Sunday, August 31, 2014


The weather has been so strange for Colorado this year. So much consistent rain and much cooler temperatures than normal. Today, in normal years, it would have been in the upper 90's. However, today the overwhelming feeling of the weather was one of fall.

Fall means crisper temps and a hint of snow on the wind. For those of you who ride in four season weather, you will know that this also means a bit of unrest in the horse. Ashke was spook city today. And thanks to Aurora at Redheaded Endurance explained it better than I can: the 4 Acceptable Arabian S's. Ashke sometimes employes the Startle, Stop, Stare, Snort of the 4 S's, but today it was almost entirely Startle. Startle. Startle. I would say something and he would snort.

It was very difficult to keep him forward. I was trying for as much speed as I could get over the distance and today of all days, he wanted to drag his feet. Or Startle. The Startle slays me because I can feel it through his body and then I startle, even if I don't know why I'm doing it. It was a lot of fun.

To start, I fixed up a Camelbak bladder inside the cantle bags on the back of the saddle. The saddlebags are Stowaway and the bladder is in the middle compartment. I had lunch in the other two. There were two things that were an issue. The first is the bladder tube slapping Ashke's flank. He wasn't happy about that. The second was the lunch bouncing on either side. He wasn't too happy about that either.

I had it centered well and strapped as tight as I could get it, but it still bounced some. He kicked out at it a couple of times, but then settled down. Of course, he didn't canter much more than a couple of steps at a time. I will ride with it again tomorrow so will see how it goes then. I really loved not having the weight on my shoulders.

Can you see the clouds in the sky? It was mostly sunny for most of the ride. It gave Ashke a great look at all the terrifying rocks along the trail.

We went back up Ralston Creek Trail. I tried to canter where I could, but mostly we trotted on the way out. I don't know if it was the weather, us being out without Cali, or a bee in his ass. Honestly. Startle. Spook. Startle.

There was a garden along our trail with a Manning scarecrow in the middle of it. 

J likes this trail. It is mostly flat. There were some awesome places to canter which we found after we stopped for lunch. I discovered I had tied the leadrope leading to Ashke's halter (rope halter he wears under his bridle) onto the right side of the saddle, where I couldn't reach it. Usually I tie it on the left so I can reach down and hold the lead rope when we trot or canter to keep it from swinging or smacking Ashke on the bottom of the chin. When we stopped for lunch Ashke grazed for twenty minutes or so and then I tied the lead rope to the other side. Plus, I ate the lunch, so there was less to bounce on his back. He was much better after that.

And we found some very nice fields to gallop across.

I find it curious that I can ride the canter much easier on the trail. It's not that it is an easier canter, since he always feels short and fast to me, but he seems to be more balanced and comfortable if I allow him to canter or gallop with his head higher than I would doing dressage. When I ask him to bring his head down he really lands on the forehand. I've stopped doing that on trail. I just work on moving in rhythm with him and relaxing. 

We stopped for lunch at the same place we did last ride. Ashke gorged himself on knee deep grass, while J and I devoured the food we had brought. I accidentally reset the Equitrack App.

 It was after this stop that I fixed the lead rope. Things picked up a bit, although there was still a lot of stopping, startling and staring. I had been keeping an eye on the sky and one of the storms just to the North of us was threatening. I checked our tracker and we had gone out 6.6 miles. J wanted to make sure she felt up to riding tomorrow, so we decided to head back. 

On our way back, I found a different trail to explore.  Just up over that hill was a pump track for BMX bikes. On the far right was a singletrack trail that lead off. 
I am a lot like a cat. I absolutely could not go on without discovering where that trail went. It actually hooked back up to the sidewalk. When we got to an open meadow the single track became a car trail and I asked Ashke to canter. Four strides in he went sideways to avoid being eviscerated by a small bush. I asked J to go in front, since I did not want to be responsible for Ashke going into her to avoid the evil and ever present bushes.

We found a couple of places where we could play in the stream. Ashke splashed and I refused to let him try to roll. He wasn't interested in drinking.

