Friday, May 22, 2015
We thought he would be here on Tuesday, but that was changed to Wednesday because a Canadian holiday messed up their schedule. Then, they called me and said it have to be Thursday. There was another horse that they were shipping whose papers to get across the border expired, and they had to be renewed. So, when Thursday arrived, I was expecting a phone call saying it would be Friday. Well, I got the phone call, but this time they said he would be there between 7:00 and 9:00 that evening. It was happening!
I waited at home for the next update. At 7:45, I got the call that they were about an hour away. I called Kevin, and he rushed out to the barn right away—he was so excited. I left a message for Ellen. She was working until 9:00, so it looked like she might be lucky. I really wanted her to see him when he arrived, too. I had told the shipper to call again when they got off the highway.
I drove out. When I passed the highway exit, I timed how long it would be to get to the barn from there—8 minutes. I was surprised to see John, Ellen’s boyfriend, was there. He is a terrific photographer, and all the photos you see are from him.
To kill time, I cleaned the stalls and brushed Ranger. They were eating their evening hay. Cole did take a break from it to show John how he can bow. John took a bunch of pictures of him. There were some other boarders there, and we let them know what was happening. The excitement was building for all of us—but mostly for me.
They called! Kevin and I slowly wandered down the driveway to flag them down when they arrived. I expected them in 8 minutes. I didn’t know if Ellen would get there in time. Eight minutes passed—still no truck. Suddenly, Kevin blurts out, “I think that is it—I can hear it.” (How did he hear the truck before me? Why doesn’t he hear me when I talk?) Sure enough, I saw headlights, and now I could hear a diesel engine, too.
They saw us waving, and stopped in front of the barn. The driver told me that it looks like I got a Roy Rogers horse, Trigger. My heart was beating so fast. Remember, I hadn’t seen him before. All I saw was some pictures. They opened the side door, and started to move things around to get to him. I walked to the side of the truck and peered in. I could only see a little of him—some of his neck and his shoulder, but I told everyone I thought he was beautiful. I noticed there was now quite a crowd, now, waiting for him. Even Marty, the owner of the stables was out there.
They dropped the ramp, put sides up on it and then they rolled out the red carpet. Well, maybe it was brown, but it was dark—I like to think it was red. They led him to the ramp, and he saw the carpet, planted his feet and bowed way back like Cole Train. They let him reconnoiter and then asked him to proceed. He carefully stepped down the ramp and stepped on the driveway. As he strolled down the red carpet and through the crowd at the end of the driveway, I couldn’t help but think that he was getting a movie star welcome. Maybe he is Trigger?
He had arrived at his new home, but he didn’t know where he was at. So much had happened to him in the last week that he didn’t know what to think.
And then I saw Ellen! She made it in time! I was thrilled that she was there to share the moment, too.
The assistant led him down the long driveway. His head was way up in the air, he was walking fast and was looking all over the place.
(The assistant commented that when they got off the highway, he couldn’t believe he was delivering a horse to such a Metropolis. They passed stores, restaurants, a shopping center, movie theater, hospital and even a college on the way. And then he turned down our street, saw the horse sign for the bridle path and passed up a bunch of stables and then it made sense.)
When we got to our barn, I remembered we had a very difficult time leading Cole through the door when I got him. That time, he was going from a bright, sunny day into a dark barn This time, MerryLegs was going from a dark night into a bright barn. Sure enough, MerryLegs said he didn’t want anything to do with it. I pushed the door open further, and then he said he could do it. We brought him to the stall, turned him loose and I went to take care of the details. I had to sign for him, get his paperwork and the leftover hay.
When I got back to the barn, so many people were clustered around his stall that I could barely see him. And there was Kevin, in the middle of the stall, giving him carrot after carrot. I could see he was nervous about the new surroundings. He visited with Ranger—who couldn’t keep his eyes off of him. He looked at the mule, and didn’t seem very impressed with her. We gave him hay to munch, and as he settled down, he started to eat it. Kevin, Ellen and I were petting him and talking to him. Whenever we stopped, he would look up from the hay and wonder what happened. When we petted him again, he would go back to the hay.
Then, I remembered—I have to call Mrs. Shoes! She is the most wonderful woman who gave me MerryLegs. I knew she was waiting for the call to know he made it safely and to find out my reaction when I saw what a beautiful horse he is, because, wow, he really is. Not a single one of the pictures that she sent me prepared me for what I saw coming out of that trailer. It was a combination of bad photography (because horses really are hard to take good pictures of) and a very thick Canadian winter coat. It wouldn’t be hard to convince me that all the pictures I saw were taken of a different horse, and she did this just to surprise me. And surprised I was. MerryLegs is one drop-dead gorgeous horse.
