Thursday, December 27, 2018


So, Happy Soltice to all my readers. May the returning light bring happiness and your heart’s desire to you in the coming year.

Due to the holidays, my riding schedule has been hit or miss. I was able to ride Saturday and Sunday. Saturday we rode inside and Ashke was amazing. He was very good and tried hard through out all of our exercises. We are continuing to work on him changing when I ask and not when he thinks he should, like everytime we come around a corner. We did a lot of lateral work, flying changes and our canter half-pass with transitions through the walk, trying to change it up every ride so the anticipation is held at bay. All in all, it was a great ride.

Sunday was a bit different. We rode outside for starters, with weak sunshine and a fairly brisk wind. The combination of those two things turned my somewhat obedient horse into a spook monster. He was spooking at reflections on the ground, the horse trailer outside the arena, the lead rope left on the ground, a wheel barrel that was upside down outside the arena fence. If he could see it, he could spook at it. To add to the issue, there was a jump lesson going on in the arena, with questionable breaks and optional steering. Controlled chaos is the only term that comes to mind. I seriously thought about going inside, but then decided that given Ashke’s propensity to spook at all the things when we are in a show, that working through his distracted behavior would be beneficial.

He was doing pretty good and we had worked through most of the stuff I listed above, when we started working on changes. He was soft and bendy, giving me some really quiet and soft changes in both directions. I saw one of my barn mates and asked her if she would video me. She came out and took the following video.

As you can see in the video, we had a moment. When he bucked-kicked out at me he tossed me forward and I hooked the bottom of my coat over the horn, which tossed me forward and I couldn’t regain my position. He knew he shouldn’t have done that and braced. Between me being pulled off balance and him being a reactionary shithead, we managed to bonk his mouth. He also knew he was in trouble.

Then I made a mistake. I should have taken a deep breath, passed it off as if it didn’t happen, and continued to ride. Instead, I got a bit frustrated and angry at what I thought was a buck, which made him really tense. We did a few more changes, which were not nearly as good as the earlier ones, and then went on with other stuff. Ashke was able to relax enough to do square corners at the canter and all of his trot work. I tried to end on a good note.

Then he got to stew about it in his stall for three days because holiday. When I came out tonight to ride for my lesson, he was still stuck in that moment in the arena on Sunday. He was tense and reactionary. He was spooky and not really willing to settle. Amanda had me doing a bunch of lateral work, shoulder in, haunches in, half-pass and serpentines to get him to relax. Nothing was really working. I finally stopped and just talked to him: told him how important he was, how I was sorry we had the moment in the other arena, how his disobedience was hard for me, since it felt like he didn’t trust me. I finished up by telling him how important he was too me and that it didn’t matter what he did he was mine forever (not that I had thought about getting rid of him - that hasn’t happened for years now). 

Between the near constant verbal reassurance, Amanda reinforcing his opinion of himself with face rubs and not reacting to his reactions, he finally achieved relaxation. We got some really good changes on the serpentine, then across the diagonal, which was harder for me, then we worked on the canter half-pass, alternating the change at the end of crossing on the diagonal, and sometimes riding the circle forward and around in the direction of the bend. I think we will begin to introduce the concept of a counter canter next week in our lesson, so that I have that option in my toolbox for moments when he’s not listening or being a touch too diligent in his attempt to please. 

Sensitive horses are so much fun. Especially the really smart ones that remember everything. I need to cement in my thoughts that a little bit of forgiveness goes so much farther than a bit of anger and frustration. One of the lessons of this lifetime.

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Lesson in Patience

For Ashke, that is . . .

We had a great lesson last night. Ashke is getting more and more in tune with my aids and is trying so hard to get the answer correct, that we have to continually go back and reinforce the lessons we've already mastered.

Last night we worked on shoulder in and shoulder out, haunches in and haunches out in both directions. I find it fascinating that the direction of travel around the arena makes a huge difference in his ease at doing the exercise. We are still working on stepping up underneath himself with his right hind. It's so much better than it was a year ago, but still an issue.

We worked on a lot of trot prior to the lesson, but then added trot leg yields and trot half-pass to the tasks. We finished up our extended warm up by doing canter half pass and serpentine work with simple changes.

For our lead changes, we put up two obstacles to give us a reference, but it did not take Ashke more than two changes to suddenly anticipate what was going to happen next. We went back to circles until he was relaxed and not throwing his haunches around, and then would randomly change our direction and the placement of the change.

There were a couple of times when we did a halt and I asked him to relax. It's not going to help if he is tense. There were also a couple of times when I had to apologize for not being clear in what I was asking for. Everytime we halted, he dropped his head and let the tension go, seeming to understand that there is no race to do this or learn this, we have plenty of time.

I finished the night with a change from left to right, five or six strides of straight, and then a change back to the left lead. That was on a straight line and he took both changes from my legs and seat. I was so proud and made a huge deal. He was very proud of himself.

We ended there.

As a note on the night, I ended up cleaning up the carcass of a dead pigeon someone had murdered in the tack room. It had to be a cat, but a fox would have eaten the egg that she was carrying as well.

Good cat. Bad place to leave it though.

Sunday, December 16, 2018


December, for me, is one of the busiest times of the year at work and at home. So much going on and so little energy to deal with it. I have not been able to find time to write, primarily due to lack of energy, lack of time, lack of anything really interesting to talk about.

So . . . 

Lily still under the weather from her second start of winter bronchial crap.
The official diagnosis was kennel cough, but I think there must be something else going on with her, given this is the second year in a row, her sister never gets the crap, the antibiotics don’t seem to do anything other than upset her stomach, and she hasn’t been exposed to any other dogs.
She is improving, but it is slow.

Skittle modeling her new bandana, which she thinks makes her look very swelty, 
I am taking it off when we go to bed, since I don’t want it tangling around her neck while she sleeps, and it’s the first thing she asks for when I get up in the morning. 


