Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Ranger Lesson #1

Ranger Lesson #1

This is not about me teaching Ranger something, but Ranger teaching me something.

Lesson #1—do not, repeat, do not clean feet out of order.  It is left front, left back, right back, right front.  Don’t even think of starting with the right front.  I usually just grab the hoof that is closest—my mistake.  It actually took me a few days to figure out why he was so snarky when I was cleaning his feet.  When I realized my mistake, all was well with the world.

Ranger absolutely does not like any change.  Things are done a certain way—his way or the highway.  Well, after 20 years in our family, he has earned the right to be a tyrant.

Left front, first, always…

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

My New Horse

My New Horse

One of the reasons I got MerryLegs is because I missed my Cruiser.  I thought a new horse would help me miss Cruise a little less.  Well, that didn’t go as planned, but Ellen recognized the situation and gave me Ranger.  Well, I should say that she is sharing Ranger, but as far as I’m concerned—when she isn’t there, he is mine.  If I can’t have Cruiser, I can have his best friend.  (This doesn’t mean I am sharing the cost of his upkeep—I can’t lose with this situation.)

Ellen thinks that the more he gets out and moves, the better it will be for him.  In his mid-twenties, he is arthritic and has breathing problems.  Still, in his head, he is a young horse with too much energy, but his body just doesn’t want to cooperate.  We think that more exercise sessions of short duration is just what he needs.

I plan to take him on walks around the property in the evenings.  He is a great horse to walk, and goes so fast that I will get a terrific aerobic workout—just like when I used to lead Cruiser during his last few years. 

He will occasionally spook—more so now that he is older.  It is probably due to the cataract in one of his eyes.  It takes him a bit to settle down, and sometimes he doesn’t settle down at all.  You must remain calm and get him to a safe spot to relax. 

Once the weather turns, we will be stuck in the indoor arena.  I will still walk him, but that gets a little boring in there.  Ellen did tell me I can teach him some tricks.  Ranger loves clicker training, so I think he will be a quick study when it comes to tricks.  I just have to make sure that none of the tricks are too obnoxious.

So my new horse is our old horse, and I am fine with that.  Ranger and I get along great, and I am glad I get to spend extra time with him.

I always wanted a horse like Ranger—now I’ve got one.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Clicker Saves the Day

Clicker Saves the Day

I approached a bunch of trainers with my problem, and I told them I was looking for a home for MerryLegs with someone who can train him through the bucking problem.  Well, the horse gods were smiling at me, and I found one--and a good one, too.  They specialize in training family/trail horses.  The nice thing is that they don't rush the horses.  They spend about a year putting a lot of thorough training on the horses before they try to sell them.  It is a big place with several experienced trainers.  I was very honest about the problem, and they thought they could help him.  I'm sure that his amazing beauty influenced their decision.

I got several independent references for this trainer, and I also checked thoroughly on line for bad reviews--and didn't find any.  The horses in their ads sound too good to be true, but one person knew someone who bought one, and he was, "Exactly as advertised."

This seemed like MerryLegs' best chance to become an honest citizen in the horse world.

I made the arrangements for them to pick him up.  The hauler was supposed to arrive at 9:00, Tuesday morning.  We were swamped at work—and shorthanded because someone was on vacation, so I couldn’t get away.  Poor Ellen was subjected to the sad task.

I talked Kevin into being there, too.  It wasn’t hard to talk him into it—he is always happy to help us out.

At about 9:20, I get an email from Ellen.

“Clicker Saves the Day.”

That made me smile.  Now, I just had to wait for a further update.

Ellen called me a short time later while was walking Ranger on the loop.

The truck showed up on time.  They brought MerryLegs out and led him to the trailer.  He wanted no part of loading.  I don’t know if he equated the trailer with a very long journey or if he just didn’t like it because it looked different than what he was used to.