I ran to the car to get her phone number and placed the call to about a million miles away in Canada. I must have sounded like a nut—going on about how beautiful he is—she was telling the truth to me—with no exaggerating—no mother’s vision that her baby is perfect—he really is just that beautiful. Finally, I told her I had to go because I wanted to go back and be with him, again. By now, Ellen had told Kevin that he probably had enough carrots. But that didn’t mean that we couldn’t still pet him and talk to him.
Kevin wanted to know if she had any other horses she wanted to give away. Ellen was quiet and in awe. I was in dream land. Ranger just kept looking at him. Starry was jealous that Kevin was ignoring him—even kicking his stall to get attention. It didn’t work. Kevin laughed at Starry and kept petting MerryLegs. Cole and Dante were finishing their evening hay. I was still walking on clouds.
Finally, it was getting late, and we knew we had to leave. When I got home, I called Ellen to talk about how pretty he is and then called Kevin. Kevin just kept going on about how he was “Blown away.” I then had to settle down and get some sleep because I needed to go to work in the morning. I tried reading, but I kept having to reread the pages because my mind would wander. Still, it was enough to get me relaxed, and I was able to sleep.
Thursday, May 21, 2015
And so, I wait.
MerryLegs is on his way, and the shipper is going to call me when he crosses the state line. I have marshalled all the forces, and they are all waiting for the call. This is one exciting event.
Yesterday, Kevin put a note on the bulletin board for everyone to say “hello” to MerryLegs. Of course, there was no MerryLegs, but Kevin put an old toy horse in the stall, instead. He tricked everyone—they loved it, but probably not as much as they will love the real MerryLegs.
We hope he likes his new home and his new horse friends—especially Ranger, his stall mate. Ranger has been practicing making faces at the empty stall for the last few weeks in preparation. I will give him a few days to relax and get used to us and his new home—and then I will ease him into training. We will indoctrinate him into clicker this weekend—since there are treats involved, I think he will take to it well. It sounds like he likes to eat nearly anything.
It now seems like it is really happening. Until now, it seemed abstract—like a dream. We have been talking and planning for so long.
I have feeling that he will be another great horse in our little herd of great horses.
Of course, I will share it all, here.
Tuesday, May 19, 2015
Tomorrow is the big day. It was supposed to be today, but it was a holiday in Canada on Monday, so that messed us up a bit. I still don’t know what time. He will be coming from Toronto. As you can imagine, I will be on pins and needles—all of us will be.
I talked to someone from the shipping company, yesterday, and I asked him about MerryLegs. He said he is doing well and he is a nice-looking horse. He then paused and said, "striking, actually, I think you will be pleased." It wasn’t until later that I pictured him striking the wall, people, barn cats…
I might be crazy for accepting an unseen, unknown horse, but I am thinking his former owner may be the crazier one. It really sounds like she is giving me an amazing, beautiful horse. I’m sure he will give me plenty of challenges along the way, but so did all the rest of them. That’s part of the fun—just as long as no one gets hurt.
The weather has been warm, and we have been doing lots of riding. Ellen and I just had a 4-day weekend, and then we have our 3-day Memorial Day weekend. We decided to skip vacation time again until August—when I may be able to trail ride MerryLegs. We never take time off in July—too hot and buggy. This will be my last summer of having an air-conditioned office—I might as well enjoy it.
In other news, my brother is going to rototill my garden, and I will start planting. I bought way too many plants this year, so I will have to share with him and his family. I am still eating green beans from last year…
Monday, May 11, 2015
Dante’s First Solo Ride of the Year
I had the opportunity to take Dante on a solo ride last week. It is the one part of his education that is really lacking. Dante and Cole are such a wonderful duo together, Ellen has no reason to take him alone. She could take him on solo rides when I’m not around, but she chooses to take Ranger instead. She will then work with Dante in the arena and on the property.
It was a very warm evening, and the mosquitoes decided to emerge from their winter hibernation. I didn’t put any bug spray on him because I didn’t know they would be so bad. Throughout the entire ride, if we were at a walk, he was tossing his head around. Of course, that is forgivable.
He started crying on the way down the hill. When we got to the bottom, he was reluctant to go down the river bank, but once I got him pointed in the right direction, he was fine. We crossed the river and started trotting. He moved a little faster than I remember from the past, and that was great. Whenever we slowed down to a walk, he started tossing his head and neighing.
