Monday, October 17, 2016

Little Scraggy

Ok. So. Learning to use a GoPro Hero Sessions has a bigger learning curve than I thought. I spent time reading through the manual and playing with all the buttons after our last ride, wanting to be able to execute excellent video on our next excursion and instead, I floundered.

Oh, don't get me wrong, I succeeded in those things that I had practiced: I listened for the three beep indicator that the thing was recording, listened for the single beep saying it had stopped recording, and the multi-beep indicator that the GoPro had put itself to sleep like a good little camera. I also rode with the WiFi off, which meant that on our 4 hour ride, I took plenty of video and had lots of camera left at the end of the ride. I also took the video in 1 to 2 minute increments to ensure I could directly upload to YouTube without having to use editing software. That was all most excellent.

However, the one thing I did not recognize is that when one rides under a tree and gets whacked with a branch, which snags on the GoPro, there are consequences. And when one does not affix the camera correctly pointing down from the helmet, the vids are not the best. I started with the camera pointed a little high (see the second issue) then whacked it really hard and ended with it pointed at the top of the trees instead of the trail. Know what is more boring then watching bad GoPro vids of the trail you can barely see? Watching the tops of trees whipping past. Complete fail.

And the trail was worth videoing.

We started from the Little Scraggy Trailhead and headed out on the Little Scraggy loop. Because it is in the mountains, it goes up for seven miles (mostly) and then down for seven (mostly). It is singletrack with a lot of rock.

 Waiting to move out after a twenty minute break.
He was not real patient.

J and A came with K and I. J started feeling altitude sickness at about seventy-five hundred feet, so after making it out five miles, she and A decided to turn around and head back. It was probably a great choice, since the two mile climb they would have had to do would have been pushing their bikes up the last 800 feet of elevation gain. We followed a seasoned rider up the trail and he was pushing his bike. And I watched one of the guys biff it on the rocks in front of us at the top.

Some video that wasn't horrible.

Ashke and I had a bit of a disagreement several times over the first five miles, one of which resulted in him hitting the bit pretty hard when he tried to canter down a steep, slick rock strewn part of the trail. It was an issue when Eddy was in the lead for a lot of the ride. Part of the problem is that Eddy does not walk as fast as Ashke, so we were having to compress his gait to keep from walking or trotting over Eddy, which just frustrated him completely and caused him to fight against my request. I finally got him to relax and maintain his distance behind Eddy without freaking out (much more difficult to do when visibility is broken up by trees and rocks as compared to our last ride where we were in the open) and without us fighting with each other. It only took nine miles or so. It's pretty harrowing to have his head straight up in the air fighting to go faster while tripping over rocks and roots for miles at a time.

This is typical of the terrain in the Buffalo Creek area.

It was a beautiful day. The weather could not have been better.

There was several slabs of slick rock (smooth, water washed granite) and the final piece was about 300 feet wide and angled toward the downhill. I didn't try to ride across it, but dismounted and allowed Ashke to scramble his way without having to take care of both of us. Slick rock is scary and this was a piece that we couldn't ride around. There is a lot of slick rock in the Rocky Mountains and will be a challenge any time we have to ride across it. 

Trail marker for passage over slick rock

One of the big issues with riding trails designed and created for mountain bikes, is they love to ride slick rock. We bypassed a lot of what we could, but this one piece did not offer a way around. Ashke got a little panicked the first time he slipped, but he kept his feet under him and came close enough to me to be able to touch me with his nose, which reassured him. 

 Ashke was pretty happy to be doing a trail we had never ridden before.

After we left J and A to finish the loop, we were able to trot a lot of the uphill, but the steep down on the back side of the peak kept us at a walk for almost two miles. With the exception of two riders we had passed earlier (taking a break after a very steep uphill) there were no other riders on the trail, which was really good as we were making our way down a trail that had been designed and created for mountain bikers to take at speed. 

The trail dumped out at the top of the climb on the Colorado Trail we did last year and then headed down to the Little Scraggy trailhead. Both horses were moving at speed (Ashke can maintain a nine mile an hour trot, even if I can't) combining trot and canter with brief walk breaks where he wanted. I let him move at his own pace, which was mostly trot and canter. 