The driver and Kevin tried the traditional techniques with the rope and tapping with the whip, but MerryLegs was adamant that he would not go in the trailer.  Ellen was watching, and started to worry that they wouldn’t be able to load him at all.  After about 10 minutes, she told them to let her have a try.  After all, she had a big bag of carrots in her pocket.

Ellen stood in the trailer and rattled the carrot bag.  That got MerryLegs’ attention, and he took a step forward.  She clicked him, gave him a carrot and repeated.  Before she even knew it, he was halfway into the trailer—then he was all the way in.  in less than a minute, Ellen got him loaded.

Once inside, he seemed to relax and feel right at home.  Mission accomplished.  Clicker really did save the day.  I do know that he is going to a traditional trainer, and few of them see the point in clicker training, but maybe the driver will mention the episode to his boss, and that will get him thinking a little about our alternative form of training?  Maybe it will plant a seed in his brain of another tool to put in his tool box?

So, MerryLegs was on his way to a new life and a trainer that can stick in the saddle when he bucks.  (I hope.)

This whole thing was such a sad story.  It started out so happy, and then things changed so fast.  I hope it ends happy for MerryLegs, after all.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Dear MerryLegs

Dear MerryLegs,

Wasn’t the beginning just like a fairy tale?  We met and it seem like “love at first sight,” to me.  I don’t know if that is how you felt, too, because you never did say.  There were a lot of things you didn’t tell me.  If only you were a better communicator; I think we may have worked things out.  Yet, you were always one of so few words.  When I would ask you questions, you would just stare at me with your big, brown eyes and mumble something that sounded like, “Harruruuru.”

In the beginning, we had some disagreements.  I would want to go one way, and you would want to either go the other or not go at all.  How is that for building the foundation of a good relationship?  We did work through those early problems, though, and we were both happy with the status quo.

Then, I started to ask for a little more out of the relationship.  At first, you went along with it, and then things got really sour, and you hurt me, MerryLegs, you hurt me a lot.

It is hard to recover from something like that.  I lost my trust in you.  Trust, once lost, is hard to regain.  Ironically, you seemed to trust me more.  We tried to get outside help with our relationship, and wasn’t that a disaster?  You didn’t want someone to help bring us back together, and you stated it in no uncertain terms.  That was when I realized our relationship was over.  All trust was gone.

We stayed together a little while longer, but I could see that it would never work.  I confess, I was afraid of you hurting me, again.  My dreams of spending my upcoming retirement with you just dissolved into thin air.  There was going to be no riding off into the sunset for us. 

Breaking up is never easy, but it is often the best thing for everyone involved.  Not all relationships will work.  That’s just how life is.  We take our chances and hope for the best.  This time, it didn’t work.  That doesn’t mean it won’t work for you in the future.  You just need to find the right person.

So as you travel down this road of life, I hope that you will remember the good times we spent together and the things that I taught you.  You taught me a few things, too.  I will remember you fondly, and I hope for all the best for you in your future.

Best wishes, MerryLegs,


Thursday, August 13, 2015

MerryLegs Looking for a Home

MerryLegs Looking for a Home

I have decided that MerryLegs will not work for me.  Even if I can find a trainer who can work out the bucking problem, I don’t think I can ever have the confidence to ride him, comfortably.  I got hurt too bad—and I still haven’t entirely healed.  I’ve had confidence issues in the past, so this isn’t anything new—but this one is too big for me.

I need someone who can stay on if he decides to do some crow hopping.  He bucked me off twice and a trainer off once, so I am fairly certain that he will do it again—but his rider has to stay on.  MerryLegs isn’t a fighter.  I don’t think he will buck for the rest of his life—that doesn’t seem to be his nature.  He did it only once on the lounge line and only once on a lead rope.  He never tried it again in either of those circumstances—not even a hint of it.  Still, my heart races at the thought of being in the saddle with him.

He is actually a quiet, low key horse.  He is doing very well with his ground work and really seems to like to be with people—I think that is a Morgan trait.  He is only 6 years old, healthy and sound.

