Thursday, July 17, 2014

Garden Update

Garden Update

Achieve1dream asked about my garden—I really didn’t think anyone cared! I am happy to do a garden update.

So far, things are looking fantastic—and I can hardly believe it. Some of the tomato plants are getting yellow, lower leaves, and I am concerned that I might have the blight, but since I planted 27 plants, even if the yield is a little less, it won’t make much difference—I am only one person. I am confident there will still be enough for me and plenty for my brother—the tomato obsessed one in the family. I have already picked a dozen cherry tomatoes.

Some of my peppers died—I think it was the greenhouse blight. Not much that I can do about that. I still have enough plants left. I have already picked one and put it in the chili I made last weekend.

The eggplants this year are black fingerlings. That is all the greenhouse had left. They are very healthy and I already picked one. I plant them amongst my lima beans. They make terrific companions. I haven’t had a bad crop of eggplants since I learned how much they like beans. Good thing I planted them in the lima beans last year instead of the green beans! They would have been lonely eggplants—thanks to the rabbits.

The rabbits haven’t snuck under the electric fence this year. Last year, they decimated my green beans. I know it was them—I saw one. This year, the beans look terrific. I even picked a handful to go in my rice casserole this week. In a few days, I am sure I will be freezing them.

I didn’t get the greatest germination with my lima beans, but I still think there will be plenty. I like them better than green beans. I freeze them, too. I also planted little black beans for dried beans. I haven’t done that for years—wait I did try last year, but the rabbits got them. So far, they look good. They just started to bloom. I like them in soup.

My squash and cukes look great, but I haven’t’ picked any, yet. I will do a whole post telling about my squash project once I see the results. It is just so nice to see such vigorous plants.

I planted some beets—even though I don’t like them. They are just so nutritious. I put them—beets + greens—in casseroles. It looks like I will definitely have reddish casseroles, soon. They let me make pink potato soup, too.

Last but not least, I have the best basil crop, ever. I dry basil in my dehydrator so I can use it the rest of the year. I just finished last year’s basil. I also dehydrate my cherry tomatoes to make sun dried tomatoes. I like them a lot better than fresh. If I have extra peppers, they go in the dehydrator, too. Oh, when I freeze my beans, I toss in a few stalks of basil in the package and freeze them together.

So that’s it, so far. I should really learn how to take pictures from my phone…

What My Sister did Today

What My Sister did Today

During the week, Ellen and I work different hours, so we can’t ride together. She has been working Dante in the arena and walking him around the driveway and such. She has still been nervous about going on the street by herself ever since she broke her ankle while leading him on the street last fall. When she is with me, she does great leading him. I somehow boost her confidence.

She was by herself, today, and she got the nerve up to lead him down the street. First, she rode a little in the arena—and then down the driveway she went. When she got to the road, she saw a police car had pulled a car over and had his lights flashing. She didn’t let this deter her. She walked out onto the road.

Next, another police car comes down the road with the lights and siren going. Dante was fine! Ellen continued down the road. Shortly after, here comes the original car with siren blaring and lights flashing. Dante was still fine with it! Poor Ellen was shaking, but she kept going.

She got a little ways down the hill, and Dante started to get fussy. She continued, but so did he. She ended up turning him around and coming back home. He was great leading on the street. He wasn’t done working though. She rode him for a while in the arena.

She sounded disappointed with herself, but from what I could tell, she did great. I never would have expected her to take Dante on the road once she saw the police car. Then, to top it off, he did great. I think it was a blue ribbon day for her!!!

Monday, July 14, 2014

Just a Bunch of Ordinary Rides

Just a Bunch of Ordinary Rides

Things have gone very smoothly with project Dante. My niece rode him on the hill the other night when the river was too high. He was reluctant to turn back down the hill to do it multiple times, but nothing she couldn’t handle. It doesn’t give me much to write about.

My sister took him up to the show ring on Saturday, and other than balking about going up the hill, again, he was perfect. That doesn’t give me anything to write about, either.

Ellen had to work on Sunday, so I took Dante for a short ride. The river was the highest he has ever crossed—and muddy so he couldn’t see the bottom. He crossed it without hesitation. We did a lot of trotting and a little cantering. It was as enjoyable as can be, but it doesn’t give me anything to write about.

Cole has been consistent and well behaved. He doesn’t care for the heat, the bugs or the hard trail, and he tells me about it. Still, he has been fun and willing to ride. That also doesn’t give me anything to write about.

I hope these good, unexciting rides keep on coming!

