Monday, October 26, 2015


Since we had hauled so far on Saturday, we really wanted to do a closer ride on Sunday. I had been reading in my Riding Colorado book and the excerpt on the Highline Canal said you could ride the canal west to Waterton Canyon. That meant to me that we could ride the west side of the South Platte and cross the river to ride the Highline Canal. The west side trail along the Platte is an incredible experience and we hadn't ridden it since the flooding. It sounded like a nice adventure and I love exploring, so Chatfield it was. We were actually on time to pick up K and Eddy and hit Chatfield before 10:30.

This is the new bit I got for Ashke. He likes it a lot, ends up slatherly even on trail and is much more willing to relax and give to it than anything else we have tried to date. He also loves to play with the copper rollers with his tongue.

We crossed the South Platte and headed south. The trail was pretty cleaned up, which was kind of a surprise. Either the damage was minimal or this is a very popular trail and the Parks people cleaned it up first.

It was breath takingly beautiful. The colors and the sky and the temps.

It was a bit cool and both K and J started out in jackets.

 J in all her colors.

 The trail south weaves along the river, winding in and out of the trees. Ashke was a bit spooky on our way out, so we traveled the trail mostly at a trot.

 The river was breathtaking.
There are no good words for how beautiful it was.

K and Eddy lead for a while. Ashke did a really nice collected canter intermixed with a lengthened trot behind them.

 He really hates being second, but he was also getting touchy about Eddy riding up on his heels.

 The color was intense.

J was having fun with the camera. She was going to take some trot video, but we slowed to a walk. This was one of the few places where it was rocky and Ashke was bare.

Ashke's very eloquent ears will tell you what he thinks of having to stay behind Eddy.

I really need to remember the GoPro camera, since it would be so much easier than holding my camera in my right hand and trying to wrestle Ashke with my left.

A lot of the trail was close and narrow singletrack, with bushes tight on either side of us.

 Some of the trail required stepping over logs, walking around fallen trees, stepping over fallen trees and going down a very steep bank. The steep bank we got off and hand walked, mostly because of a tree stump with a sharp pointy top compliments of beavers. They we had to bushwhack through the underbrush due to the chest high oxer created by two fallen trees we couldn't walk over.

Just after our bushwhacking adventure, we stopped to derobe. J took off her jacket and K did as well. For K, that required unhooking her backpack and swinging it around onto her pommel, removing the jacket and then packing it away. Eddy stood completely nonchalant as she did so. The last time she tried something like that, Eddy spooked and spun and dumped her on her head. Trail pony Master Level unlocked! I did stand Ashke next to her in case Eddy wanted to be a turd, but honestly he didn't even get anxious as she was stowing her jacket.

 South Platte. The picture does not do it justice.

At the point that the trail made it back to the river via a L gate. An L gate is fencing that forms a tight L, intended to allow people to move through but should restrict other travel. We dismounted and handwalked through. The most dangerous part of this particular gate is that part of the L was fenced with barbed wire. It might have been an issue for a larger horse, but both Ashke and Eddy made it through without any issues.

Artistic interpretation of the South Platte.

Mounted back up and waiting for K to use the small rise in land to get on Eddy.

Moving further downstream, we were now riding a singletrack trail with a barbed wire fence to the west of us. That barbed wire fence marks the boundry of some private gun club just outside of Waterton Canyon. We were close to where we should be able to cross over and reach the Highline Canal. The barbed wire fence was somewhat disconcerting, just because it was so close to the trail.

Sluice way with steel grid. We hand walked it just to be safe. Both boys crossed without hesitation.

 J leading. You can see how close the fence is.

There was a bridge we crossed that was edged on the right with barbed wire and nothing to the left. It was wooden but looked sturdy enough to hold a horse. We dismounted and led them across. At the far side of the bridge, right at the edge, was a six inch deep by a foot and a half deep hole. Ashke stumbled through it getting across, but Eddy managed it with nimble feet. Then we followed J to the bridge. The trail ended at the bridge. After doing some scouting, K and I decided to ride down the river and under the bridge that crosses the Platte. We would ride up the other bank on the far side of the bridge. I really thought based on maps on the internet that we could reach the Highline canal from that bank. We rode up the river, rode up the bank, skirted a bog and ended up at the base of a hill I'm not sure we could have climbed up, even from the ground.

