Thursday, March 15, 2018

Early March Rides

Kevin and I have been getting across the river and having some decent trail rides after a fairly long hiatus.  That means, starting all over.  I could see why Ellen only wants to do this once each spring. 

The first ride was the toughest.  I went by myself, and Cole was so excited!  Early in the ride, I tried some short stretches of trotting to see if he would settle down--plus, it would keep me warm.  It didn't work.  Each time, he got more excited.  I decided we would just walk.  I had one Cole burst near the beginning of the ride and 2 more towards the end of the ride.  All of them were near the fence that parallels the street.  we often trot there, so I think he was just showing his enthusiasm.

It wasn't bad for our first solo ride in who knows when.

Since then, I have had Kevin and Starry join us.  Our first ride together felt like we were both riding sticks of TNT--with the fuses lit!  We both agree that it would be best just to walk.  Cole walks so much faster than Starry when he is hyper.  I kept having to stop and let Starry catch up.  Then, Starry would want to pass up Cole.  I would let him, but that would last for about 20 seconds and then Cole would pass up Starry and walk quickly ahead.  We just kept repeating it over and over.  I did have one Cole burst.

The next chance we got to cross the river went a little better.  We were able to tort the sections of the trail where I don't typically canter.  Once we got to those places, Cole really wanted to fly, so we kept it at a walk.  Surprisingly, we were able to trot a little bit on the way home.  I think it is because I don't canter Cole on the way home, so he was content to trot.  We only did short stretches. 

At one point, we were walking and Starry was in the lead.  Suddenly, he leaped up into the air and tried to charge forward.  Cole decided it was a great idea and immediately joined him.  We stopped them both with ease.  Starry was probably spooked, but we don't know what from.

The rest of the ride went smoothly, but it sure was chilly.

Our following ride was a big improvement.  We were able to trot in most places that we usually trot on the way out.  Starry was quite calm.  Cole would get fractious, and we would stop.  Kevin and I have a system.  When Cole is good, I praise him profusely--and loud enough for Kevin to hear.  Kevin just listens to my dialog with Cole and knows when to stop.  When there was a loud airplane overhead, he purposely held off trotting because he wanted to hear us.

We were able to trot a little more on the way home--but we definitely walked at the fence.  Kevin didn't even trust Starry there.  Since we did more trotting and there was a little sunshine, were didn't get as cold.  That has been a problem.  The temps just can't seem to get out of the mid thirties.  Colder weather means silly horses.  Silly horse means more walking--and then we freeze because it is so cold.

Maybe Ellen has the right idea?

Sigh...when will spring arrive?

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

A Muddy Situation

A Muddy Situation

As I have mentioned before, the park tried to fix our rocky, washed out hill trail by dumping a bunch of clay on it--filling in the drainage ditch.  Now, it is a terribly muddy mess where they tried to fix it.  Cole hates mud.

We have been waiting for the river to go down, and it has been a long wait.  There has been so much rain.  Sometimes, if it isn't raining, we ride on the loop behind the barn, and sometimes we try to navigate the mud on the hill.

One day, Kevin and I were riding Starry and Cole up the hill to go home.  They were very excited, and we could feel it.  The worst muddy section just happens to be the the single spot in the entire park where Cole is likely to have a Cole burst.  It is a short, steep part of the hill that is preceeded by corner.  I call it Cole Burst Corner.

As we approached that area, we could feel both horses building up in excitement.  I felt like I was riding a coiled spring, so I hopped off.  I would prefer getting my feet soaked to rocketing up a hill and through the mud.  As I dismounted, I saw Kevin doing the same thing.  Starry was just as excited as Cole.

Well, you couldn't imagine how bad they were.  Both were trying to charge through the mud.  As Cole was circling around me on the muddy incline, I saw Starry nearly push Kevin over in the mud.  Somehow, we made it to the top to the dryer trail.

Seems we had a problem.

The rain kept coming for the next few days; making things all the worse.  When we could, we rode on the loop.

Finally, we had a dry evening.  We were on the loop, but Starry was being Starry.  He didn't want to lead, but he didn't want Cole in the lead.  Sigh...  Kevin suggested riding down the street, down the trail and turning around when we got to the muddy part.  Sounded like a plan.

