Monday, August 25, 2014

Long Weekend!

Long Weekend!

Ellen and I had a 4-day weekend, and we spent it riding, of course. Thursday, the river was too high to cross. I watched her ride Dante in the arena and then she did the hill a couple times with him. We then rode Ranger and Cole on the hill.

Friday, the river was low enough to cross, so we took Dante and Cole up to the show ring trails. They were both so good and we had a great time. it was so oppressively humid that Ranger got the day off. we just led him in the arena to loosen him up.

Saturday, we did the shorter ride because it has a good section for cantering. When we arrived, I cantered off with Cole. Cole can be very fast, and we lose most horses we canter with. When we got to the end, we stopped and waited for them to catch up. Turns out that Ellen got to gallop Dante for the first time. she thought it was because Cole got so far ahead, but when she stopped, she found a huge, ugly horsefly on his rump. It left Dante before she could kill it and came right to Cole. It landed on his shoulder and was flat on the ground the next second. It will never bother another horse, again. The rest of the ride was routine, but fun. To make it a longer ride, we passed up home and rode the access trail. Ranger went on a short ride and I hiked along with them.

Ellen had so much fun cantering that we did the same ride on Sunday. Dante cantered his normal speed, and she loved it. She took Ranger on the short ride, again and I hiked, again.

The rides are becoming so ordinary, I don't have much to write about. That's a good thing--but it makes boring blogs.

Next weekend, the weather looks like it will be cooler and hopefully less humid. We plan to do some longer rides.

My nephew

Adorable--as usual

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Monday, August 18, 2014

The Rides are Becoming Ordinary



The Rides are Becoming Ordinary

And that’s a good thing. It just doesn’t give me much to write about. I only got to ride with Ellen on Saturday, and we had a really nice time. We went up to the show ring trails. This time, we even rode up to the show ring. It is a large open field with the trail going around the show grounds. The area can be active, so it was no surprise that we ran into 5 horses. Dante handled the horses passing him without any trouble—unlike last weekend. It may have been because he didn’t feel trapped this time. We didn’t ride the whole trail because it was very hot in the sun. We usually only do it in the cooler weather. We prefer take the back trail which is scenic and very quiet.

Ellen tries to do a “first” on every ride. Her “first” on this one was to ride down the very steep hill. It has been years and years since she has done that, and she made it about a third of the way down before her nerves told her she should hop off and lead the rest of the way. Dante was perfect.

She had to work on Sunday, so I planned a good, long ride with Kevin and Starry. This was my longest ride of the year. They were so slow for the first half of the ride, but once I threw some cantering in, Cole woke up. Soon, we lost Starry as we flew down the trail at a trot—he actually got too hyper to canter safely. It was so much fun. While we were enthusiastically trotting down the trail, I had a wonderful thought—Cruiser must have come along for the ride! Cole was acting just like him. When we got to the homestretch, I figured Cole would fly down it—after all, that’s what Cruiser always did. I asked him to canter—and away we went. He stopped quietly at the end and then we waited for Starry to catch up.

We did a mix of trotting and walking on the way home. It started to rain, but it never got so bad that we were uncomfortable. The ride took us 2:50. I used to do this ride in less than 2 hours when Cruiser was young. He was indefatigable. Part of the reason it took so long is that the trail is in such back shape in many places that we only trot—and I used to canter it with Cruiser. I sure hope they intend to do some repairs on our trails. We still had fun, despite the trail condition.

Pretty in Purple



Dante's color is purple--without a doubt.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Dante goes a little further down the trail

Dante goes a little further down the trail

The weather, high rivers and tree cutting has kept us from taking Dante across the big river for his second time for about a month. We finally got a couple good, low-river days this weekend. It was time to push his boundaries a little further down the trail. It was a weekend of firsts.

The first one was a new river crossing. We had only crossed Dante on the way home on this one. It was time for him to do it on the way out instead of crossing on the ford. Ellen was up for the challenge. We had been putting this one off because when we tried it last year, we couldn’t even get a single hoof in the water. This time—no problem. He went right in. Now, we can cross either the ford or the river over here.

Ellen rode him all the way to the next river crossing. This one, we haven’t done at all, and I don’t know if we will until it changes, again. The water has carved all kinds of holes and crags in it—so bad that we would be struggling with each step. The only way it may be doable is if it is cleared down stream. Fortunately, we can cross on the ford. Ellen still gets nervous in traffic, so I took Dante and led him while she rode Cole. Once across, we have to wait for the light to cross the intersection. There was a loud motorcycle idling next to us on the road—and Dante didn’t care. We crossed the street, I mounted and headed to the big river.

Dante had his only moment of misbehavior about halfway across. He slowly turned and tried to go home. I slowly turned him back and guided him across the rest of the river. after that, he was fine.

