Sunday, September 28, 2014


It was a busy weekend. On Friday watched T run in his third 5k as part of the cross-country team. It was his fourth varsity race and as long as he keeps his grades up, he will letter as a freshman. The temp was pushing close to 90 when the race started, it was hilly and completely We cheered him on at the one mile mark, where he was running easily and alone. At the two mile mark he gave us a smile, still striding easily at his own pace. As he went past his coach, Coach told him to catch the two runners in green in front of him. Those two boys were a good fifty yards ahead of him and I didn't think he would be able to catch them. When we cheered him on about .8 of a mile later, he had caught one of the two boys, and was just behind the second. Then, at the finish:

After that race, we didn't have the energy to do anything other than Costco.

Saturday, J and I did a ride. We opted for Ralston Creek trail, mostly because it was tree lined and Saturday was as hot as Friday. I could feel the sweat dripping from the back of my head to my shoulders and back as we rode. Ashke was less than enthusiastic about going out alone (he thought Cali was coming with us - sorry N, I have to ride out as much as I can before the weather turns and we are stuck in the arena again) so the ride out was slower than the ride home. The really interesting thing was when we reached the part of the trail where we hadn't ridden before, he got very interested and forward. I think he gets bored with the same trail all the time.

One of the biggest issues with the trails around the barn, is that to get long distance on them, you have to ride on the sidewalk a lot. That little trail to the right there, is too narrow for Ashke's boots. It causes him to twist at the ankle and since I don't want to deal with a ligament strain, I prefer to ride on the concrete unless the footing is good enough for us to trot or canter.

J looking buff on her steed of choice.

There were the prettiest red leaves in amongst the willow branches. Some kind of ivy that had turned a brilliant red. As a public service announcement for Colorado, this week is supposed to be prime for Aspen viewing. I looked at pictures on the internet.

 I really like this pic. There were leaves falling all around us. Some of them were horse eating monsters in disguise. It was hard to tell which ones until Ashke startled. 

I know it looks like J spent all of her time in front of me, but really, we spent most of the ride side by side, unless we were cantering, then we followed her.

When we stopped for lunch, I stripped the bridle off and put the halter on. Ashke was feeling pretty full of himself, having just been stopped by a couple of teen girls who took selfies with him. The grass where we stopped was knee deep and I got him settled grazing, while I started on my sandwich. As I was eating the last half, Ashke walked over and tried to take it out of my hand. I broke off a small bite and he gobbled it up. It reminded me of the trip home from Texas, when he ate part of my PB&J then half a loaf of L's bread. Ashke kept asking for bites until I finally stuffed the last bite in my mouth and told him to go back to eating grass. It made me smile, though.

We went out 8 miles or so and the trail started winding through the suburbs, with street crossings and sketchy footing. We opted to turn around at that point, even thought the map says you can go 13.9 miles (probably about 2 more mile from where we were) before reaching the connection to Clear Creek trail. If I can figure out how to get from Clear Creek to the barn safely, we might try it at some point. On the way home (at about mile 12 or so) I walked Ashke into the creek and offered him the chance to drink. He did. Not a lot, but some.

I look like a buddha on a horse here. That's my elbow not my boob.

Longest ride to date. We made up speed on the way home and raised our average from 4.2 to 4.5, just from feeling more confident about the footing and Ashke knowing we were riding home.

Pulse rate at the barn was 42 five minutes after I dismounted and put him in the crossties.

Saiph says I'm ready for a LD at least. :)

One of the things I changed was his bit. I purchased a kimberwick bit:

It is a solid, unhinged bit with a low port and no slots on the sides. It is stainless steel (no sweet iron or copper) and came in the 4.75 width. He was pretty good in it on Saturday, but the real test was when we were riding with another horse and he wanted to race. Or if he had different ideas about what we were going to do. That test happened on Sunday.

Sunday, we rode fairly easily for about 40 minutes with Cali and N in the outdoor. Ashke and I worked on stopping on verbal command, giving at the poll and relaxing at the canter. We had a couple of brief conversations about wanting to be with Cali at the other end of the arena, but they were quickly quelled. He was relaxed and very collected at the canter and I feel like I am making strides every time we ride. I have no doubt that by next spring, we will be able to compete at WE at Level 2, if not Level 3. Level 3 will require a flying lead change, so that is definitely a goal for this winter. We did long stretchy (I might want to roll in the sand) walk in between canter sets. 

Finally, after talking to Saiph about nutrition, and then researching a bunch of stuff online, I changed Ashke from the Smartpaks to Vet Flex (Diane's recommendation) and took him off of the Ultium and moved him to a lb of Triple Crown Senior with his supplements. So, he is getting a lb of grass pellets, Equipride, TC Omega Max, Lysine and TC Senior. The barn crew has been feeding the wet food at their evening feed times. On Saturday, we got done with our wash after our ride just about the time the cart was coming around. I have never seen Ashke so eager for his mash. He was nickering without stopping and stomping by his door in anticipation. Today, I pulled his mash early and fed it to him when we were done with our ride. Then N and I drove the outside horses theirs in the paddock, then came back to put the bucket away. As we were leaving, I stopped and checked on Ashke. He was carefully and persistently licking the last vestiges of mash from the sides of his feeder.

I guess he really likes the TC Senior.

