Thursday, December 29, 2016


I had an awesome ride last night. After my last lesson, I asked Amanda for a list of things to do during our off lesson rides. I have such a hard time remembering all of the things, I don't want to ride the test over and over since Ashke will learn it and want to do it on his own, plus I get distracted and forget to do stuff. She sent me this: serpentines, transitions, shoulder in, leg yields, spirals, leg yields at the canter and more transitions. That helped a lot and gave me direction in my ride.

I don't think that was the only reason my ride was awesome, though. I read an article on FB about how treats are a more effective training tool than wither scratches. Or praise. So, I loaded my hoodie up with a baggie of treats a friend gave us for the holidays. Ashke knew they were there - he saw me put them in the pocket.

There is only one issue with riding with treats in your pocket . . . . Ashke really believes that he should be rewarded for everything, so it takes a few minutes to get him to realize that he only gets a treat at the end of a set of exercises. Otherwise, we spend our ride taking one step, then asking for a treat.

We did great serpentines with distinct changes of bend and light, easy transitions. After doing that up and down the arena he got a treat and a walk break. Then we did shoulder in. For the first time I felt like he was actually doing the shoulder in and walking at a normal pace at the same time. Sometimes we get so cramped we stall out and it is a struggle. Not so last night. Again, he got a treat after we had a good shoulder in going in both directions. (By now he has figured out no treats until the set is done. And the set will be done quicker if he really puts out the effort.) Then we did leg yields at the walk from the rail to X and back to the rail (part of Novice B test), which he did really well at. It is harder going from X to the rail when the rail is the scary corner of the arena, but we did it going in both directions and then a treat. Then leg yields at the trot. Treat. Then canter leg yields transitioning down to the walk at the end of the arena. He did awesome! Treat. Then canter circles with a transition to the walk as you approach the rail. These are very tight circles and he did them very well. Treat.

That was the end of our ride.

Notes: he was stopping off my seat very well. I'm not sure if it's because he suddenly figured it out or if stopped was the only position he gets treats from, but we only had to add a reinback twice. He seemed to be extra willing to try for me, or at least for the treat. I really wish I could figure out the trigger for his snort and ear pinning when being asked to canter. I would like it to be soft and easy, like our trot transitions. 

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

2017 Goals

I almost don't want to do this post, since I am still reeling from 2016 . . . this year can't end quick enough for me. In the spirit of setting myself up to fail, here goes.

1. Qualify for National Championships in Working Equitation

National Championships for Working Equitation is in Oregon, over Labor Day weekend. Pedro Torres is going to be there for a special demo. We have a slide in truck camper and the ability to travel with Ashke that far. I just need to qualify by getting a 58% in the dressage test and 58% in the Ease of Handling, without a DQ in Speed. I have two local shows (Expo and Adams County Fair) where we will be offering B-Rated shows that I can qualify in without having to travel to find another show.

2. Explore Trails in the Area

I'm not setting a distance goal this year. The past two years I've set goals for distance and it hasn't happened. This year I have a lot of shows to practice for, so that is my focus, although I know that J and I will hit the trails on the weekends. It would be fun to explore new places as well as hitting all of our old haunts.

3. Horse Camping

I want to go to Vedauwoo and camp at the campground there. They have horse corrals and I'm hoping there is a water source as well. To be able to spend days riding there, teaching the dogs and horse to go together and enjoying my favorite place on earth with Ashke would be the best. It will also give us some practice with camper and trailer before traveling to Oregon in September.

I think that is the extent of my goals. At least they should be achievable. I hope.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

December 10 Questions

Does your horse need shoes?
Yes, as a matter of fact, he does. Dr D believes that he needs the extra support in traction the shoes seem to give him. All I know is that he hated the hoof boots, they changed how he carried himself and his feet were too thin to go bare and still do the rides we have been doing. I'm not going to ride less and I want him as comfortable as possible, so shoes it is.

What do you think of the barefoot vs. shoes debate?
I was pretty committed to keeping Ashke bare. I think that the stimulation of the frog and hoof are overall better bare, however, I really believe in doing what is right for the individual horse.

As far as the debate goes, horses have been domesticated for 6000 years. They are no longer wild creatures running about on the plains, being eaten by anything faster than they were. I have no doubt that in an overall sense, horses live longer and are useful longer than if they were wild, and part of that process involves some kind of hoof covering to protect them over uneven ground. It is naive to believe that we can recreate that type of hoof conditioning within our modern method of care, because acres and acres of rough terrain with varied locations of food and water, which necessitate the constant movement of the horse, don't really exist in our culture any longer. If the individual horse can maintain themselves without shoes then more power to the owner. Mine could not.

