Sunday, February 28, 2016


Today, J and I hitched up the trailer and loaded Ashke, then headed to pick up L and her horse Satori. We rode with L the first time a little over a year ago at the Teller Trail. Satori is Lusitano and Arabian, and absolutely full of character. We planned to be at her barn at 8:45 but arrived about 15 minutes early. L wasn't sure how Satori would load and we wanted to give her plenty of time.

Satori took about ten minutes to load and it amazed me at how calm and patient L was. She didn't rush him but also didn't brook any nonsense out of him either. Once he was loaded, we headed out. (J had loaded all of L's things into the trailer or the truck while we loaded Satori. She's good that way.)

We were the first riders to arrive at Circle Star, but not by much. J deftly parked the trailer and we got the boys set up with some grain, some hay and water. Then we gave them a good grooming and saddled up. I decided to try a saddle pad I had purchased when I got the Trekker, to see if perhaps some of my issue was with the pad. To make up for the fact that I wasn't going to be using the BOT for today's ride, I gave Ashke a bit of a rub before we started our ride.

We spent the morning working on flatwork (dressage). We warmed up in pairs (there were 6 of us total) and then they asked me to ride the Novice test.

Couple of things to consider. We ride in a 40 x 20 m ring. The numbers come up quick. We handled most of it much better, however, after our first canter when we transition down at C, I really need to slow the trot. I didn't get any stretch across the diagonal. When I loosened the reins he gathered speed rather than reaching down. This is something we can work on. This rushing also caused me to be a bit behind the eight ball in asking for my right lead canter at F. We really didn't get it until closer to A. That was all because of the rushed trot across the diagonal. This was also the first time we did the loop to the quarter line and the counter canter back to the rail in both directions without breaking. Our halts were fairly good, except for the one at DX when he knew he was supposed to back up and instead I was asking him to stand quietly. We still need more work on immobility.

Some of the take aways in the flatwork were: the turns at E and B are squared off turns, not loops. As is the turn at K and the final two turns at B and X. After the final salute, the test is not over until the rider has exited at A. This means riding forward and turning either direction at C, then riding on a loose rein along the rail until A. (I obviously didn't understand that I was supposed to ride forward and to the rail.) Overall, I felt Ashke did a great job. He tried really hard for me, although he also was trying to predict what I was going to ask him for next.

I thought we looked pretty good.

After the flatwork, we ate an amazing lunch, then worked on the Ease of Handling phase.

This is at the trot, but we also did it at the canter. Kitty saw that we were collapsing in on the left barrel (the circle is way smaller) and told me to weight my outer stirrup to help keep me straighter in the saddle. I used that concept on the three barrel and it seemed to help.

We also did the three barrel at a canter, which I was so proud of Ashke. He pretty much has the idea, now I just need to get a walk stride instead of a stop for the lead changes. I think that will be a fairly simple change.

Gate forward

Gate backwards

J said that the auditors watching us were pretty impressed with how well he did the poles.

We moved outside and one of the visiting trainers taught the proper way to jump.

We did have an interesting exchange where she told me to post and I told her I didn't.
Why is that so strange?

This was worth every penny I paid for the clinic.
We have been trying for over a year to get me over a jump without destroying my horse.
I finally got it together and we cantered it easily.

Jumps will now be a steady part of our evening rides. Just one, but the jumping with get us really comfortable and the work will be great for Ashke's butt. I have no desire to jump more than a crosrail in practice for the WE obstacle.

Ashke did great cantering between obstacles when asked. He was able to canter obstacles I didn't think we would be able to do this year. I can't wait for Expo to see how he does. It won't be perfect, but it has to be an improvement. He has come so far since September, it just kind of floors me.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Tiny Effing Circles

I knew it would come to this. . . .

We have to be able to canter a ten meter circle, on the bit, and the correct lead, in both directions.

Not an easy thing to do with a horse that has physical issues with both hind legs. That just means you suck differently in both directions. And a horse that gets very claustrophobic at too much contact (which on some days is any contact). With an overweight, older rider who still thinks she should be able to sit anything (I could when I was younger - really) but who has found moving back into consistent work difficult on thighs, groin and core. Ashke is not the only one who might be a bit sore.

But we persevere. Sometimes with an argument or too. Sometimes with pinned ears and flicking tail (when he thinks he knows it all and I don't have to ask) or a squeal and flick of the hind leg (when I insist on using legs and seat rather than my voice). This cantering thing is not easy, especially when finding time to trail ride is difficult due to weather and time commitments, and he gets ring sour pretty quick. And when the things I am asking him to do are more difficult and physically challenging than what we have done in the past.

Although, we are making progress. At least, I think so on a good day.

