Friday, January 31, 2014


Let me introduce our new Hunter/Jumper trainer . . . .

Michelle Plonus - Crescent Equines, LLC at Table Mountain Ranch 

Michelle Plonus has accepted the position of Hunter/Jumper trainer for Table Mountain Ranch starting at the end of February. Training at numerous, highly rated facilities across the US, Michelle has over 20 years of professional experience developing horses and students alike.

Preparation for CHJA and “A” rated shows will be Michelle’s main focus. Programs are carefully tailored for each horse and rider to keep them happy and healthy. She also welcomes beginner and casual, recreational riders to develop safe, enjoyable relationships with their horses.


Horses have always been Michelle’s main passion in life.  She began riding at the age of 4 and grew up a block away from one of Illinois’ most prestigious Hunter/Jumper barns. Inevitably, Michelle spent most of her free time assisting trainers and catch riding.


Attending college in New Orleans offered some interesting jobs. She trained parade horses for Mardi Gras and got involved with a leading saddle seat barn, Cascade Stables.  Realizing that the Hunter/Jumper and Eventing world was her true passion, Michelle began assistant training under Molly Allen of Allen Equestrian, later known as the premier Equest Farms.
  • Founded Crescent Moon Equines (CME) - 2000 to present
  •  Magnolia Equestrian Centre  – Developed training/lesson/show/leasing and sales program
  • Student and personal achievements – Showed in Gulf Coast Area local and "A" rated shows
    • Multiple Champion and Reserves in Hopeful, Low, High and Modified Jumpers
    • Multiple Champion placements in Baby Green in Green Hunter divisions
    • Multiple Champion and Reserves in Walk/Trot through Junior and Amateur Owner Hunters and Junior/Amateur Jumpers 
In August 2005, Hurricane Katrina destroyed most of New Orleans sparing only the French quarter and a few outlying suburbs. Under catastrophic conditions, Michelle evacuated her horses, those of her clients and Magnolia Equestrian to the safety of Lamar Dixon Event Center, Baton Rouge.

With all communications down for weeks, she cared for those and then went after more. To secure scarce but necessary supplies, she worked with Louisiana State University, rescuing horses roaming the streets New Orleans.

After securing temporary board at a local racehorse training facility, she spent the next 8 months transporting many across the country to be reunited with relocated clients. Careful evaluation of the situation in New Orleans led to the very difficult decision to move. And, so began the journey to her dream state, Colorado.


Once in Colorado, Michelle was offered the position of assistant trainer at Capricorn Farm and Tolland Falls, working under the fabulous Rocky Mountain Riding Academy, operated in conjunction with Meridian Riding Club.
  • Presided as judge at local schooling shows 
  • Helped multiple students qualify for Col. R.L. Robertson, Ruth C. Ayers and Columbine Jr. Medals
  • Client Columbine Jr. Medal Winner 2007
  • Client Short Stirrup and 11 and under Equitation Champion 2007
  • Many client High Point Year End Awards 

Michelle believes continuing education is invaluable, not only for students, but herself as well. As she lessons at higher (Grand Prix) levels, she looks forward to sharing her extensive experience with anyone, youth or adult, interested in improving their riding skills.

Okay, I'm not a H/J rider and not really interested in ever doing H/J, BUT . . . Ashke will need to traverse a 18" jump with me aboard in order to compete in Working Equitation and I would take a few lessons from this woman. Not only that, but her horse Limit is absolutely amazing. I think she is a trainer I can work with and admire. I like her way with horses and I like her energy. A win-win for the barn!!!

Thursday, January 30, 2014


For Liz, since she LOVES her horse, Poppy. . . .

TTTT: Ghost Story

When I was fifteen my parents divorced. I had spent all of my youth living on an acre farmstead, with 60 acres of playground behind me and all of the county to ride in. We moved right before I turned 16 to a city. Ok, in retrospect, Pocatello isn't really a city, but to me, it was huge. My graduating class in High School had more students in it then the town where I grew up had people. For the first time I had to board my horses at a stable, more like a barn with stall runs, and I was responsible for buying hay, etc. Because the barn was pretty open, I took to bringing my tack home with me and storing it in my bedroom.

That was another thing that changed. For the first time I had a bedroom to myself, with the bottom part of a trundle bed. It was in the mobile home my mom bought when we moved from Firth, and it was originally a den. We turned it into a bedroom with standing bookcases to make a wall across the front of the opening to the den, plus we hung 1960's beads from the ceiling to the top of the bookcases to form a curtain of sorts. It came with a wood pellet stove right in the middle of one wall and sliding glass door to a small (kind of) deck. We had the trampoline positioned right off the wooden platform right outside my door.

One night, in the wee hours of the morning, I was awakened by a sound. Now, I know I was awake. How can I be sure? Because I wear glasses (thick ones) and when I am awake without them on, everything is horribly blurry. Technically, I am considered blind without them. When I dream, I dream like I am wearing my glasses. On this night, when I woke up, everything was blurry. I could see someone standing in the corner of my room, between the sliding glass door and the pellet stove, where I had my saddle sitting. When I saw him, I screamed and rolled against the wall.

Lying there, pressed against the wall, my outrage rose. He was in my room, where he wasn't supposed to be, and he should get out. I rolled back over and confronted him. I asked him what he was doing in my room. In my head it sounded strong and brave, but in reality my voice was shaking and I was scared. I noticed he was blond with blue eyes and fairly tall, although shadowed against the wall, like he was wearing black.

He looked over at me and smiled the most evil smile I have ever seen and said, "Don't worry little girl, I've been here before."

The scream that ripped from my throat was violent enough it tried to tear flesh from my throat. I whipped around and thudded into the wall, scrabbling to get away. Two seconds later my mom stepped into the room, her voice calm and safe. I think she thought I was having a nightmare. She asked me what was going on and I told her the story. She became very nervous and searched through the house, checking doors and windows, thinking someone had left a door unlocked and an intruder had come into the house. Every thing was sealed tight and she didn't find anyone there. She chalked it up to a nightmare and calmed me back to sleep.

Not too long after that incident, I moved into one of the bedrooms, changing places with my brother. I was getting old enough I needed a door and walls, and he was only eight. I placed my bed against the wall, so I could snuggle my back up against it and face the doorway. The blond man had made me nervous and I began to have issues with insomnia. I have always struggled with insomnia, even before we moved, but it began to get worse. My method of choice to fall asleep was to do complicated math problems in my head, until I got lost in the problem and drifted off to sleep. I also slept with my great-grandma's blanket, protection of sorts.

Over the next couple of years I was visited by the blond man several times. Each time he came I would wake up terrified. So terrified I couldn't move or scream or barely breath. Have you ever read Watership Down? I was tharn, I was so scared. Every time, he would be standing in the doorway, watching me. For some reason he never entered the door of the bedroom, like he couldn't cross the threshold, but he would stand and watch me for several minutes, laughing silently at me, his mouth stretched in his evil grin. I would focus on my hand and fingers, trying to will them to move and touch my nose. I would think to myself that if I could scream, my mom would come. Finally, the terror would become so great I would pass out. When I awoke again, there would be no one there.

This did not help my insomnia.