As far as the hoof boots go, I was blown away by the write up Gail did on her blog about an article in Endurance News. The author said that for every pound of weight added to the end of the hoof, it is the equivalent of eleven pounds added over the center of gravity. My metal shoes weight about 8 oz, while the backcountry gloves I put on Ashke weight almost two pounds. The weight difference between shoes and boots is 22 pounds vs 88 pounds. That explains so much of what I was feeling and how Ashke was acting. We will stick to shoes.

Favourite season for riding?
Fall. I love the temps, the colors and the feel of the air.

How many shows do you think know you’ve gone to?
Three as an adult. All three were Working Equitation.

Do you consider yourself a good rider?
Decent for my age, my weight, my injuries and the number of years spent without riding. Ashke seems okay with me.

How experienced do you think someone should be to own a horse?
Experienced is what you should be at the end of the process. Realistic may be a better question. I think people get caught up in the dream of a horse, without being realistic about cost, maintenance, facilities, extraneous items and how much they need to learn. Horses can be done on a shoestring budget, but that isn't always what's best for the horse. Lessons can help with the riding/handling part, but the other stuff needs research and learning and desire.

Have you ever gotten into a fight with your trainer?
I had a trainer I did not work well with and it did not end well. It wasn't a fight, so much as an agreement to ignore each other. I don't think I could fight with my current trainer - she's awesome!

Describe your dream horse.
Ashke. Everything I ever wanted and more.

Does anyone in your family ride?
My mom did. My sister did when we were young. My littlest brother did until he was eight, and was a complete natural. None of them any more. My niece rides via a therapeutic riding center in Washington. She seems to love it.

If you could ride any horse in the world, which one would it be? Why?
Oxidado. I would love to ride the speed course on him.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016


Will I ever learn?

Ashke has been stiff for about six weeks now. Not horribly, but enough that I can feel that slight hitch in his step and although he has been great in our lessons, it's taken forty-five minutes of warm up, shoulder in and haunches in to stretch out his right hind. Then we have about thirty minutes in the sweet spot, maybe less if there is a lot of canter work, before his leg gets tired and he tells us he is done. It has been apparent on trail as well and although he is tracking through, the "drop" part of his step with that leg has been noticeable both visually and audibly. (He goes clip, clip, clip, clomp).

I was trouble shooting with Amanda two weeks ago about his joint supplement, his supplements in general and the distinct turn the weather has taken in the past two weeks. I decided afterwards to go into Smartpak and see if maybe I could tweak them a bit. I evaluated the options on the joint supplement and decided to tweak it just a bit to see if it helps. It can't hurt, since the levels of MSM and the other anti-inflammatories are the same, but we are adding a little extra glucosomine to see if it helps with his left patella. I then turned to muscle support and realized that we've been missing the lysine.


I completely missed that it wasn't still in his supplements. We had ran out one smartpak ago, I forgot I was out and made up our most recent bags of supplements without it, since my local agfinity store was out as well. I soon as I saw lysine listed on Smartpak as muscle support, I went and found some at the local store. I added it to all of his supplement bags a week ago. Since then, I haven't ridden, in part due to the weather (subzero temps) and in part due to holiday work stuff. Ashke has played with the ball a lot in the last week and although he was moving very good, it's not the same as being ridden. He can self-select to move in a way that minimizes the impact on the parts that hurt. We really can't do that under saddle.

Last night was amazing. He was loose and comfortable as soon as I got on, even though the temp in the barn was in the low 20's (I think it was warmer outside, since the Chinook winds are blowing). We did spiral circles at trot and canter, leg yields at the trot, serpentines where we move between walk and canter, with halting from my seat, shoulder in, haunches in, square corners at the trot which then evolved into three quarters of a circle at the trot and crossing the diagonal. Then we worked on that at the canter. We also did slow collected trot to an extended trot, back to slow. He was amazing. At the end we worked on small canter circles around two cones, with a change of lead in between, on an elongated figure eight. We almost had our first flying change, with him adding just a step of trot in between.

So, the lysine is now added to the smartpak, along with two other amino acids for muscle support. One of these days I will learn.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Goals 2016


I had a lot of goals last year and I pretty much didn't make any of them. Let that be a lesson in never setting goals again.

