In memory of our pony Ashes.
We obtained Ashes from a consignment auction in November 2001. I was attracted to Ashes from the 1st time I saw him. He was surrounded by a crowd of curious children while waiting to be auctioned. He was so unperturbed by the hub bub and I thought he would be perfect for our grandchildren. I called my wife and asked if it would be OK to buy a pony. Her answer was a very firm ‘yes’ and that began our association with Ashes.
The seller told me that Ashes was 6 and that he had reportedly been introduced to driving, but that she had not driven him while she had had him for the last 3 years.
I decided to go ahead and have a harness made for him. If he didn’t know how to drive, I’d have him trained. My thought was that I needed some way to work him when the grandchildren were not around.
I proceeded to ground drive and pull various objects in my round pen and it seemed obvious that Ashes was familiar with the whole process. This encouraged me to go ahead with a cart.
I had an interest in distance driving and had been warned to avoid bicycle wheels. Finding a cart with wood wheels proved very costly, at least from local sources. I finally found Shady Lane Wagons in New Holland, PA. I spoke with Weaver Martin and provided the measurements for him to build a cart specifically for Ashes.
We actually drove out to New Holland to pick up the finished cart in the early spring of 2002. After getting it home and hitching Ashes, I decided this might not be the best idea since I didn’t have a suitable area for a first hitch. We called my driving trainer and set up a visit so that I could take Ashes and his new cart to hitch for the first time with some professional help and guidance. Ashes was a little hesitant (probably the heaviest cart he had ever been hitched to) but quickly adapted and after 20 – 30 minutes seemed completely comfortable.
In May of 2002 we participated in our 1st distance drive. Unfortunately I have no pictures of that event, but I came away concerned that distance driving would be very difficult for a small pony like Ashes. I decided to concentrate on preparing my horse, Nora, for distance driving and relegated Ashes to pleasure drives.
We were fascinated to watch as Ashes learned to flip the towel back and forth to keep the deer flies at bay. It worked amazingly well, but we did purchase a fly mask for future drives.
Ashes had some fears. Noteable among these were bridges, railroad tracks, water, and black asphalt. He readily overcame his fear of bridges, railroad tracks and water. But he was forever fearful of fresh black asphalt and would shy if at all possible. (He did learn to cross those fresh black strips on the road without shying. I even tried to help him over his fear by taking him onto a freshly resurfaced parking lot. He was actually shaking through the whole experience and didn’t change his attitude!
On this trail we crossed at least 8 bridges without incident.
In 2004 we lost our horse Nora and decided to challenge Ashes to participate in distance driving. He quickly demonstrated his ability to overcome all challenges and with his harness converted to a neck collar, the cart remodeled to improve the line of draft, plus some friction brakes to reduce the downhill stress, he turned in a winning performance.
At Midwest Mt. Quest, Ashes and I had the honor of giving Louise Riedel (a renown endurance rider) her first ride in a cart. She enjoyed it enough that later she took another ride with me when I was driving Scooter. I wish I had a digital image of that ride.
Ashes was again retired from distance driving because I had two horses that were better able to compete over distances.
Ashes continues to participate in driving activities and really excels at obstacles. Here are some photos of our other activities:Gerry’s score was second only to my own!Ashes seemed to love this type of competition and we went to several over the years. Becki really enjoyed driving Ashes in this kind of competition and would join me if at all possible. It was normal for Ashes to do double duty, being driven by each of us in each event. He seemed to perform slightly better for me, probably because I was more confident in my decisions on the course.
Ashes was good with our grandchildren, whether riding, driving or just hanging out. When Ana lost confidence in her ability to ride, she still enjoyed just being with Ashes. After these pictures, Ana became over confident and fell while trotting. This destroyed her confidence and she refused to ride again for 2 or 3 years. She still loved Ashes and would brush and feed him whenever she visited. It was 2009 before she would attempt to ride again and she was gaining a little of her old confidence back. I don’t know whether she will ever enjoy riding again or not.
Katya has not shown much interest in the horses. Once in a while she will join me for a ride in the cart.
On Saturday, August 15, 2009, when I went to treat Ashes for his ulcerated eye, he had difficulty getting to his feet. It was obvious that he was in the initial phase of founder. With the Cushings as a factor it was unlikely that we could successfully treat him for the founder and he would be in pain for the rest of his life.
Just before noon Dr. Dean Meyer assisted Ashes over the Rainbow Bridge. We all know he is running free and without pain in that place for special horses.
This shows my wishes for him.