At eighteen, I moved out and into a duplex with a friend. I was working nights at Taco Bell and after working from 4 to 11, I would do whatever I could to keep from going to sleep. I was terrified of him making an appearance. One night, a friend and I went to Ross Park in Pocatello. It was late and no one was there. We played on the swings and the teeter-totter, talking and laughing and wandering around under the trees, enjoying the early summer night. I began to feel nervous and suggested we leave. Although there was nothing to see, my friend listened to my request and we started out of the park. At the edge of the trees I heard him begin to laugh and turned around to see him standing under a tree not too far away. He was dressed in black, with bright blond hair that gleamed even in the dark, and an evil smile that stretched his mouth wide. He was laughing silently at me. The laugh seemed to roil through my soul, leaving me shaking so bad I could barely stand.

My friend, her back to what I could see, wrapped her arms around me and told me I was safe. She whispered that he couldn't get me while she was there and that she would protect me. As far as I know, she couldn't or didn't see him, but she knew I was seeing something. Finally, he turned and walked away after wiggling his fingers at me in a "see you later" sort of way. I stopped shaking and we got in my friend's car and left. She told me to use her as a talisman of sorts, to envision her between him and me if I needed to. It was a nice gesture, but I didn't think it would work.

My insomnia got worse. I often didn't fall asleep until four or five in the morning, sleeping until right before I needed to go to work. One afternoon, about two or so, I was awakened by the blond man. He was standing right next to my bed, with his hand outstretched to touch me. I was curled in a ball, with my elbow jutting up out of the covers. I could see his hand outstretched, with his fingers a couple of inches away from the bare skin of my elbow. I was so scared I was shaking all over. Rationally, I knew he couldn't really be there. I thought to myself that if anything touched my elbow at that point, I would literally lose my mind. I could feel it quivering on the edge of breaking as I lay there. Finally, my cat bounded into the bedroom, hissing and spitting, swiping the air with it's claws and he disappeared. I could feel the evil oozing away as my cat curled up on my chest and began to purr.

I didn't sleep the next night. I was almost hysterical at the thought of having to stay there. I moved out the next day, which began a series of moves that lasted for years. Finally, I moved cities, from Pocatello to Caldwell (outside of Boise). Then a year or so later, from Caldwell to Los Angeles. Later, I looked back and realized I had moved from one place to another nine times in four years. My insomnia was so bad that while I was living in Los Angeles I was averaging 30 minutes of sleep for almost a year. I would finally fall asleep between 4:45 and 5 am, then have to be up by 5:30 to go to work. I was tired all the time. I was terrified all the time.

About that time a book found it's way into my hands that explained the process for casting a circle. Casting a circle involves calling on the Guardians of the Four Corners to watch and ward your home. By invoking the four corners, you can keep out anything that wishes to harm you and only let in the positive. Finally, I was safe. It became a ritual at night when I couldn't sleep to call the corners and ward my home. That ritual continued for years. I felt safe. I could sleep most nights. And then he came after my son.

It was about the time the dead Indians adopted us. They are led by Uncle Daniel Two Bear who thinks T is pretty cool and likes J and I both. They moved in and teased the dogs, chased the cats, held pow-wows in the basement, complete with sage and drumming. They are mostly Lakota but with a few Cheyenne, an occasional Apache and a few Comanche thrown in for favor. J almost always hears from one of the women (we don't know her name) who is teaching J the art of quill work and Uncle Daniel is the one who encourages me to bead the browbands, usually with his hand to the back of my head. White Elk, a very old shaman, skis with T on old wooden skis, his white hair flying out behind him in the snow. He loves T and loves to do all of the activities T likes to try.

T was six when they adopted us. He was six and a half or so when the blond man walked through my circle and into his bedroom. T woke us screaming, terrified to sleep alone, and in his description of what he related, I found my old nemesis. I was terrified and pissed. He was after my son. Uncle Daniel wasn't too happy either. They set a trap and lured him in. Uncle Daniel's niece, the woman who had introduced us to Uncle Daniel and his clan, acted as bait. She said he swooped in and hit her hard enough she fell onto her couch with a massive headache. That's when Uncle Daniel and a couple of his warriors snatched him out of mid-air, tied him up into a tiny, little knot, and then destroyed him. I felt him shred into little pieces and disappear. Uncle Daniel and his warriors strutted in and showed off their spectral muscles, bragging a little about how inconsequential the other guy was. Stupid wasicu, is what Daniel says.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014


I met N at the barn about 5 and we got saddled up. Ashke was in a good mood, but I made the mistake of putting cookies in my pocket like I did last time. He could smell them and spent our entire ride worried about when he was going to get a cookie.

The indoor was filled to the brim. The H/J trainer who is leaving was holding court in the indoor with a group of 8 or so teens on big-ass horses. One of things I really hate about her classes is that she acts like she owns the place and encourages her riders to do whatever they want.

I started out with the figure eights again. Ashke was completely unfocused and refusing to pay attention to me, because of all the horses. N and I were working the inside of the arena and staying off the rail, so the students could ride the rail. H/J watched what we were doing and how we were riding and came and stood in the exact spot where Ashke and I started and ended our figure eight. Then called a group of girls to stand with her. They didn't have horses. I stopped and asked them to move, since I was riding a pattern and had been riding a pattern since I started. They all acted like I didn't have the right to be in the arena. My being pissed off about it didn't help my connection with Ashke, because all he knew is I was upset.

Finally, the group of them drifted to the end of the arena and were talking. N and I started playing follow the leader, where Ashke and I would follow N and Cali at whatever gait in whatever pattern they were riding. It was fun and challenging, because Ashke wants to race whenever Cali is in front of him. Twice tonight, while I was cantering after N and Cali, the H/J trainer sent one of her students right into my path. Ashke did a sliding stop with his head straight up in the air to avoid the crash. The second time it happened, I was done.

Our take away from tonight happened while we were cantering. Both times Ashke started trying to run faster to catch up with Cali. In the past I would have wrestled with him to try and get him to slow down. This time, instead of pulling up and back with the reins and jerking his head up, I asked him to slow with my seat and my words, then moved my hands down and to the sides. His head came down and he slowed. We just cheated and short cut the corners and ends so he could stay close to Cali but he did it at a decent canter. It was the first time I felt that way and instead of panicking and jerking on him, I was able to think my way out of the situation. It's beginning to feel instinctive instead of fear driven. That's a good thing.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014


Let's talk, shall we? I know every where you look there is someone saying that the whole world is fat. Kids are fat. Women are fat. Men are fat. We even have a prime time show where contestants are competing against one another trying to lose weight. It seems we are obsessed. I could go into the whole reason and argument behind why this is happening, but smarter and keener writers are doing that all over the media, so why beat a dead horse. No, in this case I want to talk about horse fat.

We are back to that "friend". The one who owns the SE Arabian who only wants to gallop madly like only a twelve year old girl can. All the time. Over any imaginable terrain. Who looks down her nose at people who want to actually train and shape the behavior of their horse. The one who is temporarily boarding at my barn. Yeah, that one.

It seems her horse is fat.