This I did. I have been a board member for almost a full year now and am loving the sport, the Club I belong to and the people I get to meet and ride with. It has been a great year for WE, with consolidated rules and a year of shows under our belt. I expect 2017 to be fantastic! This was a win!

2. Clinics/Shows
I did clinics and shows at Expo, but had to scratch from the show due to a slight irregularity in Ashke's gait. I rode in the Rebecca Algar clinic but not in the show due to Ashke's injury in his left hind. I rode in the clinic and show with Tarrin Warren in July and won. Then spent the rest of the year waiting for Ashke's reinjury to heal. Not exactly a win, but not really a fail either.

3. Riding Four Days a Week
This I have been fairly consistent on. Sometimes, due to weather or other events, it's been three times a week. We do a consistent two arena rides and two trails rides. I call it a win.

4. Develop Canter
Definite win.

5. NATRC Ride
Fail. Didn't have our slide in camper yet. Probably not going to make my list for 2017, either.

6. First LD
Fail. See above.

7. 500 Miles on Trail
Fail. I have done 327 so far in 2017, so not shabby. But not the goal.

Never drink soda again. FAIL.
Nothing else to say about that.

Thursday, December 15, 2016


I woke up Tuesday morning at my normal 5:20 am time, stumbled to the bathroom and checked my phone. There was a text from A, which included a picture. My heart stopped.

The caption said barn fire in Brighton.
Red siding. White garage doors. The picture I had received was much smaller.
I just couldn't tell. 

I started frantically trying to find the address while my heart and mind screamed "no" silently. Over and over like you do when you really don't want it to be true. The unreal factor in your mind. Trying to find clues in the photo that would tell me for sure it wasn't my barn. I turned on the television while scrolling through the newscasts on my web browser, my heart in my throat. Finally, I found the information that the fire was further south and east, really in Adams county. Not my barn. 

Thanking all of the Gods. Profusely. There were no words for the relief.

I don't know that there is anything more terrifying for a horse owner than a barn fire. There were sixteen horses that perished in the fire on Tuesday morning. It is believed that the fire started from a refrigerator or heating lamp housed inside the barn. The building was engulfed in flame when they got there and couldn't even attempt to get the horses out. The firefighters were hampered in fighting the fire due to the lack of a water source for their pump trucks, since the barn is not on city water. Water had to be hauled in for them to pump from.

I'm very thankful that it was not arson, because if someone was deliberately setting barn fires, no one would be safe.

I'm very thankful that my barn has outside doors for each run that can be opened from the outside, with a safe fenced area where the horses could be released safely, away from the flames. Because you want exit routes from burning buildings that make getting the horses to safety easier. And perimeter containment so you don't have to worry about finding them later.

I am so very, very thankful that my heart is safe. 

I can only imagine what the other horse owners are feeling right now.

Sunday, December 11, 2016


I've been thinking about responsibility and risk for the past week and a half. The accident with Tia really brought into focus the significance of those two concepts in relationship with horses and I wanted to share my thoughts and how they apply, from my point of view, to riding in both the arena and on trail in the hopes that others might benefit. Doing this also gives me the opportunity to refine my philosophy.

Everyone who decides to swing a leg over the back of a horse starts as a newbie, because while some of us may be more gifted in our ability to ride, none of us arrive here knowing how. Aside from the riding part, there are all of the aspects of horse husbandry that we also need to learn and be responsible for once we embark on this journey. For some of us, our journey begins at a very young age, in our childhood. We are given the opportunity to learn to ride and care for horses as an aspect of an activity our parents facilitate, guided by our parents, trainers, 4-H leaders, etc. Some children are taught via a riding program where they are taught on school horses, expected to learn some aspects of horse husbandry and are somewhat limited in the amount of time or exposure they have to both horses and barn life. For others, it starts as tween passion that eclipses cheerleading and love interests and often results in the ownership of a horse of their own and the resulting responsibility, although still under the guidance and bank account of their parents. For a large segment of adult amateur riders, it is a decision made as an adult, weighed on a scale of pros and cons, often after the children have grown and left, born from a beloved dream of someday being able to care for and ride a horse of our own. That said, the beginning point for all equestrians is that of an uneducated new-to-horses person.