I am riding three or sometimes four days a week. The extra time off while trying to teach flying changes actually seems to help him adapt and learn. We have moved from figuring out what I am asking for, to working on only giving me a change when I ask for it. This means I sometimes ride several circles in the same direction for three or four circuits before asking for a change. He now knows what I want, it’s more a matter of me figuring out how to time my cue correctly, on the straight away, and then asking for new bend afterwards. We have also increased the difficulty by riding the change after a canter half-pass. I have also started working on the pieces for The L5 dressage test, if for no other reason than to expand the exercises we have to work on. Currently, I am struggling with a leg yield from D to E to a 10m half circle to X. It’s a change in propulsion that I just have not worked out yet. Something to address in lessons.

The changes have had their effect on Ashke. We did.a chiro appointment today and he was sore in place she expected him to be sore.

Ashke making time with Rain.
They have a hate-love-hate relationship

So, we had four horses on the docket for the chiropractor this morning. JJ had said she would be there about 8 to get some of her stuff done, turn Rain out, clean tack, etc before the appointment. When I got there at nine, they had already started on Rain. My goal was to hang out and see what was going on with JJ’s horses before having Ashke done. (I would have gone first, if JJ hadn’t volunteered.) Rain had a regular amount of things that needed to be addressed and then it was Sal’s turn.

Sal always scared me at Morelli, since he was so over the top in his reactions to everything going on around him. He is blind in his right eye, due to breaking his head in four places in a freak accident in his stall at Morelli. Because of the swelling that occurred, he because retinal blind due to pressure on the ocular nerve. Additionally, he’s a freaking big horse. I’m really more of a short horse type of girl. He has gotten much calmer and sweet at Owens, plus we were able to separate him from Rain, which has also helped his mental and emotional stability. JJ has been dealing with hocks (injected) and intermittent lameness. Since we ride together so much, I have watched him go, had some theories about what was happening in his body, and kind of talked JJ into trying my chiro. I was very curious as to whether I was correct in what I was seeing in his movement. 

Because Sal is blind, we had to be very careful when working with him. His hind end was a mess and he definitely needed to be adjusted. At one point, I was bracing his body so he would weight both hind feet while Dr K was working on him. He was sore in his lumbar, his hocks, his SI, his intertransial joint (something like that anyway), his hips, and his stifles. And that was just the hind end. She did work on his front end as well. While I was helping keep him still and steadying him, he would turn his head and snuffle my neck. He was being super sweet and cuddly. When we were finished with the tall drink of water, it was Ashke’s turn. 

He was pretty sore. Part of it I was expecting, since there was a contusion on his left shoulder from an impact that was solid enough he had broken skin even under his heavy winter blanket. I knew he was telling me things hurt, which was why I contacted the doc to come out. His left side was sore, not necessarily from skeletal reasons, but rather the muscles and fascia were sore. 

Ashke was also being an asshole. He was pissed and kicking or biting at both myself and Dr K. Dr K and I were both commenting on his behavior, because it wasn’t like him and neither of us believed it was being driven by pain, since the things Dr K was finding were not enough to warrant his over the top reaction to EVERYTHING. Dr K related it to a four year old tantrum, which made no sense. 

I finally asked him “what is going on with you? Why are you so angry?”

He sent a very clear image of me standing with Sal’s nose against my neck, he nuzzling me in a bizarre sort of horse erotica, laced through with bright green envy and raging anger. He was so jealous. I didn’t burst into laughter, since one should not laugh at open and honest communication. 

I said, “seriously? Are you really that jealous that I helped? Is that why you are being so angry?”

The wave of angry jealous energy that washed out of him could be felt by both of us.

“Oh my love. You have no reason to be jealous. They went first because JJ had plans later. I helped because Sal had never had chiro before and he is blind in one eye. There is no one else for me but you.”

Dr K added that Ashke was her favorite Arabian, ever.  We could feel the tension and anger just drain from him (which made adjusting him so much easier) like water from a broken bladder. He was back to his friendly, teasing behavior and was able to help Dr K get his right hip and back adjusted into place. SMH at my funny, green eyed boy. I need to remember to not share his apples or carrots with horses that are also allowed to snuggle me.

Home front:

T finished his first semester of school with two A’s, a B and an F. The F was a decision on our part to toss in the towel on the college algebra class the day after the deadline past to drop the class. He is signed up for the same class with a different instructor next semester and he will probably need some additional support from me to fully and completely learn algebra. If that means I need to review his homework and keep him on task for this particular topic, that’s what I am willing to do. He is also taking Intro to Space, which may be the best title of a class, ever!! We are proud of him for stepping up and doing so well his first semester.

We also had another cat dumped in our area in the past two weeks. The poor thing was thin and scared when I first saw it, so we put out crunchy food and water for him. We can’t bring him inside, but I saw a pretty cool vid on FB on an outside cat shelter, so J created one of those.

Outside Rubbermaid tub lined with insulation

Inside tub lined with warm fleece

Insulated lid for inside tub

Interior tub inside bigger container

Opening in both the inside and outside tub, to allow the cat to reach the fleece inside.

The shelter is from Alley Cat and was pretty inexpensive, since J found the tubs at Arc.

I guess that’s it for now. Will try to get some vid of the canter half-pass to flying change we are working on.

Sunday, December 9, 2018


Tzedakah: Jewish word for charitable giving, seen as a moral obligation.

There was no obligation on Saturday, however, just a lot of joy in being able to shop for children who otherwise might not have anything. This was our third year to travel south to Takoda Tavern, meeting up with Deb, GS, Gail and Irina (from our barn) and Kris and John (also horse friends) for our annual tradition. Deb, having posted our intentions on FB, had been gifted with donations from her network to the tune of 24 kids she could pick off the tree. 

Deb pulled all of the cards on the tree for kids who were requesting clothes or shoes.
A total of 22 kids.