The shoes were a huge difference in how we traveled this terrain this time. So very different from our last ride at Buffalo Creek and he was able to travel at speed over all of the terrain. We ended up making the nine miles in the same amount of time that J and A made their five miles back, and we ended up at the trailer within fifteen minutes of each other. 

It was an incredible ride and wonderful weather. It will be a good trail to try again next year. It is also the last trail ride we will be able to do for three weeks. Mom will be visiting and there are Bronco games to be watched.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Some Lesson Vids

I had Amanda wear the GoPro during our Weds night lesson. Some of the footage worked and some of it did not. I pulled out the stuff that did work, for the most part. I'm thinking I need to save money for the Pixio and also play around with the settings on the camera. Most of the visual disturbance seemed to happen when both Ashke and Amanda were moving at the same time. I think we confuded the camera.


Serpentines with Halt

Leg Yields around Cones

Canter serpentines around cones

More Canter serpentines around cones

These are all typical things we are working on in our lesson. I left out the vids where Amanda once again explained to me how to do a shoulder in, because I really was not riding it well. And my left leg was all over the place (not something she usually has to remind me of). This may be a product of my age. . . .

I figure I will have lots of practice figuring out the camera since Amanda didn't mind wearing it during my lesson. I also think if I change the setting on the camera to wide angle from whatever it is set at right now, there will be less loss of Ashke in the frame. Overall, I was pretty pleased with the results. I do need to go back through the footage when not also trying to watch football to see if I can find the exercise with the ten meter canter circles. If so, I will add them to the blog when I get them done.

Thursday, October 13, 2016


Dare I say it? I think I have discovered somewhere deep in my psyche the undeniable excitement of training my horse to do specific movements through the discipline of dressage. I know! WTF!

Three years ago, I decided, after watching N ride Cali, that Ashke and I needed some dressage lessons in our life. That did not go as expected and I ended too many rides in tears from battling my horse. There were several issues I needed to address, from learning a different method to train my horse that did not involve "pulling to frame", to figuring out how to install brakes on my horse, to training him to do something other than stick his nose straight up in the air. At that point in our journey, I was kind of winging it, since the trainer I had been working with was contributing to our struggles rather than helping in the analysis/change/resolution to fix the obstacles standing between us and our goal.

My first goal was to find a bit we could ride in, that Ashke liked, that did not cause the reactions of head straight up in the air or mouth wide open. I think we tried as many bits as I did saddles. I recognized after trying a plethora of snaffle bits that they were not for us and that if I wanted any small bit of success, we needed to try a bit that didn't bulge up into his palette. We switched from a variety of snaffle bits (his palette is so narrow that any snaffle causes intense pain) to trying several grazing or curb bits. The grazing bits are a solid one-piece bit that have no flexibility on the sides to help cue the horse and he had a tendency to be stiff when working in them. I tried a couple of myler bits, but despite their claim to "no pinch" we ended up with a lacerated tongue twice and so myler ended up elsewhere. After the Rebecca Algar clinic and show, I borrowed a simple Spanish curb bit from a friend and I will never ride in another bit again. I tried, for a short time, to ride in another bit on trail, but honestly, Ashke prefers the Spanish bit.

This bit has been amazing and has allowed Ashke and I to communicate better on an entirely new level. The leather reins I am using and the rings at the end of the bit have added just enough weight that it has helped Ashke figure out how to give to the bit. He is soft and doesn't fight the bit, even when we are cantering and are passed by Eddy going faster. He is reaching out for contact and carrying it easily without struggle. His mouth is quiet and calm when we ride and I can feel him radiating up the reins from the bit.

Somewhere along the way, we also figured out some control. It's no longer a fight. It certainly helps to have Amanda's voice in my ear saying "don't fight with him up front" when we are riding, but overall, Ashke and I have found a way to get along. He tries. I try not to mess up. I don't get angry when something goes awry. I have found humor when he gets spooky, laughing out loud instead of getting scared. Of being soft and persistent when riding out on trail, of calming him with my voice and allowing him the space to come back to me.