When a person decides to ride,  work with or own a horse there is, by definition, a lot to figure out. A new to horses person must learn to ride (because let's be serious here - the riding is the best part), learn to groom and care for the feet, learn basic first aid (because horses), find a safe place to keep the horse, learn about feed programs, hay vs pelleted food, supplements and salt blocks. Additionally, the owner should also expect to manage maintenance costs (feet, wormer, vaccines, Coggins). These are the basic blocks of knowledge and experience a owner/rider should have before embarking on a journey of horse ownership.

I think there is a real difference between taking lessons, leasing and actual ownership that some amateurs can't predict based on their foreknowledge, prior to purchasing their first horse. As a student, the rider may be expected to groom, clean feet, tack up, ride, cool out, untack and put away their horse (some programs they don't even do that much). The trainer or horse owner is responsible for board, feed, medical, feet, etc in the care and housing of the horse. If something happens to compromise the horse's ability to work, most trainers with school horses can easily substitute another horse so that the rider can continue to take lessons, regardless. A rider who has been taking lessons has some exposure to horse husbandry, but not the legal responsibility for the horse. Or the financial.

I think the move from "somewhat responsible" for a horse to the position of owner is often taken without the rider really recognizing the impending costs. There is a lot more than any sane person not completely in love with horses would undertake. The financial burden of horse ownership was the deciding factor in my twenties that forced me to relinquish horse ownership for more than twenty years. Between my idyllic, if painful, childhood/early adulthood and now has been a lifetime of experience not related to horses that shapes my understanding of the responsibility now. I knew prior to bringing home Ashke what kind of financial burden this would put on our family, mostly, from a budget and cash flow perspective. J and I talked about costs, financial and otherwise, prior to embarking on this journey together. I am, as an adult, completely responsible for the care and maintenance of my horse. There is no safety net of parents to fall back on and no free pasture to send my horse to in the winter. I am totally responsible for everything. It is a hard thing, but I know where the line is drawn in the sand financially, what we can afford and at what point we have to start making really hard decisions. 

In some ways, horse ownership is easier today than it was in my youth. I don't have to worry about getting up at 4:30 am to feed and water my equine friend, nor do I need to worry about breaking ice out of their water tanks during the winter. I can pay a boarding facility to do so, and to clean up after them on the daily. I don't even really have to remember to worm or vaccinate, since most boarding facilities help their boarders manage that process with a local vet. Those are the extra things my board pays for every month. That leaves me responsible for any supplements I believe my horse should have, off cycle vet visits for injuries/colic/stupid horse stuff, farrier work and riding. From a responsibility point of view, my monthly money reduces what I need to worry about (hay, picking out the stall, adding or taking off blankets) and frees me up to spend my time doing the really fun stuff, like showing, riding and playing. I do think, however, this umbrella of care reduces the real and immediate responsibility of horse ownership.

Trail Obstacle

Although it may look like you are paying to have the heavy lifting done, you are still responsible for your horse. From a legal and moral standpoint, you are responsible for what your horse does to other horses, people, facilities, etc. There is no grace period or learning curve allowed from a legal standpoint: once ownership transfers from one person to you, as the new owner, so does the responsibility. This governs handling the horse from the ground, sharing arena space with other horses, trailering, and riding on public or private trails. If you make the decision to buy a horse that is not completely trained or one that acts in an unsafe manner, you take on the burden of being responsible for the outcome of that horse's actions. No excuses. Whether you come to adult ownership with any prior experience or as a newly minted equestrian, the legal and moral responsibility is the same. Horses are dangerous animals with a mind of their own and faster-than-human reaction times. They come programmed to fight or flight. Every rider has the same level of responsibility to educate and improve their knowledge of horsemanship and horse behavior, regardless of prior experience in order to lower risk. The lack of knowledge is not an excuse for poor horsemanship and does not change an owner's responsibility.

Think of it this way: equestrians have the same level of responsibility to manage their horse as a driver has in handling their car. Both can be dangerous. Both can be deadly. Both require maintenance, feeding (fuel), caring for and learning how to handle them in every situation. An adult driver learns the rules of the road by instruction, learning the law before getting behind the wheel and learning how to how to handle a car. They must take classes and tests before being allowed to drive alone. A driver would not expect to be given a pass by a police officer at the scene of an accident because they are new to driving.