 Monday night I had the barn to myself (it was snowing) and Ashke and I rode together for about 45 minutes. I set out the gate and three cones (24' apart this time instead of ten). We worked on finding a good trotting rhythm (using bear bells from REI to help with this - they are attached to the breast collar at each shoulder) and then progressed to trot-canter-trot transitions. We only did six or so in each direction, working on Ashke picking up the canter as soon as he is asked. I didn't want to overly fatigue him. Then we worked the gate and ran the cones twice. He made the canter-walk-switch leads - canter transition the second time we went through the cones, so we were done.

He does better if we stop when we have achieved what we were working on one time. He really remembers it better that way. Anna Blake says that once you get what you are trying, get off and be done. That release will resonate much better than anything else and I have found that to be true.

After our ride, I spent some time working on Ashke's back, using energy work and massage to loosen the muscles, relax the tension, smooth out the hamstring and work on his left stifle. I had a horse that was looking at me like I was an angel. His eyes were soft and wondering, he was licking and chewing, and he kept turning to look at what I was doing. I started at the withers and worked to his hocks, using as much pressure as I could and not once did he cringe or move away. If anything, he leaned into the massage. There were two spots of tension in his withers that I worked out, the hamstring was tight and ended up looser, and his left stifle was sore. I spent maybe fifteen minutes rubbing then blanketed him and put him up.

On Weds night I asked J to come with me and film our ride. T had a school thing from 7 - 9 and we would just have time to squeeze in a ride between drop off and pick up.

Nice trot.

A little more

I think we have come a long way, baby.

He really hates being asked to canter. I finally told him outloud that I can't talk to him during a show.
He was better after that. 

I think part of the problem is that he likes having all of the answers.
He hates having to be told.

Our halts in the center need to be better, smoother and quieter.
He does better with less contact picking up his canter.

After our ride, I spent some time on his back again. I found a very tight tendon running from his left stifle to somewhere and spent some time massaging it and the muscles around it. Hopefully, I can get that joint looser and smoother, with less pain for him. His right hammie was much better and so was the muscle I was working on in his withers. J thought he was going to fall over with happiness at the massage. I plan to do a massage after every ride to see if we can't resolve the last of his issues.

I've also told him that we are going to focus on him being healed and capable of whatever we try to do. That way we can  rock the tiny effing circles.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Green Mountain

On Sunday, we planned to try a new trail system. From the maps and the trail app on my phone, we picked a place called Green Mountain with about 25 miles of trails. The access was from Jeffco County Fairgrounds, so there wasn't any worry about parking space. The trail led from the Fairgrounds up to the trail system and we were really excited to ride the trail. It has been in the mid 50's most of the week and I was hopeful the ground would be clear of snow and dry. Alas, it was a bit more muddy than I was really comfortable with and proved to provide a lot of possible bricking of the brand, spanking clean Coyote, which did not make J happy.

Before we left the house, I cut a small piece of foam. It is about 3.5" long and about 2" deep.

Actual item is smaller than it appears.

When I was saddling Ashke, I placed the piece of foam between the saddle pad and the saddle in the spot where his hair can sometimes be ruffled. Then I tightened the cinch, pleased with my solution to the small bit of saddle flocking I really need. I handwalked him briefly, then swung into the saddle. You'd have thought I had placed a two by four with nails under his saddle. He damn near dropped out from underneath me. It was the strangest thing. We walked in a circle, maybe 20 steps, and he let me know in no uncertain terms, that he was not happy with the saddle configuration. I stopped, loosened the girth and pulled the foam out from under the saddle. Then I tightened the girth and used the trailer to swing aboard. Amazingly, he was just fine from that moment on. Obviously, he is accustomed to the saddle the way it fits, his back is evenly muscled and the sweat patterns are great. We are going to leave well enough alone.

The start of the trail, climbing from the fair grounds to the hills.

The access trail was almost an mile and a half. Pretty much uphill the entire time and the footing was crap. We walked on the edges of the verge as much as possible to avoid the slick clay.

It was also not as sunny or warm as they had been predicting. Thankfully, J had an extra pair of gloves and a thin hat for me to borrow, or I might have frozen to death. It finally broke 50 at about 2 pm.

The trail, although not technical, was either up or down. J did 500' of elevation gain in about a mile. It just wasn't much fun.

Both of the horses were very energetic. We raced from this point up the far hill four times in a row, letting them blow a bit in between. We did a lot of cantering on the grassy footing which was soft, but firm, without being slick. That part was amazing.

Our last run across this area.

Then we climbed partway up one of the hills.
It was pretty tough. A couple of times Ashke stopped and regained his breath, looking back at me like I was crazy.

The hillside was amazingly beautiful. You can feel the energy of spring just about to burst out.

