Thursday, December 27, 2018


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Lesson in Patience

For Ashke, that is . . .

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

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

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

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

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

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

We ended there.

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

Good cat. Bad place to leave it though.

Sunday, December 16, 2018


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

So . . . 

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Home front:

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

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

Outside Rubbermaid tub lined with insulation

Inside tub lined with warm fleece

Insulated lid for inside tub

Interior tub inside bigger container

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

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

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

Sunday, December 9, 2018


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

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

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

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

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

Intrepid shoppers

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

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

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

The back of GS car

Peeps and packages

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

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

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

Sunday, December 2, 2018

Nicole Harrington Clinic

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

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

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

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

Working on our lateral work.

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

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

Turn on the Haunches

He is thinking so hard

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