Tuesday, January 31, 2017


I've always loved that word from the movie "The Dead Poets Society" and although I might not actually Yawp in response to Ashke's development, inside I am yawping a lot.

This is the final entry in the alphabet blogging challenge I set myself this month. I almost managed to do all 26 letters, but skipped the X (because, seriously, X is a hard topic) and Z (because I ran out of time). Hence, ending the month with Yawp.

Here is video from last night. We have a change through the trot on basically a figure 8 in our test, so I asked J to video us practicing. Ashke is getting better over all in not getting "hot" at the thought of cantering, although you can see at the end he was getting a bit predictive in his response, hence the stop and back. That moment is kind of funny to me, since I was gleeful about the transition from the left lead to the right, thinking it was the easiest lead change ever, and then the circle kind of fell apart. In watching the video, you can see he did not change (no wonder it was smooth, since his left lead is his default lead). The challenge for me is the small shift of weight from the outside leg to new outside leg. Once I have conquered that, I think he will be less confused.

Monday, January 30, 2017


New Swedish Warmblood/Arab mix (2 years old and 15.3) got introduced to Ashke on Saturday.

The only horse time of my weekend because of Club stuff. And exhaustion.

And one of HCWE's Club members does the EOH course very well on Sunday.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Van Halen

Ashke is kind of a free spirit who has a streak of mischief running through his veins. He plays with the horses next to him - Mez and Flame - bitey gelding face games. He helps the barn cleaners with cleaning his chores: holding the fork, searching pockets, trailing around after them. He interacts with horses in turn out, playing face games over the fence with the horses in turnout.

He has now decided to try out as a drummer for Van Halen.

I guess, according to the BO, he drags his Rubbermaid tank out from beneath the fence, tips it over and bangs on it with his front foot. It rings out through the barn. A new boarder asked the BO what in the world that noise was and the BO answered that Ashke was playing the drums. This is a daily thing because one needs to practice to get better.

Thursday, January 26, 2017


All the things.

I have been completely unchained, unwound, undone, since my last post.
The slightest hint of kindness and I am in tears. 
This too will pass, but until then, enjoy some pictures of my life.

 45 seconds after Tim Tebow threw an 80 yard pass to Demarius Thomas in OT, to win the AFC Wild Card game against the Steelers.
"The crowd has lost it's mind"

Stock Show 
Big and Green

The T.

The Oregon coast


Lily and Skittle.
First day home.
There was poop everywhere.

Lily and her soulmate

Skittle is very worried about the jacket

I bought Ashke a squeeky chicken.
Ashke didn't like it so I gave it to Lily.

Early Saturday morning

 The Dover Blankets are awesome

 My Heart


Another Early Morning


Four Wisdom Teeth Gone

 Typical Saturday night



Cave of the Winds - Terrordactyl

 The dog with all of the balls wins!

 T - posted on Snapchat to his friends on Father's Day
I love his sense of humor

 So seriously.



 They are like Lays.
You can't have just one


 Andrea Bocelli

 I don't know why no one comes to visit.

 It's contagious.

So sweet


 They used to be small enough to lay across the back of the chair.

A wonderful day

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Thank You

Thank you to all of the women who showed up on Saturday to March for women's rights. And LGBTQ rights. And for racial equality. And for the Climate. And all of the endangered animals. And for reproductive freedom. And healthcare. And religious freedom.

For standing up for the Human Race. Thank you for doing so, because I couldn't.

Thirty years ago, that was me. Me, marching for LGBTQ rights in the very first Gay Pride Parade in Denver. Me, marching and signing petitions and showing up in support of the E.R.A. Me, registering voters in the election when Reagan won every state but Massachusettes. Me, marching in Take Back the Night marches. When I was young I was fearless. I participated in everything. I marched and spoke and stood up for those who couldn't. I registered voters and attended rallies. I wrote poetry and got involved in local politics. I was willing to sacrifice for the good of the many. My  mantra was "this is a good day to die".

But things change and life goes on and we grow into ourselves, into our lives. I've gotten used to living without fear, of going out in public and holding my wife's hand, of us parenting our child together, of what most people consider a normal life. Over the 37 years since I came out, I have grown into that life, that normal, not having to think about whether someone else's perception of me was going to result in bad things happening to me or my family.

This time around I couldn't go, as much as I might have wanted to in the past. I am almost paralyzed with fear: fear for my wife; fear for our bright, eloquent son; fear for this wonderful life we have created; fear that I will find myself on a list and then in a camp and then no more.

I can't seem to find my courage. I have no more brave. I have no more fearless. I want to go to ground, to find a place to shelter us all.

So, thank you to all those who could go, for you carried my voice with you. I was there in spirit, even if I couldn't be there in person.

Forgive me for being so afraid. I have so much more to lose, now, then I did when I was younger. I can't take the same risks. Losing this life terrifies me to the core.

Monday, January 23, 2017


Ashke got the day off yesterday because I was too sore to do much of anything. My lower back was bothering me more than it has in a couple of years and I just didn't feel like moving. I still planked for 40 seconds, cleaned the house, cooked dinner and adored the doggos, but neither of us felt like leaving. One of the things we did do was finish the puzzle we started on Saturday night.

When J and I used to do puzzles a lot. And enjoyed them. Then for a long time, we didn't. It's hard to do them with cats and doggos and a little person running around under foot. However, we picked up a couple from Costco and a Denver Broncos one just before the holidays and did them on days when the weather was bad and we were being home bodies. It was fun. So Saturday when we were at the mall after our massage, we picked up a 1000 piece puzzle that was discounted 50% because the box was smashed, brought it home and got it started.

T helped with the last 20 pieces

I have now decided we should find one of each of the beers in this picture. I'm especially taken with the Bishop's Finger, the Hen's Tooth, the Bear Beer, Cobra, Tiger, Murphy's Irish Stout, Red Stripe  Aphrodite and Duurl. Not that I am going to drink any, but I want J to try them all. A friend recommended we use it as a scavenger hunt. So, game on. I will be hitting our large adult beverage stores this weekend in search for some of these beers. I'll let you know how it goes.