That little tiny yellow spot is J pushing her bike up the hill.

There was a whole flock of male Mountain Bluebirds flitting around us.

They were flying and posturing on the tops of the Mullein.

Lunch break.

Ashke watching the bluebirds.

Eddy being a Yak.
Even with the bib cut. Although he sweated less on this ride, so the cut helped.

J climbed to the top of the hill we were half way up, which really was only about 2/3rds of the way to the top. She did not take her bike with her. K and Eddy tried, but didn't make it that far. I wasn't even going to try.

After lunch we headed back down and then kept going to the east. Eventually, the trail met road and we sent J off to ride the pavement back to the fairgrounds. Her legs were pretty wiped out by that point and the pavement would be easier on her. K and I rode back west to the trail that led back to the fairgrounds and got there just about ten minutes after J did. The trail back was slick and muddy and there were points where we both thought the horses were going to fall. It was pretty scary and stressful, but, thankfully, both ponehs had settled and were listening. Ashke had finally stopped jigging and trying to rush. At the trailer, we untacked and blanketed them both. 

The trip home was uneventful. We did eight miles in under 2 hours. 4.3 average mph. It will be our only ride together in February due to schedule and weather. Hopefully, J and I will get a ride in on Saturday, but K has plans.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Saddle and Stable

Follow up on yesterday. I had some pics to post from yesterday, which I know you all are dying to see.

 I absolutely love this barn.

This is the outdoor arena. Ashke has been so full of energy the past two days that he has be almost uncontrollable. Almost. Reminds me of a toddler hyped up on Sweetarts and Mountain Dew.

He is looking so amazing. His body condition score is about 5.5. I can feel his ribs, but they have padding over them. 

 The indoor with the door open. There was a potluck for the boarders at 1 pm, so after the ride we got to eat food and hang out with the cool people there. The food was really great too.

Our last gallop back to where J was waiting.

 Sweat marks on the right side.

 From the top. The sweat marks are amazingly symmetrical. There is one spot that I wish I could fix, but it is pretty small overall.

 From the left side.

 Tomorrow, I will post from the ride today. I tried my thought on how to fix the saddle issue and Ashke's opinion on that.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Saddle Woes

Several months ago, I had a saddle fitter come out. I wanted her to fix the flocking on the left side of the saddle. As soon as she turned the saddle over, she freaked out, thinking the panels were different sizes and that the saddle had been put together incorrectly. She did agree with Dr D's assessment that the saddle fit Ashke very well and that there was a spot on the left side that needed a bit of flocking, but she didn't want to do that until I had pursued the misalignment of my saddle. I should have just had her fix the flocking, but I am intimidated by people I think have authority over me. I handed over money for nothing and went on my way.

BTW, my saddle is fine. There is no manufacture's defect and it fits Ashke very well. It does, however, still need a bit of flocking in the middle part of the left panel. I decided to take matters into my own hands and learn about saddles. I read some websites. I read some books. I brought home a saddle to take apart (which I still need to do) and figure out how the guts of the thing work. I ordered flocking wool from England, but I still haven't done anything with my saddle.

I decided that I didn't want to muck up my saddle, so I started trying to find a local saddle fitter. If I had gone back to the one I had used before, I would have been $100 out of pocket for the visit, to start. I was hoping to find someone more local who wouldn't charge as much for the visit. I have now talked to six different saddle fitters about coming out and doing something with this saddle. No one wants to work on an Alta Escuela. I finally found a woman who says she will work on any saddle and we made an appointment for Saturday morning.

I had misgivings. A lot. This fitter didn't rep for a particular company or saddle, but I wondered if her assessment would match with both Dr D and the first fitter. She was on time and started her assessment. First, she checked his back and he flinched away from her like she was poking him with hot irons. I know enough to know that she was hitting the accupuncture points pretty hard. Hard enough that Ashke kicked out at her. I think she was being especially deep at those spots, so she could tell me he was sore. When I went over the same points after she left, he didn't even flinch. Either he didn't want to be touched by her or she was being very firm in the amount of pressure she was applying. Now, I was expecting him to be sore. We are just moving back into work and I haven't been riding consistently enough to get him through the soreness and onto worked muscles. And I do know that the pressure from the saddle is not perfect yet.

The only really good thing that happened was she mapped his withers and the left wither matched the right. The last time I mapped his back the left wither was still underdeveloped. That was the only point she mapped, however. She didn't map his entire back nor did she even assess those areas.