We arrived at a corner of the trail. Across the street is a parking lot, and there was a truck in the driveway with a yellow flashing light. I thought I would let Dante stop and look over at it. He neighed, and I instantly heard an answering neigh. I didn’t see any horses over there—horses aren’t even allowed there. He neighed again—and was answered right away, again. He got very upset about it—there was a horse over there, and he wanted to go see it. I got suspicious. Once again he neighed—and I was right—he was hearing his echo.
Well, I couldn’t allow Dante to talk to himself all evening, and besides, he was getting even more agitated. I urged him around the corner and down a little slope. He was wired—I could feel the tension in his body. He continued neighing with only a few seconds between each one. I pondered—is it better to keep him walkng and hve him settle down or ask him to trot and hope it distracts him? After walking a couple minutes and feeling no improvement, I decided to try the trot. It worked. He moved out at a nice speed, but he quieted down and was no longer frantic. That was a relief.
When we got to the next river crossing, I turned him around and headed home. It was an extremely hot evening for May, and since he still has some winter coat left, I opted to walk home. He did do some crying, but much less now that he was on the way home. At one point, he started to trot, and when I asked him to go back to a walk, he ignored me. I gently brought him into a small circle, stepped a few strides at a walk going away from home, stopped, turned him around and started walking back towards home. He didn’t try it anymore.
The rest of the way was uneventful. I won’t have many more opportunities to take him on solo rides once MerryLegs shows up, but if I did, I’m certain it would take only one or two more rides and he will settle down. That seems to be the pattern with him.
Thursday, May 7, 2015
(Ellen's buddies, Stormy and Stubby are waiting for the big arrival.)
Bad news. MerryLegs’ delivery date has been advanced a week. To drown my sorrows, I decided to take Cole Train up to the show ring trails for the first time this year. Kevin was’nt able to ride with me, so I was on my own. I think I may have only taken him up there by myself just once. I usually go with Ellen. I remember he was very bad that day, but since then, I have been there so many times, I wasn’t worried at all.
The reason that I don’t usually go up there on weeknights is that it is a little longer ride, and except for last year, I always had another horse to ride when I got back. That will be changing, soon, so I just figured I should make the best out of the 1-horse situation while it lasted.
We got to cross the river in a spot that I haven’t crossed yet this year. I’m glad it is actually better than it was last year. The winter washed many of the rocks away, added a bunch of dirt in one spot and the remaining rocks are big enough to easily see and circumvent. I don’t care much for the next section of trail—it’s about half a mile that parallels the street—so I just trotted through. We crossed the street, went up the big hill and found the pine forest to be extremely lovely in the evening. It has been so long since I have ridden there in the evening, that I forgot how lovely it was.
The trails up there have the best footing in the whole park—perfect for a horse who needs shoes. Cole has worn his feet down a little too much, but he didn’t seem to mind these trails, at all. We had a lovely time trotting. I didn’t go the whole way—a few minutes from the end, there was a big deer blocking the trail, and since I was going to turn, anyway, I didn’t feel like messing with him.
We mostly walked towards home. When we trotted, he was very “forward” so I just did short stretches and practiced stopping. He was just a bit hyper since it was his firt ride up there. Ellen and I will start incorporating this ride into our weekends very soon. She gets a little nervous on the section by the street, so she hasn’t been in a big hurry to tackle it—but I think they are just about ready to try it.
I think I will be back there with Cole, next week…We can try trotting more…
Wednesday, May 6, 2015
Thursday, April 30, 2015
Dante seems to have a pattern. Every time I take him for a walk in a new area, he has to throw a tantrum the first day—and then he is good after that. This spring, when I go out to see Cole in the evenings, I have been spending some time leading Dante around. Well, on Monday evening, I decided we would go for a walk on the hill. Last month, we walked on the hill a few times in the morning. The first morning he had tantrums—the next one he was fine. Since then, he has been ridden a number of times on the hill with Cole. You would think there would be no problem.
But this is Dante. He can’t do something new the first time perfectly. Though we have led him by himself in the morning and ridden him with Cole, this time I was taking him by himself in the evening—without Ellen by my side. Two things changed—evening and no Ellen.
He cried as I led him down the street and cried on the top part of the hill. He doesn’t have a pretty voice. The closest thing I can compare him to is a Great Blue Heron. Ranger has a trumpeting neigh, Cole has a stallion neigh, Cruiser had a high-pitched squeally neigh, Mingo had a gorgeous, musical neigh—Dante squawks.