I went on Amazon last night and bought two more puzzles, each 1000 pieces. One is a picture of pencils in different colors lined up to fill the entire pictures and one like the beer one only with hard liquor. J is really excited about the pencil one and I am more excited about the liquor one. We also went a little crazy and ordered new shower curtains for both bathrooms. Amazon prime rocks.

And just so you know, if J and I ever get any land that can sustain an animal, we are getting two of these darlings, even if we have to import them. I would take wethers, since they are just intended as pets and not for breeding or eating.

I loves these sheeps.

Saturday, January 21, 2017


Saturday is a busy day for us. We get up earlier than on a week day so T can catch a bus to Winter Park to ski. We take the dogs with us when we take T to the bus stop, so we can go to the dog park and let them run when no one else is around. (Malinios are the canine ninja's of the dog world and do not brook any nonsense. Better to keep them separate.) They love the dog park in Golden and there hasn't been anyone there that early, so we let them run until they are ready to leave. The Dover dog blankets have been incredible and very comfy. They keep them warm and now that Skittle doesn't think she's in trouble every time we put it on her, they seem to enjoy wearing them.

After the dog park, we got a bucket of warm mash for Ashke and a five gallon barrel of hot water. I was tired of the urine stiffened mane, the urine soaked and stained front leg, filthy tail and dirty belly of my horse. It was way to cold to try and clean him with well water, but I figured if I only washed the dirty areas and then toweled him dry before riding him, we would be okay. He danced a bit in the wash stall, but was very good for J, who held him while I wet, washed and rinsed the above named parts. Even used a little conditioner. I don't think I've been able to get a brush through mane or tail in months. And his dark yellow leg was actually white when I finished.

He seemed pretty happy with the hot water, actually.

He was, however, a fire breathing dragon once I had him saddled. If I thought I had resolved the issue with the corner, I was mistaken. He hates it and tried to bolt away from it a couple of times today. We trotted in circles through the deepest sand right in front of the standards, in both directions, until we were no longer interested in bolting. Then we got to work.

Ashke was amazing. We did some lateral work to loosen him up and then started working on transitions off my seat. I had to hold him with my seat to keep him slow (he was very forward today) and if I released my seat, he moved up into another transition. I did trot-canter-trot-walk transitions, entirely by tilting my pelvis and giving a small release on the reins with the tips of my fingers. There was very little by way of adding leg to get the transitions. It was delightful.

We worked on the slalom with parallel poles, but only with three cones. Maybe next time we will try five. I had worked on those on Thursday and came away with the idea that if I got out of Ashke's way, he would be able to turn the poles on his own, with just some direction from me. At least in front. I have to support his hind end with my outside leg to keep him bent around the inside, and add a bit of heel and leg on the inside to keep his impulsion up, but I barely need to cue the canter, just the softest touch with my leg to get him to transition up. We rode the three cones in both directions one time and then we were done for the day. He learns so much better if we do it once or twice and then let it rest for a day.

Three things of note: the ruffled hair on the left back panel of the saddle, where I had been adding a shim is showing only the slightest hint of ruffled hair, without using the shim, which means the muscling in his back is much more even; the rubbed off hair over his loins that was caused by the new BOT dressage pad is no longer being rubbed. The new sheepskin saddle pad, which has a footprint just slightly larger than my saddle, is working very well. Best two hundred dollars, ever! And finally, Ashke is still in the quick wrap on his left hind leg. The swelling under the scar tissue is almost completely resolved and he doesn't seem to be scratching it at all. I am keeping him wrapped until Expo, however.

J and I headed home after my most excellent ride. I took a shower and planked for 40 seconds (doubled my time whoot!!!) and then we went to get a couple's massage.

Massages are such strange things. I go in wanting someone to rub their warm hands all over my body and make me feel good and instead I get the over achiever who finds every sore trigger point and detonates them until my muscles give up. I do have to say that the heated massage beds, the waterfall of water that provided soft music and the heated, steaming towels they used to loosen my back were wonderful. I did, however, spend a lot of time breathing through the pain. The massage therapist had strong sure hands and did a great job of pummeling all of my tight muscles into abject surrender, including my hips flexors and hamstrings.

I am feeling it tonight, though. J was less pleased with hers, since she really wanted her neck and shoulders worked on and he didn't really do much there. We got the massages through Groupon and will be looking for more options. Two hour long massages for $20 and a $20 tip was well worth the experience.

Ashke will get tomorrow off and I will ride again on Monday night. Hopefully, my lesson will be on Weds. Or I will do a lesson on Monday and ride again on Weds. It's been too muddy to get out onto the trail. And the wind has been cold. Plus, I am really working on being more than ready for the show in March.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Quirks & Quips

I had a great ride on Ashke last night. Well, mostly a great ride. We did lots of bending and transitions to help relax and ease his tension prior to our canter departs. Once I got him calmed down a bit, we had a couple of really nice canters. Then we did the slalom with parallel poles once in each direction before being done for the night. He was still very spooky at the corner with the standards. I think the biggest issue is that the poles and standards change shape on a daily basis. We had a little bit of an argument about not bolting as we went around that corner, but it was short term. We ended on a good note and then he got a huge bucket of mash and carrots as his reward.

I thought I would share some odds and ends for the rest of this post.

1. Ashke loves it when I clean his stall and then empty an entire bale of shavings in a huge pile in the middle of his clean stall. Last night, he was eating mash while I was cleaning up the huge amount of pee shavings in his stall (boy is not dehydrated) and he shifted so he could watch what I was doing. Once the stall was clean, I brought in the bale of shavings and he stopped eating to watch me open the bale. I made a huge pile in the middle of his stall and then stepped back as he turned and began to move the shavings around his stall. I think my favorite part is the shavings sticking to the end of his nose as he wandered back to his bucket. It's all fiber, right?

