Monday, February 28, 2011


I’m getting crabby and depressed. It is the winter. I am arena sour, and need to get on the trail. I’m tired of sharing the ring with the other boarders, tired of riding and having people constantly opening and closing the doors, making sudden noises and tyring to talk to me. I’m tired of the wind flapping the doors and ice making strange noises. I’m tired of circles.

I’m as grumpy now as I usually am around Christmas. Bah humbug to winter and arena riding.

That being said, Cruiser is amazingly sound, and that makes me very happy. Please, Cruise, one more good summer…Cole is trotting lovely and consistent. Best of all, he isn’t spooking much anymore.

But we are bored and want to ride outside. Right now, the driveway is a sheet of ice from people driving on the snow we got last week. Even if we could get to the trail, we couldn’t go far. The river is flooding over the banks from the snow melting and 2 inches of rain last night.

I don’t know if the weather will be warm enough this week to melt the mess and allow us down trail this weekend. I really don’t think so.

So I am grumpy.

$5.00 Coupon from my publisher

I got a note from my publisher, Alpine Publications. First, they are now offering select eBooks on their website. They only have a few, right now, but promise to have more, soon. (My book, “Trail Training for the Horse and Rider” is not available as an eBook at this time.)

If you are a Facebook member, you can search for Alpine Publications and click “Like” at the top of Alpine’s page and get a $5.00 off coupon offer for any of their books ordered from their website. I recommend “Trail Training for the Horse and Rider,” of course.

Alpine also now has a reader referral program. If you convince 10 people to buy a book of theirs, you will get a free book of your choice. There is more information about this program on their website. I suggest that you convince 10 people to buy “Trail Training for the Horse and Rider.”

Alpine Publications sells books on dog breeds, dog training, dog care, herding dogs, dog performance training, dog breeding, aggressive dogs, sled dogs, dog rescue, horse training, retriever training, hunting dogs, tracking dogs, books on horse anatomy, horse leg care, horse showing and equestrian skills.

Here is their website:

Friday, February 25, 2011

Another Challenging Drive to Work

We had quite a storm today.  It was actually thundering when it first hit the area.  It is unusal to get thunder in a snow storm, and if you do get it, it is only one or 2 thunders.  This time, it kept going and going.  I had trouble getting back to sleep.  When I got up, we had about 6 inches on the ground, and it was still snowing and blowing. 

So what did I do?  I went to work.  If we don't go to work, we don't get paid.  I only had a real problem getting out of the driveway.  I had to stop for traffic, and couldn't get going again.  So, I scraped out the snow under my tires and tried again.  It took about 5 attempts.  There was ice under the snow--it had rained first.  I fell once, but it was on snow, so I wasn't hurt.

I think it will stop in time for the roads to get cleaned up before I go home.  I am getting so tired of this.

I plan to go out to the barn and to my boyfriends for a movie this evening--depending on the weather.  I probably won't ride if the wind is as bad as they predict.  I had so much trouble with Cruiser spooking on Wednesday from the various arena noises, that I don't want to go through that again.  I will just lead him and lounge Cole.  Tomorrow morning should be better.

Hurry up spring!!!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Excerpt from "Trail Adventures and Advice" Chapter 2 - Riding in Cleveland

Riding in Cleveland

I live in a suburb of Cleveland, Ohio. It may seem an unlikely place for a trail rider, but that is not the case at all. We have a park system that circles the city and is consequently called “The Emerald Necklace.” Within our great park, we have over 82 miles of bridle trails to ride. Anywhere you live in the county, you are less than a ½ hour away from the trails. Most of them are well maintained and easily accessible. There are plenty of boarding stables all along the perimeter of the park where hundreds of people, including me, keep their horses.

Typically, the trails are wooded. There are some hills, fields, marshes and a lot of creeks and rivers. My particular area is noted for a wide variety of lovely wildflowers and gorgeous views of the Rocky River. There is a large diversity of trees in the area, making the fall foliage spectacular. One particularly splendid spot is an old pine forest on the top of the valley. It changes dramatically with the time of day and the time of year. I never get tired of looking up at those awesome pines. Another thing about our trails is that there are plenty of great places for trotting and cantering, and we take advantage of it.

The downside of living in a very populated area is that we must share our trails with many people. I’m not just talking about other trail riders. If only it was that easy. We deal with heavy automobile traffic, pedestrians, joggers, dog walkers, bikes, cross country skiers, roller bladers and miscellaneous strollers, kite fliers, rocket shooters and even a bagpipe player now and then. Sometimes it gets rather stressful. We really have to spend a great deal of time with our horses to get them used to all the craziness out there. Our horses are that much better off.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Tough night at the barn.

