Sunday, November 11, 2018

Dante Challenges

Our ride on Saturday didn't go very well.  Kevin, Ellen and I rode down to the river.  It was extremely cold and windy for this time of year, and Ellen was filled with much trepidation about the ride.  Cold weather sometimes brings the worst out in horses, and this was our coldest day in a long time.

At the bottom of the hill, Starry had one of his unreasonable fits about not walking in front of Dante--he wouldn't even follow Cole.  Dante was behind Starry--afraid to pass him--and Starry wouldn't budge.  We worked through that, but not without Dante trying to high-tail it back home.

After that, I started to cross the river.  It wasn't too bad, but when Ellen saw it, she decided it was too high to cross.  I didn't want to turn Cole around and go back because I didn't want him to learn that was in the realm of possibility.  We continued to the other side.  Ellen thought she would try, but when she got to the edge of the water, she changed her mind.  She decided to go home and work Dante in the arena.

Kevin crossed Starry, and we went on a short, cold ride.

The next day, the river was lower, so Ellen thought she could cross it.   Starry was banned from the ride because of his bad behavior.  We rode down to the river, and Cole and I crossed to the other side.  Ellen rode Dante to the river's edge, he stopped and refused to take a step forward.  I found a sunny spot and had Cole stand and wait.

Ellen got Dante to put his front feet in, and she clicked and treated him.  So far, so good.  She asked for another step--and nothing.  They were stuck for a while, until Dante did one of his slow motion spins to get out of the water.  She kept him spinning and they ended up at the water's edge, again.

This happened a few times.  Finally, she got all 4 feet in, and he stalled out.  She asked for step forward.  He put his left foot in, and then took his left foot out.  He took his right foot in and his right foot out.  He then did the "hokey pokey," and turned himself around.

Okay, this wasn't working.  She tried again.  Once more, all 4 feet were in.  Dante decided to play in the water.  He kept sticking his face in the ice cold water and shaking his head around.  Ellen was so puzzled about his behavior.  He didn't act like he was afraid to cross--but he wouldn't cross.  He didn't fight--he just refused.  He tried another slow spin, but Ellen used all of her strength to keep his incredibly strong neck from bending the way she didn't want it to go.

I told her to try and walk down stream a little to cross in a different spot.  I have found that that sometimes helps.  This had taken about 15 minutes, so far-it seemed like an hour.  I was getting bored and cold.  Ellen certainly didn't want to give up.  What did she have to lose.

And then an idea popped into her head.  The last big rain storm changed the river a bit.  The current looked funny.  There were ripples were she wanted to cross him that weren't there, before.  Could that be why he was putting his head in the water to test it so much?  She rode him downstream about 10 feet where there weren't any ripples.  Within less than a minute, he was marching across the river.  She didn't want him to lose his momentum, so she didn't stop him to give him a treat.  Instead, she scratched his neck and praised him.  Once she triumphantly got to the other side, she gave him a handful of carrots.

So, we think that between the new ripples and the fact that he didn't have to cross the day before, convinced Dante that he didn't have to try to cross.  He, wisely, (in his mind,) decided it was safer for both of them to stay where they were at.

We had a great ride, after that.  On the way home, he crossed the river without hesitation.

I am so proud of Ellen's fine display of horsemanship.  She never lost her temper, she stayed determined and she used the most important tool we have to solve the problem--her brain.


Tuesday, October 23, 2018

The Log

The Log

We had a big storm the other day.  There wasn't that much rain, but the wind was really, really bad.  Even so, we were still surprised at the number of branches on the trail--and 3 trees blocking it.  All of the trees were small enough to step over, though not easily by a horses as short as Cole.

Ellen and I went out for a ride.  We were able to negotiate all the trees and branches.  On our way back, we saw Kevin heading out for his ride.  We told him what we encountered, and reassured him that he could get through.  After all, Starry is the largest of our horses; by far.

And he did.  He only took Starry on a short ride--to the next river crossing--and turned around to go home.  When he reached the log that Starry had willingly stepped over just a little time ago, he headed for the left end of it.  The rest of the log was too high to step over.  As he neared it, Starry saw a branch he could grab and eat.  That broke their momentum--and then Starry decided it was impossible to cross the log.  It didn't matter that he crossed it going the other direction.  It didn't matter that he was going towards home.  He didn't act frightened--he just felt he couldn't do it.