And she hated the saddle. Hated the flex tree. Said before the saddle was on his back that she wouldn't expect the saddle to fit. We put the saddle on him. She checked it but did not run her hand under the panels to check how the felt. She only checked at the wither area. Then she had me ride. Then she took the saddle off again. Then on. This time she wedged a towel under the back panels and had me get on again. She liked my position better, but I'm not sure I had the saddle where it normally sits. I think it was a little high on his withers and once he is moving in it, it settles into the proper place. I'm also not convinced that I need to pad the saddle under the back panels.

Then, as we were standing there, she told me she didn't feel comfortable working on the saddle. She was afraid that if she took the saddle and took it apart she would have a hard time putting it back together. She said she could cut slits in the top of the panels to add and adjust the flocking, but what she really wanted  to do was take flocking out of the middle of the panel and then raise the back of the saddle. She suggested a mattes pad with all the shims on the very back to raise the back of the saddle. She then said that the saddle did fit him very well.

Confused much.

I thanked her for the evaluation, gave her a check for a lot of money, and told her I would call. I have no intention of letting her take my saddle and cut slits in it, or take it apart when she is not confident that she can get it back together. I don't think the fit issue is that significant, but do need to address the panel not distributing the weight evenly on the left.  I certainly don't want to spend a lot of money on a mattes pad with shims, when I think that will make matters worse. Especially, once she takes the flocking out of the middle of the saddle.

I have opted for option three. I am going to try to shim the saddle the way Kate at A Year with Horses does with her saddle on Dawn. I am going to use a piece of foam cut to fit the space where the panel needs to be flocked and place it between the saddle pad and the panel. J and I already got the foam and I will try it tomorrow. Hopefully that little bit of support will correct the slight issue I am seeing and the three dollars I spent on the very large piece of foam will more than pay for itself.

After the saddle fitting, I took Ashke out onto the piece of property behind the barn and we did some mad galloping. He was so up and full of energy. We galloped the quarter mile from where we were to the road and back three times. He was sweating lightly but still pulling and fighting my request to canter nicely, especially on our way back toward where J was standing. I think cantering this route in the evenings before or after the arena work will be a wonderful thing for him to do. It will certainly help with his canter and I will develop some stamina.

The sweat marks on his back were even and from front to back. The only place that looked a little off is the same area identified by Dr D as being uneven. Hopefully my foam piece will work, otherwise I may have to fly Saiph's saddle fitter out to work on my saddle.

Monday, February 15, 2016


Saturday we dropped the boy off for a day long, two movie date, and then headed to run errands and check on Ashke. I got some detangler, because we need to do something about his mane or I'm cutting it all off and then J will leave me and I will be sad. When we got to the barn, I pulled out the body clippers and decided to clip Ashke. It's going to be 75 on Thursday, the lows are now in the upper 30's, he lives inside at night and when it is cold, so it made sense to me. I have a sheet, a light weight and two heavy weight blankets in case I am wrong and spring is not here already. The trees and roses are beginning to leaf out and Ashke has been shedding like a mofo, plus the extended forecast does not have temps lower than 60 with zero precip for at least the next ten days.

And then there is Expo. If I clipped him now, the hair has a chance to grow back a little so the marks and lines are gone by the time Expo comes around.

So, I clipped him. He did pretty good although he really doesn't like having his stomach done. I left his legs and head (did his head tonight) and then gave him a really good grooming when I was done. He seems pretty happy. I washed his mane and tail afterwards, which made me very happy. That was pretty much it, since his face was still swollen.

On Sunday, I rode for maybe half an hour. We did the gate, a jump and the two barrels. Ashke did really good and I was pleased with the result.

I really am not a jumper. I'm pretty sure Ashke does not want to be a jumper either. However, we must be able to easily and without hesitation, jump a 2' fence (think straw bale).

Then we worked the gate again.

Then we put them all together again.

And then we were done, mostly because I didn't want to over do it.

Monday was very brief. I trimmed his face, then got him saddled. We were the only ones at the barn, which normally isn't a big deal, but the wind was gusting hard and one of the garage doors between the arena and the outdoor kept going "wheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee"  every time the wind blew. I tried to work the slalom, but the turns were too tight for Ashke and he wasn't picking his lead up right away. We may have to continue to trot the slalom for the beginning of this season. I wasn't motivated to keep riding when the wind sounded like it was going to take the roof off.

The good news is the swelling is almost gone. His face is almost back to normal.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Black Eye and A Bloody Nose

I was leaving work on Thursday, talking with my madre like I do most drives home, when the BO called. I immediately told my mom I would call her back and picked up the call with my heart in my throat. The first words out of her mouth were "Ashke is fine" and then she went on to tell me he managed to hurt himself in turnout Thursday morning. He had smacked the side of his face and given himself a bloody nose. It was still dripping blood on Thursday night. I told her I would be out as soon as possible. About the time I got home, I got a text from her saying one of our local vets was at the barn for another horse and did I want Ashke looked at. I said yes please, since I could split the house call.

