Saturday I had my 23 ride of the year. It was pretty solid, as rides go, and Ashke was focused and listening. We ended up with a series of changes that were very, very good, for where we are at in our process. He continues to make strides.
Ride 22 - YouTube
He’s definitely got the “this means change” part figured out.
Ride #22 - YouTube
Tempi changes in a straight (mostly) line
Sunday, I hauled over to PVF and participated at their play day. Flambe brought Kat with us and they had a great time. Ashke, however, struggled with the whole “there are other horses near my mare” to the point that I finally whacked him on the hip with a rein. I had his attention but couldn’t keep it for long. I started distracting him with wither scritches, which he decided he liked better than the mare. We ended up riding all of the obstacles with flying changes. Notes: I have to really remember to ride him straight forward after the change from right to left lead in the double slalom or he will dive around the pole. It takes a little bit of outside rein and a lot of inside leg to keep him from doing so. I think this is the kryptonite we are going to be focusing on for the next few months. I also need to figure out how to ride a jump in the western saddle without hooking both spurs into his sides. Bad rider.
When we went to load, Kat, a friesian Arab cross, would not get on the trailer. I think the trailer was too small. I ended up unloading Ashke and leaving him in the round pen while I hauled her home, then came back and picked him up. He was rearing and whinnying and bucking in the round pen when I pulled up to the farm, stopped moving when I hollered at him, and was very happy that I was willing to take him home. I hope to get back over there at some point before the show to ride in the arena again and maybe work the obstacles.
Everyone is ready for spring. Birds are having bird sex and building nests. Horses are dropping their coats like it’s eighty degrees outside. Other people are posting pictures of crocus and daffodils on their social media. But here in the land of white, we are still dealing with weather of all kinds. Who would of guessed that the week in January where we had temps close to 65 would be paid for by a week of temps that didn’t get out of the single digits. The ride was also spiced up by the sound of ice sliding off the roof, and the special effects of some mutant duck-rabbit-cat like death screams from outside. (Fox gets rabbit, maybe?) It set the horses off and took the riders in the arena some extra time to get them back.
Ashke and I were both a bit stiff when we started. It was cold in the indoor and the footing was questionable in spots. The indoor is huge and wonderful most of the time, but there is spots where the roofline lets in snow and water, which create spots of mud you have to ride around. Additionally, because of the temps, the footing needs to be watered and dragged, which is really hard to do when the equipment is frozen to the ground. We think, given that the horses that were having issues with the footing both had shoes on and the rest of the horses did not, that the damp dirt was freezing to their shoes, similar to what happens with snow and horse shoes. Ashke had several trips during our ride, like he couldn’t get his hoof out of his way. Mostly at the trot. It made of an uneasy feeling.
We worked on all of the things on our list. He got better as we both warmed up and gave me some really nice moments in the ride. He was also able to give me the opportunity to work through the distraction and frustration of the spook and stare moments. I can say that 1) I am reacting less to his shenanigans, and 2) he is letting it go and getting back to work quicker. His half-pass is improving, but we still struggle to get his shoulder a little fore going from the left to the right. His leg yields were very solid and he is flowing to the side with his body very straight in the movement. We did some changes in a series of diagonal lines around the arena, which got better and better, although he did give me one that was unasked for as we came around a turn and straightened. We worked on transitions within the trot and canter. My biggest issue in the trot is getting him to lift in the front and not just go faster, while my issue in the canter is bringing him back to a more collected gait off my seat.
This Sunday, provided the weather holds and we get no more freezing rain, Flambe and myself are going to haul into PVF and practice the obstacles. Get exposure to the arena. Make him behave in a new place.
Not a lot of riding since Thursday. We did dinner at Ocean Prime on Friday night in celebration of J’s birthday. Saturday dawned cold and grey, with white bits spitting from the air. I decided to explore the Rocky Mountain Horse Expo. This was the first time since 2015, that I wasn’t down there riding. It wasn’t an option because of it being the first weekend in March, which is pretty impossible for me to get off from work. I’m really glad I didn’t go, since the clinicians were limited, the vendors were minimal, and attendance was really down.
Remember this face?
Eddy was part of a performance of Hafflingers working at liberty. K was a little nostalgic until we watched him ignore his handler, run around wherever he wanted, nip at his handler three or four times that I saw, and just be Eddy in general.
I think after watching that performance, K realizes her connection with Aria is much more better.