When we got to the top of the hill to take a look at the mud, Cole spun 180 degrees towards home.  Yes, I had a problem.  Cole's hatred of mud made him refuse to go through it before I even asked.  Kevin suggested we go down the hill, since we were there.  After Cole's display, I wanted to show him that he can't  refuse to go through the mud just because he doesn't like it.

We headed down the hill.  Cole did go, reluctantly--then very quickly--to the bottom of the first little slope where it is dryer.  I praised  him on the way down and clicked him at the bottom.  Starry walked down slow and careful.  We then picked our way through the swamp where the ditch was filled in.  The rest of the way down the hill was uneventful.  We rode back and forth a few times at the bottom.  When they seemed settled down, we decided to go home.

We had a plan.  When we reached the mud, we would do "stop and click" over and over.  That would do 2 things.  It would keep them from getting too much speed and reward them for not getting too much speed. 

They were excited, of course.  They wanted to get home and through the mud as quick as they could.  Starry was in the lead.  Cole thought he went to slow and wanted to pass.  We asked for a "whoa," and I barely got one--yet it was one, so I clicked and treated.  Kevin did, too.  We were working as a team.  We did a few more steps and repeated.  We got through the first stretch of mud.  Cole still wasn't stopping well, but he was stopping.  Starry was doing a little better than Cole.

And now, it was time for Cole Burst Corner.  Remember, he will try to charge up here even on dry days if he is in an energetic mood--and he certainly was on this day.  We stopped and clicked at the bottom of the slope.  Then we took 3 steps and did it again.  It was keeping them under control.  About halfway up, I felt a difference in Cole. He had relaxed.  His head was at his normal height, and he was no longer taking those short, fast steps.  He understood!  We continued in this pattern until we got to the top.  We arrived with great success!!!

On our next scheduled ride, Kevin got to the barn before me and was already on the hill.  I hurried and saddled to get out there to join him.  Cole was very hyper.  We managed the mud quite well, but that was no surprise.  It wasn't going away from home that was the problem. 

Halfway down the hill, he was able to see Starry at the bottom of the hill.  Cole started to bounce and try to trot.  Kevin saw us and waited for us to catch up.  We walked back and forth at the bottom a few times and then started to do some trotting back and forth, too.  Then, we walked up the hill to the muddy section, turned around and went back down the hill.  Cole was still very excited.  Starry was slow and careful.

After more back and forth at the bottom, it was time to go home.

The first thing I noticed was that Cole was more sensible in the muddy section by the ditch.  He wasn't what I would call good, but he was going where I directed him and stopping more willingly.

When we got to Cole Burst Corner, I really noticed the change.  After about 2 halts, Cole just walked like an ordinary horse.  We continued with our multiple stop/clicks, but it was no longer an "event."  The horses were significantly better, and it was only their second lesson.

Kevin and I plan to continue this training method to instill good behavior.  We will gradually reduce the number of stops and replace them with praise. 

The way I see it, we could suffer with the problem all spring--or take the time to fix it.  I'm glad to say it is already taking less time than I thought it would. 

I sure hope they will fix the hill this spring...

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

A Rambunctious Ride

A Rambunctious Ride

The other day, the driveway at the barn was a sheet of ice.  Since I haven't taught Cole to ice skate, yet, I decided to ride him in the indoor arena.  I have been avoiding it as much as I can by riding out on the loop in the back of the property or down to the river, so it was more than a week since we had been in it.

Christie was riding her Paint, and I thought that might provide me with an interesting challenge.  Except for Dante, I have barely ridden with any other horses in the arena all winter.  Cole needed some exposure to other horses.

The ride started out well, for the first 30 seconds.  Christie rode past us at a trot, and Cole leaped up in the air and tried to chase after them.  I spun him and proceeded down the wall.  That was just the beginning.  Just a minute later, Kevin did something in the barn that made a loud noise.  Cole decided it was time to run from the noise and leaped up in the air.  I spun him, again.  Do you see the pattern?