The BO called me back and said the vet had looked at Ashke and wasn't concerned about the injury. He expected the nasal bleeding to continue for 24 to 48 hours but said it wasn't anything to worry about. I got home and told J I needed to run out and check on him, so we headed north.

 There was a small abrasion just under his eye.

 The side of his face was pretty swollen. 

I'm pretty sure I know what happened. He does turnout with a very sweet horse named Cory and the two of them play gelding games pretty much non-stop. There is no kicking but there is a lot of face fighting and rearing. I think Ashke swung his head away from Cory and smacked the fence.

 Hi cheekbone, jaw and jowl were all swollen. He was eating and bright eyed, but a little cranky with it.

 His cheek between his jaws was a bit swollen.

And his nostril was dripping blood.

I took pics and sent them to Saiph, then gave him horse crack and kisses and headed home.

When I got up the next morning I had a series of texts from Saiph asking questions about how he was feeling, what the swelling felt like and what I had seen. She was worried about air having gotten between his skin and his cheek from the abrasion on his face or a perforated airway that was allowing the same thing. She wanted me to have the vet come back out and double check, including an xray of his skull to rule out skull fracture.

I pretty much freaked and called the vet, texted my boss I was going to be late and J and I headed to the barn. The vet ruled out the air in his jowl, ruled out a perforated airway, dosed him with banamine to help bring the swelling down and told me to alternate hot and cold on that side of his face to help with the swelling. He didn't think an xray was warranted unless Ashke was worse and there was nothing we could do about the bloody nose except pack the nostril, which would put him in more distress than the slight bleeding that was happening. An examination up his nose did not show anything to him that would indicate needing xrays. (I also don't think he had the xray machine with him.) He concurred with the earlier vet's assessment, that Ashke had given himself a black eye and a bloody nose.

Saiph had some choice words to say about Western vets. She still thinks an xray was warranted and that the vets she knows and has worked with would have done that without hesitation. My experience has been that the vets here are a bit more hands off. Not sure if that is Western callousness or a regional difference in training. My options were limited because CSU is closed to all but emergency life or death situations involving surgery, since they had horses at am AQHA world reining championships that were exposed to the neurological form of EHV-1 and have closed their campus to outside horses.

J hitched up the trailer to take it to get the yearly maintenance done and I went to work alternating hot and cold on his face (I had brought the stuff with me after I had talked to the vet on the phone.) I did that for about an hour and a half, until J got back from dropping off the trailer.

 He really liked the hot pad on his face.

 My arms had gotten tired of holding it up, so I figured out how to tighten the halter to hold it in place.

He just hung out while I gave him a good grooming, washed the urine and mud out of his mane, and tried to deal with the heavy shedding he has started.

The swelling was about half what it was when I started. He was in a good mood and was very affectionate. He was still bleeding a bit, but the vet had said it could take 24 to 48 hours for that to stop. He went out into his run in the sunshine (by himself) at the end of our hot and cold sessions. I gave him a bunch of kisses, told him not to flip his head into the fence and headed for work.

Friday, February 12, 2016


Last night when I walked in the barn one of the other women who I know was putting out the gate. She had asked on Monday if she could use it and I had told her of course. When I saw her I greeted her by name and she jumped like a kid caught with her hand in the cookie jar. She got all flustered which made me laugh a lot. I helped her put out the corridor with the bell and the gate, then went and got Ashke.

He warmed up very nicely, even with six other horses in the indoor. We did w/t/c and he held his leads properly in both directions.

Then we worked the gate.


The corridor and some sidepass work.

The gate in the opposite direction, which I completely messed up on the first time (video not included).
I actually worked it with the wrong hand and Ashke kept trying to tell me we were doing it backwards. He was right.

He's getting better, but it's still not as relaxed as I would like it.

Whereupon he hits the gate with his front foot and is almost eaten.

Not super long on him, but a good ride. He was very forward and willing, which is always a good thing. We did all of the things we needed to and the canter just keeps getting better. I'm hoping that he will be solid when we do our ride at the clinic and show during expo.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016


In a series of bullet points:

