Wednesday, January 31, 2018


When I was in Germany it was difficult to send and receive messages. I could text with J and T, which is good since T broke up with his first girlfriend while I was there (which was also good for time spent talking to him on the phone at 1 am in the morning my time). I could send text messages, but couldn't receive them from Android phones. (Bonus points for iMessage on the iPhone.) So, I was pretty worried when J went to the barn to check on Ashke and sent this photo:

Seriously horse? WTF?

My frantic texting received no immediate response (I got all of the responding texts on Saturday when we landed in Iceland) so I turned to FB messenger. That actually worked, so bonus points to FB as well.

Ree sent the following photos. Now, mind you, these all happened on the same day within a couple of hours of each other. Also, he let himself out of his stall twice, out of turn out once, and ended up outside the barn fighting with Beau over the fence.

Front fetlock. Happened in the stall run. No clue how. He was upset that Ardee was in turnout and DaVinci was in his paddock and they were close together with a fence separating him.
I need to take back the comment that he could still have Stallion qualities as a gelding.

Look familiar? He kicked open the left hind again.
Over a year after it healed.

In wash stall
Who me?

Thank all the gods for great barn mates!! Special shout out to Ree for taking such good care of him- she did all the wrapping, hand walking, cookie feeding while I was gone. Amanda hurt her back the Monday before I left, and was able to do one ride while I was gone, but obviously, he was bored. And a bit pissed I wasn't around. He was completely sound even through the minor injuries, so it was just surface stuff. But seriously horse, enough.

I also received reports of him rearing, striking, squealing and bucking while locked in his stall because Ardee was being ridden in the arena with two other geldings. THE MARE IS NOT ALLOWED TO DO THAT!!!

To cure this self-destructive habit, I rode Sunday, Monday, Tuesday and have a lesson tonight. He was tired by last night and it was a push ride. I gave him a little bute for his butt (seems like he's a tad bit sore in the haunches from all the canter work we are doing) and plan on getting there early tonight to use the BOT mesh sheet on his back and buttocks for an hour before we saddle up. I will also use that time to resoak his feet to address the small bit of WLD he's got going on before it flares to monster proportions. 

I cleared off all the media from my gopro and plan on having Amanda wear it tonight, so perhaps I will have some decent videos from our lesson. I'll do a ride recap after tonight.

I will also be addressing the left hind with another approach. I need to see if we can cure the itchiness he is still dealing with on that leg and get a better, tougher layer of skin there.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Dog Collars

I was going to share details of my trip to Germany, but to suffice it to say, it was a working trip, I didn’t ever really adapt to the new sleep schedule, both myself and my coworker were exhausted so tourist type pics are pretty much non-existent. Düsseldorf is known for its shopping district, which we visited one night, but all of the shops are US products at a higher price. So, not really that much fun. I did visit the Apple store though, because it was there.

Flying into Reykjavik, Iceland is magical.

I also have a post coming about Ashke, but I will wait until I see him before posting.

So, instead, I want to regale you with a story about my dogs. I got them three days after Spike died, because I absolutely could not handle the emptiness of the house. While others may choose to wait to bring a new dog home until their grief has subsided a little, I went looking for more dogs. It helped ease the emptiness, plus it really did bring life back to Guiness. She lived another two years with the job of helping raise the pups. (She taught them all of her bad words, which Lily still uses. I’m pretty sure one of the sentences is “keep moving, motherfucker.” Although neither of the pups ever mastered the cussing while resting their chin on the windowsill.)

There are several things that are unique about our dogs: they were raised in a litter of 13, so neither of them got a lot of one on one bonding with people, they were raised in the house and had NEVER stepped foot outside until we took them home, they were twelve weeks old with no potty training, and they all had really stupid names so they really didn’t know who they were. They were terrified by being removed from their house and shook the entire ride home.

The very first thing we did was stop at a PetSmart and pick out collars for them. We took them in with us (and Guinness who we had brought to see how she would react to two new pups, which she got all wiggly about) and tried on collars until we found one that fit. I think the simple act of securing the collar around Skittle’s neck for the first time was for her, the moment she became ours. 

Skittle’s favorite pastime is to study the neighborhood below us from her window perch.

The past five years has been a joy and a real learning experience. It took a long time to get Skittle potty trained, but we were calm and patient and never got mad at the accidents. She occasionally has an accident in the house, but it is almost always our fault (left too long, wasn’t walked right before we left)  and she is always sorry. Thank god they both stopped chewing everything since we ended up losing two iPhones, two pairs of Oakley sunglasses and a Supersized beanbag chair, along with a lot of low ticket items.

Back to the collars. We only take them off when we give them a bath, but that fifteen minutes of wash, rinse, towel dry and reattach collar is the longest fifteen minutes of Skittles’s life. She stresses so much until that collar is locked back around her neck.