Born or Made

A couple of months ago, J decided to try and learn to ride. She made this decision, in part because she knew how much fun I have riding with someone on another horse, in part because some of the trails I like/want to ride are pretty difficult on a bike. The other motivating factor was that J wanted to stop being so afraid of horses in general, to learn how to move around them and what to expect in terms of behavior. I think she also wanted to be able to converse on a "horse behavior" level that I currently talk with Saiph, Liz and N, and to understand all the various parts and pieces of those conversations. She did this, not out of a passion about horses or the deep-seated and unvoiced desire to become one with the horse (centaur-like/co-being), but because she wanted to answer a need in me.

I have to admit I was pretty excited to have her take lessons and the little puff cloud over my head created a daydream of two horses, a couple of mules and a summer riding the Colorado Trail after T goes to college. I think she was sharing the same dream, of combining my love of riding and our combined love of camping. She said she wanted to help me fulfill all of my bucket list items, where horses were concerned.

Michelle, the hunter/jumper trainer, did a great job of getting J comfortable with grooming, picking feet, saddling. J knows a lot more about how to handle a horse now, how to move around them, how to circle or correct their behavior from the ground and how to read their attitude and react to it correctly. From that point, J got what she really wanted from the lessons she took.

I watched J ride, knowing she was doing this for me, even if I hadn't asked or expected her to. This woman, who I have watched for eighteen years, who has never come off a bike or fallen on her roller blades (I can fall just standing still), who could tandem with me on blades down some pretty steep hills at mach speed, who can stand on one foot while putting a sock, a shoe and a gaiter on the other without losing her balance, did not look balanced on the back of a horse. I thought (hoped) in my heart that it was fear that was making her anxious, and that she would relax as she learned. As time went on though, it became obvious to me that she was stiff and uncomfortable, never really finding that rhythm that comes when riding a horse. Her seat, while decent, did not develop over the course of the seven lessons (yes, I know if she had taken more lessons or if she had been able to practice on a horse in between, it would have made a difference, but I honestly think in the end the result would have been the same.) That innate instinct in how to move with, move apart from, to stay on when all hell breaks loose, was missing. When something went wrong on a horse, on an instinctive level, J had no idea of what to do.

The first time J came off, she had been posting and struggling to keep her hands in the correct position. She became unbalanced and slid slowly off of Voodoo's right side. Voodoo, great horse that he is, stopped immediately and got worried about what had happened. It was completely J's fault. She lost her balance and came off. What worried me the most about watching that happen, was that she had no instinctive drive to try to stay on. You know what I mean. You've seen the videos of kids and adults hanging off the side of the saddle, or off the horses neck, trying with all their might to keep from hitting the ground. J's response was to go tharn and topple sideways. She said later that she didn't know she could grab at the reins or the mane to keep herself on. The instinct to do so was missing. She was hurt pretty bad in the first fall, with bruising across her pelvic girdle and a bit of whiplash, but she hung tough and got back on. It took a couple of weeks for the pain and bruising to go away. (We certainly do not heal as quickly as we did when we were young.)

The second time J came off, the horse she was riding misbehaved. He scooted forward in a spook, J grabbed for his mane and the reins, and the horse ducked his head, heaved a shoulder and dumped her into the sand. She came off him much better this time, only bruising the lower half of her right leg. The horse took off running and bucking his way around the arena. After he was caught, Michelle got on him to make sure he was better and then J got back on. Again, the instinct was missing and J could only react with what she had been taught.

 J's leg four days after

Unfortunately, after her second fall from a school horse, J has decided to stop taking lessons. She learned part of what she wanted to learn, but isn't interested in pursuing learning to ride any longer. At 42, the body doesn't heal as quickly, hurts easier and the hurt lasts longer. She asked me one night why I rode if you were constantly in pain and I just shrugged. For me, To ride is to live. The pain doesn't really matter. You get it if you get it, otherwise I think the whole world thinks we are crazy. For J, the pain and anxiety is too much and the passion is non-existent. I'm completely okay with it, because watching her try for the past seven lessons has left me feeling scared that she was going to be seriously injured. I think Michelle did a fantastic job with what she had and J's decision to stop taking lessons has nothing to do with the teaching. It's just not J's thing.

J told me one day that she was never that little girl who daydreamed about horses. She coveted a BMX bike from her earliest years, something her parents wouldn't let her have. She grew up riding and wanting bikes, which explains why she is so balanced and comfortable on them. I told her that I love riding with her on her bike and I have no issues with going on the trails that she can manage on the bike.

This situation has made me consider the following question:

Are Equestrians born or made?

My belief is they are born. 

In my opinion, it means that a true equestrian is born with the innate ability to sit a horse, to know on an unconscious level how to react to behavior and movement. And probably most important, the passion to ride even after being bit, kicked, stomped, dragged, thrown, fallen with, and terrified. That innate ability to ride has nothing to do with lessons, or showing or competing or ribbons. It is the ability to ride as if the horse is an extension of the riders body. It exists in the DNA of the rider. It manifests as early as two and is as significant to the rider as air. To ride is to live.

This is based on my personal experiences. I feel like I was born to ride. It was coded into my DNA from the moment I was born. My first experience by myself on a horse resulted in a run-away, Russian Olive trees and bleeding scratches over my entire body, with fists of hair torn from my head. I was six. My first ride on a pony of my own resulted in a run-away, amongst the apple trees on a saddle that slipped sideways on the pony's barrel due to not tightening the cinch enough, careening around the 1/4 acre pasture until I finally let go. None of that was a deterrent. I learned all on my own at eight years old how to stick that pony, how to make him go where I wanted him to go, how to stop him when I needed to and how to bail off when I couldn't. I was given my first horse at 12, a three year old green broke mare, and trained her myself, without any outside help (no lessons or trainers on a farm in Southeast Idaho). At 13, I started training horses for our neighbors for money to buy hay. By the time I was 16, I helped break and train four BLM Mustangs just off the range. I didn't take a lesson until I was 51.

