Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Still Waiting

Still Waiting

I haven’t blogged because there isn’t very much happening. Ellen and I had a 3-day weekend and couldn’t cross the river a single time. she is still waiting for her maiden voyage of the year. Cole has been across a number of times on weekdays, and he is steady and well behaved—nothing to write about, there. Dante is getting a lot of hill practice and all has gone well except for a mini spook or two. Ellen’s confidence is soaring—and for good reason.

And I am still waiting for MerryLegs. It will be around a month before he gets here. He has had all his shots, but the shipping company wants 30 days for them to be out of his system so he doesn’t slough anything into their trailer that other horses can then pick up. I didn’t even know that could happen. When our vet was out to give our horses their shots, she said that it normal procedure.

Spring has arrived. My patio potted peas are sprouting, my daffodils are blooming, the horses are well into shedding, Thunder is getting plenty of sunshine to lay in and Maggie is getting a lot of long walks.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Maggie aka Dumb Dog

Here is the result of Maggie's photo session on Easter. Really, truly, she isn't fat at all. She is quite thin. It's just that she has so much hair! When she goes swimming--something she does a lot--I am always amazed at what a skinny dog she is--and then she shakes, and looks over-sized again.

I spend a lot of time grooming her, and I never make any inroads. She sheds a lot, but she always has more hair. When we got her, she had normal length fur, except for her white spot. It had very long hair. Well, that all switched. The black hair kept getting longer and thicker until it surpassed her spot.

She is very soft.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Weekend Update

Weekend Update

Thanks to the rain, we were only able to get out across the river once this weekend.  It was a little high on Friday, and Ellen didn’t want to take Dante or Ranger across.  Kevin kindly offered us Starry, so she rode Starry and I rode Cole.  Poor Ellen had to deal with the jarring Starry trot.  She came up with a solution—she would just canter him.  That meant I got to canter Cole out on the trail for the first time this year—and he just flew down the trail.  We did stop once when we heard Ellen yell out that Starry was bucking, but once they got under control, away we went.  Sometimes, Cole just needs to run.  We walked all the way home, and Cole was very relaxed.

We rode Dante and Ranger on the hill.  I rode Dante on Friday.  It was his first trail ride of the year, but you would never know it.  He was no different than his last trail ride back in December.  I really like his consistency.  Ranger didn’t want to trot.  Ellen had tried him on the hill earlier in the week, with the same results.  We were thinking that age might just be catching up with him.  Still, when he is out playing, he trots just fine.  Ellen can also trot him in hand, and he is very willing.  It was puzzling.  I suggested we try a different saddle.  Ranger’s body has changed over the last year—maybe the saddle isn’t fitting him right.
My WWII Japanese military saddle has a different type of seat that distributes the weight over a larger surface—much like a Western saddle.  It is my favorite saddle, but it is too long for Cole’s pony back.  I have used it on Ranger when I’ve ridden him over the years, and he seems to like it.  On Saturday, we switched horses and I used my war saddle.

When we got to the flat section of trail at the bottom of the hill, Ranger tried to take a trot step before I even asked him!  When I did ask for the trot—away we went.  Ellen was in shock.  We did a bunch of trotting back in forth, and Ranger gradually got faster and steadier.  Could it be this simple?

later, I rode Cole by myself on the hill. For the first time this year, I trotted him up the hill a couple of times, and he was great.  That was something we were still struggling with last year.  It is hard for horses to calmly travel up a hill at a faster speed when the barn is right across the street at top of it.

On Sunday, Ellen wanted to ride Ranger to see if he would trot for her and to prove that it wasn’t a fluke.  I got to ride Dante.  Ranger gave Ellen plenty to smile about—he trotted well.  Of course, Dante was a good boy, too.  It looks like Ellen will be using my saddle, now.  She will just have to remember to lift her leg up higher on the dismount.  It has a “horn” in the back that is used to hold a pack down, I think. 

I worked Cole on the hill, alone, again.  This involved more trotting uphill.  We also did a bit of cantering at the bottom.  Ellen set up a log for us to trot over. After a few times of that, I couldn’t resist cantering over it, too.  He gave me just a little jump.  Overall, I had a very fun ride, even though the river was too high to cross.

Thunder the Wonder Cat

Ellen and her significant other, John, came over for Easter lasagna, yesterday. Well, John can't resist taking pictures of Thunder, whenever he sees him. The afternoon turned into a photo session. As you can see, John is very talented--and Thunder is very beautiful--a terrific combination.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Icy Cold Weekend

Icy Cold Weekend

Soon as the weekend showed up, we plunged into the Arctic Circle.  Friday evening was so cold, that I couldn’t talk Kevin into riding with me.  The river was too high to cross, so I planned to do a few trips with Cole on the hill.  He was one little bundle of energy.  When I got to the bottom, flat part of the hill, I hesitated to trot at the usual spot.  I wisely decided to shorten distance to the stopping spot.  When I did ask him to trot, he made a  huge buck, trotted 3-4 long strides and we were at the end.  Turn, walk and repeat=buck , charge and halt.  Oh boy, I had a stick of dynamite underneath me.  It must have been the cold weather, the day off the day before and the fact that this was our first time out by ourselves this year—all put together.  He was so sensitive to my legs, that I had to cue his as light as I could.  Still, many times, he twitched like he was getting a jolt of electricity.  I decided to use voice cues.

