Thursday, May 26, 2016
29 Working Days to Go
Yes, that is all. The big day is coming soon. It is the day I have been looking forward to since—well the first week I started working at my job over 30 years ago. It’s not that the job is so bad—I just don’t want to work. Also, when I realized that I would have to drive in rush hour traffic 5 days a week, I knew I had to find a way to retire early. I hate driving in rush hour.
I picked my date 2 years ago. Yes, my countdown has been going that long. Little did I know how fortuitous it would be. I work in Cleveland—home of the 2016 Republican Convention. Although I don’t work downtown, I work close enough that I am sure the traffic will be horrendous. I am retiring 1 week before the convention. I won’t have to drive in that traffic. Yes!!!!
The best retirement advise I got from my neighbor who retired a couple years ago. She was told not to plan anything big for the first year—just get used to it, and then decide what to do. It worked for her. It sounds like a good plan for me, too.
I am just going to do more of what I love to do, at a more leisurely pace and I will even sleep in now and then. I hope Ellen and Kevin don’t get sick of seeing so much more of me. I know Thunder and Maggie will be thrilled.
Tuesday, May 24, 2016
Dante’s Dark Side
I bet no one knew he had a dark side. I didn’t expect it. Let me go back and explain.
Dante had been consistently giving Ellen great rides, weekend after weekend. She was even taking him on rides with Kevin in the mornings when I was at work. It was wonderful.
Then one chilly morning, we decided it was time to allow Cole to take lead horse position. Cole has trouble following Dante because their trotting speeds are mismatched. Dante loves to lead, and Cole loves to follow—but I have to keep checking Cole’s speed because he gets too close, I have trouble posting the slow speed and he isn’t as smooth as Dante to allow easy sitting of the trot.
We have spent plenty of rides with Cole in the lead in the past, and Dante never seemed to care. We would just stop and let them catch up if they got too far behind. This should have been no big deal.
But it was. Actually, the problem started to rear its ugly head last fall when we were going on rides with Starry. I guess having not one, but two horses far ahead of him bothered him. He started to get feisty back then, but we kind of forgot about it this spring since everything was going so well.
Dante didn’t like following. He wanted to canter to keep up. Ellen wouldn’t allow that. He began to protest by bucking. Well, it may have been large canter leaps—it is hard to say. He will do a large leap on a trot transition when he is on trail quite regularly. We call it the Lambert Leap. (He is a Lambert Morgan.) Whatever it was, we knew he was fighting Ellen and misbehaving. Ellen was very, very upset.
What happened to Dante Dream Horse?
I told her she had to come up with a plan to correct the problem. We couldn’t just push it under the rug by avoiding it—or tolerating it. Of course, I would have kept Cole in the following position forever, if it helped her, but that wasn’t the best solution to the problem. Dante used to behave, he could behave, again. Besides, if he didn’t like being left behind when Cole trotted faster—he was welcome to trot faster, too.
The next weekend, it rained a lot and the river was too high. Actually, it snowed, too. Mother nature didn’t look at the calendar to see it was May.
The following weekend, the weather was great and the river was low. It was time to see what Ellen’s plan was and how it would work.
We got down the hill and over the river. Right at the beginning, she said I could put Cole in the lead. It was a great idea, because Cole starts out slow until he gets all his snorts out. The longer we ride, the faster he will go. We went a short distance and Ellen asked us to stop. She stopped Dante, too. Then she walked past us, took the lead and trotted. We went a little way, stopped and switched again. We kept doing this right down the trail. Cole went faster the further we went; as expected. I kept asking Ellen if they were all right, and she kept reassuring me that they were.
I named it “Leap Frog.”
On the trickier parts of the trail where the horses get wound up, she would tell me to trot to that corner or that tree and stop. I kept praising Cole and sometimes clicking him for the stops, so he didn’t mind.
We had Cole lead for longer distances each time. Not once, did Dante misbehave. We were so happy.
Something to keep in mind; when you are training one thing, you are usually training other things at the same time. It is important to keep that in mind, to insure you are training those other things correctly.
