Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Cost of Improvement

Expo 2016

So, I sometimes go on to the Arabian Marketplace and look at horses, not because I am looking at replacing Ashke, but because horses. I am blown away at the prices that are sometimes listed. Then I compare those prices to the prices listed on Craigslist, Dreamhorse and Equine Now. The range varies greatly. It got me thinking about why we would be willing to pay what we pay for a horse. 

Anytime you look at purchasing a horse, unless you are paying for proven performance in the show ring, you are purchasing potential. I think that is why most breeders sell their horses as weenlings or yearlings, because all you have is potential (not to mention selling young shifts the cost of care and training onto the shoulders of the next owner). If you keep a horse, develop the horse and then sell the horse, you will never recoup the cost you've put into that horse. It's not a break even endeavor.

Ashke came to me free of charge. So, for me there was no initial start up cost. He was seven years old and halter broke. Let's look at the cost of horse ownership:
    • Boarding                        $ 38,000
    • Shavings                        $ 1,800
    • Supplements                  $ 5,200
    • Farrier                           $ 4,600
    • Vet/Chiro                      $ 5,000
    • Sundries                        $ 3,500
 So, for simple horse ownership at a barn that meets my needs (indoor arena, separate paddock with run for Ashke) my costs since April of 2012 are 58k.For most breeders, some of those costs would be more incremental: mortgage for property vs boarding costs, shavings only for horses stalled inside, farrier services would be reduced and young horses should not need as much supplemental support (you would hope). And this is my cost over six plus years, whereas most breeders will sell young.

Setting those aside, there are other costs associated with horse ownership, if as a rider, you have specific goals in mind. In my case, Ashke and I are competing in Working Equitation and want to 1) improve our scores, and 2) advance up the levels. That requires effort and discipline on my part. Hard work on Ashke's part. And a great relationship with a trainer that will support our goals.

Ease of Handling, July 2016

I think the biggest cost comes from the time spent in the saddle working on specific dressage movements. I have committed to riding four to five days a week, with one dressage lesson a week, to improving my riding, Ashke's physical and mental development, plus clinics and practice days specific to our sport. The time commitment to make this happen is significant. But it has improved both his physical condition, my physical condition and our ability to perform.

Spring 2018

In the end, this is a cost heavy sport. It costs time and money, to just keep the horse, let alone prep it for showing. I really love the changes that dressage has brought to the shape of his body, to the muscle development and his increased ability to do what is asked of him. I love the relationship we have now developed and how much he is willing to try. All of that has no monetary value - just emotional value.

July 2018

Sunday, July 29, 2018


No new media, so you may have to suffer with pics from our last show. Cuz they are awesome!!

This past week was pretty intense. I did a half-lesson with Amanda on Wednesday night (she was prepping students for a dressage show this weekend at CSU). Ashke was warm and moving easily when we started and we mostly worked on our canter. It’s the current theme. At the end, Amanda had me walk the rail, keeping Ashke completely straight and then tipping his head to the inside one inch, without losing his shoulder or his hip. It was incredibly difficult. Once we could do it (kinda) at the walk, we tried at the trot. His go-to is to take a step out with his left hind leg. We have to rewire that inclination. It was an exercise in me having to be very specific in my ask, and to feel his evasion prior to his movement, so I could correct it.


Friday, I had an hour clinic with Tarrin Warren. We focused on the same thing: keeping control of his hind leg regardless of what we are asking him to do. We started with an exercise that used two ground poles about three feet apart, then two more sets of ground poles ten feet or so ahead and off set to each side. We trotted into the first set of poles, halted, reinback three steps and trot forward, then half-pass to the next set of poles and ask for a canter once we were in line with the second set of poles. We cantered forward and turned around a barrel then rode back. We halted every time I lost control of his hip, asked him to shift it back into line, and then pick up the canter again. It was very obvious that Ashke was not expecting to be corrected EVERY TIME he did it wrong. He was pissed. The other thing Tarrin had me do is raise my hands slightly (an inch) and hold the reins with a thumb and finger when asking for the downward transition. She caught that I was shutting the door with my hands and he is stiffening his hind legs and bouncing to a stop. Doing that really made me use my seat when asking for the downward transition and he stopped being so abrupt. 

Our next exercise was a 10m circle holding the garrocha pole in one hand. I HAD  to use my legs to keep his hip in line, since I was holding the pole with one hand. That exercise really highlighted how frequently homie takes a step out when starting or stopping any gait. It was like riding a drunken sailor. I wasn’t getting mad, mostly amused, but he was livid pissed. He was trying to bargain his way out of doing it the correct way. Then we went back to the first exercise and did it again with leg yields.

