Saturday, December 20, 2014

A Year in Review


 One of two trail rides we did in January

January was a month spent mostly inside, working on trying out our hand at dressage. Although I had only taken a handful of lessons at that point, I was already struggling to find a way to ride my horse without feeling like we were fighting all the time. I can't begin to tell you how many times I drove home in tears from feeling like my relationship with Ashke was going to suffer. It was not easy nor was it fun. I felt like I was drowning in a sea of miscommunication and poor Ashke was struggling to figure out what I wanted him to do. This struggle with dressage and the lessons I was taking, had a real impact on my emotional state. I stuck with it, but I really didn't like it. Ashke hated it and was very unhappy most of our rides. He tried because I asked, but he wasn't digging it.

Struggling to find a frame.
I have a much different outlook on dressage now, after reading and researching and teaching myself.


Our only trail ride in February, with J on her sidewalk bike.

This trail ride was a turning point for both of us. We had a great ride but Ashke felt off the entire time. I thought it was his boots, but by the time we got back to the barn, it became pretty apparent that it was the saddle. The trekkerland no longer fit his back. 

 I educated myself on saddle fitting and made a map of Ashke's back.

This started a month of little riding interwoven with trying a butt ton of saddles: three different styles of Aussie saddle, three different Wintec saddles, an Adam Ellis, a Barnsby, a Tucker, and some kind of old Arabian endurance saddle. None of them worked. Some of them fit his back fine, but there was no way I was going to be able to ride in them. (BTW, I really hate dressage saddles. They put way too much strain on my lower back.) I finally emailed the owner of El Sueno Espaniol and sent her photos of the mapping and of Ashke. She felt that Ashke would fit nicely in the Alta Escuela by Ludomar (a saddle I had been coveting since I first read the post about Saiph's Alta) and so I ordered one.

We tried riding a bit bareback, plus some riding trying other saddles, but it was pretty much a wash. Riding Dressage in a dressage saddle is worse than riding dressage in a non-dressage saddle. Although, feeling how free Ashke was in the shoulder and how much more willing he was to move was an epiphany. I wanted that freedom of movement combined with comfort for me.

This was also the month when Ashke ran a fever and we had a EHV-1 neurological scare in the barn.

My favorite post of February:
. . . . Never kiss your horse on the nose right after putting Carmex on your lips. Also, don't shave your horse, or curry your horse right after putting Carmex on your lips.
. . . . whoever said you have nothing to fear but fear itself has never been on a horse on the trail in gale force winds.
. . . .  everything is new and scary when you change direction in the arena.
. . . . never tell your spouse you have all the equipment you need, because that is just a challenge to the Universe to prove you wrong.
. . . .  don't brag to everyone about how wonderful your saddle is, because then it won't fit your horse any more.
. . . . nothing is so bad that a flapping tarp can't make worse.
 . . . . horses are the only creature on the planet that can actually go in five directions at once, besides a cat.
. . . . horses can sniff out treats at 500 feet.
. . . . an abrupt stop is not a dressage move
. . . . neither is a vertical spook.
. . . . horses know instinctively how to play the "you can't catch me" game.
. . . . gravity works, can be incredibly painful, sometimes hilarious and always a risk
. . . . humans are not squeeky toys and should not be treated as such.
. . . . horse hair has amazing qualities and can remain in unspeakable areas even after a hot shower.
. . . . garbage cans are not predators


March was a month spent in tears. Tears of frustration. Tears of rage. Tears of blame and disgust with myself. It was also the month that I finally realized that riding dressage was N's dream and although I started it as a way to help Ashke get stronger, it was not something I wanted to do as a Thing. The lessons I took were supposed to give us something to focus and work on while we were stuck inside, but was not supposed to be a show thing, and it was supposed to help us progress as a couple, not separate us. Dressage was N's dream. 2014 was supposed to be her year to show dressage (although that got derailed by her life) and I got swept up in her dream, in her goals, in riding the same way she did, mostly because I admire her and though how she and Cali looked was amazing. March was when I realized I didn't really want that and needed to find my own way with Ashke in a manner that made us both happy.