2. The first part of December, just before the weather dumped into the sub-zero range for the first time this year, our furnace went out. No surprise really, since it was a low end model and was over seventeen years old. The problem started with a short that popped the breaker. Flipping the breaker fixed the problem for a couple of hours, until the short fried the control board. We knew at that point that we had to replace rather than looking at repair. So J and I gave ourselves a furnace for the holidays. Thankfully, we also had an unexpected windfall that paid off the furnace a couple of weeks later. Unfortunately, all of the plans we had for that windfall will have to wait, including getting the inside of my trailer lined with bedliner. Although, we were able to get the axillary lights for the truck ordered so we can hitch up in the dark. Now we just need to get them installed.

One of the side effects of a new furnace is that the company that installed it made sure it was working correctly. For seventeen years we have not used our walk-out basement room because of the temperature difference between the basement and the rest of the house. The new installers fixed the issues and balanced the temps in the house, plus created positive pressure which keeps the wind from howling through the windows and fireplace. Now we have an entire house we can use, no wind blowing in and an even balanced temp. Who knew.

3. Our dryer began to make noises on Sunday, while J was finishing up the final load. Horrible noises. It is seventeen years old and I guess it was to be expected. It's a whirlpool duet. J went on line and ordered a packet of replacement parts from Amazon Prime for $24 and last night while I was riding, J replaced all of the parts of the dryer that could be replaced. She cleaned out the dryer motor and vacuumed all of fuzz and hair out of all of the parts.

Inside parts covered with fuzz

The wheels were badly worn and weren't properly moving the drum any longer.

Thank goodness for YouTube videos and motivated home owners. The dryer is quiet and functioning properly.

4. Sitting in the line to drop T off and I was threatening to run my hand through his hair and give him a kiss (all of which is forbidden when you are a seventeen year old male in front of your High School) and he told me I better fucking not. I said, "your language is getting out of control" and he said "I'm a junior in HS, you have to expect me to say fuck". I said, "I never used language like that when I was in HS" and he stopped, leaned back in the car and said "that's cuz you were a goodie-two shoes when you were in HS". I laughed a lot. He tickles me.

Thursday, January 19, 2017


Six days ago I decided to try planking. Probably because I kept seeing the ad pop up on FB about how doing it for 28 days would greatly improve metabolism, strength, help you lose weight and find the Holy Grail. Okay, that last part may be an exaggeration. However, the idea of doing planking one time a day, for as long as I could, to help improve my core strength and lower back strength was very appealing. One of the things I have been dealing with has been an increase in lower back pain, which isn't the bad nerve pain I used to deal with, but rather the achy, naggy pain of over worked muscles, since my lessons have started focusing on using my seat to direct Ashke. I need to get stronger. Going to the gym is not an option. I am already struggling to ride on a regular schedule every week and giving up a night to ride in order to work out is not really an option. I also wanted something to do that was easy (HA!), able to do daily and able to do at home. So, I thought planking would be the perfect place to start.

What is planking, you ask?

(I am not doing the planking workout.)

I am doing the basic plank. I mean, how hard can it be to hold yourself on your arms and toes? I was thinking I would need to put on a video to watch and entertain myself while I planked because I would be bored after five minutes and would need to be engaged in something else. Seriously. I was worried that I wouldn't keep it up because of time and tediousness.

OMFG!!! Seriously, one of the hardest things ever!!

I was able to manage the Basic Plank for 19 seconds the first attempt. Six days in my maximum is 37 seconds. That doesn't seem like much. I begin to shake almost as soon as I reach the Basic Plank position and am stopping when the pain becomes too much or I am shaking to hard to continue. I find it hard to take a deep slow breath, which I am blaming my boobs for, although it may be the core muscles that are contributing.

However, I can feel it in my abs and the muscles at the top of my buttocks and in my lower back. I have also completed it six days in a row now. It is much harder when I do it after a ride, since those muscles are already fatigued from my lesson (could only maintain it for 25 seconds then). The day I managed 39 seconds (PR) I hurt all over. It is definitely a full body workout.

We shall see how this progresses and if it helps my riding. I do feel more energetic and I have lost about an inch around in the past week or so. It will be interesting to see if that is a trend or just wishful thinking.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Obstacle: Jump

I had another lesson with Amanda last night. Ashke was very calm but forward from the beginning and we both felt like he was a lot looser than a week ago. It's funny how much the weather effects his ability to move. We started out with leg yields at the walk and he was able to leg yield to X and back to the wall without much trouble. The angle is steep so I find it mentally challenging to move him both sideways and forward at the right angle. I think if we keep working on it every ride, by Expo we should be pretty solid. (I also need to add the turn on the haunches to our daily rides, as well.) Then we did leg yield at the trot and he is able to move 15m from centerline to the rail in both directions.

Next we worked on some serpentines from my seat, doing w-t-w and w-c-w and even some t-c-t. I did lengthenings (more like just moving faster, not really lengthening his stride) in walk to collected walk and the same at the trot, working on the speeding up and slowing down off my seat. I think he has fun trying to figure out what I want next and was very involved and connected to me. I have been really consciously allowing him some space in front to move up into the canter when asking and we only had one time when he didn't pick up the right lead, but it was totally my fault. I cued to for the right lead but then turned him to the left. Nice quarter circle of counter canter. Too bad that wasn't what I was trying for. His canter was super nice and the transitions down were completely off my seat most of the time, once he figured out what we were doing.

We worked next on haunches in and shoulder in, alternating them along the rail. First in one direction and then the other. He is still "sticky" when moving clockwise around the arena (stepping up to the inside with his right hind leg) but each ride he gets a little better. I'm so pleased with how much he has learned and how willing he is to try. I didn't realize how connected working on these things could bring the two of us together.

I asked Amanda if we could work on jumping, since that is a huge hole in our training.

Okay, don't all of you jumpers laugh at me. I don't want to be able to do anything more than jump one jump during the EOH and Speed phase, without Ashke jumping me out of the saddle and without me jamming his mouth.