The place we met was Takoda Tavern in Parker. The cards were provided by One Nation Walking Together. One Nation provides goods and services to 11 reservations in 7 states, plus provides educational programs, powwows, film festival and a food sustainability program. I feel pretty comfortable with contributing to the project, since I feel confident that the gifts will actually reach their recipients. I had a 14 year old boy, a 5 year old boy, a 4 year old boy and a 6 month only girl. J had four boys aged 15 to six months, 

The plan was to meet, pick kids, go to Walmart to shop and then return to the Tavern to eat lunch together. 

Intrepid shoppers

Shopping took some time. I insisted on picking up candy canes (the inch thick poles) and the filled candy canes (with sour sweetarts) to go in all the bags but the infant bags. Candy was always something I wanted when I was a kid and I had to get it for the kids. After that, we wandered looking for specific items. It’s been a while since we shopped for a kid and a lot of what was asked for was new or unknown to us, although J was not shy at asking those around us for guidance for some of the toys. When we finished with our shopping, we met up with Deb and GS, to help her finish up. She had a completely full cart of all types of items, organized by child by GS, who kept track of who had been shopped for and who else we needed. We were finally at the point where Deb had two kids to buy for, both teenaged girls wanting make up. J and I headed to the check out and let her go shop for makeup without us. At that point, it was going on two hours of shopping in Walmart and we were all hungry.

My phone rang and it was Deb, She was almost in tears, furious, demanding a manager in between telling me that her cart was gone. I told her we would finish putting the packages int the car and I would be right there. Walmart, who is not know for their efficiency, took Deb’s cart while she and GS were bent over picking out makeup brushes. GS swears it was less than 3 minutes between when he put the last set of makeup items into the cart and when he discovered the cart was gone. By the time they tracked it down, the girl had emptied it, stripped the wheels and left it derelict in the gutter. Deb was beside herself. Luckily, she knew what she had picked out and she and GS gathered the items out of the baskets they had been sorted into, in between demanding help from management.

I do have to say that the manager stepped up. Not only did he help GS and Deb find the items they needed, but he personally checked us out, child by child. Each gift went into a separate bag, and Jenn secured them with the tag before they went into a new cart. I helped GS sort and match items, while Deb raced around the store picking up the last of the items she needed. Deb always gets whatever is on the card, but then she supplements the gift with a set of socks and a hat, or hat and gloves. Her heart is so huge. Finally, the last of the items were in their bags, tags attached and payment made. The manager helped there as well: he gave Deb a $50 gift card toward the cost of the goods (and to compensate for the mistake). It helped.

The back of GS car

Peeps and packages

Some of the 43 gifts we brought back.
Deb was still getting texts from her friends while we were shopping and kept adding items to the list.

There was not enough room under the tree, so the rest of the gifts were stacked in the back.

Then we sat in the sun, sharing laughter and stories of horses, while eating great tasting food. There were some beers, some fireball Jack Daniels, a lot of joy and light and just simple celebration of life and the season. Gail and Irina, Kris and John have already committed to joining us next year. Deb and I agreed to finalize the day earlier so we can get the word out, because a lot of other people would have joined up if they could have arranged their schedule. It was a great day.

Sunday, December 2, 2018

Nicole Harrington Clinic

This weekend, one of the riders at our barn organized a Nicole Harrington clinic. Nicole is a dressage trainer from Ohio and she is one of the clinicians that Amanda trains with. Amanda and I had talked about me doing a clinic next time she was in town, to help with the canter work. Amanda thought that perhaps she could provide the bit of the puzzle I seem to be missing. I had two rides over the weekend and they proved to be interesting 

She improved our flying lead changes immediately. The trick? She said to look in the direction of our turn, like we would be making a sharp turn around a pole. Guess what happens when you turn your head and shoulders in the direction of your turn? Your weight shifts to what is going to be the new outside, and the horse changes his leads.

This was our first day clinic with Nicole.
Ashke demonstrates how incredible a horse he is.

The other thing she identified was my grabby-grabby hands. That will probably not change, but it is something I can work on in my lessons.

Working on our lateral work.

I felt like I had an epiphany with the whole “turn the head” thing. I will not be practicing lead changes every ride. We need to build the new muscle and strength, plus see if I can’t refine my technique.

Second day lead changes
They look soooo much better than even the day before.

Turn on the Haunches

He is thinking so hard

Note of importance: moving the Pixem from next to the door/wall to the opposite.corner of the ring made all the difference in the world.

Friday, November 30, 2018


This is the busiest time of the year for me, which is being compounded by increased work load at my job, so forgive me for the sporadic updates. Ashke is doing great and I am riding four times a week. Life is stressful, but still good.


Funny what changing your environment can do to all the parts of your horse. We are finally WLD free. Finally. 

 Doesn't that hoof look magnificent?
Look at that White Line!!!
This was the really bad left front.

And this is the right front.
Aren't they beautiful?
And he is sound.

I just want to point out that I have been working with this farrier for two years now and he is finally happy with what he is seeing. 


Our changes are coming along. I am finally confident enough that I might start working on them in my practice rides. He is listening well, although you can see his mouth working when we took a momentary break cuz he's thinking so hard.

The beginning of canter pirouettes. He was really lifting his front end in the air the day before.
He was a bit tired and I didn't set him up well for this one.


 Skittle's fav thing to do is stand on the center console in my car, look out the front window for cars, and lick my face.

My hearts. I love how much Lily loves T. I swear she is Red reborn.

I hope to have Pixem videos at the end of the weekend. I am riding in a clinic with Nicole Harrington at our barn. Should be interesting. I'm really nervous.

Monday, November 19, 2018

Catching Up

First off, HCWE had their Year End Party a week ago Saturday. It was a lot of fun with some great year end gifts, our general meeting and a taco bar. I received the High Point Award for L4 Intermediate A for the year.

 Back of the Jacket with Logo

Front of the jacket on the left side.

That was pretty fun.

I rode both days this past weekend. It was snowing and cold on Saturday, but KM met me at the barn at 10ish and we shared the arena together. It is always more comforting to have another person there when you are riding, just because. He was solid under saddle and listening well. We did not work on flying changes, but mostly worked on keeping him listening and cantering quietly. I figure we will work on the changes during our lessons and I will work on keeping the canter from going to shit the rest of the time. Hahahahaahaha. 