I kept up the routine—trot a short distance to the end, halt, turn on the haunches, walk, turn on the haunches and trot again.  Gradually, I increased the distance.  I got more bucks, but they turned into leaps and finally, it just got trot sprints.  Cole was going back to his heritage—he is a descendant of the great Standardbred pacer, Dan Patch.  When he is in the mood and turns on that trot, it is more exhilarating than a gallop.  It isn’t merely a very fast trot.  He will do a very fast trot, and then a switch will flick and he will transform.  His hoof beats actually slow down and his stride lengthens—I so wish I could see it—and the trail just flies by.

Cruiser and Ranger both had very fast trots.  They would go so fast that you would barely rise when you posted—there was so little time between beats.  Cole’s trot is different because you actually post slower and it seems you are in the air for seconds at a time.  Of course, that is physically impossible, but that is what it feels like.  I’m not sure if Cole is faster than them or not, but he is certainly fun.

I wish we were able to cross the river that day.  He clearly needed to fly down the trail and get it out of his system.

Once he started to behave, I decided it was time to go home, but to be safe, I opted to lead.  When I got back to the barn, the indoor arena was empty, so I turned him loose and he ran and ran and ran.

Saturday and Sunday were even colder.  I took Cole on the walking ride with Ranger on both days. We did 3 trips on the hill, and he was perfectly behaved.

Now, for Dante.  Saturday, Ellen rode him in the arena and a little out on the driveway.  We then took his saddle and bridle off and I led him to the hill.  The first trip down, he did pretty good—and he was even better on the way up.  When I turned him around to do it again, he wouldn’t stop circling until he was facing home, again.  Evidently, he didn’t feel like walking down to the river, again.  That didn’t stop me from insisting.  We went through about 5 minutes struggling down 50 feet of trail.  He found his circles were futile, since I made him keep circling back to the correct direction.  He gave up and tried trotting to get away.  Then, I had to circle him to get him back to a walk.  We were getting nowhere.  Finally, I decided to let him trot as long as he was going down the hill.  Once he was, I would ask him to walk—then he would try again.  Finally, he gave up and walked straight down the hill.  He was perfect the rest of the way.

I was discouraged, but oddly, Ellen didn’t think he did that bad.  Sunday, we did the same routine.  Ellen led him both ways on the street, and that was great.  I led him down to the river—no problem.  I led him back up—no problem.  I turned him around to do it again—still no problem.  A little bit down the trail, he tried the trotting thing, but I just told him to walk and he did.  The rest of the way down to the bottom, he was fine.  It was a Dante miracle.  He does this all the time.  when we run into a snag and he misbehaves and I get discouraged—the next day, he is great.  We went back home with smiles on our faces.

Let’s hope next weekend is warmer.

Friday, March 27, 2015

I Slept on It

I Slept on It

The following morning, I sat up in bed and said, “I’m getting a new horse.”  It was just that easy.

So, I went to work, put a few hours on the job—just giving myself time to change my mind.  When that didn’t happen, I typed up an email, leaned back and looked at it for about a minute.  I typed up an email, leaned back and looked at it for about a minute.  I hovered the mouse over the send button, paused and------click.

I took another deep breath and sat there, just enjoying the feeling of overwhelming happiness.

Unfortunately, I then had to go back to work.

So, now I am back to waiting while we make the arrangements.  I am waiting for a big Palomino Morgan that is nearly 6 years old, green broke and currently lives in Canada named MerryLegs—after the little pony in the story “Black Beauty.”

The adventure begins…

Thursday, March 26, 2015

And the Trainer Says…

And the Trainer Says…

I sent out the email to MerryLegs’ trainer.  I told her how I liked a horse that wasn’t lazy and unmotivated.  This was my biggest concern.  His owner made me think he wasn’t, but she didn’t actually ride him.  Mingo was a very quiet, sleepy horse, and he drove me crazy.  For many people, he would have been the perfect horse.  My older niece simply adored him.  They were the perfect pair from the very first ride, and I am so glad I had him so she could enjoy him on trail rides.  I loved Mingo, and I still miss him.  I had him from birth—he was really my baby—but he didn’t suit me for a riding horse.  I need a horse with a work ethic—not a crazy, wild horse, but one that is willing to move. 

MerryLegs’ trainer told me about his training and then she said the magic words.  She said, ”I cannot imagine that Merrylegs would be a lazy horse, and I'm sure he can work!”  Do you see that exclamation point she put at the end of the sentence?  So, not only was he handsome and friendly, but it sounded like our personalities were a good fit.  She even said that, too.

