could slip and his hooves are naturally sticky. I'm still very careful around ice, but in snow and snow pack he does very well. Today, I was riding in a thermal high tech undershirt (which isn't going to work, since it rides up inside the bibs), a henley long-sleeved cotton shirt, my breeches covered with the bibs, and my Carhartt Jacket. I also wore my new Ovation Dafna Blizzard boots with two pairs of socks. (I'll review them tomorrow, if I can find time.) I was so warm I rode without gloves and with the coat unzipped on the way home in 22 degree weather.

 I hand walked down the road to the trail head. I just wasn't going to trust the footing and the cars on this road race past the barn.

 The first part of the trail was groomed, which made life much easier on J.

 I know it will surprise you, but we were the only bike rider (other than a very determined eight year old) and horseback rider on the trail today. Go figure.

 We stayed on the sidewalk as much as possible, because Coyote is not four-wheeled drive
J said it was difficult to pedal and brake at the same time, because the bike would have slipped out from under her on the ice if she had stopped pedaling.

 Once we passed under the overpass, there was no more groomed trail and the ride became a lot more difficult for J.

 As you can see, she's making her own path through the snow.

When we got to the soccer fields, I set Ashke into a canter (with a huge grin on my face). It was the first time we have cantered in the snow and it was amazing. And then I turned around and saw our tracks.

 He is dragging his LH toe when he canters. And it is swinging outside of the track of his LF.

 And he is very consistent in his motion, as you can tell from this line of tracks across the pristine snow. The thing that blew me away is that there are four hoof prints separate and distinct aside from the drag mark.

Any ideas why this would be happening?

To answer a couple of thoughts: he felt normal to me, so I have no reason to believe that there is something unusual going on with him. He carried himself very well and when we were cantering on the left lead and I neck reined him to the right, he had a flying lead change, that while not completely smooth (two strides of cross canter before he corrected himself) it was better than we've had in the past. I believe the tracks were occurring while on the left lead. The next time we are out in fresh snow I will cue the right lead canter and see what the tracks look like.

 Ashke was very good and listened well, despite the multitude of small children and plastic snow sleds on every hillside. Oh, and the rockets being launched in one of the soccer fields.

 Ashke cruised his walking pace, is beginning to find his traveling jog (which sometimes morphs into his totally engaged and powerful trot).

 There was a traveler in the distance that looked like a horse to me. I asked J and she said no, just a woman walking with her jacket on funny. Sure enough, the sides of the jacket looked and moved like the legs of someone riding a horse.

At the trailhead looking across the street at the barn.

Ashke was cool and dry when we reached the barn. We unsaddled and he tucked into his mash. 
Triple Crown Senior with carrots = horse crack. Seriously.

We finished the year with 416.25 miles on trail (that does not include miles ridden inside the arena).

I wanted to keep a record of what we rode by month for 2014, to compare to next year. I know we will ride a lot more on trail the first six months of 2015 as compared to 2014, just because so many issues have been resolved (I'm not going to say it out loud) and we have a trailer.  I'm excited to see how many more miles we can actually ride.

I won't be riding again under January 1st, due to a arctic cold front moving in tonight. I am going to swing by the barn on my way to work and see if I need to throw the BOT fleece cooler under Ashke's heavy-weight blanket. The high tomorrow is supposed to be 10 with up to 7 inches of snow, a low of -1, a high on Tuesday of 1, and a low Tuesday night of -12. I am also buying an extra bale of hay to load in his hay net to hang in his stall over the next couple of days. Maybe it will encourage him to stay inside part of the time. If nothing else, it will give him plenty to eat.

Saturday, December 27, 2014






























































Friday, December 26, 2014

Christmas Day Ride

Christmas morning dawned early, not because T woke up excited and eager to open presents, but because the dogs knew it was morning. J and I, roused by wet nose pokes and ear snufflings (the two pups always sleep on the bed and have no problems letting us know when it is breakfast time) and short, sharp barks when we don't wake up fast enough. Walking and feeding commenced. Then J made cinnoman rolls for breakfast and then we waited. After eight, I sent the dogs up to wake the boy. (I think the earliest he's ever woken up was about 8 on Xmas morning, although he has no issue with waking up at 5 to check the offerings of Zur).

We opened gifts. T was happy with his iPad and new Heelys, J loved her down slippers and fleece lined, wind and waterproof shoe covers for her biking shoes. I received a new mid-weight, waterproof blanket for Ashke, (which was an absolute steal on Amazon and is remarkably solid construction for a brand I had never heard of before), a pair of winter riding tall boots by Ovation (I will do a review after riding in them a few times) and a mohair girth.