A while ago, I came to the realization that Ashke's not ever going to try and hurt me, to dump me or do something that could disrupt our relationship. He wants me to trust in him as much as he wants to trust in me. We want to be soft and open and forgiving with each other. It's a lot like a marriage. You meet and fall in love, move in together and then spend time trying to figure out how to exist together without crushing the life out of each other. I don't want to crush who he is: I love it when he's snorty and jigs, or snorty and a bit spooky. That is his personality and one of the abiding reasons I wanted an Arabian. I don't want that to disappear. I don't want to break that part of him. Just like I love my son's sense of humor (biting sarcasm mixed with intuitive wit), I wouldn't change Ashke's sense of humor for the world. And he has figured out that if he listens to me, I will also listen to him. The energy that spins between us is unique and fulfilling, speaking of safety and trust and intimate knowledge of the other. It's a relationship. Co-Being.

That step into a new level of intimacy has also allowed Ashke the freedom to relax and trust that I will not hurt him or demand anything from him that he can't do during our dressage lessons. That has given him the space to learn that he can carry himself in a frame, he can collect and lengthen, that he can move his body in all sorts of ways that neither of us thought possible, with the end result of finding joy in our lessons. I think it is why he now reaches for contact, even when on trail: he wants to hold my hand. I swear to you he loves learning this stuff. He'll do something well that has been difficult and then blow afterwards in absolute delight that we managed to do it correctly. After an especially difficult section, he walks up to Amanda for reassurance and love, wanting to know that he is a good boy. He tries so hard and I never get upset if what we are trying doesn't work, because I know it has to do with my not asking correctly. I apologize to him verbally if I mess up and I am working on being consistent in my aides so as to not confuse him. It also means that I can carry a dressage whip during my arena rides without him completely freaking out and panicking. That is an awesome change, since using the hip to reinforce aides meant to move him from side to side is very helpful.

We have also discovered a canter to die for. He is no longer rushing, and I can see us starting at some point in the future, to slow the canter more, then lengthen and then slow again. We can tell when he is getting tired and are careful to change what we are doing to something less physically taxing. Even on the trail, his canter is more careful, controlled, controllable. Not rushy. He still pins his ears, but I really think that is his version of sticking out his tongue when he tries.

I can see how dressage training for specific movements could become an obsession. For me, it certainly has helped increase our communication and we have achieved some milestones I did not think were possible. It's also restored Ashke's faith in his body. His muscles are strong and flexible. His feet are no longer bothering him. He has the strength and energy to move in all of the ways a horse carrying a rider can be asked to move. It is making him stronger and more capable. His muscles are no longer sore and the work is helping him straighten out how he moves.

I am humbled and inspired by him, by the changes in his physical well-being, his overcoming adversity, and by his faith in our relationship. I am in awe of his huge heart and the soul shining out of his luminous eyes. I am challenged to meet him with integrity, to accept his offering, and to strive to be a better rider every time I have the joy and privilege of swinging my leg over his back.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Birthday Present

Friday night I talked J into getting my birthday present early, since I really wanted it for our ride on Saturday, which was supposed to be Indian Creek to Waterton Canyon.

I chose the Hero 4 Sessions camera for a couple of reasons: size (less than an inch and a half square), weight (about half the weight of the regular Go Pro) and waterproof to 33'.  Plus, it was $199, which is about as much as I can justify spending on a birthday present for myself. (In case you feel sorry for me, we are also doing dinner with friends on Friday - including taste testing a variety of tequilas - the pumpkin patch and corn maze on Saturday, then the Melting Pot with my mom a week later). I was also expecting that learning to operate the Hero 4 sessions would be easier that the Silver, which T has and which I've never been able to figure out how to take videos on it. The only real downfall is that battery can't be replaced, so once it dies, it's dead. The video life is 2 hours. I got 2.5 hours before mine failed. I will need to carry a back up charger and recharge the camera if we take a break for lunch.

We got it charged, got a SD card in it, and I practiced a few times until I kind of figured out how to make the camera work (I needed J to help get it synced to my phone). Some of the things to know: download the manual from the website and read - it explains a lot of the finer parts of operating the camera; there are several different settings for the vid camera - learn which one will work best for you; three beeps means its on and recording; one beep followed by several more means the camera is storing the information and turning itself off. 

