Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Emotional Value

Lauren at She Moved to Texas posed a great question today when she asked what emotional value does your horse have for you? What above and beyond the $$ we could get for the sale of their body to another ride does your horse have?

I decided that the best way to address this question was to look at what he gives to me . . . .

1. Wide Open Spaces

Teller Trail

Van Bibber Park

Boulder Mesa Trail

East-West Regional

2. Adventures






3. New Friends


K and LJ

The Eds and K

 Follow the Leader

4. Laughter and Love

Only J would love me enough to go out in this weather.

Yeah, this horse is not for sale.

Sunday, September 27, 2015


When I first got Ashke, T would play in the arena or pasture with him.
Then Ashke started playing like he would with another horse and it scared T. 
(And me.)
So now, T plays from outside the arena.

T was getting tired. Ashke still wanted to play.

J got T a peppermint and told him to crinkle the wrapper. 
Ashke heard it and spun around to stick his nose through the panel of the arena.
T fed him and they were done.

Ashke played so hard in the fifteen minutes that he was lathered with sweat when he was finished.


Yesterday was our trip to visit Dr D. It was a follow-up, since I wanted to make sure he was handling his work load, make sure the femur/stifle issue we were dealing with in May was completely resolved, and to assess any new developments.

The haul out was uneventful. The only news worth item was Ashke shivering in the mild 50 degree weather we were having when I pulled him out of his stall. I put him in the BOT, since I wanted him loose and relaxed when we got there. Before we left, J and I pulled two of the mats up in his stall (there was quite the hump growing and creating a tripping hazard) and got the shavings and gross stuff up off the floor. We left the mats turned back to dry because the smell was awful. I blanketed Ashke and loaded, then we manuevered side streets to avoid the traffic jam on the highway at 7 am. Once we were on the highway it was an easy drive and we ended up pulling into her place about 20 minutes early.

We started the assessment with a straight walk out and back, then a trot out and back. Then we went into the round pen and he walked (not really), trotted (nice lifted trot) and cantered (joyfully) in both directions. Dr D said he looked phenominal, with a BCS of 5.5 (could just see the edges of his ribs as he moved) and although she could get picky and say he was sticking just a touch through the SI on the right, overall he was moving awesome. I opted to have her check his accu points and see if there was anything else he wasn't showing us. When she measured his frogs the RF was 6 cm and the LF was 6.5 cm. There was something going on with him that was causing him to take more of his weight on the LF than the RF. This went along with the slight, intermittent nature of his being just a little bit off.

I've felt he was slightly off on the RF for a couple of months now, but couldn't explain it. It didn't happen in the arena (where the soft footing would have made a soft tissue injury worse) but did happen on trail even in the boots (I bought insert pads from my gloves in April I think, so this issue may have been going on that long.) It was very slight, but nagging sensitivity. His frog base was equal in June, so chances are this intermittent nagging offness had started since then. (I know I was feeling it when K and I rode the Mesa trail in early July, but that's the earliest I think it was mentioned on the blog.)

He was sore through his back and over his hips.

I think part of the soreness was the speed round at HCWE last weekend, mostly because he hasn't been worked since then, not even out in the round pen, although I do agree that I need to get the saddle flocking adjusted on the left side. Dr D loves how the saddle fits his back, how it flexes slightly with movement, but there is a spot where the pressure is slightly less just behind his wither and slightly more over the thoraxic region (where he was sore). If I can get the flocking redistributed to compensate, then those two spots should resolve. We are assuming it's due to the increased muscle in his left wither, but either way, I need to have a saddle fitter come out. Or learn to do it myself. Dr D thought maybe that was what was causing him to carry himself differently,

Dr D drew some blood and injected it into the areas where he was sore. Two points in his shoulder (I thought maybe he needed to have the base of his neck adjusted but no), two poll points, his SI and the points in his back that were sore. They were all very tender and he reacted when the needles went in, although once they were in he relaxed and seemed to enjoy the movement of energy. Dr D lasered his back where the vertebre were a bit out and then adjusted the length of his spine from his withers to the SI, and also adjusted the SI (although she said it was holding in place very well, which is good since that seems to be his achilles heel. The front of his hind feet are no longer flat across the front from him dragging his toes, which is indicative of an issue with the SI.) Dr D pulled all of the needles that his body was pushing out - they stay stuck when they are still working and push out when his body is done - it's the craziest thing. She got him to stretch up through his back twice but we couldn't get him to shake off the energy. We put him in the stall where he pooped and peed, then covered him with the BOT and headed out.

When we got back to the barn, J and I finished fitting the mats to the floor and ended up with a very nice flat stall surface. The fact that it didn't smell as bad was a bonus as well. We filled the stall with fresh shavings and left the boy tucked into his mash. Hopefully, he will begin growing a winter coat here pretty quick. We had to meet the farrier about two so J and I headed to do some errands before coming back to the barn.

KW met us at two and started on Ashke LF. We were talking about his feet, Eddy's feet and Dr D's assessment (KW does Dr D's horses too) of his frogs when she moved to his RF. All of a sudden she stopped and asked which foot was not being used properly. I told her RF and she told me to come there to look at what she had found. J held Ashke while I went to look. 