Sunday, I spent the time working on all of our lateral work while dodging jumping students who are directionally challenged and have no sense of space. I ride in the same area over and over again, but constantly had to stop because they were sitting in the middle of my ride space watching others ride. It was a tad bit frustrating, but what can you do when you have only the morning to ride. We finished our ride with square corners at the canter, working on moving his shoulders while rocking him back over his haunches. He did well. I'm really glad I didn't set up my Pixem, because I am pretty sure it would have been taken out by one of the jump horses.

The Broncos won.

And Tristan played his special game with Lily on both Saturday and Sunday. She really does love this game and will bring him her ball to get him to play with her. He isn't putting any real pressure on her when he is holding her. The game gets really noisy when Skittle gets involved. Skittle doesn't want the ball, per se, but she likes warning her sister away from it, knowing how much Lily likes it.

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Mexican Saddle

One of the things that became very apparent to me at the National Show was that my attire is not going to cut it. The one person showing in an Alta Escuela looked fantastic, with the sheepskin cover on her saddle, jacket, vest and pants matched and fit her very well. She had a crupper (!!!!) on her horse and the two of them looked very put together.

I do not.

Short of flying to Spain and shopping, my best option is to buy an outfit, pay for shipping, then hope I guessed right and it fits (European sizes are hard for me). As an example, it took three orders before I was able to get a pair of pants that fit and in order to make sure that it all matches, I’m going to have to buy it all at the same time. I could be looking at a $1000 for an outfit. Add to that the fun experience of teaching my horse to ride in a crupper, and I decided to look at other options.

So, I found a Mexican saddle made in 1960, which actually fits him pretty good. It is a little wide in the shoulder, but with a couple of thin shims (yoga pad) I am able to get it fit to him.

The Western Poneh

The other side

He goes really well in it. I did the lesson on Wednesday night and his lateral work was even better than in the Alta. We got some very nice changes as well. He goes better in it, but I am struggling to adapt to the shape and feel of the new saddle. Overall, I’m pleased.

If you had asked me if I would find a saddle that Ashke likes better than the Alta, I would have laughed, but it does seem to be better and more comfortable for him. The best part is that I can get spurs that match my bit, and the saddle was only $350. 

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Busted Flat

Last night, as I was preparing to use the mounting block to get on, we had a thing. Typically, the mounting block is set so the steps are toward the arena, so the horse circles the back, where the highest step is (three step model), he positions himself properly, and I mount with my back to the arena. Last night as we approached the mounting block, I realized it was facing the wrong way.

No biggie, right?!

I went to walk Ashke around it so we could assume the position. He was following closely on my heels and when I turned around to look at him, he was just coming around the mounting block. I realized that he didn't recognize that the steps were backwards, just as he tripped over them.

I was about a foot and a half in front of him when he tripped, lowered his head to catch his balance, and caught me straight in the chest with his forehead. And all of his body weight behind him.

I flew backwards about fifteen feet and landed solidly in the dirt on my back. My right breast hurt, which is to be expected when you balance your horse on it.

Ashke was a rein length away, looking sheepish, but still standing. Saw me and went WTF are you doing laying down and came over to investigate.

No lasting harm but it once again proves out the point that anything can happen when you are working with your horse. And always wear a helmet.

Monday, November 12, 2018

Pixem Robotic Camera

Back in July, I pre-ordered the new Pixem robotic camera from Move N See in France, designed to work with a smart phone. I was really excited by the prospect of being able to seamlessly record, edit and upload to YouTube  any and all training videos going forward. They announced the Pixem had shipped via FB, and then email, while I was working the National Show in October. It was waiting for me when I got home. The learning curve has been a tad bit challenging, although it might be less challenging if I had actually read the manual before attempting to use it.

First thing to know: make sure you turn on the robot and then turn it back off again after charging otherwise the robot will self discharge. That means that the robot isn’t powered when you go to video yourself. I tried three times prior to finally reading through the manual to find out what the hell was the problem. (I’m special.) Your phone connects to the robot via the Pixem app, via the app store, so be sure that is downloaded as well.

Second thing to know: the beacons and robot can’t be too close toa lot of metal or it will lose the beacons because of interference. That was a problem to deal with because our indoor is a steel building. I ended up ordering four tripods from Amazon to hold both the robot and the beacons so that I could position them a little away from the walls. That seems to have fixed most of the issues, however I am going to try inverting the robot and place it next to the round pen rather than so close to the walls. The first night we tried to video the robot could not find the #2 beacon and kept spinning until it finally fell off the tripods because it had untwisted the screw in the botto of the robot. Doh!

Third thing to know: It is much easier to place the back of the phone against the solid brace on the top of the robot, rather than placing the screen against the brace. I really wanted to kick myself when that was described in the manually, because duh, but honestly, I did it that way three times before I figured it out. Part of the set up process is establishing the size of the object you are recording in the frame of the video before videoing, so the camera and phone know how to keep you centered as you ride closer and further away.

Read the Manual. 

I have been very impressed with the video that the phone takes, even at night when the lights are on in the arena.

The only bad part is where the robot loses me.

First attempt at a night time video

Warm up at the beginning of our lesson

Canter warm up at the beginning of our meeting

Working on the lead changes
This would go better if I was a better rider. And if I hadn't screwed Ashke up by cueing him from the outside and inside at the same time. I will need to work on the proper cue a lot of get it really set for him.

Second set, where we still look like we are flailing.

After lead changes, we go back and reestablish all of the stuff we've been working on, so he understands that lead changes are not everything we do.

Or the only thing we do.

Back to something we know.

More canter.
Seriously, it's like fifteen minutes of lead change followed by 45 minutes of trying to get back to where we were.

Going to something even slower and more precise.

Square corners.
He stumbled, which when viewed slowly via the camera, was a slip of his left hind in the footing.