Anyone who thinks they can manage him and is willing to help him get past this stage of his training—or is willing to work with a trainer that can handle a horse like him, please contact me.  In the end, he will be a great horse for someone—just not for me.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Four-Day Weekend!

Four-Day Weekend!

Ellen and I had our first long weekend since May, and we had a great one, too.  So often, we are rained out—this time—barely a drop of rain fell.  The river was so low and the temperatures were comfortable. 

The memo must have reached the park department, because they finally started to do some maintenance on the trails, but it wasn’t all that bad.

The first day, we were going to ride to Flane, We thought we would try to cross the second river crossing instead of going on the ford.  We haven’t been able to do it in a couple of months because a tree fell on the river bank and there was tons of debris.  Still, we didn’t want to risk the odd weekday traffic.  I thought we could manage riding up it, at least, and that we should try. 

We were pleased to see that the tree was gone and the debris was partially cleared!  Hurray!  When we were halfway across the river, a school bus crossed the ford.  We were so glad we made the decision to try the river.

We got about halfway down the sewer plant trail, when we saw a vehicle blocking the trail—they were out doing maintenance.  He said he would move it, but we opted to turn back.  We asked if he cleared the river bank, and when he said, “Yes,” we were able to thank him profusely.  He said they would finish getting the rest of the debris and fixed the very rutted hill.  As we peaked around the tractor, we could see they had done work ahead.  This was fantastic.  This part of the trail was so rutted and rocky, we  could only walk on it—and we felt guilty about doing that.  Many times, we just didn’t bother to go that way because of it.

We ended up passing home and going a little the other way.  Kevin was riding out to meet us, so we rode with him a little while, too. 

The next day, we went the other direction to the show ring trail.  We hadn’t done this since before the rain deluge, so Ellen was a little nervous.  Dante and Cole were perfect on the way out.  We were glad to see they fixed the big hill going up to the show ring.  They have to fix it every year.  We manage well enough when it is rutted, but it is so much easier when it isn’t.  We trotted the whole trail, there and back.  The horses seemed to enjoy themselves.

I opted to lead Dante through the hectic Lagoon on the way home.  There is one spot where he is unpredictable.  Starry met us shortly before we got to that spot, and he followed behind Dante.  Sure enough, a car came by and Dante scooted right in front of me and circled around.  He was fine after that.

Ellen was leading Cole, and at one point, they got so far behind that we had to stop and wait for them.  she told me that when they passed the truck with the park worker emptying the garbage cans, Cole wanted to stop and bow for him…

We made it home with no more incidents.  What a great ride.

The next day, we repeated the ride, but this time we met Starry earlier in the ride, Dante was perfect and Cole didn’t have to do any bowing.

We originally planned to go back to the show ring trails on our last day, but we felt like going the other way, instead.  We wanted to see how the maintenance crews did with the trail.

Our first happy surprise—the river bank was cleaned of the debris.  It only got better.  the rutted hill was fixed—then at the top of it—the whole sewer plant trail was resurfaced.  It was the first time I was able to trot that whole trail in literally years.  Dante trotted it for the first time, ever.  It was awesome—no guilt about riding over all the stones, either. 

Once again, we met Starry.  Kevin got to see the new trail, too.  We were a bunch of happy trail riders.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Goofy Cat

Goofy Cat

Things aren’t going well with MerryLegs, and I am looking for a new home for him.  I am hoping Mrs. Shoes will take him back, but she hasn’t committed, yet.  I am very down about the whole situation, and I don’t feel like writing about at all.

So that means it is time for cute cat pictures.  My sister’s cat, Stormy, is at it again.  How can a cat be so cute with just a simple bowl?  I don’t know how he does it.  Thunder is a very cute cat, but he can’t hold a candle to Stormy.