Cole was in a mood, and he didn’t want to work. Ellen was worried that he was foot sore (and he might have been, or he may have been muscle sore from vigorously playing the night before), so she didn’t push the issue. I just rode on with Dante. We trotted wherever the trail allowed us for about 10 minutes, turned around and headed back. He didn’t mind leaving Cole, didn’t mind being on a new trail and seemed to enjoy himself.

Cole didn’t mind that Dante left, and he seemed pleased that Ellen let him just coast along.

On the way home, nothing out of the ordinary happened. We did find Kevin on Starry, and he joined us for the rest of the way.

Sunday, we were going to repeat the ride, but Ellen was going to spend more of the ride on Dante.

We switched for the ford and the big river crossing, but then Ellen took over after that. Cole’s little vacation was over. We led the way, and I insisted that he trotted. He didn’t put up much of a fight, so he was either recovered from soreness—or was playing a game with Ellen.

Cole is a naturally faster horse than Dante, so we trotted on ahead—wherever the trail permitted. Really, the trails are just lousy over there. That flood in the spring washed so much of them away, exposing large amounts of gravel. In most places, there is a horse-width area that we can trot along, but we have to stop often and walk over gravel. It makes my heart hurt to see them so bad. We used to canter these trails with ease.

Anyway, back to the ride. When I was well away from Dante, we did find a little bit we could canter. After that, Cole trotted much faster and in no time at all that we reached the predetermined spot for turning around. The next section of trail was always in good shape because it doesn’t get flooded, so we took off in a brisk canter for a few minutes, turned around and trotted just as briskly back until we found Ellen and Dante. She told me he was good the whole time we were gone, and I wasn’t surprised a single bit.

We headed on home—trotting where we could. Dante kept up better on the way home. Ellen chose to stay on Dante for the big river, and it was a good choice. He was perfect for crossing. She gave him to me to lead through the busy intersection and across the ford. Once again, he was fine. I gave him back to her for the rest of the ride.

We only had one “issue,” but it wasn’t Dante’s fault. At one point, a large group of horses passed us. We stopped by the side of the trail to let them by, as both Dante and Cole get uneasy with other horses. The group should have gone single file, but they acted as if we weren’t even there—riding 2 and even 3 abreast. Then, a rider on a Percheron passed Cole so close he nearly barged into us. Dante saw that—and skittled right into the woods. When he felt he was safe, he stopped for Ellen.

Trailing the group was a couple of mounted rangers on a couple of humongous black draft horses. We felt so very, very tiny. Ellen said that Cole looked like a little colt with his mother. I felt like a Lilliputian!

I believe we have conquered our goal of getting to the trails beyond the big river. We still have a few more miles to go on them, but they shouldn’t be too tough. There are a couple of highway bridges to go under—I had trouble with Cole with them, but we managed all right with a lot of carrots. I’m sure Dante will be no worse. The trails beyond where we turned around are in better shape, according to Ellen. She walks her dog there all the time.

Hopefully, the trails will be repaired, someday, and so we can do more cantering. Now, we have 3 good options for our rides—depending on the weather, how much time we have and our moods. Dante is a superstar.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Sarah’s First Ride on Dante


Sarah’s First Ride on Dante

My older niece, Sarah, came home from college for just a few weeks. She has been riding with me during the summer for years. For the last few years, she has ridden Ranger. In the past, she rode Mingo, Starry and one time she rode Cole, but she never rode Dante. This would be a first for her.

I was on Cole, and Kevin joined us on Starry. I briefed her on all the possible problems that she might encounter and how she should handle them. One of the reasons both of my nieces are easy to ride with is because they listen to what we say, and they are great in following directions.

There was a lot of traffic on the street, and we had to wait what seemed like forever to cross, but Dante didn’t care at all. What a difference from a few months ago when I started his intensive traffic training. It really paid off.

The next potential problem was the river. Sometimes Dante needs a little coaxing to make that first step into the water. No problem for Sarah. I had asked her to click him when he got all four feet in to encourage him to readily step into the water. This is what Ellen has been doing, and it appears it helped.

We got across the river with no issues at all and started trotting down the trail. Starry saw some logs on the other side of the street that weren’t there before and slammed on the brakes. He didn’t want to go by them. Cole took the lead, but eyed them suspiciously. Dante didn’t care at all.

We walked and trotted along. When we got to the spot where we often canter, the horses started to trot a bit faster. I told Sarah that if Dante tried to canter, she could let him—or stop him if she got nervous. He did try, and she did get nervous and let us know, so we all stopped. Still, she enjoyed her few strides, and said she liked his canter.

We turned around at the next river crossing, put Dante in the lead and trotted a bit on the way home. Dante is the slowest of the three horses, so this way Sarah could regulate the speed. Starry has a tough time going slower. Cole can do it well, and he is happy to follow another horse, but Starry’s antics behind him made him nervous. I could feel him bunching up and finally he burst out of line and tried to canter to the front. I stopped him before he could pass Dante, and then we walked for a while. Dante didn’t care at all.

