The toothpick is still inside his foot. We are hoping the Ichthammol that Calm, Straight, Forward recommended will work it's magic and draw out the wood. The boy is beginning to put weight on that foot, so at least he's not hopping around like a one legged jackrabbit so much any more.
I rode Thursday, Friday and today. All inside because of the heavy thunderstorms moving through the countryside. Ashke was pretty sluggish today because of the heat and humidity in the inside arena.
We've really increased what we are doing on a ride by ride basis. A lot of cantering and at least four or five transitions in each direction. I know he is losing weight and muscle, despite the increased work load. After talking to Saiph and doing some research, I switched out two of the flakes of grass he was getting for alfalfa (to increase his protein and calcium uptake) and added Triple Crown Omega Max to his daily mash. We will keep him on this for a month and see if it makes a difference.
I love how upright my back is.
The still shots look okay
Legs are a blur.
He looks interested.
Posing for the papparrazzi
Some cantering. Damn the elbows.
And this is to the right. I thought the transition felt a lot worse than it looked.
We trailered out to Marshall Lake today, just out of Boulder. There is something magical about riding under the Flatirons.
Ashke loaded pretty quickly. I've adopted the philosophy that he can stop and look and sniff, but that if he pulls back, the come-a-long goes on. For those of you who don't know what that means, a come-a-long is a soft long rope that is tied in a figure eight around his neck and haunches. It prevents him from backing up and if needed, I could apply pressure to his legs to encourage him to walk forward. It is how I learned to teach foals to lead. With Ashke, I don't need to apply pressure, he knows it's intended to keep him from backing up. He is not allowed to kick out at the rope, either. N made the comment that it acts as a calming tool when asking him to get on the trailer. With the come-a-long on, he walked right on.
Cali loaded pretty quickly after Ashke. We trailered without event to the parking lot, where I once again had to evict someone out of their parking place. It very clearly says "Trailers Only" on the side where we wanted to park, but the area was parked up with cars any way. It pisses me off. The woman was very nice though and didn't give us any grief. It's a good thing, because there would have been nowhere else to park.
We picked the lower trail and rode up to the canal. It was a good choice because it was less rigorous for T on his bike. Although he did have a moment when he body slammed his bike and kicked the derailer. Rage in adolescent males is not to be underestimated.
We did walk/trot and canter on the trail. There were places where the footing was especially rocky. We even traversed some slickrock.
We made Ashke walk in the back and Cali to be brave in the front for part of the ride. This happened because once again, my racehorse would not allow himself to be rated when cantering behind Cali. He blew through the shank bit. He pogo sticked his way down the canal. Thankfully, N heard me yell and stopped to watch us blow past her. Ashke had his head straight up in the air. That stopped after that little incident.
Even in the shank bit I was able to ask him to keep his head down and give to the bit. We looked pretty fancy.
Our only spook was at the beginning of the ride. Ashke about lost his mind when a Border Collie missing her front leg passed us on the trail. Full-blown snort and spin, trying to bolt. Cali could have cared less. For some reason, the bobbing dog did it for Ashke.
You can't tell, but Ashke has his chin almost to his chest. He did not want to trot next to and a little bit behind the Cali.
I so should have shortened my reins.
I don't think N stopped smiling all day. HER horse was wonderful.
We did canter quite a bit. We cantered the hill up from the lower part of the trail to the canal. Then we cantered the canal. Or as much as we could given the footing and the other trail users.
We stopped for lunch, which the ponies were happy about, especially Cali. I think she was personally offended by the knee high grass she couldn't eat.
We drank water and ate PB&J for lunch.
T was happier after eating. And we turned back at that point, which made all of the ride back downhill.
He actually did pretty good.
There was one very technical part of the trail that we went up before we stopped for lunch. On the way back down, I got off and suggested to N that she hand walk Cali down the steep part. It's a good thing we did, because it was pretty difficult. Difficult enough, that when we got to the steep, slick part of the trail, N wasn't sure she wanted to try it. I suggested she lengthen her reins and go first, then let Cali pick her way down.
We were both pretty happy we chose to hand walk them down.
We made it back to the trailer just as a series of storms came over the mountains. Ashke loaded without any hesitation and Cali walked on pretty quickly too. We trailered back to TMR in spitting rain, but managed to beat the storm and get the horses and saddles inside before the skies opened up again. T helped J park the trailer while N and I fed the horses. We loaded up just as the hail started.
Last night I rode in the Myler snaffle and asked Ashke to do much dressage. He did really well and our canter was the best it has been in a while. He is finding it so much easier to lift his back and use his butt during our rides.
Today, I bitted him up in the Myler shank bit. I decided that I would ride him in the bit that he finds most comfortable and it's a good thing I did. N was lunging Cali, who was bucking and kicking in the middle of the outdoor arena, and M was riding her huge Friesan/Paint gelding who was bucking and kicking at the end of the arena. Ashke was walking and trotting very nicely around the outdoor on the rail. We had worked on the canter to the right and managed four rounds with an up and then a down transition on each round. We turned around to go to the left. M and her horse left the arena and a new black QH was walking around in a circle in the parking lot.