I'm going to try moving the beacons and the robotic camera's positions to see if that helps with tracking. I will put the robot at  position 3 in the middle of the riding arena at the end, to see if there is less interference,  and made the necessary adjustments to the other beacons (#1 is diagonal across the arena from the robot, with #2 to the left of #1 and #3 to the right.)

I expect I will use it to track my progress in my lessons. Maybe not every week, but every other. It takes a good fifteen minutes to set up and take down, so that makes managing my time, my warm up, etc., more difficult.

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Lily and Skittle

I have two dogs that I adore. They are Boxer-Malinois mixes and they fill our lives with joy. Several years ago, I asked Saiph to draw me a tattoo of the two of them, so I could get them tattooed on my shoulder opposite of Ashke (which she also drew). Yesterday, I got them put on my body.

Saiph’s art work from a couple of years ago.

Mom went with me and confirmed the placement of the art on my arm.
Lily was on top with Skittle set a little off to one side on the bottom.
Saiph actually drew it as two separate pieces and then I put them together to form the final shape.

This is my fifth tattoo and it hurt. It hurt more than the one I had done of Ashke.
The top of Lily’s ear was exceedingly painful.

I used the same artist that did Tristan’s half sleeve.
She took Saiph’s drawing and traced it into a frame work for the tattoo.
This is the art on my arm after the lines were finished.

On the table waiting for the fill work to get started.

I had also sent her actual pictures of the dogs in the sunshine so she would have a really good idea of what they looked like.
Last thing I wanted was to have the dogs not look like themselves or Saiph’s drawing.
The artist also had to work around my smallpox vaccine scar and a mole. She positioned the stencil so that the amount of the tattoo effected by those two skin imperfections was minimal.

Saiph’s response when I sent her the pic was “OMG IT’S JUST LIKE MY DRAWINGS”

Saturday, November 3, 2018

Working Equitation National Championships

Wow, it’s been a while since my last post and all I have to say is that the exhaustion I experienced at the end of the National Championships, combined with work and life have pretty much overwhelmed me. Being the Technical Delegate was amazing and challenging and rewarding, but it was also exhausting. I am usually bottomed out at the end of a show. This one was four days of work and lots of walking, but I got to do it with Chris, which made it even better in the end. Over the course of the four days, I walked almost twenty miles, with the biggest distance on Saturday. In addition to being the TD, I was also responsible for the Course Design, in conjunction with Chris, which meant I was singly responsible for making sure the courses were set correctly, according to the map, and answering any questions during the course walk. The work aside, I was able to meet people and watch riders who I only knew on paper (tallying points from the Confederation licensed shows for Year End Awards). It was awesome to finally put some faces to names. And then there were the ponies. We do this sport because at the end of the day we all love horses and there were some very fine horses competing.

The white building across the lake is the main stallion barn where the Haras horses live.
It was a beautiful facility.

The National Championships took place at Haras Hacienda, in Magnolia, TX. I stayed in a room on the grounds and all of our meals were provided for us at the restaurant (the logistics of managing the officials and volunteers of a National show are not for the faint of heart). The staff was really wonderful and I had minions. Let me tell you, minions are the best, and these minions had obviously hosted WE shows in the past, because they knew the obstacles, how they should be put up and most of the measurements. One of the things I did prior to the show was take the Master’s course map and add all of the measurements to the sheet at each obstacle. I wanted a quick reference guide to help put up the obstacles and as luck would have it, I handed it off to the head minion to use. The workers were efficient and knowledgeable and didn’t give me shit when I asked them to adjust the placement of an obstacle for the twentieth time. 

The main arena set with the dressage court

And yes, those are McLaren sports cars at the far end of the ring. When I first saw them, I about lost my mind (I love sports cars) and had to go down and take pictures like a complete tourist who’s never seen a McLaren before (hadn’t) to send to Tristan by way of text.

Oh yes, I would take this one in a heartbeat.
I wouldn’t sell it for something else . . . I would drive it like I stole it.

Thursday was a day spent inspecting horses, talking to the riders, sorting ribbons and trophies, and just setting up stuff in general. The footing at Haras was amazing. It is a mixture of silica sand and fiber laid over an under the footing watering system. Every rider we talked to said it was amazing to ride on. Friday was dressage day and the judges viewed 45 rides in eight different levels. I spent the day walking from the main arena (shown above) to the warm arena, about 300 feet away. As TD, I got asked about tack and attire, about riding with a whip, about warm up arena etiquette and got to inspect all of the horses before they entered the arena. Pictures are taken of each rider and their attire, because unlike Eventing where you can have three different bridles, three different saddle and various combinations of said stuff, in WE we are required to ride all three phases in the same tack. Attire can change as long as it is the in the same style (so you can wear clean clothes), although my experience is that most riders wear the same clothes all three days. The most difficult part of the day was not touching the horses. (Big no-no.)

Kate Fowler (Region 3 Director and bit checker), myself and Chris (comrade-in-arms)

At the ingate to the main arena, we had our table set up, with a designated bit checker who also looked for blood in the spur area and at the corners of the horse’s mouth. Luckily, we did not have any issues with blood or attire the entire weekend. There were no really tough questions on Friday and all of the rides went smoothly. After the dressage phase, the dressage court was pulled out and the ring was set up for Ease of Handling. As Course Designer, I directed my minions, walked the distances, repositioned obstacles (which was really fun when you had to leave room to not run over the McLarens), and finally invite the judge to walk the course. It flowed as well as I had hoped, while asking plenty of questions in the approach and navigation of the ride. 

Course open to the riders to walk.

So there are a few keys to making sure the show goes smoothly. First, because it was a national show, every course was different, increasing in length and difficulty as it progressed up the levels. Second, obstacles didn’t move between levels, so once the course was set, it remained in place for the entirety of the day. There were some obstacles that were added or removed for each level, while some of them, the jump for example, was left in place and the number was just removed. Some of the distances (bell corridor and drums) were changed for the Advanced and Masters levels (shorter distances between the barrels, the corridor was narrower) but that was an easy adjustment. Novice A & B rode the same course and Intermediate A & B rode the same course. There was a Course walk at each level once any adjustments were made and the judge had approved the layout.