Dante has been nervous when Cole passes him or he passes Cole. (He has problems with other horses, too.) This is nothing new, and it goes away the more we trail ride. Leap Frog gave Dante a lot of time to practice. Ellen praised him when we passed him with no problems.
Dante has gotten a little sloppy with his downward transitions on the trail, too. (He is perfect in the arena.) Ellen insisted that his transitions were precise.
Overall, it was a great ride.
We were able to take them on a trail ride the next day, too. It was time to review the lesson. We had terrific success. We will continue to review until eventually, I can canter (gallop) off at Cole’s speed and Dante can canter at his slower speed without trouble. We used to be able to do it—we can do it again. (The warmer weather will help us with that.) The final test will be adding Starry and Kevin back in the mix.
Kevin can’t wait. I think he misses riding with us on the weekends.
Friday, May 6, 2016
Spring has finally arrived and the cats are celebrating!
Nothing like the spring time sunshine. Something no cat takes for granted.
After all, this wasn't that long ago--and we will be back there before we know it. So enjoy the sunshine, kitties.
Monday, May 2, 2016
Ellen was riding Ranger on the loop this weekend, and I was walking next to them to keep them company. Our loop has a drainage ditch on 2 sides of it. as we were walking, I looked down and saw something funny looking on the ground. Ranger was heading straight for it. I tried to tell Ellen to move him away, but I was so distracted by what I saw that my words came out in a jumble.
At the very moment I was able to say to watch out, Ranger stepped on it. I watched as he missed it with his back hoof. It was the first time I ever saw a spotted salamander, and now it was squished. It was black and slimy with yellow spots. I figured it must have crawled out of the ditch where it probably was laying eggs. So much for that.
I figured I would at least get a good look at it on the next lap—and then I couldn’t find it anywhere. There was not trace--no tail or leg--nothing. (They can lose an appendage and still survive to grow a new one.) Apparently, Ranger didn’t kill it, after all. It was muddy, and either he just pushed it in the mud or the salamander was within the concave part of his hoof when he stepped on it. Maybe it was a combination of both. Anyway, I wasn’t able to get a good look at it, but at least it was still alive.
When I told Kevin about it, he was all excited. Turns out, in his whole life, he has never, ever seen one, either—and he loves anything reptilian or amphibian. He would have loved to see it, but he was glad it survived.
Funny, all the time we spend in the local parks riding and hiking, and we end up seeing a salamander at the barn by a drainage ditch.
Thursday, April 28, 2016
Dante and Kevin
Starry is having some hoof troubles, so Kevin wasn’t able to ride him with me. Ellen offered Dante, and Kevin couldn’t resist. He rode him on a trail ride a couple years ago, and he loved him.
Now, this was going to be an evening ride, and Dante hasn’t been on an evening ride in a few years. All of our other horses get very excited about going out in the evenings—particularly if they haven’t done it all winter. Well, it has been much longer for Dante than a single winter. To complicate matters, Kevin has had so little experience with him. I really didn’t know what to expect. I didn’t want to tell any of this to Kevin. After all, he has enough experience to handle a rambunctious Dante. Dante at his worst isn’t all that bad, so I kept my nervousness to myself. (Turns out Ellen was nervous, too.)
I helped Kevin tack Dante up, and brought him up to speed about all the places he has to click and treat Dante if he is good. The street when cars go by, when mounted, when his first feet step into the river…
We led the horses out of the barn, and Dante was so happy. He loves going on trail rides. He is like a dog that looks forward to his walks. Dante marched right down the driveway. Cole wanted to park out, bow, do silly walk, and Dante didn’t want to waste time. There was no waiting for us. I hurried Cole along, and we caught up with them by the time they reached the street.
Kevin mounted and decided the stirrups were too long. I told him we could fix them at the bottom of the hill. I didn’t want to mess around right by the street. The horses marched on down. At the bottom, I dismounted, parked Cole out and shortened one stirrup. Kevin felt better. I tried to lead Cole to the other side, and Dante kept skittling away. He is going through a phase of being afraid of Cole being too close. I don’t know what has brought this on, but it has happened before, and it passes.