Does that mean that I don't believe you can learn to ride? Yes. I do believe riding can be taught. However, I believe that those riders, while able to show, jump and hunt, will struggle to find the same comfort and understanding on a horse that a born horseperson will have innately.

I want to say that there is no judgment here. Just like some people are born with blue eyes and some are born with green, some people are born with the innate ability to ride. In so many ways, the people who choose to learn should be given more credit than those of us born with the ability. It takes a lot of time and energy to learn to ride properly. And dedication, despite the pain and agony associated with riding horses.

What do you all think?

Friday, September 26, 2014

Sip and Paint

As a disclaimer, I am not an artist. I have no desire to be an artist. I admire and covet those who have the talent and ability to render objects and images into pleasing forms with pen, pencil, clay, oil, acrylic, etc. I think that talent it one of the most amazing.

That said, I am a team player when it comes to work. When our Controller suggested we go to a Sip and Paint studio to spend a couple of hours drinking and painting, a little bit of me cringed inside. See, not only am I not an artist, but the few times I have tried have resulted in art work that a kindergartener would be shamed to display. And I don't drink. I suggested paintball, but that was overridden and so on Tuesday, we left work early to go to a Sip and Paint.

This was the painting the group choose:

This is what I painted:

The woman running the art studio said,

"You must really love that horse."

I do. I really do.

Thursday, September 25, 2014


Last night I returned to the Raised Rockin' S snaffle I was riding in last winter. It looks like this:

It is not a legal bit for either dressage or Working Equitation, however, Ashke still likes it.

Last spring (January or so) I was really struggling with the dressage training. I felt like asking Ashke to give at the poll and bring his head down as a huge fight every time I rode. It felt like I had to hold him in a frame to meet the expectations of the trainer. He was able to go in a frame, but he really hated it. I ended every ride feeling horrible about us both. The trainer was actively encouraging me to show, and even had us ride one of the tests, but I finally got to the point where I was tired of fighting with Ashke and told her I wasn't going to show in Dressage. At that point, her interest in really working with me disappeared and we went our separate ways.

Additionally, Ashke was hard to control on the trail with this bit. When he got excited or wanted to run, he would blow through this bit and nothing I could do would slow him down. It was after several run aways, that I decided to buy the Myler Level 2 shank bit.

It did the trick. There was enough bite to the bit that when I needed to put the brakes on and he wasn't listening, I had enough there to get him to slow or stop. I really love that bit and will probably continue to use it at least some of the time when we are on trail. (For those of you who think this means my horse hasn't been trained correctly, you obviously don't ride an Arabian. He is very good in a controlled environment, but can get very bouncy/jiggy/up when on the trail in the company of others. Trail environs are different than arena environs.) Just saying.

So that brings us back to why I returned to this bit. Last Weds Ashke spooked, hit the end of the reins and jammed his mouth pretty good. He also tore up my left arm which still hurts and is healing slowly (it really is a bitch getting old). I think in that little incident, he also bruised his mouth very badly. Those bruises were aggravated in the ride on Saturday, since he was expected to share time with Cali and Mesa, and then in the trail ride on Sunday, when his mouth was bleeding. I couldn't continue to use a bit that might continue to aggravate the injury.

I went back to the Raised Rockin' S bit and it worked very well last night. Ashke was very agitated last night in the crossties and acting very stressed. His muscles were rock hard and stress was radiating off of him. A contributing factor is his new stall mate to the west where Fool used to be. Grace has moved in and the two of them LURVS each other. E, Grace's owner, was really surprised when they first met because Grace was really nice to Ashke. Then, about a week later, they saw each other and Grace nickered at Ashke as she went by. Emily made the comment that Grace never nickers at another horse. Now, as of Monday, they are stalled next to each other and I am pretty sure Ashke spent the entire day with his head pressed against the new wood bars of the fence that separates them, since his face had brown stripes from the no bite stuff they put on the wood.

Ashke was very stressed and calling for Grace in the crossties. When we got to the indoor, every muscle in his body was hard as rocks I decided that caution is the best part of valor, grabbed the lunge line and let him move at his own . Ashke exploded off the line and galloped for a solid five minutes to the left. At the end of that run, he was cantering nicely, with his head about mid chest, chewing and playing with the bit. He stopped himself and seemed ok for the first time since Weds. I really think the bit was causing him anxiety. He didn't once call for Grace and went to work with good grace.

His walk was long and swinging. His trot was nice, except when he starts anticipating the canter, which in the indoor is every time we trot. :) His canter though, was the nicest it's been and he rolled around under control and listening. Every time I asked for a trot, he came right back down to it. At no part in our ride was there a struggle and he was very relaxed on the bit. I think I could use this bit on the trail when it's just J and I, but I'm not sure I trust him to listen if the potential for a race exists. I also have a bit on order that should be here that I can try tomorrow, to see if he likes that any better than the shank.

When I was a kid I had two bits: a simple loose ring snaffle for training and a curb bit with a copper roller that I rode in all the time. I had no idea that collecting bits was an art form and necessity for most riders.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014


I don't know how many of you all out there have been following events in Colorado Springs, CO over the past five days in the saga of Dual Peppy.