The wall to the left is the base of the road. The hill directly in front of us went straight up.
J and her bike climbed it to see if there was a good reason for us to try the hill. The parking lot to the Highline Canal was closed with a huge gate and locks. Not something we could cross.
Maybe there were bears.

At least we didn't have to try and find a way up. Instead, we turned around and headed back to the river. We both walked through a field of cockleburrs, so Eddy was covered and Ashke had them at the edges of his saddle pad and his tail. That was fun. We made it back to the river.

 Riding the River back to the trail.

 As soon as we were back on the trail, I found a nice spot with two logs and announced we were stopping for lunch.

Ashke was more interested in the apples J might have than the river.

The bridge on the way back. Notice the barbed wire to the right of the video.

Going back I knew was going to be sketchy. Eddy was leading and refused to cross. One of his things is stepping into or over water that is small, like a puddle or a rivulet. K and I both backed the horses up (there was no room to turn around) and Ashke and I went first. I gave Ashke plenty of rein and trusted that he would get himself over the hole without landing on me. Which he did. As you can hear on the video, Eddy was not so good. He basically jumped into K and threw her into the fence. K could have let go of the reins because I could have caught Ashke, but we didn't really think of that until later. She was hung up on the fence and struggling to keep him still while she freed herself from the fence. I was pretty scared because Eddy was scared and almost stepped off the bridge trying to stand with K. 

I hate barbed wire. Hate it. With a passion.

K had lost most of the left sleeve of her shirt, most of the left side of her shirt, and part of her pack to the fence. She had deep scratches on her left forearm, her left bicep and her left breast. Thankfully, J had her medical kit and was able to not only clean, antibiotic and vet wrap or bandage the wounds, but she also had a safety pin to close up the gaping holes in the front of K's shirt. K was a trooper. Got bandaged up and got right back on. I stood and kept the horses calm while they fixed her up. Ashke was really stressed out by the whole incident. Eddy was worried but not so obvious about it.

K and J with the medical kit, getting all of the used bits gathered back up.

We mounted up and headed down the trail. Some of the magic had seeped out of the day and I was looking forward to being away from the fence. There was a spot where there was a fallen tree leaning at an angle over the trail. I had cracked my helmet (and my head) on it on the way out and wanted to make sure I cleared it completely going back. I had the reins in my left hand (my stupid hand) and the underside of the fallen tree in my right palm as I rode under. Something about how I twisted to clear the tree must have caused my left leg to arch away from Ashke's side and two steps later my stirrup and foot hung up against the fence. I had a T-pole wedged against the top of my boot and a strand of barbed wire tight over the top of the stirrup. It stopped both Ashke and myself and bounced Ashke off the fence. He humped his back and kicked out with his hind feet like he was trying to free himself and I heard him hit the fence. Him being tangled in the fence would be worse than me losing the foot. I whoa'd Ashke and held hard with the reins, trying to get him to move back enough to dislodge my foot (thank the gods we practiced that for WE) and he stopped, although he was a bit freaked out. At about that moment, the barb that was holding us in place cracked through the top of the stirrup cage (cracked the plastic at the top) and we were free. Ashke almost leapt away. As we moved forward, K called out that Ashke was bleeding. It took a couple of minutes to get to a place where I could safely get off him to assess. The bleeding was minimal, so I got him through the L gate and then assessed.

 Scratch on the outside of his LF just below the knee. Barely skin deep.

 Long, but shallow, scratch on the outside of his fetlock.

I hand walked him to the river where we could get down in the water. (I am a deep believer in the healing power of water.) I talked him into going in deep enough that both scratches were under water. The cold and the wet did their job. The bleeding had stopped and the cuts were clean when we started out again. Ashke was walking fine and in fact was offering a nicely collected trot once I remounted. There was no sign of lameness and the bleeding had completely stopped.

 The up bank going back home. It looked so much scarier in person.
We almost felt like eventers going up it.

 J maneuvering Coyote across one of the fallen tree obstacles we traversed. This one we walked around.

Stepping over and through two fallen trees in close proximity to one another.