Equestrians have the same level of responsibility in learning to manage their horse as they do in learning to drive, except it is up to the individual to educate themselves, since there is no test or license required. In my opinion, I believe trainers, horse traders and breeders need to be held to a higher standard when selling horses to untrained and inexperienced riders. If not legally, than within the horse community. Unfortunately, many new owners go into horse ownership with stars in their eyes, looking at the outside of the horse, rather than approaching horse ownership as a risk assessment. There are dangerous horses out there; horses that won't keep their feet on the ground; horses that have no problem with running over humans; horses that are bargy and aggressive; horses that bite. Those are all issues that stem from mishandling by humans (although I do think there are true outlaws - those horses are consistently vicious in my experience, with no redeeming factors.) Unfortunately, I think women especially are attracted to "good looking" or pretty horses, and lead with their hearts rather than assessing the risk in a non-biased way. And perhaps trusting that the horse professional they are working with has their best interest in mind, rather than just trying to unload a horse.

No horse is bomb-proof, which is why so many equestrians advocate wearing helmets 100% of the time. Everyone comes off their horse at one time or another. It is a part of riding. Being an equestrian means the rider must acknowledge the risk and assess what is likely to cause your horse to spook before it happens. This will help all riders be more safe in general, while limiting the damage the horse can possibly do to both humans and property around them. It will also limit the potential damage that can happen to your horse, because a horse in a panic is catapulted into flight, with no reason to stop. That risk assessment, evaluating the environment in which you are riding, evaluating possible threats your horse will view as threatening, evaluating the danger you pose to those around you, all need to happen all of the time.

The other thing that has to happen is every rider must ride every step. Mark Rashid, in one of his books, talks about doing a ride with the Old Man. He and the Old Man are out on trail and Mark is off in his own world in his head, thinking about school, the weather, every thing but the horse under him, lulled into complacency by the movement of the horse and the events of the day. The mare he is riding spooks and throws him. Mark gets up and asks the Old Man why that happened and the Old Man disgustedly tells Mark he shouldn't be surprised, since he stopped riding an hour and a half before that. The point is that we must be present in the moment every time we are on our horse, working with our horse, handling our horse. Our horses live in the Right Now. The challenge for riders is to meet them where they are and remain there with them. Not to day dream. Not to make to-do lists in our heads or think about the tasks we need to do the following week, the unfinished laundry or the bills that need to be paid. To be present. To ride every step.

In the arena, this means learning to ride in a way that does not endanger yourself or others. All barns have rules for arena riding, with minor variations based on barn manager or set up, but at a minimum learning to go left shoulder to left shoulder, learning to call out to the other riders when doing something different from just riding  the rail (circle, cross diagonal, etc) and learning to make choices in gaits and direction in order to minimize interference with others is part of the risk assessment of riding in an enclosed space with other horses. The overall risks are lowered in an arena, but a rider must learn where the "scary" areas are: a particular corner or end of the arena where the boogie man lives; a wall that makes noise when the wind blows; obstacles or items that are stored in various areas; doors and gates where horses are coming and going. All of those things must be recognized and assessed even when riding in circles in the arena. The one thing a rider can count on, however, is that everyone in the arena at least has a passing acquaintance with horses or they wouldn't be there.


Out on the trail, the risks are magnified and the rider is called to be even more present, to ride every step, the entire ride. For one, an equestrian will meet other trail users: bike riders, runners, walkers, baby strollers, dogs, other horses, wheelchairs, kites, fallen trees, brush, rocks, gates, roads, and wildlife. All of those things and more can appear to be threatening to your equine partner. As the rider, it is your responsibility to assess the risk at every step along the trail, to do what you can to help your horse find both confidence and comfort in your presence. Additionally, the rider has a heightened sense of responsibility due to the presence of non-equestrians on the trail. There can be no assumptions. Bike riders can ride up behind the horse without alerting the rider to their presence. Little kids are drawn to horses and think nothing of racing over to pet whomever they meet on trail. It is the equestrian's responsibility to ensure they are mitigating the risk to others, themselves and their horse by being aware of their position and gait on trail. Make no mistake, if a person is hurt on trail it is the rider's responsibility both legally and morally. You are the one who choose to bring your horse out into a public venue and by doing so you are legally responsible for it's behavior. It becomes even more important to ride every step. To be present and aware every moment you are with your horse.