Kevin asked and asked to no avail.  Finally, he got off--thinking Starry would follow him.  That didn't work, either.  He looked for a way to get around the log, but the shrubbery was too thick and the footing too swampy.  He had to turn around and go away from home. 

The whole time, he kept looking for a good way to get out to the street, but he didn't find any until he reached the river crossing.  He then rode out to the street to the paved bike path.  He had no choice but to ride along it to get home.  Wherever he could, he rode on the grass.  One bike passed him.  Once, Starry tried to trot on the paved path when Kevin tried to get him over to the grass.  Other than that, it was uneventful.

Finally, he reached a spot where he could cut back to the trail on the other side of the log.

The next day, Cole and I went with them on a ride.  I was willing to turn at the log, but Kevin thought Starry would follow Cole over it.  We had no trouble stepping over it on the way out, and we had a terrific ride. 

On the way home, Kevin wanted to try, first.  He had stopped by earlier in the day and cut the branch that originally distracted Starry.  He was hoping with that gone; the problem would be gone, too.

It didn't work.  Starry still refused to step over the log.  After a number of attempts, I brought Cole up to it to lure Starry across.  The very thing I feared happened.  Since Cole saw Starry refuse, he did, too.  I dismounted, and Cole was happy to follow me over it. 

Starry would still not cooperate.  Kevin dismounted to lead him--but Starry wouldn't follow him across, either.  Kevin asked me to come back with him so we could go home on the bike path.  Poor, little Cole. He had to step over the log that was way too tall for him--but not too tall for the hulking behemoth, Starry, once again.

He did, and we were on our way.  We couldn't trot because Kevin needed a mounting block.  There is one at the river crossing.  He mounted, and we cut over to the paved bike path.

I was nervous about it because Cole's horse shoes were worn smooth.  That meant he could slip very easily.  Years ago, when I first started riding Cruiser on the trail, he spooked, ran onto the bike trail and slipped.  He regained his balance, but I tumbled to the ground.  With that in my mind, we tentatively followed Starry on the bike path.  My other concern was motorcycles.  The bike path is very close to the street. 

It all went well.  There was one loud vehicle that I stopped Cole for as it passed.  Two bikes passed us, too, but we saw them before they could startle the horses. 

The next day, Kevin didn't join Ellen and me.  He went the other way on the trail.  When we reached the log, Cole went over, first.  Dante decided he wasn't going over it.  He touched it, rubbed his face on it, looked for the branch that he tried to eat on the last ride and looked pretty.  Ellen turned him away and tried again.  This time, he stepped right over it.  We continued on our merry way.

When we got back to the log on the way home, there was Starry and Kevin waiting for us on the other side.  He wasn't even going to try.  Dante marched right over; followed by Cole.  The 3 of us had a lovely ride home.

Thursday, October 18, 2018

His Favorite

His Favorite

With the cooler weather, the horses--particularly Cole have been much friskier.  He is living up to his name, Smokin' Cole Train!  The other day, my sister and I were trotting along.  Her slow horse, Dante, was in the lead.  Things were going great, then I think Cole may have gotten hit by a falling acorn.  I suddenly felt him sink low in the hindquarters and he dashed forward at a gallop.

Sigh...A Cole burst is one thing, but why this?

Dante is very reactive whenever another horse does something sudden.  He is afraid when they merely swish their tails at him.  Well, Cole thundering up behind him set him off running, too.  I wasn't the least bit worried about myself.  The big sister in me kicked in.  I must protect Ellen!

I knew that I had to keep Cole as far away from Dante as I could or my sister would have a very big problem.  Starry was just up ahead.  All we needed was for him to start running, too!  I tried and tried to stop Cole, but he merely slowed down.  By now, he thought this was a fun game and wanted to keep playing.  I did get him to a slow canter, and my sister was able to get control of Dante. 

