Thursday, February 22, 2018


On Wednesday, I took Ashke out to see Dr D. This was a scheduled follow up on our last visit to see if the left SI had stayed in place and a final check prior to our A-Rated show at Expo. It felt to me like Ashke was a bit off at the canter but considering his self-destructive behavior and the fact he had hurt both legs on the left side while I was in Germany, I wasn’t surprised.  He felt hitchy and not as smooth as he had been, but it wasn't as bad as he has been in the past. I figured something was out, but nothing significant.

<I finally figured out how he managed to scrape up his front leg. There is a 4” PVC pipe that runs along the bottom of his northern fence line of his run, from the downspout to the outdoor water tank. He somehow managed to destroy the metal strapping holding it in place and snapped the pipe into two pieces, leaving a very sharp point at the end of the pipe still attached to the fence. He was pawing at the end of that pipe and cutting his front leg on the sharp point. There are at least four scrapes that I counted where he took off the hair, and cut himself in a couple of places. We used a sawsall to cut the broken end flat, added a coupler and a 10’ piece of pipe. We tied it in place with bailing twine, since he had broken all of the strapping. I figure he can’t cut his face open with bailing twine, although God knows he might try. >

Before our visit to see the Doc, I did my lesson with Amanda. I could feel a little bit of a hitch at the canter, but Ashke gave me so much try and a wonderful collected canter, that I left our lesson flying higher than a kite, because it was that kind of ride. One of the things I did feel, however, was his overcompensating for something and swinging his hip to the right. I think we've been so focused on him keeping his hips in at the canter, that he has started defaulting to that position. Overall, though, he felt incredible and I was so happy at the end of our lesson.

Dr D started her evaluation and said the only thing she could see was him swinging his right hind and dropping it short at the trot. This is the same issue we've dealt with since the first time she had evaluated him, and her assessment has always been the hamstring, although we’ve never ultrasounded it to see. As Ashke has developed muscle, it has gotten so much better, and it didn't feel like he was short striding in our ride, but I’m never surprised by that assessment. Inside, we started with the frogs, and they were all over the place, with each frog base at a different cm, indicating he wasn't landing evenly on any of his feet. Her next step is to go over the accupuncture points with a plastic needle cap and watch for his reaction. I always watch this part carefully to see what parts are reactive and it was obvious there was a rib out at the T18. (The good news is that there haven't been any reactive points related to saddle fit! FTW!!) After she checked the accupuncture points, I asked her about his left hind where I’ve been treating the scar tissue with Vitamin E (the degolving injury from April of 2016) in an attempt to soften the scar tissue and make it less itchy. That’s where the wheels fell off.

(Although I do have to acknowledge that Dr D suggested I try Preparation H on the scar tissue. The main ingredient in Prep H is a vasoconstrictor, which will help reduce scar tissue. It has helped a great deal, although it is oil based and attracts all of the dirt. Overall, the treatment on the scar tissue has made a huge difference in the size of the scar and the thickness in that fetlock.)

Dr D noticed that his left stifle seemed bigger than normal and stopped to check it. Her assessment was that his left stifle was significantly swollen. She checked his right stifle in comparison, and the left was definitely larger. I don’t know if she’s ever really checked his stifles before, but the left has always been a little bigger than the right, from the surgery, I think. On Wednesday, that stifle had a little more fluid on it than the right one, but there was no heat in that stifle, and he hadn’t shown any indication that it was bothering him. I don't know that she has ever really felt the stifle before, since she focuses on what the accu points tell her, but she kind of freaked out about it. She had me laser the area while she finished up with another horse, then came back to put the needles in for his treatment.

He wasn't out at the base of his neck, which he has been the past couple of visits (which is actually good news, since it hadn't traveled up his body). He was sore when she placed the SI needles in, especially on the right side. He kicked out when the needle on his right hip went in, and there was some blood in the left SI needle. She said the blood was due to inflammation in the SI joint and that he was a very stoic horse that was in a lot of pain. She told me Ashke needed to be on stall rest for 30 days due to the inflammation in the SI and the swelling in the left stifle.

Neither Ashke or I were real excited to hear that. In fact, when she reiterated that he should be on stall rest for 30 days, reevaluated and restarted slowly, Ashke pinned his ears and got pissed. (Yes, I do believe that my horse understood what she was saying). In the past, I’ve always treated what Dr D has said as truth, but this time I really felt like she missed the mark entirely. I know my horse and I can tell when something is bothering him. I just couldn’t imagine something requiring 30 days of stall rest would have slipped past me.