This started with Cassandra and the services she offers to her clients. Because it is winter and horses have a tendency to not want to drink enough water, which puts them at risk of colic, Cassandra feeds them a daily mash. I do this on Monday night, because Monday is Cassandra's day off from work. The mash consists of either beet pulp or timothy hay pellets that are soaked in warm water, then mixed with either Equipride or Platinum, plus any other supplements the owners are using, and a little salt. The salt is to help stimulate their need for water, making them feel thirsty and they will drink more. The mash is served at a soup like consistency and includes carrots to entice them to eat up. None of the horses hate this. In fact, Cali is so happy she licks the bucket completely clean, inside and out. It's a great way to get both water and fiber into the horses during the months when colic is more likely. (We've had four serious colics in the past month, one of which resulted in a death and one in a hospitalization. The horse that died was 33, but still, anything to keep that from happening.)

I mentioned to my "friend" (we'll call her F, for friend) that Cassandra was offering this service to her clients and that Ashke really loved the mash. F got kind of offended and wanted to know why her horse wasn't included. I told her to talk to Cassandra about it. She did and the next thing I saw, her horse was listed on the board for wet mashes. I was the one responsible for feeding last night and I called Cassandra on my way home. According to Cassandra, F wants her horse off the mash list because he is getting fat.

My mouth dropped open. A cup of beet pulp and a 1/2 scoop of Equipride a day is not making her horse fat. I said so. Cassandra said that she was worried because he was getting a big belly. Now, to put this in perspective, she is also the person who commented that Ashke was fat when she saw him for the first time in several months. I ignored her, knowing that Ashke needed some work to tighten his belly and build his topline, but also knowing that cutting his calories was not going to make those changes in him. Riding him was going to effect those changes. And his endurance is incredible. We can do 10 miles without breaking a sweat. Of course, this year I am hoping to increase both speed and distance, but he can work for over an hour in the indoor, doing transitions and all three gaits without breaking a sweat. He's in great shape and getting better with each day.

So, I started thinking about why she would think her horse was fat. It seems to be a common theme with her. In the several years we have known her, we've heard her rail against both her husband and her son's weight. It has gotten so bad that T told us her son wasn't eating at school, because he was going to be teased about his weight. I asked T if that was happening and he said no. It is, however, something that F talks about happening to her when she was in school. Her son is a little bit overweight, but he also hates to do any type of physical exercise and her picking at him isn't helping.

I think that maybe she has an issue with weight and her perception of what is healthy. Skinny is not always better. Fit and strong is better. I think this is an issue many women deal with and it's something I have seen in the equine blogsphere, where goal setting has included a lot of weight centric focal points. I know, from having watched my mom diet, that dieting doesn't work. Yes, it takes the weight off, but at some point she would stop dieting and then the weight would come back. That seems like a self-defeating process and one I really don't want to get caught up in.

So, my thoughts are this:

-- Don't diet. Instead make good choices about food. Stay away from High Fructose Corn Syrup (meaning sodas and candy) whenever possible. Try to eat as many natural foods as you can: lettuce, potatoes, butter, whole milk, cheese, broccoli, gr beans, etc. Make corn an occassional food, not a staple. Don't deny yourself sweets, just make them fruit instead of soda or candy. I promise you, oranges are great for that.

-- Use a smaller plate for meals. One of the things that has changed in our society is that everything is bigger. Portions are bigger. Plates are bigger. The amount of food you put on your plate is bigger. The other thing that has been molded by our society is the idea of not wasting food. I believe this concept is based on a generation of parents who grew up during the depression and were told not to waste food. This in turn was passed down in the sixties and seventies. Now, we have these huge plates we can fill with food and then we are told we have to eat everything on our plate. It hasn't been a good combination of events. So, give yourself a break and use a smaller plate. You won't take as much. Also, try leaving the last two bites for the Gods. Be a daredevil and defy convention - leave food on your plate! Seriously, what can it hurt.

-- Stop weighing yourself. This is a vicious cycle that only makes you feel bad about a stupid number on a scale. Instead, check in with how you are feeling. Get fun exercise. Move. Ride as much as you can. Stop worrying about your weight and start focusing on how you feel. This will redirect your attention to listening to your body. We spend all this time trying to learn to listen to our horse, but we haven't ever spent that kind of time listening to ourselves. I find that I forget to eat when I ride. I know N has had this same issue, because I have stopped us on the trail and forced her to eat. Pack stuff with you when you trail ride that is high in protein and has some carbs to it. (I personally only eat PBJ when I am riding. It's the only time it tastes really good.) Drink lots of water. And then drink a little bit more. Carry a bottle of water with you. Drinking water cuts a lot of cravings.

As Jillian Michels says "Move more, eat less."

Wow, did this post take a turn, or what? Back to the horse . . .  Ashke is hovering somewhere between 5.5 and 6. I love how he looks and I love how I don't worry about riding him for hours at a time. I'm not sure I would be happy with a horse that wasn't between 5.5 and 6. I also think it is important for muscle development and strength, rather than just weight, but that means consistent work. Work in the arena and work on the trail. Both. At least four times a week, in my opinion, although Cali is fit and fine fettle at three days a week. (I would say five days a week, but I'm pretty sure my wife would take exception to that much barn time.)

Final thoughts:

Don't project your issues onto your horse.

Don't focusing on losing weight and focus on getting fit.

Ride more.

Monday, January 27, 2014


It was snowing all day today. I got off an hour early from work because of the weather and instead of heading home like all the other drones, I changed and headed to the barn.

I was the only one there. That was ok by me, however. I tootled around getting mash buckets set up for the six horses so the beet pulp and timothy hay had an opportunity to soften while I rode. Then I got Ashke groomed and tacked up. There was a new two inches of snow on the ground and the snow was falling heavily. Ashke snorted and looked around while we walked to the indoor, but overall was wonderful.

I had spent some time evaluating what I could do to make the "off-the-rail" exercise better for Ashke. He was really struggling with the changes of direction and I really thought his frustration and hesitation was due to him not understanding what I wanted. Looking at it from his point of view, I have been riding the rail in that arena for a year, working him to stay on the rail, and now all of a sudden he is expected to ride off the rail. He really wants to please me, but he also wants to understand what we are doing.

I decided it would be best to start with a different pattern and work through that, staying off the rail, and changing the direction more frequently, because we always work for a long time in one direction, then change and work for a long time in the other direction. I also brought a pocketful of peppermint horse cookies for immediate reward.

Ashke walked up and positioned himself at the mounting block. I set down the dressage whip and mounted. He stood until I told him to move off. We walked a couple of circuits in both directions before getting to work. We started in the center of the arena, facing the mirrors (long side), and stopped. I asked Ashke to move forward at a walk in a circle to the right, with some bend through his ribs, and then come to a stop at the point where we started. It was a little bit of a struggle to the right, but he managed it. We stopped in the center and he was praised. Then we moved to the left on a circle, at a walk, then back to the middle to a stop. Basically a figure eight, with the center of the figure eight in the center of the length of the arena.

We did it at a walk. Then we moved to a trot, coming to a walk in the middle, before switching directions and moving back up into the trot. He did great. By the end of our ride, we were riding a comfortable figure eight, sometimes mixing it up by doing two circles at one end before moving back into the figure eight. He was soft and listening, completely focused on what I was asking. He also got really good at reaching back for his treat whenever we stopped for praising and rest.