It was also the month of the infamous bike rider incident with N, the dressage whip and lots of cussing. Our first and only trail ride of the month ended with this:

 It's still so surreal.

It is also the month that Saiph made for me a wonderous gift:

 Proudly displayed in my office at work

Toward the end of March, I decided that riding for short periods of time in the Trekkerland was better than not riding at all. I changed bits to a Myler low port shank, which Ashke seemed to like quite a bit. We started riding outside and my goal was to get him to go forward freely (he was horribly afraid to go forward because of the pressure to move in a frame). I could get him balanced better when his head wasn't down near his chest and finally got him to move comfortably at a trot.

 The result was a much happier poneh. We began to enjoy riding again. His canter became better and I found that the new bit gave me the control I was lacking in both the arena and on trail.


April was a month with a lot of change. N and I discovered that we had very different goals for where we wanted to go with our riding. She wanted to do dressage and I was only interested in riding trails. I flirted briefly with the idea of changing barns to a more WE friendly or endurance friendly barn, but nothing we looked at was close to what we had at TMR in terms of trail access or the indoor. After a heart deep conversation with J, we decided to ride trails as a pair, her and I, with or without others (T or N) and see where that went.

With that in mind, we bought the Maverick:

There is something very freeing in knowing we could come and go as we wish. There were so many trails I have wanted to explore, so many places I wanted to ride, and I was really looking forward to exploring the front range with J. I didn't realize until I was recapping the year that up until we got the trailer, the only trails we had really ridden were the Fairmount, the Mesa and the lake trail by Christensen's. The second thing that was a major change was riding by myself, without N and Cali. We had ridden the Mesa several times by ourselves, and the Fairmount with J, but this decision to ride when and where we wanted was very different from the riding I had been doing.

So much of my early riding on Ashke was done with N. She and Cali were in the same place when we started riding together. She was a mentor, a sounding board, a calm voice and a trail companion. Unfortunately, what we want to do with our horses is completely different. It was time I began to break out and do my own thing.

April was also the month that my beloved Preacher went to the Rainbow Bridge.

 Our first trailer out, trail ride on Flatiron Vista with J, T, and Tia

On the last day of April, to celebrate Beltane, we went on our first off property trail ride. There was much teenage angst, a almost lost cell phone, equipment failure and some tears.

Ashke and I had a great time, though.


May started with a trail ride with J around Fairmount.

Followed the next day by riding Dowdy Draw with J and T.
That could have only been more painful if I had a root canal at the same time.

The Alta Escuela got here. It is the nicest saddle ever. Fits me. Fits Ashke.
Love this saddle. Zero back pain for the poneh.

Then N moved in with us and we found lots of time to ride trails together.
N had shown one time. Then recognized that Cali did not love dressage.

We rode the Marshall Lake trail together.

And Flatirons Vista

Inside some of the time.

 And outside the rest.

We tried new bits. Didn't go well in this one, unless he was in a noseband, which I now have a healthy dislike for.

And the famous toothpick in the foot might need surgery day.

In retrospect, because that's how we evaluate and learn, the severity of T's reaction to the toothpick in his heel was in part triggered by his Sensor Integration Issues. He has a real problem with textures. There are a lot of synthetic materials that he can not touch. Additionally, he has an exception at the school when it comes to doing work there (especially on tests) because he can not use a pencil. The last test he took using a pencil, he did so by laying his head on his left shoulder (to block his ear) and stretched his arm over his head and plugged the other ear with a finger. It was such a relief to him to finally take standardized tests with a pen. Anyway, at some point after this incident I read a blog about another child with Sensory Integration Issues and pain was one of those things they seem to feel much more strongly than other kids. 


June started at Bear Creek.
Riding with N and J.