KW had been using her knife to clean up his frog when she felt the knife hit something in his frog. She went to find whatever it was and found a small rock up under the frog. There was no way to see it or know it was there, except when she felt it with the knife.

 See the round hole in his frog, where the texture of the frog looks funny. 

Slightly different angle. There was also some bruising on the sole next to it's location.
I think he shed the front part of his frog in mid-june, so the rock could have been there ever since.

We are lucky it didn't cause an abscess. It also explains the intermittent tenderness, the lack of tenderness in the arena, and the difference in the frog base between the RF and LF. Eureka!! An answer to all of the questions.

Now, all I have to do is figure out how to change my flocking.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

HCWE: Speed Trial

Thanks, everyone, for the kind words and support. I figure that's the last first-time dressage test I will ever have to ride and we can only get better here on out. Hopefully, there will be another recognized show next year and maybe I'll be able to do the clinic before hand.

So, on to the final part of the Working Equitation test. The first part is dressage and the second part is dressage over, around and through obstacles. The final part is the obstacles at speed. Everything else goes out the window and placing is based on the time. Any mistake, such as knocking down a pole, stepping over a ground pole, causes time faults (mostly 5 seconds each, I believe) and catching the ring with the garroucha takes 10 secs off the clock. We had fourteen obstacles (dropped the pitcher and had to do the jump twice). Tarrin also placed the double slalom first out of the obstacles (it was 9 poles long) because it can be a real struggle once your horse is tired. If you cut an obstacle short or did it out of order, you would be DQ'd.

The first three riders DQ'd. That included both intermediate riders and the first Novice rider. The first rider moved the cup with the left hand instead of the right, the second rider did not complete the pattern for the three barrel obstacle and the third rider did not ring the bell at the end of the corridor. Everyone else made it through, although a couple of them slowed down and went carefully through a couple of the obstacles.

Ashke and I went second to last. I sat on him in the warm up arena and watched most of the other rides, but when it got close I got him warm. We did a straight away race down the middle of the arena and halted him with my voice and seat, sliding into a halt, then spun on a neck rein and headed for the other end. Then I cantered him in a very small circle in each direction, just to help loosen him up. Then we stood and waited our turn.

I'm sorry I don't have video but both J and K were busy volunteering. I will use my words.

We walked into the arena and instead of trotting around the outside of the obstacles, we made a small circle in the open area in front of the judge's booth. She asked me if I was ready and I said yes (we weren't waiting the expected time between each ride - trying to finish early). She rang the bell and Ashke and I turned to face her. I saluted and she saluted back. Then I turned Ashke toward the start line and asked for a canter.

He lifted into the smoothest, gentle canter of the day. That's when I leaned forward and kissed to him. His ears swept back and he burst forward. We crossed the start line at the fastest gallop of the day. I swept him into the first turn and he was very confused. It took four poles or so before he figured out we were doing the double slalom (the single slalom was the first obstacle in the Ease of Handling and uses the same poles). By the time he figured it out, we were at a fast trot (the turns are too tight for him to canter. Right now. We are working on it) and Ashke was cutting the turns as tight as he could without us touching a pole. We came out the far end and I asked for a gallop to the second obstacle.

I had to enter the second obstacle from the front and we were approaching from the back. I galloped him to the front and then sat him down and rolled back to the obstacle. He took the first barrel at a canter, but broke to a trot on the second and third. When completed the barrels and took two canter strides to the gate. When I asked Ashke to whoa, the boy sat down and stopped in perfect position for the gate. I lifted the rope, he reined through, took two steps and I settled the rope back in place. K said later it took less than 20 seconds to complete.

The next obstacle was the garroucha, which I lifted from the barrel at a canter, tried for the ring and knocked it off but didn't pick it up on the end of the pole. I was being cautious, since I did not want to risk knocking the bull over, or more importantly, knocking the pole out of my hand. That would have required dismounting, picking up the pole and mounting with it in hand. Then completing the obstacle. Ashke slowed slightly as I dropped the pole into the can, then launched for obstacle 5.

Obstacle 5 was the double barrel, and we completed the first circle at a canter, but trotted the second circle. Then raced for the bell and corridor. Ashke made the turn into the corridor, trotted to the end and paused just long enough for me to ring the bell, then backed up very quickly and spun to the gate. He was flying when we reached it, but a simple whoa and sitting down with my seat stopped him in his tracks. I moved the cup from one pole to the other and then we spun away into the single slalom poles. There were five poles and he did a flying change of lead in between each one.

At the end of the slalom, we had to make a sharp right turn, then a quick left to go over the bridge. We trotted it (it wasn't very long) because I didn't want him trying to vault over it and missing the in and out cones. Then we turned and raced the length of the arena for the first jump over the straw bale jump. He hesitated and kind of bounced a couple of steps, thinking about avoiding, but I held him and verbally encouraged him to go over. He did, then trotted into the livestock pen and back out.

As soon as we cleared the livestock pen, he was galloping again, a couple of strides to the jump. Which he deer leaped. I lost both stirrups and dropped one rein, but I stayed on and managed to lay the rein I still held against his neck to turn him toward the 13th obstacle. He swung tightly toward the obstacle. He was such a good boy. We galloped into the obstacle and slid to a stop at the far end, then backed strongly out. I swung him toward the other end of the arena and yelled in exuberance for him to go.

