Sunday, April 29, 2018


My weekend started with Infinity War. OMG!! WTF!!!! That’s all I’m going to say about that.

Saturday morning I got to the barn before nine, Dr S got there about nine and started giving shots. In addition to the shots, Ashke got his very own microchip. The doc asked if I just wanted it done or if we wanted to sedate. We sedated. Stoner boy is cute.

Doped boy is doped.

Waiting for dopey to wake up.
We may have over did the drugs a bit.
Sitting in the sun for an hour felt really good, however.

Saturday was also the barn clean up day, which I contributed to by washing out the wash bay. My right shoulder is seriously struggling right now (bad enough I am going to call the doctor tomorrow about getting it looked at). I couldn’t risk making it worse. There wasn’t as much to do this time, since it’s been six months and not five years since the last cleaning, so the barn was pretty much done by the time pizza got there.

Belle the Mighty, taking a break on the donut box.

I did talk to the barn owners about building a cat walk along the top beams of the sides of the barn where the sparrows are building nests. I think she could eradicate the current residents if she could get up to them.

Saturday afternoon, I hitched up the trailer, loaded Ashke and drove over to Plane View Farm. We are doing a demo day next Saturday, in conjunction with Cinco de Mayo and we were doing a practice ride on the course we will be doing the demo on next weekend. Ashke was high as a kite and I didn’t recognize until I was finished with my ride that I actually hadn’t ridden him in a week. We unloaded next to a pen with a pony, which caused Ashke to be really uptight and spooky. He bucked when I tightened the girth. I ended up walking him into the arena in his halter, with him snorting at everything he saw. Once inside he settled a bit and I got his bridle on him. I got on and it was like riding a small powder keg. We walked around the edges of the arena until he got a little more relaxed and we started working on the lines we would ride between obstacles. There were a few adjustments we needed to make to the placement of the obstacles, and once those were made, the course rode better. I rode each of the obstacles as part of our warm up with a soft and focused. Then we waited while the lower level riders practiced their round. It took a little bit to get the lines right. By the time it was my turn, Ashke was done. He spooked and tried to bolt at the beginning of the double slalom. And the single slalom. And the Drums. But the Double Slalom was the worse. We finally made it through the course and I went back to school him on the double slalom, trying to do the schooling without being angry or frustrated. 

Honestly, I really don’t know how to make this better. He chooses to use spooking as a method of letting me know he doesn’t want to continue. I am going to have bad rides until I can work past this issue. I am planning on going to PVF on Tuesday night to ride the arena and practice my normal rides around the edges of the arena. I don’t know what else I can do but expose him to new venues over and over again. (He has finally settled at Circle Star). 

Sunday, we did a ride out of Marshall Lake Mesa in Boulder. We headed west from the parking lot to the community ditch, and then toward Dowdy Draw. There is a point just before Dowdy Draw where the trail splits and we went northwest, rather than southwest. It turned into a loop at the top of a new mesa, but did not take us to Eldorado Canyon.

Community Ditch

Looking toward Eldorado Canyon

The trail is incredibly rocky even on the ditch

Taking the newest trail toward the north.
It was a sweet little loop

There was a lot of trees at the top of the mesa.

The top of the new mesa. No way to get to Eldorado Springs from where we were.
The loop was awesome though.

The rocky entrance to the State Park of Eldorado Springs

Ashke knew it was a new trail to us and he was very focused without being overly reactive.

Riding into the trees.

A very pretty trail.

Four foot long Bull Snake
The couple that walked over it were a little freaked out when J point it out to them.
It was very pretty.

Not too bad for a trail as rocky as this one is . . . . 

Tomorrow starts my five day intensive riding/training program to combat spooky behavior. I will also talk with Amanda on Wednesday night about techniques to employ.