Risk assessment on trail is much more involved than in the arena. The rider must do a visual assessment of all fixed trail obstacles (rocks, fences, benches, bridges, bushes), offer support to the horse (adding leg, steadying the rein, talking out loud in a reassuring voice) before the horse reacts. In this fashion, a rider has the opportunity to tell their horse that the rider has assessed the situation, identified the obstacle and made the decision that it isn't an issue, thus increasing the rider's reliability in taking care of the horse's safety, from the horse's point of view. Then there is the risk assessment of mobile trail obstacles (wildlife, people, cars, strollers, bikers) that the rider must do. Mobile obstacles or other users on the trail are more likely, in my experience, to cause a spook or shy because of the unexpected nature of those obstacles. Even on familiar trails, the rider must be alert and assessing every step, because nothing is static and trails change (bright green iron benches get put places that bench wasn't the last time we came by.)


Think of risk assessment on horseback the same way motorcycle riders assess risk on the road: search, evaluate, execute. If a rider is paying attention, your horse will alert you to what is making them nervous on trail: an ear or hard look, slight hesitation in their gait, a raised head or tightening of the jaw against the rein. Their senses are more attuned to their environment than ours and they will alert you to what they see prior to you being aware. There are things that you can do to redirect your horse's attention. I like leg yields on trail, if the footing allows, or a very collected trot, with a change of bend every ten steps. That exercise can be done regardless of how wide the trail is. By redirecting your horse's attention from their environment to an exercise you have hopefully practiced in the arena, you can diffuse the situation before your horse explodes and you are on the ground, or worse.

The bottom line of being safe with horses is to be present, to pay attention, to use critical thinking skills and the risk assessment method of search, evaluate and execute to provide yourself with a game plan you should have in your back pocket before you ever take your horse out of it's stall. To do less, is a violation of the trust you hold between yourself and your horse. It is also a violation of your legal responsibility to the public.

Saturday, December 10, 2016


This week has marked the first real cold spell we've experienced. I did a lesson on Monday, which went well. Ashke is struggling with his right hind and I've decided to change up his supplements to see if I can get him a little more support. In the meantime, I am riding him in the long BOT blanket that covers his hips and this seems to help warm him up quicker and keep him loose longer. I am seeing some intense muscle building up behind his shoulder, where I was beginning to see it last year before our leg trauma. We worked on canter, in between shoulder in, haunches in, leg yielding at trot and canter. He is getting so much better, although I can tell the canter work is making the right hamstring sore.

After Monday, the temps plummeted. I took a bucket of hot mash out to him on Monday and changed his blanket to the heavier fill, which immediately warmed him up. Last night, we went out to check on him, took him a bucket of goodies and his ball. When we got there, I stripped the blanket off him, removed the BOT quick wrap we are still using on his leg (he scratches with his other hind foot and breaks the skin if it's not on) and turned him loose in the arena with T. He and T ran up and down the arena with Ashke rearing, bucking and chasing (at a very safe distance) until T couldn't run any more (the air was very cold). By that time, J was starting to work on his ball, Ashke saw her out of the corner of his eye and stopped. He recognized what she was doing and he began asking her if he could play with it.

Impatient horse began rearing in excitement, then tearing around the arena snorting.

The other horses were pretty freaked out, but he was so happy.
The ball still needs to be inflated, but it was cold, T wanted to go home and Ashke didn't want to wait any longer.

More ball play. 

There were places in the arena where it was too scary to play, which T helped him out of.

I cannot tell you how much I love this horse. We will work on inflating the ball the rest of the way (so it fills the bag). J's pump has a pressure gauge and there was no pressure inside the ball yet so we have a ways to go before being worried about exploding it (that's a real fear for both J and myself - no clue why). The barn used to have a soccer ball and the BO said that it should be amusing to watch the horses become accustomed to it over the next week or so.

Monday, December 5, 2016

The End

The Saturday after Thanksgiving we did a ride at Chatfield with J, K and Tia. It was the final day in what has been a long, beautiful Indian Summer that stretched from the middle of September to the end of November. It was one of those late fall days where the sky is brilliant blue which enhances the golden colors of the dried grass. It was warm enough that I was riding in shirt sleeves and Tia stripped off her outer layers to ride in shirt sleeves as well. J had been really looking forward to riding the canal, although A couldn't join us, and Tia was game. The four of us took off down the trail on the east side of the South Platte.

The temps were in the low 60's with no wind.
Just a stunning day.

Eddy kind of blends into the colors of the field.

The trails through the grass are always a technical challenge for the bikes, since in some places the trail is deep in the ground with the sides coming up to the top of the bike tires. It seemed much easier for the bikes than the last time we rode this trail, seeing as the grass was much shorter in places and not so over grown. After about a mile downstream, we turn East and climb to the Highline Canal.