Our next big obstacle was home. We wanted to pass up the riverbank that we ride down when we go home and proceed to the access trail. It is a dead end trail that we like to use to lengthen our ride.

Dante likes to zip down the riverbank instead of passing it. Sarah’s sister had a very difficult time with him the first time she tried it. To help Sarah out, we positioned Cole and Starry between Dante and the river and walked him right through. He did half heartedly try to turn down the bank, but Sarah blocked his maneuver.

We then trotted out to the street. There was a lot traffic at the road, but Dante waited patiently and then followed us across. We then go up a short, steep hill and down a longer, less steep hill that ends with the access trail. We trotted down it, but Dante got very excited and Sarah was having some problems controlling him, so at the halfway point, we started walking. At the end, we turned around and walked back home.

When we went up the hill, Dante was in the lead. Cole had a Cole burst and tried to run up the hill. I spun him to stop, and I heard Starry react to Cole’s misbehavior. Kevin got Starry quickly in control. I asked how Dante responded to the ruckus—he ignored them. Is this horse for real?

When we got back to the riverbank that we needed to go down to go home, we saw a horse from our barn crossing the river—coming toward us. It was Hillary. I have ridden with Hillary before, and she can sometimes be a problem. Cole is very afraid of other horses when they act out. He will be startled if Starry simply swishes his tail hard.

We waited for Hillary to cross and then Dante and Starry headed down the bank. I started to follow, but that is when Hillary decided she would rather go home, too. She started to fight her rider. Cole tried to bolt down the bank. I automatically circled him back up. He gave a huge buck and tried to get away from Hillary. This started 5 minutes of terror for him. I yelled across to Kevin to go on home with Sarah. I didn’t want Dante to get riled up with what was going on.

Hillary was fighting her rider like her life depended on crossing the river and going home. I tried to ride Cole down the bank, but he tried to bolt. I was able to get him to stand quietly. Every time I tried to move Cole, he tried to take off. I stood him and thought we could wait it out. Whenever Hillary got close to him, he tried to get away. At one point, she nearly sidepassed right into him. This caused him to panic—big time. He flew sideways as fast as his legs could carry him.

Hillary ended up in a precarious position in the woods and would only move backwards or sideways. At that point, I realized that waiting it out was a bad strategy—I had to get out of there. I tried to ride Cole down the trail, but he tried to bolt, again. I got him to stand still, so I knew what I needed to do.

I dismounted and immediately asked him to put his head down and do his “silly walk.” That is his version of a Spanish walk. He forgot all about Hillary and marched down the trail. I clicked him and asked for more. When we got far enough away, I stopped him, and he parked out. Hillary no longer had a horse to follow home, so she reluctantly went the way her rider wanted—away from us.

I got back on Cole and tried to go home. He got nervous when he got back to the spot where he thought Hillary was going to kill him, but I did a series of walk-whoas to focus him. We made it down the bank and across the water. He then realized that Starry and Dante were gone and was in a hurry to go up the hill. I decided I would have more control on the ground—and I did. He refocused on me because you never know when I may ask for the “silly walk.”

Back to my niece and Dante. Kevin told me that when they were on the road, and very loud and scary hotrod passed them and Dante didn’t care. Yes, he is a superstar.

Cole is a super star, too. He may have gotten very frightened, but we worked it through. I was pleased that he stood for my while Hillary was doing her gyrations—even though he was so afraid—and only moved when it looked like she was going to barge into him. I don’t know why other horses scare him so much, since he is generally a very bold horse, but now I know what I need to do if we end up in a situation like this again—the “silly walk.”

Monday, July 28, 2014

Two more Firsts for Dante

Two more Firsts for Dante

On Saturday, we took Dante up to the show ring trail. Ellen has tried to ride him up the big hill twice, now, and he has refused both times. She ended up leading him. It was time for a rider switch. Before we got to the hill, we switched horses. When we got about 50 feet from the hill, Dante turned around to go home. He was really starting early this time. Near the base of the hill, he stopped. I started kicking constantly until he started up. After a few steps, I he started to slow and I started to kick, again. I stopped when he walked well and started whenever I felt hesitation. When he got 10 feet up, I clicked him, gave him a treat and asked for forward movement, again. I had no more troubles after that.

It is a very steep hill, and up until just the day before, it had a huge, scary rut going down the center. He either didn’t like the way it looked or didn’t like the steepness. Hopefully, it was the rut, since it is repaired now. I will ride him up it the next few times so we can straighten out the problem before Ellen tries, again.