Saturday, April 21, 2018


This week has been interesting to say the least. I was supposed to have Ashke’s feet done on Tuesday, but the wind was gusting at first 70+ mph and my farrier declined to shoe a kite. Narrow minded of him. We rescheduled for the next day and he drove off through a cloud of dust. I helped my barn owners secure the awning on the north side runs after what could only be termed a microburst/mini tornado lifted the northwest corner up and threatened to tear it completely off the barn. The wind was so powerful, that it was lifting the barn owner off his ladder, as he was trying to hold down the corner of the roof. The roof in question was about 12 feet wide and may be 140 ft long. If it had torn loose it would have created a freaking disaster. I got a lunge line and we tied the corner down, while the barn owner tried to screw the two pieces of wood together. The next gust ripped out all of the screws. We added another rope over the corner, tying both ropes to the fencing that was concreted into the ground, and then using wood set perpendicular to the roof beams, the barn owner manager to get them secured together. During that time, we were dealing with wind that threatened to topple the ladder, and blinding clouds of dust. It took two days for all of the grit to wash out of my eyes. As a final insult, the portopotty was ripped off its foundation and toppled over. That’s twice in six months that I’ve seen winds blow a portojohn over.

I didn’t try to ride.

Wednesday, Ashke got his shoes reset. The WLD is almost completely gone on the right foot but had gotten worse on the left front despite three treatments with White Lightning. I’m wondering if Ashke is allergic to White Lightning, because that is twice now I’ve treated his feet with it and they’ve ended up worse than they had started. I will go back to the iodine and a touch of hydrogen peroxide, since that seems to have worked the best. I also. Ordered some No Thrush, which I will be using on his frogs as a preventative. I am also going to treat the tiny bit of WLD on his right front with the No Thrush, just to see if the anti-fungal works on it. 

Wednesday night, I did a lesson with Amanda. We worked on the canter, mostly. We started with the 20m canter circle and then moved to the 15m collected canter circle. He was solid to the left, with just one skip when his right hind started getting tired. To the right, he kept trying to throw his haunches inside and I was really struggling with keeping him straight. Amanda addressed that by having us do walk-trot transitions while shoulder in. OMG. Ashke was so pissed. His ears were pinned, he was flipping his bit, swishing his tail and throwing his haunches back and forth. That may be the hardest thing we’ve done so far. We finished the ride with half-pass at the trot and again at the canter. The last canter half-pass we did ended on a half pirouette. 

My ride this morning was exciting. Ashke was in a mood and tried to drop on me while I was picking out his right front hoof. I smacked him on the shoulder with my open hand and he pulled back and reared. Over react much??? I grabbed the lunge line and took him to the middle of the arena to work out some of his angst. He cantered,, cross-cantered, and snorted in both directions until I stopped turning and just moved the rope around. I finally said, are you ready to stop yet? At the question, he slid to a halt and turned to look at me. I walked him back over to the hitch post, finished tacking up and lead him to the mounting block.

We trotted for 25 minutes on the rail, shoulder in, shoulder fore, haunches in and haunches fore, in both directions before he finally calmed enough that I allowed a walk break. Then we did our circles and leg yield to the rail, and finished the trot work with some very nice trotting half-passes.

We started canter work with 15m canter circles, with random walk-canter transitions. I was working on keeping the canter collected and him straight without losing the haunches. Then we turned and did it in the other direction. He was much better today at keeping his body straight on the circle. After we had completed 12 circles in each direction, we worked on the canter half-pass four times in each direction. He was great to his “hard” direction and had issues going to his easy “side”. Go figure.

We ended the morning with him standing in a pool of iodine and hydrogen peroxide eating his carrots and apples.

Sunday, April 15, 2018


Today I had planned to surprise my mom with a half hour lesson with Amanda and then a short ride around the property. The weather was perfect and I still think it would have been marvelous, but she wasn’t feeling up to it and was really worried about her knee. So, instead I took a lesson.

We started with our lateral work: shoulders in, haunches in, and leg yields. He was moving pretty good, but there was a little something nagging. Not sure if it was the left front or right rear, although we were thinking left front. I think a major part of the hint of something I could feel is related to his feet. He is due for a shoe reset and his hooves are long (common issue right now amongst all of the horses). He gets done on Tuesday, so he will be off until they are done. I told Amanda that it felt like he was on his tip toes. He got better as we went into the more difficult movements, which makes no sense at all.