The final obstacle was the sidepass in both directions, although the poles were not raised. It's a real test of your horse to have been racing around like a bat out of hell, then slide to a stop and be calm enough to move carefully sideways over a pole. I took an extra ten seconds to settle him, and he was all business as we moved first to one side and then to the other. As we cleared the last pole, I rolled him toward the exit cones and yelled at the top of my lungs as he bolted across them and then across the finish line. We circled the banner that marked the start-stop point and then slid to a halt in front of the judge's booth. Tarrin was rocked back in her chair laughing in delight.

I saluted. She saluted back. Ashke walked from the arena on a loose rein.

I was breathing so hard I couldn't talk, asking for water from J with sign language. I started coughing and could taste blood in my mouth. like you get when you run really hard. J gave me a bottle of warm water, which I finished, and then K gave me a bottle of cold and I drank that too. I was soaked with sweat and shaking with the effort. My horse? Ashke wasn't even breathing hard. The only sweat was from his being saddled and in the sun. A fair number of people commented on how amazing it was that he wasn't breathing hard at all. (See cross-training on 20 mile trail rides produces a very fit pony.) I finally gathered the strength to walk him back to the trailer, unsaddle him and move him into the shade with water, hay and his mash.

When I got back to the gathering, one of the contestants said that the Speed Trial is our event (which I agree with) and another asked if I could help teach her horse how to do that. :) (The secret is teaching him to stop on a dime from a verbal whoa and to roll back and jump start his gallop from the neck rein.) Our practice on those paid off and he was magnificent. Even in the middle of the race, he stopped when I asked and stood without moving until I was ready to go again. He was absolutely amazing and I have never had so much fun in my life.

We both agree that we will do the dressage and the EOH just to be able to do the Speed round.

And we got this:

J said we were a full 45 seconds faster than anyone else.

I have some final wrap up thoughts I will write out and try to post tomorrow.

HCWE: Ease of Handling

So, my biggest mistake on Sunday was discovering the scores for the dressage tests were posted on the side of the trailer (I didn't know this was a thing). I was chatting with Stacy and she mentioned they were posted. I should have listened to the little voice in my head telling me to ignore them and just ride my ride, but the idiot impulsive voice shouted us out. I went to look and saw my score. I felt devastated.

See, I was riding a wave of excitement and accomplishment from Tarrin's comment to J that we looked so much better and that whatever I was doing, I should keep going, because you could see a huge difference. That translated in my mind to a better score than the last one Tarrin had given me, even though the prior score was just for practice and not at a recognized show. All of the compliments I had received on how Ashke looked went out the window, stormed under by a wave of disgust and despair. I totally felt like I absolutely could not do this sport, that I should never have tried and I shouldn't ever try it again.

Yeah. That. Right before my Ease of Handling ride.

I did shorten my stirrups. I really should have replaced them, since my feet were still slipping all over the place during my ride. We walked a little in the warm up arena, and I worked some of the obstacles in the warm up pen. We mostly went over the jump, which was three or so straw bales covered with a pole. After several tries, I got Ashke to go over them without balking/ponyclub kicking him over it, but he was still deer leaping. Straw bales are more serious than jumps with poles, which is what we've been practicing.

We also had an incident with some kind of bee or wasp. It got him on his nose and he was head flipping and snorting and rubbing a lot the rest of the day. One other horse also got stung and he ended up freaking out so bad his rider withdrew. Horses were striking and stomping trying to kill the damn thing. There was nothing we could do but try to keep away from where it seemed to want to hang out. I felt bad for Ashke and it didn't help us settle any before our ride.

Finally, we were called into the arena:

There were fourteen obstacles. They were pretty damn decorated too. Ashke was not sure he was really interested in being in that arena and we used our warm up to trot around the outside. I wasn't allowed to show him anything, but I could ride past them and let him look at them out of the corner of  his eye. I think he did okay. The only one he really balked at was the jump, but we managed to go over. Two riders were DQ'd for going off course.

Score sheet from the Ease of Handling

Plenty of stuff to work on. When the score sheet talks about position and seat of the rider that includes our movement between obstacles and our approach. We could have done better over the jump if I had taken a better line on it. It was so close to the livestock pen (which Ashke has never done prior to this test) that our momentum was hindered and he was able to almost stop on me. (We fixed that in the speed round.) It would have been better to turn around the outside of the livestock pen and taken a different angle to the jump. Would have set us up better, overall. I also need to remember that we have to clear the entrance and exit cones before moving to the next gait. I have a tendency to want to hurry him back into the trot. Ease of Handling is a show case and should be ridden in a way to make you look pretty.

Not really something I'm good at.

I hurried the turn on the haunches before going back into the livestock pen. We didn't really find our rhythm going through the double slalom, although we did take the line taught to us by Tarrin. I thought it was a decent ride, even though I was still feeling down about my earlier score.

All we had left to do at that point was wait for the final event of the day. The Speed Trial.