That's when Ashke lost his mind. And I have no idea why he decided right then that he was going to flip out. It might have been that he thought Cali was leaving the arena at the same time as the Friesan/Paint and he got upset. It's not the first time he has done this.
He began to bounce up and down, rearing a little, then spun in a circle, fighting for his head. He was doing the Arabian Snort and trying to get away from me. Always in the past, I have gotten him to stop long enough to get off. This time, though, we had a come-to-Jesus moment (or insert any deity you would prefer, except for Kali - we do not need a Destroyer Goddess here). The bit helped a lot. He spun in a circle a couple of times, his neck completely curved in to his chest, and I heard N call out and ask if we were okay. I wrestled him over to the rail, faced him into it and we sidepassed down the rail at a trot. By the time we reached the other end of the arena, he was pretty much regretting his decision to pitch his little fit.
I didn't get off though. Thanks to my saddle.
I didn't even slide a little bit in the Alta Escuela. I felt in control and was able to force Ashke to do what I wanted him to do. Of course, I'm sure it didn't hurt that he realized that Cali wasn't leaving.
I then worked his butt off.
We did a lot of this:
And then I decided that since he is picking up his leads based on the heel cue I am using that I would work on him picking up his leads on the straight away. I believe this is a huge step toward working on a flying lead change. He did really well on the exercise as well.
Although, I wasn't as good as I could have been at calling where we were going to be. Luckily, N and I did not crash.
I need to get control of my elbows, I think. N does not do the funky chicken when she rides. And just to prove it, here they are:
Things to take away from today:
Ashke did really well, despite his temper tantrum, and I am getting more and more comfortable at the canter.
I LOVE MY SADDLE!!!!!!!!!!!!
My boy was pretty whupped by the end of our session.
1 - I really need to figure out how to keep my weight in the stirrups. I mean, that's what they are there for, right? Instead, I find myself tightening my calves and lifting my feet, riding the way I would if I were bareback. Forty years separates my older self from that girl, and yet I still ride like I'm 12. This results in all sorts of stuff, like bouncing stirrups or lost stirrups, or crotch racking stops. Yes, it is fun, but not very dressagey, as they say. It is a constant thought in my process. I'm much better at the walk and trot, and use my stirrups for weight shifts when asking for lateral work. In the sitting trot (because I don't post) I keep my weight in the stirrups and almost mini-post without actually lifting my weight from the saddle. At the canter, though, my heels come up and I begin to ride like a wild Indian. This doesn't bother me on the trail, because that is all about the fun and adventure of the ride, however, when trying to impress in the arena, the bouncing stirrups really distract from my elegance. (I'm laughing really hard right now.)
2 - Cantering is a lot more difficult than I remember. When I was riding Seabisquit, our typical trip involved walking and trotting out, then hell-bent-for-leather race back, with me frantically trying to find a soft place to bail off without breaking something. With Queenie, she had a really nice swinging walk and a wonderfully easy to ride canter, despite the dorsal fin that was her withers. We never really trotted and our going places gait of choice was the canter, which Queenie could maintain for hours. Now, I find the canter a lot of work. Even a short series of trot-canter transitions leaves me huffing for breath like a two-bit whore on nickel night. Sometimes I am too exhausted to do more than a couple of transitions in a row before I have to stop and catch my breath.
3 - Ashke is the bomb. He is so much more willing to canter in a frame now, that it makes my jaw drop every time he maintains his frame up into the canter. We are still struggling with our downward transitions, in which we flail and fall apart, but in the upward transitions, he is able to pick up his correct lead in both directions. I need to do a better job of preparing him to canter, just so we don't do the brain jarring trot for the length of the arena before throwing ourselves up into the canter. If I could manage to maintain any semblance of my riding ability when doing so, I might be able to do more than three transitions a ride. We have managed to continue our trot when transitioning downward, instead of coming to a screeching halt with our head down between our knees.
4 - The weather and our increased work load has caused some stiffness for the boy. His left patella has been bothering him. I noticed he was choosing to rest his left hind whenever he could. After he had played on Monday, I rubbed the patella with my palm. He both pinned his ears and chewed and licked at the same time. Painful, but good at the same time is how I interpreted that move. Last night, before our ride, I sprayed the area with SoreNoMore and did some very gentle rubbing. It seemed to help. My guess is our intermittent winter weather combined with the sudden onslaught of wet and rainy (Colorado is so bi-polar in the spring) that the old injury to his left patella is plaguing us. At least it's the left leg and not the right this time. It doesn't seem to effect his going or his transitions, but he has been resting it a lot.