  • One of the things I was taught by Cassandra was to bump with my inside leg to keep the horse moving forward. In hindsight, I think this was due to the fact that I had so much pressure on his mouth, that kicking him was the only way to get forward movement. When I went to the first curb bit I rode him in, I loosened the reins and got him going forward. Trail was great for this because I didn't ask for much contact, just forward movement. I had to get him unstuck before I could ask for more contact. I discovered last night that it really pisses him off to bump him. He wants me to give him the cue, then just be calm and quiet with my legs. It's like he tells me "I know what you want, now back off and let me do it." I did so last night and had a wonderful canter experience.
  • I have been sliding my outside leg back and cueing with the inside leg at the same time, but Ashke said this is too much. He understands the inside cue and has no need for me to give him the outside cue unless we are turning tightly and I need to help support his haunches staying in. I stopped applying the outside cue and he was less upset at the ask.
  • I went to the barn knowing I was tired and emotionally wiped out, with no expectations. Ashke gave me a great ride and I left feeling much better. Thanks Saiph for the reminder and the encouragement. You were right about Ashke taking care of me.
  • We did w/t and I wasn't going to canter, but Ashke offered. It was a wonderful rolling canter in both directions on the proper lead. I maintained light contact with the reins, with a brief exception at the end of the arena with the jumps. Then I verbally asked him to pay attention to me and a little bit more contact, when he gave it we went back to the very light contact I was riding him with.
  • We worked over a cavaletti jump at the trot in both directions until there was no hesitation or deer leap involved. Then we raised it and jumped a couple of times in each direction. He did good. We stopped when I could feel the strain in his right haunch. Didn't want to do too much. We will add  a couple of caveletti to our next ride.
  • We worked the gate in both directions. I still need to work on helping him relax once we've moved through the gate and are preparing to back up to close the gate. He still stiffens and raises his head in anticipation. It is getting so much better though and going through the gate backwards was much better than a year ago. He no longer panics and thinks he is stuck.
  • After about 40 minutes and another brief canter set, Ashke asked if he could be done. I agreed and dismounted immediately. He had given me everything I had asked for and had tried for me through the ride. It was good to accommodate his request. He got blanketed and tucked in with second supper.
  • Bunnies, if left unsupervised in the indoor, will start to create bunny holes. This is not good.
  • Costco five minutes before close on a Monday for salad prep items is the best time to go.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Don't Judge Me

The trailer is free!!!! And parked in front of the barn for the moment. It is out of the way but still accessible for us to use to haul out. It only took J and the BO about an hour to free it from it's mud and snow tomb. They used the ATV to plow a path, but also had to resort to shoveling some of the snow. We picked the right day, since it hit almost 60 on Saturday and the ground would have been soup by noon.

While J was doing that, I rode Ashke. We were sharing the arena with a trainer and a young rider. We warmed up at the walk, did a little trot and then worked on our canter. Ashke has progressed, at least in my opinion, in leaps and bounds. He is now able to maintain his balance and although his trot-canter transition still includes more steps and is not as crisp as I would like, his walk-canter transition is much better. We worked a bit on a figure eight with a simple change through the walk in the middle, then did some smaller circles to help strengthen his right hind.

He was a bit sore. Not lame sore, just short stride and not wanting to use his right hind leg properly. We had a couple of moments where he cross-cantered and we stopped, regrouped and tried again. I'm working on him making his transition as crisp as we can on the first request, instead of trotting into it.

Then J came in and we stopped to chat. The lesson was over, there was a new rider getting ready to come into the arena and we had been riding for at least an hour. J and I finished our chat and she went to talk to the BOers about something and I decided to ask for one last canter circle.

I really should have just been done. Ashke certainly thought we were.

Going to the left, he extended his trot instead of picking up the canter. That started the argument. After we had completed our circle to the right, we turned to the left. Ashke had left a pile at the scary end of the arena, which had alerted all of the birds living in the barn to come and feast on the oats that had passed through Ashke. There were about 10 birds all clustered around the pile. As we came around the circle at that end of the arena, they all scattered in a flying mass. Ashke decided that was reason enough to freak out and try to end our ride. He pogo sticked, with his head straight up in the air, fighting me for all he was worth. Instead of stopping, which is what I tend to do, I kicked him forward, trying to maintain our canter. He did until the next time we were at that end of the arena, then he threw his head up and changed leads four or five times in as many steps. I stopped him that time, made him back up, and lower his head. Then we tried again.

The third time we stopped, I was breathing hard. The trainer and her student were staring at me and talking in not quite hushed tones about how long we had been riding (over an hour) and how much cantering we had been doing. I kind of smiled in their direction and said something about how hard it can be to get one last circle. I then said to Ashke, who was acting very obedient at that point (poser) and very put upon, that if he could manage one more circle with a proper left canter we would be done. He then gave me one perfect circle with a proper left canter.

He so understands English.

We were done then.

I felt judged. I felt they were very disapproving of the way I was handling Ashke. It felt as if they believed I was being abusive to my horse in the way we were interacting. (The student had already been appalled at the blanket rub Ashke has on his right shoulder from the heavy blanket he's been in this past week. I'm sure she thinks I'm the worse owner/rider ever.)