Needles in his haunches

Needles next to his poll. The top one was really twisted.

I was in shock and Ashke didn’t seem happy. He got really nippy and after he was put back in the stall, he spent the next five minutes rearing and protesting. We loaded up and headed home. I was still in shock that the left stifle, which felt the same way to me that it always feels, was so painful that my horse needed 30 days off.

I spent the next fifteen minutes thinking about our ride that morning, our rides in the past month, and the possibility that Ashke would have any legs left if he was put on a 30 day rest period. Amanda had told me that morning that he was beginning to develop a schooling canter, which is the step just before canter pirouettes. How could we possibly be developing that kind of canter if he was hurting bad enough to need a 30 day respite from riding? I was in shock and call it denial, if you want, I just didn't believe that's what my horse needed.

I called CS and talked to her. I called Amanda and talked to her. I frantically texted with Saiph, telling her what I was feeling, how he had been moving. They all thought Ashke would make a bad patient, and that no movement was the wrong choice if the issue was his stifle. They all supported my decision to get a second opinion, which J supported as well. I made an appointment for Dr S to come out to Morelli’s and do an evaluation. We set an appointment for the next Tuesday.

I don’t want you to think that I did this because I didn’t want to tank my show season, because honestly my pulse jumps with happiness a little bit at the idea of NOT showing. I would feel this way if the shows were off the table. EVERY fiber in my being tells me this is the wrong thing to do for my horse. I've been able to tell when he was off and needed an adjustment, and could feel the difference afterwards. I had no issue with taking most of 2016 off completely with his degloving injury, including trail riding. If Ashke really needed a rest, then rest he would have, however, it didn’t feel like that was what was going on. I knew there was a lot of diagnostic work we hadn’t done on Ashke yet - like a flexion test or x-rays - and some options beyond accupuncture - like joint injections - if he really was dealing with pain he wasn’t sharing with me. 

I rode him on Friday and he was comfortable and felt awesome at the canter. We didn't do a ton, but we did enough that I could tell the rib was no longer bothering him. I reverted back to the w-t-c progression of warming up, because if nothing else, changing our warm up program didn’t make things better and could have very easily made them worse. I did the clinic on Saturday and CS said that in the three or so hours I was there, she did not see a single misstep or short stride on Ashke’s part. Then on Sunday, we did 9+ miles at Chatfield and there were no symptoms of him not feeling great. We did a couple of fairly small hills, but up and down, and there was no issue or hitch in how he was going. He was eager with soft, if skeptical, ears.

Cute boy being cute.

Tuesday, Dr S came to the barn to look at a bunch of different horses, of which we were one. He started with evaluating him on flat ground and once we got him to stand up on his feet, he showed me the asymmetry of his haunches (his right side is not as developed as the left, by almost 30%). His next step was to run his hands all over Ashke's legs, pointing out that although Ashke's left stifle was a touch bigger than the right and had a little more fluid than the other, it was not unexpected based on the surgical history, there was no heat, and size alone was not enough to get excited about. The next thing he had me do was trot him out, up and down the arena, which led to me having an asthma attack. Running in sand in 30 degree temps with Ashke trotting next to me is not my forte. I was gasping so hard at the end of that, Dr S offered me some albuterol. (I hadn't had an asthma attack in four months and I've had three in the past week.) 

Then we did the flexion tests on both hind legs. When he lifted the left leg, I really expected Ashke to protest, pin his ears, tighten his nostrils, but instead I got floppy ears and a bored look. I was still expecting it to be the left stifle. During the trot out, which my friend Kat did, he looked pretty normal to me. Then we did the right leg and it was pretty obvious to me that it was not as flexible when Dr S lifted the leg. Tight eyes and tight nostrils, plus a bit of a bite on my shoulder (little shit) told me he wasn't so happy about that leg. On the trot out, Dr S could see something. I just saw Ashke and what is normal movement for him. Dr S diagnosed 2/5 lameness after flexion.

Guess what showed up?

Right hock. Lower joint, where the hock was visibly bigger than the left.

Saiph guessed it two years ago, which she pointed out (gently and with humor). I told her to smack me upside my head with a skillet next time.

We took x-rays the old fashioned way to see what was going on in that hock, and set up another visit.

