Monday, July 25, 2016

Dante and the River, Revisited

Dante and the River, Revisited

About a month ago, Dante was crossing one of the river crossings, and something splashed in the river and startled him.  He took off running through the river and up the river bank.  He would have kept on running, except Ellen forced him to stop.

Ellen has always been nervous crossing rivers, but she has improved over time.  This was the last thing she needed.  It was a huge setback.

In the weeks that followed, we had a few similar incidents, and Dante behaved himself.  Ellen was still nervous about crossing, though.

Dante had another bad incident at one of the river crossings, and this time, he trotted through the water, passing Cole and startling him.  Ellen wasn’t able to get Dante to stop until they got to the top of the river bank.  Now, we had a problem.

Even though this happened when Ellen was traveling north across the river, Dante was now nervous when Ellen tried to cross south.  The next time we went that way, he was reluctant to cross--or was that Ellen and Dante was picking it up from her?

On the way home, Ellen lost her nerve.  She just couldn’t cross the river.  Instead, we crossed on the ford.

The next week, Ellen rode him north, again, and he didn’t want to do it.  When it came time to cross on the way home, she talked me into riding him across.  We switched horses, and I went first.

He did walk quietly across, but he nervously trotted up the bank.  It wasn’t scary or dangerous, but it wasn’t what I wanted.  I wanted Ellen to see perfect behaviour.

The very next day, we repeated the ride.  This time, on the way out, Ellen took control.  She would ask him to go a few steps and then click him for doing it well.  With a lot of clicks, they crossed beautifully without any incident or unwillingness on Dante’s part.  

On the way home, I really expected her to ask me to ride him across, but I wasn’t going to suggest it.  I wanted to see what she would do.  I had mentioned, earlier, that whoever rode him across should stop him at the bottom of the bank to discourage him from trotting up.

Ellen surprised me by saying she would ride across.  We had our friend, Shari with her horse, Bella, go first.  Kevin and I waited for Ellen to go next.  

We then witnessed a beautiful and flawless example of horsemanship.  He went down the bank and paused at the edge of the water.  She gently urged him on and clicked and treated him.  They proceeded across the water slowly and calmly with well-timed clicks--and then walked up the bank on the other side.  The whole time, Dante was focused on her and not worried about the environment around him.  Ellen squelched her nerves so well, that a person who didn’t know what had been going on would have never even suspected that there ever was a problem crossing the river.

Ellen later confessed that the reason she rode across the river was just plain laziness.  It was a hot ride and we had been in the saddle a long time.  Any other solution--crossing the road, leading up the street to an access trail or switching riders would have just been too much trouble.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Solo Ride on Cole

Solo Ride on Cole

I realized last night that I no longer ride Cole out on the trail by myself.  I ride with Ellen in the mornings and Kevin in the evenings.  I like my riding companions, and I would much rather be with them than ride by myself.  

Back when I had Cruiser, I often rode Cole alone because I would ride Cruiser with Starry or Ranger.  He did very well on his solo rides.

Last night, Kevin had family plans--I was on my own.

The first thing I noticed was that Cole walked much faster down the hill than he has been.  Usually, he is waiting for Starry or Dante, and he actually prefers them to lead down the hill.  Without them, he was much more forward.

We crossed the river, and moved out at a trot.  He was faster without Dante plodding behind him, but slower than when Starry is flying at a trot up ahead.  He was steady and delightful.

I thought I saw a loose dog way up ahead on the trail.  When I got closer, I saw no trace of the dog, but there were a couple people walking towards us.  Suddenly, Cole burst into a gallop.  We found the dog.  I asked Cole to stop, and he slammed on the brakes.  That impress me that he was so responsive when he was frightened.  I clicked and treated.

It was a Husky puppy.  The two guys walking towards us were trying to catch her.  I told Cole to stand and warned them he might kick.  For several minutes, the puppy ran all about and refused to listen.  She did approach Coles hind feet several times, and Cole continued to stand like a statue.  I kept clicking him--I was so proud.  The puppy thought this was a most fun game.  The boys kept apologizing and getting panicky whenever the puppy entered the danger zone.

Finally, one of the guys thought of running down the trail in the opposite direction--hoping the puppy would follow, and it worked.  I don’t know if they ever caught her, but she left us alone.

