I wanted to try a new feature on the blog, stolen from instagram since I’m a bit of an instagram addict. If you haven’t heard of “Transformation Tuesday” it pretty much means exactly how it sounds – share two pictures that show an intense transformation! I’ve been trying to think of a way to feature bloggers like the OTTB Spotlight and thought some cool “Transformation” stories could be a new way to do it!
Today’s transformation is exactly what I had in mind when I came up with this idea. I had read Karen’s blog, Thee Ashke Horse Extraordinaire for a while before I realized his story. And … well I’ll let her tell it!
On December 17, 2011, at a Holiday party for my company, I was given a horse. He belonged to a co-worker who offered him to me for free. I was told he was a grey, Straight Egyptian Arabian gelding, unbroke, 5 years old, and I could pick him up the first of April. Doing my due diligence, I discovered he was 7, very well bred and from championship lines. He had also moved from home to home for five years, ending up being given to me. We went to Amarillo, TX to see this Championship bred Arabian.
I was in tears when I saw him. He was filthy, covered in bites and scabs, every bone and tendon in his body stood out in stark relief. I couldn’t touch him, because it was like he was a raw wound and his skin hurt from the filth. His hooves hadn’t been done in a year. The hair not matted down to his skin was four inches long and he shivered in the wind. It was the exact opposite of what I had dreamed of and I despaired of him surviving the trip back to Denver. When we got back to Denver, I sent money to my co-worker and asked him to start feeding the gelding separate from the two mares. I wanted him fed a bag of pelleted food called Ranch Hand per week, with the hay and sweet feed he was currently getting. It worked. He gained 75 pounds by the time I went to get him. He moved into his new barn on April 1st, 2012.
Damaged right hamstring. I’m pretty sure this happened when the cowboy trainer he was sent to wrapped a rope around his hind legs and dropped him onto right hip. This was the most significant issue we’ve dealt with and the most persistent. I was told from the very beginning it might never be resolved.
Significant loss of all muscle. This has taken 665 days to remedy. He has been on Amplify to increase the fat in his diet and pure Lysine to help with protein uptake and muscle development. He was hand-walked and turned out for the first month, worked in the round pen and then started under saddle. We used the Balance System, similar to the Pessoa, and trail riding became therapy and finally we started in dressage, which has really changed his musculature, strengthening his back and butt.
Teeth: He had huge ulcers on both sides of his mouth from his teeth not being done in years. Regular maintenance has maintained his comfort and ability to eat. His jaw was released and he was able to relax and give to the bit.
Feet: Had not been done in at least three years. He was very long in the toe and clipping himself when he trotted, because he had no breakover. I found a very good barefoot trimmer and she has helped balance his feet, and the rest of his body has followed. He is ridden barefoot in the arena and in Easyboot gloves on the trail.
Most of the physical issues were addressed through exercise, nutrition and vet care. I took Ashke to a Holistic vet who uses Chiropractic and Accupuncture. It was under her direction that I changed and adjusted his supplements and feed. Her Chiro adjustments made a huge difference in his movement and flexibilty. It has been a slow process, but I can see him making huge strides on a daily basis. The most effective exercise at strengthening his back has been the dressage training we have been in since October. Those things, combined with the 245 miles we rode trail this year have helped him gain back his strength.
As his rider, I am battling my own physical issues. I rode a lot as a kid and young adult, but hadn’t ridden in 20 years, except for an ill-fated trail ride in Yellowstone, which resulted in torn muscles and a ruptured disc at my L5 vertebrae. Additionally, I grew up riding western and am now learning English dressage. I am over weight and have issues with core strength after having a child. I am on the far side of 50. I am as big a mess as my horse. There are so many things we are learning together.
Ashke has a flat wide back. We had to use a saddle fitter to find a saddle that fit. We went with the Prestige Trekkerland and it was worth every penny. It fits him amazingly.
We tried several different bits before taking a chance and ordering a Raised Rockin’ S snaffle from the Mark Rashid website. Ashke rides in a 4.5″ bit and has a very low palette. This bit opens up inside his mouth when pressure is applied to the reins, instead of nutcrackering his tongue and jaw. He has done very well in it.
Ashke is a very straight forward horse who somehow knew I was coming to get him. His connection to me is very strong, and although we still are working through cinching sensitivity, every other mental issue has been resolved. He trusts me. He has confidence in himself. He is jealous of other horses and hates anyone else to ride him, including my trainer. He loves people in general, although if there is someone he doesn’t like, he makes it known and he’s always right: they aren’t trustworthy. He is the most well liked horse in the barn, by both the people and the other horses.
Except for a buck off at the beginning of his training, Ashke has done very well under saddle. We’ve had some issues with cantering vs galloping vs racing away with the rider cursing and hollering. The dressage has helped immensely and I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. His walk and trot are developing and we are actually cantering under control and with balance and some grace in the indoor arena. I am hoping that the issue of cantering will be resolved by the time we can get out on the trail again. He tries so hard to figure out what I want and to do it for me.
Overall, the physical issues have been fixed. Ashke no longer short strides, his teeth and feet are awesome and he is gaining strength with each passing ride. His nutrition is nailed down and he looks amazing in person. He is able to carry himself correctly and in balance, plus he is straightening out the swing of his right hip, instead of abducting it to the inside, he is beginning to swing it straight forward. His feed is straightened out and he is carrying good weight. He is getting the correct supplements for his issues and I can see the difference they have made in his coat and musculature.
We are well on our way to being co-beings.
Thank you for sharing your story Karen! You can follow Ashke’s continuing progress at Thee Ashke Horse Extraordinaire.
Have a transformation story of your own to share? Whether it’s training, mental, physical… or all of the above please share it with me so I can spread your story!