I decided that was enough of that exercise and pulled out four poles. I spaced them out at what I thought was the correct distance, and began to trot through them. He bonked them. He tried to gallop through them. He did a rocking horse jump over them. Each time I praised the effort, turned him in different directions in a small tight circle and went back over them. He finally got three of the four poles in rhythm, but not the first one. It is so much better than he was in July and August. He is able to pick up his feet and travel over the poles without hurting his back or hamstring.

Finally, I stopped and put all the poles away except one. I started on the ground and had Ashke stand over the pole. This is something he refused to do last summer, but tonight he was tense but he tried. Then I showed him how to step sideways in a sidepass, keeping the pole between his front and rear feet. It was hard. He got scared and unsure. I was calm and although I was using the dressage whip, I was very careful not to hurt him or scare him with it. I was using it to help communicate the cue all the way along his body. He finally stepped sideways instead of throwing his head up and lunging backwards with stiff legs. He got the last of the peppermints for that.

I got on him and we tried it again. He sidepassed three steps to the right. And then he did it to the left. Both times he kept the pole positioned between his front and back legs. He got lots of praise and then we were done.

I think he loved working on more than one thing. I know he loved getting the peppermint cookies when he figured something out. He was curious and attentive and I was patient and calm. The couple of times when he started to freak out, I just stopped and reassured him, then went back to the exercise. I haven't felt this happy about how I was with him since our last trail ride. He is always the same with me. The change is what I bring to the table, to our interaction, to our relationship.

I was very proud of his effort and him figuring out what I was asking him to do.

Best news: it looks like there is a real possibility of TMR hosting a Working Equitation show this year. We are going to talk about it with Cassandra and Sherl on Saturday. I'm so excited, I have chills.

Sunday, January 26, 2014


I have ridden three days in a row and the pain has finally caught up to me.

I could barely walk when I got off Ashke to lead him to the barn. My upper back and shoulders are painful to the touch, my lower back is en fuego, and my right foot is completely messed up. Additionally, we have a storm coming in and ever time the barometer changes all of the damaged and injured tissue in my body protests the change. I came home and took my last prescription pain reliever from the buck-off on June 13, 2012.  I am feeling much better now, but probably shouldn't be blogging under the influence of percoset. I love Percoset.

Pain is part and parcel of riding. I think anyone who doesn't have to deal with some pain when they ride is either 1) just starting out, 2) lying, or 3) see number one. Riding horses is a dangerous and sometimes deadly endeavor. It is definitely a break-your-body-apart type of activity. For me, it is also a time-to-get-your-lazy-ass fit again.

20 years is a long time.

We started by trying to ride outside the arena.  The wind was blowing, but we were willing to risk it. We rode about a hundred feet up the driveway toward the mesa, between the shed rows, when we noticed the blue tarp at the far end of the drive was undulating in the wind. N and I both got off, which was very fortuitous. Three steps later there was a huge gust of wind that picked up a plastic yellow bucket and threw it against the back of Cali's legs. Cali did the maneuver called "Cat Walking on Water", then tried the "Octopus Spread and Scramble" which produces the illusion of a horse with eight legs. Finally, she finished with the "Double Barrel Kick and Hop". Thank all of the gods that we were on the ground when it happened, because it could have ended very badly. As it was, N had her hands full for a good five minutes or so. We opted to return to the indoor arena.

Anyway, our past three rides have been challenging. N has been riding with me and at this point, that's like riding with a trainer. So, I am taking formal lessons with Cassandra and then N is reinforcing those lessons during our rides. That's actually been really good this week, because she has been willing to stop and coach me through some of the stuff Cassandra showed me at the end of our lesson last Weds.

We cantered quite a bit in the past three days and I can see the pieces of the puzzle getting closer together for Ashke. Our only real challenge today was keeping him focused on me while we were working on bending through his rib cage. Pearl (Ghost Paint) who used to stall right next to him, came into the indoor and Ashke got completely distracted. We were trying to work in smaller circles at the trot and Ashke was counterbending with his head craned back over his shoulder. I finally had had enough and popped him with the whip on his inside hip. He totally threw a tiny little fit and fell into it. N came over to talk me down, if needed, and then suggested we work on a tiny little figure eight. We did and it got a lot better. He listened and was trying very hard to do what I was asking him.

After working on smaller circles at the trot and walk, I went back to the canter. He was moving very nicely, riding with his head lower, and then it felt like he kicked out or bucked. I stopped and talked to N about it, because it is something Cali does in protest, but not something Ashke has ever offered. N said it might be due to him feeling somewhat claustrophobic because I was holding him too tight. She said it was understandable, since fighting him to keep his head down and not bracing at the jaw was something we've been fighting about for a while now. She had me canter again and talked me into releasing some of the pressure. He lowered his head, but relaxed more at the canter, rolling along with me. It was very nice.

The consistency in our riding, both from what we are working on in the arena and the number of days we have been doing so, is beginning to pay off. He is making strides between riding sessions. I'm very pleased. If I can keep him engaged and be consistent in what I am asking him to do, he should be able to finish this part of the puzzle soon. Winter is not my favorite time to ride, but I can see the progress we are making and know by the time we hit the trails in the spring, he will be leaps and bounds above where he is now.

Friday, January 24, 2014


Ruled the barn tonight.

The H/J trainer, who is months behind on her board, finally got evicted by the BM. She is now playing the victim, telling her clients she has no idea why she is being evicted, despite the multitude of warnings she has received. Since most of her clients are young teen girls addicted to the joy/terror of jumping, this resulted in tears, sobs, and general hysteria. One of the young women has a particularly close relationship to one of the H/J trainer's horses. She is devastated by the forced move (if she goes with the trainer to a new barn) or will be devastated by the separation with her beloved horse if she doesn't. I really want to point out to her that the H/J trainer has been living in her camper trailer on the barn property with all of her stuff, not paying rent, not paying board, but still collecting from her clients. Seems really irresponsible to me and very likely to happen again, especially since this trainer has been evicted from most of the barns in the area.

I want to tell the young woman to cut her losses: either offer to buy the horse from the trainer or find a new horse to ride. I know, I know, not that cut and dry when you are sixteen and in love with your horse. It's easy to react with all of the teen angst and maudlin sorrow of losing your most beloved horse, which makes me even madder at the H/J trainer, but I also want to take her aside and point out that she is risking the same thing in another six months or a year, if the trainer can even find a place to move to.

I think trying to make a living by training horses and giving lessons has to be a difficult. No regular paycheck, living at the whim of your clients, having to coach performance from the riders you teach or risk losing them to a trainer who will get them to place where they can win ribbons. None of that sounds appealing. And all of it sounds difficult. But this H/J trainer compounded the issue by owning schooling horses (12) she wasn't taking care of. She was charging her clients, but not paying for her horses. Wouldn't that be the first thing you would do?

So, there was a lot of tension and angst, tears and recriminations. I refused to get drawn in to the drama and walked away when the trainer was looking for sympathy. I didn't think it would help matters for me to be involved.

Ashke did pretty good today. N and Cali rode with us. We did walk-trot transitions and he fought me a lot. We did some cantering and he did that really well. I could see us doing W/T/C on the correct lead in both directions without any issue by the end of the winter. N is going to ride with us tomorrow and we are going to do the Fairmount trail at a trot, see if we can average 6 mph, and let the horses relax a bit. I think we both need a break from the dressage arena for a little bit.

I think the browband looks amazing on Cali. Too bad I can't take a good photo.