She was not happy I took them off to take a picture.

Lily Bear cuddling on the end of the chair

Skittly-Bug on the chair being closer than sister
She is the most jealous little beast

They have such a hard life

Sunday, January 21, 2018


On Saturday J had a special two hour lesson/class on the stationary bike (nutrition, work outs designed for specific events) and so I go to the barn before turn out. I knew that Ashke would be wroth with me if I put him to work p to his play time, so I decided to strip his stall. It has been about a year, and although we go through 8 bags of shavings a month, I haven’t taken the time to pull it all out. It gets low during the summer, when he’s outside to poo, but I like to keep his bedding deep in the winter, because he lays down to sleep. (I have a real mental block when it comes to thinking he might possibly be cold). Plus, he lays down anyway and this keeps him from developing hock sores.

Ashke went out with Dante and I started stripping the stall. I was about half way done when I saw this:

This is why he can’t have friends.
And I have a pretty good idea of how he broke his left patella at 10 months old.

I didn’t want Ashke or Dante hurt, so once I recognized that the play was not mutual (Dante trying very hard to be good, backing away, herded by Ashke) I pulled him back into his run, where he stood and nuzzled Arden and played with his ice. I guess a couple of days ago, Ashke released Arden into turn out with him and Dante, so maybe he felt he needed to prove his dominance with the mare. Who knows. I just know that he probably needs to be with a mare, since he won’t try those games with her. This is the same reason he doesn’t get to go out with Nemo, since Nemo will give as good as he gets and I was tired of all the bites and scrapes on Ashke. Plus, BO was not reassured when they were grabbed for each other wind pipes.

I finished the stall and let the mats dry. Ashke has one favorite place to pee and it was starting to smell just a little. The stalls are picked twice a day, plus I am cleaning it when I am out, but still. With the temps being what they are, he’s inside a lot. Plus, Ardee has been peeing against the side of her stall and it is oozing into Ashke’s. I think he likes it. Luckily, it is on the opposite side of where he is peeing. Anyway, once the stall was clean and dry, I dumped two bags of shavings in and took him out to ride. Of course, in the fifteen seconds it took me to throw away the empty bags, he came in and scattered the shavings, peed and rolled. 

Our ride was amazing. There was a lesson happening, so I couldn’t put out the poles or cones until the last fifteen minutes of my ride. Ashke did great anyway. I was riding the 20 m to 15m to cross on the diagonal to repeat the circles in the other direction (at C) sequence of the Intermediate A test, and he got a bit stiff legged at the canter. He got set down quickly, and made to stand. He never really relaxed, even after five minutes, but I backed him up, picked up the canter and finished the exercise. That was our only issue. We worked on canter circles and he was stiff and short striding, but got better as we went along. After the canter circles we did the trot circle followed by the leg yield to the wall, in both directions. He nailed that exercise, although staying straight in his body when moving right to left was more difficult (always).

I pulled out cones at that point and set up the following:

Double Slalom, Single Slalom, Drums and Figure 8 can all be worked with this pattern.

We did drums in both directions, which he was very good for. He is doing a much better job of keeping his hip under him, as long as I don’t try to make the circle super small. 10 m is the most comfortable at this point. We did the double slalom and he has it locked and loaded. We worked on our transitions through the walk. Then the drums again. Then we did the figure eight and segwayed into the single slalom. He was so confused the first time, but did it comfortably the second time. The transitions come quickly in that obstacle, with only about a stride of walk if you want to achieve the canter correctly. We worked that in both directions. We did some walk/stretch in between obstacles, but after working through all of that three times or so, we were done.

It was a really great ride to end the week on. I will be in Germany again for the next week. Hopefully, Amanda will not reinjure herself shoveling snow again, and will be able to put two rides on him for me.

Being cute while getting his feet done.
Still have a touch of WLD, so will do more soaks when I return.

Total flirt.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Annoyance Revamped

I rode on both Saturday and Sunday. We focused on canter work with a little bit of trot added in. Saturday there were other horses in the arena and we mostly worked in the "safe" end on 20m and 15m circles. I was very pleased at the end of the ride with the work we had done. I was really sore, but fairly happy.

Sunday was another story. For most of the ride we were in the arena by ourselves. Ashke was a jerk. He spent our entire ride spooking from the "scary" end of the arena. Still. I know its not real, because he isn't spooking in hand or at the walk. He gets "spooky" when we are working through the canter and at the trot. Or when the work gets harder. I think he was probably a little sore on Sunday, considering how I felt on Sunday, and neither of us was working through our back very well. But I persisted.

So, by "spook" I mean he keeps an ear on "the corner", counter bends away from that end of the arena, becomes "bouncy" and stiff legged through that corner, hollowing and rushing. Sometimes a jump forward or a stiff legged bounce sideways. None of it is huge or life threatening. Its just fucking annoying as all get out. We have been riding in this same arena, with the same things in exactly the same place for two years, one month and 17 days. We have some days where the annoyance is less and some where we are all out fighting. Sunday was an all out fight day. I couldn't get any kind of decent canter at all so we bailed and went outside to ride the edges of the field.