As Tarrin said, the Speed Trial can be the great equalizer.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

HCWE Recognized Show: Preshow and Dressage Test

Sunday was the first recognized Working Equitation Show in Colorado. It was held at Circle Star Arena with Tarrin Warren (from the clinic in June) as the judge. There were three levels: Intro, Novice and Intermediate. I signed Ashke and I up for Novice as soon as the announcement went out and then have spent several weeks fretting over it. I thought about withdrawing from the competition several times and assessing internally whether or not I am cut out to show. Like at all. I think what held me to going was the fact that I really like the people involved in High Country Working Equitation - I really like the group and the thought of being able to hang out with them was a great motivator.

There were so many reasons for stress. Ashke and I weren't able to practice together as much as I would have liked and our over all riding time has been reduced. I didn't have the correct clothes, which wouldn't have mattered except this was a recognized show and clothes count. My saddle is an Alta Escuela and it would cost me about $600 to buy an outfit to go with it. I understand it would cost more if I were to buy a second saddle, if I could even find one that fit his back, but $600 is out of my reach. (The hundred I spent to get new paddock boots and half-chaps was cost enough). So, I made do with new boots, new chaps (which I needed any way), black breeches and a navy polo shirt. I also took the caged stirrups Saiph sent me (I loves her!!) to trail ride in off my saddle and replaced them with the white, quick release stirrups I first bought three years ago. This was a huge mistake. I should have just ridden in the wide stirrups I was riding in before I got the caged stirrups. Either the stirrups or the boots were super slick and I was not well balanced in my saddle.

After our blow up/smack down on Tuesday, I was feeling less happy about how well we might do and just really wishing I could withdraw. Weds was better, but I still wasn't incredibly confident. Then life got really busy and I had no time to think or worry about the show any more.

Friday night, T had a x-country race. He wasn't feeling good, but wasn't running a fever, so we made him go. He ran and had the best race time he has had up to this point. He beat his old PR by about 30 seconds, but ended up in shock at the end of the race. He was shivering so hard he couldn't stand, with goosebumps all over his body. We got sugar into him and some electrolytes, plus wrapped him in some warm blankets. (The look on the coach's face when I realized how badly he was shivering, turned to J and told her to take off her shirt was priceless. J had on two and I wanted her long sleeve for T.) We stopped for food after the meet, then drove home (over an hour one direction), threw him into a hot bath and then gave him a massage with Rider's Rescue Rub. He was asleep five minutes later. We got up bright and early the next morning to drive another hour for a second meet. At that race, T had another PR. He took a full minute off of his time.

The movement of his arms is called a Jellyfish.

That was Saturday morning. Saturday late afternoon, J and I went to the barn. We cleaned and packed all of the tack in the trailer, got the water ready, and his hay. J did most of that while I bathed the horse. He was gleaming white in the sun when I finished. Although, he is losing his mane. Huge chunks of mane washed out in the bath. I'm not sure why. All I can figure is that he is playing with the horse next to him and they are managing to tear it out. We hung out and talked to the BO while Ashke dried in the sun. She agreed he is at a great weight to go into winter. Then I wrapped him in a turn out blanket, added shavings to his clean stall and left him for the night. (He actually was pretty clean the next morning.)

After talking to J and endless, numerous texts to Saiph (thank you so much my friend) I had one goal going into the show. I wanted to ride connected to my horse, with him calm and willing. I told myself that nothing else would matter. I knew we weren't going to be perfect, but I had hoped to be better. I don't know if it's my inability to show him what I want him to do, his physical limitations that make it hard for him (remember when we first started sidepassing over the pole and his right leg twisted and crumpled under him, especially going to the right?) or a combination of all things. I just know this is incredibly hard for us, we worked on it a lot, and I was hoping it would show.

Ashke trotted onto the trailer, snorting softly. He had no idea what he was in for. We had to take surface streets for a bit, since there was an accident and stalled traffic on the highway, but that was negotiated pretty quickly. We pulled in between 8:15 and 8:30. I pulled Ashke out, got him set up with food while J went to check in. She was volunteering for the day. Ashke tucked into his grain (3 lbs TC Senior and 2 Quarts of Oats) while I hung fresh water and hay for him to snack on. I went to watch some of the dressage tests for Intro, since I have NEVER even been to a dressage show before and I was feeling lost. After the first one, I got so nervous I had to leave the arena and go get my horse. Although, I did get to meet and greet all of the wonderful people who make up this incredible club (and thanks Leslie for being such a great support for the day.)

I changed into my most attractive and obviously not-really-appropriate attire, sweet talked and treated my magnificent horse, saddled him and walked him out to the dressage court to warm up. We walked around the dressage arena, looking at all of the stuff and the other horses. Then we did a little trotting, and I asked him for contact, which I thought he was giving me very nicely. There were several horses warming up in the same area, including a woman who was riding tempi changes on her very well schooled horse. Oh, and walk pirouettes. Not sure why she thought she should be showing Novice, but whatever. (She was told after the show that she would not be allowed to show that horse at Novice again:they should have been showing Intermediate.) After we had trotted for a bit, I asked for a little bit of canter along the straight side of the dressage court. He was wonderful. The canter was soft and slow and balanced. I was very pleased. Then we just wandered around in the field behind the arena while we waited our turn.