 This sign was new. There is a couple of huge stables that are right on the canal. I wondered if those riders were having issues with the bike riders on trail.

For part of the canal Ashke and Eddy were in front of the bikes, but then deer started to leap out of the canal, cross the trail in front of us, and bound away toward the river. The first time that happened it was a six or eight point buck, with deep black points of color under his jaw and belly. He stopped in the middle of the path and watched us as K and I held the horses still to watch him back. Finally, his curiosity satisfied, he bounded effortlessly over the fence, heading west toward the river. We continued on and came upon this:

Eddy alerted us to this one. J said there were a group of five of them down there.

Needless to say, the horses became more nervous and twitchy. I asked J and Tia to go ahead, thinking they would flush the deer out, plus Ashke is a little less spooky when J is leading. I tried a brief canter along the canal, but he was bouncing so badly in response to the potential deer, that we just settled into a trot, while Eddy pulled up next to us. As we caught up to J and Tia, K and Eddy surged ahead and pulled up next to Tia. I held Ashke back, not wanting to get that close to the bikes, knowing it was risking an accident.

Sure enough. Something rustled in the canal and Eddy spooked sideways and back, throwing K over his shoulder, and crashing into Tia. Tia told me afterwards she thought Eddy was falling on her. I knew, from my vantage point a couple of horse lengths back, that he had finally done what I had warned K about over and over and over. He had spooked sideways and not given any fucks about running over the person next to him. Tia went down to the ground and he stepped on her lower leg and the bike tire, while still spinning away. K, on her belly on the ground, had a hold of his reins and got him stopped. Tia scrabbled away from the bike and up against the fence that borders the canal and began her assessment. J had dropped her bike and came back to settle Eddy, since he was still terrified. She calmed him down and then handed me the reins so she could go help Tia.

Tia has NOLS training and we both knew that she had both the presence of mind and training to self-assess. I was watching her from on top of Ashke (who had moved back a couple of steps but held stock still during the accident - such a good boy) and saw her assess her leg. That was the one thing I was most concerned about, since I had seen Eddy come down square on her leg just above the ankle. I truly believe that had the frame of the bike not been there to support the bone, it would have broken Tia's tibia. As it was, she was deeply bruised on the outside of her leg from his hoof and the inside of her leg from the frame of the bike, but nothing was broken. J gave her a compression wrap to help keep the swelling down, some advil to help with inflammation, and double checked her pupils for signs of a concussion. Luckily, she had taken the impact on her shoulder, and although she would see a chiropractor the following week to get treatment for whiplash, she hadn't hit her head.

J also checked on K, who had gotten up and taken Eddy from me. She seemed fine. Eddy was fine. Tia's back bike tire was completely bent and two of the spokes were broken. There was no way she was going to be able to ride back to the trailer. She and J carried the bike and tire back to the road access we had just passed and left her there to wait for us. J, K and myself headed back to the horse trailer with as much speed as felt safe, with Ashke following J at a mix of trot and canter. 

Once at the trailer, tack was stripped quickly and the horses were loaded. We had ridden about five miles and neither of the horses were hot or sweaty. Once loaded, I guided J through the back streets to where we had left Tia, loaded her and her bike, then headed for home.

It was not the best way to end our final ride of the fall. Winter is coming and trail riding times and places will be very limited.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Taz: 1996 - 2016

Baby Taz

J and I first started living together in January of 1997. We had a two bedroom apartment that J had with a prior room mate, when the room mate decided to move back to where they had come from, taking her two cats with her. That was the first time J had ever lived with cats and she decided she really liked it. When her old room mate left, J brought home a cat that had been rescued from the street. She was a Russian Blue and gorgeous, but she never really settled into living happily with us. She took to carrying a stuffed animal around in her mouth, making mreow sounds. We misinterpreted that as a request for a small fluffy kitten.

Taz was a barn kitten from a mixed litter and J fell in love at first sight. He was eight weeks old, so born sometime in December of 1996. We paid our $25 dollars and brought him home with us. He walked into the house, hissed at Ash, raced into the bedroom and peed on my pillow. That was our introduction to Taz.

Ash was very unhappy and refused to bond with him at all. He took to trailing along after her and attacking her tail. She began to lose weight and make her displeasure known. We eventually rehomed her to a single cat house with a woman who doted on her, so they were both happy.