Today is Thunder’s anniversary and Starry’s birthday! July 14th is a good day for us. I think it might be good day for a tuna sandwich. Thunder loves to drink the juice.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Wow, We did It!

Wow, We did It!

My goal since Cruiser and Ranger got too old to go on long, fast rides together, has been able to go on long, fast rides with my sister. I have worked hard to get Cole ready, and we have gone on long, fast rides with Kevin and long, fast rides alone, but not with my sister.

Once she bought Dante, I knew it would happen sometime in the future, but it seemed so elusive. The weather was horrible last summer with high rivers every weekend—or so it seemed. We got Dante to the point where we could go on short, fast rides—and then Ellen broke her ankle, winter showed up and we had a late spring. Since then, we have been picking away at the various obstacles to get to the good trails and building up Ellen’s shattered confidence from the ankle incident.

The key was to traffic desensitize Dante to the max. To get to the long ride trail, we have to deal with plenty of traffic and chaos. Memorial Day weekend was a huge turning point. By the end of the weekend, Dante was doing well through a very difficult stretch of trail called the Lagoon. Unfortunately, we had more high rivers to contend with—and Ellen had to work some days on the weekend, too.

We did get side tracked by getting Dante up to the show ring trails on the other side of the chaotic Lagoon area. I rode him a few times up there, first, and this weekend, Ellen rode him there for the first time. He was mostly great, and when he wasn’t, it wasn’t anything she couldn’t handle.

Now, it was back to our project—getting to the good trails. We had 3 more obstacles to get through. The first was another ford. Since he has been working very well with the first 2 fords, I wasn’t too concerned. The only thing that made this one tougher is that the traffic was controlled by a light at the other side of it. That meant that we may have to thread between the edge of the ford and idling cars.

We then had to cross a very busy intersection, but at least it is controlled by the light.

The final obstacle is the “big river.” It is at least 3 times as wide as our other river crossings. I have crossed it a number of times with Cole, but Ellen hasn’t crossed it in years. When we have gotten Ranger to that side of the park, we have crossed on the bridge. It is a long bridge with a lot of traffic, so we thought it would be better to cross the river with Dante.

After doing all that, we have a bridle trail that we can ride with abandon—well almost. We share it with many other users, but we don’t have to worry about that kind of stuff with Dante.

The big day arrived. Dante had been ridden for the last 6 days in a row, so his mind was in a good place. Ellen would ride him on all the familiar trails, and then we would switch horses. She was very nervous. I was excited because we were chipping away on the last piece of my goal.

The first part of the ride went well. When we got to the ford, dismounted and led the horses across. They did fine, in spite of the traffic. We stood at the light, it changed and we led across. None of the traffic bothered Dante.

We mounted and rode to the river. Honestly, I wouldn’t have worried one bit about the river, except that last fall, we tried a new river crossing with me aboard, and Dante simply refused. After about 20 minutes, we gave up and went home. We have been avoiding that one ever since by going on the ford, instead. Would Dante refuse on this one, too?

My plan was to reinforce walking forward on command with clicker on the short stretch of trail leading to the river. I ran into a problem, though—he was so excited to be on a new trail that I couldn’t get him to stop so I could ask him to “walk.” I gave up and hoped his enthusiasm would carry him into the water.

He was in the lead—since I couldn’t get him to stop and let Cole pass. He paused at the top of the river bank, and we used that to get Cole in the lead. I pointed Dante to Cole’s rump, and we followed him right in. Whew, what a relief. The worst was over.

Well, so I thought. I forgot about Ellen—a person who has always been nervous crossing the river. Cole slowly walked across and Ellen was a wreck. At one point, Dante tried to turn around, but I kept him turning until we were facing Cole again and after that, he committed himself to crossing. Cole slipped, Ellen squawked. Cole slipped again, Ellen squawked again. I avoided the spots that Cole had trouble. The slate bottom had a thick coat of algae making tough whenever they stepped on an uneven spot.

There is a small island in the middle that we rested on. Ellen worried Dante wouldn’t want to step off the island, but he did—passing Cole and getting to the other side long before him. Cole wanted to play in the water and was pretending to drink. Once Ellen learned the game, she gave him a kick.

She said she was shaking—then I realized I was too. She was shaking from nerves, but I was shaking from excitement. I had reached my goal!!! We stepped up onto the trail on the other side and just walked along.