We trotted all about the trails on top of the hill. I was in the lead on the way back, and I heard a bunch of noise behind me. Cole got scared and wanted to run. I spun and stopped him to see what was going on. Dante had stumbled on his front legs, and instead of slowing down and pulling himself up, he just kept trotting. I don’t know how he did it, but he went 8-10 steps scrambling like that with Ellen leaning over his neck. Finally, he caught himself. She dismounted and caught her breath and checked him out. He had a tiny bit of hair scraped off one knee. We walked him for the next 10 minutes, and he seemed fine. At the bottom of the hill, she mounted back up.

The river was very low, so I suggested that we switch horses, and I try to cross Dante on the river crossing that we have been avoiding by going on the ford. She wasn’t sure, but I was persistent. Cole went down the bank, first. Dante watched him step into the water, and I asked him to walk to the river. He put his nose down and stepped right in. It was a very uneventful crossing. One more thing checked off the list. At the next opportunity, we will try that river crossing on the way out, too.

On Sunday, we were very much relieved to find that Dante was completely unhurt from his fall. We took them out on an easy ride, just in case. It had rained the night before—must have been more than we thought because the river was higher and muddy. It was only slightly higher than it was a few weeks ago when I crossed Dante on his own, so I knew he would be fine, but Ellen was still very nervous about crossing. I showed her the rock tower that Kevin built to help us measure the depth of the river and explained if we saw that much tower, it would be knee high. She said she would try.

Cole went first, and she was with her own eyes that it wasn’t that deep. (Cole is, after all, a pony.) We were on the nearly on the other side when I glanced back and saw Dante take a step into the water. She clicked/treated him and then they were on their way. It was, yet another, uneventful crossing.

We had a leisurely ride for about an hour. When we got back, to our surprise, the river went up another inch. I know it doesn’t sound like much, but it does make it look scary since there was a lot less land showing on the other side. Once again, Ellen sent me into the water first. Dante then crossed like the gentleman he is. He walks slowly and carefully—stopping if she asks him to. Another item off the list—a little higher and muddy water. We are getting there.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Dante and the Steep Riverbank

Dante and the Steep Riverbank

Since the big storm in May, we have had a log at the top of one of our riverbanks. It is the steepest and muddiest bank we have to negotiate. The log is situated badly and too tall to step over, but you can take a quick right turn up an even steeper slope and go around it. It’s a bit tricky, but doable going up—but way trickier on the way down. I was able to coax Ellen to ride up it on Dante a while ago, but she was nervous about going down, so we have been crossing the river via the ford.

Last weekend, we rode that way and she had no problem going up it, of course. It had been a rainy morning and the streets were still wet. The cars on the river ford were very loud from it. The noise made Ellen nervous. She decided she would be less nervous on the riverbank than the street.

I took Cole first so she could watch him. He had been giving me a problem by rushing down it, but just that week, I convinced him slow and careful was better. (I go through this with him every year on this bank.) He carefully walked parallel to the river, stepped down the steep slope and adjusted his angle and went down into the water. I was very proud of him and was glad Ellen could see one of his best performances. I clicked and treated him at the bottom—he earned it.

I now got to watch Dante try it. In the past, he has been reluctant to go down this bank due to the steepness, so it was a relief to see him take his first step down. When he was in the steepest section, he started to slide in the mud. He handled it just like my Cruiser used to handle mud. He held steady until he stopped and took his next step. He continued down, slowly and carefully and quietly stepped into the water. Success! He did as well as Cole did without weeks of practice.

Now, this meant that my niece, Missy, and I could ride this trail on our weekly rides. A few days later, we headed out. Dante has been a bit pokey crossing the water at this crossing in the past. He is slow to step in and tends to stall while crossing. This evening, he passed up Cole and got into the water well before Cole was even close. I had told Missy to click him when he got all four hooves in—and he deserved it. He then went across the river like a gentleman—with no stalling. Of course, he had no trouble going up the steep bank with the log on the other side, since he has done it a number of times already.

We had a nice ride on the other side. Dante did spook once—we don’t know at what. His form of spooking consists of taking a sidestep and trotting 4-5 steps before stopping.

Now, it was time to go down the riverbank. I had Missy watch Cole; who was perfect, again. I guess Dante couldn’t let Cole be the only perfect one—he was too! This time, he didn’t even slide in the mud. What a great horse!

Now, Cole couldn’t let Dante be the star of the show. He had to show us how he does the riverbank on the crossing closest too home. At the very bottom of it, we have to step down into very deep mud for about 2 feet until reaching the water. There is no way around it except for a tiny bit of dry trail that is a hoof wide on the far left of the trail.

I told Missy to watch and gave Cole his head. He walked down the bank right into the river without stepping one step in the mud. Even upon seeing it, she could hardly believe he was able to do it. Ah, the advantages of riding a little horse… By the way, I never taught him to do this. He just didn’t like going in the mud and came up with his own solution.