By the time we were almost back to where the Ralston meets the Fairmount, my knees were killing me. I pulled my right leg out of the stirrup and straightened it out. This conversation occurred:

"Mom! Mom!" (Ashke skitters sideways away from the foot)
What Ashke?
"OMG! What is that thing? It's scarey!!"
It's my foot, you idiot horse.
"No, no, no! That can't be your foot."
It's my foot. (Helpfully I wriggle it around as he continues to snort at it.)
"Put it back, Mom. Put it back. Feet don't stick out like that! It's gross."

I slid my right foot into the stirrup and pull my left one out, sticking it out in front of his shoulder.

Ashke skittered sideways the other direction, "Mom, Mom! The other one is broken now! Put it back! Put it back."

How many of you can scare your horse with your own foot? I am talented.

By the time we hit the golf course it was beginning to get very grey. The wind had died and we could hear thunder rumbling in the distance.

Just to the left, under the tree, is a set of small rolling hills. I rode it at a canter while giggling madly.

It was a lot of fun and I can see why fox hunts are so great. Well, except for the jumps. Just a bit after this Ashke stopped to pee. He moved more quickly after that.

Obligatory canter video.

Combined with the early total: 12.5 miles in 2 hours 43 minutes. Personal best on both distance and time.

After two rides I am at 21.9 miles. That means tomorrow must be an 18 mile day. I don't see that happening.

Here's to tomorrow.

Saturday, August 30, 2014


"I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.”
Frank Herbert, Dune

Fear is a funny thing. It can still thought and breath and your wits. Courage is not a lack of fear, courage is feeling the fear and moving forward anyway. Finding courage when you are by yourself is difficult enough, but when you add a 1100 lb animal into the mix, it can become very volatile very fast.

Today started very early for me. I was up at 4:45 to get the Boy ready for his first cross-country race. He wasn't running at all three weeks ago and today he completed his first 5k without walking any of it. Pure persistence on his part. He was greeted at the finish line (last runner to cross from the varsity race) by a Senior running mate who congratulated him and walked him back to the group. We are very happy with the encouragement and team focus of this group and T finally has friends that seem to think he is worth hanging out with.

We got home from the meet about two and J was feeling too bad to go for a ride with me. We had to rehome Squeaker, due to interspecies attempts at disassemblage (Squeaker and Lily did not get along and teaching Lily that she could grab a cat by the back of the neck and shake them would not have been conducive to her continuing to live non-violently with our other animals.) J is feeling very sad about the need for us to find a new home. He was such a great cat. He went to a home where he will live in the garage and horse barn on a couple of acres. He's a good hunter and there are both mice and
birds for him to hunt. The woman who is taking him loves cats and will give him lots of affection and attention. He should do well there.

So, J was depressed and sad and not feeling good. It didn't seem fair to make her come out with me. I was having a lot of Ashke withdrawal, since I had not been out to see him since Monday. I bailed on taking Squeaker to his new home and headed for the barn instead.

First thing, Ashke got his feet done this morning by Dan Craig, DAEP. I think we have a winner. Ashke's feet looked really good this evening and well-shaped. The boots went on pretty good, although at the end of the ride I pulled the inserts out, since I don't think he needs them and they were putting a lot of pressure on the frog.

Anyway, I got saddled up and we headed out.

It's been a couple of weeks since we rode up the Mesa and he was feeling it today. We cantered the uphills and trotted the not-so-steep downhills. We had to stop to breathe (him) three times up the fire road to the top of the mesa. It was late afternoon and true to form for this summer, there were clouds and the threat of rain in the air.

As you can see from Ashke's ears, he wasn't sure about the ride. Everytime he came to a cross road he recognized, he tried to turn back. It's been a year since he and I rode out a lone, and this was the first time we rode this trail this summer. In fact, it was the first time since the jacket and the rattlesnake. I hadn't planned on doing the loop when we started out, since I had heard part of the trail was washed out due to the flooding last year, but I asked a very nice bike rider who stopped to let us trot past if the far trail was open and he said yes. (We only crossed four bike riders all ride.) I decided then to ride over and check it out. If it was muddy or it felt too scarey then I would turn around and ride back. Either way it would extend my ride. My goal is 40 miles in three days.