Amanda said sure, as soon as I could two point without stirrups for two minutes while posting at the trot. Then she laughed and said that's what she normally makes her students do. I'm glad my one little jump does not require that. We started with the ground pole and walked, trotted and finally cantered over it. He did okay with figuring out how to get over it without tripping us up. Then we brought the cavaletti out and turned it sideways so it was maybe 10". We walked and trotted over it. Ashke smacked both front shins on the bar the first time over at the trot, but then he decided to pick his feet up and get them out of the way. We didn't try the canter, because RH, and we didn't want it to be too much. My job was to look up, get my hands forward a bit and lift out of the saddle an inch. I did that over the jump and again on the flat, just to work on those muscles. Ashke had a few moments with pinned ears directed my way, but when he figured out that I was not posting or falling off, just rising a bit to let his back move, he settled. I think he hates when I post because 1) I'm bad at it, 2) he doesn't like it when it feels like I am moving out of the saddle and 3) he takes his responsibility to keep me in the saddle very seriously. Once he realized that I was really only doing it over the jump, he stopped getting upset at me. Overall, I think we made progress. I'm hoping we can practice some more next week. It's fun to add the practical application of what we are working on at the end of our session.

One of the things I realized when we went over the jump at the trot is that I am beginning to ride with my legs and seat like I did when I was young. Not the "getting the horse to do what I want" thing with just my seat, since that is really new to me, but the confidence and connection of no longer worrying about losing my connection or my seat. I've finally gotten past the "need to hold myself on" with either knees or my "oh shit" grab strap. It's not that Ashke was being bad or I was worried about his behavior, but rather the lack of muscle strength and stamina that I had when I was younger. Coming back to this after so much time, so much injury to my poor body, it's taken this long (almost five years) to develop the feel again, and to strengthen the muscle memory. My heart and my mind remembered but my body has taken longer. I felt that last night: the carefree ability of riding in balance rather than by muscling it. It was one moment, but one that shines in my mind. I think there will be a lot more going forward.

We finished up with a figure eight. In the Novice B test, we do a 15 m circle at E, then go around the end and cross the diagonal from F to H with a change of bend and lead at X through the trot, then a 15m circle at C, cross the diagonal again and transition down to the trot. Currently, I am just working on the transition at X. We got three very nice changes yesterday, without fuss or frantic head throwing. I think on our next ride I will do the 15m circle at E, the change on the diagonal to the second circle at C, just to put those two pieces together. And separately, do the leg yield to turn on the haunches to trot at M and then canter at C as a segment together. Those transitions come pretty quick and I want to work on my timing of the aids.

Overall, I am so pleased with both my improvement and Ashke's development. He's such a good boy.

Monday, January 16, 2017


We have a corner in the arena that is filled with jump standards, poles and something that threatens to eat horses every time they go by. Ashke likes to try and bolt away every time we go around the arena on the right lead. This is not making our canter circles better. In talking with Amanda, she says all of the horses are spooking at that corner AND at some time last summer, there was snake tracks from the barn across the newly harrowed outdoor arena. I was imagining a huge mass of snakes in a burrow in the very back of the corner, although you'd have thought there would be fewer mice if that was the case. We did also see a snake under a tack box in front of Raine's stall, so it wasn't outside the realm of possibility.

I twisted J's arm and we went out to get to the bottom of the "scary" corner issue, because frankly if we were going to uncover a nest of rattlesnakes, I would rather do it in the middle of winter than at any other time. We armed ourselves with a hoe, a rake and a flathead shovel then advanced on the corner. Standards are freaking heavy, and everything was covered with arena dirt. It was a mess. We pulled weeds, raked up bird feathers, raked up jump cups and pins, hoed the ground inside and outside to make sure there were no hidden snake nest. We moved all of the ground poles, some of which had feathers underneath them, and finally found a bird carcass.

No nest of snakes. No badgers. Thankfully. Nothing that should be spooking the horses, scent wise.

We raked up all of the debris and tossed it, then reorganized the standards and poles so they weren't so spread out. During the process, I whacked my right ear with a standard as I set it down. That was fun.

I guess we get to wait and see if the horses are any less spooky.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Murdock's Monster Sale

There was a notice on FB about getting $5 off Triple Crown feed at Murdocks, plus J had an email saying there was a $1 off per bale of shavings, both of which I need. J thought that maybe they would have a pair of boots (she wants a pair of black ones) or a pair of lined Carhartts on sale, and was excited about going to look. The morning dawned grey and foggy and I didn't plan on riding, since we had a great ride yesterday, but we would be running shavings to the barn, so I grabbed a bucket of mash and carrots and we headed out.

When we got to Murdock's we headed back to the clearance racks. This is where I found my Carhartt Rancher coat a couple of years ago. This year I found three (YES!!! THREE!!) pairs of Kerritts in my size. They are the Flow Rise tights, one of which is full seat, and all three in different colors. I got two pairs of these at the holidays for $53 a pair. Today, they were 70% off and I paid $21 each. Plus, we found a Wrangler cool fleece that fit me for $25.

You can never have too many pairs of tights, right?

I now have four pairs of the regular tights in four different colors, plus a pair of full seat tights, and my winter breeches, which I also got on sale at Murdocks last year.

Friday, January 13, 2017


You know one of the best things about doing weekly lessons? I get to ask stupid questions in the middle of them and talk to Amanda about how Ashke is feeling, and she acts like that is normal. It has also been very good for us to have weekly lessons. I have really enjoyed learning how to move with Ashke and he seems happy that we are communicating well. Amanda is very good at breaking things down and still pushing just enough that we feel challenged.

One of the things I've been really thinking about is Ashke's attitude when I ask him to canter in the arena. He pins his ears and gets very hyped up when he thinks I'm going to ask. He isn't that way on trail, so I have been pondering what it is I am doing that is eliciting that response in the arena.

Our lessons incorporate serpentines, shoulder in, haunches in, canter circles and leg yields, pretty much every ride. Sometimes we add in canter circles to the walk, spiral circles, leg yields at the canter and working off my seat. On Weds night, I could feel how off Ashke was and how non-committal he was about using his right hind. About the third time he cross fired, I pulled him up and told Amanda that I could feel how hesitant he was to us his right hind. We talked a bit and she said that not only does he push off on that leg to propel the canter, but he is forced to balance us in the gait on just that leg. No wonder he has found ways around that. That conversation reinforced what I was already thinking. I suggested that we work in bigger canter circles to see if we could avoid whatever the strain is that is causing him to cross fire. Amanda agreed and instead of working smaller circles, we did some bigger ones, with lots of praise when he didn't change his leads in the back to the left.