In retrospect, I probably should have practiced some bends and turns with him before riding in. I was just more focused on keeping him calm and myself calm that actually doing anything more didn't occur to me. I also should have ditched the stirrups.

The test was in the indoor arena, with the doors opened on both ends, and a table set at the far end for the judge. Behind the table was a horse trailer to help block the view behind the barn (cows possibly - although I didn't see any all day), which provided a nice white background. A lot of horses found the judge's table terrifying, which I agreed with. CS had told me to be sure to walk Ashke past the table a couple of times before my ride (after I was let into the arena) so when the final salute happened with the rider before me, Ashke and I walked into the arena. K, who was volunteering, told me to smile and have fun. (She had been told by J to say that to me - since J was at the far end of the arena behind the judge - and J was told to do that from Saiph!) I smiled as we rode in.

Ashke was immediately up looking at the judge's table. Then behind the table J started doing the jellyfish with her arms and I began to laugh, but Ashke went "WTF????" and thought about exiting the arena. J noticed and stopped, giving me a big grin instead. Ashke and I walked past the table several times in both directions, but he was still pretty unhappy with it being there. I didn't really have enough time to completely ease his apprehension. The bell rang and we started the test.

Next time, I ride in from the outside. Making a right turn down center line requires geometry, which I suck at, and there was no way to have a straight cadenced entry on the center line without having to try and straighten him out. The second thing is to never ride in those boots and stirrups again. I struggled to keep his impulsion in part because the footing was deeper than we were accustomed to and in part due to my boots slipping around in the stirrups. I did not need any more hindrances to my riding performance and the boots/stirrup combination were a huge hindrance. I lost my stirrups several times. I flailed. It was special.

So, without further ado, here is the ride video.

And here is the score sheet:

The only really positive thing was that Tarrin turned to J after the test and told her that whatever I was doing with Ashke was working and that we looked so much better together. I am disappointed that we didn't score better, but overall, I'm just happy that we completed our ride without any problems. Ashke did break on the final serpentine, but that was in direct reaction to the table and not inability on his part.

That's enough for now. Next post will be the Ease of Handling part of the show.

Thursday, September 17, 2015


Or Smack Down, Ashke Edition:

I lost my temper last night. With my horse.

It started in the out door arena, where he was spooky and wound tight as a spring. I am feeding him all of the calories necessary for long distance riding - 10 to 20 mile training rides at a time - but his work has dropped off significantly since T started back to school. This means that I have a very well  conditioned horse with lots of energy who isn't being ridden very often. This can result in a very energetic animal who flat out decided he didn't want to work.

It really started in the stall, when I was saddling him. He did not want to stand still and he kept pawing. Now, I'm not one to get after him for that, since often it is his way of telling me something (that place is itchy, I'm a little sore, you are taking too damn much time) and information is a good thing, right? He was also very lippy and although he didn't catch skin, I could tell he wasn't happy.

We started in the outdoor, just as the sun was sinking below the mountains. The whole reason for the ride was to work on our dressage (dust off the rust) and get him thinking arena work rather than trail. We are entered in the Working Equitation (recognized) Show on Sunday and we haven't done anything remotely connected to WE in two months (not since our last ride at Circle Star Arena). From the moment I got on him, he felt coiled. Like a spring. On steriods. Think explosive. I really have no idea what was going on with him. If we had been out on trail, we would have opened up his big trot and put him to work, but it seemed like the shape of the arena was focusing the energy back on us.

I started out asking for a walk, which seemed like too much and not enough at the same time. He was bouncing up and down, but not really moving forward. I don't know if it was the sun setting (getting darker) or the other horse in the arena cantering circles around us, but he would not settle. His head came up higher and higher, and then his front feet started following. I tried leg yields at a zig zag (four strides or so between changes of direction), and he offered a side pass at almost a trot, but none of that work made it better. When his front feet began to come off the ground more frequently and his neck was tight as a drum, plus the hump under the saddle was getting worse, I got off. I asked J to bring me the lunging rope and dressage whip. She did and I lunged him for the first time in two years.

He sent himself out at a bucking gallop, doing the Arabian scootlebutt around me at such speed that his hind legs slipped out a couple of times. He galloped for a solid ten minutes, with me just turning in a circle and letting him get the willies out. Once he was willing to stop on a verbal command, I turned him in the other direction and let him run around to the right (clockwise) until he once again stopped on my verbal request. He was dripping sweat and blowing, but still up. His breathing had slowed by the time we got to the indoor arena, where I led him since it was getting dark outside. He was still incredibly spooky and the hump was still under the saddle when I swung up.

To add to my frustration, one of the trainers had left their jumps up in the arena (even though the policy in the barn is that they get put away), which did not help my temper. I was frustrated and feeling anxious about working Ashke in the indoor anyway, and that didn't help.