That was better. I got a great trot-jog and an easy canter on whichever lead I asked for. He was very good.

Then I didn't ride Monday (too cold) or Tuesday (couldn't find the love) nights. On Wednesday, just thinking about going to the barn filled me with dread. I hate fighting over that end of the arena. We struggle enough with proper bend and rhythm that I don't want to also have to struggle with him just doing what I want him to do. I began to second guess owning a horse, it was that bad. (This hobby costs too much in time, energy and money to do it if we are freaking miserable. And I'm not changing my horse. We do this or I do nothing.) I know that thinking of our pending show in March is adding stress to my decision making process, but I had hit a wall.

See, my arena keeps getting smaller and smaller. We have been avoiding that end of the arena because of his behavior and that's not helping.

So, last night I decided that I was going to revamp my approach. No more avoidance and no more argument.

I set up two cones at the south end of the arena, with two poles midpoint between. Then an additional three cones in the configuration for the double slalom.

We started at the walk around the edges of the arena, which was no big deal and then walked some random patterns through the cones and the poles. Once he felt fluid, we cantered 15m circles around the cones, halting between the poles, then cantering out of the poles. He was bulgy and had an ear on the corner, but I ignored him and demanded he ride the exercise properly. He was very obedient in between the poles and halting sharply off my seat. We then did circles around the cones and trotted over the poles in a looping figure 8. By this exercise, he was much more focused on me.

We went down and worked the double slalom pattern in both directions a couple of times, then back to the end of the arena and worked 10m circles around each cone, sidepassed the poles and then circled the other cone. Back to the double slalom. Then a 15m circle around the cones in both directions. Then I moved the three cones in the double slalom to the drum pattern and rode the pattern in both directions. At that point we were both tired (30 minutes of concentrated canter work) and I told him we were done.

Adding the two cones and poles to the far end of the arena helped give Ashke something to focus on. I'm already thinking of new patterns I can try. Next ride, I hope to do a "fan" of poles in each corner with a line of cones down the center line for a single slalom pattern.

And plans to stop riding are on the back burner. Again.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Strategic Analysis

After the EOH ride on Weds night, I have spent some time thinking about why I keep collecting scores in the low 50's. The standard answer is that I am nervous, I don’t ride as well, or it means too much to me and that is making me tense. The advice I hear is “you should be doing this for fun”, to which my internal reply is “this isn’t fun”. Showing has not been fun, primarily because my scores are low. How fun is it to constantly see on paper “you suck”? I'm not making progress on selling myself on the idea that it doesn't matter, because if that were true, I wouldn't be showing any way. There are play days and clinics and EOH courses I could put up at the barn to play on without ever putting on my show attire and dishing out lots of money to earn a score lower than the last. 

Yes, it is a great training tool.

Yes, it is great cross training.

Yes, it makes dressage fun.

Obviously though, that's not why I am doing this. On some level, not only do I want to do this in the show ring, but I want to do it well. And by well I mean getting scores that qualify for the National Championships, getting a score above 60%, and earning the scores needed to advance my quest in pursuit of a medal. So, no bullshit.

Why have I not earned those scores in the past, other than “I suck”?

First, I have been afraid to demand that Ashke remain on the bit. We are riding in a bit that is out of the norm for most dressage work, while also not riding in a manner similar to most western classes. Ashke has been less than happy to learn to carry us properly and only in the past six months have we both gotten comfortable with building our house as far as connection goes. Funny how that is the same amount of time we’ve been riding in a Garcia bit. If you don’t think this bit is good for this horse, you weren’t paying attention to my last video. Yes, sometimes I still grab with my hands, or he leans on the bit, or one or the other of us bonks him in the mouth (although more and more frequently its him), but the more we ride in it the more comfortable we both become. I know that I drop contact when I ride into the show arena, primarily because I’m afraid of what other people will think if he gapes his mouth open. I don’t want to be that rider everyone else talks about behind their back. I need to stop worrying about it and trust my horse. He loves the bit and as time goes on, our communication through it will increase.

I have also requested that Ashke remain on the bit as much as possible during our rides. It used to be when we were taking our breaks or warming up, he would go on a loose rein, but now I am asking him to stay connected to me, even during breaks or when he is stretching down.  As Amanda says "we need to live there". We built the house, bought the curtains, and moved in furniture, so now here we stay. This is a new thing for me. Contact is a foreign concept and not something I was introduced to in my earlier riding days. Of course, when all you are doing is jumping on bareback, tearing around the county at a gallop for hours on end, and your only requirement is that the horse goes where you direct it and stops when you want it to, there’s not much refinement there. 