Ashke had "I'm not sure about this" ears for the majority of the ride. We went all the way across the Mesa and started down the ravine. It had started sprinkling but it felt good. When I looked at the app after the ride, it defined the weather as moderate rain with a humidity of 19%. Good ole Colorado. The sprinkles cooled me and Ashke off, but didn't really have any other effect. As we started down the defile on the far side of the plateau, it began to rain harder. It made me scared.

When I get scared I sing, especially if I am alone because Ashke doesn't care and there are no humans whose ears will bleed. I sang "Rain, rain, go away, come again some other day." It worked for a little while and the rain tapered off. There was no lightning. Lightning would have been a deal breaker and I would have gotten off the Mesa asap.

This is the opening to the singletrack trail that leads around the side of the mountain. It gets kind of steep and the trail was originally built with logs set in the trail that acted like steps going down. When it washed out last summer it was replaced with the mountain equivalent of flag stones. It was the only time I hand walked the entire ride. It had started to rain harder and I was worried Ashke's boots would slip on the rock. As soon as we crossed that 50 feet of trail, I mounted up again.

I've discovered that riding this trail is a hell of a lot scarier than hand walking it. Especially since my idiot horse walks the trail with his head turned sideways, looking uphill. I had to keep some contact with the downhill rein to keep him focused on the trail. Uphill has heavy bushes and tall shale cliffs, so I can understand why he wants to keep an eye on them, but having him walk on the outside edge of the trail overhanging a steep drop with his head pointed uphill wasn't doing my heart any favors. I am getting older you know.

We did not trot any of this trail. I know it probably isn't that steep or that serious to all you endurance riders, but to me it was terrifying. This is my fourth ride on this trail and I knew what to expect, but it still got to me. I checked my app at one time and we were walking at a 2.6 mph pace. Remember this for later. Also, it started to really rain and I was feeling uncomfortable with the amount of moisture that was hitting the trail. I whispered a prayer to the wind, letting it carry my request to the Creator. I have too many needs waiting for me at home for either of us to get hurt. The rain stopped a few moments later. The trail was dry and as safe as it could have been for the rest of the ride.

Ashke snorted most of the ride. Some of the time is was happy to be moving at a canter snorts, but mostly it was OMG-we-are-about-to-die snorts. He spooks at the same things ALL THE TIME. Rocks and bushes. There were a lot of rocks and bushes on the trail. And by spook I mean more like a flinch that makes me flinch. He's gone sideways a couple of times we were galloping on trail, but we weren't galloping. At least not here.

This trail has three main sections. The first section is all downhill and has a significant drop off to the right. The second section is where the mountain curves in on itself, and the drop off is non-existent. There are lots of trees and big rocks and shoulder high brambles. There is a also a shale slide that looks like a small cliff suddenly became a mountain of hand sized chips. The third section is where the mountain curves out again and the drop off returns.

Just past the shale slide, Ashke came to a sudden and complete halt. His head was up and his nostrils flared. He was staring uphill at the brambles and cliffs. I could feel the tension flash through his body and when I stroked his neck the muscles under my hand were rock hard. I have no idea what he smelled. I wondered at the time if he had gotten a whiff of big cat (mountain lion) or of something else. (In retrospect, it could have been moose. We have one that has been wandering the mountain for a couple of months.) It scared me, but I knew if I allowed myself to feel it, Ashke was primed to lose his shit.

I scanned the area again, breathing deep to release the fear. I couldn't compound what was happening with Ashke, because he felt ready to explode. I stroked and patted him, telling him what a good boy he was, which is our signal that he is safe to move ahead. When he finally moved forward, he tried to trot down the trail, obviously wanting to put distance between us and whatever had spooked him.

I started thinking about what would happen if Ashke really spooked or slipped or jumped sideways. I'm pretty sure whatever happened I would not get out of the way on time, or out of the saddle in time. My poor body doesn't have those kind of reflexes. In fact, my stupid body would try to stay in the saddle regardless if we were walking down the trail or rolling sideways down the mountain. Can I tell you that worrying about that while you are on the side of a steep mountain where you might or might not have scented something that could possibly eat you is counter intuitive.