On Friday, a woman who was walking her dog had the dog run off toward a barn on the property where they rent a house. The dog would not return on command, so the younger of the two women clambered over some stacked pallets blocking the barn and entered looking for her dog. From subsequent video coverage and photos, what she entered was a large indoor arena set up with small round pens inside. There she found 14 dead horses covered with Lye and tarps, decomposing, while the emaciated, starving horses that remained lived amongst the carcasses. She reported that in some of the runs the manure was four feet deep. The woman who found them, immediately called the authorities.

The El Paso County Sheriff came to the scene, evaluated the remains of the dead horses, viewed the survivors, and then talked to the owners. I have no idea what was said, but the sheriff left and did nothing about the surviving horses. As more of the story has come to light, it was reported that the Sheriff is under investigation by the FBI and the CBI for Federal and State criminal charges. He released a statement on Saturday, stating that the horses were not in immediate danger (none of them had to be euthanized) and that they would remain under the care of Sherri Brunzell. The sheriff also stated that they would work with the Brunzells to get the property cleaned up and taken care of properly.

Social Media:
The woman who originally found the carcasses while searching for her dog, had been following the events very closely. She was distraught by the lack of response on the part of the authorities. There was no food or water for any of the horses she saw, and no food on the premises. The horses were very thin, with ribs and hips showing, sunken backs and hollow necks. She started a facebook post asking for signatures to force the Sheriff's department to remove the horses from their owners. The post went viral after a viewer recognized one of the horses from the newscast, based on what the viewer knew of the horse and the horse's brand. The horse was Cutting Horse Champion Dual Peppy.

Via Facebook, the story went international. Hundreds of people and organizations stepped up offering help, transport, food, and a place for the horses to go. In 48 hours, the Facebook page that sprang up on Sunday, Justice for Dual Peppy, had a million views. I think the overwhelming response of the AQHA and all of the other horse people who called the sheriff's department advocating some other response than to leave the horses there, which was driven by the rapid sharing of the story on FB, led to an increased response from the authorities.

Dual Peppy:

Dual Peppy

Dual Peppy on Friday
The owners are claiming the 14 skeletal remains of the horses were due to colic during last winter's deep freeze. Then they claim it was blister beetle in the hay. They didn't remove the remains because the horses were big. They didn't have a vet out to treat the colic. They were having problems keeping weight on Dual Peppy.
Colorado Humane Society out of Denver and the Pike Peak Humane Society removed the remaining living animals from the property, including 10 horses and 4 llamas (or alpacas, depending - they are hard to tell apart). The animals are being kept in an undisclosed location. The sheriff's office quoted "needing time to investigate before making any decisions".
It was reported that Sherri Brunzell and her husband are being sued by the financial backers that financed the purchase of Dual Peppy ($600,000).
It is rumored that this incident may finally result in the removal of the El Paso County Sheriff from his office.
More Information:
From a Cutting Horse Blog:
My Thoughts:
As wonderful as it has been to see the response from the AQHA community, other horse owners and concerned citizens, it is sad for me to realize that if the starving Stallion in the video, Dual Peppy, hadn't been so significant, this story may not have gotten the coverage it has, if the horse had not been famous.
This just highlights the fact that there are lots of horses out there that no one knows about who are slowly starving to death. I own one, in fact, that was almost starved to death. These aren't just backwoods bred horses, either. Ashke is very well bred and although not a winner, certainly not disposable.

Monday, September 22, 2014


Mabon is the Fall Equinox (today) and is a celebration of the harvest stored away, tinged with the knowledge that winter is coming, the earth is falling fallow, and the days are going to be shorter and shorter. For us equestrians, it means that we move from the outside to the inside. For Ashke and I, it will mean less time on the trail and more time in the arena. It also means that my being able to ride with J will be reduced, mostly because riding her bike in the snow doesn't sound like fun to any one. Since this is a time of harvest, reflection and thanksgiving, I thought I would "harvest" all of the stuff that has happened since last equinox.