We weren’t going to go far—we would save that for another day. We just wanted Dante to enjoy himself on the other side and then we would head on home. We would turn around in a small open area. In the distance, we heard a bagpipe. Remember when I mentioned that we have a lot of people using our trails? You never know what you might find. We usually find a bagpipe player once or twice a year, but never with Dante. It got louder and louder. We decided not to push our luck and turned a little earlier.

That meant we had to do everything all over again.

Dante went right into the river, and I had no trouble with him except he did slip a few times. Though it is scary when he slips, he doesn’t panic but slowly negotiates himself through the rough spot. All went well for me.

Poor Ellen was having a panic attack. Cole walked faster, this time, since he was on the way home. He slipped a few times and she was squawking incessantly. I couldn’t even stand to watch them in her panicked state. Cole got across just fine, but Ellen was shaking, again. I was shaking, too, from happiness that Dante did so well.

Next step—the intersection and the ford. This time, we had to cross both streets of the intersection—which meant going right into the traffic. I led him, and he did well. The ford itself was easy because a car stopped at the beginning of it and blocked all other traffic until we got across. We truly appreciated that kindness. Once we were on the other side, I got off the street at the earliest possible moment by taking Dante up a little slope—and he burst! He did a dance and I had to spin him. This seems to be his normal response when he has to be good through a stressful situation—as soon as he is out of it, he reacts.

We switched horses and Cole was so happy to have me back. The rest of the way home went well. We did it! by this time next year, we will be doing all this without thinking twice, but there is always the “first time” to get through, and we did it and did it well.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Belated Weekend Update

The week is nearly over, and I haven’t even mentioned what we did lat weekend, yet.

On Saturday, we decided to take Ranger and Dante up to the show ring trails. I got to ride Dante. Kevin joined us with Starry. The ride was very successful and rather uneventful.

Our plan on Sunday was to take Dante and Cole up there, but Ellen called me in the morning—she had a tremendous migraine. I was on my own, so I took Cole up there by ourselves. I have only done it with him, alone, a couple of times, and he hasn’t always been that good. This time, he did quite well. We did a lot of trotting on the way out, and a little bit on the way home. He got rather excited on the way back, and since it was very hot, I figured that he would be better off doing a bit more walking.

We met Kevin on Starry on the way home. Kevin decided to ride on, since his ride had been too short. I told him I would catch up with him on Dante. Well, as Cole and I headed up the hill on the way home, who should we see, but Ellen! After talking to me on the phone, she went back to sleep for a while and woke up feeling much better.

My plans suddenly changed. She would ride Dante and I would ride Ranger. It is so strange to ride such a big horse. We had a nice time, and we met Kevin and rode home with him.

We have a long holiday weekend, but it is our least favorite. Our urban trails are a little risky around the 4th, so we ride conservatively. There are a few idiots out there that have fireworks and think it is cute to scare horses. Still, at least we get a day off of work.

Friday, June 27, 2014

More Cute Stormy Pictures

My sister gets the best pictures of her cat, Stormy.
8yEDI/AAAAAAAABZ0/RlL6RO9zGOM/s320/storm4.JPG" />

Thursday, June 26, 2014

An Evening on the Hill

Last night was Cruiser’s birthday—he would have been 27. I went out to the barn, but unfortunately, we had so much rain the night before that the river was too high, again. I took Cole Train on 3 trips up and down the hill to the river. He was fast—that horse has rockets on his feet when he trots. I didn’t dare canter—not enough room—the trail was too short for him when he is in that kind of mood. We had fun.

I had a lot of time left before I had to feed, so I saddled up Dante for a ride on the hill. It seems like Ellen always finds a way for me to do things with him first before she does it. Dante has never been ridden multiple trips on the hill all by himself, before. He is either with another horse or one of us is walking along. Well, it was his night.

As I led him to the trail, he started crying—he has a horrible voice—sounds like a mule. Once I got in the saddle, he stopped crying and was a delight. I used Cruiser’s old saddle, and when I looked down and saw the long chestnut neck with the lighter mane—well, it made me feel right at home. I thought to myself, I gotta get me one of these horses…

Anyway, he did very well for his first truly solo trip. He was so much better than Cole was for about the first 20 solo trips. We trotted at the bottom and he had a little zip to him. He really seems to get into this game—just like Cole. He just doesn’t have the rockets that Cole has. He was just a little sticky at the top when I would try to stop and turn around, but assertive legs fixed that.