It's hard to tell from this picture, but the red is shaded. Looks so much better in real life.


I know, I missed TTTT yesterday, in part because work is continuing to kick my butt and in part because I have temporarily ran out of horse stories to share. I know, right?!! There are more, but my access is temporarily disconnected. Hopefully, by next Thursday access will be restored and I will have another horse story from my youth to share. (It really is a bitch, this getting older shit.)

However, I do have a couple of non-horse related stories to share. Actually, more than a few. So, I thought I would share . . . . .

We were driving home in the car. T was sitting in the back seat in his booster, playing his imaginary game to himself. I had the radio off, listening, because his game was one of the wonders of this boy child. He was three and a bundle of energy, imagination and determination.

For some background, T played an imaginary game from the time he was about two until he was twelve or so, when his friends began teasing him about his imagination. It usually involved a small toy he could hold in one hand, a matchbox car or die cast Star Wars ship, that became whatever he imagined it was. For several years, he played Star Wars, complete with sound effects and hand movements to simulate the movement of the ship through space. We loved Star Wars. Still do. It was an interesting experience to watch Menace, Clones and Revenge through his eyes and to see the greatest villain of my generation become a romantic, misguided and manipulated fallen hero in the eyes of my son. He wanted to meet his Padme by the age of five and mourned in first grade the lack of his future wife. The game finally died about two years ago, buried under the scorn of his friends, his embarrassment and the sudden and all-encompassing passion of video games.

But not on that day. Suddenly, out of no where, T said, "Mom?"

Me: "Yes, son?"
T: "Do you like penises?"

OMG. How in the world do I answer that honestly? I knew when I made the decision to be pregnant and bear a child into the world, that someday I would have to answer really difficult questions. I was prepared for the sex talk and the romance talk and all of the bits and pieces in between, but I hadn't ever considered this line of questioning. I had made a commitment to myself that any question he had the courage to ask, I would have the courage to answer honestly. But this? How to say, "Well, not really", without devastating his sense of self-worth, his deepest sense of himself as boy. Before I could answer, however, he came back with:

"I hate my penis."

Talk about devastating to a mother. I knew, as a lesbian mom raising a boy child, that there would be times when I would flounder. I expected them to revolve around jock itch and foreskin, not this sudden self-hatred of that most intimate of all parts. I had worried about being able to raise a son with a sense of himself as boy, as man, when being raised by two women. Not that I thought you needed a man to raise a boy, since my opinion of fathers was tainted by my own childhood experience with not only my own, but also fathers of my friends. I knew our child would be loved and protected, supported and wanted, a central part of our lives, not an inconvenience. But somewhere deep in my psyche, I worried about this very moment in our lives with a worry and fear beyond speech.

I changed my tact, "Why do you hate your penis?" I asked gently, meeting his shadowed eyes in the mirror.

T: "Because pee comes out of it."

Sudden light. They were still working on potty training at the daycare where he went. This question was not self-hatred, but perhaps some confusion surrounding hygiene and the washing of hands. This I could deal with. I explained that pee can carry bacteria and that's why we wash our hands after going to the bathroom, but that it isn't bad and it certainly doesn't make his penis bad. He was unconvinced.

Me: "Let's think of things you like about your penis. Do you like standing up to pee?"
T: Nods vigorously in the mirror.
Me: "And you like stiffies (our name for an erection)."

This time a sly smile stretched his mouth, and he nodded again. I could see he was still unconvinced. Moms are not the best source of reassurance at times like this. I, however, had a secret weapon. Our next door neighbor, a wonderful man named Jared who was a triplet with two sisters, had offered shortly after we brought T home to stand in as a male figure if we ever needed him to. I figured this was something he could handle.

When we got home, I lifted T from his car seat and said, "Let's go talk to Jared, shall we?" T buried his face in my shoulder and nodded stiffly against my neck.

I knocked on Jared's door. He opened it, dressed in shorts and a tight t-shirt with man muscle corded across his shoulders and manly hairy legs. He looked puzzled but happy to be interrupted.

Me: "Jared, T has something he wants to ask you."
Jared: "Hey, little man, what's up?"
T: "Do you like your penis?"
Jared, blinked once in surprise, shot me a curious glance, and then stepped up like a champion, "I like my penis a lot!"
T raised his head in surprise and looked at Jared. Jared, hands now fisted at his hips, said, "My penis is good to me."
T said, "Do you like stiffies?"
Jared, hands still on hips, with a little hip thrust that put him front and center said, "Oh, yeah! I like stiffies a lot. They get better as you get older. My girlfriend likes my stiffy too."
T's eyes widened, "Oh. Ok."
Jared held out his fist, "fist bump, little dude." T obliged and giggled, his world set right again.

I have no idea what Jared thought of that conversation. I can say, he was a delightful neighbor and I miss him. He is married now, with a couple of kids of his own. He has my undying gratitude for his simple, yet sincere, frank conversation with my son.

We have had no more talk of hating of body parts and I went back to feeling like a fairly adequate parent.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014


J didn't want to come watch my lesson tonight, having more important things like cooking and laundry to do, so I went to the barn straight from work. Ashke greeted me with lots of whinnies and stuck his head in the halter. I groomed him and got him tacked up, then went to the arena.

An hour and twenty minutes before my lesson.

Do not do this.

We warmed up and then stood and waited for the lesson to start. By the time our time rolled around, Ashke was convinced we were done and he was pissed I was making him work again. Cassandra rode him for a bit and worked on some of the things I just don't know.

My take-aways:

1. Warm up for ten minutes, then ride the lesson.
2. Understand he goes better on the rail than in the middle of the arena.
3. Homework for the next two weeks is to work on him bending through his body, moving his energy forward and not sideways. Cassandra says he needs to release his shoulder and bend through his rib cage. (I have absolutely no clue what that means . . . . )
4. Keep working on the canter.
5. Bring a freaking dressage whip, because if I don't I will need it. Murphy's law.
6. Try to get him out on the trail a couple of times, as a reward for his hard work.

My really big awesomeness tonight was watching him walk away from me and he was swinging his right hind leg correctly, instead of swinging it to the inside in a half-circle. I believe I have dressage to thank for that, since it has increased his back strength, which in turn has begun to correct his  stride. I really didn't think that was a possibility. I really thought he was going to swing that leg inside forever.

The other really big awesomesauce was him picking up his correct lead in both directions on the first ask, without cross-cantering.

The last time I asked him to canter, I leaned forward and dropped contact. He refused to canter and I slowed back to a trot. Cassandra asked if I knew why he hadn't trotted and I was able to tell her (I recognized what I had done, after the fact.) She said it would take me a little while to figure it out. At least I recognized it seconds after I had done it. That's almost the same as not doing it.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014


It is tradition. Every year in January, we go to the National Western Stock Show. This year made year 17 without missing one. T has been going since he was less than one.