I told Christie I would stay on one side of the arena and ride him in a circle until he settled down.  I started at a walk and then added some short stretches of trotting.  He managed at least 3 more surges.  I had to yell over to Kevin to stop making so much noise.  Cole isn't a spooky horse--he was just in a spooky mood.  Poor Christie.  I bet she was happy I came out.  I was looking for a more challenging ride, and I got it.

I started to feel Cole settle down and become more focused on me instead of the other horse.  Hooray!  I was hoping to get my full ride in before Christie's other horse came out with the trainer--the one she only had a week--but no such luck.  The trainer led out the other horse.  She is a big, black Quarter Horse mare.  I thought, at first, that he was going to lounge her, but here it turned out that he wanted her to spend time with another horse in the arena.  That was exactly what I wanted to do with the other horse.  It looked like Cole was going to get a much longer lesson on being ridden with other horses in the arena.

I carefully walked and trotted about.  I didn't want Cole to disrupt things.  He was being good, I'm glad to say.

The trainer didn't know what the mare would do, since he had never had her in the arena with another horse.  I was so relieved Cole was behaving much better than before.  He walked the mare around and practiced standing.  At one point, Cole surged forward.  I sighed and spun him, again, to get him under control.  I glanced over at the mare to see her dancing around.  This time, Cole was just reacting to the other horse instead of causing the problems himself.

A little bit later, Cole was at it, again.  I got him under control quite quickly--in time to see the mare rearing way up into the air--twice.  The trainer was so happy that he decided to try this lesson with him on the ground where he was safer instead of in the saddle.

Our ride was over, and I brought Cole back to our barn.  I told the trainer I would close the door.  First, I had to get Cole to his stall.  When I got back to the door, I saw Christie running towards me.  She was trying to get to the door before her mare, who had escaped from the trainer, reached our barn.  I got the door closed before either one got to it.  The trainer later explained that the mare watched me open the door, lead Cole through and then took off for the door--pulling free from him.

It was a challenging session for both of us this time!  Maybe I will ride Dante with them, next time instead of Cole.  As long as he wasn't anywhere near them, he would be a gentleman, I'm sure.  He may even set a good example for the mare.

(If she was close to him, though, he would be terrified.)

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Fun, Solo Ride

Fun, Solo Ride

The next day, I had the opportunity to go on a trail ride by myself.  Ellen would hike with us, so I guess that, technically, I wasn't alone, but there were no other horses.  It was a chilly morning, but the river was crossable, so I had to get out.  It had been raining, and more was on the way, but I get so few days in January where I can cross the river--it was worth taking a chance on rain.

I rode down the hill by myself.  Ellen drove down and waited for us on the other side of the river.  We have done this so much over the years that when Cole saw someone standing on the other side of the river, he knew just who it was.  His head went up, his ears went forward and he marched right across the river--never taking his eyes off her.  Ellen is a Cole magnet.  She gave him a peppermint when he got to her.

Then came the hard part; convincing Cole to leave Ellen.  She had to jog next to us before Cole would trot.  Once he was moving, in his enthusiasm, he forgot all about her.

We trotted happily along.  It felt so good to be on the trail and trotting!  At first, he behaved beautifully.  Not surprisingly, when I reached the part of the trail where I often canter, his trot got faster and more powerful.  To prevent a Cole burst, I brought him to a walk and restarted.  I had to do this a few times.  He was still fast, but he was with me.

Once we got to the section of the trail that I am guilty of not just cantering, but galloping, I decided it would be best to walk for a while.  He walked very fast.  After passing the "trigger spot" by about a hundred feet, I gathered the reins and asked him to trot.

He launched into a powerful trot--trying to pull the reins out of my hands.  I talked to him and he started to listen.  Once again, he came back to me.  We didn't go that far.  I thought I would check the brakes.  They weren't too good.  Cole typically stops immediately, but it took more more than 5 seconds.  He did stop, though.  I clicked him and then decided it would be in our best interest just to walk.

We quickly walked to the next river crossing, turned and headed home.  He tried to trot a couple of times, but I told him that wasn't a good idea.  We walked really, really fast.  Soon we met Ellen, and she walked with us.  My horses have always loved to walk with Ellen on our trail rides.

