Sunday, December 14, 2014

A Gift

Friday was a gift.

Although Colorado usually gets quite a bit of snow, most of it is in the mountains. And by mountains, I mean the ones on the other side of the Continental Divide. Denver gets snow, but most of it comes late in the winter, with March and April being the two snowiest months of the year. We did have a cold snap in early November (polar vortex) that sent us into subzero weather for a couple of days, but then it warmed up, the snow melted and a day like today happens.

It was clear and 68, with minimal wind (this is always the kicker in Colorado in the winter) and bright blue skies. What a great day for a ride. J and I had taken the day off (the reason for that will be revealed in my next post) and decided to get a ride in before doing what we had taken the day off to do. K usually has Friday's off, so we suggested doing a ride. I've been wanting to ride Community Ditch for two years now and the construction on the underpass is finally complete. Not only that, but the trail was open and dry. K was game, so we met at the barn at 11 or so, to get the horses loaded and ready to go.

K worked Eddy in the round pen for about twenty minutes or so to get his ya-yas out. He will run himself in circles non-stop until finally somewhat tired. He had been kind of a pill last time K had ridden him, resulting in a smashed trainer, and a tossed rider, so she wanted to make sure she knew where his head was at. J and I loaded the trailer, organized stuff and then pulled Ashke out. K gathered up Eddy while Ashke walked on the trailer without any issue. (This really is a non-issue event now. I point him at the trailer and we both walk on.) Eddy would be the real test.

The last time we had trailered, Eddy had pushed K around. He has a huge head and is very strong. When she led him to the trailer, he would turn away from her and drag her around in a circle. She had very little control. After he pulled back and ripped the lead rope out of her hand, I wrapped the lead rope through his halter and looped it over his nose. This kept him from being able to pull his head around, and I was able to get him loaded. I told K then that she needed to get a better rope halter (I don't use a rope halter on Ashke, but he is very respectful from the ground) with more knots on the nose, because he wasn't listening to his current halter at all. She did, ordering on online that was fitted to Eddy's head. Imagine Eddy's surprise when he wasn't able to jerk her around at will, and instead found himself in the position of having to actually pay attention to where she wanted him to go. He tried twice to pull her around and both times she was able to correct him and move him where she wanted him to go. After that little discussion, K led him onto the trailer. He got his front two feet up and then pulled back, but it was good progress. One of the issues with a slant load, two horse, is that the second horse can get most of the way on and almost be in position to be hooked up and still not be on the trailer. I picked up my dressage whip and when K loaded him the second time, tapped his hind legs gently with the whip to encourage him to step in. He did. Woot. Loaded on the second try. On the way home, he just walked on the trailer the first time, but that might be because he was really tired.

J and Coyote heading up to the top of Flatiron Vista

At the trail head we got groomed and saddled. I struggled some with Ashke's boots. Saiph, you might find this interesting. Ashke has been barefoot for two years now. When my first barefoot farrier was trimming him, his feet seemed to be shrinking. He started in 0.5 W in the front and those boots had gotten so loose on his front feet that I put power straps on and didn't have any issues getting them on regardless of where we were in our trim cycle. In the back he started in 1 and progressed to 0.5 with powerstraps and then a 00. Now that Dan is trimming him, his feet are expanding. His fronts are almost too big for the 0.5 and I have to use the hoofpick to get the shells over his hooves. They are a real pain to take off. On his backs, he can no longer fit into the 00 (brand new boots, btw) and the 0.5 with the powerstrap were tight yesterday. He has concavity on all four now, and Dan has been leaving his bars and heels a little longer than M had done. I had no complaints yesterday, other than I think his front feet are a little tight, and he managed a very rocky trail with no tripping at all.

Eddy is a very game little horse and he did awesome for K.

 Most of the people we encountered were very nice and at least aware enough to slow down and ask if they could pass (proper protocol) and the only two clueless enough to blast past us on their bikes were two women who had rented the bikes from a shop in town. 

It was the kind of day that you can store away to hold against the cold and dark days of winter.

Flatirons in the distance. I live in beautiful country!

J on Coyote, K on Eddy and some random man who waited in the shadows for us to come up to him, said hi, trailed us for about a quarter mile and then headed into the trees. It was very strange.

There were several gates for us to go through on the ride. Ashke and I managed the ones that we could (some are on tight springs and required J to hold them open for us). The second gate we came to, there was no way I could position Ashke so that I could reach the gate. There was a partial fence there that prevented us from standing sideways. There was no chain, so I told Ashke to push the gate open. I imaged what I wanted in my head and then asked again. He pulled his lips off his teeth and used his mouth to open the gate. It was hilarious. Then at the second gate he did the same thing without being asked.

Here is Ashke closing the gate after we all went through.

Doudy Draw was uneventful and Ashke traversed it like a Champion. I was worried about K and Eddy (K has hiked this trail so she knew what to expect) since this is their fourth trail ride. J followed us down the trail to give us warning about impending bike riders. Every time we had someone pass us, K and I would find a place to pull off the trail and turn to face the approaching rider. 

No trips, no spooks. Lots of rocks.

The trail through the draw and across to Community Ditch was much more rocky that it was the last time we rode this trail. The rocks were more exposed and larger. It was pretty slow going. 