 At some point he started adding a square halt

Second, in evaluating the tests, they are all structured the same way: enter at trot, do some trot stuff, do walk work, end on canter. My tests fall apart in the canter work and I can feel the exhaustion crashing over me as we struggle to retain balance and ride well. For the Intermediate A test, the tests starts with eleven trot movements, including lengthening to a medium trot, two 10m trot circles and two leg yields from X to the wall (on a 40m arena so super steep). There are seven at the walk, including a reinback and two walking turn on the haunches. There are fifteen canter movements, including two 20m circles at the medium canter, two 15m circles at the collected canter, 2 simple changes across the diagonal and a halt from a collected canter. All at the end of the test.

I need to canter more. I’ve been taking the approach that we get on, ride through the things we are working on, get off. Most of my arena rides are 20 minutes. That’s not going to cut it. I need to be increasing my cardio ability and endurance or we will continue to struggle at the canter. That means, riding more canter, for longer periods of time. This will be a challenge for me from both a focus and physical perspective. I have a hard time remembering the different things I can practice when I am riding by myself. It’s easy in a lesson, because that is part of what I pay Amanda for - remembering what we’ve worked on in the past and the new things we can add to help us progress. Her knowledge of what we can add to help us progress is the difference between a mediocre trainer and a great trainer. I have a much harder time on my own.

The second part of that equation is riding longer, which is hard for me. Even when we were on trail I rode mostly at the trot and walk. There were brief moments of canter work, but almost always uphill and for fairly short periods of time. Once we moved to the arena for most of our rides, my time in the saddle has diminished, because I don’t want to drill. However, we will need to expand our repertoire of exercises so that I am extending the canter work we are doing. Inadvertently, Dr D gave me a key to this when she told me to change my warm up. I can walk briefly to loosen and warm the muscles and then immediately move to cantering. This will put the canter work earlier in my ride and makes sure I don’t short change myself in the process. After I’ve ridden the canter for the 20 or 25 minutes I’ve set as a soft goal, then we can do the trot work for the last part of our ride. The good news is, this will not be hard on Ashke: I can’t physically ride long enough in the arena to make him sweaty. I am also going to incorporate cantering outside on trail as a goal once we are trail riding again, which won’t happen very much until after ski season, since my fam is hitting the slopes every weekend.

I started this new riding focus yesterday and spent the rest of the day feeling like someone had taken a bat to my lower back. I was working the 20m medium canter to the 15m collected canter in both directions for 25 minutes, with walk breaks to change the diagonal. I could feel the movement for the medium canter really straining the muscles of my lower back and today I am a bit sore. I will be sure to ride in my BOT back brace for the next couple of weeks to give that area some support while we work to strengthen those muscles. 

Thursday, January 11, 2018

WE Lesson

Last week I asked Amanda if we could set a small course up and work the various obstacles as part of a lesson. I haven't ridden a series of obstacles since August and we have progressed quite a bit. Amanda said yes and so it was a plan.

I got to the barn about 6:25 with the intention of getting Ashke ready prior to the end of the first lesson at 7, then we would put a course out and start our lesson about 7:30. Amanda was going to bring Laz out to play, while still giving me feedback and direction. I got Ashke groomed and saddled, but still had about ten minutes before the earlier lesson was over, so I took Ashke in his halter to "wander" the south end of the arena. We were snorting at the flower boxes, while simultaneously trying to eat the plastic flowers, when all of a sudden every horse in the barn began to spin, snort, whinny and panic in there stall. Ashke exploded into a frenzy, and I saw the lesson rider dismount her horse out of the corner of my eye, as I was trying to calm and contain Ashke.

Never experienced anything like that in my life.

The other rider had her mare kiting around her in a panicked gallop, barely controlling her even with the bit. Ashke was spinning around me, whinnying frantically and trying to get away. Amanda said afterward she had gone to help another rider with Maggie (she is shod and was on concrete in the barn aisle) and when she got back where she could see the arena, both Rain and Ashke were on their hind legs, striking at the air. The hail hit the side of the barn and I was praying to all the gods that this wasn't a tornado. The hail passed and then we could hear rain. Two minutes later all of the horses calmed and the storm was pass. I think it was a microburst that the horses could hear coming. It hit and was gone in five minutes. Scary shit though, let me tell you.

So, another friend held Ashke as Amanda and I set the course. We had sidepass poles, the bell corridor with L shaped reinback, the livestock pen, garrocha and bull (but no ring - it was still at home), gate, single slalom (only four cones since we needed to leave room to be able to warm up around the outside), and jump. Mind you, we've schooled the livestock pen a couple of times, and we routinely use the cones in the single and double slalom for training tools, but the rest hasn't been ridden in months.

We were joined by Amanda's sister riding Maggie, and a couple of other barn peeps showed up to enjoy the obstacles. It was fun.