When we got back to the river, Cole didn't want to go down the bank without Ellen.  Of course, she was not going to cross!  She had to walk a few steps down the bank to get him started, and then he was on his own.

We crossed the river, and it started to rain.  Cole hates rain more than he hates mud.  Going up the muddy hill in the rain right before his lunchtime should have been quite a challenge, but I just talked him through it with a lot of "good boys."  He went up the hill at a fast walk, but didn't try any of his shenanigans.  I was very proud of him.

It rained the rest of the day, and the next day the river was too high to cross.  I'm so glad I was able to squeeze in a little trail ride.

Monday, January 29, 2018

Brenda's First Trail Ride after the Accident

Brenda's First Trail Ride after the Accident

Remember Brenda?  She was the woman who went flying when her horse Archie bucked her off.  She ended up with a concussion and a lot of residual pain.

The other day, the weather was warm an the river was crosssable--something very rare in northeast Ohio in January.  Kevin, Brenda and I decided to go on a trail ride.

Brenda had been riding a little bit in the indoor arena the last few weeks, and just a few days previous, she joined us on the loop.  She has healed up enough and Archie has been behaving, so she thought it was time.

We decided that we would keep the ride at a walk for her sake.  It was a good idea for our sake, too.  After all, Starry and Cole hadn't been across the river since before Christmas.  They would be so excited that it would be best to contain them a little bit.

Cole was a little hesitant to step into the water, but with some gentle coaxing, he decided to try it.  I clicked him for his cooperation.  The other two followed him right in.  Once we got across, Starry didn't want to lead--which was usual.  Cole wasn't thrilled with the idea, and he walked very slowly for the first couple minutes.  The made it easy for the other two who are very slow walkers.

Once we got past the fence, Cole decided it was fun to be back on the trail, and he went into his speed walk.  He suggested trotting a few timers, but I told him he had to stay at a walk.  I felt like I was on a stick of dynamite.

Starry and Archie still walked slow, so we kept having to stop and wait for them to catch up.

We were almost to the second river crossing--our goal--when Archie started prancing and dancing--not bad, but persistent.  Suddenly, another horse was trotting behind us with no warning.  Archie didn't settle down, and the woman just trotted right past us, saying hello.  That really irked me.

First, she didn't give us any warning that she was approaching.  That is bad enough.  Then, once Archie started to react, she still didn't give us warning or stop trotting, either.  She should have done both out of politeness, but once Archie started to dance, she should have done both out of safety.  She didn't, and trotted right past us--when she should have asked to pass--and passed at a walk, even if our horses were as calm as could be; let alone nervous like Archie was.

She didn't know that this was the first time out for Archie and Brenda since a bad accident, but she should have been polite out of the sake of courtesy and safety.  Everybody should.  You never know when you are passing a horse in a situation like Archie.

Once she got ahead of us, we decided we didn't want to follow her at all.  We turned toward home right away.

Everything changes when you ride towards home.  Cole continued to walk fast and asked several more times if he could trot.  Starry barged into the lead--several times.  Archie started to prance and jog.  They all wanted to go home and had plenty of energy left.

Our main goal was to keep Archie calm.  We didn't let him get very far behind us.  I kept checking for that other rider, because I was sure she would be passing us up on her way home.  Archie didn't want to settle down, at all.

About 10 minutes down the trail, I saw the other rider.  She was trotting our way.  We found a spot of the trail that was wider and placed Starry and Archie on the edge.  I turned Cole in the middle of the trail next to them to make it so that the rider should have to slow her horse down.  Cole stood there, defiant.  As she got closer, we told her to walk past us because Archie was nervous, and she did.  All three of our horses stood quietly as she passed us--and then she trotted off.  Until she was out of sight, our horses wanted to catch up with them, but we were able to keep them walking.

Archie continued to dance about--then Brenda loosened the reins and he settled down.  He may have been doing the dancing because the reins were too tight.

We crossed the river and headed home.  Cole was following the two slow Quarter Horses, and he was not liking it.  I kept asking him to stop to let them get ahead of us.  Then we would walk until we got too close and then stop again.  I could feel his energy building up.