Cole was no longer a threat to her, but he still wasn't stopping.  I was getting frustrated--bending him to the left and then the right.  Ellen then turned around, looked at Cole and said in her sternest "mom" voice, "Cole.  Stop.  Behave yourself."  Wouldn't you know, he did just that.  The funny thing is--this isn't the first time this has happened.  I've written about it, before.  Cole simply adores her.  He always listens to her.  A few days before, Cole was swishing at the bugs, causing Dante to worry.  She told Cole to stop, and he did.

When we leave the barn to go home, I will toss some treats in Cole's dish.  He won't even go to them.  He just stands there and waits for my sister to toss treats in his dish.  Then he eats both sets of treats and thinks they are all from Ellen.  He only h,as eyes for her...

I am sure it is because she isn't the one in charge, telling him what to do and when to do it.  Instead, she says loving things to him and gives him all the best treats!  If I am Cole's mother, she is Cole's grandmother.  She spoils him all she likes and then sends him back to me.

The Strange Ride

The Strange Ride

The other day, Ellen, Kevin and I were going out riding.  Kevin left ahead of us so that he wouldn't be in our way.  We followed along.  We knew we would meet him at the end of the trail where we turn around to go home.

It looked like rain.  We checked the radar on Ellen's phone, and we thought we might be all right, so we decided to take a chance.  There was one other concern on our minds.  Kevin told us there was a car club that was planning to drive through the park.  Our trails thread between the street and the river.  Sometimes it is closer to the street--and sometimes the river.  We have been caught out in previous years when all the cars drive though, and it can be difficult.  These aren't ordinary cars.  They are noisy hot rods. 

The ride was uneventful on the way out.  We couldn't cross the river at the second river crossing because it was too high, so we walked the horses across the ford.  There wasn't much traffic because of the weather, so it was an easy crossing.

As we approached the end of the trail, we could see Starry in the distance.  He started neighing for us.  Once we got closer, he got very quiet.  I guess he didn't want us to know that he missed his buddies so much.

We put Starry in the lead on the way home.  Kevin told us the time that the cars were supposed to leave their starting point.  I looked at my watch and realized we might be in trouble.  We had to get across the ford before the hot rods showed up. 

We did some trotting towards home to make up time.  All was quiet, so we brought the horses onto the ford.  We knew the cars would make such a ruckus that we would have ample warning.

Once across, Kevin hurried on ahead.  He wanted to get to a good spot where he could stop Starry and watch the cars.  Things like that don't make Starry nervous the way they make Cole and Ellen nervous.  (Notice I didn't mention Dante?)  He wasn't even out of sight before we could hear the rumble of engines.  We made it across the ford only a few minutes too soon.

We decided to walk because the trail where we were at was far from the street.  Maybe by the time we got close to the street, they would be done.  All went well as we walked along.  I was hoping that Cole would just gradually get desensitized to the noise. 

We saw Kevin and Starry standing over by the street; watching the cars go by.  Starry was a statue.  He didn't care at all.  He is such a strange horse.

By now, we could also smell the fumes.  As the trail got closer to the street, Cole's head kept getting higher and higher.  The cars kept coming and coming.  Cole's steps became faster.  I wasn't feeling very safe, so I stopped him and hopped off.  A few steps later, he leapt into the air!  He had had enough.  I circled him to contain his outburst and asked him to stand.  He then parked out and waited.  Of course, I praised him.  Dante just watched.

The cars were soon gone,  Since it looked like rain, there was a poor turnout for the event.  We were relieved.  I led Cole for a little ways.  When he seemed settled down, I mounted back up.  He was still walking very fast, so we were way ahead of Dante.  We would stop and wait for them to catch up periodically.

When we were nearly back to our river crossing to go home, I stopped to wait for Dante.  Far up ahead, I heard a noise that started getting louder and louder.  I thought it might be a big gust of wind, but when it got to us, it turned out to be a wall of water!  This never happened to us before.  The only thing Cole hates more than loud engines is heavy rain.  Poor Cole was having a bad day.  Not only could we see the rain moving as a wave, but we also could see the wave moving toward us on the leaves of the trees and shrubs. 