I asked Cole to trot and he shot off at a very brisk speed.  We didn’t go far when we found a man with a nervous looking German Shepherd.  We walked past, and the dog barked at Cole.

I guess Cole had enough of dogs after that.  When we trotted, he flew down the trail.  I asked him to canter, and he did so very enthusiastically.

There is one part of the trail that we call “The Canter Stretch” where we canter nearly all the time.   Since that is our routine, Cole anticipates it and likes to go fast.  We went really, really fast.  It was fun.

I crossed the river.  (That is, after we had a little argument about how much he would prefer to cross the ford.)  On the other side, he was still hyper.  I wisely kept it at a trot since that is a very winding trail.  I didn’t want to surprise any fellow trail users.  His trot was extremely fast.  While we were trotting, I decided that we would turn around at the end of that section.  The last part of the trail is right out in the open alongside the street.  With Cole in this mood, I felt that walking that trail was the only smart way to ride it, and that’s not much fun without someone to talk to.

We turned to go home, and it was surprising how fast he wanted to walk.  I love a fast walk, so I was happy about it.  We crossed the river, and he burst into a fast trot on the other side.  I thought I might have accidently told him to trot, so I let him keep going--and then he started to canter.  That is a very unusual thing for him to do.  If he wants to go fast, he usually trots very, very fast.  There is no need for him to canter.  I had to struggle to get him to stop by zigzagging him back and forth on the trail.  Suddenly, it occurred to me that Cruiser had possessed his body--this was just like a Cruiser solo ride on a hyper day.

I decided that Cole could walk the rest of the way home.  He walked fast and behaved like a gentleman.

That is, until we were going up the hill right before the barn.  He has a favorite spot to do his Cole bursts--sudden accelerations for no good reason except high spirits.  It is a short, steep slope and he burst up it.  I stopped him and laughed.

I’m sure that a lot of his hyper behavior was because it was a solo ride.  With a horse like Cole, any change in routine can really wake him up.  When I used to ride him alone, a lot, he would get excited when I rode with other horses.  It’s just his nature.  He’s a very fun horse to ride.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

A Lovely Ride with Lovely Bella

A Lovely Ride with Lovely Bella

I have a friend I made out on the trail.  Her name is Shari, and she has a lovely National Show Horse, Bella.  I rode with her on some evening rides, and we had a great time. Cole likes Bella, and I think she likes him.  Shari is a super nice person, too, which makes it all the better.

We wanted to try going on some weekend rides last summer, but she broke her shoulder which put her out of commission for a long time, so we were never able to do it.

Finally, one Sunday, she came riding down our driveway just as we were finishing up our morning chores.  She didn’t mind waiting while we saddled up.

This would be the first time that she would be riding with Ellen and Dante. As it turned out, it was the anniversary of the day she broke her shoulder, so she wanted to be extra careful on the ride.  We decided we would just stay at a walk.

It was a perfect July morning--not too hot and the bugs weren’t bad.  We got to see how Dante would do with a new horse.  He can be skittish when horses get too close or act up--even if he knows the horse.  We found out that Dante was going to be just fine with Bella.

Bella, being half Arabian, has a lot of energy, and can get excited on the trail.  Well, Cole and Dante go along so well with her, that she became very relaxed and was a joy to be around.  We were all thrilled by how good she was.  Anyone who rides with us always risks turning into a blog post.  We were laughing about how boring the blog would be.  It would be something like: the weather was great; the horses were too.

When we got to the second river crossing, we decided to cross on the ford.  It had rained the previous night, and the water was higher and muddy.  There are a lot of large rocks that have to be negotiate, and we really prefer to see them so we can thread through safely.

We asked how Bella was with traffic, since we have to share the ford with cars.  Shari said that the only thing that really bothers her is bikes.

Bella was in the lead, followed by Cole and then Dante.  No sooner did Bella step on the bridge part of the ford, when a group of bikes came speeding down the opposite lane toward us.  Bella’s head went up and she danced toward the edge of the ford facing the water.  Shari maintained control, and even though Bella was really scared, I could see her glancing back at Shari--looking for support.  Shari gave her the reassurance.  Cole and Dante weren’t afraid of the bikes, but they were worried about Bella’s behavior.  We just told our horses to stand, and they did.