  • Trailer: We got a trailer just after the last equinox and that was a life saver for this summer. It has been wonderful to hitch up and head out to explore trails in our area. I think I would have lost my mind if I had to endure the two trails (ok, three trails) we can reach from the barn without being able to ride out and explore the other trails in our region. Ashke has lost any hesitation he might have once had about loading on the trailer, and although he is much happier when another horse comes with us, he does great with just me and J.
  • Trails: We have explored the Dowdy Draw Trail, Marshall Lake, Fairmont Trail, Leyden Creek, Ralston Creek, Chatfield Reservoir, Highland Canal and the East-West Regional Trail. I still have plans to ride the Dowdy Draw around Marshall Lake with J sometime this fall before winter sets in, provided Community Ditch is open. We also want to explore more of the East-West Regional Trail. We haven't done Barr Lake, or the trail that runs from Dowdy Draw to Boulder, or Cherry Creek Regional Trail. So many trails, so little time.
  • Saddle: I can begin to express how happy I am that I have the Alta Escuela. It fits Ashke well. He has zero back pain. I am comfortable and balanced. I can ride for hours without knee or back pain. It is the best investment I have made.  
  •  Cantering: At the end of March we were still struggling to find our canter. You would guess that after riding for over two years, a canter would be a slam dunk, but it has been a difficult road. Now, we have spent the summer cantering, galloping and all out racing under saddle, all over the county. I am stressing less about Ashke keeping his feet in rough terrain. He is so sure footed. I may always be more comfortable racing uphill (like up to the top of the mesa) because I know that gravity will eventually slow us down. However, we are now able to canter behind another rider without him losing his mind. This is something we will carry forward with us into winter.
  • Working Equitation: I was part of the Nuno Matos clinic and participated in a show/clinic in Parker. I had plans to do a ton more, but that was derailed by the VSV debacle. I have plans to work on the two barrel, the three barrel and the two pole obstacles over the winter. The plan is to get the collected canter down and a change of leads, starting with simple and progressing to flying. 
  • J: I have loved riding with J. She understands my need/want/desire to see what is on the other side of the hill, or around the bend or just beyond that far horizon. It is a sickness that she appreciates. Where N feels like we've ridden long enough, or T hates exploring, J feels bad when it's time to turn around.  She's done hills (where we just canter up) and heat and even has the foresight to hide a DP for me, for lunch, all without complaint. In fact, she likes the exploring so much that she's taking lessons to learn to ride. Perhaps, someday, she will be the willing partner to some calm trail horse and we will do our adventures astride.
  • Miles: Ashke can do 10+ miles without any problem. I have finally got to the point where I can ride 10 to 12 miles without wanting to stick my fingers in my eyes afterward. My back has gotten stronger and stronger and although I still wear the BOT brace, I can see a point in my future where I won't have to. I do deal with a lot of body pain (especially this week) on a day by day basis, but I can see the pain getting less and less as I go on. Ashke is in great condition right now, with a taut belly, building muscle on his shoulders and back and I hope to keep his legs on him so that we can routinely ride 20+ miles come spring.

So, some goals and a lot of review. I am very lucky to have a horse that loves the type of riding I want to do. I can see the progress we've made and have some idea how to build on the foundation we have right now. I feel happy that Ashke is healthy and happy and loving his job. Makes me happy. Happy Equinox, gentle readers.

Sunday, September 21, 2014


 Did a ride up on top of North Table Mountain with Lisa on Amaar (who go home to their regular digs next weekend) and Mike on Bandit (another Kentucky Mountain Horse)

 Amaar handled his second real trail ride very well.

Lisa has huge balls. Nothing fazed her.

 It was a beautiful day with perfect temps for a ride without any shade.

 When we got onto the singletrack that leads around the mesa, Amaar was walking up Ashke's ass and it was becoming a dangerous situation. I let Amaar out in front and then Ashke jigged the entire trail. It was so bad that he began fighting the bit a lot, since everytime I eased off contact, he would try to canter. 

Lisa was completely okay with trotting or cantering these trails. On a green horse. With a steep dropoff to the right. She says she just doesn't look down.

 Mike and Bandit were cool with bringing up the rear.

 Lisa had to slow and wait for us to catch up, because when she got too far ahead Ashke started trying to dance off the trail. 

I was white knuckled and Ashke's mouth was bleeding by the time we got down. I think he nicked his tongue again. Different bit but same outcome as six months ago. I am going to take Saiph's suggestion and try a new style.

When we got to the switchbacks, Amaar almost backed off the trail, which was pretty scary to watch. Lisa let us back in front and Ashke just dealt with Amaar being in his ass. We made it back to the canal and mostly walked home. Amaar had some issues with manhole covers and women dressed in pink as we walked by. Overall, though, he did great.

As we started across the field in front of the arenas I made the mistake of congratulating us on completing the ride without anyone getting dumped and Amaar spooked and almost dumped Lisa. It was close. We won't do that again.

Saturday, September 20, 2014


Today, for the first time in a week, N and I managed to be at the barn at the same time to ride together. J brought her bike and we had talked about doing the Fairmont. N didn't want to do the entire loop, so I suggested we do a loop around Tucker Lake and back home. She agreed that sounded like more fun than separating our two lovebirds and riding in the arena.

After we mounted and headed across the parking lot, I saw Joe coming out of the arena on Mesa. Mesa is a Kentucky Mountain Horse (with the same type of mane that Gracie has) and is a five gaited horse. He has a really nice running walk. Joe and I have spent time riding together in the indoor and when I saw him coming out of the outdoor I asked him what he was doing. He said he was going to go up the mountain. I asked him if he wanted to trail ride the Fairmont with us. He said sure, even though he had never taken Mesa out on that trail before. (I know Mesa has been trail ridden a lot and he didn't have any issues the night that Mike rode him up the Mesa with Michelle and I on the first moonlit trail ride. I figured if he could handle the night ride, he could handle the Fairmont.)

So, then there were three.

Two geldings and a mareface. Kind of like Chandler, Monica and Richard at the restaurant. Neither Ashke or Cali was happy about the situation, although N and I both agreed it was good for them. So, off we went with a threesome of horses and J on her bike. The best part was all the video J took of us riding.

Heading out for the trailhead.

Cali was a bit exuberant and it took some time to figure out the riding proximity with all three horses. Cali had a tendency to double-barrel at Mesa if he was behind her but also got stressed about how far away Ashke was if Mesa was between them. It was fun working with the dynamics of two horses who love each other and the gelding that came between them. Look for the movie - it will be out next year.

Mesa and Joe did pretty good for their first time on trail. Cali only double barreled one time and then we played the "what horse goes where" game for the rest of the ride. Ashke did awesome. My horse loves being on trail.