Visual proof X-rays were taken.

We were looking at them via the fog lights on Dr S’s truck.

Dr S started off by showing me an X-ray of a “Normal” 14 year old hock. You could see the lines between the bones in the joint. There were three lines we could see. In Ashke’s X-ray those lines are gone. The hock has begun to fuse, but is not fused completely, and there is no way to know how long it might take for the joint to fuse. He was also concerned by a white fleck he thought might be a bone chip, but upon taking a second set of X-rays, determined that it was dirt/foriegn material on the outside of the leg, most likely. There is also a small bone spur where Ashke is still laying down bone to finish fusing that hock. Dr S believes he damaged that hock at some point in his life prior to my getting him and it has slowly been healing for the past six years.

The hamstring issue and all of the SI joint issues we’ve been seeing in his body have probably stemmed from this issue. I could kick myself for not having that joint x-rayed five years ago. Or at the least two years ago when Saiph suggested it might be his right hock. Funny how what we WANT to believe can lead us down the wrong path. 

Friday evening we did injections in the lower joint. 

Dr S drugged Ashke and then spent fifteen minutes scrubbing the site with betadyne and wiping it clean with alcohol.
After the vigorous scrubbing, he soaks the area with betadyne and left it to soak.

Very drugged poneh.
He was so very good. He didn’t even flinch.

Putting the needle in for the second injection.
He had a bit of an issue with the one on the outside of the joint. He had a hard time finding the space to place the needle (#22) and it actually took two tries to get the needle in the correct space.
During this time, I was pushing on his left hip to get him to weight the right leg.

You can’t see it cuz the phone slipped, but the needle was in place and then he did the injection.

Before we did the injections, Dr S gave him another dose of drugs to make him even more sleepy (he is not a cheap date) and a huge dose of Bute (IV). After the injections, I had to wait almost two hours for him to wake up. One moment he is dosing next to me with his mouth resting on the Belle the Cat, and the next moment we are staggering to his stall so he could pee. Once he had peed, we wandered around the barn some, with him becoming more and more alert. Once he was awake, I tucked him in the stall with his mash and took my emotionally exhausted self home. 

Saturday he was restricted to his stall and I hand walked him twice (morning and evening). Sunday, I hand walked him and I had a fire eating dragon on my hands. Amanda (who has watched him move more than anyone in our life) said today that he is already straightening out how he swings that leg and that there is less rotation to the hock. After twenty minutes of walking, socializing with other people and horses, I opened his stall run door and let him outside. Tomorrow he can return to turn out and Tuesday night I will see how he feels under saddle. I have a lesson planned on Wednesday and in ten days we have our first show of the season. 

I am still processing all of this new to me information and what it means in relationship to the past six years. I am thankful for the events that have led to me taking the steps to have flexion tests and x-rays. I am thankful that the hock is fusing, although there is no tried and true timeline for the fusion to be finalized. And I am more than thankful that there was no heat, swelling or stiffness on his part after the injections. I am thankful that it seems to have worked in the sense that Amanda believes his stride is straightening out. I watched him today, walking in a slow circle around me, and he was finally dropping his right hind into the hoofprint of his right front, instead of just to the outside, which tells me that what Amanda was seeing is correct.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Sun Day

Yesterday, J suggested we do a ride at Chatfield Res, since the weather app was saying the temps would be 66+. It ended up hitting 72. The weather app didn't say to expect 20 mph winds, however, but we sucked it up and rode anyway.

When we reached the gate to the park, J and I were speechless. The State decided to expand the holding capacity of the reservoir which means that a bunch of construction is occurring.

 Huge swathes of land are tore up and there was a huge pile of destroyed trees just inside the park.

 I understand the need for water, it is one of the more compelling things we need to consider when looking into the future. Mad Max aside, Cape Town is already out of fresh water completely. California is in a deep drought, and the snow pack for Colorado is down this year. The expansion of the reservoir will allow for farm land and expansion of the cities along the front range while still providing flood control for Denver and the South Platte.

All of that said, it has ruined our emotional reaction to riding in this park.
We will find other places to ride until this is fixed.
Lowry may be our next exploration. 

We had to park down by the stable in an asphalt parking lot, rather than the dirt lot we've used in the past. Ashke was very looky. There was a tarp that had been somewhat stuffed into a dumpster on the far side of the parking lot that Ashke was very interested in. I got him saddled and swung up. I told him that today was about having fun, relaxing in the sun and just being together. That's what we did.