It was a bad day at the barn. First, I had to drive through nasty, snowy weather with bad roads and windshield wipers that were misbehaving.

The place was deserted, so I saddled up Cole. As I led him around, I marveled that it wasn’t windy. They predicted high winds. I would be able to get a great ride in. I mounted—and the winds started. It was really bad. Cole spooked only once, but I spooked dozens of times. we spent a lot of the time practicing standing. The main door was flapping nearly constantly. When we did trot, he did exceptional. He engaged his hindquarters more than ever! I am still trying to figure out how to ride this gait, but I am getting better. We kept our ride to half an hour.

I cleaned the stalls, hoping the wind would improve, and it did. My ride with Cruiser was much better. The door was only flapping about once a minute, and Cruiser didn’t care. I decided to try to ride the best I could. I have realized that I haven’t been riding up to par. I rode my best and he did improve. I realized he wasn’t bending—at all! This could be why I can’t get him on the bit. In the past, I when I lost him, I would just circle him with a strong bend, and he would go right back in place. We worked on bending at a walk, and he seemed a little better, but he is very resistant. Possibly physical? It won’t matter in a few weeks, but I will continue to work on it.

I fed—my assistant boyfriend was nowhere in sight. I had to get one more bale of hay from the loft. I am very afraid of ladders. I told myself I could do it, and I did, but even I was surprised how uneasy I was as I climbed up and down the ladder.

Then there was the trip home—and it required all my winter driving skills to get safely home. The roads were not only snow covered. But very slippery. I think there might have been some ice under the snow. i was sure glad to get home safely.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Thunder Unleashed

It was a bad scene. My dad had just gotten home from his travels and greeted his dog. I was sitting in the dining room talking on the phone. I hung up, and Dad came over to see me. The dining room table belongs to Thunder. It is where he eats, sleeps and hunts by watching out the picture window. He has a blanket with his heated snuggle safe under to keep his paws warm. He wasn’t on the table, so my dad patted his snuggle safe to see if it was warm.

A moment later, the dog was on the dining room table. (I can’t believe she could jump that high from a standstill.) She thought Dad was signaling her to jump up. I grabbed her before she could find his food and put her on the floor.

This is where the scene gets really ugly. Thunder saw what she did, charged over and started smacking her—all claws out. He chased her under the table to the other side and cornered her. I grabbed her and pulled her out of the way. He came after her and continued to pummel her. I urged her out of the room to safety.

He was livid. A few minutes later, she ventured back to the dining room. Thunder walked up to her and sniffed her nose. I thought all was fine until he walked over to her side and started to pummel her again. She tried to get out of the way, but he pinned her to my dad’s legs and kept up. Dad moved and she ran off.

After that, he kept an eye on her and attacked her every time he saw her for about an hour. She quit coming to his side of the house until evening, and right before bed, he chased her out of the living room and guarded the door to keep her from coming back.

I brought him upstairs to bed, and he settled down.

I am glad to say that he did a good job with dog training. I left his food on the table, and it was still there this morning. She didn’t go up there on her own and eat it. He just ignored her this morning. I think the crisis is over.

I am wondering if he was returned to the cat shelter by his previous adopters—not because he wouldn’t use the litter box as they told me, but because he was terrorizing the rest of the animals in the house!

Great Riding Weekend

I had a great weekend with the horses.

Friday evening was windy and warm. Cruiser had his best arena ride for the winter. Since it was warm, he was very settled and relaxed. He trotted in a normal manner—instead of like a Saddlebred. It was nice. Now, I am sure that it must just be excitement that is causing him to be so high headed. If I was riding him more vigorously, I think he would settle down and get to work. Since I am only trotting him less than 10 minutes a ride, he doesn’t get to that point. In the past, he usually didn’t settle on a chilly day until we trotted at least 10 minutes. Why would I expect it to be any different now? It was back to chilly the rest of the weekend, so I had trouble getting him to settle down and pay attention. My sister did video us on Sunday, and now I am sure he isn’t lame—maybe just a little stiff—which you might expect from a high-mileage 23-year-old. Also, he isn’t carrying his head as high as it seems to me in the saddle. He hasn’t been spooking hardly at all.

Cole was outstanding. Since it was windy on Friday and Saturday, we stayed on the safe end of the arena. We continued to work on straight walk departures, and he is improving dramatically. We did trotting and lots of transitions.