After our shoulder in and haunches in, we worked on the leg yields at the trot, then did canter serpentines which he did really well, then segwayed into canter spirals. Those kind of suck. Or I kinda suck at them. We did them better today than we have done them in the past, but I still don’t feel like I am very good at them. Ashke is getting better, although his only hitch with his hind end came during that exercise. I think moving outward, while maintaining inside bend while on the left lead really stresses his right hind and he cross cantered a step. 

We did some more leg yields, zig zagging back and forth three or four steps between each bend. Then I asked for the trot half pass. He was very solid at that movement in the trot, so we tried the canter half pass.

Moving right to left - this is the more difficult side for him to get his bend and body correct.

This is his *easy* side. You can see he maintains his straightness better and the bend

Much better the second time moving to the left
I did a better job of setting him up before asking. I had him in a haunches in as we turned the corner.

In case you were wondering, Amanda is coaching me. We were wearing her headset so I could hear everything she was saying.

We ended the lesson with two drum patterns, ridden to the left first. The rules changed this year and the drum pattern can be ridden in either direction. I completely FUBARed the pattern the first time through, because we’ve ridden it so much to the right, that reversing the pattern takes conscious effort on my part. The second time was much better. Then, because the boy was tired, we used the cones to help shape our turn on the haunches for the test, switching it up with turns on the forehand to make Ashke listen to my leg. Then we were both done. 

Dressage is hard.

I am getting better about not leaning forward, but that is what Amanda is referring to when she tells me to sit tall. I have to really concentrate to maintain the body position and to not give away my hands.

I am also completely ignoring his attempts to sidetrack the conversation. He gave a bit of a jump when we were starting some of the canter work, and I just rode through it and kept asking him to do whatever it was we were doing. He gave it up after that. He’s such a funny guy.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Another Lesson

So, long time blog followers may remember when I have stopped the Smartpaks in the past with catastrophic results (me scratching my head and wondering why he is short striding all of a sudden). This time, it was a deliberate decision, in part because he has stopped eating the supplement, sometimes leaving it for a couple of days, and in part because I need a new baseline. There is no sense in Smartpaks if there is another option that might work better, such as Adequan or Legend or SI injections.

The good news is he isn’t unsound, just a little stiff. He is still on the MSM, since that seems to be the one supplement that actually helps, but that is the only one. I have the chiro coming out the end of next week, with the regular vet on the. 28th. Depending on what we find with the chiro, that information will help shape my questions for the regular vet. I’m leaning toward injections, since the ones we did on his right hind have had a terrific impact.

I have to share something that happened as I was tacking him up. I am always very careful of the girth, which lays across the seat of the saddle while I put the saddle on his back, to not have the girth fall off and hit the ground. The last time that happened he completely freaked out, dumped the saddle and shredded the halter he was wearing at the time. I did work with him in the round pen for a couple of weeks, letting things fall off of his back, but even after that work, he just never really relaxed. He always reacted. Last night I was trying to ensure the half pad I use as a blanket was sitting under the saddle correctly and had the left side flap of my saddle raised. It was enough to cause the girth to slither off the far side and thump into the sand under his barrel. In the past that would have precipitated an explosion of terror, which would have dumped the saddle and caused trauma for both of us. This time, I quickly put my hand on his shoulder and said “whoa”. Talking to him softly, I could feel the tension in his shoulder and he had his head cocked a bit to the side with an ear on the girth, but he didn’t pull back or react other than to get tense. I picked up the girth and then scratched his shoulder, telling him what a great boy he was. He tipped his head toward me and we had a moment of communion. That was huge.

In the lesson, we started with shoulder in to haunches in along the rail. It’s such a fun exercise and makes Ashke think about what I am really asking. Moving his hips and shoulders both independent of each other can only help as we go forward. After doing that in both directions at the walk, we moved to the trot. Changing up the request half way down the long side is great for Ashke, because he gets predictive. He thinks he knows what I am going to ask next, so he offers it before the ask. By starting with Shoulders In and moving to haunches in half way down the rail, he has to listen to what I am asking. That’s really good for him.