When I swung up he was spooky and trying to bolt, with a hump under his saddle still. Jamming his head straight up into the air and trying to get away from the bit. I let it go the first time, trying to get him resettled and refocused, but the second time, when he bounced on his front legs and almost launched me, I was done. Now I was scared he was going to throw me and I was pissed about his behavior. This was the point where I could have used a riding buddy to talk me down, tell me to relax and not take it personal. When N and I rode together, we would do that for each other. She would see me start to get angry and talk me through it and I could do the same for her, before it escalated into smacks with the dressage whip, rearing and shying. I don't have that in my life now. It devolved into a fight: him fighting the bit, me fighting him. He got smacked on the neck with my hand, and pony club kicked a couple of times, plus a couple of fairly firm taps with the whip. He hates the indoor and instead of recognizing that there was something (maybe all of the dead baby sparrows buried in the sand of the indoor arena - I picked up three last night) that was setting him off, I reacted emotionally. He ended up dripping sweat and I ended up in tears; he ended up chastised and confused while I was frustrated and despondent.

I almost called to cancel my entry in the show.

J called it a smack fest.

Go ahead. Judge me. The other three people in the arena did.

At the end of the ride, we were both pretty wiped out. We managed to stop the ride on a positive note for both of us, after Ashke managed a canter around the arena in both directions without bracing or trying to get rid of me. I managed to calm down and reward his effort. There was not a dry inch on either of us, and I at least was in tears. I unsaddled and rinsed him off, even though it was pitch dark at the wash rack. He sighed in relief as the water cascaded over his body and seemed to enjoy just standing there. I tucked him into his stall with fresh shavings and a second mash, then dragged my poor body home.

On Redemption:

I spent a lot of time thinking about what had happened and my approach. I think in part, Ashke wasn't interested in working that night, at least not in the arena. He loves being out on trail. He tolerates the arena work. He also is so much better in the outdoor arena that it becomes frustrating to deal with his behavior in the indoor arena. Having foreknowledge that he is going to react badly to being inside does not make it easier to deal with, and in fact, my apprehension at how he is going to behave is causing me to brace against him. We needed to do things differently.

On Weds night, I started out walking. We went clockwise to start and it took 4 times of walking the perimeter of the arena in a circle for him to do it without any tension in his body. When we turned to go in the other direction, I was prepared to walk in that circle for the rest of the night. It took 11 turns around the arena before he was able to do so without any tension. Then we turned back the other direction and began our trot set. We worked at the trot for twenty minutes before he was able to trot the diagonal, turn along the short end of the arena and trot the diagonal back to the other end (an elongated figure eight) without any tension at all. The two times he spooked and tried to bolt, I calmly brought him back down to a walk and we walked the arena perimeter until there was no tension again. Then we went back to the trot. He was giving me great bend and good forward movement in both directions. Calmly. Without angst.

One of the things that really struck me on Weds night was how much effort Ashke was putting into mending our breach. Just like when you argue with a spouse and they go out of their way to try and make things up to you, I feel like both Ashke and I were trying to do so all night. He was snuggly and affectionate with me in the stall. He liked my shirt, licked my ear, groomed my shoulder, stood calmly while I groomed. Call it anthormorphizing if you want, it certainly felt like we were trying to be better with each other. Once we started to work (asking him to give at the poll, reach for contact, bring himself into a frame) he really tried. He listened and gave all that he could, trying so hard to do what I was asking for. It was a huge jump forward for him in terms of reaching for contact, in trying to do the dressage stuff for me. It felt like a huge apology on both of our parts.

After the walk and trot work, I pulled out the gate, the garroucha and the sidepass pole. We worked on Ashke doing the obstacles while still be flexed at the pole, without throwing his head up and bracing. Some of his behavior is rooted in how difficult it still is for him to move his hind end sideways with his right leg. It's so much stronger and no longer twists under him, however, he lifts his head with the effort. We worked the gate backwards eight or so times, until he was doing it off of my leg aids, with very little rein. Then we just refamiliarized ourselves with the garroucha, which he was fine with. Finally we worked on doing the sidepass pole without ticking the bar. I think I figured out the technique I need to use to get him over that without touching the pole or bracing.

I put the obstacles away and decided to try the canter. Ashke could sense the tension in me caused by that thought, so we trotted a 20m circle until we were both calm. Then I asked for a canter and we cantered one loop, then returned to the trot. One circuit to the right and then changed to do one to the left. We did four sets of those with only one reaction on Ashke's part. We were cantered and I asked for the trot, he threw his head straight up in the air and braced against the bit. I tightened my seat and started verbally cueing a halt, trying to stay soft with my hands. He finally brought his head down and stopped. I conversationally asked him what that was about. He dropped him head and relaxed. I asked him to back up three steps, which he did and then we turned in the other direction. The final three circles in each direction were soft and he tried really hard to maintain contact.

When I got off we were both serene, pleased with ourselves and dry. His mouth was covered with foam and his eye was bright. He snorted softly to me on our way back to his stall.