I had sweat dripping down my shoulders when we were done. Tarrin told me that we were fine tuning our ride and our aids. Working to the left is hard on him while working to the right is hard for me (left leg is non-dominant and he is left sided dominant, so the combination is hard on me.) She also said that Amanda has done a great job with us and its obvious that I have been working hard. She agrees with Amanda that he is about ready for his flying changes. 

This morning we did a photo session with Ashke. Then I rode. I did some of the exercises that we worked on in the lesson and in the clinic. He seems to have figured out that I don’t want him throwing his hip in and it was much easier to get him straight. We practiced the half-pass at the canter to the canter transition and it was amazing. He is really lifting through the shoulders in that transition. The leg yield to the canter was a little harder. I really have to work to make sure he is straight in the leg yield prior to asking for the canter. We also did our leg yield at the canter. The only thing I didn’t work on is shoulder in at the canter (so hard). We also worked on our transitions with me keeping my hands soft and not blocking him, which seemed to help his downward transitions. 

I know that this will really help us going forward. It’s funny how something little can make such a big difference.

Thursday, July 26, 2018


This thing is a bitch and has been hanging on since I first brought Ashke home. Nothing has seemed to help as far as irradicating it, although I have kind of lucked on to what helps.

This was his left front hoof in December of 2012
This was also our first barefoot trim.

Ashke's left front has always been the bigger issue of the two in the front. I'm pretty sure the lack of good nutrition, bad footing and a lack of regular farrier work has all contributed to this issue. Additionally, he's struggled with his hind end issues, which cause him to use his body incorrectly and effect the amount of "strike" impact on his front hooves. He compensated for so many years, that even after six and a half years of working to get him right again, we are still dealing with issues.

Right Front in May of 2015
I switched to my third barefoot farrier because of all the issues we were having with staying sound.

In 2015, we struggled a lot with the hoof thing. The feed program at the barn I was at contributed to his overall unfitness. The farrier I had prior to the one who had trimmed in this pic was a nut job and actually made the issues worse. We coasted with this farrier and struggling with hoof boots for another year before I moved into shoes.

Best damn decision I've ever made.

Left front May 2018 - this has always been his bad hoof. 
You can see the overall shape of the hoof is better, and his hoof capsule is a bit longer than when we started.

We finally have the WLD showing real signs of improvement. I had been treating his hooves with a combination of hydroperoxide and betadyne every other week. The White Lightning didn't do anything at all. We could see the hoof hardening and the squishiness in the cracks was drying out. 

July 2018  Left front before the trim.

Ashke's hooves were so hard this time that the farrier had to use a blow torch to soften the sole in order to use his hoof knife on it. You can see that there is still some separation on the outside of the hoof wall, but that tissue was dry and hard, not black and squishy. 

Right Front in May 2018

In May, there was still a divot in the inside hoof wall in the back quarter but the outside edge was pretty clean with very little squish.

Right Front July 2018

The outside area where there used to be a deep crevasse with black gunk, was tight and dry. The toe is tight. There is a little on the inside of the hoof, but again is was dry and hard. I am hopeful that our next shoeing will bring us even closer to this being gone for good. 

One of the changes that is helping is that Ashke's stall is always clean and dry. The barn worker who cleans always makes sure to take all of the wet shavings out and with the stall having a dirt floor, it doesn't hold the moisture. That was a struggle at my old barn, because they would pick but they wouldn't do more than turn over the wet shavings. 

Additionally, we haven't had an issue with thrush, so I am hoping once we get him back to just healthy hoof, my maintenance should be fairly easy.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018


We got several inches of rain in 40 minutes and left the horses with lots of water and mud to frolic in. This is what I was greeted with when I arrived at the barn on Tuesday afternoon. I took him in and sprayed him off prior to having his flexion tests done by the vet.

To review, part of the reasoning behind the tests was how Ashke was carrying himself on day two of our two day show. I need to understand if there is a physical pain issue or if I just need to condition him better to improve his canter. Is this evasion or is this physically impossible for him to do. I arranged to have Dr Scott (same doc that did injections in February) come out and test his stifles and hocks on both sides.

It came back down to the right hock. He is better than last time (1/5 vs 3/5) but could benefit from some pain management. The plan is to do previcox for the next forty-five days and then inject some time the first ten days of September, based on his schedule. Dr Scott said that there was definite improvement in the flexion and Ashke is on the right track. We are going to do the injection right before our final show to maximize the impact, and then we will be on our winter work schedule until sometime next spring, when we will reevaluate. I plan on addressing the proposed increase in canter work with Amanda and will attack it full on going forward.