June also started J's lessons with M at TMR. J decided she would try and learn how to ride, so she could be my trail riding companion on a horse instead of on a bike. Part of the concern was that the trails I wanted to ride were too much for her on her bike and she didn't want to limit my exploration of our environs.

I rescued Geraldine from trying to cross a very busy highway.
Big Ass Turtle.
I got her into the trunk and couldn't get her out, after she tried to bite my jugular.
We released her next to the lake directly across the road from where I picked her up.

I did my first Working Equitation Clinic with TJ. Met a bunch of cool women.
Linked to several WE groups on FB.
It changed everything.

 Ashke did awesome at the speed rounds, but we had an issue with the precision, due to nerves.
I was so proud of my poneh.

Rode Flatirons Vista again.

Did our first ride at Chatfield Res. Had a great time.

Rode up onto the Mesa. 

Visited Diane and got a clean bill of health.
Plus, he was cleared to try an endurance race.


July was when N moved out of our condo and into her own place. We had spent a lot of time riding with each other in May and June. She had her interest piqued by Cali's attitude about jumping and decided to pursue that line of practice and training. J continued to take lessons, one every other week or so, and experienced her first fall off of a horse. It took awhile for the bruises and pain to subside.

In the meantime, we did the following:

J taking a lesson in the indoor

We explored Chatfield Res some more

I went to my very first two day clinic with Nuno Matos (Portugese WE Champion). 

Did another ride at Chatfield Res with T. He did not enjoy it.

Rode the Fairmount a couple of times.

Started working on the elements for WE dressage test Level 2

Rode the Mesa a couple of times.

It was toward the end of July that I finally became aware of the loss of weight and muscle Ashke was experiencing. Up to that point I had been feeding a wheat bran every day and after he began losing weight I did some research. Wheat bran is awful for horses. The calcium-phosphorus balance is completely skewed and it can result in a significant loss of muscle mass (called Big Head Syndrome). The mash had been suggested to me as an alternative to the grass pellets, since Ashke was not a huge fan, and I had been reassured by two of the equine "professionals" at the barn that it was safe to feed wheat bran daily. I switched to the grass pellets and then began looking at the TC Senior. In the meantime, Ashke moved onto a couple of flakes of alfalfa in place of the grass hay, bumping his feed to six flakes a day.


Our first trail ride of August was the Dowdy Draw loop, which clocks at just under 10 miles. N came with us and hated every last minute of the ride. She hated the draw, she hated having to ride next to the rode, she hate the temp of the day. There was very little she liked. I, however, had a great ride and Ashke loved it. J enjoyed herself as well.

We also had our first moon lit trail ride up on the Mesa. 

I started dealing with finding a new farrier and the consequential foot tenderness issues that go with that. Luckily, with Saiph's help, I found an awesome farrier.

We rode the Fairmount trail to the Leyden Creek trail.
It was hot and J was very tired by the time we finished the ride.

Rode the Ralston Creek Trail a couple of times.

Rode North Table Mountain Mesa Trail. In the rain.

Our final ride of the month was the Ralston Creek Trail to the point where it became sidewalk alongside the road.


Second moonlit ride up North Table Mountain

Ralston Creek Trail with the T.

East-West Regional Trail
Best Trail Ever

Fairmount with N and Joe

North Table Mountain Mesa Loop trail with Lisa and Joe

J's injury two weeks after occurance.
She vows to never mount a horse again.

Ralston Creek Trail Again


My birthday is in October and I got bling.

J got herself something she's wanted since she was a kid.

When she was taking lessons she told me that as a young girl she hadn't dreamed about owning or riding a horse (I mean, I know, can you believe it?) She had spent her formative years coveting a BMX bike that her parents wouldn't buy her (deemed inappropriate for a girl. Yes, they were those parents.) When she came off Jimmy in the lesson and smacked her leg (I still think she was kicked), I reiterated what I had been saying for a while: get the exact bike you want for the trails we want to ride. She had voiced her opinion that she would hold me back, but I really figured that anything she couldn't ride, Ashke and I wouldn't want to. Best. Decision. Ever. We've had so much fun.