We reached the last incline of the hill.  If there is anywhere in the entire park that Cole will misbehave, it is on that slope.  Starry can be pretty bad there, too.  In the past, I would just lead him up, but the mud was horrendous that I really didn't want to dismount.  Horrendous mud makes Cole want to rush all the more.  Cole passed everyone up.  I stopped him at the bottom to slow his momentum.  It didn't help.  Halfway up the short, steep slope, he lunged up with huge trot strides.  I struggled to contain him and glanced behind me.  There was Archie cantering up behind us!  That is how the big buck happened--it was Archie cantering to keep up with us.

Starry wanted to get out of the mud as quick as possible, too, and he was right behind us.  I told Kevin that Brenda was having problems, and we were able to immediately stop our horses at the top of the slope to diffuse the situation.  Whew, that was scary.

We made it back to the barn with no complications after that.  Kevin and I had one big sigh of relief.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Nothing to Write About

Nothing to Write About

It’s been a quiet month at the barn, leaving me with very little to write about.  We started out with a
frozen river and bitterly cold weather.  It was time to work in the arena, just to stay warm.  
We even walked Ranger inside a few times due to the cold.  

Then we had a thaw--which meant ice on the driveway.  Once again, we were forced to ride in the arena.

We had another cold spell--you guessed it--arena.  Then there was a

Every now and then, I would manage to ride on the loop or on the hill.  Kevin would join me.  
The first few times, riding Cole was like riding a stick of dynamite.  One day, we were able to trot back
and forth on the bottom of the hill, and it took quite a few trips before Cole felt like he wasn’t going to
go flying.  

As the weather got more normal, I was able to ride Cole outside more often-to my delight.  Ellen
chose to stay inside.  Once she gets into her inside rhythm, she usually stays there until we are
closer to spring.  Kevin, of course, won’t ride in the arena to save his life.  I personally just don’t get that.
Better to ride--than not to ride is the way I see it.  

As Cole got more used to riding outside, I was able to trot on the loop when the footing was suitable.  
He is such a good boy.

The other evening, I was riding the loop, around and around.  It is about a quarter mile long.  
I was trying to figure out what to write about this month.  Cole was quiet and relaxed, even though we couldn’t trot because of the footing.  On a whim, I switched directions on the last lap.  I almost always go the same direction because it just works better, and it had been a while since I tried the other way.

We made it about half way, and Cole suddenly became animated.  He started to toss his head around,
prance and try to trot!  I thought I would go back the way I came--his good direction.  It made no
difference.  There was no putting the genie back in the bottle.  I continued back the wrong way.  

Every few steps, I would stop him to get control of his feet that were dancing all about.  He just wouldn’t
settle down.  Finally, I just gave up and dismounted him to lead him back to the barn.  He was still dancing.  He didn’t even want to do silly walk.

I now have a little training project.

I have something to write about.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Winter Riding

Winter Riding

After having a warm fall--and a long one, too, winter has arrived.  We had 2 good winters in a row, so it
was unlikely that we would get a third, and so far, it has been crummy.  The temperatures have had
highs in the teens and lows in the single digits, and there is no end in sight.  In this kind of weather, it
is even hard to ride the horses in the indoor arena!

But we do.  Cole has settle down to work, and he seems to be not far off from where we were went
we quit riding in the arena last spring.  I still get a little nervous in there, at times, but I keep reminding
myself that he is 11, now.  He has grown up.  Overall, he has been living up to being 11, too.  

Dante is Mr. Reliable in the indoor arena.  Where I try to settle Cole down, Ellen tries to liven Dante up.  
He has performed remarkably, and he has been very consistent, too.  Ellen has to find new things to t
ackle to keep things interesting for both of them.  With Cole, just trying to ride his arena trot is usually
a big enough challenge for me.  I keep trying to extend the distance between the transition and losing
my seat.  As I improve, his trot becomes loftier--and then I have to try to improve, again.  At least he
keeps me entertained--and very warm.