 In spite of the wind, and not being on trail for four months, he was rock solid.
Skeptical ears every once in a while, but only two real spooks: once when the lower branches of a bush struck his shins and once when a tree was blown down near us.
Yes. That happened.

 More with the tilted ear.

 J was bright. 

We did really enjoy the ride.

I can't hold the phone with my right hand and guide him with my left.
Left hand stoopid.

Not shown here - but we did have some really nice collected canter among the trees.

I was almost dipped into snow melt, ice rimmed water.
Ashke really wanted to lay down.
Really, really bad.

9.25 miles at 4.1 mph average.

Wonderful day with my boy.

Today we have snow and a high of 20 degrees. Colorado in the spring is bipolar.

Sunday, February 18, 2018


I have some news pending on the health and soundness front, but am going to wait until after Tuesday to address them. 


I took last Wednesday off to take Ashke to the chiropractor. Since I’m not supposed to ride after an adjustment, I asked Amanda if we could do a ride on Wednesday morning. She said yes, so we scheduled a lesson at ten. It was fun to be at the barn that early, to get to spend so much time with my horse and do it in the daylight. 

In our lesson, we worked on all of the things we’ve been focusing on. He was sticky to the right and his canter did not feel as good as it has in the past. In retrospect, he has been a bit sticky at the canter since I got back from Germany. Whatever he did in the stall to hurt himself (I found out part of it today) has had an effect on his body. After running through our exercises, and making him ride past the south end of the arena without flinching,  we ran through the Intermediate A test. He was solid. There were moments of greatness, like our medium trot on the diagonal from H to F. We both struggled a little bit running through the entire canter segment, and had to start over. I think part of the issue was he didn’t know what to expect was coming next and was trying very hard to do it before I had asked. Total overachiever. The second time was much smoother.

I know people always say not to practice the test too much, since horses will memorize the test and try to ride it by themselves? I think that horses find patterns in their lives: they are fed every day at the same time; we use the same steps when we groom them; we ride our arena rides the same and the tests do not change during the year. So yes, they are going to learn it. For Ashke, he likes knowing what to expect whenever we are working on a process, which I think has contributed to his being able to relax and dance with me. 

Thursday I had tickets to Black Panther with T and J. We had a good time, and the movie was fantastic. 

Friday I rode, mostly just walk-trot-canter in big circles to see how he was feeling. He felt really, really good. (There had been a rib out on the left.) And his canter was back to being normal. He told me he was feeling very good, so after an easy ride of 30 minutes, where I went back to my normal warm up routine of walking, then adding in trot, then finally moving to canter, which he was much happier about in his body, I put him away. We had a clinic at Circle Star Arena on Saturday morning, so I wanted him fresh.

It was about 40 when we got to Circle Star. We were supposed to ride first and we got there a little late. I just didn’t leave the house early enough. Ashke hopped on the trailer without any issues (I’ve changed how I am loading him and he seems much happier with it) and we ended up with about fifteen minutes to get ready. That meant we warmed up in the EOH course (which was still set up from the show in October) in the brisk morning air. To say he was a bit reactive and down right snotty would be an understatement. However. He was not as wary or spooky as he has been in the past. We had all manner of things outside the arena, like round bales on their side, pallets in uneven stacks, farm equipment and unused obstacle items. I walked him past all of that one time in both directions, assessed where the issues with the footing being slick might lie, and then we rode the course. In the past, he would have bulged away from the stuff outside the arena, but yesterday, all I had to do was touch him with the edge of my spur and he refocused on what we were working on. It was, hands down, the best EOH ride I have had to date. Expecting him to work regardless of what he is worried about in our home arena translated to him being focused and rideable yesterday.

The EOH course was one of the tightest, shortest courses I’ve ever seen. (It was not designed that way and in the bigger arena there would have been room between the obstacles for a decent line, but because of the footing in the big arena last October, the course was set up in a much smaller arena). And not fun to ride. Some courses, while technically challenging, are still fun to ride through, this one was not. There were two canter strides between some of the obstacles. And I hadn’t walked the course before, so the first two times through it I was still working the course out in my head. Even after that, there was one line I would have ridden better if I had had time to plan. Just something to note for the future. The second and third time through, we cantered where we could and cantered all of the obstacles. 