Now, for the exciting part—at least to me. My sister videoed me on Cole, too, and he is moving more beautifully than I imagined. About a month ago, he started doing this huge trot, and I clicked him for it. He has continued to do it, and we have been working on duration. Everyone told me it was gorgeous, and they were right. My sister has to get the video to me, and I don’t know when I will be able to get it up, but when I do, you will see what I mean. I just kept watching it on her camera over and over while we sat at Taco Bell after our riding. It has been playing in my head ever since. I never imagined this was in him when I bought him. I didn’t see it at the breeder, didn’t see it once I had him and turned him out to play and only saw tiny glimpses of it when I lounged him.

Interestingly, both my sister and boyfriend told me that his paddling disappears when he trots like this.

Since it wasn’t windy on Sunday, we did venture to the scary end of the arena. He was fine on the short end after our good lesson last week. He was still funny on the wall approaching that end, so I thought I would repeat the short end lesson on the wall. We walked along it, and I asked him to put his head down and clicked him for it. After a few laps, I added trotting, asked him to put his head down and clicked for it. It didn’t take long, and I was trotting laps with his head down and his mind focused on me and not out the windows. It seemed like such a miracle to me. He was doing his lovely trot all around the arena.

Unfortunately, they are predicting high winds for this evening, and I don’t know if I will have the backbone to try it with the doors flapping about. We shall see…

Friday, February 18, 2011

Excerpt from "Trail Horse Adventures and Advice" Chapter 1

Mingo has a Fit

My boyfriend, Kevin, has been leasing Mingo for more than a year now. In November, he was going to go on a trail ride by himself. He rode down to the river, and just as he was going to walk down the bank, Mingo grabbed at a branch. Kevin pulled the branch out of his mouth the best he could, but then Mingo started tossing his head around and fretting. They stepped over to the river, and my little horse completely refused to cross. He continued tossing his head around and began to franticly dance about and even buck.

A woman came by and thought that Mingo would cross if he could follow her horse. It didn’t work. By now, Kevin was suspecting that something must be wrong with the bridle. He asked the woman to take a peak. She pulled up his lip, and sure enough, his tongue was over the bit. It probably happened when he tried to eat the branch. Kevin knew he had to get Mingo back to the barn because Mingo was so worked up by now, that he didn’t think he’d be able to re-bridle him safely by the river. He turned Mingo to go up the hill that leads back home. The woman who was trying to help him across the river allowed her horse to run up the hill ahead of them. This was all Mingo needed in his frantic state of mind. He tried to follow, and when Kevin tried to stop him, Mingo started backing up and almost stepped off the edge of the trail into the ditch. Kevin’s guardian angel was looking over his shoulder, and stopped Mingo just in time. It then occurred to Kevin that there was only one safe thing to do. He quickly dismounted and led Mingo back to the barn.

I heard the story with a mixture of pride in Kevin because of his sensibility and horror at the thought of what could have happened. It wasn’t until later in the night that I began to worry about the river. I’ve seen too many people trying to cross that river on a horse that didn’t want to cross, and I have been there a few times myself. When Mingo doesn’t want to go somewhere because he is afraid, there isn’t much you can do about it. A couple days later, I had my opportunity to see if he would be afraid to cross the river. I rode with my sister’s horse, Ranger, down to the river. My angelic, little horse just walked right across.

He wasn’t afraid of the river at all that day; he was upset about the way his mouth felt and was telling Kevin in the only way he knew how. I’m so proud that Kevin realized that there might be something wrong when a normally quiet horse acts very out of character and thought to check his tack. It is something we all should remember.

My Beginning

I remember that fateful day when I got my first horse.  I wasn’t prepared for it in the least. i was only 21, and I finally was out of college and had a real job.  (Same job I have now, 25 years later.)  My mother was in the hospital, and my aunt visited her.  She owned a couple of horses that we used to ride now and then when we were kids.  She mentioned to my mother that she was thinking of selling Brandy.  This was my big opportunity!  This horse was my childhood dream horse!  I told my mother that the next time she visited; tell her I’d take Brandy.  The next evening, my mother called from the hospital and said, “Call your aunt; you have a horse.” She gave me a 22-year-old Morgan gelding.

Talk about unprepared. I had nothing.  I borrowed a saddle and bridle from my aunt, she gave me 2 brushes, a bucket to carry them in and an old screw driver for a hoof pick.  I found a place to keep him that wasn’t too far from home.  Fortunately, the woman who ran the place was used to new owners.  This made a big difference.  She lined me up with a great farrier (who I still use 24 years later,) a vet and put me on a program of worming every 8 weeks.  I was on the path to success.  I didn’t have a currycomb, and as it was spring, so I ended up shedding my horse out by rubbing him with my hands.  Eventually, I found the local tack store and got on some good mailing lists for horse supply catalogs.  These were the days before the Internet was even imagined.