Since Kevin doesn’t ride in the arena, he is more limited.  He has taken Starry down the hill a few times.  
I joined him on Christmas Eve, and we were able to trot back and forth on the bottom--in the snow.  
Since then, it has been so cold that I decided to stay inside.  He has continued to ride on the hill.  
I think he likes to get his money’s worth out of his snow pads.

The river had thawed when we had a week of warmer weather, but it is freezing up again--and may
stay that way until spring.  This is a hard time of year for us trail riders.

Riding the Loop

Riding the Loop

Winter is here.  Trail riding becomes difficult because just a quarter mile down the trail we have to
cross the river.  Once the river starts to freeze, as it did earlier in the month, all we can do is ride up
and down the hill if we want to go on a trail ride.

That used to suffice in years past, but this year, the hill is a miserable place to ride.  The park decided t
o fix it, but they made it worse.  One good section, in the middle of the hill, they thought the could
improve.  They got a bunch of clay and they spread it over the trail.  In doing that, they completely
covered the drainage ditch that runs alongside it, and filled in the culvert that drained the water away.  
Now, when it rains, the water drains right onto the trail; creating a little pond--that freezes, of course.  
Also, the clay is thick mud.  The horse hooves chop it all up--and that freezes, too.  It is no place we
want to ride.

That leaves us the loop behind the barn as our only good outdoor riding spot.  Cole is pretty good back
there, now.  When I used to work and had to ride at night, I would ride him there on the mild nights.  
Ellen used to ride Dante back there when I worked, and she didn’t have anyone to ride with.  She
introduced him to it, and right away he was great.

That leaves Starry.  Kevin never spent much time back there.  He always preferred riding up and
down the hill.  I did, too, until the park tried to fix it.  He was hesitant to come out and ride the loop with
us, but we were finally able to convince him.

Because it is within eyesight of the barn and goes along our outdoor arena, which often has horses
turned out in it and the neighbor’s pasture, it can be a tricky place to ride.  It is only about a quarter
mile, so that means that we want to do it more than once.  Each time they come around the corner
that faces home, they would just as soon keep going.  We also see a lot of deer and turkeys in the
woods alongside it.  (Sometimes even a fox!)

I must have ridden Cole there a dozen time before he settled down--and he does get a bit antsy on
it when we haven’t done it for a while.  I don’t think Ellen had much trouble with Dante in the early
days, but Ranger was a challenge.  Cruiser did pretty good, but that is mostly because I spent so
many days walking him back there when we were doing his physical therapy for his bowed tendon.

Over the years, Kevin did take Starry back there occasionally, but not with much success.  He had
a reason to be reluctant.

Now, you are probably bracing yourself for a long, drawn out story on how we taught Starry to
behave.  Don't’ worry, he was great the first time out.

It was a case of setting Starry up for success.  To begin with, Kevin free lounged him for 10 minutes
before he went outside.  That way, he was in the right frame of mind.  Then, we made sure he--not
only wasn’t alone--he was with his two best friends!  

We figured that Starry would be happy to just follow Dante, but as soon as Kevin mounted, he
marched right out in the lead.  He was very excited to be out on the loop.  It took less than a lap,
and he settle right down to follow Dante.  

We have gone out there a few times, and he has been good.  Only once, when he joined Ellen as she
led Ranger, did he act up.  Kevin had to bring him back the the barn.  The next time he was with
Ranger, he was fine.

The hill may be inhospitable, but it is still nice that I can go out and a “trail ride” with my best friends
when we can’t cross the river.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Brenda Goes Flying

Brenda Goes Flying

It was a beautiful December afternoon for a ride.  Brenda joined Kevin and me on a trail ride.  
Her horse is Archie, a huge Quarter Horse gelding.  We have ridden with Brenda plenty of times,
but I seldom mention her because Archie is a pretty good horse.  He does have the slow Quarter
Horse gaits, so he has trouble keeping up with us.  If we trot, he needs to canter.  Well, it is a
Quarter Horse lope.  Unfortunately, if he has a lot of energy, he will throw in a buck now and then.