Things to note 
  • Holding the pole upright along your leg is a much better option than trying to hold it below the point of the horse’s shoulder when going through obstacles.
  • Look up at the next barrel when doing the Drums helps keep yourself centered in the pattern
  • Looking down causes your shoulder to drop into the hole and pulls your horse in after you. 
  • With changes through the walk, the pattern in the single slalom rides better as a series of ten meter loops, rather than tighter to the pole. Expect that and start the pattern that way.
  • There was no hesitation at any of the obstacles. 
  • Always execute a turn on the haunches when leaving the gate. 
I was very pleased and think we will be able to turn in a nice EOH ride at Expo. He is calm and focused and no longer trying to bull his way through. The slower pace and lack of tension helps us both be able to think our way through the course (this is a first, since I always feel like I am reacting to all the stimuli, rather than riding with a plan). 

Long’s Peak from Circle Star Arena

After my ride, I pulled Ashke’s saddle and threw on the BOT blanket to keep his back warm. There were two other riders who did the EOH course and then I got ready to ride my dressage test. The first test was not great, although Ashke gave 110%. I forgot to use my inhaler and by the time we were about half way done with the canter work, I was wheezing and gasping for air. CS ran out to my truck and grabbed my inhaler, since I was walking Ashke around, while I struggled to not pass out from lack of air. Our leg yield from X to H was horrid, but that’s because I completely forgot what came next when I hit X. I have been riding the trot circle so I am hitting center line a stride before X so our leg yield moves to the rail at X. My first ride I was completely unprepared due to lack of mental acuity and our leg yield was stiff and very steep. We got it done, but it wasn’t pretty. Our second ride through was much better, although we are struggling to make the 15m collected canter big enough (problems related to regular riding in an arena that is too small length wise and too wide). We waited until the other rides were finished and then rode the pattern one more time.
  • I was very happy with the medium canter Ashke gave me, however I need to be aware of my hands and arms during that circle. It is hard for me to ride from a physical standpoint, and we are still developing it so I am a little out of balance for that circle. It will come, but it is something to work on with Amanda. The biggest issue is that I am bringing my hands up or dropping them too far and losing the bend.
  • Our canter to walk transitions need to be stronger. He is adding trot steps in the test. We need to practice them more in our regular rides.
  • His canter-walk-canter transition is much better going from the right lead to the left lead, with fewer if any trot steps
  • More bend in the medium canter circle
  • Geometry and size in the smaller collected canter circle.
  • I need to slow down my thoughts, to slow down the test, and prepare for the next movement
  • We did a great job using our corners.
  • His turn on the haunches was very good - Amanda had us practice them around a cone in our last lesson, which really helped solidify the concept in Ashke’s head.
  • His medium trot was fantastic, all three times, and I did a better job of keeping my hands still and just asking him to move forward. There is a distinct difference between the medium and the collected trot.
  • There was a visible difference between medium and collected canter circles as well.
“World’s Best Mouser”
Left four dead mice for the barn on Valentine’s day.
It’s hard to appreciate how wide this cat really is.

When we got back to the barn I put Ashke in his stall and went to find Amanda to give her a big hug. He’s so much better than we were six months ago and I believe we are completely capable of riding this level of test. I’m so much better than I was six months ago. I floated around the barn for the rest of the day. It was really worth the drive to get him out in a regulation sized dressage arena and on an Ease of Handling course. 

Monday, February 12, 2018

Boredom Busters

There is definitely a correlation between the number of rides I'm putting on Ashke and his reaction to his environment. He gets two days off in a row and all of a sudden I am dealing with a snorting, spooky, looking-for-any-reason-to-react Arab. I'm just going to have to stop taking days off.

In an effort to keep him entertained, so that he won't let his two girl friends into turn out with him (Amanda was shocked to see all three heads hanging over Ardee's stall wall during her ride on Viking three days ago), I've gone for the enrichment option. We borrowed a toy from one of our barn mates to test, and he loved it so much that I purchased one of my own.

It is pretty phallic shaped.
Our BO referred to it as a horse dildo.
It dispenses hay cubes from a hole on one side, which he gets by moving the "grazer" around with his feet and nose. It is a strange shape and weighted so it takes a bit of work to dispense the hay cube.
It helps him remain engaged during his down time.

Tether ball. Squeeky dog toys. Material dog toy. Rattle toy.
Different textures. Different sizes. Different sounds.
Somewhat engaging.