Amanda had us do haunches in, which I think he managed to do with the best effort and form to date, and which helped loosen up that hamstring. Then, because she is the best, Amanda had us working on stopping from just my seat and legs.

But not just stopping. By tilting my pelvis and opening my hips, I could encourage Ashke to extend his movement into a bigger stride, then collect it back down to the slower gait. We worked on the walk to trot, walk to bigger walk, trot to bigger trot, trot to halt, and all varieties in between. It was so fun and I can't wait to work on it on our next ride. As I focused on not moving anything but the muscles between my thighs, Ashke got more and more quiet in his response. At the end of that part of our lesson, we achieved an easy and very quiet transition to the canter in both directions at least three times.

We finished up with cantering up to an obstacle and then trotting the drums, because I mistakenly thought I would be trotting the drums. Going forward, I will need to canter the drums.

After we were finished, I was talking to Amanda about Ashke and our ride. I firmly believe, after riding the exercise where I got quieter and quieter, that he feels like I have been shouting at him every time I ask for the canter. And being shouted at makes him unhappy and anxious. I'm looking forward to working on getting him super responsive to my very subtle ask, rather than the bullying behavior I have been engaged in.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Kowboy Bar

This is not a horse story, although it does have cowboys in it and guns and cocaine. Mostly it is part of my story and would fall under the Truth or Tall Tale series I did several years ago, if I was doing that still. It's okay if you don't read it, however, you will be missing out.

It was the fall of 1980 and I was living in Southern Idaho attending my first semester of college at Idaho State University. I was kind of lost, since I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life, which makes being focused in school a difficult task. I was working at Taco Bell to support my two horses and to put gas in my car. College at that point was more about socializing and hanging out at the University than anything else. I was going because my mom told me I had to if I wanted to continue living at home.

I got to school early on that Wednesday. I had three finals, all separated by a two hour window, so I planned on getting a plate of fries for breakfast and hanging out with my friends until it was time to take my tests. I had not studied, but it did seem to be important to at least show up and make the attempt to guess correctly on some of the questions. As I was sitting there my friend Joy from High School showed up. She had just turned eighteen, was married to a man of thirty-five and pregnant with their first child. She had attended her first semester of school, but was planning on dropping out to take care of her kid. We were comfortable friends and had taken ceramics together in high school. She plopped down next to me and then began scanning the room.

I gave her a quizzical look and she made a face at me. She then told me there was a woman in one of her classes she had invited to meet her in the S.U.B. and she was looking for her. I ate fries as other  friends joined us. Finally, the woman Joy was awaiting walked up. It was the first time I ever met someone that resonated with me on a level that made me feel like we had meant previously. Joy was right, she was someone I needed to meet.

I was captivated.

I spent the entire day sitting in the S.U.B. talking with this woman. I missed all three of my finals (no biggie since I hadn't been attending class since mid-terms) and waited for her to return from taking her final when she left for a couple of hours. Finally, as the day was winding down and I needed to leave to make my shift at work, she got up to go. She had a large portfolio of drawings in her hand and I asked to see them. She looked really uncomfortable at the question, but didn't seem to know how to say no, so she passed them over. I opened the portfolio and began to go through them.

They were pencil and charcoal drawings in various stages of being done. The first was a unicorn, which was almost done, followed by a few drawings obviously intended for an art class. At the very back of the portfolio was a picture of two people, one who was obviously a woman, in various stages of undress. I couldn't look away. Joy, who had moved behind me to look over my shoulder said "It's not fair that the woman is undressed but the man isn't." I said, without really recognizing what I was going to say, "it's two women, Joy." The other woman said nothing. I looked from her to the picture and back again in deep speculation.

We all gathered up our things and left. I went to work, walked in and said to one of the managers there, "Hey Deb. I'm never dating men again."

When I came out of the closet, I blew it up as I left. In Idaho. In 1980.

The Kowboy Bar:
Fast forward a couple of months. I was taken to my first concert by a woman named Holly Near. She was the first "women's music" singer I was introduced to in my coming out process. Women's music was pretty big in the mid-70's to late-80's and provided a voice for both my sexual identity and my budding feminism. Holly Near's "Something About the Women" song was the anthem of my new life and going to her concert was a huge deal. It was in Rock Springs, Wyoming, at a High School there. Let that resonate for a minute. I left Idaho to drive to Rock Springs, WY to go to a women's music concert. In 1980.

What could possibly go wrong?

There were several hundred women at the concert and I got to introduce myself to Holly at the end. I had never been around so many possibly gay women in my life. I was kind of like a really shy kid in a candy store. The concert was very good and afterwards there was talk of going to the Cowboy Bar in Rock Springs and dancing. Together. At a Cowboy Bar. The bar was across the street from the hotel we were staying in (I was with - as a friend - the woman I had met at the college and some other women from our local N.O.W. group. Yeah, that used to be a thing.) We decided to walk over and join the other women at the bar. Drinking age in Wyoming at that time was 19, so we weren't too far off and my friend, I'll call her B, had a fake ID for me.

There was a live band and a dance floor. And beer. It didn't take long for the women to start dancing with each other, and although some of them danced with the men in the bar as well, mostly we just danced with each other. There were close to seventy women in the bar. I wasn't drinking, but instead I was meandering around talking to people and collecting phone numbers. I had a felt tipped (fine) pen and had the women write their numbers on a napkin for me. Plus, we danced. A lot. I danced with B quite a bit.

There was a slow song that the band played. B asked if I wanted to dance, so we moved out to the dance floor. There was another couple dancing there too and I recognized the woman from the concert. She was dancing with a grizzled cowboy who looked like he had just won the lottery. I said to B that I wanted to dance with her. B, ever the enabler, said to go ahead. I stepped over and tapped the man on the shoulder. He stepped back and got a huge grin on his face, thinking I wanted to dance with him. I smoothly (I am not ever smooth so this was by the grace of the Goddess) I stepped between him and the woman, took her hand into mine and waltzed her away across the dance floor. Gods I was suave. The man's jaw dropped. So did the woman's. Then she got a huge grin as she stared down at my head. B, who had watched her to make sure she wasn't going to deck me, saw the grin and grabbed the grizzled cowboy, swinging him around to dance with her. I got that woman's phone number after our dance.