For someone who struggled to find her balance on a horse, J makes riding this bike look like an extension of herself. She's only had one fall, which occurred after she changed out the pedals and started wearing shoes that clip into the pedals. The clips take some getting used to in order to automatically take your feet out. Overall, it's been amazing to watch her ride. Like a fish in water.

East-West Regional Trail with N. I spent my time wondering what was over the next hill and N spent her time wondering when we would turn back.

I believe this was our last trail ride of the year together. A bit of nostalgia for the hours we've spent sharing training thoughts, sharing what's happening in our lives, sharing our home and family time,  time spent on our horses. I don't know how frequently we will be able to make this happen in the future. J and I have plans to ride out on longer and longer rides, and N and Cali have begun their jumping career, which from what I have seen and heard, is going to be stellar. I wish them the best of luck and maybe some day we will get back out on trail again.

Trying to get up North Table Mountain the first time.

The week my mom came out J and I took the entire week off. Pretty much most mornings we got up early and went to the barn to ride. Not super long rides, but riding, which was more than I expected when contemplating that week. We tried to time it to be back to the house about the time Mom was up and moving, which made for some very early morning rides. Luckily, the weather was pretty nice.

Most of this year has been spent trying to find a bit that Ashke and I could live with. I have to have control when we are on trail, and it has to be something that won't cause him to throw his head straight up into the air. We even tried a hackamore. We finally settled on a smooth mouth curb bit with a five inch shank, which he loves and which makes him pretty foamy.

We rode the Fairmount backwards one morning. The autumn colors were amazing.

Mom came out and took pictures. He has gained weight and muscle through his neck and once again in his haunches.


 We started November with the longest ride of the year. Round trip it was 17 miles.

It was the day after Samhain and I rode through an oak grove. It was magical.
I had a grin on my face from ear to ear.

 J and I rode to the top of the mesa.

J was not happy, but the downhill was almost worth it.

 K and Eddy came with us while we rode the Teller Trail.

It was a fun ride with some new friends.
K got to do something she's wanted to do since she got Eddy - ride on trail.

 We rode at Chatfield Res with L and Amaar, K and Eddy.

Such a beautiful day, right up until J mixed clay with weeds in the derailer of her bike.

 Then we rode in the snow, with temps in the teens.

After this ride I got a pair of bibs, and new boots (under the xmas tree) for snow riding.

 We did another ride on Flatirons Vista. Left the barn at 52 degrees. Hit the trail head ten minutes later to a temp of 19.

K and Eddy, plus her hubbie W came with us.
We had lunch together afterwards.
It was cold.


 Working Equitation Clinic. We can't wait for the next one!

Our first up close encounter with the cow beasts.

 Friday ride under the Flatirons. An early holiday present from the Gods.

K and Eddy are beginning to become seasoned trail riders and they cantered on trail for the first time.

We moved barns.

Ashke was somewhat nervous and stressed about the move.

 It required some adjustment.

He's decided that a warm blanket is a good thing.

If you've made it this far, I applaud you!! It's been a great year. There is a bit more review to do, in evaluating goals made vs goals attained, miles rode and milestones reached. Thanks for reading along and joining us on our journey.


  1. I knew you'd made TONS of progress this year and you had changed so many things while trying to figure out what works best for you and Ashke in your journey together...but WOW what a year you've had! Can't wait to see what 2015 brings for you. I just know you and Ashke are going to ROCK everything that you set out to do! Karen and Ashke: Centaur.

  2. I love these year end reviews! Getting to see everything compiled together is so great. You had a great year!! Thank you for sharing it with us!

  3. Omg I missed the crazy lady trail riding post. Just read... CRAZY!

  4. So many totally amazing photos and memories. I loved reading this and re-living it all.

    ...and I totally cackled again about that crazy biker lady. Ooohh goodness. Hands down my favorite blog post of the blogosphere for 2014.


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