 The frisbee golf field is behind us. We figured out that part of Cali's tripping issue is her hind boot. She is interfering a lot at the walk. But only on the boot that is too big.

This trail takes us past a Frisbee Golf Course and for the first time there were a ton of people playing, the course had been cut in places, the "holes" were cleared away and the tees were mowed. We figured out on the way back that there was a tournament going on. The players were very respectful of the horses and went out of their way to make sure the horses weren't spooked.

Poor Joe didn't know what he was getting himself into.

Mesa didn't have any issues moving out in front. In fact, all three horses were fairly forward.

We went around Tucker Lake.

J went on the dam and we went along the bottom. I didn't know this, but horses are not allowed on the top of dams in Colorado. Joe is a civil engineer and threatened to call the civil engineering police. He had no clue as to why horses had to stay off the dams. I think this is a new law, because the signs weren't there last year.

The trail was single track and kind of sketchy. Where I stopped was narrow and steep below us, with a concrete culvert and a metal rack over the top. Both Joe and N were a bit unnerved. The horses handled it fine. N threatened to take the dam road next time and Joe said he would report her. Of course, he made a point of saying he had no idea who would enforce such a law.

 Ashke has the most expressive ears. The concrete culvert is to our right. The pic I tried to take didn't turn out.

Joe still smiling facing death by culvert. Mesa is not worried at all.

J taking a pic of me, taking a bad picture of the culvert.

I live in such beautiful country. It takes my breath away.

Even J is beginning to appreciate it. (She has a touch of agoraphobia).

My favorite part of this picture is the shadow,
Joe and Mesa cross the bridge with little trouble.
N having a good time.
Mareface gets cranky when asked to walk through tall grass she's not allowed to eat.

Horse butts
It's hard to tell from this pic, but Ashke is putting on muscle along his back, his shoulder and the front of his withers. He looks amazing.

His "I'm heading home" look

His neck has filled in and looks so strong to me.
He is so sure footed on trail, it blows me away.

Ashke got pretty up at this point in our ride and started to threaten Mesa by swinging his butt towards him. I turned that threat display into a request for a side pass at the trot down the trail. Joe asked N about why we were doing that, and N explained to him how we can use either dressage movements or lateral movements to help take the edge off an energetic horse. I also do it because then he is doing what he is doing because I want him to rather than him acting out.

We are both getting stronger every day and I have no doubt that we will be ready for our first endurance race next May. Even the heavens agree.

The best thing about this video? When Mesa bursts past us and Ashke thinks about racing, but at my request comes right back down and just canters nice.

Not bad. We had a great time and I can see us riding with Joe and Mesa again.

Oh. And this is the bruise from whatever popped in my arm, which still hurts like a MoFo.

I'm really not sure what I snapped. Anyone?


. . . in the Force, that is.

Have you ever experienced that moment when you walk in the house and realize your partner/spouse/housemate is livid pissed at you and you have no idea what you did?

Maybe you left the toilet seat up and the toilet unflushed and the dogs splashed pee water all over the bathroom. Maybe you left two squares of toilet paper on the roll the last time you visited the water room and didn't pull a new roll out of the hall closet, leaving said partner in a very uncomfortable position. Maybe you accidentally forgot to record your latest horse-related purchase in the joint account and over drew your checking account by 27 cents, resulting in a plethora of returned check charges and bank fees. Maybe you forgot to turn all of your socks right side out after taking them off this week, resulting in an additional twenty minutes of sock turning before they could go in the washer and a very pissed off spouse. Maybe you forgot to do that one thing you promised you would do that you don't honestly remember, but your spouse knows and is refusing to remind you, choosing instead to play the "I'm going to be angry until you remember but I'm not going to remind you" game.

Living with someone is not for the faint of heart.

Neither is horse ownership.

Ashke was being weird again last night. We went from a happy, "go out with our friends and laugh and talk" couple to that weird couple that tip-toes around each other trying to decipher what is really wrong before we put our foot in it and then there's no sex for at least a week. I feel like there is a strange disconnect between us and I'm not sure why.

He lunged himself around me in the arena at the end of the lead rope (yes, I moved with him so the circle was not so small) at a canter for five minutes. Luckily, I had him in his halter rather than the bridle so he didn't jam himself in the mouth. He kind of acts like he expects me to still be angry with him over the arm thing, but I was able to lift my Alta Escuela (which according to Saiph weighs 35 lbs) onto his back with my hurt shoulder so we went ahead and rode.

Ashke did several things that worry me. First, he kept sticking his tongue out and itching it on his teeth. It was pretty funny to watch him twist his tongue around to itch the sides against his front teeth, but it is also worrisome in light of the VSV outbreak. I looked for issues, but didn't see anything and since the best description I have read about VSV is that is looks like you took a blow torch to your horse's face, it figure you will know it when you see it. The second thing he was doing was lolling his tongue out of his mouth. This is usually indicative of too much tongue pressure from the bit.

I'm wondering if I have him over bitted. I chose this bit originally to give myself enough control that I could get him stopped when he tried to take off. That works, but we are having some disagreement about contact and pressure and giving to the bit when we are working in the arena.

It could be that it's all about the arena. It could be that my hands need to be better. Or it could be that we can go to a softer bit and still maintain control.

Last night was a night of not getting along, even though we worked on cantering and poles. Ashke felt tense and upset, like he could still smell the pain in my shoulder and was reacting to that. Or maybe the sudden 90 degree weather was making him cranky. IDK. I do know that I got some really nice weaves through the poles but then had to be more firm when he decided to throw his head up and evade.