There were Zebras.
The woman working with them had a couple of things to share: they don’t give into pressure the way a horse will. Instead, with some Zebroids, it really kicks in the “flight or fight” mode, with the emphasis on fight. She said that they bite and refuse to let go, which is down right terrifying, and seemed to make an impact seeing as none of the spectators tried to pet or attract their attention.
The one in front was a two year old male and the one in back was a 4 year old female.
I have always thought Zebras were beautiful, but I really don’t think they should be domesticated. Just let them be wild.
I wandered around the vendor booths a bit and managed to find the exact pair of spurs I am currently riding in, in a black and silver motif, for my show attire.
I may try to find black spur straps or I may leave the brown, since all of the rest of my gear is brown.
One inch shank with soft rowels.
I stayed til 8:30 watching the Mane Event, which consisted of a bunch of people hauling on their horse’s mouths. The sidesaddle group was pretty awesome and the vaulting group was very good. I found it really interesting that the vaulting group was working as a performance group this year. I wonder if they are competing. In the past its been a group of kids vaulting on and off various sizes of horses. This year is was way more polished and put together. The rest of it was meh.
Sunday morning was -8 and eventually warmed up to 7 degrees. The new heater in the barn seems to be doing it’s job, which is awesome. There was no ice in any of the buckets. Ashke, who stalls next to the door at the far end of the barn where it is much colder, had zero ice in his bucket. My insulation project is still working. I checked his temp under the blanket and he pinned his ears at me, moving away, and sent me an image of him shivering in the cold if I took it off. I wasn’t planning on it. I just wanted to make sure he was warm. The carrots made up to him.
He has a new buddy who has moved in next to him.
So far they have played a little bit of bitey face without winding themselves up.
Lakota seems like an awesome horse and I really hope they get along okay.
We had a lesson last night. Ashke warmed up well, with a little stiffness in his hocks to start, due to the temps in the area. It's been fairly comfortable in the day, but the temps are dropping with the sun and the indoor isn't exactly warm. I had tried to ride on Wednesday, but it was frigid in the indoor, so I opted out and just stuffed carrots in the boy's face. Thursday was a much better day and probably the last day of riding for maybe a week, because March is roaring in like a lion and the temps in the next three days are not supposed to get above 12.
We warmed up with some nice fluid walk, then some medium trot, where Ashke is now snorting in his circuits around the arena. It's that "I'm having a great time" snort, not the "OMG, the baby dinosaurs are going to eat me" snort. We went back to the collected trot and worked our shoulder in, then haunches in along the rail. We finished with some medium canter in a huge circle, working forward and back in that gait. By that time, he was moving nicely and felt warm, just in time for the lesson to start.
Not impressed with my shit
We started with our lateral work at the trot - leg yield to half-pass and back again in both directions. I could feel the stickiness as he was a bit hesitant to reach with his left hind leg, but as we kept going he got more warmed up and able to flow. Then we worked on the serpentines with a simple change. When it was time to start working on the flying changes, I told Amanda that one of the things I had noticed in the video was that on the change from right to left, he was dropping his shoulder and diving for the turn around the cone. That was pushing us out of position to ride the double slalom correctly.
Amanda told me to use my thigh (same thing Saiph said) and keep him straight until I need the turn. We worked on that a couple of times, but I kept running out of room before the turn. Amanda had me work the long length of the arena, asking him to keep his body straight in a line of three tempi changes. The first time he threw his hips around quite a bit, but the second time I got three changes in a row with him fairly straight. We ended up with a bit of a buck to straighten himself out. I tried that change one more time, which he gave me flawlessly.
We moved on to working on the medium canter along the long side. I had to remember to breathe because I was holding my breath the entire circle and leaving myself light headed. Then Amanda had me working him in the collected to schooling trot off just my legs. OMG. I was beginning to feel like jelly.
We finished up with some one handed riding, since that is our goal. Amanda told me to add five minutes or so of one handed riding at the end of my rides. Riding one handed makes it really obvious whether you are riding off your legs or not. We did pretty good, even picking up a nice canter in each direction (we didn't try a change though). I was wiped out by the time we were done and my butt, thighs and lower back are all protesting today. It was good though.
Amanda did make the comment that I am much quieter riding one handed. I think it may have to do with how I rode when I was a kid. I just need more practice.