This is the Master’s level Ease of Handling Course.
Note the jump is two bales high (not sure I want to show at Masters if Ashke has to cart my fat butt over two bales of straw).
Also, the single slalom was seven poles and the parallel slalom was nine. 

Children Level
We had one rider for this division, and she rode the cutest little Welsh cross pony.

TD Challenge: the bridge was set with live plants on either side (tall grass) to act as the rails for that obstacle. The grass, being grass and bushy, hung over the bridge and would be both visually intimidating and would brush against the horse’s legs as they walked through. One of the riders challenged that obstacle and asked for the grass to be moved. The judges replied that this is a field sport and grass is a naturally occurring obstacle. The rider then turned to me and asked me as the TD. I stepped into the bridge and let the grass brush my hands as I walked through. It was soft and moved easily, offering no possibility of injury to the horse. I stepped back and addressed the rider with “it’s fine”. That was the end of that, but it is a great example of the type of decision making process you will need to be comfortable with if you want to TD. 

Riders must be in attire for the course walk or it’s a DQ.

The Ease of Handling course rode as well as I could have asked. I heard from several riders that the course was challenging, but flowed well, and although there were some lines chosen I hadn’t considered, they were all decent. Probably the hardest set of obstacles to ride was at Advanced, where the riders came over the jump and then had to stop at the gate. That really showcased the rider’s ability to have enough speed to jump the straw bales, but then to demonstrate control by halting before crashing the gate. It was fun to watch the upper level riders. 

And I got to meet this woman in real life.
Andrea McNeal on Dylan.

At the end of the day, we moved the obstacles to set up for the Speed round. For Speed, there were some changes of the numbers between levels, but for the most part it was a fast, smooth course. The only change between Novice and the other levels was a slight repositioning of the Pole, Ring, Pole obstacle, otherwise smooth and easy. There were a few bobbles, where the riders had to dismount and pick up an object, remount and replace the object before advancing. The Switch a Cup was problematic for a lot of riders and horses not wanting to stand still. One rider was blazing fast and overshot her turn into the parallel slalom, missing her first pole and eventually DQ’d on the course. If she had caught her mistake, she could have reridden the obstacle before moving to the next one.  Sometimes, fast is not better and rating the speed within the gait is what makes one truly successful at this phase. 

After Speed, the minions pulled the course, I finalized some of the paperwork, and then we headed to the field for the Cattle Phase of the competition. Since the Cattle Phase is a team phase, the riders that opted to participate were randomly drawn from a hat and formed into teams.

The Cattle Phase should be a four person team, with one person at a time cutting out their designated cow and moving it down the field to the holding pen. It is a timed event and each rider gets three minutes.

The only team to pen all four of their cattle.

This was the first time the Cattle Phase had been offered as a competition at a National Show. It inspired us to commit to doing Cattle the same way at our B-Rated shows, so that our riders can get experience. At the National Show in 2019, I am hoping that HCWE will be able to field a couple of teams to compete in the team phase. It was fun to watch and it was pretty obvious which horses were used to being around cattle.

Overall, the show ran very well. It was a testament to the volunteers and the show manager as too how smoothly the show ran. I enjoyed my time as TD and picked up some tricks to make managing a show a bit smoother. There are also some items that need to be addressed as an organization, but I am sure that will happen going forward.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018


Two lessons in a row now . . .

I rode Ashke through the stuff we have been working on, then handed him over to the Magnificent Amanda. A week ago, she got some solid counter canter and two clean flying changes.

Last night, same process, only this time the flying changes were smoother, cleaner and more prolific. At least a baker's dozen via a figure 8, then a half dozen in a serpentine dance. He is smooth and easy from the right lead to the left and is figuring it out going from left to right. Mostly, Amanda thinks the left to right is a timing thing for him. She also said he understands the aid: shift of her weight, new outside leg back to shift the hips and a half halt and he pops right over. Maybe next week, I will try to get the timing down with him after she reminds him of what we are working on.

He had a puffed chest and satisfied look in his eye at the end.

Also, Pixem is on its way, so the potential for lots of media starts next week. For this week, I am Technical Delegate for the National Championship of Working Equitation in Magnolia, TX. Looking forward to working with some amazing people this weekend.

See you on the flip side.

Friday, October 12, 2018

Show Season 2018

My ribbon display at work.
All from the shows this year.

This is a look back post over this past year, highlight our show season, but also reviewing the steps we’ve made in training, confidence and growth as a partnership. Plus, an evaluation of our overall performance from this year. To start, we need to go back to the end of last year and where I was mentally in this process of learning a new discipline in a brand new, growing sport.

From my post on the last show last year, October 2017:
“I’m at a cross roads right now. I love the discipline of Working Equitation and have been in love with the idea ever since I was introduced to the concept back in 2013. I think it is amazing. I have worked countless hours on improving my riding, and have seen Ashke attains some personal best moments I didn’t think we would ever reach. However, none of that matters when I ride in a show. I scored the lowest score of the season on my dressage test in this show.

I realized standing in the indoor arena at Circle Star watching the wind stream past the open door carrying seed pods and dust from Wyoming, that I’m not having fun. It seems like my goal of achieving a 58% is receding further and further from my reach and I felt dread at the idea of trying to ride the Ease of Handling phase during this show. So many people tell me I should be enjoying this, but I’m not. I’ve lost the passion and excitement I had when I first considered this discipline. It’s not fun any more.”