NWSS started a very long time ago. It is a traditional stock show, meaning all kinds of animals end up there: sheep for the shearing, chickens and goats and rabbits are shown and sold for breeding stock, horses are shown and auctioned and sold, and riders from all over the west come to perform. There is Grand Prix and Gambler's Choice, a Wild West Show, Mexican Rodeo (complete with matador and really pissed off bull that I saw take apart a couple of vaqueros, knock out the matador, destroy a line of fencing while trying to take apart the camera man behind the fence, and gore a cow they had turned out into the arena to distract the bull. Not really a lot of fun, but a lot of action), Superdogs, and an evening (or two) with horses. It starts and ends with cattle being shown and sold, usually to some fancy pants restaurant who is willing to pay $70,000 for one steer and send the owner (always a high school student) to college on the proceeds. Of course, it's no wonder the restaurant charges $50 a steak, when the damn thing cost so much.

Our favorite part is the Hall of Education. It is a huge building with a multitude of vendors. Alas, the multitude is thinning and a lot of the vendors are the same ones for the past 17 years. It certainly isn't as stimulating as it used to be. We did, however, manage to watch some Western showing at the Events Center, see a couple of people from the barn and say hi to Cassandra. Then we watched fly ball, which we think our LandSharks might actually be good at. It was free day today, so we took time off and played hooky with the boy.

Oooooo. Looky what is new this year. No price listed so I knew better than to ask.

Pretty cool shop, but way out of my price range.

Cassandra talking to her student, who is really sparkly.
They had a bad morning. Someone stole a saddle from a locked tack room.
The girl riding had to borrow one in order to show today.

 More sparkly on a horse that was being ridden in an exagerrated gait.

Very purple. 

And so you all know why I haven't been riding: T at the AFC Championship Game.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

New Browband for Cali

The browband I made for N was the very first one I tried and it was two beads too narrow.

I made her one that I think will work better, with the main focus of the band to either side, to avoid her very think forelock.

As always, it looks better IRL.


The plan yesterday was to do the National Western Stockshow with my mom who is visiting for the week. As we drove past the stockshow grounds we realized the parking area was completely full, the overflow lots were completely full and as we drove away, realized the shuttle parking lots were completely full. We pulled the plug on that idea, since none of us relished the idea of shoving our way through crowds of people to look at anything.

I decided to ride. My mom was going to stay home and make cookies, but we needed oil, so everyone made the trek to the barn. When I walked in the stall door Ashke heard me and whinnied, then stuck his face in the halter. It was about 50 degrees and I just couldn't face being inside, so even though I was riding by myself, we headed out.

Our first meander around the property resulted in Ashke blowing and snorting at EVERY. DAMN. THING. OMG. It was like sitting atop a powder keg waiting for it to blow. At the point he began rearing and piaffing, I turned him around and told him to stand, while I swung off. One of the moments of the most danger for me is getting on and off. My poor back and legs are getting better, but dismounting is not an easy or quick process. I routinely drag my right leg across his rump and I still can't mount or dismount on the right, because I can't swing my left leg that high. Thankfully, even though he was blowing and high as a kite, I got off safely, with him standing still for me.

I hand walked him back down to the car where my mom was reading (She lives in Arizona, so 50 is cold to her) and told her I was going to ride up on the mesa by myself. I didn't think N was going to make it and I didn't want to miss my opportunity to ride out. I led Ashke over to our impromptu mounting block right outside the barn and asked him to position himself. Some new guy (maybe the new barn guy) made a comment about how I was cheating, to which I replied I did not want to pull his spine out of alignment, especially considering how much it costs to see the chiro. Ashke was nervous already, and was moving his feet, mostly because he didn't know who this guy was, and the guy made some kind of inane comment and moved toward us like he was going to do something. It was pretty strange. I got on and we turned for the mesa.

He did pretty good for the fact he was alone and we were riding out for the first time in a while. N called while I was riding the loop and said she was at the barn, so I headed Ashke home to meet her. I had to get off and hand walk past a stroller and over the bridge, since Ashke was bouncing and rearing, his tail flagged. I got back on then and rode down to meet N and Cali. At that point, Ashke was ready to go, but no longer trying to walk on air.

He and I had done some trotting, but with N and Cali we just walked. N hadn't wanted to waste the time booting her, so we had to be careful about where and how we rode. I think both horses were excited and relieved to be out of the arena.

Friday, January 17, 2014


I drive about twenty-five minutes from home to work and then back again every day. Most days I use a hands-free device on my phone and spend that time talking with my mom. However, mom is in town because we are going to the AFC Championship game this weekend and so instead of talking to her last night, I called N. That conversation illuminated some riding stuff I hadn't consciously recognized.

Here it is, since N thought it was significant.

Riding English and specifically dressage is very different from the riding I did as a kid. One, I am riding in a saddle vs riding bareback. Two, I had no idea what a frame was or why you would want to ride in it when I was younger. Three, the riding styles are very different. As a kid, my priority was to be able to stay on, steer my horse and go at whatever gait I required. Now I am focused on creating a relationship and conversation with Ashke that goes beyond pointing him in the direction I want him to go.

So, to the epiphany. Or what N referred to as a breakthrough moment.

On Wednesday night, when cuing the canter, I really focused on keeping my back straight and not leaning forward. I recognized while talking to N, how important it was that I maintain my posture and keep my weight steady and balanced in the saddle, because otherwise I am sending conflicting messages to my horse.

What I have been doing is leaning forward, dropping all contact with his mouth and asking him to canter, then throwing my weight back and jerking on his mouth as I pick contact up again, fighting with him to move at a canter rather than a gallop. This has been our pattern on the trail, when he's galloped and it causes him to throw his head up and fight against the pressure. It's been my pattern of riding in the arena. It's a horrible behavior of mine that has caused him to be worse. He can't be happy with me, since I am the one that is simultaneously asking him to move faster and to stop at the same time. It explains why he is so hesitant in the arena when I am asking for the canter, because he is anticipating that I will also jerk on his mouth and ask him to stop.

Poor baby. Stupid human.

On Wednesday, I was able to maintain contact, thus alleviating the jerk on his mouth, I was able to encourage him verbally and with my leg, while asking him to bring his head down in the same way I ask at the walk and trot, thus I was able to be consistent in my ask. Additionally, I kept my weight in the same position on his back, keeping my arms and hands in the same position, helped him be balanced in the canter. When he got ragged to the right, I was able to continue asking him to give to the inside rein and lift him with my inside heel and he lifted himself into the canter. Finally, keeping my back straight and not shifting forward allowed me to relax for the first time, moving with him instead of bracing against my back pain. . . . . and IT DIDN'T HURT!!

I could feel both of us relax at the same time at the lack of pain on my part. Between the BOT back brace and my improved core strength, I was able to let go of my internal tension at the expected pain. (I hate that I do that. The pain should be nothing. But I still do.) We finally moved in unison, without fear, without pain, at a sweet canter.

Still have stuff to work on, but I think we found our key on Wednesday night. I will see if we still have it tonight when I go to ride. J and Mom will both be there, so I am hoping for both pics and video.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Thursday: Truth or Tall-Tale

Before I start my newest story, I have to say we had a great ride last night, despite the nine other riders going every which way in the arena. Our canter gets better and better every time I ride. I did better at keeping my weight balanced in the saddle and finally, finally, able to relax and just ride in both directions. One year and eight months after I started riding again, I can finally see a light at the end of the tunnel. Ashke was a little sweaty and warm and very tired when we were done. Cantering is very hard work. I need to get him outside on a trail on Saturday, if I can. We are both a bit over the indoor at this point.

Ok. Back to my story. I can't promise this is exactly what really happened, but it's what it felt like.