He still wasn’t really reaching with his inside right hind leg, so we moved to the 10m circle and then leg yield from X to the rail (from the Intermediate A test). That got him a lot looser while helping us work on straightness. I have to be very clear in my request for the leg yield, since we’ve also been working on the half-pass and he is so enamored of the half-pass that he wants to offer it. After the trot, we worked on the canter. I am trying to develop a solid seat for the medium canter, then supporting with my legs while we transitioned to the collected canter. 

Then, because circles, Amanda put up five cones in a double slalom pattern. However, she had me start with the single slalom.

Like this.

Then we did

So by making our last circle at the end of the single slalom bigger, we could ride directly into this pattern.

We did that twice in both directions and then Amanda added the figure 8 to the end of that pattern around the two bottom cones. We could have circled and added the triple barrels, using the cones as the outside of our circles, but both Ashke and I were pretty tired at that point. We went back to the trot and worked on the half-pass. Ashke tends to stall out in that movement, so I borrowed a dressage whip to hold. I don’t have to touch him with it, but just holding it is a signal to move forward. It also helps to direct his shoulder forward just a bit so we are moving shoulders fore in the half-pass. It’s a tricky thing, but he loves doing it and it helps our side pass so much. 

Amanda changed the cones to a diamond pattern and had us try an exercise her trainer makes her do. The exercise is to lengthen the gait between the cones, then contract the gait at the cone, executing a quarter pirouette on the sides, and a half pirouette on the ends. That was hard, primarily because Ashke was expecting a transition down at the cones, rather than a transition within the gait, but he did it really well once we were on the same page and he understood what I was asking for. Especially given we were at the end of our hour lesson which had included. a lot of collected work. 

I just fall more and more in love with this horse every day.

Monday, April 9, 2018


Friday, the temps were in the upper 60's, with a few non-official spots pushing over 70. Friday night, as the sun disappeared, rain-sleet mix started to bombard the Front Range. J and I went out to dinner and then swung by the barn, since temps had plummeted. I wanted to put Ashke in a light-weight sheet for Saturday, rather than the turn-out sheet he was in. I switched blankets, cleaned his stall, and then realized there was fresh blood smeared on his cheek.

There was a small scrape just above the left knee, with a small scab. No swelling. No heat. I cleaned up the dried blood, but since it seemed pretty insignificant, I didn't worry. I figured I would ride on Saturday, giving Ashke two days off in a row.

Saturday, when I got to the barn, this is what I found:

 After cold hosing to bring the swelling down, it felt like the strike (I'm assuming here, but he does go out into turnout with a mare and it is spring) grazed the bone and I was dealing with a bone bruise.
A lot of swelling, but very little heat.

After fifteen minutes of cold hosing, I asked for extra eyes and tried a trot on a circle to test for soundness. He trotted out sound in both directions. 
I opted to not ride, just to be on the safe side.

Instead, T, his Godmother and myself went to see A Quiet Place. Hands down one of the best movies so far this year. It's touted as a horror movie, but other than three jump scares, I would class it as a suspense thriller. It's really good. You should treat yourself.

Sunday, although the knee was still swollen and the edema had spread (and he didn't want it touched at all), he was playful and forward on the lunge line. Completely sound. We hauled out to Boulder to ride the trails at Marshall Lake.

 Leaving the parking lot headed uptrail

Vantage point. Such a lovely viewpoint.
Ashke is uptrail in the distance. We were very impatient yesterday.

Marshall Lake and canal

The crossing over the canal is a bridge with slick rock and rock steps going up hill from the bridge.
The water was low so we crossed at a cattle ford.
Not sure we could manage that if the canal was full.

Top of Greenland Mesa, being impatient.

 Ashke and I were playing bite face while waiting for Tia to refuel.
I use my hand and try to stick my finger in his nose.
Most of the swelling was resolved at this point.

Flatirons under a spring sky

 Crossing back over the creek

 Coming down trail to J. I worked on keeping my feet under me, going downhill, and not bracing them out in front of me.

 Almost back to the parking lot.

We had a great ride. Mostly, walk with some slow trotting (mostly on the way back) and a couple of canters including one flying change. I let Ashke pick the pace, I let  him look around when he wanted. Mostly it was just about being one with him and enjoying ourselves.