I told Kevin he had to do the other stirrup. He figured it out and started on his way. I was still on the ground. Cole wanted to do his park/bow routine, again, and it took me a bit to get him focused and standing square so I could mount. By now, Dante was way up the trail. I started to trot to catch up. Dante heard us, and he thought it was a great idea. He took off at a trot with no brakes. He wanted to pass up the exit ramp and just trot back and forth at the bottom of the hill—one of his favorite games. I had Cole walk, and Kevin got control of Dante, but he still didn’t want to go down the exit ramp to the river. Cole marched by and stepped in the river while Kevin struggled.
The ride wasn’t starting quite the way I wanted, but I felt if I could just get them across the river and trotting that things would work out. Kevin finally got him walking down the bank. They stepped into the water, and I sighed a sigh of relief. We were on our way.
To make Kevin’s ride easy, he was going to be the leader. Dante loves to lead, but is a slow leader. Cole prefers to follow, but he likes to go fast. If I put him in the lead, he would speed along much faster than Dante wants to trot, and either Dante would get excited, or I would leave them far behind. We didn’t need that, so Dante was lead horse.
Once we crossed the river, I told Kevin to trot whenever he felt comfortable. Dante started trotting right away, so I was glad that Kevin was already comfortable with him. I started trotting after them, and then Kevin stopped Dante. Turns out that trotting was Dante’s idea, not Kevin’s. They walked for a little bit, and then Kevin asked him to trot. With all my instructions to Kevin, I forgot to tell him about the Lambert Leap. When Dante is excited, he takes a huge first step when he trots. It did give Kevin a surprise—and then I told him what it was and to not worry about it. He does it all the time—and then just trots along.
We trotted and trotted. I watched them the whole time, and not once did Kevin post—not once. What a difference for him after riding Starry’s Turbulence Trot. Cole was antsy and wanted to pass so he could stretch his legs. The weather was very chilly, which only adds to his exuberance. Occasionally, I would stop him when he got too close, let them get ahead and then let him trot a little faster to catch up.
We got to the next river crossing where we were going to turn around to go home all too soon. We turned, walked a bit and then did some more trotting. Dante went faster, here, since he was heading towards home, and still no posting from Kevin. We stopped and walked on to home. Kevin wanted to trot more, but I told him he couldn’t since Ellen wasn’t trotting closer to home yet. He really, really wanted to trot more, so when we got to our river crossing to go home, I suggested passing up home and trotting out to the street. It is only about 30 seconds of trotting, but when we do this, Cole gets to lead and I let him go as fast as he likes. Dante always follows politely.
Cole flew. He was holding in a lot of energy. (I loved it.) When we got to the end, Dante wasn’t as far back as he usually is. Kevin said it was the fastest he had gone the whole ride. I didn’t see them, but I bet that Kevin didn’t post.
We walked home, and it was happily uneventful. Kevin wanted to grade Dante with a A+ for the ride, but I reminded him of how he was at the bottom of the hill, so he adjusted it to an A. Still, that is pretty impressive for Dante’s first evening ride in a few years, on a cool night with a new rider—only a few weeks after Ellen started trail riding him this year.
Kevin has renamed Dante. He is now “Smooth as Butter.”
Tuesday, April 19, 2016
I was planning to retire this summer, but my employer made me a very good offer if I would stay on part time. It was a sensible thing to do, and I would be starting in March instead of waiting until summer. That was the biggest draw. I was excited.
Well, we go so incredibly busy at work that that plan was put on the back burner. I have been working full time all along. Since we were so busy, I think that made them re-evaluate things—plus there are other things involved—and they changed their mind. They decided to hire a replacement. Since the replacement is someone they laid off a couple months ago from a different department, I am thrilled for him. He needs a full-time job much more than I need a part-time job.
Also, once the weather started getting nice, I started to question my decision about going part time. In my head it was for 3 years, then it went to 2 years. I was down to one year when they told me they changed their mind. The last week or so, when it looked like they would make me work full time up until my retirement date, I was wondering if I made a mistake. When they told me what their new plan, I was smiling
I will be full-time until July--then freedom!