The only thing that didn’t work out was the vet.  I tried using him for a number of years because everyone I knew used him and they swore by him.  I ended up switching because I didn’t feel comfortable with him. He was a grumpy, old curmudgeon that I couldn’t get clear answers from.  My current vet is so much better. I can talk to her, and we can work together very well.  A good vet/owner relationship is so important.  If you don’t feel comfortable with your vet, ask around and find out if there is a more suitable vet for you.

I got my horse, Brandy, on a Monday.  The barn owner pointed me in the direction of the park where the trails were and I could hardly wait to try them.  Saturday, there were some people going on a ride, and I decided to accompany them.  Mistake!  Of course I had ridden Brandy before when I was a kid, not to mention a couple times that week in the indoor arena.  What could go wrong?  The park was ½ mile down the road.  I made it down there all right, but as soon as we got on the trail, I learned that my horse believed that other horses were racehorses that had to be challenged.  He wouldn’t walk with them quietly.  He trotted past all the other horses to get in the lead.  When they caught up, he trotted away again.  Once, he even cantered.  I could see that I was disrupting the group’s ride, so I decided to leave them and go home.  I turned around and found my horse in an even bigger hurry to get home.  The blisters started forming on my hands as I struggled to keep him at a walk.  It was to no avail.  Upon arriving at the barn, he was coated with sweat, even though it was a very cool day.  It eventually dried off, but it sure was hard to get him clean without a currycomb.

I tried riding him a few more times on the trail, but things kept getting worse until the last ride when he spun around and took off running down the center of the street.  That is when I realized I had a big problem.  I called my aunt, but all she told me was that I could sell him if I wanted to.  I didn’t give up . Instead, I decided to do the best I could with him.  I spent many months working with him in the arena.  I read everything I could get, and talked to people.  Even more important, I listened to people.  (By the way, don’t take everything you hear as gospel.  A lot of people sound like experts, and they don’t know a thing.  Be sure to evaluate all the things you hear and not just assume they are correct.)  I wasn’t a very good rider, and he wasn’t a well-trained horse.  We both needed work.  At this stage of the game, I was still afraid to canter a horse!  How could I expect to be trail riding him successfully in the first week that I owned him?  I also got to learn all his little tricks, and he got to learn that he could trust me.

The next spring, I tried trail riding again.  It took some time, but since I understood him better, I had some ideas on how I could get him to listen.  It all worked out fine, and I was able to trail ride him 2 years before he died.  After that, I felt that time and patience could solve nearly all horse problems.  The week after he died, I bought a 2-year-old half-Arab that had very little handling, and his owners called Satan!  I renamed him Cruiser.

The good news is that I learned the most important lesson of all from my first horse, Brandy.  Take your time.  Don’t rush into anything.  Start gradually and get to know your horse before trying anything challenging and make sure that your own skills are up for the challenge.  I slowly trained Cruiser to be ridden without any serious difficulties, and he has turned out to be my constant companion and a fantastic trail horse.


Thursday, February 17, 2011

My Little Thunder

Productive rides

Hear that sound? It is the sound of snow melting. We still have a lot—over a foot in most places at my house, but it is going fast. It is supposed to get to 60 degrees today, so I am hoping that most will be gone by this evening when I walk the dog. It is very difficult walking in the icy and deep snow.

The rides were very successful last night. The temperature helped a lot. Cruiser was settled and didn’t spook a single time. We did a fair amount of trotting and went a total of 40 minutes.

Cole’s ride was good, too. We started by working on the easy end of the arena with circles and transitions. He was giving me his big trot and feeling good. It was very quiet out at the stables—just me and my boyfriend. I ventured over to the scary end and started walking laps.

As usual, when we got to that side, his head flew up and he was looking all around. This has been our problem over there whether we are walking or trotting. He is way above the bit with his nose in the air, and I basically have little control of him when he does this. It gets me very nervous, which only makes it worse.

I decided I needed to change his routine. I needed a cue for him to lower his head when I am in the saddle. We do it all the time on the ground. I decided a gentle vibration of the inside rein would be a good cue. I did it, and in no time, he dropped his head. I clicked him for it. We repeated it a couple times on that lap.

I was going to do it for the next lap, but he surprised me—and kept his head down from the start! He didn’t learn the cue, but he learned I was happier with him when he carried his head in the normal manner. (He may be more comfortable this way, too.) I clicked him for it several time. We did a few more laps at the walk—reinforcing all the way.