It's been six years and I have a rock solid trail horse, a mid-level and learning dressage horse and an Intermediate A level Working Equitation horse. He just continues to impress me. The only thing he was worried about yesterday was the Bermese Mountain Dog we met at the end of the ride. It must have set off "danger, will robinson, it's a bear" signals in his brain. I got off and we let them sniff noses, after which I'm pretty sure Ashke wanted to groom the dog. 

Today, it is snowing.

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Lesson Recap

So, it was pretty obvious from the get go last night that the work we are doing with Ashke's body is making a huge difference in what he can do. I got some really nice half-pass at the trot at the very beginning of the ride. He is able to step up and under himself much easier going in his "hard" direction and was pretty proud of himself when he executed it effortlessly.

Before the lesson started we were walking the rail around the arena and he stopped to snort and inspect one of the "scary" areas. I squeaked and jerked in the saddle in pretend fright, which caused him to jump a little bit the first time and then just get irritated the second, third, fourth and fifth time. I was laughing my ass off, because if he is going to be silly, I will be silly right back at him. He gave up the ghost and just ignored those areas for the rest of the ride.

My Prince of Unicorns does not like to be made fun of. LMAO.

We did shoulder in and haunches in at the trot, which he did effortlessly. We went to leg yields at the trot, which he was a bit confused about, and kept offering the half-pass. We reestablished the leg yield, and I worked on slowing the trot, while still moving sideways, which helps with the whole balance thing and getting strung out. It really helped improve the leg yield moving from the right to the left. We will continue to work on that going forward. (It's not a race.)

Then we started spiral circles at the canter. I don't know why that exercise is so difficult for me, but it is a hard thing for me to do. When he started showing signs of fatigue, he would tip his hip to the inside of the circle to try and compensate. Amanda had us stop the spirals and move to cantering square corners, which forces him to use his body correctly. It was easier for us both on the right lead square, mostly because his right hind is still fatigued quickly. The square corners were good in both directions.

After a bit of a walk, we worked on modulating his canter from a smooth, free medium canter to a slower, more collected canter, focusing on making the transition very clear on the circle. His medium canter is much better and he was struggling less with the transitions. We were doing three to five steps in each gait then transitioning to the other speed and then back again. I really had to work to remember not to lean forward or throw my hands away. It will be a good exercise for me to work on while maintaining my body position.

After another walk break, we worked on slowing the canter as much as possible, without breaking to the trot for two or three steps and then moving forward again. This is what Amanda called a "schooling" canter and is a precursor to the canter pirouette. We could get two or three steps before he began to struggle. Amanda says its a really hard gait to hold and we should try two or three steps before moving forward again. After that exercise he was too tired to try any more canter.

We did some serpentines one handed at the trot, some half-pass at the walk (so hard to do at a slower gait) and then worked on the medium trot across the diagonal. That was enough for the night.

He did great. He was listening and trying too hard sometimes, but what can you do with an over achiever?

Wednesday, April 4, 2018


April 1, 2012, was the day we gave Ashke his first bath, after an 8 hour haul from Amarillo.

I will not share those old photos any more. You can go to the first three posts in this blog to read about the start of our journey.

When I walked in the barn last night, I was greeted with: "Your horse . . . . "
(He was doing Levades in his stall because Ardee was outside)

Last night, he felt amazing.
His hoofbeats finally sounded like they are supposed to.
(clip, clip, clip, clip vs clip, clip, clip, thud)

His trot was floaty.
His canter was spot on.
His walk was free and swinging from the first step away from the mounting block.

The ride was short, since I didn't want to push.
Tonight we lesson.

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Follow Up

Yesterday morning, I met the chiropractor/vet at the barn for a recheck of his right hind/SI area. Amanda had suggested at our last lesson that perhaps he had a rib out still, since he did not really want to bend to the right. If you watch the video from Sunday, our turns to the right are much wider and not as straight as the ones in the other direction. I was also really worried about his right hip, although after our ride on Sunday, I was pretty sure it was better than it had been.