Sure was pretty though.

Such a gorgeous view. Can't wait to ride this trail into Boulder right under the Flatirons.

Kate is going to have to learn to not smile so much on our rides. Especially if the wind is blowing.
I think she's enjoying herself immensely.

 J uphill from us. She followed us down the hill, instead of tearing down in front of us, mostly to keep us informed of riders coming down behind us. Eddy is still so raw and new to this, we were taking precautions to make sure he wasn't spooked off the trail. It's way to steep to risk that.

After the switchback, heading down into the valley.

At the bottom of the valley, the trail crosses the small stream, which is still pretty tore up from the flooding a year ago. We dismounted to cross and I cautioned K to be ready in case Eddy decided to try and jump it, but with K next to him, Eddy crossed like a champ.

Ashke was not happy about waiting at the crossroads.
J and K needed a snack break. I had eaten my sandwich in the truck, so I was good.

The trail is not as rocky across the valley, but the trail is pretty rutted and what rocks there are, are clumped together. No place to trot here.

Community Ditch. I've been waiting and waiting and waiting.
I'm not very good at waiting.

Such a fun trail and so much better than riding up the road to Marshall Trailhead.

Haffie and Arabian butts.

We trotted up a decent part of the ditch, but didn't canter. K still hadn't cantered on trail, although she had cantered quite a bit in her lesson the past week. I told her that there was a place on the trail where we could try a canter if she wanted, since it would be toward the end of our ride (Eddy would be tired) and uphill (so much easier to ride out a bolt if they are running uphill). 

We crossed past a water valve, which has caused K issues in the past, but Eddy went pass it without blinking.

Then we hit cows.

There were cows on both sides of us. Some were on the other side of the ditch (which had water in it) and some were on our side of the ditch. J went ahead to spook the cattle off of the trail, and Ashke was curious but not spooky. Eddy however, began to really react to the cows. I told K to get off and then hand walk him past them. She did and although Eddy reacted at first, they were able to work it out and he finally relaxed a bit. K remounted and then every time we went past another group of cows, we positioned Ashke between the cows and Eddy. He got a little nervous, but relied on Ashke's calm and K's reassurance to walk past them. By the time we passed the last group, Eddy could have cared less. Good job K on working her way through the obstacle.

Getting closer to Hwy 93. That is the line of white toward the top of the hill in front of us.

Getting closer.

The underpass is very nice. It is big and wide with good footing. We both dismounted because Eddy had never been under a tunnel and I am not real happy with the lack of any fencing on the far side of the tunnel combined with how close the road is to the trail. Eddy did great passing under the tunnel but both he and Ashke got a bit spooky at the sound of the traffic zooming up behind them over the overpass. There is a bank of dirt and tile that blocks the sound until the car is visible so there is movement and noise at the same time. I had suggested that K use both her reins and the lead rope and halter (she rides with the halter under her bridle) as they walked under the tunnel, so she had lots of control on the far side of the tunnel. Eddy turned and looked while Ashke and I waited for him to decide it was going to be okay, then we turned and walked to the trail access up the bank. Overall, Eddy did great handling all of the new sounds and sights. And K did awesome handling him and being a good leader through the scary stuff.

Community Ditch on the far side of 93

Greenbelt Plateau

We rode east on the ditch then turned and climbed to the Plateau. There is a part of the trail where the footing is similar to what you see in the picture and once we gained it, I told K that we were on the part of the trail where we could try to canter if she wanted to. It was a fairly steep uphill with a wide trail where we could ride side by side. I wanted to make sure that Eddy didn't feel left behind nor to create a situation where he felt he was being chased. No race here. K told me she cues him to canter from an extended trot, so that's how we started and at about the same time, we both cued the canter. Eddy cantered up the trail without batting an eye. Ashke cantered next to him without trying to race and I took my cues from K as to how fast we were going to canter. We cantered to the top of the plateau and slowed at the same time. K had a grin from ear to ear. I know how exciting it can be to canter on trail without risking life and limb and it was awesome that we managed to make it happen safely on Friday. 

The rest of the ride was uneventful. Eddy handled being handwalked across the road without any issues. We unsaddled and loaded them both on the first try and headed back to the barn.

I had a concern at the end of the ride. We had only ridden 7.5 miles and Ashke felt like he had zero energy left. Most of the ride was slow and he felt like he was running on empty. The canter was easy to control, which is not like him. I know, complaining about my horse being a rateable animal, but seriously, not like the boy at all. He's been leaving hay in his stall, picking through the grass he was fed, which tells me the hay isn't great right now. I think he's not getting enough to keep his energy up, even though he is on four flakes of grass and two flakes of alfalfa. I feel pretty confident in thinking there is not enough stuff in the hay, since N and Cali have been dealing with the same issue of Cali not having any energy for about a month. N has added Purina's Strategy to Cali's feed and I opted for a different option, one I will share in my next post.


  1. I love beautiful, unexpected days like that!

  2. Beautiful place to ride! I'm looking forward to seeing what your solution for the energy problem is.

    I finally caught up on your blog. I had to go back to July I think to see what I missed. I read every post but didn't comment on them all. I did comment on a bunch though. I don't know of you have it set up to email you all your comments ot not so I thought I would mention it. :-) I will try not to get so far behind again!!


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