Treat wall. Redmond Salt. Himalayan Salt. Bird seed (jk).
Different textures and tastes.
He wants more of the grain and molasses, thankyouverymuch.

The whole thing rotates in the bracket, plus the middle piece will rotate independently.
It smells like apple and Ashke was very interested when I was holding it for him to inspect.
He shied violently once it was installed in his stall. 

Hopefully, these will keep him entertained for a while. Our weather is going up and down in temps and it's incredibly hard to get a solid schedule in place. I'm getting out there five days a week. I may need to bump that to six, when possible, once the weather gets nicer. This week, I can ride on Monday. Then I am taking off work on Wednesday, with a lesson at 10 am, then off to see Dr D at noon. Thursday, since I can't ride anyway, we have tickets to see Black Panther, which we are incredibly excited to go to. Friday night is date night, and I have a clinic on Saturday. So, that means this week I might get to ride four days.

Life is killing me . . .

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Baby Steps

Every journey starts with a single step . . . when you are talking horses, however, those steps may include forward, sideways, uncontrolled bolt, backwards, only two feet on the ground. You get the idea. When Ashke and I started lessons with Amanda, my focus was on developing his canter and on me getting better at riding. The world of dressage was completely new and even now there are things I struggle to understand, that others seem to know intuitively. I am not a student of dressage, but rather a student of Amanda and Ashke. I expected Ashke to hate the lessons, to fight against what we were learning, like he had originally, but what I have found is that he loves to learn new stuff, even if sometimes he's a pill about the work.

The other thing that amuses me to no end, is his ability to work and stay focused when Amanda is in the arena. He strives to make her proud of him and his happiest moments are when we walk to her in the center of the arena for face rubs and praise. Sometimes I think he values that more than me telling him what a good job he is doing.

Tuesday night we worked all of the things we have been practicing: shoulder in, haunches in, canter circles both big and small, trot sets with medium trot and collected. I also spent time at the canter, slowing him with my seat until the cadence of his canter was walk slow, then transitioned him down to the walk. My friend, CS, had explained that as a way to make our transitions better and it really helped. We finished the ride with canter on a square with square turns in each direction and some half-pass at the walk. He was able to do the canter turns without speeding up (indicative of stronger through the back and haunches) and our walking half-pass was very good (although I still struggle with how that is supposed to feel - I tend to make the angle to steep).

Throughout that ride, Ashke was focused and we ignored any flick of the ear or slight movement in the south end of the arena. The horse eating cat also failed to make an appearance.

Last night was our lesson. Ashke breezed through all of the things, even when we added the haunches out through the south end of the arena (if he's going to be stupid, we will give him something hard to focus on). We worked on the movements from the test at the trot, plus he gave me some fantastic trot serpentines with a very collected and smooth gait.

We also got a distinct medium trot across the diagonal with transitions to the collected trot in the corner. For the first time, I got the lifted, surging trot he does so well on trail, only he was still balanced and not strung out. It felt really good. Now we just need to develop the medium canter.

Then we tried a canter half pass.

This was our third attempt

I think Ashke is completely capable from a physical standpoint of completing this maneuver, our struggle lies in him figuring out what I am asking, and me figuring out how to ask. At the end of the third try, he gave me several steps. I was ecstatic. He was so proud!!! 

Then we tried the hard side and it was much more difficult. I think we need to work more of the haunches in at the canter going forward, just to help him strengthen and develop the muscle, plus develop the maneuverability we've been working on at the trot and walk for application to the canter.

To the Right
You can't really see it, but there were several steps at the very end of this attempt that were a canter half pass. We ended there.

We tried to do some double slalom work after, but the boy was absolutely fried. He couldn't do another canter transition to save his life. We went back and trotted patterns around the cones, while I focused on moving him and changing bend off my legs and seat. He was fluid, relaxed and moved his body easily. We ended the lesson at that point. 

For my next week's worth of rides, we will focus on the canter, haunches in at the canter (along the rail), medium canter, and medium trot. I'm planning on riding Thurs, Sat, Sun, Mon, Tues, a lesson on Weds morning and then he will have Thurs and Friday off.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018


I'm the type of pet owner who cares for their pets for the entirety of their lives. From the moment they come into our house as ours until they leave the world for the Bridge, they are my responsibility. I have held them and cried as they passed from this world, making sure that they knew they were loved and cared for to the end.