 The livestock pen, jump to the right and the barrel with garrocha to the left.

 The jump wiht the gate at the far end in profile, the bell corridor to the right at the end of the horse's butt.

Sidepass poles in a line, with the L part of the Bell Corridor at the far end.

I warmed up Ashke at the walk first, and then added some canter. He felt amazing. I hadn't been on his back for a week and other than being just a touch silly about the baby gate corraling the arena drag, he was solid. We didn't do a lot of trotting. We are at the level now where we have to canter the EOH course, so I started him working pretty quick. No spooking at obstacles. No spooking at the far end. He really loves the Ease of Handling part of WE. I think he enjoys knowing what's expected and how to do each obstacle. He loves being smart, which he is.

I was so happy that the first time we cantered the garrocha and bull he didn't even look sideways at either obstacle. We picked up, cantered past the bull and around the arena to drop back off. 

We did the bell corridor next and cantered in. He broke into a trot at the opening (expecting to walk in) but the second time I kept my leg on, supported him through the left turn and then he STOPPED at the end of the corridor. Square halt. Backed easily out. He rocked that obstacle.

Last week when we did the livestock pen, it was difficult but doable. This week, he fucking rocked it. In both directions. The adjustment and extra time off showed the most when he did the livestock pen. Amanda commented the second time we went through that unlocking that SI joint was very obvious in how happy he was to do that obstacle. We schooled it a couple of times ("eyes up", "don't look at the cones since you know where they are", "look your way around the circle", "help remind him to keep his hip under him") and then moved on.

The jump was much better. I feel confident enough that I was not grabbing on and Ashke has figured it out enough that he is locking on to the obstacle and jumping in stride, without any hesitation. And he wasn't throwing his head up as he landed. I was so proud. Our only consistent issue was with Ashke. He was off balance and unsettled on the far side of the jump pretty much every time we went over. I didn't want to over stress his hind end so we only did that obstacle three times over the space of the ride. I might work cavaletti poles with a low jump at the end this week during our rides (if there is space and not too many riders) in order to help Ashke with his timing.

The gate was a slam dunk in both directions. 

We worked on the side pass, making sure he was crossing over his legs in both directions. 

The single slalom was also very solid. He understands where the transitions should happen and we are working it through the walk. We do serpentines every ride, so he should be very good at this. 

After schooling the obstacles, Amanda set up a small course and we rode through it. I had her sister video it, so I could share.

I was out of breath but so damn proud of my horse.

When we were considering the course, Amanda and I both thought the line I had selected for the approach to the livestock pen would work, but it did not. I should have "walked" it, but I wasn't going to get off my horse to do so. The angle was wrong and you can see from the video that he flipped his lead going in and then was very off balance. Although a week ago, halting and restarting the canter was impossible for Ashke and last night it felt easy. I should have thought out the approach better. Next time I would transition down, do a turn on the haunches and picked up the lead I wanted before circling the outside of the livestock pen. It would have worked better.

I also didn't think through the drop off the pole to the single slalom very well. I was thinking we would enter it from the other side, but that didn't happen. That is why there was a few walk steps at that end of the arena before we picked up the canter for the slalom because I was trying to figure out what I wanted to do.

And you thought Working Equitation was easy. HA!

Saturday, January 6, 2018

SI Joint

So, today was a planned visit to see Dr D and have our routine appointment to check all of the things. I decided in July that we should just make an appointment to see her every three months, as preventative medicine. I am asking for a lot of work, specific work with his body, and I want to make sure he feels as good in his body as is possible for me to contrive. It was a balmy 17 went we hit the barn, so I stripped off the mid-weight blanket and put the BOT mesh sheet on and covered it with my Rambo fleece (awesome deal from a friend for $50). Ashke balked at the trailer and refused to get on. I ended up using the come-a-long to get him to step up. I need to do some practicing on trailer loading, since he walks right on to go home, he’s just being a pill about leaving.

We were there a tad bit early and I turned him loose in the round pen to move a bit, after stripping the blankets from him. I could see something going on in his hind end, but it was very subtle. 

The ground was pretty hard and Ashke was very up, but we managed to get what Dr D needed in order for her to evaluate. 

The telling thing on this is the width of the frog on each of his hooves.
He was favoring his left hind (not hitting the ground with the same force).

The first rib on his right side and the SI Joint on his left hip. The rib was due to the SI Joint, which was depressed on the left hip. This is the same thing we saw the last visit, although this time Ashke was much more reactive to the accupuncture. (He was also being a complete flirt with Dr D). She drew blood to inject into the needles, then began inserting needles at his points. The one she put into the middle of his SI area he flinched but didn’t move his feet. Then she set the one on the right and the one on the left and he let us know exactly how painful it was. It took a lot to get him to stand still so she could place the needles correctly and inject with his blood. Then she put one into the outside of his hip on each side and another by his flank. Once she had them set, Ashke turned and looked at his back and then at her, like he wanted to know what the heck all of that was. Dr D put four needles by his poll (poll to SI joint is how the tension is held). 