Shari uses clicker training with her horse, but she didn’t have any treats with her. She wanted to let Bella know she appreciated her, so I told her I could give her some carrots.   Just as she was reaching over, her comes a motorcycle--then some more cars.  Bella was still afraid, but she listened.  At that point, Shari decided she was getting off the ford as fast as she could.  She trotted on to the other side, and we followed at a walk.  We were all relieved to get to the other side.

Ellen and i were both impressed with our own horses who behaved rather than added to the excitement.

We rode on to the end of the trail, turned around and found Kevin on the way back.  He was surprised to see Shari was with us, and we told him about the excitement on the ford.  He had bravely crossed the river, but he said he would cross the ford with us on the way home.

Once again, we let Bella go first.  All was quiet until we got to the end, and here came a motorcycle, then a bike, then a loud truck.  Ellen and I told our guys to halt and clicked them for good behavior.  I looked up ahead, and Bella was just standing quietly.  She must have learned the first time that Shari would take care of her.  We were all so proud of her!

We had a great time, and we plan to ride with Shari and Bella in the near future.  Hopefully, it will turn into a boring blog post.

Monday, July 18, 2016

The Humble Chestnut

Two photos on Facebook--both equally spectacular.  Ellen puts them both on her page.  Cole gets lots of comments about how wonderful he looks.  Dante--all he got was likes.  Such is the like of the humble chestnut.

When we ride together, people we see will tell us how beautiful Cole is.  This happens so much that I don't even get surprised or delighted.  I just expect it.  When they see Dante, they comment about how cute his deer fly bonnet is.

Yes, the black horse will always get all the attention.  Think of the Black Stallion, Black Beauty and other starring black horses in western movies.  The chestnuts are the background horses.  Nobody notices them--they are even used interchangeably.

Cole isn't my first black horse.  Mingo was black, too.  He got plenty of attention.  Cruiser was a chestnut with plenty of chrome--he also got comments about his deer fly bonnet.

Chestnuts are beautiful horses and deserve plenty of accolades, yet somehow they get overlooked.  It is time to recognize the humble chestnut for what he is--gorgeous.


Where have I been?  Actually, nowhere--just here enjoying retirement.  I finally got Internet at home, and I find I really don't want to use it more than a few minutes at a time.  I guess it reminds me too much of work.  I miss blogging, and I keep blogging in my head, but I haven't been typing it in.  I just have to get into a routine, I guess.  You'll be hearing from me, soon.

Friday, July 1, 2016

Starry and Dante

Starry and Dante 

Ellen has been riding Dante on the trail in the morning with Kevin and Starry.  It has worked out so well.  One of the reasons for their success—Starry and Dante are fantastic buddies.

Both of them are mild mannered horses that don’t believe in hurrying—even on the way home.  They just like to go out for a stroll.  Both can walk very, very slow.  When they are together, they walk at the same speed and are very happy to do it.  Ellen and Kevin can chat, easily.  When I ride with them on Cole, he tends to walk faster, and I keep getting too far ahead to join the conversation.

Starry does naturally trot fast than Dante, but that hasn’t been a problem.  Usually, Kevin lets Ellen go first at Dante speed.  He will walk while they slowly trot ahead, and then Kevin will trot to catch up. 

This time of year, Starry is notoriously famous for becoming frantic about the bugs. He doesn’t want to walk quietly.  Instead, he swishes, tosses his head around and prances.  According to Ellen, when he is with Dante, he just walks behind him quietly.

When I ride with them, it is funny to watch Starry.  It doesn’t matter where Starry is in the pack, he quickly finds away to be behind Dante.  Cole isn’t good enough—he needs his Dante.

Dante tends to get nervous when other horses are too close to him.  Even if Cole passes him, Dante with tense up and sometimes even step sideways to get further away from Cole.  Usually, he is just fine if Starry is close to him.  Starry is his buddy.

Fourth of July Fireworks

Fourth of July Fireworks

As we approach the Fourth, my sister and I ride with caution.  Since we ride in a highly populous area, there is always a chance that we might encounter some crazy person with fireworks while we are in the saddle.  We ride early, not as far and with awareness.