Sometime after this post, I recognized that I needed to make some changes in both my approach and my attitude when it comes to Working Equitation. First, I acknowledged that despite my protestations to the contrary, I want to do well on my tests, show improvement and advance our skill set. The second thing, Ashke needs to learn to be on the bit, working through the back, and I could no longer make excuses for his behavior. Boundaries. We needed them. So, instead of trying to rush him into lead changes (neither of us was really ready), I worked on correcting the issues that was causing us to get low scores on our tests. I needed to insist and he needed to obey. (He will never be a submissive horse, nor would I want that, however, he can learn to be obedient to my requests.) What I didn’t expect when I set out to change those two things is that we would find a passion for this kind of riding, a desire to work on the things we were doing in our lessons, and the other goals of the year faded away. We have done very little outside the sand box riding this year because I have been obsessed with getting better at the stuff we are working on in our lessons.  It has been a year of discovery and exploration. It has been a year of developing his ability to move through different exercises in our dressage training. It has also been a year of me learning to ride more effectively, to be more consistent in my application of my aids and in learning how to get our of our ride what I want. And more importantly, we began to enjoy ourselves. I could have made the choice to not ride in a show, in conjunction with my decision last fall, but as I began to really enjoy the dressage movements, I wanted to see how that translated under saddle in front of a judge.

We competed in seven rated shows this year. We had one scratch (Expo) and one DQ (July show), with solid scores in all of the shows. Our lowest dressage score of the year was 56.944 at the September show when we were dealing with pain in his left hock. Our best was 62.222% in July. We were consistent and persistent in our approach and I think one of the biggest differences has been in my attitude and approach to showing. I have been actively working on reducing anxiety prior to my show. With our show format this year, the second day I had very little emotional response to the show, powered by my confidence from having shown the day before, and in part by physical exhaustion from showing two days in a room. My scores were a tad bit lower on the second day, which I credit to fatigue and not being as effective in the use of my aids. Ashke is also a little calmer on the second day, since he had worked the obstacles the day before. Our tension as a team seems to effect the dressage scores from my being tense, and from him on the EOH course from being around decorations and obstacles. All in all, I have to put this show season in the win column for both of us. 

In our final dressage test, the thing I see is a horse that is no longer experiencing discomfort. Getting both hocks injected is one of the best things I’ve done for him. He looks comfortable and is no longer using his tail as a sign of his discomfort or effort at doing what he is asked to do. Watching our last test of the year showed me exactly how happy he was to be in the ring. I see so much less tension in my body, and I have worked on the technique to help keep me that way. Thumbs up. Armpits down. Keep the reins short enough to not bounce the contact (still need to work on this in the show ring.) And consistent aids throughout. 

The other part is Ashke’s attitude. He likes being in the spotlight. He was bred to show himself off in the show ring and I see a lot of pride and flash in him as we made our way around the ring. Sapphire, who was the first to suggest WE to me years ago, and who has followed our progress without fail, says she could see him having fun in that last test. Is there room for improvement? Absolutely. Have we turned in the right direction? I think we have. We started the year at Expo, where he hurt himself the night after our dressage ride and I had a serious conversation with him the next morning about how I wanted to show, that yes it filled me with anxiety, but that wasn’t his fault, and that he no longer had to hurt himself to give me an excuse not to go into the show ring. I acknowledged that he was destined to be a show horse and that I would work to get past my anxiety so he could shine.  He has been sound ever since. And with the exception of the September show, I think he has gotten stronger and experienced less pain than in years past.

Perhaps his hesitation and “spookiness” in McCook stemmed from his expectation of pain in the EOH ride. That was the first EOH course we had ridden since the show in September. He might have been anticipating it to hurt and was acting out of self-defense. Or he was just being an arabian with opinions. Either way, I will continue to expose him to decorations, obstacles and outside environments in an effort to work through his snorting, opinion filled behavior. He will develop obedience. We will learn how to do this with an attitude of trust and confidence. When I told Amanda about his behavior in the EOH class, her first response is that we’ve neglected to practice the obstacles. That, and we didn’t have the opportunity to do a dress rehearsal ride the weekend before the show. Both of those have helped in prior shows, so just working the obstacles should help us improve. And I might need to do some “Spook busting” exercises to get him obedient in the face of the unknown. That and consistency are the only things I know to try to mitigate his tension and desire to spook.

I am going to post our first and last dressage test of the year. The videos are shot from different vantage points, so that makes it a little difficult to evaluate, however, the thing I take away is the difference in Ashke. He is more muscled, moves more surely, and is more effective in his movements. He just looks better. 

Expo A-Rated show, March 2018

McCook B-Rated show, October 2018

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Fall Harvest Show: Ease of Handling

Sunday dawned wet and cold, which left me aching all over my body and feeling lethargic. A lot of the Intro riders packed up as we got our horses ready for the Ease of Handling course.  The best part of the course walk through was the sidepass poles, which were set in a line. You approached the obstacle on the left lead, cross the first pole with left bend (in a half-pass position), move almost to the second pole, change bend and set forward into a turn on the haunches, then cross the second pole in a right bend (in a half-pass position). I just find it an elegant obstacle when it is set up that way. I choose the cleanest and shortest lines that made sense to set Ashke up without exhausting his hind end. I had been a little worried about the livestock pen, which was made out of feed buckets (cute idea), but most horses didn’t seem to care. 

We started our walk warm up early, so he could stretch and get moving easily. I did remember to tighten my girth. We did a lot of turning and stopping off my seat with a loose rein. So much of the EOH has to be done in the collected canter that it is a fine line between getting him warmed up and making him too tired to hold himself properly. We did a little bit of sidepass but mostly we just walked and trotted waiting our turn.

Scary ass bull

When we rode into the EOH arena to begin our first circle around, Ashke’s tension shot through the roof. He started snorting and shying at everything: the people in the stands, the barrels, the side panels, the decorations. I felt like the soft, relaxed horse I had was transformed into a tension filled time bomb. I put him in a trot and asked him to relax, with not great results. A year ago, that would have made me tense and upset, but I just figured that was going to be the horse I had on that day. There’s no sense in getting upset about it, but rather I needed to be calm and non-reactive and give him the best ride I was capable of giving. (I do think I need to start working the obstacles more, however). His biggest issues seemed to be the drums in the center back of the arena and the Garrocha pole/bull/barrels. The fact that the first obstacle was the bull didn’t help, but there was nothing I could do but ride him as if none of this mattered, keeping my mind focused on the goal. 