Of course, there was no one in the arena to watch us redeem ourselves.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Four Things

Four names that people call me other than my real name:
1. Mom
2. Cricket
3. Bitch
4. Honey

Four jobs I've had:
1. Gopher Eliminator
2. Potato Sorter
3. Restaurant Manager
4. HR Manager

Four movies I've watched more than once:
1. Pitch Perfect/Pitch Perfect 2
2. All of the LOTR/Hobbit movies
3. The Hunger Games
4. Avatar

Four books I'd recommend:
1. The Power of One by Bryce Courtenay
2. The Catch Trap by Marion Zimmer Bradley
3. Monte Walsh by Jack Schaffer
4. The Hunger Games Series by Suzanne Collins

Four places I've lived:
1. Firth, ID
2. San Fernando Valley, CA
3. Caldwell, ID
4. Boulder, CO

Four places I've visited: (I have not been many places)
1. Battle of the Little Big Horn (Battle of the Greasy Grass)
2. Crazy Horse Monument, South Dakota
3. P-Town, on the Cape
4. Lincoln City, Oregon Coast

Four places I'd rather be right now:
1. Riding my horse anywhere USA
2. Disneyland
3. Malibu beach, CA
4. Maryland (to meet Saiph)

Four things I prefer not to eat:
1. Brussell Sprouts (don't ask)
2. Fish
3. Cheese
4. Fast Food

Four of my favorite foods:
1. Anything Mexican
2. Morrocan
3. Italian
4. Dr Pepper

Four TV shows I watch:
1. Castle
2. Bones
3. Teen Wolf
4. Good Wife

Four things I'm looking forward to this year:
1. Spending the Holidays with Mom
2. Riding Indian Creek to Waterton Canyon (if the bears ever leave)
3. Broncos Football
4. My bday

Four things I'm always saying:
1. Suck it Nerd (picked this little nugget up from my son)
2. No worries
3. Don't sniff my butt
4. Is that yours?

Four horse breeds I've ridden:
1. Appaloosa
2. QH
3. Shetland
4. Arabian

Four breeds of dog I like:
1. Boxer
3. Poodle
4. Malinios

Four horse events I want to participate in:
1. Working Equitation Show
2. Trail Course
3. Endurance Ride (LD distance)
4. Backcountry ride

Four of my favorite animals:
1. Horse
2. Dog
3. Cat
4. Ferret

Four places I would like to go:
1. Kentucky Derby
2. Puerto Rico
3. Disneyland (again)
4. East Coast (to meet Saiph and all of T's sibs)

Four things I wish for:
1. For T to find his passion and grow into the man I know he can be.
2. For J and I to stay healthy and active
3. Our elected leaders to take Climate change seriously
4. For a Sea change in how we care for the earth and its resources

Monday, September 14, 2015

Bear Creek Expanded

On Thursday, T had a cross-country race south in our city. We were driving one of the main roads back north and there was a horse-crossing sign on the side of the road. In the middle of the city. J noticed it first (I was watching traffic), but I managed to turn my head and see a double track coming out of a line of trees. My interest was sparked and when I got home I looked the area up on a map. 
The trail led out of Bear Creek Lake park East. For miles, it looked like on the map. We could add a ton of miles to the ride by following the trail due north to the edge of the park before turning east and meeting up with the trail by the creek. I had a pretty good idea of how I was planning to go and very excited about the possibility of exploring new terrain. There is nothing that Ashke and I like more.

 J has added orange gloves to her colorful ensemble. 

 The only two dimensional object in the world: our shadow.

Headed West toward the river crossing.

Ashke out on a first day ride in the S Hack. He did pretty good.
I did discover that he plays with his tongue even without a bit in his mouth.
Like hangs it out a good foot.

J stayed on the road when she could. No sense in making it more difficult on her than needed.

 The trail leading to the first river crossing.

 K and the Eds. They were both a little on the low energy side.
It could have been the heat.

The river crossing by two kick ass trail horses.

 K and Eddy lead after the water crossing and Ashke did great following second.
He's getting better and better about going second.

A very cool pump at one of the parking spots in the park.

 J heading toward the road.

Because of the flooding two years ago, plus the high water we got this year, some of the trail along the creek has been tore up. The trail is closed, but we have ridden it in the past, because horses. The last time J went with us, but there was so much sand that she had to carry the bike in a couple of spots. She opted to take the road and meet us on the other side. K and I decided to ride through the creek bottom, since we both hate riding the road because of the speed of traffic. As we were riding the trail there was a gentleman using a backhoe to repair the damage, rebuild the trail and remove the sand. When we realized there was a backhoe there we headed off trail, wandered into the dead bog from Fellowship of the Rings, got yelled at and told we were not supposed to be off trail in the park (which I honestly didn't know was a thing) and finally made it back to the trail on the other side of the backhoe. It was an adventure and both horses did pretty good with manuevering the downed tree hazards of our off trail ride. 

The last ride we did at Bear Creek, this meadow was a grey mudflat with no green. It's completely come back alive in the month since we were there.

 Ashke being obedient in the S hack.

Then being skeptical.

We crossed the road and headed up the hill. At that point, we could have continued due north and picked up the trail next to the road, but there was also a trail that headed due east, which is ultimately where we wanted to go. It was already in the mid-80s and I wanted to get us all under the cover of the trees next to the creek as soon as we could.

 We headed up a long trail leading to the top of the dam. Heading north.

Then we turned back south and made our way down the back side of the dam.

 J was amused to find this sign behind the barbed wire fence.