It makes me physically ill to see ads from animal shelters about animals in their last stages of life having been surrendered to the shelter because the owners "couldn't keep them" any longer. Seriously pisses me off . . . the owners should have the courage and fortitude to have the animal PTS if that is the case.

It makes me even angrier when its a horse. From a FB page offering animals for sale:

This good, sweet boy needs a good home where he can play and rest and just be himself. He is a Thoroughbred and about 22 years old. He still has a lot of spunk in him, but is getting a bit unsteady. For his safety and comfort, I would prefer he be ridden very minimally if at all. He is about 16hh tall.
He is up to date on shots and teeth and feet. He had more difficulty balancing this time for the farrier than the last.
I truly wish I had my own property so I could keep him til the end of his days, but unfortunately I have to pay to board him - which is not feasible anymore if we won't be riding him.

He loves to hang out in the pasture with his friends, but loves to be tucked into his stall every night safe and sound. If you only have a pasture, I don't think he would be very comfortable with the situation.
Daily alfalfa is a must as he drops weight very quickly if he is off it.
If you have a place for this guy, please let's get a meet and greet scheduled! -

 First, the owner is expecting to SELL a horse that is not safe to be ridden, must be fed alfalfa, shouldn't just be a pasture pet, and whom she isn't willing to afford (let's be serious here - she wants to replace him with a horse she can ride), is getting up in age and should be stalled at night. Please give me some money so I can ignore my responsibility and move on to my next horse.

Why not have him put down? Why be such a coward that you would completely shirk your responsibility for him? Most people can't/don't keep horses as pets, especially not one that has such high needs. Just as I am an advocate for euthanizing a dangerous horse, I am also an advocate of PTS a horse in this situation.

I have no words.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Birds and Cats and Mice . . . oh my!

The biggest issue with riding a really smart horse is that they figure out your buttons and they plan, evaluate and evade with the best of them. Some days it's very  similar to dealing with a five year old, 1000 lb toddler. You might remember that we discussed the "scary" end of the arena with the communicator, and although it has gotten so much better, Ashke still finds reasons to "spook", get tense and reactive at that end . . .  but only in the canter . . . almost always. When he was asked why his answer was that birds are related to dinosaurs (typical five year old answer) and therefor very scary.

He does have a reason to complain. I am now riding five days a week (with Friday and one other day off a week), our rides have expanded in length to be at the least a forty-five minute ride, and we are really working on our canter. See, canter is the hardest gait for us to maintain smoothly, be adjustable within, move our shoulders and hip around. Plus, I get really winded in the canter, which means I need to do a lot of it to strengthen my ability to ride. So, our target time is 45 minutes in the evening, with the exception of our lesson on Wednesday, with a target of 30 minutes of canter. This is not too much for him, because his breathing doesn't get heavy til right at the end, and even after extensive canter he is never sweaty.

I have a fit poneh.

So that takes us back to evading . . . he can't get out of work from a fitness level and the work load has increased, so that leaves spooking. I have pretty much closed the door on spooking at the far end, and now that is reserved for late in our ride. Last night, we had much productivity at that end of the arena, so, I moved to the other end of the arena to practice extending the length of our canter before we are both sweating like a call girl on nickel night. He was a bit pissed at me because we were practicing our drum pattern starting to the left and in his mind THAT IS NOT ALLOWED!

On top of that, T called during our practicing the drums and we walked quietly in a circle as I parented from horseback. Ashke thought that meant we were done and was a tad bit put out by my requiring him to go back to work. Finally, out of a sense of self-preservation, we just worked on a 15 m circle, at the canter, emphasizing rhythm and adjustability without worrying about too much collection. We were riding circles around the outside of the cones I had set up and as we came around the west side, Ashke threw his head up and tried to bolt.

One nice thing about a leverage bit, those bolts don't go very far. We backed up from our abrupt halt and then I asked him to go forward again, while looking around for what might have caused the spook.

Wary, wary dangerous.

Belle was pooping in the sand right at the edge of the arena, next to the door into the small part of the barn. She was somewhat hidden behind the mounting block (which is scary in and of itself) and Ashke started acting like a complete idiot. He got backed up in a circle, yelled at and finally swatted with an open hand (in a glove) on the side of the neck. 

And then we did another ten minutes of canter in both direction while I struggled with a horse that absolutely couldn't horse. Once we got two revolutions of our self-prescribed circle with a horse that remembered he was a dressage prodigy, I was done. 