Once we were back on the trail that Ashke knew, he offered a canter. He wanted to chase J through the trees. It was so much fun. He was doing flying changes as he changed the direction we were turning around the trees. We did the same thing last time we were riding this trail in the spring. He had the nicest collected canter and very controlled turns. It was awesome. I was laughing outloud while we rode through it. I could hear K whooping and giggling as Eddy was making the same cuts.

The final river crossing back to the trailer.

 Eddy at the trailer.

K, her ripped apart shirt, and the safety pin.

It was only 2 pm. We had only been on trail a couple of hours and managed a whooping seven miles. It was the most exhausting seven miles ever. We decided that we like the river trail, but not once we reach the private land. There are other rides we can do that allow us to access the river trail going back that we will ride next time. It was a beautiful day that was marred by the barbed wire. Even the horses seemed ready to go home. We loaded up and hauled back.

When I unloaded Ashke I noticed blood on his LH leg just below the hock. I'm not sure why it suddenly started bleeding in the trailer but I had contributed that injury to the barbed wire incident. Now I'm thinking it just as likely that he might had been injured in the trailer. J is usually really careful when she is hauling, but we had one abrupt stop at a corner (because of an idiot, unsafe driver) and perhaps that is when he injured himself.  In retrospect, it is located on his leg in a place that could have gotten scraped by the bottom of the divider. It was bleeding and somewhat swollen when I unloaded him. I took him to the wash rack and cold hosed it, then took him in and shaved all of the places. The earlier wire cuts were clean and blood free. The, what I now thing was a trailer injury. didn't look like a wire cut but I was still thinking along those lines, and was slightly swollen but superficial. I treated them with antibiotic ointment and gave him a dose of Bute in his mash.

I checked him this morning and his legs were tight and clean. 

Ashke will have the next three weeks off again (company in town) although we will be moving him to a new barn on Sunday, hauling him back to TMR for his feet on the following Saturday, then hauling him on the 21st to the Mounted Archery clinic in Fort Collins. Woot.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Hidden Mesa

Picking a place to ride on Saturday was complicated by the arrival of fall rains on Weds and Thursday (T had his regional race in the rain. More on that later.) Our original thought was the East-West Regional trail, but was afraid that it would be too muddy to ride. I got out my trail riding books and decided maybe we could try Hidden Mesa. Becky and Goose have blogged about this ride and it's been on my to-ride list for a while.

We should have listened to the directions in the book, but really thought that driving I-25 to Castle Rock and then going East would be better. It would have been perfect in a car but pulling a horse trailer made it a bit touchy. The road goes through part of the city and then suburban housing before finally leveling out into a road that is easy to pull a trailer on. We went home via Parker to Lincoln Ave just like we should have gone out. As it was, we drove past the opening to the Open Space parking lot and had to go up and turn around. That was fun.

The Open Space welcome center. Nice bathrooms and plenty of parking.

Panoramic view of the parking lot. Plenty of room for multiple trailers if needed.

I got visors for K and I. She had much better luck putting hers on. I needed to remove the built in small visor before the Salamander visor it would stay stuck to the helmet. I'm so special.

Starting out on trail.

We crossed the Cherry Creek trail, which we could have ridden south to Castlewood Canyon or way north (20 miles) to Cherry Creek park. Unlike my deep desire to ride from Indian Creek to Chatfield via Waterton Canyon, I have zero desire to ride from Hidden Mesa to Cherry Creek. There is no cover and the trail is sidewalk.

I started out in front boots, but Ashke is more sore in them than out of them. Please someone, explain that to me. I've stopped booting in the back and am hopeful that I can get his front feet right over this winter.  If I can't ride him barefoot next year I'm seriously considering doing shoes on the fronts only for the summer. Maybe the Easy shoes. With glue. I'm really tired of boot issues. I pulled the boots and he was moving better except over heavy rock, and then he wasn't moving worse than he would have been in the shoes.

First water crossing two minutes from the trailer and he drank.
Such a good boy.

There was a nice spot where we stopped to pull Ashke's boots and let J shed some clothes. There was a hitching post and a picnic table.

The color was pretty incredible. 

Such a pretty section of trail.

The back side of the picnic area.