After the flexion test, I went home and changed into non-work clothes and J and I took the pups to a local restaurant that allows dogs on their patio. They even have a dog menu.

 We ordered the grilled chicken with rice and veggies.
They ate the chicken, although Skittle seemed to like hers better than Lily.

Being in public was met with mixed reactions on the part of each pup.

Skittle was the favorite of the family that bred the pups and she is much more comfortable with social interaction and strangers. Although wary, she's not terrified. Her outlook is that people are mostly okay.

Lily spent our time at the restaurant shaking with fear and anxiety. She hid under the table. She hid under my seat. She pressed herself against my legs and sat on my feet. This was with CBD oil in her system (although next time we will up her dose and give it to her a bit in advance) and a low key situation.

There were plenty of other dogs and both girls were curious but not aggressive. Skittle is much more likely to lift her lip at a strange dog than Lily is. Other than dealing with Lily being so scared, our dinner was good and both dogs behaved very well.

We went to Petsmart afterwards and got them a chewable nyla treat and a Thundershirt for Lily. It would be good to get them both out more frequently, especially if we can do patio seating that allows dogs, and the shirt will help Lily feel safer. You could see the immediate effect it had on her (we put it on in the store) and she shook less from there on out. 

To the people who are breeding dogs out there . . . social your animals early and often. Teach them that people are ok and expose them to other dogs so they can learn dog socialization as well. And don't hit them with a flyswatter while wearing a ballcap and being a white male. Six years later we can still tell.

Thursday, July 19, 2018


Sunday gets one post, because I'm pretty sure you all are bored. Plus, my dressage test wasn't as solid (still good, but not to the level of Saturday), I DQ'd at EOH and my speed ride was decent.

Things of Note: The temp on Saturday was 97. The temp on Sunday was 65. We wore BOT all day to keep his back and haunches warm. The EOH course was brought inside due to rain. I have included a course map of the EOH course.

In dressage, we had a break on our first 10m trot circle, and my poneh was tired.

In EOH, I completely fucking forgot our last obstacle, which was a reverse gate. No one, including the judge and scribe, expected me to ride through the start/finish gate. It's the first DQ in an EOH trial I've had.

I was pleased with our effort, but would have been even happier if we would have gotten the score. I let Ashke flow a little faster in the Speed round, since we had nothing to lose.

Course map for a 20x40 arena

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Saturday Speed Round

On Saturday, I played it safe in the speed round, remembering what Tarrin said to a competitor during Expo. I was competing against myself and I had finished both the dressage and EOH trials without a DQ. I wanted the completion so that my scores would count for High Point with the Confederation and for my third medal score. I also wanted to make sure Ashke was working the obstacles mostly correctly (changes and canter rather than trot) so that we didn't undo our hard work.

There were a couple of things I was cautious about: the sack, since I didn't want to get off and remount again and the sidepass pole since we didn't want a time penalty added on, not that it would have mattered, but precision is something I must emphasize for the poneh. I had one big mistake, in missing the barrel with the pole. I wasn't even close and Ashke was a bit confused by our having to circle. I blame the sun.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Saturday Ease of Handling

So, one of the things I noticed two weekends ago, is that thinking about riding the dressage test no longer feels overwhelming. I have practiced the movements (without stringing them together cuz really smart horse who tries to overachieve) of the test, but we also school more complicated things like leg yield to half-pass and shoulder in to haunches in on the same line, leg yields at the canter. Those things are still hard for me to ride correctly, but the thing that has changed is that I no longer feel overwhelmed by the idea of riding four circles and four canter-walk-canter transitions at the end of a six minute test.

I am no longer feeling stressed by the actual movements.

That is a huge leap for me and may be a contributing factor in lowering my overall anxiety.

Ease of Handling, on the other hand, really doesn't make me feel anxious. We understand the obstacles. Ashke knows what is expected and really the only question is the line between obstacles. I feel like sometime this year, the lines have become very clear to me in my ride. Amanda and I talk about alternative lines or approaches, based on our evaluation during the course walk, but sometimes what it feels like on your two feet and doing it at the canter changes your approach during the ride. Best laid plans and all that.

The other thing I think about when riding a course is where might he get a little squirrely, suck back behind my leg, or perhaps give me an abrupt stop. He still remembers the spiky plants at the opening of the livestock pen, which were right next to the gate at Expo two years ago. They are sharp on the ends and poked his shins while we were trying to execute the gate. He remembers and gives them a hard look and extra room when they are a decoration.