As the night went on, our lively group of seventy (there is safety in numbers) dwindled until barely a dozen of us were left. We were all on the dance floor when the band called it a night and the music stopped. The group of us turned to go and were faced with a ring of pissed off men holding beer bottles and baseball bats and pool cues. There had to have been at least fifty of them. And there was no where to go. We were surrounded. The band leader, coming off the stage and pushing through the huddled and now pretty freaking terrified women, looked up and surveyed the circle of men. He stopped, pushed his hat back and turned back toward the stage. He told his band "we aren't done yet" and led them back up onto the stage.

They played Cocaine by Eric Clapton.

We got everyone in the bar on the dance floor. And I mean everyone. We were pulling men in left and right. We created a huge mosh pit in front of the stage and everyone was singing and bouncing and jumping up and down. The lead singer played it through one time and then started the song again, keeping the music and the energy going. He looked down at us and mouth "get the fuck out of here". You didn't have to tell us twice. We got.

When we got to the hotel, I was so hot that I stepped off the edge of the pool into the water and walked across to the other side, soaking everything I had on, including the napkin of phone numbers written in felt tip marker I had in my back pocket. Do you know what happens to felt tip marker on napkin when it is soaked in a swimming pool? I cried a little bit when I pulled it out of my back pocket.

All of the women got out safely, although four of them were chased down in their car, forced off the road and the back window of their car was shot out. The sheriff who responded refused to even take statements and told them he didn't find any probable evidence to support their story. I managed to get a few of the phone numbers replaced the next morning at a breakfast shoppe where we ran into some of the women from the night before. Then we were on the road home to Idaho.

Sometimes I really wonder how I managed to make it to the age I am today.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017


When I was eight I was given a real shit of a shetland pony by the name of Seabisquit. He was sold to my parents by my father's brother who told us he was a great beginner pony, well-trained and show ready. They paid $60 for him and everything we were told was a lie. Buyer beware and all that. You would think family would take care of family. He was the hardest mouthed animal I have ever sat on who knew exactly how to grab the bit in his teeth and take command. Given I was an eight year old who had only been on trail rides with my parents, he was a real education, real quick, and although I learned to stay on, learned to show him well in the arena, and learned to bail off him without being hurt too badly, he was never a comfortable ride. The first thing I did was sell him for $30 after I got Queenie.

Our second pony was a Welsh Cob and she was the sweetest thing in the world. She was in her late teens or early twenties and carrying a foal when we got her. She was so well trained that if you began to slip off her, she would slow down and rebalance herself under you. Her foal, however, was born bad.

Some horses are, you know. They come from the womb angry and pissed off at the world, with no interest in getting to know or connect with people. Cowboys used to find those horses and sell them to rodeos for huge bucks. This one was too small for that, even if selling him to the rodeo was an option. They are the kind of horses you can never trust, for they will use teeth or hooves to make their point. Sham was that way. I had more pairs of broken glasses from him throwing his head up into my face (on purpose), ten stitches in my face from him kicking me at a 4-H show (I was brushing off his hooves and he popped me in the mouth with his foot), purpled thumbs from his teeth (he would grab your hand if he could get to it and bite down), and I was kicked, tossed, dragged and pummeled by the little fuck. He is still the only horse I've ever handled that could cow kick in front of his head (where the leg comes forward and to the side, rather than back) and it was always a challenge to handle him safely since he could pop buttons off your shirt while you were standing by his head. He was pretty though. And he could jump like a deer.

Sham was a thirteen hand tall, bright chestnut (what the west calls a sorrel when it is in QH form) with a flaxen mane and tail, bold stripe down his face and four white feet. I spent a great deal of time when I was working with him thinking "four white feet and a white nose, take off his hide and throw him to the crows". He was born when we were on vacation and we came home to find this bright foal in the pasture with his momma. The first thing he did was try to savage my brother with teeth and hooves.

By the time Sham was about a year old, we couldn't keep him in the pasture any longer. He would jump the fence. Now, granted, our pasture fence was mostly kept up with spit and hope, being maybe three and a half feet tall with chicken wire and a strand of barbed wire stretched between posts, some of which were no longer in the ground. It was really just propped up into place. It proved no problem for Sham to jump. Then we would get a phone call from our neighbors about our stud colt being in with their mares four counties away, and I would have to go out and drag him back.

The horses were primarily my responsibility. Do you know how frustrating it is to have a horse you can't keep in without the resources to fix the issue? After talking with my father, I tried hobbles made of soft rope with about twelve inches between his front feet. That really didn't even slow him down. So then I hobbled his hind feet and his front feet. It took him five seconds to figure out how to move with both feet tied together and off he went. Finally, I tried tying a ten inch piece of rope to the middle of the two sets of hobbles to see if that would stop him. He struggled with that for all of ten minutes before he figured out how to bunny hop with all four feet, hopped himself over to the fence, fell into it with his chest, taking down twenty feet of fence in the process, rolled to his feet on the far side and hopped away.

The other option I had was the stock corral. It had six foot tall fences, slat sided (not poles) with a ditch and narrow bridge on the far side. It was probably thirty by thirty and was used by the farmer to wrangle his cattle in the spring and fall. Sham was put in their twice. Both times he jumped himself out. He would go to the fence facing the direction of the far distant mares, rear on his hind legs and touch his nose to the top of the fence. Then he turned and picked up a canter, headed straight for the fence. He cleared it and the ditch on the far side with room to spare. The second time, I hobbled his front feet. He reared up, touched the top of the fence, sank back on his haunches and cleared it from a stand still.

He was impossible.

I found an old running hobble from one of the sheds on the property. It had a leather anklet with buckles attached to eight foot of chain with a huge iron ring on the far end. I put it on his front leg, then tied the ring to a rope and the rope to a tree in our pasture. It limited his range, but kept him from going through the fence.