I dismounted before the end of the trail as a reward, and that’s when he got all wound up because he knew he was going home. He rushed at a walk, tried trotting and was very hyper. (Not nearly as bad as Cole was for the first couple of years.) He even tried prancing on the street—and that got me mad—we worked too hard on manners on the street for him to do that. I immediately turned him around facing away from home and made him stand there until he settled down. He did better on the driveway, but then he tried to rush into the barn (circle) and trot down the aisle (go back outside and do it again.)

He was probably hoping his dinner would be in his stall because it was right about that time—but he didn’t figure out that I was feeding, and he wouldn’t get dinner until I was ready. I didn’t feed right away, but cleaned Ranger’s stall, first.

It was a fun ride on both horses, even though I couldn’t cross the river. It was also fun to ride 2 horses in one evening, again. I think I may be ready…

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Quick Update

I suppose everyone is wondering why I haven’t posted much. Well, not much has been going on. We did have a 4-day weekend, but the weather didn’t cooperate. The river was too high to cross for green horses the whole time. We spent our time working with Dante on the hill. He has gotten quite good. On the furst day, I was riding him and we turned to go down the hill again. He did well for that, but when I asked him to go forward, he spun around—right into Ranger’s jaws of death. That is the last time he tried that move. It was classic.

On Sunday, we did cross with the big guys. We don’t like to push Dante on the borderline days. We did see a horse fall in this weekend. We were jut doing the hill, and we were surprised the woman crossed. Her horse fell, they parted and Ellen caught him. She was on foot and I was on Cole. It made us feel better that opted not to cross.

The previous weekend, we just did the easy ride twice. Ellen and Dante did great and it was so uneventful.

I have been taking Cole out with Kevin and Starry during the week. The rides have been fun, but they haven’t given me anything to write about. Last week, when my niece joined me, it was raining, so I had her work Dante in the arena. The rain quit, so I let her take Cole on the hill with Starry. Cole nearly launched her off when they tried to trot the first time—just because he thought he would be cute and start her with the “Show Trot.” After that, he was normal but fast. Once she got the hang of it, she liked it.

I think that sums everything up for the horses. At home, the veggie garden is doing well because of all the rain. Looks like I will be getting lots of tomatoes this year. I may have to learn how to make tomato sauce—I planted a lot of basil to go in it!

Tomorrow is Cruiser’s birthday. He would have been 27. I will celebrate it by giving Cole a big hug. I miss Cruise so much, but I sure am grateful I still have Cole.

Thunder’s birthday is coming up—I sense a cat party around the corner! Time to pick some fresh catnip!

Monday, June 16, 2014

Product Review: Cole Train gets Some Bling

Product Review: Cole Train gets Some Bling

By now, most of you probably have figured out that Cole Train has aspirations to become a circus horse. I have taught him a few tricks—and he has taught himself a few—and he just loves performing them. Well, a circus horse needs bling!

Two Horse Tack contacted me to do a product review. They are a manufacturer right in Kentucky that makes bridles, halters, harnesses and miscellaneous items out of beta biothane—a synthetic material that is stronger and more durable than leather. They also have leather items, but that’s boring. The biothane comes in all sorts of colors that you can mix and match. They make your item custom—and it’s even affordable. The whole thing really seemed too good to be true.

Though I ride English, I am no stickler to tradition. I have used western bridles in the past, and I think they look great. Mingo’s best-fitting bridle was western. (He had a very broad head with a tiny nose.) It had shiny medal things on them—but they ended up rusting. (Two Horse Tack uses stainless steel—will not rust.) Besides, when I buy an English bridle, the first thing I do is take off the noseband.

So, when Two Horse Tack contacted me to do a product review, I decided to get Cole a western bridle with bling. I thought we would stay with the traditional black, but I chose dark pink rhinestones.

I love their website. It shows all different-colored horses with all different-colored tack. This is great for a person like me who is fashion challenged. I had trouble imagining what colors would look best on a black horse. (I know, everything is supposed to go with black, but these things aren’t easy for me.) I also got to see what would look nicest on a light chestnut like Dante or a dark chestnut like Ranger. The other awesome thing about the website is the way you can see the details of the product. All you do is rest your cursor in the spot you want to see, and it magnifies the picture. This was a great help for me because I could see just how the items were constructed.

I liked having selection, too. With the western bridle, I could get it without reins or purchase matching reins for an additional cost. Since I love my thick cotton reins, I didn’t need to buy reins. I have several sets of reins that have never been used because they came with a bridle I purchased. I was also able to choose whether I wanted to buckle, tie, screw or snap my bit in place. I took the snaps—I love snap bridles. I just hate fussing with things.