We crossed the river and started trotting on the other side.  That didn't last long because we saw
Paula and Chris on their way home.  We slowed down and exchanged greetings.  Once we passed,
we began to trot, again.  Kevin was in the lead, followed by me.  Brenda, with the slower horse,
was behind us.  After only about 30 seconds of trotting, we heard Brenda yell, so we immediately
stopped and turned around.

I was the first one to see Brenda on the ground; motionless.  Archie was galloping down the adjacent
paved bike path--going away from home.  We both leapt off our horses and headed for Brenda.

Do you know how it is when you are in a crisis situation and time slows down?  Well, I think that is
just what happened.  Though we couldn’t have been 50 feet away, it seemed to take about an hour
to get to Brenda.  We were calling and calling her name, but there was no answer.  I thought she was
dead.  Archie came cantering back down the bike trail, turned and went towards Brenda.  He saw that
she was useless and turned towards us, but he didn’t go on the trail.  He trotted through the underbrush
and ended up stuck on a pile of logs--with a sapling wedged along his neck.  Being a smart horse,
he decided to stay still until someone came to help him.  I stopped Cole by Archie to keep him quiet
and Kevin continued the long trek towards Brenda.

Time isn’t the only thing that slowed down--so did Starry.  I have never seen him walk so slow--ever.  
We continued to call to Brenda.  I saw her leg move--she was alive!  Kevin kept dragging Starry to

A couple cars saw there was a problem and stopped.  We now had some help!  One man called 911.  
The other man asked us what he could do.  I asked him to hold Cole while I untangled Archie.  
Kevin finally got to Brenda, and she was unconscious.  

I carefully maneuvered Archie out of his predicament.  I glanced back at Cole, and he was bowing.  
With Archie safe, I thanked the man; relieved that Archie wouldn’t be running towards home.

I could hear Kevin telling Brenda not to stand up.  That was a good sign!  While I was untangling
Archie, she came back to consciousness and was becoming feisty.  I held the 2 horses, still at a
distance from them.  The man who called 911 was now by Kevin.  They were both trying to convince Brenda to stay down, but she had enough of lying in the mud and slowly got to her feet--and nearly fell right over.  They caught her and held her up as she swayed back and forth.  She was in really bad shape.

I managed to get the horses over to her.  She wanted to go home.  We wanted her to stay until
help came.  She was talking slowly and slightly slurred.  The emergency responders called us back
and asked for further directions.  They weren’t far away.  Brenda took Archie and started walking
away.  She just wouldn’t listen.

I got back on Cole because he kept bowing to get my attention.  At least if I was on his back,
he wouldn’t bow.  Well, that didn’t last long--here came a huge firetruck with its light flashing!  
The part of the trail that were were at was right by a fence that separated the paved bike path--which
was right by the street.  The truck was coming right to us.  I hopped off--only to see an ambulance
and ranger’s car heading our way, too, with their lights flashing.  I am so glad they didn’t have
the sirens going, too.  

I am glad to say that all 3 horses didn’t care in the least.  Brenda just kept walking away.  The driver
of the fire truck asked me if I was all right.  His truck was very loud, so I shouted to him it wasn’t
me, and pointed to Brenda and said she was getting away.

He backed up his truck and intercepted her.    They were talking when I caught up to them and pulled
out the stretcher.  Now that the professionals were there,  we could work on the problem of Archie.
 It was getting dark, and we had to get Archie home.  I quickly ran the options through my head.
 I have never used Cole for ponying, so that wasn’t the greatest idea.  We had to cross the river to
get home.  It would be hard to lead 2 horses across--the greatest risk would be for the leader slipping
on the slate bottom and falling--not to mention the water was cold.  

Since we weren't that far from the barn, I volunteered to ride Cole home and get my car, drive to the
park and ride Archie home.  I gave Archie to the ranger to hold.  Kevin stayed with them, too.  I trotted
Cole off, crossed the river and headed up the hill.  Once across, I tried to trot.  He got all excited, and
I realized I would be safer to walk up the hill fast than to trot.  Cole did go very, very fast up the hill at
a walk, and we were home in no time.