Today, however, I am going to work on making up with him. This morning will be all peppermints and carrots. I am going to see if I can teach him to nod and shake his head no. And work on the bow. Reconnect. Let him know he is the one for me.

So much work, marriage.

Thursday, September 18, 2014


Last night I went out to ride and got to the barn early enough that I decided to ride outside. I was offered the opportunity to do a ride up the mountain, but I was too lazy to put the boy's boots on. I also wanted to work with him on the slalom poles for WE, so figured I would just hang out in the dressage arena.

As we walked out he was a little tense. I think there were a lot of horses going a lot of different directions and he was feeling a little bound up with what they were doing. I handwalked him to the WE area and picked up the three orange cones and pvc poles to make a three pole slalom course, then headed back to the dressage arena to set up. Ashke was really snorty and up as we walked into the dressage arena because someone had set up the A marker at the entrance (instead of leaving it laying on the ground where it had been).

About a third of the way into the arena, I put the first slalom pole in place and was about to grab the other two poles when Ashke suddenly reared, spun hard away from me and tried to take off down the arena.

My arm ripped off my body at the shoulder. Blood went everywhere. Ashke then spooked at the dangling zombie had still holding the reins, as I keeled over and exsanguinated in the dressage arena.

. . . .

Ok, not really, but it was a close thing. I was holding the reins in my left hand and something in my left shoulder snapped out of place when he hit the end of the reins. My arm went both numb and in incredible pain at the same time. I wanted to cry. And I wanted to kill him.

I think he recognized both. It did not help our situation.

I was in so much pain I could not lift my arm at all. I was afraid I was going to be sick. It was that kind of pain.

I tucked the reins around my right elbow, daring fate and my horse to rip the other arm off, and lifted my left arm with my right hand and popped the shoulder back in. That actually made it feel better. I do not believe it was dislocated, entirely, but I do believe it was out and needed to be put back in. I walked around and cussed under my breath, while Ashke eyed me like I was about to rip his head off.

We walked over to the mounting block and I realized how much I use my left arm to mount my horse. My first attempt ended up with Ashke stepping sideways away from me, me collapsing onto the side of the saddle then sliding off to land on the ground. Ashke really spooked at me then and I loss my temper and yelled at him. He stood stock still the second time as I flooped my way into the saddle, my left shoulder feeling stiff and swollen.

As I turned to ride back into the arena, he began to throw a fit. He reared, he cavorted, he jigged. I was so done. I let him jig to the outdoor arena, then got off him (not so graceful at all) and led him into the outdoor, asking Michelle if I could use her lunge line and whip. She said yes, so I gathered it up and headed for the other end of the arena.

As soon as I had the reins looped up out of the way and the lunge line hooked on, Ashke took off. He galloped, doing the Arabian scootle butt on the corners and throwing a couple of bucks in at the beginning. He ran for ten minutes in one direction. Then he turned himself around and ran for ten minutes in the other direction. I just stood in the middle and held the rope.

One of the drawbacks to having a really fit horse is that it takes a lot of time for them to finally wear themselves out.

Also, he is much better on the right lead than the left. He still cross-canters to the left.

After lunging, I went back to the dressage arena and put the poles away then went to the outdoor arena and we cantered at the end of the arena for several minutes in both directions. Then I was done. I went back to the barn, unsaddled and rinsed him off, then put him away. He was still worried I was upset at him. I don't think he could tell the difference between the pain pouring off of me and the anger I had earlier.

It confuses me too, sometimes.

Today, my shoulder is stiff and uncooperative. The muscles feel swollen and hot. and I can't lift my elbow. It is better than last night though, and I am hoping alternating heat, cold and Rider's Rescue Rub will make it mostly better by tomorrow.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

TTTT: Stories From the Bell

I spent a total of eighteen years working as a Restaurant Manager in various venues, but most of it was with a fast food restaurant you can guess from the title of this post. Some of it was the best times, some of it was the worse times. A lot of it was unbelievable. Here are some stories from that time of my life. You can determine which are truth and which are tall-tale.

Regarding Sex

I was working as an assistant manager at one of the busiest places in Colorado, located right across the street from CU Boulder. It was a 24 hour restaurant, and I worked at least 60 hours a week there. One Saturday, during a CU vs Nebraska game, we were slammed. The line in the lobby wound through the turnstile and out to the door. The line in drive-thru was wrapped out the end of our lot and along the access road leading in. The lobby was filled with CU students, parents and fans and the noise level was unbelievable. We were fully staffed, for once, and the back of the store was almost as busy as the lobby.

In the middle of this mess, I looked for one of the employees in order to reassign them to a new job duty. He, we will refer to him as R, had disappeared. I looked around, checking the lobby and the kitchen area, but he was no where to be found. I asked my store manager if he had seen R, but he hadn't. I, needing the product and not really having the time to wait, headed to the cooler to grab cheese. When I opened the door I was surprised by the sight of R and one of our female employees, doing it on a pile of 50# bags of pinto beans. I grabbed what I was after and left the walk-in cooler. Going up front, I informed my boss of the incident. We decided to give them a moment to finish before escorting them both from the building.

Why anyone would want to lose their virginity in the walk-in cooler of a fast food restaurant is beyond me.