Five minutes later he began to shake, which breaks my heart. I think it was his body’s reaction to the accupuncture and the pain it released, plus it was still pretty cold. We moved him under the heat lamp and let him stand. He was agitated, which both Dr D and myself read as a reaction to the left side of his SI. Dr D asked me about my typical warm up routine and what we work on in what order, so I gave her a pretty detailed account of what I typically do and the order I do it in.

Ashke expelled the needles in his chest quickly, along with the upper most right side poll needle. (You can hear the tinkle of the falling needles if you are really quiet. Dr D did some laser on his SI joint and lower back.

Dr D said she was amazed at the muscle in his back, how well developed his “shelf” was and how symmetrical it looked. I was pretty pleased. Means we must be doing something correct with our dressage work.

Dr D asked me to try something different in my warm up. She wants me to walk and then canter before doing any trot or lateral work. Not collected canter, just cantering around on the rail in both directions. Then I can work on trot and lateral work. Her reasoning is that the canter allows the SI joint to open and move independently on either side, where the trot will lock up that joint. I think I’ve always done my warm up in the walk - trot - canter format, with lateral work in the walk and trot before moving to the canter. Not because I was told to (although I have seen some warm up routines structured that way) but because I think of his gaits as a progression from walk to trot to canter. So freaking linear and I didn’t even think about thinking outside that box. (And I see other riders doing the same progression with their ponchos. If you have a horse with SI issues, you might try this and let me know if it helps you at all.) 

We pulled the rest of the needles and Dr D adjusted the base of his neck, which she said moved, but I didn’t hear. Then she adjusted his SI area with the activator, since she can’t get it to let go any other way. We asked him to lift through his back up through his withers, but the lift stopped at the base of his withers. She used the activator on his withers, while I asked him to keep his head lowered (no giraffe) and once she had moved down his spine, we asked him to lift once more. This time he lifted all the way up through his withers. Then she asked for a shake and he gave us a full body shake.

The needle on the right side below the poll came out on its own  and I have never seen anything like it before:

It’s kind of hard to see, but there was a definite curve at the bottom third, and a sharp bend in the needle in the first third.
The sharp bend is where the energy is blocked and the needle shift in response to it. That means the energy was “bent” twice, once very sharply.

We made an appointment for a follow up in five weeks to see if this has held or if he has the same issue (he usually doesn’t present the exact same way each time.) I got his blankets back on him and he peed while I was finalizing paperwork with Dr D. He walked on the trailer and we headed home. Dr D asked me to give him an extra day off before working him again, since that left hip was so painful. Our next ride will be Tuesday night and we shall see if warming him up differently will help.

Friday, January 5, 2018


The Triple Barrels, or Drums, are one of twenty-three obstacles used in the Ease of Handling phase of Working Equitation. It consists of three objects, most frequently 55 gallon drums but they could be any object tall enough to qualify, set between 10 and 13 feet apart. Yes, you read that correctly: 13 feet for Level 1 (Intro) to Level 5 (Intermediate B) and 10 ft apart for Advanced (L6) and Masters (L7). They are set up in a cloverleaf triangle, but the pattern through the three barrels is different from a barrel racing pattern.

The rider rides one of the blue loops first, either direction depending on the course map (this is new for 2018 - before it was starting to the right only), then rides the green loop, before finalizing the pattern with the second blue loop and exits the same place they rode in. Transitions happen between the barrels and the loops should be the same size.

At L1, the rider can choose either the walk or the trot, with the trot being given a higher score, all things being equal. L2, the rider should trot the obstacle. L3 the obstacle should be cantered with a transition through the trot. L4, canter with transition through the walk. L5 - L7, canter with flying changes. The highest degree of execution is a 4m circle for Children through Intermediate levels and a 3m circle for Advanced and Masters.

The most common mistake I've seen in this obstacle is the rider not completing the full circle of the third barrel and exiting the obstacle early. That is a DQ. Otherwise, it's just a matter of learning how to make the circles the same size and to get sharp, crisp, clean transitions right between the barrels. Piece of cake, right?


Ashke and I are not quite at the 4m circle yet, although we are getting more symmetrical and balanced. A 4m circle is tight for him and we aren't quite there. He gave me some very good transitions though and I was very happy with how it rode on Weds night. He is better able to maintain his circle without throwing his hip out when I remember to keep my head and my boobs from tipping forward over his inside shoulder. I mean, that's a lot of body weight to be dumping down the inside hole. When I remember to keep my shoulders back, sit on my pockets, and LOOK UP and around my circle, he actually does better.