Saturday morning, on a whim, I checked the website for Waterton Canyon and discovered that it was scheduled to be closed Saturday and Sunday. We changed plans and decided to ride Dowdy Draw, Community Ditch, part of Marshall Lake and Greenland Mesa. We made plans to meet K and A at the barn at 9:30 (Ashke got fall shots first) and head for the trail head. The shots went quickly, loading was easy and we headed for the trailhead. We drive right past the trailhead for Marshall Lake and on a whim I suggested we see if there was parking available. There was, so we parked there rather than at Fairview Vista, pulled the horses out to eat their pre-ride bucket and ate our lunch. After lunch was over, we started tacking up. I had Ashke dressed and ready when K realized her saddle girth was attached to her other saddle in the basement of her house. Luckily, her husband was home and willing to bring the girth out to us, so I set the horses up with some hay and we waited for the necessary equipment to arrive. 

 Eating lunch and hanging out.

W showed up in record time and we were ready to ride a few minutes later. J and I had talked about A's first experience with Dowdy Draw and decided going up was less scary the first time than going down and A is just being to get her mountain bike legs under her. Leaving the parking lot after a very memorable meeting with a Boulder Park Ranger (drop dead gorgeous with an awesome smile and I think she plays for our team), we headed west.

The trail starts uphill and left both J and A breathing pretty hard after a 400' altitude gain in about a quarter mile. This trail is incredibly rocky and the last time we rode this way, Ashke only walked. On Saturday, we walked, trotted and cantered at will. 

You can see J and A waiting as we are making our way toward them.

We reached the Community ditch and turned west, crossed under Hwy 93 without dismounting for the first time and rode the ditch to the edge of the mountains. I was so pleased with Ashke. He is getting much more willing to be rated regardless of what Eddy is doing. The ground was hard and rocky and we spent most of that part of the ride at a trot, just because it was mostly downhill. When I could get him to walk, he was at a 4.2 mph walk, but not much faster at his traveling trot. K and Eddy cantered off several times and I was able to keep Ashke with me without a fight. I credit our dressage lessons and Amanda for the difference. He was happy to listen without fighting and we just relaxed with each other.

We took a brief break and ate some snack while letting the horses graze before tackling Dowdy Draw. 

 Can you see the Hero on the top of my helmet?
The weight was minimal and I kind of forgot it was there. Although we did hit a couple of tree limbs before I started ducking more.

Leaving our snack spot for the Draw

The rocky ford at the base of the Draw has been replaced with a serious wooden bridge that might actually withstand any kind of flash flood the small stream could throw at it. We crossed and headed up the Draw. I love this part of the ride. The video I took was 12 minutes long. I broke them into 30 sec clips so you can see both the terrain and the elevation gain without having to slog through a 12 min vid. You are welcome.

Rocks were intense. Ashke didn't care.
Shoes for the win.

J and A had to handwalk the bikes a couple of times, due to the rocks, but once they were able to pass the big rocks, they rode the rest of the trail. My wife is a badass!!

The temp was perfect with just a little wind.

The final part of the Draw.

At the top, we only waited for a couple minutes before J and A were there with huge smiles on their faces. A really likes riding with J and I'm really happy that we have found someone who will ride with us that enjoys the trails as much as we do. 

At the top of the Draw, Kate decided to do a longer loop which the rest of us were not interested in doing, since the rocks are intense. We made arrangements to meet up later down the trail and headed out.

K going off on her own

Me going with the bikes

J goes first and then A
You can tell when I let Ashke run cuz his ears go back

J and I on the top of the Mesa

We found a tree and waited about 30 minutes for K and Eddy to catch up. We were trying to figure out where to leave a note for K to tell her we were headed toward the trailer, when she rode into sight. We rode to the intersection of Hwy 93 and 120th, crossed the road at the light, then headed up Greenland Mesa.

You can hear me when K rides past: It's not a race.
He listened and complied.
I love this horse!!

Then the GoPro died. So no more video. 

 Autumn in the Rockies

 The colors are incredibly vibrant

 This country is breathtaking

 K staying in the grass as much as possible, since Eds was showing a bit footsore.

 We traversed slick rock without any slipping or issues with riding in shoes.

J and A waiting in the shade for us to catch up.
They loved the downhills.

This ride was a testament of how well shoes are working for Ashke. He was forward, eager, happy and willing the entire ride. We had two times in the ride where he hesitated a little, probably due to stepping directly on a rock point, but was immediately okay the next step. There was no slipping with his hind legs at all. It was also a testament to the dressage training we are doing weekly. He was much more willing to listen and respond, just as I was more willing to be an active riding partner for him. Overall, it was a great ride.

