Sunday, December 28, 2014

Last Ride

Today was our last ride this year. It was sunny and a chilly 15 when we got to the barn. I made a mistake and got impatient with Ashke when he didn't come through the hanging flaps into the stall. My reaction made him less willing to try to come in and he began to shake in response to my frustration. I stopped and snuggled him for a few minutes, exchanging kisses and giving him a peppermint. He calmed down and I was able to coax him into the stall by holding all of the flaps out of his way and telling him he was a good boy. He finally pinned his ears, ducked his head and walked in. I got him groomed and saddled with the long BOT blanket that covers his haunches, checked his feet and slipped on the bridle.

I never ride in easyboots when I ride in the snow. They could slip and his hooves are naturally sticky. I'm still very careful around ice, but in snow and snow pack he does very well. Today, I was riding in a thermal high tech undershirt (which isn't going to work, since it rides up inside the bibs), a henley long-sleeved cotton shirt, my breeches covered with the bibs, and my Carhartt Jacket. I also wore my new Ovation Dafna Blizzard boots with two pairs of socks. (I'll review them tomorrow, if I can find time.) I was so warm I rode without gloves and with the coat unzipped on the way home in 22 degree weather.

 I hand walked down the road to the trail head. I just wasn't going to trust the footing and the cars on this road race past the barn.

 The first part of the trail was groomed, which made life much easier on J.

 I know it will surprise you, but we were the only bike rider (other than a very determined eight year old) and horseback rider on the trail today. Go figure.

 We stayed on the sidewalk as much as possible, because Coyote is not four-wheeled drive
J said it was difficult to pedal and brake at the same time, because the bike would have slipped out from under her on the ice if she had stopped pedaling.

 Once we passed under the overpass, there was no more groomed trail and the ride became a lot more difficult for J.

 As you can see, she's making her own path through the snow.

When we got to the soccer fields, I set Ashke into a canter (with a huge grin on my face). It was the first time we have cantered in the snow and it was amazing. And then I turned around and saw our tracks.

 He is dragging his LH toe when he canters. And it is swinging outside of the track of his LF.

 And he is very consistent in his motion, as you can tell from this line of tracks across the pristine snow. The thing that blew me away is that there are four hoof prints separate and distinct aside from the drag mark.

Any ideas why this would be happening?

To answer a couple of thoughts: he felt normal to me, so I have no reason to believe that there is something unusual going on with him. He carried himself very well and when we were cantering on the left lead and I neck reined him to the right, he had a flying lead change, that while not completely smooth (two strides of cross canter before he corrected himself) it was better than we've had in the past. I believe the tracks were occurring while on the left lead. The next time we are out in fresh snow I will cue the right lead canter and see what the tracks look like.

 Ashke was very good and listened well, despite the multitude of small children and plastic snow sleds on every hillside. Oh, and the rockets being launched in one of the soccer fields.

 Ashke cruised his walking pace, is beginning to find his traveling jog (which sometimes morphs into his totally engaged and powerful trot).

 There was a traveler in the distance that looked like a horse to me. I asked J and she said no, just a woman walking with her jacket on funny. Sure enough, the sides of the jacket looked and moved like the legs of someone riding a horse.

At the trailhead looking across the street at the barn.

Ashke was cool and dry when we reached the barn. We unsaddled and he tucked into his mash. 
Triple Crown Senior with carrots = horse crack. Seriously.

We finished the year with 416.25 miles on trail (that does not include miles ridden inside the arena).

I wanted to keep a record of what we rode by month for 2014, to compare to next year. I know we will ride a lot more on trail the first six months of 2015 as compared to 2014, just because so many issues have been resolved (I'm not going to say it out loud) and we have a trailer.  I'm excited to see how many more miles we can actually ride.

I won't be riding again under January 1st, due to a arctic cold front moving in tonight. I am going to swing by the barn on my way to work and see if I need to throw the BOT fleece cooler under Ashke's heavy-weight blanket. The high tomorrow is supposed to be 10 with up to 7 inches of snow, a low of -1, a high on Tuesday of 1, and a low Tuesday night of -12. I am also buying an extra bale of hay to load in his hay net to hang in his stall over the next couple of days. Maybe it will encourage him to stay inside part of the time. If nothing else, it will give him plenty to eat.


  1. There is something about cantering in wide open spaces that are covered with snow. It is unlike anything else. J is a badass for cycling in the snow. She must have quads of steel! It's wonderful that you get to share these adventures together!

    Ashke's tracks in the snow are bizarre. But given that he felt balanced and like his usual self, this might be his normal, and you just noticed it for the first time. Deeper footing will show you any issues with picking up a particular foot and will also make it a little harder for them to pick up said foot. The same thing can happen with deep arena footing. It looks to me like he was on the right lead; it will be interesting to see if he does this on the left lead too. Another thing to watch next time would be to see how this changes, if at all, from beginning to end of a ride: does he start out striding out normally at the canter and then start dragging the hoof at the end (muscles/joints tiring), or viceversa (he warms up out of it), does it remain the same throughout (chronic weakness, maybe from his patella), and does he do it at other gaits like the walk and trot. It will give you more insight into any possible issue. Once you have that information, then maybe tell Diane and see what she thinks. Snow riding is a great workout for them and works their muscles differently. This might just be a weakness that will disappear later with increased work in the snow.

    What a great ride though. :D Stay warm!

    1. Definitely his left lead. I specifically checked. Luckily, it is snowing again and I will put your suggestion into place - walk trot and canter in new snow, and cantering on both leads, then I will send them to Diane and see what she thinks.

  2. That's really strange about his tracks! Wow snow can be so informative. I never thought about using it to check the stride before. :) I bet cantering in the snow was so awesome!!


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