When we got the to bottom of the dam we kept going south, looking for the trail that led east past the golf course. Instead, we found a trail that headed to the south and west of the dam, which was the road I was planning on taking back to the trailer. When the dirt trail met sidewalk, we turned to the East again, and headed toward one of the busiest road in the city. We were looking for access to the Creek trail through the subdivision. There was a woman walking her little dog when we turned into the housing area and J asked her if there was access to the creek. The woman told us no and had us turn around and go back. There was a supposed horse trail that wound next to the golf course that we had missed completely.

 Heading back down to the bottom of the dam. I could see the horse trail off to the right behind the maintenance shed.

There was even a sign marking the trail. 

The trail went up a fairly steep hill lined with rocks, topped out and went immediately downhill.
J handled it really well.

We found one of the river crossings. By that time I was looking for a place to eat lunch. It was frustrating not knowing where to go. 

 There was no bridge and so J hoofed it across.

 My wife is a bad ass!!

 It was pretty.

 We ate lunch there. J and I tried a new Lara bar, which was not very good. And it didn't provide me or J with the energy we needed. The Stinger bar was a much better choice. Actually, the hummus was a better option. Going forward we will make sure to 1) not eat cold cereal for breakfast, and 2) make sure we have enough complex carbs (not sugar) to go with our protein.

 We unsaddled the ponies to let them play in the water. Eds stood on the bank and ate.

 He was not interested in playing in the water.

Ashke on the other hand, would have laid down if he could have, but it was too rocky.

 Playing in the water.

After lunch we turned around. I was disappointed, but then again, I usually am when we turn around to go home. I am one of those people who would constantly want to climb the next hill to see what was behind it. However, it was hot. J was getting tired and K's left hip was bothering her. I turned back and by the time we had recrossed the creek I was back to happy again. J understands this insatiable desire to constantly go and knows she needs to rein me in before I ride us all to exhaustion (See Colorado Trail ride if you don't believe me).

I guess the golf course is private property and we had to stay on the trail.

Once we back tracked to the main trail, K and I headed up a fairly decent hill to the south of the dam while J stayed on the sidewalk around the golf course.

It wasn't horribly steep (like the Mesa trail) and it wasn't too rocky, but the drop off was fairly significant. Enough so, that my breath caught in my throat when Ashke shied away from the upper side of the hill. The trail is only about a step wide.
And not for anyone afraid of heights. Which K is not, thankfully.

Not quite even with the top of the dam.
Both the Bear Creek dam and Chatfield did their jobs this year and kept the communities downstream from being devastated by the rising water.

Now you can see the edges of Bear Creek Lake.

And now we are above the dam.

Less bush (which always feels like a safety thing) , more grass. Still steep.

The Eds being the sure footed, calm trail pony he is.

At the top of the plateau we waited for J, who we recognized by her gloves, to join back up with us. It was hot and a strenuous ride up that hill. After she had almost caught her breath she told us to go on, since it was downhill for her. K and I rode in a switchback down the hill, made the turn and headed back toward the lake. 

As we rode along this trail there was a prairie dog colony along the hillside. A dog came scurrying towards us, sliding down the hillside with little rocks and dust kicking up behind him. He stopped on the edge of a cut out in the hill and stood on his hind legs, then began to bark at us. It reminded me of a little kid running to the edge of the sidewalk to chant "horse, horse, horse" at us. Cracked me up.

Eddy saying it is pretty hot.

When we hit the bottom of the singletrack, there was a double wide, flat, perfect for galloping track that headed the way we needed to go. It had a slight uphill slope, but not very much. J opted that it looked good to her too and she took off ahead of us. K and I cantered to start, but it soon devolved into a hand gallop. We held it as long as we could and then slowed to catch our breath. Once I could breath without seeing stars, we took off again. Eddy and Ashke were running side by side, with Ashke keeping his ears pinned at Eddy. The app said our fastest speed was over 22 mph.

J said all she could hear was the two of us giggling like little girls.

We came to a stop at the top of a rise and J went down. She was bright red and did not look good. She said she felt like she had just hit a wall, and in retrospect we think it was a lack of food and the heat. I got off Ashke and pulled her camelbak out, opened it and dumped some of the water on the back of her neck to help cool her off. That helped. (She had heat stroke in 2005 and is super sensitive to the heat since then.) Once she felt a little better, we continued on until I found access to the creek, shade and a bench. She went into the creek and got her ankles and wrists wet, (the water was very cold), the top of her head and the back of her neck. Then we sat in the shade and she ate some apples. That did it's trick and she was looking better after that. It was pretty scary. She kept saying she was okay, but she didn't look okay. I wanted her to lie down in the water, but she declined. 

The truck was only a quarter mile or so from our shade spot and J could ride the road most of the way, so getting back to the truck was fairly quick. We sponged off the horses and gave them their feed. Then loaded and headed home. 

We will do that trail in the future, but will have to wait for the heat to break. A nice day in the 70's would be awesome.

I also think I figured out the issue with the Equitracks app losing my GPS. There is now a function for intermittent GPS location, instead of full GPS all of the time. According to the information I was able to find, intermittent GPS takes information every 32 feet, which causes it to use less battery life, but has the possibility to not be as accurate and to drop the signal. Going forward, I will change that when starting the ride.