Then I guilt tripped my son into doing a ride with me. (I have no shame when it comes to prying him loose from his recliner and xbox). We went to the barn and I found Ashke standing outside, shivering slightly. Silly horse. He stopped once he was inside the box and out of what little wind there was. I don't think blanketing him is making him thicker skinned, although it is nice to have a horse that isn't covered in pee stains. I brought him in and groomed him in his stall (easier to do than standing him at the grooming stalls - my stall has crossties in it.) The mohair girth was too small and Ashke hated it. Hated it. I could feel him pushing his ribs out as I tried to tighten it. It came off and will be going back. I may just order a Toklat fleece girth (like the one I have now) in a size 46". I got his new easyboots on, still really struggling with the right front hoof, size 1W, and we set off.

It was in the upper 30's, with a light wind and projected snow. I had told J the day before that I wanted to do a ride in the snow for my Xmas present. Ashke was a snorting, dancing, wound up ball of energy. Those hesitations I had about him not having enough energy and feeling lethargic, not so much any more. We spooked at pretty much every thing (the Arabian version of start, straddle, stop, stare.)


I have no idea why this picture is so dark, but the aperture did not change. Back by the electrical tower is J and T. T had been messing around on the ice out in front of the indoor arena where the cars park. (Northern exposure). As I ran inside to change my girth (no way I could get it snug since punk boy was blowing up his belly) he slipped on the ice and crashed down onto his back. I guess he got his gloves wet at the same time. Ten minutes onto the trail, J and T stopped to fix that issue (thank gods that J has started over packing) since she had an extra pair in her butt pack and hand warmers to boot. Warm and dry, he was a happier boy.

We rode all the way to the soccer fields, where T got off his bike and raced around chasing the geese and making them fly away. Then he realized that he had goose poop all over the bottoms of his new shoes and spent time at the creek trying to clean them off. While he did that, Ashke and I tried to find some sane and controlled canter, since the first time I asked for a canter at the soccer fields, he spooked sideways, took off at a run, and then began leaping into the air and kicking out with his hind legs. I think there would have been bucking, except the bit I use absolutely prevents him from getting his head down. We rode up and down the edge of the soccer fields at a canter to get his willies out, which didn't really work. He gave me a great canter, but was still very up. And barely warm.

J took some video of us on our way home. Ashke was going sideways, which is why we fell out of the picture before we began to canter. He is definately stronger and getting better at holding his collected canter. He also goes sideways much faster than before. He was pulling and wanting to really run, but after the leaping and lunging we did on the way out, I wasn't interested in giving him his head. He had plenty of energy and trotted or did his running-walk all the way home. Standing still was not in his vocalublary.

One of the great things about this trail is the public bathroom. It was even heated, although I am not a fan of stainless steel toilets. I am, however, a fan of being able to pee when it is cold. J held Ashke, who goobered her bright yellow jacket, while I was using the facilities.

J and T looked for a geocache while Ashke and I wandered in big looping circles around them. He would not stand still. The few times I asked, he pawed, then backed, then tucked his head down next to his chest and flipped his bit in his mouth. Standing patiently was not in his vocabulary. J and T found the location of the geocache but the cache was missing. While they were throwing sticks (T) and gathering up their bikes, I walked back and forth in a field, trying to help a couple of riders find an Easyboot they had lost. The man was riding an American Saddlebred who made Ashke's behavior look sane, since his horse was more interested in going sideways and up than forward. The guy could ride, which saved him a couple of times. I don't think they found the easyboot, though. I headed off down the trail, once J and T had fought their way clear of the undergrowth.

The little dot right above Ashke's right ear is T and J is just behind him.

T did really well on the ride until we found a small fishing pond covered with ice that he wanted to play on and J said no. He has the same self-preservation that I had as a kid, which is not good from the perspective of the parent. I'm amazed that my mom doesn't have more grey in her hair, but then again, I was a lot more sneaky as a teenager than my mom knew. What happens as a teenageer, doesn't need to be discussed as an adult. T was grumpy (lack of food played a part here) and we were lucky that it was a short ride to get back to the barn.

Ashke moved at his run-walk all the way home, which was almost drama free. As we were walking along the side of the road the hundred feet between the trail head and the barn entrance, an idiot coming down the hill toward us crossed a double yellow line and accelerated to 50 or so to get past a guy in a truck who had slowed down when he saw us. I yelled and J yelled and I saluted him in the only appropriate manner when in that situation. I wish I could have gotten his license number, because I would have reported him to the police. I swear, people are so stupid.

Ashke was dry and ready for his mash when I put him in his stall. I didn't even bother to tie him, I just dumped his mash into the bucket and let him eat while I unsaddled him. I pulled my saddle and gear and threw them into the truck to take home and clean. When I pulled his boots, I discovered that the one on the right front has twisted during our ride. I don't know if I put it on wrong or if the shape of his hoof caused it to twist. I will need to be very careful next time I put them on to ensure that doesn't happen again. I put his heavy blanket on him, because shivering, and snow, and dropping temps.

The best gift of the day was T saying, "I'm going to have to go out with you more often, because that was a lot of fun."

I hope you all had a great day with lots of wonderful food, lively company and love. For those of you who had to work, I hope the time you take to celebrate (not on xmas) is as wonderful, warm and lovely as mine was. Thanks for reading and for those who have become friends, I hold you in my heart on this day.