That was the only time I ever jumped a horse. We had a set of 55 gallon drums and I turned them on their ends, crossing the top with a pole. We would ride and jump over it in a circle, bareback. I had no idea what I was doing and relied heavily on Sham making the decisions necessary to carry us safely over the pole. We didn't do it often, mostly because he had a decent wither bone and I was bareback. And not a jumper.

One fall we decided to take out our big red toboggans attached to a very long rope and pull our sibs and neighbors through the cut wheat field. The snub ends of the cut wheat made for a very slick surface and the intermittent irrigation ditches created the opportunity for catching air in the toboggan. I was on Queenie and my brother was riding Sham. They were doing okay until the kids in the toboggan bailed because of a big bump and suddenly Sham was being chased by a flying toboggan kite. He bolted for the nearby pasture, with my brother holding on for dear life. They came to a ditch that was a good ten feet across. Sham balked hard, then leaped with perfect form over the ditch. My brother and the toboggan parted ways with him at that point. 

I think that if I had him now, with what I know, he would be a great jumping horse. He had great form, great scope with natural bascule and both depth and height in his ability. It's really too bad he was such a shit.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017


I rode two days in a row for the first time in a year, maybe. I was very excited to be out at the barn and so very happy to be able to get on my horse two days in a row.

He greeted me with a huge whinny when he saw me. I gave him kisses on his nose, then stepped into the stall. His left hind fetlock, where the old injury is, was swollen. I tried to get a look to see if he had been scratching it with his other foot, but he kept swinging his hip away. I finally began to get dizzy spinning in a circle in his stall and put his halter on him.

The leg was cool, not hot, and was not sensitive to the touch, although he was resting that leg every chance he got. It looked like stocking up or wind puffs from our ride the prior day, which may be happening every time I ride, but because I'm not out every day, I haven't seen the effect on that scar tissue.

I got him out and groomed. Saddled with the new fleece pad that is working very well for us. He was a bit girthy, which is not unusual, but still makes me wonder. Once on him it took six circles of the arena to get him loose and moving well. We worked on trot-walk transitions from my seat, did some deep and then shallow serpentines, and finally moved into some easy canter. When I asked him to do a figure eight he bucked, tried to bolt, then braced and bounced at the far end of the arena. That resulted in some very steep leg yields in both directions, then the walking leg yield. I went back to the canter and he responded the same way, so I got off.

I know the leg bothers him, but it really felt like he was just dragging his feet in protest over the work. I was already a bit frustrated with the shenanigans in the "scary" corner (we are pretty sure there is a snake den over there, since all of the horses in the barn react the same way to that area, but no one has been able to find it) so I got off. Then I walked him over and got the lunging rope and side reins. Another rider was there (she does the lesson before me with Amanda and we ride at the same time frequently) and she was laughing at how sad he looked when I finished hooking up the side reins.

Working to the left, we finally got one full circle of canter on the correct lead. He was really bad about cross-cantering on his right hind. To the right he cantered and cantered and cantered. On lead. To give him credit, he never once threw his head up and braced. (He's not a dumb horse.) He was hot and breathing hard by the time I got him to walk again. I took off the side reins, walked him around the arena until his breathing slowed, then asked for the canter again.

I think I have been constraining him too much at the canter. I was watching him on the line and he moves better when he can use his head and neck to help balance a little more. When I asked for the canter afterwards, I gave more with my hands and let him move how he needed to. The canter was smooth and balanced, although we only did a 15m circle in each direction. I will need to work on that during my lesson on Wednesday.

The left hind was not as swollen when we were done (why I think it was stocking up rather than trauma) and looked more like what I consider normal at this point. I put the BOT quick wrap back on any way. I think I will leave it wrapped for the next two months until we are finished with Expo.

I am rethinking the Smartpaks though. This morning, I made some adjustments. I have gone back to the basic joint support with added MSM, the triple amino acid supplement and a basic ulcer treatment. We will give it a couple of months and see how he does with this cocktail. I needed to stop using the Rehab pellet because it contains devil's claw, which is proscribed for showing, so this current month, I went to a more aggressive joint supplement, but it seems less effective than the other, mainly due to the reduced amount of MSM. Dr D has speculated that the MSM is what is keeping him comfortable, so I increased that and cut out the stuff that is proscribed. We shall see how that works. If nothing else, the ulcer treatment should help him not develop ulcers when we are at Expo. I'm hoping it helps with the girthiness we are experiencing. We shall see.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Helmet Cam

So, for the holidays I got a super pack of GoPro accessories. There were a bunch of helmet mounts, a selfie stick, a floating stick, a gorilla stand with the flexible prongs, a chest mount, a head mount, a mount for the car dashboard, a clip mount, and a bunch of other connectors I have no idea what you are supposed to do with. During my lesson on Monday, I outfitted Amanda with the head mount which set nicely over her winter hat. This set up worked very well. I got lots of good, useable video of our last lesson. I edited out the parts where we were standing around admiring Ashke or chatting. Her commentary is great, so turn up the volume.

We usually start with Serpentines at the walk and trot, working off our seat.

Then some shoulder in to loosen up his hind end.

Leg yield at the walk. 
This is the moment from the Novice B test that we are practicing.

Leg yield at the trot.

Beginning our canter work

More canter work and some issues with the right lead canter.
He did not want to right lead canter. 
Sorry about the length of the video.

Square corners at the trot.

Square corners at the canter

At the end of the video, Ashke trips. It was significant enough that I thought we were going down, but in watching the video, it wasn't as close as it felt like. Amanda thought he had stepped on his right front bell boot with his right hind. But in slowing down the video, his right hind leg didn't stick in the ground and flew out behind him. It wasn't a kick out, but rather a "miss" with that right hind. I think that the earlier resistance to cantering on the right lead might also have caused this issue. The real question is why. And that I still do not have an answer for . . . . He didn't feel stiff and his walk and trot work was good, so I'm not sure why that right hind was so sticky.

Slowed down the video so you can see.

We finished up the lesson with a figure eight canter. The Novice B test has a simple change at X so this is good practice for us.