Ellen caught up with us.  I asked Cole to go forward, but the rain wall had him so confused and upset that he uncharacteristically started backing up.  For the first time ever, I had to ask her to bring Dante ahead of my typically very bold Cole because he was afraid of something.  Was Dante afraid?  Of course not.  He was amazed at the way the rain was hitting the leaves.  He was looking from one side of the trail to the next.  He wanted to go touch the leaves--and possibly taste them.

Ellen persisted and Dante took the lead. Cole immediately settled down, and we crossed the river.  Once we reached the other side, we got off to lead.  You get less wet if you are leading than if you are riding.

We were home shortly, and Starry arrived a little after us.  Of course, once Starry was inside, it quit raining.

It was a strange ride.


Thursday, October 4, 2018

Ellen Gets an Award


Ellen Gets an Award

The “Award for Staying in the Saddle” in September certainly doesn’t go to me.  Ellen will get the award this month.

Ellen, Kevin and I were out for a ride.  We were nearing the spot that we planned to turn to go home when we saw a man we have known from the trails for years.  We don’t remember his name, but his dog’s name is Daisy. Daisy is one of those sweet dogs who never gives us any trouble.  She doesn’t need to be on a leash. She will just sit and wait for us to go by.

We stopped to chat for a few minutes.  Then, he went on our way and we went on ours.  We didn’t get very far when I saw Dante’s head go straight up in the air.  He started panicking. All I saw was him stepping backwards into the woods behind him.  I think that is when he decided to spin towards us. All I knew is that Cole decided to spin and take off.  Starry was in between us, and he half-heartedly followed Cole. Dante saw the commotion going on with us--and spun the opposite way.  Poor Ellen got spun to the left--then spun to the right.

I didn’t have much problem stopping Cole within a few strides.  I quickly looked back and saw Ellen leaning over Dante’s neck. She was hanging on with all her might--and she did it!  Dante stopped, Ellen readjusted herself and all was well again.

We then found out what happened.  There was a man just wandering through the woods; picking up garbage.  Dante must have thought he was a bear. The man startled Dante, Dante startled Cole, Cole terrified Dante and Starry never did figure out what was going on.  The poor man, when he realized what happened, felt so bad. We told him not to worry about it. That’s just how horses can be.

So Ellen got the award for staying on during a double-spin spook.

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Animal Woes - Part 2

Animal Woes - Part 2

All the while that Fall was using up one of her 9 lives, other things were going on.  When she came home from the vet after her long stay, Arbez, Kevin's other cat threw up a lot and decided she was done eating forever.  This is a worry for a cat that is 15.

We weren't too worried, at first.  It has happened before, and then she eats in a few hours.  It was different, this time.  We ended up at the store--trying to find something, anything that she would eat.  We brought home chicken and cheese.

She ate a lot of chicken and a little cheese.  The next day, she didn't want either.  Kevin tried different types of cat foods.  Nothing appealed to her.  Sometimes she would eat a little; getting our hopes up, and then refuse the same food next time.

We suspected her urinary tract infection from December might have returned, so he was able to get a sample and got it to the vet.  She did have an infection.  They gave her a pill he could give her to calm her down so he could bring her in, in couple of days.  Before that happened, she did start eating again--this time voraciously.  She wanted to eat constantly.  In the meantime, we were trying to get Fall to eat her special food.  Fall preferred the food Arbez was eating.  It was chaos, and Kevin was losing his mind.

When he did get Arbez to the vet, her lab work was showing that she not only had the infection, but her kidneys weren't doing so well, either.  The first step was to get her on antibiotics.

Somewhere in there, I noticed my dog, Maggie, was drinking more.  I started to pay attention to her water consumption.  Each day, it went up.  Then, the accidents began.  I brought her to the vet.  The preliminary urinalysis at their lab showed no urinary tract infection.  It was looking more serious.  They sent her urine off to the lab with blood work.  Everything was leaning towards kidney disease or Cushings.  Ugh.  She was drinking 11 cups of water a day, and she is only a 36 pound dog.

While I was there, I made an appointment for my cat, Thunder.  It was time for his geriatric check up.