The 3 on the first obstacle was completely deserved. It felt as badly as it looked. He wanted nothing to do with the barrels. He didn’t back as well as he usually did in the bell corridor, which was entirely due to tension, since the little bugger never relaxed. The parallel slalom was absolute crap to ride because he kept spooking at the drums wrapped in the American flag (I know, I find them scary too). On the bridge, that little hesitation was a full body flinch at a flower just like the other flowers he was walking past. Again, he was shifting in the switch a cup. Really need to work on him standing still and square. The pitcher as well. He so didn’t want to walk up next to the barrel and he always shifts when we are there. Our gate in both directions was good, although we can now start to work on maintaining our bend and being on the bit while we do it. His jumps were awesome and I heard from a couple of other people that they were the best in the show. He had no hesitation there. 

I need to work on those two obstacles as we go forward. Thankfully, we have six months to address the issues with Amanda’s help. I just need to get Little Yellow Jacket to the barn to practice with the Garrocha. He did feel so much better at the canter and in collection than he did two weeks ago, so I am pretty sure we are on the correct path as far as addressing the issues with his hocks.  The other thing that really stood out to me was that I didn’t get upset. I was expecting a lower score for sure and was pleasantly surprised at the 60.50%. As Amanda said when we discussed it during our lesson this week, our bad rides are still better than our good rides were a year ago, so that is some awesome progress. And in watching the video (thanks J) I can see some really good moments. Plus, the bad moments don’t look as bad as they felt. 

After the EOH, the course was reset, we did a quick walk through and then we started the Speed round.

We did not race speed. I knew before the round started that I 1) had qualified for the National Show in 2019 if I didn’t DQ during the speed round, and 2) could not win my division (there were only two of us), so I opted to keep him in hand, let him move a little faster where I could but not push. So, we didn’t canter the bridge (not going to risk injuring his hock with a slip), we didn’t race through like we have in the past and just in general went a little more carefully. Perhaps I am maturing some what. There is always next year and although there is competition, I was looking for a personal best under this judge (got it) so I was happy.

After the Speed round, we did awards and took down the arena obstacles, packed up the camper, hitched the trailer and loaded the stuff up. I had Ashke in his BOT with a turnout sheet over the top for wind proofing and rain proofing. He walked on the trailer like nothing, but as soon as he was in he began to shake. I don’t have any idea why. He wouldn’t take a treat from my hand and seemed very out of sorts. We gassed up and hit the road. About twenty minutes later we had to pull over and check the trailer because he was shaking so hard it felt like we had a broken axle or flat tire. Everything was fine, he was shaking less when I went to him, and when we pulled out he seemed better. We made the drive home in four hours and when we pulled into the barn area all of the horses whinnied at him. Several times. Came out of the barn into their runs to whinny at him.

Fall Harvest Show

High Country Working Equitation’s last show was in McCook, NE as a joint effort with the Nebraska WE group and the Kansas WE group. This was a brain child hatched at the Andalusian World Cup a year ago, and the four women involved in putting it together worked diligently via phone and email to make sure it went off without a hitch. The facilities in McCook’s Kiplinger Arena were awesome, with nice stalls, RV hook ups on site, nearby hotels and a great arena. The show ended up with 25 riders, of which six were from Colorado, and the rest were from Kansas, Nebraska, Wisconsin, and Texas. It was a two day show, with dressage in the morning on Saturday, EOH for Intro on Saturday afternoon, and the EOH/Speed rounds for the other levels on Sunday. 

McCook is about four and a half hours from Denver, plus you lose an hour from the time zone change, which is a very comfortable drive. J and I loaded the camper, hitched the trailer and loaded Ashke for the drive over. He traveled very calmly and without much movement on our way to McCook. The temps on Friday were in the upper sixties, so not too bad. He was in his BOT mesh cooler and leg wraps for the trip. We unloaded him, snuggled him into his stall with a big pile of shavings, which he promptly peed in, and proceeded to get settled in. A group of us set up the dressage arena late on Friday afternoon, and everyone was given an opportunity to school inside and outside the arena. I was able to run through my dressage test, in bits and pieces, plus get him comfortable over the bridge before the end of the evening. We did dinner at the Coppermill, which was very tasty, if not a bit expensive for such a small town. We had 18 people with us for dinner that night, which was pretty amazing. 

Coppermill dinner

We started at 9 am the next morning. I waited until the intermission to get Ashke saddled. It was a bit cooler on Saturday and I wanted to give him plenty of time to walk as part of our warm up. The footing in the warm up area was my only disappointment in the weekend. It was okay for walk and trot, but I wasn’t happy with how it felt to canter in the area, so we waited to canter until we were in the holding/warm up part of the big arena right before our ride.  He felt like he was moving okay from a physical stand point, but I would have been happier if he had been a little looser in the back. 

Dressage Test

With the exception of losing my stirrups in the medium trot, not pushing for a bigger medium canter to the right and our last transition, all of which were miscues on my part, I was really happy with the test. He was listening and there was no big issue with his response to my requests. He was a little tense at the end of the arena by the judge, but for the most part he was right there with me. This is the best dressage test we’ve ridden for Tarrin as judge. He is getting very solid and I was very pleased. 

There was a bit check person in the warm up/hold area that checked bits after our rides. When I went to get off, my saddle slid completely sideways. In straightening it out, I realized that I had not tightened the cinch prior to my ride. Shows that I don’t balance off my feet. And that I am really lucky.

Saturday afternoon we opted to set up the EOH course and run Intro EOH. That was about half the riders. After the EOH was completed, the women in McCook hosted our group with soup, salad, cinnamon rolls, and wine. 

The food was yummy and the company was awesome.

Bed looked really good when we got there at the end of the day on Saturday. I fell asleep to the sound of rain on the camper roof.