For Taz, we brought home Preacher, when Taz was about seven months old. Taz began to purr the moment he saw Preacher and the picture above is fifteen minutes after they first met. They were that close their entire lives. They were best buds right up until Preacher died. Taz, for his part, never really became house broke. He used the litter box intermittently at best. He really wanted to be an outdoor cat and I think if we had been out in the sticks he would  have been in and out of the house at will. Unfortunately, city living does not really make that a safe option.

My favorite memories:


The windows were tall enough I could stand on the windowsill, which was about a foot above the floor, and not touch the top of the window.
We lived in an apartment with very high windows. The screens for those windows were taller than I am. Taz would climb them. The screens would fall out of the window. Taz would hoverboard on the screen to the ground some thirty feet below. Then he would take off into the bushes surrounding our apartment complex. One day I heard the screen come out of the window and him fall. I raced in and looked out the now wide open window to see him standing on the screen below me. I shouted Taz! His ears went back and his tail went straight up and he bolted across the parking lot.

Taz up a tree, on leash

He loved to walk on leash. We had a harness for him and would take him to the neighborhood park where it was fairly quiet. He wasn't ever afraid of dogs and would arch and dance toward any that tried to bother him. He was a bruiser and never lost a fight. We would meander around the pond and he would chase bugs and leaves at the end of the leash.

He loved to camp. We took him with us to Vedauwoo for years. There was a sagebrush place where the sage filled up a patch of ground. As soon as the truck would stop moving he was out and into that sagebrush patch, where he would hunt butterflies and mice. Every once in a while, J or I would call for him and he would come trotting out to say hi, but then went right back in. He loved climbing the pine trees, although the first time it took him most of a day to figure out how to come back down. Once he did, that became a favorite pass time.

He loved J. She was his down to the bone. Even after he became frail, he would leave his warm hotel and curl up with her for hours on end. He was a bad boy in so many other ways - he never stopped peeing on all the things - but he loved her with everything he was.

He went out on leash. The front of our condo has seven rose bushes and he would wander around under their leaves for hours. He caught birds. He hunted for mice. On occasion he would wander into the front room of our neighbor's condo and hiss at their cats. He would find a sunny spot and sun, then curl up under a bush and sleep the day away. He loved being outside and I know he would have been so happy to live on a farm or in a barn.

Ten years ago he moved into a room of his own. It had a cat tower, water, food and as he grew older, his own personal heater. Preacher shared it with him for the last four years or so of Preachers life. They were allowed out to socialize and love on their humans while under strict watch (otherwise pee) and Taz spent hours outside in the evening and on the weekends. He was very content and happy with his own kitten and their bachelor pad.

 It's always difficult to watch an animal go into decline. You know the time is coming and all you can do is measure the waiting days against the pain and possible suffering the animal could be going through. We knew when Preacher went to the Bridge that it was a matter of time, but in that mysterious way that animals have, Taz outlived his kitten by almost three years. Preacher had always groomed Taz, who had long hair, and kept him free of mats. When Preacher left us, that task fell to J, who would spend time brushing his long hair out, trying to keep it from matting. At first I think Taz helped, but as time went on it was too much work. In October I brought home my horse clippers and we clipped the hair on his back and sides. I needed to do his legs and belly as well, but his tolerance was gone, so we left him that way. He seemed more comfortable and although the hair was shorter, he wasn't bald. I planned on working on his legs the next weekend, but we didn't have that much more time.

The weekend before Thanksgiving he stopped eating. We tried some raw food and tender morsels to see if we could whet his appetite, but to no avail. J spent a lot of time holding him over the weekend and on Monday night, she said it was time. The vet we use could not get us in on Monday night and so we rearranged schedules to take him in on Tuesday morning. J held him in her lap in the car while I made the arrangements, then we took him into the room. They administered a sedative, which he was a little fussy for, then settled into a semi-comatose state. J and I were both crying pretty hard by that time and in my head I asked Daniel to come and take him away. I had my hand on Taz's body when the doc began to administer the medicine that would stop his heart.

Daniel stepped up behind me and lifted Taz out of his body before his breathing stopped. I felt Taz pull free of his body and said, "he's gone" as his chest lifted another couple of breaths. He did great honor to J and me to be there so strongly when Taz passed. J smiled a few moments later and whispered "he's not in pain now and so very happy". He was in a tipi with Sitting Bull's wife (we don't know her name) playing with all of the feathers.