When I decided to trot through that end of the arena, my work was paid off—big time. He trotted with his head in a normal position—and was paying attention to me. I wanted to just keep going, but I knew I had to reward him, so I clicked and treated. We did this a few more times with wonderful success each time. I think I could have gone on all night, but I looked at the clock and realized I hit the 55 minute mark. It was time to quit, but at least we were able to quite on a very good note.

I thought about what we did on the way home from the barn. With clicker training—and any training for that matter, we have to break things up into little pieces. To get him to trot in a relaxed manner, I had to get him to walk in a relaxed manner—and the first step was to lower his head into a normal position.

I should have thought of doing this from the beginning. It is how I encouraged him to trot nicely on the safe end of the arena—I just needed him to expand that behavior to the far end. I will keep working on it, and it should go well—except they are predicting strong winds for the weekend…

We started another clicker project yesterday. When I ask him to walk forward, he goes into a circle instead of straight. He has been doing it for the last few weeks. I decided that this was definitely something we needed to change. He was very confused at first. I asked him to walk and kept pressure on his outside rein. When he finally took a hesitant step forward—even though it wasn’t very straight, I clicked him. A couple more times and he started to go straighter and moved off more willingly. Of course, the straighter he went, the less resistance from the outside rein. (I wasn’t pulling—just prohibiting him when he turned his head.) Finally, he was starting off nearly straight! Later in the ride, when I wasn’t even thinking of this lesson, I found him starting out straighter.

I believe this is another case of the end result being something that is more comfortable for him in the first place. Maybe he was going into a circle because he thought that is what I wanted? Maybe I was actually telling him to do it by accident and he got into the habit?

I will continue working on this, too.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Hurray for clicker!

The warm weather over the weekend only made the ice at the barn worse. Alas, I can’t even turn Cole out outside to play. I did try to lounge him, first, but after a couple minutes, he said it was ridiculous. I said, “Great—more time to ride.”

The wind died down, and the barn was quiet, so it was a much better ride than I have had in about a week. I was a little nervous on the scary end of the arena since we haven’t been there for a while, and likewise, Cole was, too. So my boyfriend said he would walk with me. In no time, we both relaxed, and I was able to trot him. When he head went from the scared position to the relaxed position, I clicked and treated. Next thing I knew, he was doing his big, beautiful trot over there. It was great.

My boyfriend is in awe with the big trot, too. I sure wish I could see it. Cole gets almost as many compliments on his trot as he does when I ask him to pick up my dropped mitten. He really steps under himself and rounds up underneath me. I am sure we are on the right track of something good. For a while, it felt like he was getting behind the bit, so now I will only click him when I feel light contact, so he has improved with that, too. I will also give with the reins when he takes some contact as well as the clicking. That seems to be helping, too.

The first time I tried to trot out of the corner on the scary end in the direction of our barn door, his head went up and he went squirrely on me. I couldn’t get him to turn or stop until we were nearly at our door. This was not good. I went back to walking over there. By now, my boyfriend left to start watering. Once he was walking relaxed, I clicked. I then started trotting from the halfway point to our door—making the turn and clicking. Each time, I started further from our door. The first time I started trotting out of the corner, I stopped him about 5 strides in, and clicked. Then next time, I was able to trot down the wall and around the corner. I quit on that good note.

Thanks to clicker, he has an amazing stop, and all I need to do is say the word. He also understands stopping from a rein cue and from a deep exhale. My problem is he is not really good at going from a trot to a walk. He just wants to stop! That’s my Cole—always the over achiever. That is something we have started to work on recently when we are cooling down. I think I can master it in just a few rides on the trail—when he doesn’t want to stop so eagerly!

We had no spooks at all. I hope it is quiet in there tomorrow, so we can build on our success. He is willing to listen when he knows what I want, and clicker training is a perfect way to explain it. Clicker training isn’t good at getting a horse to stop doing what you don’t want him to do—but it is perfect to get him to do what you do want him to do. It is a whole different mindset.

Update on Dumb Dog—she will now sit quietly while I hook up her leash—all for a single, tiny piece of dry cat food. I am sure I can eliminate that soon, since she really, really wants that leash hooked up since that means she is going for a walk. I believe that will be reward enough.

I truly thought she was retarded when I bought her a Kong Wobbler toy this weekend, and it took her all day to figure it out. I’m glad to say she now knows how to get the dry dog food out of it and loves her Kong toy.