Sometimes I really wonder why I keep torturing myself this way . . . .

Saturday, February 3, 2018


I was reminded last night by my friend, that development comes in it's own time and I should let go of the pressure I am feeling in regards to the upcoming A Rated show at Expo. We will be where we will be. I am ecstatic at Ashke's attitude in our rides. We are still working through a little bit at the far end of the arena, but it is less and less each ride. I am no longer hand walking him down there, since that had become a non-issue, however, we do stop and I let him look on the first couple of times we walk past in each direction. I figure in another couple of weeks, even that won't be necessary.

I brought my GoPro for the lesson on Wednesday with Amanda and she wore it while I worked through the exercises. This is a video heavy post.

Shoulder In

Haunches In

At the trot

Canter Work

We were working through the canter pattern for Intermediate A
It should happen at B and E for the test
You can see we still need some work going to the right when I ask him to slow and collect.

Trot pattern
10m trot circle with leg yield to rail
This is a 30m wide arena so a little wider than what we will be showing in.

Our second time through the pattern

Our turn on the haunches

We also worked on the medium trot across the diagonal. Amanda tried to explain it to me and she said we got a couple of steps, but it is certainly something I am going to have to continue to try, until I develop the feel for what it is we want. Both Ashke and I are trying to figure it out. He did give me a soft canter a couple of times, which was okay. It's hard to say longer without it also meaning faster.

I'm very happy and pleased with where we are right now. Huge difference from a year ago.

Friday, February 2, 2018

Germany Part 2

I made my second trip across the pond the third week in January to attend another HR functional meeting. We stayed in Heiligenhaus, a bit west and north of Dusseldorf. It was a working meeting, so we stayed in a small hotel for three full days. We were together as a group from 7 am to 10 pm, with no time for entertainment. I won't go into details because you wouldn't be interested unless you were in HR.

 In the bathroom near the conference room was the cooliest sink I have ever seen.
It had a flat porcelain top, and the water ran over the sides. It was freaking cool.

 World's smallest bathtub.
It was a bitch trying to wash my hair though.

Sloping ceilings and a beautiful pillar in the middle of my room.
I only hit my head four or five times over the course of three days.

By the time Thursday afternoon came around, I was pretty stir crazy to get out of that hotel (eat, sleep, work in the same spot for three days, without a break and you would have been too). It was a great conference, but it was time to move back to Dusseldorf.

I was expecting the same glorious brickwork, the majestic old buildings, the sense of history and sorrow and enduring and growth that had made Hamburg fun. Instead, I found a run down 1950's housewife with peeling paint and bad sidewalks. It was drab and depressing. We walked down to the shopping district (the BIG attraction in Dusseldorf) and discovered a huge outdoor shopping mall that sold Levi's, Tesla, Apple, Timberland, North Face, et al. All at about 25% more than US prices. It was like being at a mall in Cleveland. Plus, the trees along the promenade were filled with starlings screeching like wailing banshees in both the dark and the rain. WTF? First bird I've ever known to make a ton of noise after dark. The trees were loaded with them.

I found out when I got back to work on Monday, talking with some of the Germans I work with, that Hamburg is a tourist town and is quaint and beautiful, also being a harbor city. Dusseldorf is the exact opposite.

Friday we wandered around looking for Dunkin' Donuts and then moved hotels. During our wandering we did find a wonderful Catholic church to wander through, but that was about it.

One of the few buildings with any character.

 Roman Catholic Church

 One of only two buildings I saw with any brick

 Wrought Iron Door
Sinners out? Or angels in?

 The Pipe Organ though.
It was silent while we were there.

 Blinded by the gold.

Drawing of the church in 1943

Other than the shopping mall, there was very little to do in Dusseldorf. I found an antique car museum (where all of the cars are for sale, so more like a very old car sales lot) that we could tour for free, but it was a 40 minute train ride and a 20 minute walk. It seemed more prudent to sit in the hotel lobby until lunch time, wander into the airport to eat lunch at KFC and then check into the room. We did dinner in the hotel restaurant, and then went to bed. Lamest visit to a foreign city, ever.

The next morning I headed to the airport and while I was waiting to check in, I met a dog. I think this breed might be the next dog I get, although they are very rare and will probably cost me an arm, leg and housing, but I don't care. I was smitten.

Alpine Shepard

Flying into Reykjavik

Edge of Iceland