She said I should restart him from the beginning, since it has been so long, but he should pick it up fast. That sounded good—it was what I was thinking of doing, anyway.

I took a few deep breaths, and decided…

That I should sleep on it.  I would make my decision the next morning.

Working with Dante

Working with Dante

Each time I go out to the barn, if Ellen isn’t there, I spend a little time with Dante doing spring tuning. We are just reviewing the things what he knows to prepare him for trail riding. For the first week, we played bus stop. He remembered the game quite well. It is where I take him to the end of the driveway and we wait for cars to pass. If he stands still, it click and treat him.

Dante remembered the game very well, and just loves it. Once I knew he would be 100 percent playing the game, I decided it was time to work on something else. He doesn’t agree. When I take him out of his stall, he wants to head right down the driveway. Instead, I have been taking him the other direction to review the loop. It is a small track in the back of the property.

The first day, I just walked him back and forth down the fence line leading to the loop. He did well with that. Next step—leading on the loop. He started out pretty good, but when we got to a section that was muddy, he started acting out by jumping, pulling back, rushing forward, cutting me off and once he gave a small buck. I would stop him or circle him; whichever seemed more appropriate. When we got to the last section of the loop where we were facing home, he started rushing.

That was just the first lap. On the second lap, he protested that he had to do it again. On the muddy section, he did everything he did before, but worse and he did it more times. I felt like I would never get out of there—we were circling so much. When we did, and we were facing the barn, he started rushing, again. Whenever he would walk calmly for a dozen steps or so, I would click him.

On the third lap, he started to figure it out. We still had trouble, but only a fraction of what we had previously. At the halfway point, a change came over him, and we were able to walk the rest of the way and back to the barn with no problem at all.

I remembered we went through all this last spring, too, and that made me feel better about his dismal performance. In fact, just a few weeks previous, I had similar problems with Cole when he hadn’t gotten out of the barn in a few weeks. Still, Dante is usually such a laid back fellow (Cole is not), it is discouraging when he gets this way.

My memory said that Dante improved last spring after his first awful lesson, so I was hopeful. A few days later, I took him out, again.

On the first lap—he was nearly perfect. On the second lap, he had one little temper tantrum when he realized he was going to do another lap. After a quick circle, he was able to walk like a gentleman the rest of the way. Two laps were enough since he was so good.

I need more daylight in the evening to be able to take him for a walk on the hill after I ride Cole on the trail, so we will continue on the driveway and loop until then.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Good News

Good News

Yes, this is good news. I finally got the results of the latest medical test, and it isn’t the C-word (and I don’t mean canter.) The problem is something very manageable, so that means life can go on. It is spring, and it is going to be a good one.

More good news—Kevin and I cross the river! Hurray! The first time was Friday night. Cole and Starry did great for their first trail ride of the year. They were both somewhat startled by a turkey running behind them, but they handled it well. Starry still made a fuss about going in the lead, and Kevin still made a fuss about Cole going too fast when he was in the lead—so nothing new going on with them. We kept it at a trot—though Cole would have loved to go for a gallop. He kept telling me he wanted to. We got back before dark.

On Saturday, Ellen wasn’t quite ready to take her first trip on the trail with Dante, so after a short arena ride, she got Ranger. I rode Dante on the backyard loop while she led Range. He was great, so we took off for the hill. I wanted to lead on the street, so I dismounted. Ranger went into one of his Ranger moods, and he was prancing, dancing, jogging and was just plain wound up. Dante was perfect. When we got to the trail, I decided just to stay dismounted because I remembered how much I ate the day before. Ranger settled down and we walked up and down the hill twice. Dante was perfect, again.

To celebrate, I took Cole out for a ride with Kevin and Starry.

Sunday, it was just frigid. Ellen rode Dante in the arena and out on the driveway. We then took Cole and Ranger for a few trips on the hill. Now, ready for more good news? Ranger’s breathing while walking up the hill was better than it has been in years. It really put a smile on our faces.

(I bet you thought I was going to tell you about a new horse in my future, didn’t you?)

Friday, March 20, 2015


I waited and waited to hear from MerryLegs’ farrier, with no response.  I told MerryLegs’ owner, and she sent an email to him to check his spam.  A few more days went by and nothing.

In the meantime, my health problem got more complicated.  My health wasn’t any different, but the test that would let us know what was going on couldn’t be completed and my doctor wasn’t sure of the next step.  He wanted to consult with a colleague—who turned out to be out of the country at the time.  it was starting to get comical, in an odd way.  it really didn’t bother me, except that I knew I had more hassle in the future.  I was more interested in MerryLegs.

Finally, I gave up on the farrier.  I asked MerryLegs’ owner if I could email his trainer.  Several years ago, he went out for 80 days of training.  I thought she could give me an  idea of what he is like and if he would suit me and my needs.  I sent the email out.

Then, of course, I had to wait longer…