Regarding Nudity

This particular restaurant location is on the top of a slight hill, facing north and south, with a nice verge of green grass open to the morning sun to the East of the drive thru. In the spring, summer and early fall, that grass gleams as the first rays of sunlight strike it. One morning, at about seven, I walked to the drive-thru to survey the outside, checking that the garbage and mess from the night before was cleaned up. Imagine my surprise to find a one man nudist colony stretched out on the piece of grass right in front of my drive-thru sign. He had socks and shoes on, was stretched out on his back, with his arms tucked under his head, flaunting his nekkidness for all the world to see. Not very pretty.

I was laughing too hard to be coherent for the police.

He became a regular on Sunday morning.

Regarding Pest Control

A store, not my store mind you, but another store, had an issue with pigeons getting into the attic empty space and setting up a pigeon colony. I guess it was a fairly substantial colony. The restaurant manager of that particular store called out an exterminator and asked them to remove the pigeons. As is often the case, the restaurant manager picked the cheapest option and scheduled the pigeon slaying. The exterminator came out at night (this was not a 24 hour store) and took care of the problem when the store was closed, killing the pigeons and sealing the attic access so new birds could not come into the building. The next day, there was no sign of pigeons coming or going and the restaurant manager was pleased.

Three weeks or so later, during the middle of a very busy lunch rush, it began to "snow" over the line. The assistant manager, who had been having a very hard and emotionally difficult week, freaked out when she discovered the "snow" was actually maggots.

The exterminator had killed the pigeons but hadn't removed their bodies from the attic space.

The assistant manager went on short term disability for a nervous breakdown. The store closed for a couple of weeks to remove and repair the damage to the ceiling and attic of the store.

Regarding Suicide

I was working at a restaurant on Colfax in Denver. It is a very busy location, but not a very busy store. Just down the street was a hospital and we routinely served walk-up customers that had been seen in that hospital. One of them was a regular. He came by every Sunday morning and ordered the same meal. Always got it with a large drink and then would sit in our outside dining area to eat. He would eat exactly half of his meal, come up for a refill, and then finish his meal. He would then leave everything on the table and be on his way.

One Sunday, he left everything on the table and left. We weren't sure he was finished, so I had the employee who was responsible for cleaning up outside wait about fifteen minutes before going out and cleaning up the mess. About fifteen minutes after that, the guy came back looking for his drink. He might have been in the bathroom, but honestly, I have no idea where he was for that 30 minutes. He was very upset that his drink was gone and although we offered to give him a new, large, free drink at no charge, it seemed like THAT original drink was the only one that would do. He was incoherent and started to cry. We handed him another large drink, but he left it and wandered away, still talking about the large drink. The kid (all of fifteen) who had cleaned off the table felt really bad and we talked about buying the guy his meal the next time he came in.

About five minutes later, all hell broke loose across the street. There were fire engines and police cars and EMT's. One of the employees went across the street to see what was happening. The customer had hung himself from the branches of one of the trees in a park across the street.

We never saw him again.

Regarding Prostitution

The store at Colfax was interesting. And very scary.

One morning I was outside cleaning the driveway of oil, soda and other sundry items, when a woman of the early morning walked out of the bathroom, wearing a sheath dress and not much else. She had two twenties between her lips and was adjusting her skirt. Behind her was a business man in a power suit, complete with jacket and tie, who avoided my eyes and climbed into his Porsche and drove off.

We started making sure the bathrooms weren't unlocked until we opened.

Do you know what the difference between a Porsche and a porcupine is? In a Porsche, the prick is on the inside.

Regarding Hygiene

I spent a summer managing a restaurant in Estes Park. This location provides a challenge since it is high in the mountains, has limited population and yet has 100,000 people descend on it a day during the summer. Running a restaurant under those conditions is pretty tough. We used the mirror technique for hiring: if they had a reflection, they were hired. We had a lot of transient visitors from foreign countries up for the summer: a group of Sri Lankans working and living at McD's provided housing and working for me when they weren't working there; a young couple from France, who worked every shift with a colorful scarf wrapped around their necks. I also drove up and down the mountain to borrow employees from other stores just to keep the doors open. I put 18,000 miles on my car in three months. It was entertaining.

We also had a handful of mountain folk, mostly kids, that were looking for summer work. One of these, a bright red headed, eighteen year old young man who had come from Texas to stay at his cousin's place for the summer. We called him Red. He was a good employee and caught on quickly, becoming one of our regular night closers.

One night, after I had secured the cash and finished the paperwork, I came out to walk through the store. I thought there was only myself and another employee from Boulder still in the store. (We car pooled together because there was no housing in Estes.) The store was dark except for one light in the back. I walked to the back to check that the back door was secured then headed toward the dish area to double check the cleanliness of the kitchen. As I rounded the wall I was greeted by a naked young man standing in the kitchen in front of the sink. He was facing away from me and was covered in soap lather. He was singing under his breath and shampooing his flaming red hair. He had the spray nozzle from the sink on and rinsed his hair with both hands as I watched.

I turned around so my back was to him and asked him what in sam hell did he think he was doing?

I scared the crap out of him. He replied that he was taking a shower. I told him to finish and get covered up and then we would talk. He hurried to rinse off, then grabbed his bath towel from where it was draped waiting for him and wrapped it around his waist. By that time, both of us had regained our normal coloring. Red explained that he was staying at his cousin's place and they had no running water. This seemed to be the normal state of being at this particular cabin and he was tired of sponge baths.

I gave him directions to the shower facilities available for four dollars in Estes and asked him to not use our facility as a shower in the future.