Thursday, October 6, 2016


One of the things that is unique in Working Equitation is the way in which the obstacles are ridden. There is a lot of collected tight canter work at the higher levels. In my lessons, we are working on developing the skills to do the more advanced canter work and Amanda is wonderful about spending part of the lesson applying those skills to the obstacles.

Last night, it was fairly cool. I got Ashke groomed and saddled early enough that we could go outside in the overcast gloom to warm up. We walked around the outside arena three times in each direction, then started trotting. I was not really asking for a lot of contact to start, but he reached out and let me know that he wanted it. We did trot-walk-trot transitions, some serpentine work in which he was very good at bend in both directions, then added a little canter. Things got a little sketchy. By that time we were approaching full dark and the boogie monsters were lurking in the shadows. I didn't want to fight so we went back inside. By that time the jumping lesson was mostly over and we closed up the arena while they finished putting the jumps away. Ashke saw Amanda arrive and stop to talk to people, so he turned and walked over to her to say hi. I knew what he was after (face rubs) so I just laughed to myself and humored him.

We started with walk pirouettes, which Amanda said were getting really solid, then moved to some warm up canter around the arena. Then went into the serpentine work at the trot, then expanded it to include halt transitions in the center and the occasional canter half loop. Next we did shoulder in along the rail. This one is still really hard for me to properly cue for, but Ashke was trying very hard to do whatever it was I was trying to get him to do. We did leg yields from quarterline to the rail at the trot and again at the canter. Then Amanda had me do 10m circles from the rail, transitioning to a walk as we came back to the rail (using the rail as a visual cue to help him transition from my seat). Then you regather your horse, transition to the canter and do another 10m circle. It was a great exercise and I will definitely add it to the riding exercises for Monday nights.

Then we pulled the cones out and began to work with them. We did serpentines around them, then did leg yields around them. That was really hard. Ashke wasn't really sure what I wanted and it was kind of counter intuitive to what we had been doing earlier. But it finally clicked for him (after I got out the dressage whip to help keep him motor moving forward). After a walk break we started working on canter with simple transitions in between the cones.

Then Amanda started having me turn the final cone as tightly as I could in a circle to go back through the cones. Ashke kept breaking into a trot, so I picked up the dressage whip again, just to mentally reinforce the idea that we maintain the canter. We were working the end circle on the left lead and he finally managed about a 3m circle at the canter. It was so amazing and I was so proud of him. We immediately stopped and he got lots of love and good boys.

I put him away at that point, since I really want to emphasize how great a job he did. I got him untacked and tucked away with his after ride bucket. I was so exhausted that I was staggering like a two day drunk. It is exhausting but I am beginning to understand why people like dressage so much. Figuring out how to do some of the stuff is just exhilarating.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016


Last night was a riding night. My process with Ashke right now is two arena rides (one of which is a lesson) and one long trail ride a week. Last Saturday we did 12 miles over varied terrain. Next Saturday, we are doing maybe 15 miles from Indian Creek to Chatfield. Some of that ride is going to be singletrack mountain terrain, so it should be very challenging. Anyway, I would like to add another day, but just can't seem to find the time. Fridays have become date night with J and we are once again exploring restaurants and outdoor arenas around town. I might be able to squeeze in a ride on Sunday morning this next week - we will have to see.

So, I got to the barn about seven and sent J off to winterize the camper while I got Ashke ready to go. For my birthday, I got a new BOT dressage pad and a pair of Tekna open front hind boots. They are the perfect size to cover the tenderness on his LH fetlock, without being overly burdensome. He went good in them yesterday once he got past having it on his right hind. Once I had the saddle on him, I  put out five cones in the pattern for the double slalom. Three on one side and two offset. I figured we could also work the single slalom on the three cone side.

The wind was blowing so hard that the whole barn was shaking. Ashke was pretty uptight, so we started with walk pirouettes. He is doing these pretty good, as far as I can tell. We will see what Amanda says on Weds, but he has this particular movement figured out and now we just need to practice it a couple of times each ride. We moved to walk-trot transitions and then leg yields from the quarterline to the wall. Ashke was pretty spooky, jumping a couple of times when the sand and gravel was blown against the wall (the howling of the wind sounded like sick cows who had swallowed kittens) but I just ignored the spooks and went on with the ride.