The next day, Ellen called in a panic.  Her older horse, Ranger, was colicking!  She called the vet who said she would be there in a couple of hours.  An hour later, Ellen called to tell me he seemed better.  By the time the vet got there, he was normal.  Our vet decided to treat him, just the same.  She found that way inside, he had hard stool.  In his stool, there was a lot of undigested hay.  Ranger's age, which we don't know, caught up with him.  His teeth weren't chewing his hay well enough.  Ellen caught a minor colic, but she may have been able to prevent a major one.  He is now getting a change in diet with less hay, more hay cubes and an increase in grain.  He seems much perkier since the change.

Two days later, I brought Thunder in for his appointment.  Everything looked good, but he had lost a little weight.  They took blood to send to the lab.  They did have Maggie's labwork back.  She had an infection after all!!!  Her urine was just too diluted for the vet's equipment.  She is now on antibiotics and I get up every 2 hourse to let her out at night.  She is learning to use a litter box.

A couple days later, Thunder's blood work came in.  He is doing great for a 12-year-old cat.  Now, we are waiting for Maggie's and Arbez's anitbiotics to take affect.  Everyone is eating.

What a month it has been.

Animal Woes - Part 1

Animal Woes - Part 1

Oh what a trying month it has been for our animals!

It all started on Labor Day.  (It always seems like the emergencies fall on the holidays.)  Kevin called me first thing in the morning to tell me that something was wrong with his cat, Fall.  (Fall as in an October colored calico that he got in October, 12 years ago.)  She was throwing up and could only walk by balancing herself along the wall.

I told him to get her to the emergency clinic right away.  This was serious.

A few hours later, he called me to tell me she had kidney disease and heart failure.  He put the vet on the line to explain it.  I had a cat with kidney disease, and I know it can be managed.  The vet explained that kidney disease is treated by adding fluids and heart disease is treated by removing them.  Because of this and the fact that her blood work was so bad, the prognosis was terrible.  Kevin asked for their honesty, and they said it would be best to put her to sleep.

This was devastating to both of us.  Fall is the nicest cat I have ever met.  I love her like my own.

Kevin called me back a few minutes later.  The vet tech said he didn't have to do it right away.  She would still be all right for a few days if he wanted to take her home.  That way, we could spend a little more time with her and I could say goodbye.  She wouldn't eat or drink, but she wouldn't be suffering.

They pumped her up with some Sub-Q fluids and sent her home.  We spent a very sad evening with her.  She mostly just laid there.  She did use the litter box a few times, but we could see she could still barely walk.  She did seem comfortable, so we just talked to her and told her how much we loved her.  I told her that I loved her so much that if love alone could save her, she would be just fine.

The next day, Kevin was going to take her to the vet for her final visit.  I went to the barn.  Ellen and I were riding down the hill when Kevin called me on my phone.  I braced myself for the bad news.  He told me he didn't take her.  She was walking normal and drinking water.  He came out to ride, and then I went to his house to see her.  She was so much better!

We decided on a new plan.  He made an appointment with his regular vet.  The earliest he could get her there was in 2 days.  Instead of saying goodbye, he would have an examination to see how she is, first.

That evening, she started to eat cat treats!  She was purring and moving about.

I went with him when he took her to the vet.  They did a urinalysis and compared it to the one at the emergency vet clinic.  It showed that she dramatically improved just from the fluids.  There was no longer any sign of heart trouble.  They suggested keeping her for a few days, pumping her up with IV fluids and seeing how she did.

It was a long 2 days, but we got back our Fall.  They gave her special food for kidneys and said to come back in a few weeks for more testing.  

She didn't really like the food, but she ate enough of it to keep going.  When Kevin took her back, her blood work came out even better than it was when she left them.  It really should have actually gotten worse, not better.  She was nearly normal!  She didn't need us to give her fluids.  She just needed a kidney diet--which she didn't really like.

A few days later, Kevin went to the vet with a package of cat treats--threatening to feed her them just to get her to eat.  They came back with a different type of food.  It was a dry food.  We took it home--and were so happy to see that both of his cats loved it!!!

We are going to have our Fall for a little while longer!!!

My love for her did save her.  It was because I love her so much that Kevin brought her home to spend one last evening for us.  Since then, we have had quite a few evenings with her, and we hope to have many more.

Monday, September 24, 2018