I wanted to tell them that Ashke has developed a very bad habit of behaving the way he was when he's decided he should be done, or he really doesn't want to be ridden. I wanted to tell them that an hour of w/t/c is a quarter of what he is able to do and that we can trot for fifteen miles on trail without issue. I wanted to explain about his left stifle and right hamstring and that if we only do what is comfortable for him, he will never relearn how to properly use his hind end. I wanted to explain that cross-cantering is easier for him, but not mechanically the best and he basically has to be bullied into making himself stronger. He has no idea why he can't continue to protect his left stifle and right hamstring the way he has in the past. I have to push him just a little past his comfort zone in order to make progress on this issue.

I don't wear spurs. I don't carry a whip. I don't bit him up and I do ride him in the bit he likes the best. I do have a tendency to get heavy handed when he starts to misbehave. He does get shouted at sometimes, which hurts his feelings. He also gets rewarded with long walk breaks in between his moments of effort. He hears "good boy" when he gets it right. I try really hard not to over do it and to end on a good note. Sometimes it devolves into a fight. It's funny to me that we never fight when we are using obstacles for shaping our flatwork. He stays focused and is really willing to do it correctly. It's just the pure "dressage" rides that set him off. I don't know if it's that he gets bored or what.

Shit happens. I don't like it. It's not my intent. But, I don't need anyone judging me on my relationship with my horse. Sometimes we squabble, like any couple, and then we make up.

He tried really hard for me yesterday, so he gets today off to think about it and to rest his legs. I will ride tomorrow night and hopefully J will come out and take video. Maybe by next weekend we can try one of the new trails we've been researching.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Bunnies and Snow

I had hoped after bricking the trailer on Sunday, that Monday would be cold enough we could haul it to a proper mooring before the snow dumped a foot on us. Unfortunately, that magical moment when we could have moved it happened at about 2 in the morning. By Tuesday morning, all of the schools were closed, the roads were covered with snow and we had about 12" of snow on the ground. I made it into work, but J worked from home. I left about three with the hopes that we would be able to try and move the trailer before dark.

It was not happening. The drifts were hip deep in places and there was no way we were moving the trailer. J took the trailer lock off so the BO could move the trailer when conditions allow and we grabbed the stuff out of the trailer that needed to go back in the tack room. When we pulled up to the main entrance to the barn, we found this:

The snow had drifted across the doors. There is a side door that we could go through.

We were the only people there. I pulled Ashke out and turned him loose while I pulled out barrels (collapsible FTW) and the gate. Then J and I chased him around getting him willies out so he could horse properly for me. 

That's when we discovered there were bunnies in the indoor. Three of them. Snuggled down in the sand of the arena. Guess they decided that plenty of hay, warm sand and shelter from the storm was worth being chased around by giant ass horses.

And since nothing is real without photographic proof.

I started at a walk, although Ashke was a little warmed up from tearing around. We didn't work on any trot, since we really need to work on walk-canter for this year in WE.

The canter to our left. 

Canter to the right. 

He was still spooky a bit, just on alert, but he seemed so happy to be worked, and relaxed. He's started to snort when he canters, which he's never done before.

Once he was warm and relaxed, moving easily, we moved to the obstacles.

One of the things we need to work on is manuevering our body around without throwing our head up and bracing. 

Ashke is struggling with moving through the gate. He is reacting to worrying about going through the gate without hitting his hip on the standard. He consistently braces against the bend. I hooked the rope over the standard it was tied to and we walked in a circle around the standard until he was moving forward through the gate without hesitation. That seemed to help him the next couple of times we tried the gate. 

The video cut out just as we started working our way through the gate.

We need to continue to work on relaxation as we walk through the gate.
Ashke knows what to do, I just think the series of moves is difficult for him still.

Then we moved to the three barrel obstacle. I am confident that we can canter the two barrel obstacle, but the three barrel is harder. Two lead changes with little time between. The proper tempo for the lead change is through the walk, so it's a challenge. At the Novice level, the rider can trot or canter the obstacles, but the canter earns higher points. My hope is to canter them. That's what we are working on.

I could feel that the lead change didn't happen properly, but I wasn't sure what had happened until I watched the film. He didn't pick up the hind leg lead change properly. We did the circle again and the second time he got the lead correctly. After we were done, I told him if he could do it one more time, the correct way, we would be done.

And he gave me this. And then we were done.

I'm still grinning.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

South Platte

So. Saturday was our High Country Working Equitation Kick off the Season Party at Circle Star Arena. It was chilly but there was hot coffee, hot cider, hot chocolate and some very yummy food. There was close to thirty people there and everyone seemed to have a good time walking through the obstacle course set up in the indoor arena. I was completely out of breath trying to canter the obstacles while making horsey noises with my mouth. It was a lot of fun and I think we have some great people who are truly interested in helping this discipline progress in Colorado. Makes me really excited for the year.