 A crossroads of sorts. The sign pointed left to Rocky Pass and right to Pleasant Pass.
Guess which one we chose?
(Actually, I knew from Becky's post that we wanted to use the new pass and go to the right.)

 K and I are taking turns leading.

Overall, I want a horse that can ride in whatever position in the group I chose. To that end, we have been taking turns leading. Eddy walks really slow when he is in the lead, which becomes very frustrating for Ashke after awhile, so if we are held to walking I will try to rate Ashke behind Eddy for awhile and then finally ask to go ahead. Eddy walks at Ashke's pace when Ashke is in front. Eddy, however, trots faster than Ashke, which leads to so very interesting conversations with Ashke. He is getting better but we still have work to do.

 J powered up the mountain. We took a five minute break about half the way up, but then she just did it. Rock Star!!

 Love the Orange gloves.

Rocky Pass trail across the valley.

Ashke carries his tail up the entire ride.

Picture of the colors. 

J following us up the hill with her camera in hand.
She is very talented.

   The sky was incredible. The land was bathed in the colors of fall.
It was absolutely an amazing ride.
 The top of the Mesa had housing off to the West, but an incredible view of the Front Range.
The second level of mountains were covered with snow.

 Eddy with the mountains in the distance behind him. 
K is doing well in the Abetta saddle the fitter told her was a good fit.

We stopped to eat some more once we were on the top of the mesa. The ride works better for J if she gets some sugar in her after a hard climb. I have figured out a new fav for lunch. I packed a hard boiled egg, mini bagels and hummus. It was great and gave me good energy for the rest of the ride. One egg wasn't really enough and on Sunday I supplemented my lunch with an additional egg.

See my birthday gift? It is a sheepskin cover for my Alta. It is amazing.
And I don't slip in my slick saddle any more. I loves it!!

 We rode the Mesa Rim Loop and entered a magical place.

See the slick rock? See the distant horizon. It was so cool.

Eddy and Ashke like each other.
Although Ashke doesn't like Eddy being right on his heels. Doesn't like it when Amaar does it either.

 Eddy doesn't care if Ashke is in his ass though.

 The rock was unreal.

 There was so much slick rock and the pics don't do it justice.

There was some pretty technical moments where the step down or up was more than normal.
Both Ponehs handled it well. I was really happy we were bare through this section, since boots can slide on slick rock.

 Might be one of my all time favorite pictures of us.

 It was pretty darn picturesque.

 Ashke was pretty happy with our ride. Tail still up.

We moved around to the East side of the Mesa and moved back to dirt trails, which allowed us to move a bit faster.

We found a nice long straight, mostly uphill, section of trail that was probably almost a mile long. It had some holes at the beginning, courtesy of the prairie dogs (K and I were taking turns calling out the holes depending on who was leading).  We cantered the entire section, with a touch of a gallop toward the end. We were both laughing so hard at the end. J followed us up and when she reached us I told her I wanted to do it again. She said she would wait for us to come back. We trotted in a collected trot to the bottom of the hill and when I turned Ashke around I had a fire breathing dragon on my hands. Even in the lead, he had his head straight up in the air and was fighting me to be allowed to go. I held him to a contained canter until we were past the holes in the trail, and once I heard K and Eddy pass the hole, I let him go. K said later we hit 23 mph according to her app. J caught the last bit of the run on video.

Heading back to the Pleasant Pass trail.

Eddy was leading and spooked at the bench, so we walked over it.

 Very little Bull Snake sunning himself on the sidewalk. We tried to get him to move so a bicycle wouldn't run over him, but he wasn't interested in moving. He's awfully small for so late in the season.

 In the river again on our way back to the trailer.

I got Ashke to canter up the waterway.

Eddy did a high snapping trot.

Once back at the trailer, we got them unsaddled, fed and then loaded. Forty-Five minutes later we were home. It was a magnificent ride that we all loved. There are so many incredible trails so close to us that I can't even stand it. This one though, stood out. It is definitely in the top three.

And for those of you who have been following Ts saga, he made the Regional team, raced on Thursday and had a PR. He ran in 24:53 with a 7:54 average mile. We are super proud of him. Can't wait to see him receive his letter again this year.