I don’t know how my sister handles such cuteness…

Wednesday, July 22, 2015



I have been meaning to write about Princess for some time, now.  She may be a barn cat, but in her head, she is a Princess.  A more tyrannical cat doesn’t exist.  She bullies the other cats, the dog and most people—but she loves me.  When I am at the barn, if I call her, nine times out of ten—she will come galloping from wherever she is.  The rest of the time, she must be out in the field hunting. 

If I don’t call her, she will often seek me out when she hears my voice.  She follows me about when I feed and is constantly demanding attention.

It’s not that I feed her—plenty of people feed the cats.  Since most of them are very fat, the last thing they need is food.  Princess isn’t fat, but she is a pile of fur—charcoal gray with no tabby markings at all.  Her coat is insanely thick in the winter, keeping her very warm.  Her favorite hobby is hunting the barn swallows.

She is extremely affectionate—until she isn’t.  Out of the blue, she will attack you, and then ask for more petting.  In the winter, she will sit on my lap, and if I dare move, she will start growling.  More than a few times, I took her off my lap—only to have her hiss at me.  Most people will have nothing to do with her, but I think she is a lot of fun—as long as you are very careful.

Princess is quite a character—and definitely a princess.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Cute Cole Story

Cute Cole Story

All this talk about MerryLegs may make people think I have forgotten Cole Train—far from it.  MerryLegs makes me appreciate Cole all so much more!  I am still riding him 5 days a week, and he is still so awesome.

Ellen and I were riding him up on a section of trail we hadn’t been to in a few weeks.  It is out in the open—on the edge of the woods.  When we were trotting on the way back, I looked for the mulberry tree.  In the past, I have asked Cole to stop, clicked him and given him mulberries.  He just loves them.  There were a few ones within reach, so I asked him to stop and picked him a couple.

I knew there was another tree further down the trail, but I didn’t know if it had any mulberries this year.  I wasn’t positive where it was.  Ellen and I walked along, talking, as I looked for the tree.  I thought I saw it, but didn’t see any ripe berries within reach.  When we got right next to it, Cole started doing his silly walk.  Here, he was looking for it too, but he remembered where it was, and he was begging!  Silly guy.  I looked closer, and I found a mulberry for him.

The season is a short one, and I don’t know if there will be any less next time we go there.  I sure hope so.  Cole has turned into such a special horse—I love to spoil him.

MerryLegs, ScaryLegs and the Big White Bunny

Kevin had an idea.  He brought out an old pair of jeans, filled them with sand and we have put them on MerryLegs' back when he is in his stall.  I have him walk around the stall, and click him for quiet behavior.

Ellen had the big white bunny idea.  She brought it out this weekend.  When we were done with our lounging, we introduced the bunny.  She showed it to him on both sides.  He was worried, of course, but not for long.  I clicked him when he stood still.  Then, the bunny touched him.  He flinched, but soon, he didn’t mind it.  It wasn’t long before bunny was his back.  He got lots of carrots for that.

Later, when he was back in his stall, we put “scary legs” on him to show Ellen what we had been doing during the week.  We decided to toss the bunny on to get a picture.  He was great, and stood as still as could be with him balanced up there while Ellen took the picture.

Overall, we had a really good weekend.  His lounging is doing well, and I led him to the river twice.  On Sunday, we followed Ranger down.  This was his first time with another horse.  We had always taken him by himself.  At the bottom, Kevin was coming back from a ride with a friend, and he was a little uneasy when the horses passed him, but he quickly forgot them and said he would rather just follow Ranger.  He also didn’t like when I turned him to go away from Range—but only the first time.  The second time I tried, he was fine.  He dipped his feet in the water, but it was too high for me to lead him across.
Ranger was so nice to him, too.  Not once did he make a face or act like a bully.  He was happy to have him there and acted more like he was showing his little brother around.

The best news—he decided he can walk out of his stall and then out of the barn without a hassle!  When he readily led out on Saturday, it so caught me by surprise that I was speechless.  He has been doing it ever since.