It is going to be warm enough to leave her outside for a while this evening, so I hope to do some clicker training with Thunder. When I try to work with them together, Thunder and I only manage to do the basic things like target and sit up because she is in the way. I really want to get him started back on his obstacles. I got him some new treats that he loves!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Weekend Update

We finally got some warm weather, but we still have too much snow and lots of ice. My driveway only seem to be getting worse—it is so slick. Well, we still have a more warm weather scheduled for this week. Maybe we will be able to get rid of this stuff.

My rides were only mediocre this weekend. The problem was the wind—and there was a lot of it. Our indoor arena is old and creaky with doors that flap about and bang in the wind. I think I was more nervous than the horses, but not knowing when a big bang would send them flying can make a person uneasy.

Yesterday, I got brave enough to trot Cruiser when my sister could watch him. She assures me he isn’t lame, though he seems a little stiff. That would probably be from his arthritis. It is rough getting old, as my achy body tells me most every morning. I was so afraid that she would say that he still looks lame. He seemed fine to me, but I have been posting most of the time, so it isn’t as easy to tell if he is sound as sitting. I worry a lot about the old guy. I know 23 isn’t that old, but he is a high mileage horse.

Cole and I didn’t accomplish much except wind desensitization. With the weather improving and the snow and ice melting, it is hard to concentrate on working in the arena. I just want to get him on the trail. This happens every year about this time. I completely lose my focus. I have to respect people who will school their horses year round in the arena. I always have good intentions, but once spring shows up, my good intentions go out the window.

I’ll be riding tonight. I hope the wind is quiet. I think my boyfriend might be there so we can spend Valentine’s Day together. He got me a big box of Malleys Chocollates. I love Malleys.

Speaking of food, we went to a Sweet 16 party on Saturday. It was a huge affair. The family rented a hall and they decorated and made all the food themselves—and they can cook. I have been to their parties before, so I expected terrific food, but the spread far exceeded my expectations. Unfortunately, they had a DJ, and after dinner, the music was so loud that we ended up leaving early. It ruined an otherwise amazing party.

Last night, I just curled up with my boyfriend and watched the Grammys.

Friday, February 11, 2011

If I'd of known we were going to have a cat party, I would have brought the tunafish

I had no major plans for yesterday evening, or so I thought. If Thunder could talk, he would have told me he decided to have a cat party. I didn’t realize it until we were an hour into it, and he was still playing. We were going from one game to the next. The poor dog got stalked, pounced and ambushed. We played a lot of throw, some feather, da bird, catnip toy, a lot of chase, play in boxes and of course, follow.

I somehow got to read the newspaper, but that’s about all I could do until 10:00. He was finally tired and wanted to go to bed. I don’t go to bed until around 11:00, but when I did, he had his snack and then he was out like a light.

I love our cat parties, but if I would have known, we would have had something with tuna fish for supper to get things started.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Clicker for dogs

The dog was driving me crazy. When I have to take her for a walk, she goes nuts while I am putting my coat and boots on and was terribly difficult when I wanted to hook up the leash. I’m not talking about ordinary excitement. She would jump at my face when I bent down. She started to get worse, and I couldn’t take it anymore.

Time for clicker. I have been working with her about a week to sit quietly during the process, and she has changed dramatically. She still has room for improvement, but I am already less frustrated. It is taking half the time to do, and she gets what she ultimately wants the most—hooked to the leash faster and out the door quicker.

The funny part? When I am clicking her and giving her pieces of dry cat food, Thunder the Wonder cat comes downstairs to get his pieces of cat food, too. He hears the clicker, and he knows it is time to collect on his treats. It isn’t much of a treat for him, but he demands it out of principle. Maggie behaves better when he is around, too, so he also helps me. He attacks her regularly and has won her respect.

Wednesday Rides

It was really chilly last night at the barn. I decided it would a good day to lounge Cole first to check his mood. Well, he had trouble containing himself. He was bucking and rearing. I knew he needed to run.

We aren’t supposed to turnout in the arena, but I figured I would for just a few minutes and make sure he didn’t get into anything he shouldn’t. I let him go and scurried out of the way. He rolled then ran 2 full laps at top speed, stopped by the door and started eating hay scraps.

I caught him and tried lounging, again. He was back to his old self. I rode him with no troubles. My boyfriend was there to watch. He told me it was because he thought I would be nervous to ride him after the fall the previous ride. I think the real reason was because he was nervous and wanted to make sure I was safe. Either way, it was sweet of him. I wasn’t nervous because Cole got that good run in first.

Cruiser did the best he has since I started riding him, again. I am trotting only 5 minutes of each ride, but it is enough for him to just start to settle down. At the end of our trotting, I asked him to trot the direction with his bad eye to the outside, and it was the best he did for me at a trot in either direction in the arena the since November when I first started working him. Maybe we still have hope for decent arena rides, after all.