One of the most challenging parts of winter is being able to determine how warm your horse is and how much “warm up” they need before starting your serious work. Of course, by this point, our lateral work is part and parcel of our warm up, and not so much a focus of our training. On Monday night, it was 55 degrees when I left the house wearing only a vest over a thermal shirt. By the time I got to the barn it was 29 with a cold northern wind blowing. I guess I expected Ashke to be warm, but I think that he was a little stiff when we first started to work. I didn’t allow as much warm up in the lateral work as I normally do, which ended up making our double slalom feel stiff and difficult. After we had ridden through the double slalom with changes, I went back to the lateral trot work and keep him moving through the leg yield to half-pass series until I could feel his hind legs stretching up under him.
Then we did the random circles in the arena with changes at various points in the circle. This was an exercise that we did at the trot when I first started riding with Amanda, and it works just as well in the canter with flying changes. He was so good and I wish I had gotten that on video. Then we worked on our collected to medium and back to collected canter. He really stretched into the medium canter and then didn’t want to come back to the collected from my seat. By the time we were done with that exercise, he was huffing so I got off and hand walked him while picking up poop, all the time whispering what a great horse he is and how very proud I am of him.
Friday night we got a fuckton of snow, which made my commute home really sucky and a lot longer than normal. I didn’t try to go to the barn because snow and tired and too much. I had it on good faith that my poneh was warm and snuggly and had lipstick on his nose (courtesy of Flambé). There was almost 8 inches by Saturday morning, but we had planned to meet about noon to ride and by the time we got to the barn, the snow was melting quickly. The BO and Amanda’s husband and father spent Saturday morning replacing the propane heater in the barn, which required the tractor to host the propane heater into place on the center beam of the barn. I guess it went fairly easily with the tractor’s help. And it even lit itself when turned on Saturday night. Yay!!
Saturday was a ride in which both Flambé and myself worked with our horses to be a little less spooky under somewhat challenging conditions. The melting snow created a very noisy waterfall effect on the outside of the arena. For most of our ride it was so loud that we had to shout to be heard. By the end of our ride, the waterfall sound had disminished and one could hear themselves think again. It was colder on Saturday and Ashke took longer to warm up, plus I hadn’t ridden since our lesson on Weds night, so he took a little bit to relax and stretch. I don’t think I got him as warm as I could/should have before attempting our changes, but he was pretty solid anyway. He just got tired a bit quicker than he does when I have him warmed up.
Drums - YouTube
Our first attempt at the drums with flying changes.
Overall, I can’t complain. He listened and tried, and I think it would have been better had I gotten him a little warmer, or if it had just been warmer yesterday. We tried one more time, but it was a struggle. I need to figure out what I have to do differently to help with the right to left flying change. We are struggling with that. I’m really having a hard time in shifting my weight to that new hip.
Drums - YouTube
We didn’t complete the third circle, because I could feel him struggling with the exercise.
I will try it again on Thursday during my lesson.
Today was much better. It wasn’t raining in the arena (no waterfalls) and it was almost 50 inside. Most of Amanda’s students were there and it was a lot of fun riding together. Ashke warmed up really well and I could feel him stretching nicely through both hind legs. We had a lovely ride, even if he started a little tense and hyper alert, since Beau was in the arena, as was Kat. Getting him to stretch into his trot was the challenge of the day and keeping him relaxed when we started our canter work.
Changes - YouTube
He is so good and we are starting to figure it out.
I do want to talk to Amanda on what I can do to help shift my weight to the right hip when asking for the change, since I know I am creating this issue.
We finished up with some canter half-pass and then tried some canter leg yield with poor results. He would much rather change his lead then hold the bend when moving in that direction. I asked Amanda why it was so hard and she explained that I need to use my thigh and not my lower leg when riding the leg yield. I need to keep the cues very clear. That is something I need to work on at the trot, so will start focusing on that when leg yielding in my rides. I was very pleased with the ride, overall.
I read a horse blog yesterday that reminded me of where Ashke and I were at a couple of years ago. I was convinced that he hated dressage. Hated being in the arena to work. Preferred the open trail and going for hours because horse. All of that said, I also recognized that I wanted to compete in Working Equitation and at least make progress in the sport, instead of feeling frustrated and unhappy with how I was riding. To that end, I found the perfect trainer and have put in sweat and some tears to make the two of us better. What I have discovered in that process, is that Ashke loves to do dressage.