On Sunday, there was a storm coming in. It was supposed to start snowing early in the afternoon, but as the weekend got closer the storm got projected to hit later and later. We had committed to moving Eddy from TMR to his new place in Dacono, but K and I really wanted to do a ride before dropping them off at the barn. Sunday dawned pretty blue, but the storm clouds were banked in the south (direction the storm was moving from). J and I decided to give it a shot. We packed a lunch (not enough), put on clothes (I was wearing my Carhartt but J didn't put enough on) and headed to the barn. The BO told me that Ashke didn't want to come in at the end of turnout, so I figured he was going to be a handful. We double blanketed him and loaded him on the trailer, then headed to TMR.

The closer we got to TMR the more snow came out of the sky. It was grey and dismal which kind of seemed appropriate to be at TMR for the last time. K was dealing with some anxiety, so we put the Monty Roberts halter on Eddy to load him. He started to hesitate, but K was able to redirect him immediately with the halter, which kept him from pulling away and tearing off. We headed east to Adams County Fairgrounds.

At Adams County Fairgrounds we got the horses tacked up in the strengthening wind under grey clouds. Once we were on the horses were raring to go.

Both of them were ready to go. 

Ashke was not happy to have Eddy in front of him, both of them wanted to race, and the footing was not conducive for cantering. We argued about it a lot.

The South Platte river trail runs for over 20 miles through Denver, plus it connects to Sand Creek and Coal Creek, both of which would add 40 miles or so to the trails available. I thought we could ride from Adams County Fairgrounds to our house, actually. However, there is a three mile gap that made it impossible for us to go that far.

Some of the trail we had to ride on the sidewalk, because of mud.

I said to J, "He is so happy."
Here is proof. And the fast, forward spooky horse was the reality for yesterday,

We did a lot of trotting. We averaged 5 mph on our ride and we walked a lot of the last two miles.
Eddy was dripping sweat off of his face.

More. Trotting.

There was a spot where we could canter and I asked Ashke for a controlled canter, not the wild, head-tossing gallop that was obviously called for. At the end of our canter, we went back to the trot and much pulling and fussing ensued. He really wanted to go, go, go. A half mile further on, we ran out of trail. There was a bridge over the Platte that was closed. I was very bummed. We turned around.

When we reached the piece of trail where we cantered on our way out, I requested another canter and instead got full-blown run away horse with his nose straight up in the air. It took me a quarter mile to bring him to a rearing, bucking halt. We had a bit of a conversation about his behavior at that point, then he was asked to go forward at a brisk trot. The rest of the ride was pleasant and a lot less of an argument.

We rode back and around the golf course, making a bit of a loop at the end of our ride. Overall, 5 mph average and 8 miles on trail.

Back at the trailer, I had K load Eddy first, thinking we would stop and drop Ashke at the barn before driving Eddy to his new barn. I didn't want Ashke standing in the chill while we got Eddy settled. Eddy threw a freaking fit when he realized he was in the front of the trailer. He kicked the side of the trailer for a good forty minutes. He reared, he kicked. He was an ass. Thank goodness we have a steel trailer, because I think he would have put his leg through an aluminum trailer. He shredded the tie strap (bungie quick release) at the front of the trailer. 

Ashke got tucked into his stall and I went to pull the BOT fleece cooler out from under the top blanket, but forgot to unhook the hind leg straps, which meant that the fleece cooler hung up and Ashke thought about completely freaking out. But he calmed at my touch and I asked him to give me just a moment and I would get him loose. He stopped, trembling, but trusting me to get him free.

We then drove the thrashing yak to his new home, which is only a few minutes north of where Ashke is boarded. The place is nice, with a huge indoor. Eddy will be in a huge (100 x 100) space with one other horse. He seemed to settle down really easily and there was not much squealing or upset between them. The word is that he and the other horse was sharing their lean to without any issue today. I know K is hoping this will work until she can move Eddy in at Morelli. It seemed like a nice place.

J and I, hungry and exhausted, headed for the barn to drop the trailer off. It was getting dark and we wanted to get home. We decided to drive back to the trailer parking, turn around and then park the trailer facing forward in our customary spot, instead of trying to back it in after dark. We had parked it that way the last time we trailered out and it had worked really well. As soon as we drove off the asphalt, we realized we had made a huge mistake. The mud was about 10 inches deep. We couldn't back up and we were battling to drive forward. Then we couldn't drive any more. We unhooked the trailer, and with me pushing, we managed to get the truck free. 

We bricked the trailer.

And then we got 14" of snow. So, the trailer sits until the BO can move it to the front of the property for us.