We continued on.

This is the section of trail from last summer that had the rattlesnake and where I left said snake covered with my jacket. Alas, my jacket was not there. Neither was the rattlesnake. This trail is a lot scarier than it might look.

More scary trail. But I rode it.

Ashke really wasn't sure about the things down below us, like bikes and horses and houses.

Once we got back onto the canal we trotted and cantered the rest of the way home. He pretty much kept an ear cocked sideways for the majority of the ride. We made it safely back to TMR without issue.

I am wiped and very sore tonight. I guess we will see if I make my goal.


Thursday, August 28, 2014

Nooks and Crannies

This is a Happy Things Blog Hop hosted by Lauren at She Moved To Texas.  Basically, it's "what kind of stuff do we have in our homes.

You may or may not have figured it out, but I am pretty Indian-centric. Indian as in Lakota. My house reflects this.

I am a Judy Larsson fan. She does incredible art. This one is titled "He Dog".
If you look carefully, you can see the face of He Dog in the center of the horse's face. He Dog was Crazy Horse's best friend as boys, until the politics of Red Cloud and the Agencies separated them. At the end, He Dog was the one to convince Crazy Horse to come to the Reservation. 
I love this painting.

Our second Judy Larsson. Do you see the horses in the snow?
The image is of a medicine man and two horses.
The Lakota (and most of the Plains Indians) believed that the horse was sent to be Brother to the Indian. Horses changed everything.

Coup Stick by Straight Arrow (Tsistsistas)
The coup stick was an warrior's weapon and was used to count coup. Coup was when a warrior would touch an enemy, taking away their power and shaming them in front of their friends. It was considered more significant than killing an enemy and most years the wars between Plains tribes resulted in many horses stolen, many coups counted, but few deaths.
 This coup stick was made for me. It is designed to be used while riding a horse and is much longer than coup sticks used by warriors battling on foot.
There is a war club with an obsidian head in the upper left corner. It was also made by Straight Arrow.
 And yes, that is Squeaker on the top of the cat perch. 

Dance Stick.
This hangs over the upper window and despite UVA film to protect it, has become very sunbleached.
It was also made by Straight Arrow.
Prayer fan to the right. 

There are also two curio cabinets in the living room. One is filled with an eclectic collection of a bunch of stuff. The other is filled with Elephants.

Shelf one:  The eclectic one is mine: Russian Porceline in the form of two foxes, a white marten, and a badger. The badger is mine (Daniel Two Bear named me Ihokawin, meaning Badger Woman because of my temper. Menopause was a volatile time for me.) Two Jiminy Cricket statues (one is from Disney: the other is Lennox) because my nickname is Cricket. And a Swarovski crystal horse in the far back corner.

I have a modest collection of Carousel Horse Music Boxes. I picked them because of the horses and if those details weren't correct, they didn't come home with me.

This shelf has my two favorite Carousel Horses. The green one is resin and truly traditional, while the black one has the elegant neck and head associated with the Arabian horse. I also own two Painted Ponies. The flowers in the front are the Leis J, T and I wore at our ceremony last August.

This shelf is somewhat mixed. The eagle and the wolf are T's. The Dragon star is mine from 30 years ago. There is a card and a plaster pressing from the Vet at CSU when T lost his first Bearded Dragon, Ash. A cup my sister gave me with an owl feather I found in Vedauwoo inside. And a pipe J started carving six years ago made of Orange soapstone from Utah. And a wood carving of an Arabian horse's head.