After he felt pretty warm, we did the single slalom at the trot. Ashke did it really well with definite changes of bend. It was probably the best trot slalom we have ever ridden. I was so impressed. Then we began to canter. I have to tell you that his canter is becoming so smooth and slow and easy. He only really rushes when he begins to tire. We did some figure eights with a simple change in the middle through the cones I had set up. I had to intersperse some trot work to help him remain calm, since he still gets somewhat hyped about being asked to canter. I really need to work on cues and getting my seat right, since I am the one struggling with this.

Then we cantered the single slalom with simple changes at each junction. He was phenominal!!!! I really wish I had it on camera since it was the best I have ever felt him move. We did the three cones, a half circle and the last two cones, then another half circle from the final cone to the wall so we ended up going the opposite direction in the arena when we were done. It was so much fun. The first time he did the grid with a one step change at each junction, I made a huge deal out of him. He snorted and pranced in happiness.

Then we worked on the double slalom. I think it was too much. I was waiting for J to return from working on the camper and wasn't paying attention. Ashke was struggling to maintain bend or manage his transitions and I was pushing too much. At one point he stopped and looked at the tie post like he was ready to be done. I told him we still had some work to do and he gave a sigh and walked off slowly. He wasn't as forward as he had been so I jumped off to get the dressage whip (just holding it gives him energy) but then when I went to get back on I looked at the clock and realized I had been riding for an hour. I rubbed his face and walked him over to the tie post. He just gave a small sigh in relief. We were having such a great ride that I didn't realize how long it had been. I know we should have ended on a "good note", but honestly, I think listening to him tell me he was starting to struggle was a good note on my part. I want this to be fun and exciting and challenging without exhausting him to the point of hating our rides.

Sunday, October 2, 2016


The last time we rode the East-West was June 1, 2015. When we were trying to decide where to ride, it seemed appropriate to try it at least one time this year. We decided to meet up about 9:30 and haul south to Spring Gulch. It's a bit under an hour, but that seems to be our normal travel time to get to a trail head, regardless of where we go. Spring Gulch was hosting some type of fund raiser by sending lots of horses galloping around the property jumping fences. We parked where we were directed, then ate some lunch sitting in our camper.

After lunch we got the horse's saddled. I had the saddle fitted again last Thursday since Megan was at the barn working on other saddles. She said I must carry more weight on my left seatbone, since the left panel was squished down more than the other side. I was hoping that the adjustment would fix the slight bridging issue that Dr D saw, plus I've been seeing some ruffled hair, so it was time. Saddled up, we headed out.

 Ashke was awesome on every terrain. So very pleased with the shoes.

 This is the beginning of the singletrack that heads into the backcountry.

 The best way to describe the majority of the trail is up and down roller coaster type of trail.

K and I took turns leading the way. In the above picture, you can see the trail on the far side of the valley going up the hill. K and Eddy trotted up that part of the trail while Ashke and I followed them at a very collected canter. It was amazing. 

It's wobbly so if you get motion sick, beware. J took it holding her phone in her hand.
It does give you an idea of how the trail rides.

 My goal was to ride through the oak forest.

We did that, at six miles, then turned and headed back. We either needed to turn around at that point, or we needed to go until we reached Red Tail Park at 10 miles to get the horses water. The horses are getting shaggy and were both sweating freely.

There was a point on our ride back, when we were in the lead and cantering up hill. There was a switchback turn, very tight, where the trail doubles back on itself. It was probably a six foot half loop, that Ashke took at a canter. I felt him shorten his stride, rock back onto his haunches and pirouetted his way around that corner. AT THE CANTER. It was amazing and I was laughing out loud in delight.

By we got back to the trailer, Ashke was brown. He had been sweating freely and hasn't been washed in a long time, so he was a freaking mud ball. We got back to the barn and I took him to the wash stall. It took a bit to scrub the dried mud from his coat. It was matted into mud pads every where there was a pad, girth or wrap. He also had mud and sweaty foam on his face. After I got his body rinsed off, I turned the water way down to rinse off his face.  This happened.

He turned the water off with his teeth at least six times, Such a funny guy.

Two things of note: I need to clip him - probably a trace clip like I did last November, and we are riding Indian Creek again next weekend.