I was super proud of him when he stood without moving for me to remount. I patted his neck before picking up the bag to let him know it wasn't his fault. The barrel we were using was upside down and the burlap was super slick. I had just let go when I saw it slide. He was a trooper though. Once again, insisting he stand paid off. I am also very impressed with his jump. This isn't something we practice very much (although Amanda said we do need to work on my release because I am hitting him in the mouth) but he tucked his legs up and went over every time we faced a jump this weekend. It seems much easier since Dr K has been working on both the SI and right hip issue in our chiropractic work.

For the record, it hit 97 by about noon. It was hot and there were no clouds. I did a minimal warm up in the indoor before our ride, mostly working him on turning from my legs and got him to sit down and think about the double slalom pattern prior to going into the arena. It is a fine line between getting him supple and able to move vs too damn tired to ride. We are still fine tuning it. I also listened to Saiph and drank water exclusively during the day. I did use my inhaler an hour or so before the dressage test and again at lunch, mostly because of the humidity. The second time I use it, I feel a little sick to my stomach and nauseous, but it fades after about 20 minutes and it certainly helps with the ride. We also used the hose to spray off Ashke and myself after dressage and then again after the EOH but before speed. That seemed to help.

So, without further ado:

Monday, July 16, 2018

Saturday L4 - Intermediate A Dressage Test

Saturday dawned hot. We were at 90 by 10 am. Ashke was a bit tense when we first got to Circle Star Arena and spent the first half hour standing on his hind legs. He bonded with Izzy (dun QH mare that looks just like Cali) two seconds after he stepped off the trailer, then took exception to her leaving to do her dressage test. By the time I needed to saddle him, he had stopped playing the fool and was standing in the sunshine, with his head in the shade, munching on his hay.

Amanda got there about nine, but the tests were running a little behind, so we chatted with her, her sister Kari (who took all of the photos in my prior post) and Deb, who has been super supportive of my showing. Plus, one of Amanda's other students was there to check out WE. It was a nice way to relax before my test. I finally swung a leg over and we started working on loosening his body. He was being pretty protective of his right hind (my friend Chris suggested I talk to the doc about another injection) although he was trying very hard to do what I wanted. Once he felt warmed up, without us pushing him so far that he was too tired for the test, I just walked and waited for my turn.

One of the great things this show weekend, I was much less anxious. No vomiting or crying. My confidence in our development is growing and I am less worried about making a major mistake. I know where we need to improve and we are chipping away at it, but it can't be fixed in the warm up arena right before our ride. Amanda knows what we need to work on to improve our scores and I think she has a plan. We have two and a half months before our next show. In that time I am taking a family vacation, flying to Germany and prepping for our final show in McCook.

Ashke was amazing all weekend. I was very proud of him for stepping up and being a serious show horse. I think he really likes it and seems to enjoy showing off. It is what he was bred for, after all.

J got the video for me:

This was a personal best. I've been working on a WE dressage test for four years and this is the first time I have scored above 60%.

The dressage test in case you want to know what the movements were:

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Tristan Did A Thing

Tristan has talked about wanting a tattoo for several years. His desire was for a full back tattoo of an eagle with the wings coming over his shoulders and down his arms. I suggested he might want to do something a little smaller for his first tattoo (I was thinking something on a shoulder or pec that could be finished in one sitting. He opted for a half-sleeve on his right arm.

Six weeks or so ago, we had our consultation with an artist I met at the barn. She does a lot of grey scale tattoos and Tristan didn't want any color. We met with her and he talked about what his expectation for the design was. She finished the design and sent it to Tristan, who wasn't sure until he talked to her about what the finished product would look like. Sunday morning, our whole herd, including J and Tia, accompanied him to the parlor for his first tattoo.

 He thought he was going to listen to music, but my witty conversation kept him distracted better than music.

 Bands are hard, but our tattoo artist did a great job.

 The ditch is a bitch.
At least he will be able to see the best part of the design.

 Design touch up with Sharpie.
He sent this pic to one of his friends and his friend asked if it had hurt.
Tristan was like "dude, it's sharpie."
Made me laugh.

 Overall design.

 I was so proud of him. He sat without moving that arm for a solid two hours while she inked the lines. We knew he had to finish the lines in one setting and he rocked it.
He asked her to start on the shading, since he was doing okay and we still had an hour to go in the appt.

 She shaded the bottom band. It was pretty sore. I could feel the deep tremble of his body trying to deal with the shock of the trauma by the time we were almost done. I recognized it from my own tats and told him he was about done. Between the pain, holding himself still, being hungry and where they were in the tattoo, it was time to stop.
I did offer at one point to whack him in the balls to help distract him.
He said no.

This was right after. It looks even better a couple of days later. The lines are crisp and well done.
There was no blood, just a bit of fluid from the skin. No sign of scabbing.

He's already talking about what to do to finish the sleeve.