My boyfriend helped with the feeding, and that was wonderful. We have 37 horses that I feed hay and water twice a week. He likes to do the watering.

The warming trend begins tomorrow, and they are predicting 40s next week!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Spring Hurry Up

I am so anxious for spring—you can’t imagine. All the arena riding is making me stir crazy. I am a trail rider, and I can literally go from not riding in the arena with Cruiser from Daylight Savings to Daylight Savings. There are times when I can’t ride both horses on the trail in the evenings, and those days, I will work Cole in the arena. Cruiser will be out, even if it is riding up and down the hill to the river, over and over in the rain. It is where we belong.

And then there is my garden. I ordered all my seeds, and I have big dreams for the 2011 garden. I am going back to planting a lot of green beans. I cut back last year because I got sick of them, and now I find myself buying frozen vegetables at the store to add to my crock pot casseroles. There is something wrong with that. I got Yellow Bush and Yard long Pole beans. I will try more Lima beans. I will not do any cabbage or broccoli. That was a waste last year. The rabbits came under the electric wire and kept eating the plants. I will be planting more eggplants than last year. My sister wants me to grow some for her, so of course I will. I am also hoping to have a better year for peppers and tomatoes. Last year was a disaster. My favorite crop—zucchini. I love zucchini.

Then there is the dog walks—I hate walking in the frozen over snow paths. It is slow and awkward. It is bad enough I have to walk a dog I don’t’ like that I can’t let off the leash because she likes to chase deer to the county line and play on people’s tree lawns looking for garbage, but at least I should have good footing. Plus, it is too cold to read while I walk her. If I cold read, I would go further, she would get more exercise and be less annoying. I could use more exercise, too.

Winter also messes up my dating life. My boyfriend and I love to go hiking, and we go all over the place. We have seen all the good movies, and there aren’t many appealing movies coming out anytime soon. We are running out of things to do.

Springtime, where are you!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011


My weekend rides were uneventful—the way I like them. I rode with my sister, and that’s the best part. We are still working in the arena, and by getting out a little earlier, we are getting our rides in before most people get there. It really helps.

Last night’s ride on Cole was eventful—in the way I don’t like it. I was on his back, at a standstill, talking to someone, and he spooked, knocked me off balance and took off. Eventually, I fell off and landed on my bad knee. It is pretty bruised and sore, but I am always grateful when I can stand up and walk after a fall. He ran and bucked a few laps, and then ran back to me. I continued the ride, and he was much better than before. It may have been a shavings avalanche that spooked him. I didn’t hear anything else. That happened once before, and it simply terrified him. We were right by the pile. It was my fault for letting my guard down. (Cruiser gets terrified by shavings avalanches, too)

Anyway, my ride with Cruiser was good. I had him trotting for about 5 minutes, and he did start to settle down a little bit. It usually takes about 10 minutes to really calm him if he hasn’t been worked much, so I shouldn’t be surprised. I am slowly bringing him back into work. We rode about 35 minutes. He seemed much more confident walking in the direction where his bad eye is on the outside. I even trotted him once that way, but he got very nervous.

Cruiser needs the trail as much as it do. There is a warming trend towards the weekend. I am hoping it will turn into a thaw and get rid of all this ice and snow. We need to get out!!!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

More pictures from the day I bought Cole

The horse with the blond mane ia Cole's mother.  I think the chesnut might be his grandmother.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Thursday Night's Rides

Woo Hoo! I got to ride by myself last night. By the time I was saddled up, there wasn’t a boarder in sight, and I never did see one the rest of the night.

I skipped lounging altogether, and brought Cole right into the arena. As I led him about, one of the horses decided to tear his stall down. I just stood there while Cole danced and bucked. Once he quit acting up whenever he heard a noise and stood quietly, I clicked him. He stayed calm after that, so maybe the clicking helped. Finally the horse quit, and I could ride.

We started out so good, I decided today would be the day we tackled full laps for real. I know he just needs to do them for 10-15 minutes and I may never have a problem, again. It just seems that something always gets in the way of this project—like other boarders.

I decided to try the harder direction, first. We made it to the bad corner, and wouldn’t you know it, he spooked. I spun him into that corner, and he stopped. That is just what I didn’t need.

I changed my plan. Instead of full laps, we would do circles on the far end. That way, we could work on going through the corners, but I would have more control. Previously, whenever we did anything on that side at a trot, he would go above the bit and act unfocused—trying to go wherever he pleased. It didn’t take long, with the help of clicker reinforcing him when he got it right, for him to lower his head and take contact with the bit. Soon, he was acting nearly as well as he does on our usual end of the arena.