Ordering was easy. Now, the question was, will the bridle be as outstanding at the website? It was! I am very pleased with the quality. The biothane feels like well-oiled leather—much softer than Cruiser’s Wintec bridle. The stitching is perfect and the rhinestones are pretty! It fits beautifully on Cole Train. Everyone at the barn that I showed it to were very impressed with the quality of the material. They all commented on how much they liked the feel of it.

I tried to test it in the rain that very weekend, but it stopped raining as soon as I got outside. It guess that wasn’t a bad thing. I’m sure I will have plenty of opportunities to test it in inclement weather in the future.

Cole Train looks very handsome in his rhinestones, and seriously, doesn’t it look like leather? I am so happy with my bridle. When I get my baby horse, I know where I will be getting his new tack! I can even buy more browbands with different color rhinestones it I want some variety. I think Ellen should get Dante turquoise rhinestones…or maybe purple. I picture Starry in blue. I may even get my dog a new collar—but I will skip the rhinestones—she has too much fur—no one could even see them.

Right now, they are having a giveaway. You can sign up to win a trail halter bridle—and if you do, you will get a $10.00 coupon on your next purchase.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Missy Takes a Ride on Dante

Missy Takes a Ride on Dante

Sometimes I think that everyone’s goal when riding with me it to not turn into a blog post—unless it is a boring “we had a wonderful time” blog post. I know that is Ellen’s goal. Well this one isn’t about Ellen but my niece, Missy.

She is going to come out with me once a week in the evening until she goes to college in August, and she has graduated not just from high school but from Ranger to Dante. She rode Dante plenty in the arena over the winter, so they certainly aren’t strangers to each other, but it was time to start taking him on the trail. I would be riding Cole, of course.

He led down the street for her perfectly. He went down the hill and across the river without a problem. We were going to go the easy way to the second river crossing. Wherever we could, we trotted. Cole led, and as he always does, the further we got down the trail, the faster he went. It was a good way to get Missy used to Dante’s trail trot. When we got to the section of the trail where I often canter Cole, I told her Dante may try to canter because Cole will trot there pretty fast. He has with Ellen. She could either stop him or let him—it was up to her. As predicted, he went into his lovely canter, and they were doing well until he got a little too close to a tree for her comfort. She then had him trot, but she really liked his canter.

On the way home, he was perfect. I had her trot in the lead to keep the speed under control. Overall, it was a totally perfect ride—so I suggested passing up home and going to the access trail. After all, I hadn’t gotten a thing to writ about, yet.

To get there, we have to pass up the river crossing, go a short distance to a street, cross, go up a short, steep hill, down a long sloping hill and then the trail splits. One way goes to the Lagoon and the other way dead ends out at the street. We call that the access trail—because that is all it is. It gives the park access to the bridle trails with their trucks when the river is over the ford.

I warned Missy that Dante may try to turn home. To pass the river, I kept Cole between Dante and the bank. Dante tried to turn, but Cole thwarted him. Once we got past, Dante got a carrot. A few steps later—he tried to turn. Missy circled him and sent him on his way. We trotted to the street. A large herd of bikes were going down the road, so we had to wait. Then, there was a string of traffic. Dante decided waiting was dumb and going home was a better idea, so he turned around. Once again, Missy kept him turning.

Next time I glanced back, I saw them walking away down the bike trail that parallels the street. He got pretty far before she could turn him and bring him back. When he got to the trail, he turned down it to go home. Once again, she got him facing the right direction. Finally, we could cross the street. Dante stopped at the bottom of the hill and refused to go forward. He simply ignored her kicks. I got off to try to lead him, but Cole kept getting in the way. I told her it was time for her to get off. She had no trouble leading him up the hill where she remounted.

When we got to the access trail, I suggested that Dante go first because I thought Cole would be excited, but Dante wouldn’t take the lead. I said I would lead. I asked Cole to trot, and in an instant we were galloping down the trail. Several instants later, I got him to stop. Dante decided that he would canter, but Missy had no trouble bringing him back to a trot. I tried again, but Cole surged ahead. This just wasn’t working. We walked to nearly the end, and then I asked for a quiet trot and got it. We turned around to go home and Dante was perfect the rest of the way.

When Dante misbehaves, he slowly states his opinion and it isn’t scary. When Cole misbehaves—he does it with style. Missy said he looked beautiful. Fortunately, he doesn’t scare me very often, since he usually stops very readily if he is out on the trail. In the arena, it is another matter—all the more reason to trail ride.

Missy really liked her time with Dante, and she will be back out next week.