Wild, Wild West

One of my earliest memories is of riding. My parents knew a man who had a horse. Or several dozen horses. His name was Merrell and when I was four and five he lived on a sweet little horse ranch nestled in the hills ten miles or so outside of Firth, ID, where I grew up. His ranch was framed by mountains on the left side, rising in steep ridges above his house, with fenced pasture land stretched out behind and to the right side, where he ran his horses and a few cattle. There was a canal or small river that ran to the right, behind the pasturage, between his place and the Indian reservation.

His ranch consisted of a small, two bedroom house, painted white with green trim, several corrals and stock pens, a couple of lean-tos and several sheds, all in various states of disrepair. Merrell raised Appaloosas on his land, standing a blue roan stallion that was the father of Queenie. He had numerous horses broke to ride, so my parents always had solid, well-broke mounts to ride whenever we went out there.

[Quick side note: The last summer I spent at Firth was spent riding. My sibs were all in California with my Grandmother and I stayed home to work my horses and ride. It was my final year in 4-H and my 4-H group was led by a woman named Deb. Deb was also the President of my very first 4-H group when I was eight and riding the shitland. She had long, dark hair to her waist, dark eyes, rode a bright bay Arabian gelding and was magnificent on horseback. Or at least so it seemed to the eight year old me. I was absolutely in love with her, wanted to be like her, wanted her to like me. So, to have her be my 4-H leader eight years later (where I was in love with her all over again for vastly different reasons) was a bit surreal. To make this story even more convoluted, she lived on Merrell's ranch and I spent a lot of time at her house, even pasturing Ace there with her QH yearling. I think she was the motivating factor in my learning to ride properly and correctly and learning to show when I was a kid. Anyway.]

My mom's horse was a 15.1 black mare with small white splotches on her hindquarters they called Button. I remember Button's foal; a small black and white coat horse that followed her on our rides. At least he did until he got big enough to leave behind. Button was a very nice horse and behaved well for my mom, except she wouldn't stand still for mounting. She would wait until my mom had her foot in the stirrup (Western saddles and no mounting blocks to be seen) and then she would pace in a circle, my mom hopping on one foot, trying to get enough momentum to swing up on this mare. Uncle Merrell and my father would laugh uproariously at the sight. Bastards. Finally, my mom would wrestle her to a stop and swing up, then Uncle Merrell would lift me up behind her to cling to the back of the saddle.

Western saddles, at least the saddles I rode on when I was young, had a wide skirt that flowed out behind the saddle. This skirt was designed to protect anything tied to the back of the saddle from being covered in horse sweat and hair, plus it would keep the stuff behind the saddle from abrading the horse's back. It was exactly the width needed for a small child to sit on, hands clenched around the curled edge of the saddle's cantle, face turned sideways and body snuggled up against my mom's back. My brother, about three at the time, rode in the same way behind Uncle Merrell's saddle. Uncle Merrell rode a buckskin Appy, with a white blanket and black legs and mane. He wasn't too big either, about 15.2, but built nice with the blocky Roman nose of Merrell's stallion. My father rode a big, rangy, rawboned bright chestnut mare, who stood 16.3 or 17hh. She had to be thoroughbred, with her long legs and tall stature. My little sister, about a year old, rode in front of my father clinging to the saddle horn with her chubby fists.

Funny thing about that rawboned mare: she had a mind of her own. When we rode out from the ranch down the road, there was a narrow goat trail that led up the side of the hill that she would take. There was a fence on the hill side of the trail and a twenty foot drop off on the downhill side. She would follow that narrow track, her hooves a couple of feet above my mom's head as she rode Button down the road. I know it made my mom very nervous to have her year old daughter balanced on top of that crazy mare, but she never put a foot wrong and always came back down to the road at the other side.

We would take off on a ride up the road onto the Fort Hall Indian Reservation. We would go for hours, riding through the rolling hills and treeless prairie in aimless, wandering exploration. I am sure my thirst for and love of the high plains of the west stem from this conditioning at such a young age. It filled my soul with wanderlust and created the need for wide open places to explore on horseback. It also, in some ways, made me fearless. It had the opposite effect on my sibs. At some point in our ride, we stopped on a high vista, looking back down at the Snake River Valley of my youth from the high, wind swept grasslands of the Shoshone Nation. I remember my first taste of beef jerky, salty and hard between my teeth, and the sweet taste of Pepsi following after, that Merrell shared out of his saddlebags, the condensation running down the slick glass of the Pepsi bottle. After our impromptu lunch, we would mount back up and head for home.

The ride I remember started as we crossed out of the Fort Hall reservation. We were headed home and still had several miles to ride. The road was packed dirt and unrutted. They began to canter. The horses, heading home and knowing it, moved from a canter to a gallop and then from a gallop to a flat-out run. I wrapped my five year old hands around the cantle of the saddle and pressed against my mom's back, clenching with my legs and held on for dear life. My father had wrapped the latigo from the horn of his saddle around my sister's belly, tying her to the saddle in front of him. I remember my brother's face, white with gritted teeth, as he held on for all he was worth.

The horses stretched out, running like deer, the bits between their teeth, three abreast as the rounded the corner of the road and headed down the last quarter mile stretch, the house and corrals in sight in front of them. I honestly think that all three adults had forgotten about the cattle guard between them and home. This cattle guard was eighteen feet across with the rails set about six inches apart, wide enough to show the deep, dark four foot deep hole beneath it. Back then, cattle guards were serious stuff, intended to keep the cattle and horses in. This one had a small gate to the right of the guard, with a post set about three feet in front of it, which a rider on horseback could maneuver through, but the cattle would just walk around. The gate was only big enough for one horse at a time. When the riders saw the cattle guard they yanked back on the reins in a sudden panic, but the horses had no desire to stop. They could see home right in front of them and they were running three abreast.

There was absolutely no stopping the horses.

I think my heart would have stopped in my chest, if I had been my mom.

The cattle guard was stretched across the road and the only gate through was very small on the left side, blocked by a fence post.

My mom yelled to me and my brother to lift our legs up. I did, still clinging to the back of the saddle with small, white-knuckled hands, and tried to stay on without the safety of my strong legs. I saw my brother do the same, bouncing up and down on the dun's back like a small demented monkey. Uncle Merrell's horse and my mom's horse hit the gap in the fence at the same time, each horse weaving around the fence post a couple of feet in front, one to either side. The fence exploded into small pieces of wood and twanging wire, the top of the gate post sliding past the bottom of my small foot, the dun pressed tight against the black mare on the other side as the two horses became one for a small moment in time. My exhilarated grin met my brother's terrified one as the horses jerked and lurched through the gate, coming out the other side in one piece amidst the broken and shattered fence.

I heard a wild cry and turned my head to the left. My father, one arm wrapped around the waist of the toddler in front of him, her hands clenched in terror around the horn of the saddle, his other hand fisted in the reins of the big, rawboned mare, a look of exhilarated terror on his tight-lipped face, leaned forward in the saddle as that mare leaped the cattle guard in a perfect jump, front legs curled tight against her chest, her body arched high and wide. And she landed perfectly balanced about three feet beyond the cattle guard, continuing her race for the corrals, where she pulled up in first place, blowing and snorting and covered with foam. With my baby sister tied to the saddle strapped to her back.