So, that is our living room.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014


Letter to my vet:
Hi Diane,
We had a mishap yesterday.
When I got to the barn last night, Ashke was acting strange. He didn't whinny and come to the door to greet me like he always does. He backed away from the wall and turned to his left to avoid turning to the right. He was acting strange, but I can't really quantify what that looked like, I just know that my gut was telling me something was wrong. I could just tell he was off. I knew it wasn't colic, since he pooped in his stall, in the cross ties and in the arena (this is normal for him - we can count miles on the trail based on his number of poops.)
He was flicking his nose up and down like they do when there's a fly bothering them, but I didn't see any flies. I checked his mouth for lesions, thinking his mouth might be sore (VSV worries) and didn't see anything. He did not really want to bend to the right. And he was acting off in the crossties.
I was beginning to wonder if he had shocked himself so many times on the new electric fence that he had done neurological damage.
I tested him in the grooming stall and he was able to do carrot stretches in both directions and touch his shoulders. He was able to bring his head down to his chest. I went over him with both hands and couldn't find any areas of swelling or heat. I couldn't find any reason for my feeling that something was off. I got him saddled and we headed to the arena. I asked Michelle what she thought and she thought he was a little off but couldn't pin point the issue. She thought maybe he had strained himself in the run when the lightning and thunder storm came through the area about five pm. She said all the horses were acting the fool then. She recommended I go ahead and ride but take it easy.
He was not stumbling or staggering or tripping. He didn't put a foot wrong all night. I did some walk and trot, asking him for bend and lateral movement. He seemed stiff and not as fluid as before, but seemed to work out of it and got better as the ride went on. We did a brief canter in both directions and he picked up his leads correctly. He was sticky in turning to the right and had a tendency to carry his head to the left (this is chronic, although he has gotten better) even when circling to the right. The nose flipping subsided as we went on and he was able to carry himself in a frame, giving me good connection at the bit. He stretched his nose to the arena dirt a couple of times while we were resting and just walking. He seemed to be able to do everything we would normally do during a ride. Again, I could sense something off, but couldn't put my finger on why I was feeling that way.
 At the end of the ride I was watching his neckline and noticed a knot of muscle on the right hand side about four inches below his poll. I got off and rubbed it. The knot was right below his mane and is about four inches long and a couple of inches wide. It was not overly sensitive to the touch but Ashke seemed to like the massage. I worked on the knot for ten minutes or so and think that I made it feel better. I applied some Sore No More to the knot when we got back in the barn.
I left the fly sheet and mask off, due to my guess as to what happened. I gave him his timothy mash and he ate without any hesitation.
As near as I can figure, Ashke was playing under the fence with the horse in the next run and managed to hook the top of his fly sheet (which was attached to the top of his fly mask - VSV protection) on something on the bottom of the fence. He panicked and pulled back. The Velcro closure on the top of the fly sheet gave way and released him, but not before he managed to torque himself. I know the fly sheet hung up on the back leg band on the left side since the tether that runs around that back leg was stretched out more than six inches.
This is all supposition based on what I saw and my amateur evaluation. I know he and the fly sheet were normal when I left the barn that morning at 10:30. I got back to the barn to ride at about 7 pm.
So, I would love to have you look at him to make sure nothing is out of place, but because of VSV, I'm not sure that's a great idea. There are barns in our area with VSV and we are under a voluntary quarantine. With that said, what do you think? Is there anything else I can do? What would you recommend?

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Ralston Creek Trail

We finally did a trail ride today. It's been hard to find mutually doable times to ride since before N went on vacation. Life is complicated by T starting High School, new schedules, Ashke's feet and Cali stocking up. N, J, Tia and I made it out to the barn about 10:45. It took us about 45 minutes to get the horses ready and head out. N asked if we could go slower today, partly because of Cali stocking up, and partly because N hasn't really ridden much in the past couple of weeks. She was a bit worried about Cali's attitude and she had reason to be.

Although we had agreed to mostly walk, we did do some cantering:

If you watch careful, you can see Ashke switch leads. Twice. The second time he only switched in the front, which is why we broke to a trot and then back up to the canter. He switches leads because he is trying to avoid the clover bunches in the field. The field is mostly clover. It makes for an interesting ride. He only switched the front going back to the left lead, because he is still in the habit of cross-cantering on the left lead to protect his right hip. The other thing that is important is to recognize that Cali is in front of us and he isn't trying to bolt or race. We have this cantering from behind thing mastered.

This is a part of the Fairmont trail, where we normally canter. Today we had a nice swinging walk going on instead.