I saw Chris in her car, and the light bulb went off in my head.  I asked her to give me a ride down to
the park.  That way, I wouldn’t have to leave my car--and it might be good to have another person
to help out.  She was glad to do us the favor, and it turned out to be a great thing.  When I got back
down there, the ranger gave me Archie and asked Chris to stay.  Brenda was refusing to go to the
hospital and would need a ride back to the barn.  They certainly didn’t want her to ride Archie back.

Kevin and I walked the horses to the river.  I didn’t want to bother adjusting the stirrups on the western
saddle, and since Archie is so tall--and Brenda is so short---I couldn’t mount from the ground. There
is a log there that we intended to use as a mounting block.

As soon as I got on, I realized that Archie was trained much different than my horses!  He was trained
as a proper western horse, and had a curb bit.  The lightest contact made him back up.  I accidentally
neck reined him to the left--and then to the right.  Ooops!  Immediately, I knew that I was only going
to ride him across the river and then lead up the hill.  I was a fish out of water on his back--and with
no stirrups!  I had Kevin go down the river bank first, and I asked Archie to follow.  He was fine.  I
hopped off as soon as I got through the muddy river bank on the other side and led him home.

Brenda was back at the barn when we got back.  She still seemed out of it, but she was walking
around.  Bending was impossible.  Her hip seemed to be bothering her.  We didn’t want her to drive
home, but there was no stopping her.  We had her promise to call us when she got home, so we
would know she was safe.

She kept her promise.  By then, her hip was so bad that she decided to go to the hospital to get
it xrayed.  Turned out nothing was broken.  She did have a concussion, of course, but they checked
and there was no bleeding on the brain, so that was good news.  She is very, very sore, though.  
I was just happy she wasn’t dead--because there was a minute there that I thought she was.

She fell because Archie bucked as she tried to keep up with us at a canter.  She wasn’t that far away,
so I think it was caused by high spirits on Archie’s part.  Brenda didn’t want me to write about the experience because she was embarrassed by it, but there isn’t anything to be embarrassed about.  Accidents happen, and it could have been so much worse.  She also said there wasn’t anything anyone could learn from this--but there was.  She did one thing right--she fell in the mud.  At least she had a little cushion when she hit the ground.

So, if you are going to fall, aim for the mud.

Friday, December 1, 2017

Starry is a Superstar

Starry is a Superstar

Starry, the only horse in the world named Starry with a blaze, has come so far.  Over the last month, he has become a reluctant leader.

It hasn’t been easy.  We tried a lot of things--and kept the ones that seemed to help.  Clicker training worked well to help him pass, but Kevin didn’t want to give him a treat every time he passed a horse, so Starry would revert, after a while.  

It did backfire. In a way.  Kevin would say “Good boy,” click and then treat.  Starry started to stop whenever Kevin just said “Good boy.”  He changed it to “Good job.” It worked.  Kevin had a way to praise him when he was good.

We avoided even trying in the places that Starry was particularly reluctant to take the lead.  Turning around to go home was simply impossible.  We would wait until we got down the trail to ask him to lead.  

We tried to avoid conflict when making him the leader.  Certain places were easier to put Starry in the lead.  A good time to do it was when we were crossing a river.  We used that to get him in the lead without a fuss and leave him there.

As we chipped away at his resistance, things just started to get easier.  If we were trotting along and he slammed on his breaks to get Cole to pass, I just turned Cole away and left him.  When he saw that Cole, not only wasn’t passing him--but leaving him--he would start walking, again.  As soon as I saw that, I would turn Cole back around.  In a short while, Cole only had to go a step or two away.

Of course, the heart of the problem was passing Dante.  I now try to guide Starry with Cole leading him by Dante.  Kevin tells him, “Good job,” and we lead him down the trail for a little bit.  Then, I can pull Cole off to the side of the trail to let Starry pass.  If he doesn't pass willingly, I bring Cole behind Starry and away he goes.

In the beginning, this didn't always work.  In the last few rides, it has worked marvelously.  We are now a well-choreographed team.  He will even take the lead when we turn around to go home--which was impossible, before.

We are so proud of Kevin and Starry for solving the problem.  We know there are still going to be moments when Starry acts up, but we know what to do to help him through.  Starry is a Superstar.