I told her about our almost fall on Weds, and she checked his right shoulder, which was a little out. That was a quick adjustment. Then she checked the base of his neck, which has been holding for six months or so. It was fine. There was a rib out - the last rib on the right side which is influenced by what she called the intercostal joints - and his SI joint was a little off. The rib was sore and Ashke actually kicked out when she finally got it adjusted. Not at her, but just in protest, almost like a reflex. She checked the hip joint and it was moving much better and closer to normal, so she left that alone. She adjusted the SI area, and then put needles in. Ashke was a bit unhappy about the needles at first, until the energy slowed down, and then he finally relaxed.

The visit wasn't helped by the fact that it was pretty cold in the barn and he was shaking. The vet's assistant ran to my box and grabbed his Rambo fleece (nice and thick) which we used to cover from his poll to just in front of the needles. His relief at being warm was palpable. When I walked him back to his stall, she said the right leg was moving even straighter and freer than the last time she was out. I'm hoping that, like all of the other things,

Over all, most of the adjustments were minimal, and she didn't feel that she needed to see him until her next visit to the barn. I gave him last night off and hope to ride tonight, depending on the jump lesson schedule at the barn.

Monday, April 2, 2018

Play Day

Yesterday, we did a play day at Circle Star Arena for anyone who wanted to come. The focus was working through obstacles (with trainer help from KM and CS, if needed) and then an opportunity to ride a course. One of my unstated goals is to get Ashke out to as many different places as possible, to work on the whole spooking-at-all-the-things. The only way I am going to be able to get him to not be reactive, is to put him in the position of riding in unfamiliar places and still expecting him to listen and be obedient. He did really well with everything except the table at C in the indoor (which is always a scary point) which was covered with bright blue plastic tablecloth. We were finally able to trot past that without a huge fuss, but it took a while.

When we got to the outside obstacle arena, There were eleven obstacles (plus the jump) set up to practice on. One of the obstacles was a fixed gate. This was a HUGE issue for us at Expo, especially in reverse. I decided to address it first, in case I deemed it necessary to get off and work it from the ground. We went through forward the first time and Ashke managed it with only a small reaction to the gate swinging toward him as we were working it closed. After that slight flinch, it was no big deal. Such a good boy.

Then we went to do it backwards. The first time, I swung the gate away from us, wide open, without trying to hold onto it, and then backed him through. Once we were through, I picked up the gate again and sidepassed him to close it. I swear to you I heard him say "oh, THAT'S what you wanted me to do? That's easy." That was the only time I had to let go of the gate. The next time we tried it in reverse, I was able to keep my hand on the gate and he did it calmly and quietly (although you can see him working his mouth as we were doing it).

Once he know what is expected, it's a no brainer for him to do.

We took a short break for lunch and then came back to ride the course. I was asked to go first, since I have the most experience and am riding at the most advanced level in the group. We located all of the obstacles, and their order, but didn't really have a lot of time to think about approaches. There were a couple of approaches I would have changed, and some questions I would have asked, if it had been a show. I thought, given the brief look I had, that we did a pretty good job of putting the course together. 

The break in the middle was due to T calling my cell in the middle of my ride. I was very pleased with the lines that we chose and found that I didn't feel panicked or rushed during the ride. Ashke listened very well, and only had two small spooks which resulted in the break in gait going behind the livestock pen and another at the end of the single slalom. Overall, he felt relaxed and engaged and really happy to be riding the obstacles. 

While I was chatting with the other riders after my ride, I was explaining that Ashke likes to be shown to a woman who thinks her horse would hate being in a show (she does WE for fun and the training experience). I realized at that moment, that Ashke was bred to be shown: he wants to be a show horse. He's resented not being shown when he was young and I think he really wants to preen under the admiration of us silly humans in a show environment. I think he is a bit relieved to know that I want to show, even if I feel nervous and timid during the process.

One of the things I can say about our ride yesterday, just like the dressage test at Expo, the ride has slowed down enough for me mentally, that I am able to think and plan. I was able to come off an obstacle, see the line for the next obstacle, plan my approach and not feel rushed or pressured. Yes, part of it is the non-show environment, but other than a score, I probably had more people watching my ride yesterday than I have ever had at a show. I just didn't feel stressed. And that allowed Ashke to move without feeling stressed. 

I'm so happy.