On the Fairmont loop, there is a place where the bike path splits and heads East. As we walked up to the bridge with the underpass, I asked J if she wanted to explore. She agreed and N was fine with it, so we turned East. 

Most of the trail today was in the trees or with trees nearby. It's so green this year, even in August.

We rode between these huge stands of willow. I love willow. It's one of the sacred trees. I love the smell and the sound. Plus, you can make whistles out of the branches. 

The willow went on for some time. It was magical.

The verge was awesome and had great footing. I could see Ashke and I riding this at a much faster pace for a training ride. We only had two bad spooks. One was a little kid on his little bike with a freaking cow bell. The second was a guy in a recumbent bike with a multicolored flag. That one send Ashke spinning away, snorting in terror. The man in the recumbent stopped (thankfully) and allowed Ashke to inspect the bike and the flag. After that it was a non-issue. He went past us when we stopped to eat, and Cali had a pretty good spook, but Ashke just watched in curiosity as he went by.

The ride was really wonderful. J and Tia talked their entire ride and J stopped to take pics. N and I chatted as we walked through the shadows and the sunshine

 I got really smart. I have a set of cantle bags by Stowaway (thanks Saiph) that I let N borrow. The center compartment in the back has a fairly large area to it, but it is divided into two sections by some thin nylon. I cut the nylon and made it one big compartment, with three zippers allowing access. I then put N's camelbak bladder in it and zipped it in leaving just the tube out. I had to fold the bladder in half, but it worked. I then hooked the tube to the top of the cantle bags with a retractable key fob. This allowed N to reach back and pull the tube to her mouth when she wanted to drink, but held it securely in place while she was riding. She drank most of her 100 ounces of water while we were on trail. The only issue with the system is that you really have to suck the water up into your mouth, because there is no gravity feed. N is going to buy herself a set of saddlebags and I am going to borrow J's hydration bladder next time we ride. I want to see if it will work for me.

Part of the ride was along a golf course. It was very pretty.

It was a very pretty ride

We were admired by several little girls.

Finally, we stopped for lunch. Imagine my surprise in discovering we had ridden almost five miles in an hour and 23 minutes. We let the horses graze while munching on PB&J, chips, and fruit. 

 Then we headed back. I researched after I got home and I am pretty sure we could loop this ride. However, it would probably be 20+ miles. J and I might try it over the Holiday weekend.

Headed back. Cali was incredibly forward and arguing with N the entire ride home. Twice she bucked on N; once at the crest of a small but steep rise and the second at a point where Ashke and I cantered off and Cali took exception. I guess the second incident qualified as Cali channeling her inner rodeo horse, cuz Tia said it scared the crap out of her and she wasn't sure how in the world N rode it. I've seen Cali throw some incredible fits and N just sits there serenely riding it out. I heard N shout and turned around to wait. Cali had to trot very slowly for a long time (Ashke walked his big walk and kept up with them) until her energy had burned out.

He's so chill now, even when she's in front. There is no dancing and no fighting and he listens. It is amazing.

There were quite a few bridges we encountered. This one was nice because it was tall enough to ride through. There were two, however, that were not. As I rode up to the first one, my eyes were level with the bottom of the bridge. We went up to the road and crossed over, but the second one we had to dismount and lead the horses through. J said they were short enough she could stand on her pedals and run her fingers over the bottom of the bridge. It was very claustrophobic. 

When we were almost back to the Fairmont there is a set of rolling hills on the south side of the trail. The grass is similar to that of the golf course, but a little longer and separated from the gold course by a wooden fence. Ashke asked to canter as soon as we reached the verge and I let him. We cantered up and then down and then up again, finally slowing to a trot to come down the back of the hill. For a moment I knew what it felt like to fox hunt. I can see the fun in cantering or galloping up and down over rolling hills. I could totally do it. Well, except for the minor detail of jumping fences. That, we don't do.

The rest of the ride was uneventful, although both Cali and Ashke were flipping their noses at each other and pinning their ears. Not sure what that was about.

It will be fun to do this trail again.