Imagine that.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

First Lesson of 2018

I got to the barn a bit early, so I cleaned Ashke's stall and spread lots of shavings. Then I gave him a good groom and saddled up. My number one winter hack is working very well: I use a heating pad, folded over my bit, still hanging inside the bridle bag, plug it in and turn it on high before I start grooming. By the time I am ready to put it on him, the frostbite has left the metal and it is at a neutral temp, if not warm. Ashke opens his mouth to take the bit and immediately begins to roll the bit with his tongue.

We warmed up with w-t around the edges of the arena. Most of his shenanigans over the south end of the arena have disappeared. Mostly. Last night he got a little squirrely twice, and a slight jiggle of the bit with one finger and a tap with my inside spur put him back on the straight and narrow. We worked on keeping a nice solid contact between my hands and his mouth, while working all of our transitions. We did shoulder in and haunches in at the trot. Then played with the shoulder in to haunches out along the long side of the arena a couple of times, just to play with moving his body around.

One of the things Amanda has been having us work on is a leg yield from the rail to the quarterline, then while maintaining our bend, leg yield into a turn on the forehand, then leg yield back toward the rail, allowing enough space to turn it into a turn on the forehand, then walk off in a straight line. It was a struggle to do it at all when we first started. Now we have progressed to the point where we are working on subtlety and remaining on the bit, even when its hard and we aren't sure of the answer.

Then we worked on the 10m circle with leg yield to the rail:

This set of exercises is ridden at a trot, one after another. Because this exercise is from X to H or X to K, it is a very steep leg yield, which has kind of set up a mindset in his head that going to the rail as quickly as possible is what is REQUIRED. This made for a struggle to get him to rethink that concept when doing it at the canter (he can't hold the canter lead correctly if the angle is too steep) which makes him compensate by moving faster. Amanda had me make the ask much smaller, mostly thigh and knee and neck rein, to keep him from trying to flip his lead. We finally had one decent leg yield at the canter without the canter falling apart, Ashke trying too hard or our speed getting away from us. Some thing to work on over the next week.

We did canter serpentines which were really solid, but only one bobble in the corner near the standards, which I reacted to by making him canter a circle there, which made his second pass through that turn much better than the first.

Amanda pulled out three cones and we rode through a couple of times in the drum pattern, starting with the right barrel first, then switching directions (the drums can be ridden in both directions this year). Ashke was able to make the circles with clean transitions as long as I remembered to look up (not at his head), look around the circle (not at the cone in the middle of the circle) and sit on my pockets (rather than tipping forward over his shoulder). After the drums, we rode the figure 8, which really tweaked Ashke's mind since we didn't move the cones, I just rode them differently. The hardest part of that exercise was the canter away from the cones. There was just all of this space and Ashke had no idea what to do with it. The canter fell apart. It didn't help that we were cantering directly at the baby gate of death. We did it twice, just to let him know that cantering into the unknown is okay. And because I have been inadvertently training him to transition to a trot after the obstacle is complete, which isn't going to go over very well when we are riding a course.

That was the end of the lesson. Not a bad way to start our year.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

2018 Goals

1) Ride four days a week

I think I held to this fairly well this year, with the exception of November and December. My planned days are Monday, Weds (lesson), Thursday, Saturday, Sunday. That gives me five days of riding, with the option of dropping one due to life. Ashke progresses well with this riding schedule and I can maintain my riding fitness for the same reason.

2) Trail Ride More

I need a trail riding partner that enjoys being out as much as I do, who can carry on interesting conversations and who also can just be quite and enjoy the environment we are riding through. Obviously, it would be optimal to meet someone who could become a friend/confidant/buddy, because it's just so much more fun that way.

I would love to be able to break my 500 miles in a year mark. Some of which would ultimately include horse camping. I just need to work on getting J back out on her mountain bike and doing some of the more aggressive/fun/steep/rocky trails. She's going to love me.

3) Horse Camping

I want to go to Fort Robinson for a long weekend. We can put Ashke up in the stables there and spend all of our weekend riding long trails in the badlands of Nebraska. I just booked a RV site and horse stall for Memorial Day weekend, and after a very funny conversation with my son, he has agreed to stay home with the dogs:
Me: Will you stay home with the dogs and take care of them and the house on Memorial Day weekend?
T: Am I not invited? Can't I come with you?
Me: Of course you are invited. We are going to spend the weekend mountain biking and riding the horse over all of the trails at Fort Robinson, and camping in the truck camper. Do you want to do that?
T: I just want to be invited. I can't believe you would plan something like this without inviting me.
Me: Well, of course you are invited. Do you want to come?
T: Oh, hell no. Imma stay home with the dogs.