I've been wondering if equine kinesiology taping would help with our right hind hamstring weakness issue. I've seen human and equine athletes taped up and wondered if it could help with his issues. He is fit and his top line is solid, and watching him move doesn't pin point any real glaring issues, but that right hamstring is still weak. Thoughts?

Sunday, January 8, 2017


Today was the first day of the National Western Stock Show and T's first day skiing with his ski club at Winter Park. We delivered him awake and on time to the bus at 6:30, then took the dogs to run for exactly nine minutes and twenty seconds before they were too cold to go on (it was seven degrees out and the sun wasn't up yet). They ran themselves pretty ragged in the short time they were out and seemed okay in their Dover blankets.

 They love to go, go, go in the snow.

 Looking for stuff to bark at . . . .
there wasn't much out this morning.
You can see J at the far end of the park. We were calling the dogs back and forth between us to get them to run.

Snowcicles on the edges of her lips.

We took the pups home (they curled up and slept on the drive home) then left them to go to the National Western Stock Show. When we reached the complex, we discovered there weren't a ton of people there yet. We started wandering around looking at all of the things. The Semen sales store was gone, replaced with some kind of woven rug store, and the Carhartt dealership was gone. Her booth was replaced with a huge store that sold items for showing cows and sheep. The Valley Vet booth used to be huge and this year is was a small table with clippers and hoof boots. Thirty years ago, the booths were focused on farming, ranching and land management. Now, the booths are directed toward selling the average American something they don't really need: nail gloss, lotion, cookware, jewelry, clothing (western focused), etc. One of the booths that's been there since J and I started going to NWSS was gone (glass artisan) and the Outback clothing store was gone as well.

Did manage to find some pretty fancy fringed western breast collars.
Because we all need one of those.

Didn't buy the indoor sauna I've been wanting for twenty years, but it's still on the list. Maybe next year . . . . We also went past a Raptor Education Program and saw this beautiful guy:

 This fine fellow is an Aplomado Falcon, which is the most endangered bird of prey in the world. It was found in NM and southern TX a long time ago. Mostly though, they are found in Central and South America. There are none in the wild but the breeding programs have produced enough new birds that they are looking at reintroduction.

This guy is a juvenile falcon, bred in captivity and imprinted on humans. He was calm and intrigued by the people around him and about three times the size of the American Kestrel. This falcon is almost the same size as the Peregrine and flies pretty much the same way. We loved him.

As we wandered downstairs we realized it was the Alpaca and Llama part of the show (they are only there the first three days of NWSS, and then the sheep come in) and the basement was filled with their fuzzy wonderfulness.

 This one was so darn cute.
He really wanted to investigate me but I smelled like something he wasn't comfortable with.

They are very expressive. Think chestnut mare, but smaller and fuzzy.
They can pin their ears and snarl while still looking adorbs.

We watched a Llama trail class. They were saddled with panniers, had to walk through a series of camp chairs, over a pile of wood, stand without moving while their front foot was lifted (this was very difficult for a bunch of them), go through a standing gate, stop and stand next to their handler without moving, allow a bright shiny metal pan to be hung from their panniers, cross a bridge, then duck under a low hanging branch. Once that was complete, the handler unsaddled the llama and brushed them down with their hands while the llama stood still for it. It was fun to watch and some of the llama's were breathtakingly beautiful.

Then we went to the Event Center. As we walked in there was the sound of gunfire. Did we turn and run for our lives? Heck no,  we walked up to see what was going on and found Mounted Shooting. In the thirty years I have been going to NWSS I have never seen anyone mix guns and horses. We watched for almost two hours.

There were four patterns to the double pistol series

The white ballons were shot first, then the red balloons.

The horses and riders wear ear plugs. The six shooters are 45 caliber handguns loaded with black powder and plugs. They shoot 20 feet, so the riders have to be closer than that to the balloons. A fifteen year old HS Freshman had the fastest time with no penalties. I however, did not video her run.

Then the pattern was changed and they shot the white ones with the handgun, then the red ones with a shotgun. There was one bunch of three red ballons at one end and a bunch of two ballons at the other. There were not as many riders for the shotgun and rifle events. And only one woman.

Each balloon that was missed was an extra 5 seconds added to the time. Knocking over a barrel added another 5 seconds as well.

It was pretty darn good fun.
Maybe not as much fun as mounted archery, but still pretty cool.

After the shotgun, they moved to shooting five balloons with a rifle.
I did not get as many videos as I wanted because the phone was dying.

My overall impression was that the horses knew their jobs (although one little mare really thought she was supposed to weave through the poles), and there was some flexibility in how the pattern was ridden in order to maximize the efficiency of the run. Most of the horses were Barrel racing bred QH's and were very quick on their feet. The real problem areas were in handling the guns efficiently and quickly. A lot of balloons were missed because the gun didn't fire or the rider couldn't cock and aim quick enough.

I also think Ashke would have hated it because of the noise. Although, I do think he would have enjoyed the speed stuff. I was also very amused at the announcer saying that the rifle shooters had to trust their horses to do the right thing (rather than expecting the riders to ride from their seat and legs).

We had to leave to go get T. I said to J that I thought we were done with the Stockshow this year and she thought I meant forever. I thought she wanted to stay longer and was very confused. We worked it out that 1) we were ready to go (crowds had gotten very heavy at that point), 2) we didn't need to come back again this year, and 3) we would come back again next year. It was a fun day.

Saturday, January 7, 2017


When I left for the barn last night it was 27 degrees. When I pulled into the barn 20 minutes later it was 7 degrees. I decided that it was too cold for riding. However, when I got to Ashke he had completely disassembled his stall. He had moved his salt rock and holder from their spot to a new place in his stall, he had been playing in his water, which was every where, his feed bucket and the hook for it was buried in his shavings. Bored much?

I pulled his blanket and took him to the arena, where he rolled on both sides. Why does he like to lay so close to the rail? He never rolls in the middle of the arena, only on the edges where if he flips himself over he will cast himself. J says he's living on the edge.

After two very vigorous rolls, we did this:

When he was finished he put his ball back in the corner where it lives and followed me back to the gate in the arena. He drank very well when he got back in his stall, which is always a good thing, then got wrapped up in the blanket and served a wet, yummy mash before I left.