I think he grew to love dressage as he got strong enough to carry himself correctly, as the muscle developed to allow him to do the work that we wanted to do. The muscle he has put on has changed how his body looks and even though he will never have the stature of a WB, you can see the column of muscle running up the top line of his neck, the bulk in his haunches and the heavy, solid muscle along his shoulder that allows him to lift in the front..As the muscle has been layered onto his body, the movements we can do effortlessly have increased and expanded. Just like Saiph in her power lifting, I have seen that muscle develops as a product of the discipline.
Last night, the arena was cold, Ashke hadn’t been ridden in four days (and only three times since his injections) and he was slow to warm up. He felt a touch off to me, but when I asked Amanda what she was seeing, she said that he looked a little stiff from the cold. So we warmed up with lots of trot serpentines, his body moving from one bend to the other under me.Once I could feel him stepping up under himself, we added some lateral work. Pretty soon his hair had lain down again, and he felt warm and relaxed. Amanda had finished her prior lesson, so we talked briefly and then started on our changes.
We worked on the serpentines through the walk, to make sure he was listening, then she had me doing a change on the straight away, making sure we were asking for the straightness before asking for another change. After we had attempted that with somewhat limited success, Amanda told me to do a ten meter circle after the change, get straight down the arena, then do the same pattern with a change in the opposite direction. I did that, which he struggled with forward in his first circle, but caught onto really quickly. Then I just started riding random half to three quarter circles all over the arena, throwing random changes without much direction. We stopped to take a walk break and for Amanda to tell Ashke how smart he was, when I suggested that maybe we could put out some cones to work the slalom and double slalom.
My thought was: Ashke knows what the pattern is in the WE obstacles and it would give me a focal point and him purpose to ride our changes through the double slalom. I’ve been thinking about adding cones since my last ride, and funnily so had Amanda. She grabbed the cones, put them out in a four by three set up and told me to ride the double slalom.
Ashke’s whole body lit up with excitement and purpose as he watched Amanda put out the cones. He knew what was coming. He was almost quivering. Much engaged.
We did it the first time with transitions through the walk and his downward transitions were amazing. Yes, he was anticipating just a bit, but it felt less like he was anxious and more along the lines of “we’ve got this and we can do it together”. After one run through with walk transitions, I handed my phone to Amanda.
Double slalom - YouTube
Please remember that this was our first attempt at a double slalom with changes.
He got all of the changes, although you could see him offer the walk transition after the first turn, then went “oh?! We get to do this with changes?” The delight that poured off my horse in that moment could be felt through his whole body.
Double slalom - YouTube
As you can see in our third turn, I have to be super effective in my weight shift and getting myself out of his way.
Last double slalom - YouTube
Not only is he trying so hard to give me the changes (one was a little early and resulted in our breaking to a trot) but he is also trying to work the obstacle the way he has been trained.
Can you see how proud he was of himself? He humbles me.
Leg yield - YouTube
We went back to working on the trot. Leg yields and half pass between the cones.
There is so much power and potential in being able to move his body in any direction with any bend at any point in the arena. We aren’t there yet, but I can see in the far distance the ability to ride with minimally visual cues, where he flows from one movement to another as if by magic and isn’t that what the core of dressage really is? To prep the horse and rider to move in whatever movement they are asked as if tugged by invisible strings?
Single slalom - YouTube
We worked the single slalom, with a skip on one of the cones (decided prior to riding through), to see how he did with that pattern.
He was amazing enough that Amanda told me we could try it without skipping the middle cone.
Single slalom 2 - YouTube
We finished our lesson with the single slalom with simple changes.
He listened and waited. You can see him offer a change at the last turn, but he didn’t do it on his own.
This demonstrated to me, beyond anything else, that dressage really needs to be the beginning, the middle and the end of anything you are trying with your horse. That we can then apply the lessons, the support, the training, Amanda’s belief in us, my commitment, and his try into this discipline that I love.
This horse! He left me in tears at the end of the night.
First off, a HUGE shout out to Sharla and Todd for all of their help in finding the perfect piece of granite. I was beginning to despair when one of our equine family members stepped up to lend a helping hand. All I can say is that it looks even better than I had hoped.
This is the color of the granite we choose and it could not have been a better color.
There is just enough pattern in it to give it life, without arguing with the walls of the shower.
And the color of the vanity matches so well. It definitely makes the walls look grayer with it in.
And the pewter grout in the floor matches the vanity and the counter top.