We aren’t blowing the situation out of proportion, because we have had problems in the past.  The first time, was the very first year I was trail riding.  It was actually on July 5.  My first horse, Brandy, and I were riding in the evening.  As we passed a deep pool of the river, someone on the other side threw a firework into the water, and I saw it explode.  The following moment, I was on the ground and Brandy was running home.

A few years down the road, Ellen and I were out on an early morning ride on Cruiser and Ranger.  There was a woman with a couple kids shooting firecrackers quite close to us by the river edge.  I’m sure they didn’t even see us because we were up above their heads.  They spooked both horses, but at least, this time we managed to stay on.  We did give them a piece of our mind.

The next time was shortly after the Fourth.  We were crossing a street, and someone threw a firecracker out of a car window at us.  Of course the horses were spooked, but we were able to ride it out.

The last time was a very puzzling incident.  I remember I was on Mingo, Ellen was on Ranger and I am pretty sure Kevin was there, but I think he was on his Morgan, Arby.  It was in the evening a few days after the Fourth, and we were riding down a steep hill.  All of the sudden, a whole bunch of fireworks went off all at once and lasted at least one endless minute.  It wasn’t close to us, but close enough to get the horses upset—not a good thing when you are riding down a steep hill.  We all just had our horses stand in place and wait it out.  It was pretty scary, but the horses were great.

So, you can see that the threat this time of year is very real for us.  Needless to say, the Fourth of July holiday is our least favorite riding holiday, but we still ride.  It is hard to keep us out of the saddle.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Lovely Uneventful Rides

Lovely Uneventful Rides

Yes, that is all we have.  It doesn’t give me much to write about.  We have started riding up to the show ring trails on the weekend.  Ellen was nervous about it, but the very first ride was terrific.  All the rides after that were just as terrific.  She is now learning to let go.  If Dante wants to travel a little faster because Cole is, she is letting him have a loose rein.  Dante is taking his new freedom in a responsible manner.

Ellen started riding on the trail during the week  with Kevin on a regular basis, too.  Those rides are going super.  One day, there was a park worker with a weed whacker that was close to the trail.  He didn’t see the horses right away.  Starry was unconcerned, and Dante was a little nervous.  Kevin’s biggest concern was whacking weeds whacking the horses.  He was able to attract the worker’s attention, and he shut it off.  That was about the most exciting thing that happened to them on their morning rides.

One morning, there was a garbage truck parked at the end of the trail once, and they were attempting to take a side trail to get by it, then the truck moved.  See what I mean about unexciting?

We haven’t even been caught in the rain!

One evening, a Peyton, a huge Thoroughbred joined Kevin and me with his leaser riding him.  It was a first time for her.  I warned her that we like to do a lot of trotting and some cantering.  She wasn’t sure how far she would ride with us.  Well, I guess she had fun because she stayed the whole time.  We walked all the way home because we know that Peyton has been giving his owner trouble on the way home.  Overall, Peyton was great.  Another uneventful ride.

We will be keeping our rides in the safer part of the park over the holiday weekend—as we always do.  The rides will be early, too.  Things can get a little crazy when people have fireworks.  After that weekend, I am hoping that Ellen will feel confident enough to start going on the “long” rides.  We never got that way last year.  It involves 2 more river crossings and a bad intersection, but once you get through that, we have lots of great trail.  It is where we took Ranger and Cruiser nearly every possible weekend day for years.  Maybe I will get some good, uneventful rides to write about, there, too.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Ranger and the Anti-Ranger

Ranger and the Anti-Ranger

I haven’t been writing much about Ranger, but that doesn’t mean he still isn’t a very important part of our lives.  Ellen only rides him occasionally, due to his breathing issues, but we take him on walks every day.  He is a super horse to walk because he is fast –he really gives us a good work out.

Unlike the Anti-Ranger.  That is what we call Dante, because he is so opposite for Ranger.  The Anti-Ranger walks slow.  He also trots and canters slow.  Ranger, in his prime, was a very fast and exciting horse to ride.  That is only the beginning.

Ranger is a very nervous horse—and so many things get him worried.  Dante is quite mellow and accepting.  Where Ranger wants to scoot away from something scary—Dante wants to touch it.  Ranger spooks a lot.  Dante—he only spooks now and then, and they are pretty pathetic spooks at that.