5 - The saddle and I have come to an understanding. I love how it has freed Ashke's shoulders and hips, how he is able to move forward and to the side without any hesitation. He is so forward at the trot now, that I feel like I am surfing the back of a cresting Orca whale. Getting him to slow is a challenge, but I guess that is much better than always pushing him to go. His back shows no tenderness, not even to a shedding blade, and he is so much more willing to use his back when I ask. I love the seat and the position it holds me in, although I am dealing with some sore muscles in my back because of my improved posture. Overall, I couldn't be happier!!
Once again we are asked by L Williams at Viva Carlos: which bit and why?
Ashke and I started with an eggbutt snaffle, progressed to a D-Ring snaffle, and tried a French Link, loose ring snaffle. He hated all of them. Wide gaping mouth, head thrown up, no contact and a lot of fighting. I began to do research.
I ended up buying a Raised Rockin' S snaffle bit in the 4.5" size.
It worked well. Finally, Ashke was able to give to the bit. Didn't gape open too badly. It was decent to begin our dressage work with.
However, it was always a fight to get him to carry himself correctly and not pull on my arms. I always felt incredibly tired after a ride. It was also illegal for me to use in the dressage ring (not that I am going to show any time soon). Finally, I had zero control at the canter. ZERO. I decided I needed a bit I could use one hand with - ie, some type of western style bit - so that I could maintain some control with my right hand while holding on with my left (so ashamed. :(
At a local feed store I found:
Myler Level 2 Comfort bit with a 2" shank. We love it. It finally gives me the control I need to stop his bolting on the trail. And it gave both of us the ability to canter without feeling out of control. In a 4.75" bit.
In fact, I liked it so much that I bought a second Myler bit for dressage.
He gives nicely to the pressure and foams like a rabid dog.
We couldn't trailer out of the barn so we decided to ride up North Table Mountain.
For the first time, ever, Ashke walked up the hill with his head at a decent height. At a couple of points going uphill he dropped his head and really put his butt into it like he was pulling a cart. N said his tail was straight, even when we were on a steep grade and that his buttocks looked even (muscles bunching evenly on either side). This is a huge improvement over the giraffey, head cocked to the side action we were experiencing last December.
When we got to the steep part of the grade, I asked him for a canter. I let him go as fast as he wanted and I could hear N behind me encouraging Cali to try and catch us. Laughing out loud, I asked Ashke if he was a race horse or not. A hundred yards up the hill (it's a 1000 foot climb) he suddenly stopped. We turned sideways on the trail and let them huff. They were both puffing heavily. Once they had caught their breath, Ashke turned and headed right back up the hill.
Towards the top, where the climb isn't as steep, we cantered again. They were having a wonderful run, but Ashke was being a bit spooky. It was also pretty hot, so after about a hundred yards, we slowed again. On the top of the mountain, we walked them out and then turned around. They were both very careful about going down the steep part of the trail.
About the time we were hitting the bottom of the mountain, a cloud came in and lowered the temps and the horses got a bit up. We responded by cantering up the next section of trail and Ashke jumped into a hard canter. He shifted up into high gear when he heard Cali behind him, but after covering about half the distance up, I had to slow him because there is a blind curve at the top of the hill. Both N and I were laughing at the top.
All of the bike riders were polite and pleasant, taking the time to step off their bikes and let us go by. It was a nice change.
The refrain running through my head was "I galloped. I galloped."
I wanted to do the VCMBH blog hop that's going on right now, but the only answer I have to "Why do I still ride?" is "To ride is to live."
That makes for a very boring post.
So, some other thoughts:
1. We have done five rides so far in the Alta and I have figured out the issues with the pad slipping. I changed out the girth for a Toklat Fleece (in bright blue to match the saddle blanket) girth, size 48" and it fits on the very last set of holes on both sides of the saddle. But, the saddle blanket doesn't slip, he moves so nicely in it, the press pattern of the blanket looks very even on both sides, except the left wither (which I believe is beginning to fill in - shhh, don't tell anyone) and he shows ZERO back tenderness when palpated with my fingers.
2. We were going to trailer out on Sunday and try a ten mile ride but that's been nixed. The barn is under a quarrentine because of a case of neurological EHV-1 at a barrel racing event and a youth rodeo event. We are not allowed to haul out of the barn and no one is allowed to haul in. This is not mandated by the State, but rather mandated by the BM. We are going to ride the mountain tomorrow morning and I hope that (1) we go fast enough that the boy sweats so I can truly check the sweat pattern on the saddle, and (2) we can get at least five miles in.
3. Raising a teenager is not for the faint of heart. Copious drinking is a serious consideration.
4. Today, Ashke was very lethargic. N thinks it was the humidity and the sudden heat (colorado is bi-polar). Cali was lethargic too. Both of them were eating well and Ashke was pooping. I left him with a bucket of Horse Quencher and a bucket of mash. Hopefully, tomorrow will be a different horse.
5. We spent the morning pulling a Grade B noxious weed from the walking path of the Butterfly Pavilion. I found human excrement hidden under a white teeshirt. I really wonder what is wrong with people. It was through a volunteer program at J's work. N joined us and a good time was had by all.