When we got to the first part where the hill goes down, Dante threw a temper tantrum. That means his head goes up, he lunges and waves his front legs in the air. Sigh…I circled him, stopped him and asked him to walk—another tantrum. I think we had 5 tantrums to get 10 feet down the steep slope. I honestly don’t know if he wanted to go home or just wanted to go down the hill without me. Since he was crying for his friends, it make sense that he wanted to go home, but once I got him moving, he went very quickly away from home. He had one more tantrum when we got to the flat, center section—and then he behaved like a champ all the way down the hill and back up.
I tried again on Wednesday. He squawked down the street and the upper part of the hill, and then he was quiet. We walked to the bottom and turned around. He stood at the top of the river bank and started crying. Maybe he thought his friends were on the other side? I was just glad he didn’t have any more tantrums.
He definitely needs to spend more time on the trail by himself. I will continue to take him on walks in the evening until I get MerryLegs. Maybe I’ll even take him for a ride.
Monday, April 27, 2015
Trail Riding – Expect the Unexpected
Our trails are fairly close to the street in places and fairly close to the river in others. There is one spot that it is close to both. It is so close the river that each year, the trail is washed out—leaving large rocks. It usually takes months for the park to repair it, so Kevin created a trail that is right to the side of it where the river washed up a lot of sand. It has small trees on the river side—that can hit your kneecaps if you aren’t careful. The other side goes literally straight up about 10 feet. At the top, there is an all-purpose paved trail, a guard rail and the street. It is at the beginning of a very sharp bend in the road.
This is a tricky spot—since the horses can see what is on the paved trail and hear the traffic very clearly—and then there are the kneecap trees. Just the same, we will often trot it just because it is soft.
Kevin and I were out for a ride in the evening. I was on Cole Train, and Kevin was on Starry, of course. I was in the lead when we reached this section of the trail. We were traveling at qa walk, and Cole had just passed the worst of the knee-cap trees. A car came traveling very fast approaching the bend. It reminded me of the time that Ellen was riding Ranger by herself in this spot. The roads were slippery and a car slid into the guardrail. Ranger had one doozy of a spook. Fortunately, Ellen managed to stay on. I often think of that incident when I am riding in this section of the trail and hear a fast car.
The driver of the car hit the brakes and they screeched. I shortened my reins and braced myself. They were going way too fast. Just ahead, the car crashed into the guardrail. Cole started backing up very quickly. He couldn’t turn because the trail was too narrow—and I was holding him too straight to tempt him to try. I think he took about 10 steps. At that point, Starry decided he should spook since Cole was afraid of something. (Is that horse for real?)
Cole stopped and just stared. He head was as high as Cruiser’s used to be when he was alarmed—and stuck there—a regular occurrence for Cruiser, but something Cole does rarely. Kevin said we needed to get to the car to see if anyone needed help. I asked Cole to go forward, and he went backwards some more. When he stopped, I asked him to put his head down, first, by jiggling my rein. (That is something I trained him for.) He dropped his head, and I told him, “Good boy,” and asked him to go forward. He took a step, I clicked and gave him a bunch of carrots—then asked him to trot. He was hesitant, but he trotted. About that time, I saw 4 young people get out of the car and they looked all right. Even if there was someone that wasn’t, I would bet that at least one, if not all, had cell phones.
We went back to a walk, because I didn’t see any reason to ride to the rescue, anymore, and there were some stones I didn’t want to trot over. We walked over to the accident. Not only did they hit the guardrail, but they plowed right through it and continued down the all-purpose trail for about 20 feet before they stopped. The car was totaled, but the fact that they didn’t roll down to our trail, get hurt or even flip the car over was amazing. We were able to give a little bit of help. The driver was already on the phone, and wasn’t sure of their location. We told them and went on our way.
I was simply so grateful that we weren’t further up the trail where our horses (even Starry) may have panicked terribly and caused us to get into an accident, too.
On the way home, there were 4 police cars, and we were able to give the horses a lesson on blue flashing lights. It is always good to expose them to odd things when you come across them to prepare you for what might happen in the future. Not only should we expect the unexpected—but prepare for it when we can.
There was a large piece of plastic from the car laying on the trail. Cole insisted on sniffing it, and he wanted to pick it up.
One of the rangers saw us as we rode by, and he said, “If more people rode horses, maybe there would be less of this,” and he pointed to the accident.
I replied, “Maybe, but we don’t have airbags.”