Ranger is a bully.  Dante is afraid of bullies—and he is even afraid of horses that aren’t bullies.

Ranger is cautious with people he doesn’t know.  Dante loves everyone.  We have to catch Ranger and hold him before he realizes the vet is visiting him.  Dante loves the vet.

Ranger makes a big deal about being saddles.  He snarls and snarks and puts on a big show.  Dante likes being saddled.  He doesn’t even mind the bug spray.  Before clicker training entered Ranger’s life, he thought bug spray was battery acid.

Ranger doesn’t like his face being touched.  Dante wants lots of pets.  We can’t touch Ranger’s mouth or give him paste wormer.  The vet needs to tranquilize him to examine his teeth.  Dante—no problem.

Ranger is fussy about food—Dante eats everything.

Ranger loves to vocalize—Dante barely says a word.

Ranger’s trot is very bouncy making posting a necessity.  Dante is smooth as butter.

When we took Ranger on trail rides, he had to be in the lead most of the time.  If he wasn’t, he wanted to race the horse that was ahead.  Often if he was in the lead, he would slow down to let the other horse get closer and then try to get a race going.  Cruiser fell for it all the time.  Dante enjoys being the leader, but he is willing to be the follower, and he doesn’t care to race, though he doesn’t always want to be left far behind.  Ranger was never, ever left behind.

No two terrific horses can be more opposite than these two.  Though Dante may be an easier horse to manage, we absolutely love them both for who they are.   

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Starry Pouts

Starry Pouts

On our evening rides, Kevin and I have been going out to the second river crossing, turning around, coming back, passing home and riding out to the end of an access trail.  We call it the Access Trail—very creative, huh?

Anyway, with a lot of trotting and some cantering, this ride takes about an hour, and we like it.  When we pass up home, I click Cole and give him a treat.  Kevin doesn’t click Starry, but it doesn’t matter.  We are typically in the lead, and I give Cole his treat before Starry catches up with us.  Cole then trots on off, happily, and Starry follows.

Last night, Starry was in the lead.  As they passed up the trail to that goes down the riverbank and home, Kevin asked for a trot.  Starry took a couple steps, grabbed a branch on the side of the trail and swung out his huge buckskin body in his infamous “right angle move” and blocked the trail.  He does this once or twice a week with us.  Cole then slams on the brakes and we wait for Kevin to get Starry pointed the right direction.

Well, this time, Starry was having nothing with that.  He started swishing his tail and backing up.  He backed up into Cole, and Cole went flying the other direction.  (Cole is very sensitive to the actions of other horses, and tends to panic if they get too close to him.)  I got control of Cole, and Kevin then asked Starry to go forward, again.  Starry did more backing up and swishing, and Cole really panicked this time.  He spun away, tossed in a tiny buck and tried to run off.  I stopped him, and asked him to stand.

Starry still wasn’t going down the trail, so I said I would pass and see if he would follow us.  As soon as Cole got one step past Starry, he wanted to high-tail it away from him.  We went about 50 feet at a very fast trot, and then I asked him to stop and wait.  In what seemed to be an hour, but probably was only 30 seconds, Kevin got Starry to trot down the trail.  We continued on our way, rode to the Access Trail and turned to come home.

Kevin thought it would be a good idea to ride past home, again.  This time, we were going to go the other way along a fence that separates the trail from the road.  I suggested putting Cole in the lead to lure Starry into the right decision.  It didn’t work.  Kevin wanted to get to the end of the fence—and Starry wanted to just go home.  Cole wasn’t very happy about it, either, but he showed me by walking very slow and reluctant.  I decided we would just trot to the end of the fence and wait for Starry.

Eventually, Kevin and Starry worked it out, and they trotted to us.  We turned around and headed home.

All of this behavior really surprised Kevin.  Starry has always been the good one when it came to passing up home.  He used to help our friend, Audrey, with her horse when they would practice passing up home, and Starry used to set such a good example.

We think the issue started with Starry thinking that Cole was going home.  He was upset.  He was pouting.  Once he got the idea in his head, having Cole ahead of him didn’t help anymore.  Next time, we are going to put Cole in front, again.  No need to cause Starry pouting if we can avoid it.  (Besides, Cole and I like to trot that trail really, really fast.)