When I tried to go on the wall, he still got goofy, but I feel we made progress.

This weekend, I won’t be riding on my own, because at minimum, my sister will be riding Ranger with us. I hope to at least do more circles on that end.

Cruiser did a little better. We trotted about 3 minutes, and he is starting to relax counter clockwise. There was no improvement clockwise at a trot, so I didn’t push it. He did do much better at the walk in that direction. He just needs the trail… I think our arena days may be over. He used to do so well, too. I am working on accepting that nothing stays the same, and change is the price of having a horse grow old with you.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Wednesday Night's Rides

Last night, when I got to the barn, the arena was free. I did a test lounge with Cole. His mind was in the right place, so we only lounged 5 minutes. I hurried back and tacked him up. By the time I returned to the arena, a horse was being led in it. That was no big deal, but a couple minutes later, one of the new teenagers came in to ride. I never met this one, before. I warned her that Cole was green and could do unexpected things. Well, she was going to ride bareback, and didn’t take off the horse’s blanket. It was the nylon type. As she scrambled aboard, it made all kinds of swishing noises. That really freaked Cole out. I struggled and somehow managed to keep him for bolting. If he were to spook before the girl was in place, it could cause a wreck.

He was still nervous as she started to walk about. I had him stand, and clicked him for it. After a minute or so, he still didn’t relax, so I got an idea. I threw my mitten on the ground. He picked it up, and he was fine after that. It distracted him, and he forgot what was bothering him.  

I was able to do some great trotting circles, and he didn’t misbehave a single time after that. This teen was quiet and polite. I won’t mind riding with her in the future. The jury is still out on the other two.
I cleaned the stalls while the horses were getting their hay.

Once Cruiser ate for a bit, I took him out for his ride. I trotted him for several minutes, and he was sound. He did much better than Monday, but he is still getting very nervous when we go clockwise. I do believe it is his cataract in that eye. When it is on the outside, he gets worried, throws his head up and tilts it the same way as the blind horse we have in our barn does when she trots.

I will just keep walking that way to, hopefully, make him more confident. He doesn’t even want to walk that way, tries to stop or turnaround. This has been going on for a few years, but this year is so much worse. I can’t wait until I can get him on the trail. He is fine there, unless he goes from a dark area to a suddenly light area. He will throw his head up like someone poked him in the eye, but it only lasts for a couple seconds and he relaxes.

It should only be about a month before we can sporadically go down the trail. I just have to be patient. Someday, this snow will melt…

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

The storm wasn't too bad

We had about an inch of a sleet/ice mix on the driveway, this morning. It is a hill, so I had to go down it in neutral and pump the brake. It was pretty scary, but I made it, and was able to stop before I reached the street. The roads were fine, and I got to work early. It has turned to snow, now, and they expect 1-3 inches. I am so glad we didn’t get the worst of the storm. It seems like it was quite a bad one.

I intend to get up for work at my normal time, tomorrow. I can’t handle these early mornings. I keep falling asleep at lunch when I am supposed to be reading. I hope Thunder agrees with my plan. He has been waking me up before my alarm most days for the last few weeks. Cats can be such tyrants.

I’m going out to ride, tonight. I’m not feeding, cuz someone wanted to switch with me, so it will be an easy night. I hope the teenagers are done by the time I get there. Daylight Savings can’t come soon enough for me. I need to get out of the arena!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Monday Night Rides

Round one of the dread snowstorm was no big deal for an experienced Cleveland driver with a rear wheel drive sports car. We got 4 inches overnight, and it was over by this morning. The roads were bad, but the traffic was tolerable. I left 15 minutes early for work, and got here 5 minutes earlier than a normal day.

Round 2 will be worse, but I hope to be home by then. That is when we are supposed to get the freezing rain.

I think my quiet evenings at the barn are over. We just got a boarder with 3 horses and 3 matching teenagers that ride them. it was chaos when I got to the barn last night. I had to kill time to ride when it was quieter. I rode Cruiser, first with a couple other riders. He was wired and difficult to ride. We managed a mostly walk with a couple minutes of trotting half hour ride.

I was alone for most of Cole’s time. I lounged him, first, and it was a good thing. He had one of his wild nights. He settled after 20 minutes, and then I rode for 25. He was fine for the riding part. My project for the evening was to get him to stop for the word “whoa” with no other cue. He was doing it, and I was clicking a lot. I think it is a very important lesson. We also did some quiet trotting and he picked up my mitten twice.