4) Lesson weekly with Amanda

I love how Ashke has developed over the past year. I love being able to practice moving his body around, making him stronger and more flexible, improving our connection and what we can do. We have kind of tabled the flying changes for right now. He needs to be a little stronger in the back end, so we are working transitions and proper bend on his right lead. And he needs to learn to live on the bit. We've built the house, picked out curtains, and moved in furniture. We now need to live there. We will get there, I have no doubt, because he loves learning the new stuff.

So that's it for now. I will be doing some WE stuff in the form of clinics, play days, TD at a show, course design, Awards committee and my work on the board of HCWE. I'm not setting any showing goals, because it will depend on my mental state when we get to the show in June.

Monday, January 1, 2018

Top Moments of 2017

To round out the year, I wanted to do the ten most defining moments of 2017. Some of them may be horse related and some may be personal. It’s also really difficult to rank them according to importance. So, I made a rough list in the subjective order of importance for me, right now. It could change if I were doing this tomorrow. 

10. White Line Disease: finally conquered the issue this fall. Three hoof trim cycles with no reoccurrence and a much tighter White Line in his hooves.

9. Little Scraggy Trail: we finished the entire 15 mile loop with J and A on their bikes. There was a lot of walking and some falling. 

Little Scraggy Trail 2017

That was really our only trail of note on the year, in Colorado. (I really need a partner to ride with since doing trails like Indian Creek is something I really shouldn’t do alone). 

8) New Subaru Outback: first non-Toyota/non-Honda in twenty years. Cute thing, drives great and is comfortable for a 6’ boy in the back seat. Plus, heated seats in both the front and the back. Dogs like it too. 


7) High Point Buckle from High Country Working Equitation

Level 3/Novice B High Point Champion 2017

6) Show Outfit: When I was in Las Vegas for the Andalusian World Cup, I finally found pants I liked and ordered them from Europe. I ordered my own buttons to put on the legs instead of carieles, at the recommendation of the gentleman who runs the shop where I looked at them. I finally felt like I was ready to show at an A-Rated show. The jacket was perfect when I received it from my mom and even though I ordered the pants unseen, the colors match very well.

Jacket is from a 1860 pattern I found on the internet that my mom sewed for me. 
We picked the fabric together and then she created a mock up one of linen material so we could check the fit.
So, in essence, she made the jacket twice.

5) TD Certification from the Confederation for Working Equitation
This happened on my trip to Las Vegas. I worked my butt off over that four days, helping with whatever the show needed, fitting in class work around the show events. It was an incredible experience and I got to hobknob with Queca, Isabelle and Tarrin for the weekend. Plus, boot shopping was a blast!!

Learning from the best.

4) Vedauwoo Bucket List Item

Planning on going back in 2018

3) Figuring out the bit thing:

He opens his mouth to take the bit and we are working every ride on contact and being on the bit.
Pretty beautiful badassery right there.

2) Trainer extraordinaire 
I can’t say enough good about Amanda of Amore Equestrian. She has done wonders with Ashke and I. The progress we’ve made and continue to improve upon is unbelievable. She has made both of us fall in love with dressage. She is positive and clear spoken, super with Ashke and firm enough to keep me on the correct path. I would never have expected us to be working on the stuff we are working on and it is a testiment of her commmitment and support that Ashke is where he is at in this moment. Plus, she sports the orange breeches.

Here she is riding her Intermedaire A FEI test

1) Myofascial Release of Gelding Scars with Tracy Vroom:
The important part of the work she did is from my post in March on the event:

“Tracy started working and then stopped to explain to me. She said Ashke felt he was destined to remain a breeding stallion and that they had been working with him toward that when the accident happened to his patella. After the accident, the breeding manager hadn't given him a real chance to show them how great he could have been. They just gelded him. Ashke felt so betrayed; it was like a huge black wave of despair, anger and disbelief. All of his anger and betrayal has settled in his groin area in a huge ball of dark, negative energy that he has been feeding every time he thought about it. I think he's been dwelling on it every time the scars twinged or pulled in his groin. 

Both Tracy and I were crying as we talked about it. He was so emotionally hurt by their actions, and then the fact that he was immediately sold and sent away from his home right after the gelding just sealed the deal for him. Everything was stolen from him. I told him that people suck. We both acknowledged his pain and let him see how deeply his betrayal hurt us as well. Then Tracy acknowledged and apologized for the betrayal and the pain. She asked him if he was ready to let it go. He snapped and bit the air and my palm, then quivered, and told her yes. She brought Unicorn energy (brilliantly white) into the trauma cyst and released it into the earth. Then healed the area with the light. Tracy asked him if he was ready to be truly healed, to let go of the betrayal and to step into the future on a parallel path with me. He made the choice to step forward with me.”

Overall, my biggest relief is that Ashke is finally sound. Yes, sometimes his hind end gets tired and we have to work on other stuff, but for the most part, there is no short striding, even in the cold. His lateral work has gotten better and he is crossing front and back on his leg yields. It’s been a huge relief.