It is a miracle we all survived to adulthood.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Monday Night

Ashke was a dirty mess. It looked like he had rolled in turn-out that afternoon, or slept in the sun on his left side. Since this was the way in which he so badly damaged his mane that I was forced to roach it, I'm just as glad that it is still standing straight up in the air. It looks really cute too!

I groomed him until he was white again, and then got him tacked up.

The indoor was almost completely empty, and Jtender followed me in with Jackson, so we weren't completely alone. Ashke did walk-trot transitions and did them very well. We did two trot-canter transitions, one on the straight away and the other that we bent into a 20' circle at one end of the arena. He is finally bringing his head down and lifting himself at the canter, plus his balance has gotten so much better.

My things to work on: don't lean forward when cuing the canter. This is a horrible habit from my western riding days. I lean forward and bring my hands forward, completely dropping contact with his mouth. I do it without thinking about it and really focused on Monday at keeping my back straight and my hands still with contact when asking him to canter.

We did the canter twice in each direction and then I started talking with Jtender, who is from India and had never ridden before moving to America. He is always decked out in Western cowboy attire, rides a QH reining horse and was in love with all things cowboy before moving out west. We were discussing the pros and cons of dowry and arranged marriages vs Match or It was good practice for Ashke to stand still, which he just really doesn't understand, although he cocked a foot and did it. After our twenty minute conversation I didn't feel like it was fair to ask him to work again, so we were done. (And I needed to get home.)

Hopefully, tonight we will be able to work on the trot-canter transitions and canter gait in general without being distracted by marriage customs in other countries. I am such an extrovert with an open mind: I can honestly talk to anyone about any thing. A trait that J both admires and finds disturbing. It is also a quality that my son approaches with trepidation, since I have been known to take his questions at face value and answer them in Target, which is frankly mortifying to a almost 14 year old boy.

Good rule of thumb: don't ask sex questions in public if you don't want a public answer.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Share Your Barn Blog Hop

 1. A View of the Barn

At night, sorry. This is the front of the main barn. It can house close to a hundred horses and we are almost full. There are box stalls with runs on either side, and box stalls down the center.

Each horse can have up to seven flakes of alfalfa or grass hay a day, plus up to six pounds of grain a day. Ashke gets six flakes of grass hay, spread out over four feedings. The stalls are cleaned daily and plenty of shavings are used.

This is a shot of the hallway from the front left door walking in. There is a bathroom, which is a plus, so you don't have to go to the indoor arena to pee. Each horse has a bin for supplements and a place to hang a blanket.

2. Where your horse lives:

This is Ashke's stall with the door to his run closed. The barn is kept at 45 degrees during the winter, which may sound cold, but let me tell you it feels a little like heaven when you walk in from outside, especially at night.

The bucket brigade. Two buckets for water. He does have an automatic waterer he shares with the horse next door, but sometimes the pipes freeze and sometimes the very old horse next door likes to dunk his hay into the waterer to soften it. Ashke seems to prefer the buckets. The guys fill them twice a day and I fill them whenever I am out.

The blue bucket is for his once a day feed, which includes a cup of moistened timothy hay, 10 ounces of Equipride, 1/2 tsp of salt and his smartpak for his joints.

Here is the outdoor run for Ashke's stall. The run is covered in squeegee, which is slightly smaller in diameter than pea gravel, has really improved the drainage and reduced the mud. He loves playing over and under the fence with Fool and Cassini.

3. Your Tack Room

This is the grooming stall right outside the tack room. There are three in the middle of the barn, three at the front of the barn and two at the far end of the barn. They are working on putting in another one at the far end. It still isn't enough some days.

Each trainer has a tack room for their clients. This one, which I am in, is for Cassandra. In addition to the four trainer tack rooms, there are two other tack rooms for the rest of the boarders.

This is my area and N's. My trunk is the one with the yellow lid and that space is actually much more organized than it was two days ago. We can use the shelf above the gear to store stuff, which I might need to do. It still looks like a freaking mess.

4. Where you ride:

Fairmount Trail

Fairmount Trail

Top of North Table Mountain

The outdoor dressage arena

Cottonwood Pass North Table Mountain

Lower Loop around North Table Mountain

Upper paddocks for the outdoor horses (#1) and North Table Mountain

Indoor arena

Outdoor arena

More of the outdoor arena. And flying horse butt.

5. Your favorite feature.

1. Feed four times a day. I think this has been the number one reason we have had no digestive issues (the C word) since we moved in.

2. The Indoor Arena.
This was the primary reason for searching for a new barn a year ago. I want/need to be able to ride after dark in the winter. As long as it's not too cold out, I have that luxury all winter long. I can also take lessons during the week at night, when needed.

3. The access to trails.
This was the second reason for moving.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Sunday Snap: Cassandra's Browband

15.5" long (Warmblood/Horse sized)
Black, White, Silver and silver-lined Royal Blue

Saturday, January 11, 2014


blood and tears . . .

Well, at least the sweat.

We rode last night for about an hour and again this morning. Worked on mostly walk-trot and then some canter.

We had a decent ride last night, although he was pretty distracted by the eleven other riders having their jumping lesson.

Today was a little rougher. I don't know if it was because Cassandra was in the indoor and that was making me nervous, or if he was tired of trying, but we spent the first half hour fighting about him not being a giraffe and moving off my leg. He didn't want to try and let me know by suddenly shying at a spot that he had already moved past numerous times. The first time I let it slide, but the second time he tried to spin and bolt. I was done.

I picked up the dressage whip (which I had brought in case he was sluggish cantering) and after a couple of pops (because let's be honest about how we use the dressage whip - there is no tap. there is a pop.) he moved off my leg without issue. He stopped shying. He stopped being a freaking pain in the ass and tried to do what I was asking him to do. (He doesn't have to be perfect, but he has to try.) I put the dressage whip down again, not wanting to scare him, and he was very receptive after that.

 The best part of this photo: see how he is stepping up under himself: tracking up? He wasn't able to do that before our last visit to Diane. The adjustment to the base of his neck was the last piece of work he needed to move this easily.

After that, we focused on our stuff. Stopping and framing, then moving forward through the walk-trot transitions. We did some leg yields on the sides of the arena and he was so very good.

There were times when moving forward was not allowed. I am working really hard to get him to understand the stop part of riding. It is a difficult part for Arabians to grasp.

Ashke really just wanted to follow Cali around and pin his ears at all the other horses. Riding in chaos arena is soooo much fun.

Finally, standing quietly. His front legs are a little under him, but he is gaining strength every day.

I love this picture. I am demonstrating the proper method of "stare sideways at the horse's head."

He tried really hard the rest of the ride. We moved forward to trot-canter transitions. His biggest step forward has been him listening to me once we move up into the canter. At our lesson on Wednesday, Cassandra pointed out that I was leaning forward and releasing all contact from the bit when I am asking him to canter, and then grabbing at his mouth once he is moving. No wonder the poor boy is confused about what I want. Leaning forward and releasing the pressure is something I learned riding rodeo. Today, I really made myself aware of the contact, holding it while asking him to canter, instead of jamming him. He was so much happier and so much less confused. And he reacted by actually giving a little bit.

By the end of our ride I was streaming sweat and he was actually sweated up a bit. 

So, I leave you with this: