Thursday, June 30, 2011

Cole and a Few Obstacles

Cole and a Few Obstacles

As Cole started to improve on the trail, I felt it was time to give him a few challenges. One obstacle I wanted to get out of the way was the river ford. The fords are part of the street that the cars drive over to get across the river. They aren’t bridges, because the water will run over them when the river gets high.

We like to ride on the fords when the river is on the higher side, when we can. Of course, the first crossing we have, by the barn, has no ford, and makes our lives miserable in the rainy and icy weather.

Though Ranger and Cruiser are happy to cross the fords, (they seem to prefer it,) I had a long history of problems with Mingo. Early in his life, he got stuck on one while they were repairing it, and he had to step down off of it. We had to force him off, and he got hurt—not badly hurt—but enough that he was frightened. When the construction was done, he got stuck on it and had to be blindfolded to get him off.

I was able to get him crossing, again, a few months later—only to have him refuse a few years after that. It took a long time, but eventually, he started to cross it again. That lasted a few years, and then he wouldn’t…you get the idea. The last summer I rode him, with the help of my clicker, I got him crossing again. At least I know if the rainbow bridge is really a ford, he will be able to cross.

Anyway, I wanted Cole to be like Ranger and Cruiser—not Mingo. This had to be a good experience for him. We rode out to the ford, and instead of turning back there, like we did all spring, I decided to cross. Since we had been trotting, we left Ellen, who was out hiking with us, in the dust. I was on my own. I didn’t want to wait around for her assistance. Cole and I went solo.

To make things more positive, I dismounted to lead him. I had a pocketful of carrot pieces and away we went. I was lucky that not a single car passed us the whole time. Every few steps, I clicked and treated to get him in a go forward state of mind.

One of the most crucial parts of crossing the ford, according to Mingo, is when you go from the blacktop road to the concrete ford. The change in the color of the pavement was what scared him the most. As Cole stepped over that line, he got clicked.

Cruiser never cared for the edge of the ford. It isn’t solid, but “serrated” so the water can flow over it. He spent years, looking at it crookedly. When Cole got to that section, I just kept clicking and treating so that it wouldn’t bother him. He did eye it funny, but once I clicked him for walking forward, he forgot about how weird it looked.

I clicked him for going over the line where the concrete become blacktop on the other side, and we were across.

I mounted up and away I went.

The trail we were now on was one he had been on a number of times last fall, but this was the first time for us this year. I kept him at a walk, and he showed me everything that looked different from last year. Which meant he looked intently at each fallen tree. Horses’ memories are amazing.

Where the trail came out to the street, a big tree had fallen across. The park sawed the branches away, at the edge of the trail, leaving the rest pointing towards the trail at eye level. Cole didn’t like the look of that, at all. He stopped, put his head up and started blowing. This is the first time this has ever happened to us while I was riding him. I let him stand and look. He started to step back. I squeezed my legs, and he stopped. I tried again, and he stepped forward.

Since I still had plenty of carrots left, I clicked him. He stopped, and I gave him a treat and asked for another step. This time, he was more willing. I clicked immediately, and we repeated. We did this until we got past the tree. On the other side, I turned him around to go back, and he ignored the tree altogether—of course, it helped that we were now heading towards home.

Who then should appear, but Ellen. I told her what we did, and I wanted to show her. I turned Cole back around to pass the tree, but I had nothing to show Ellen. He walked by the tree like he had been walking by it every day of his whole life. What a good boy.

Clicker was very handy that day.

We rode home at a walk, and he didn’t try a trot step a single time. It was a great ride.

1 comment:

achieve1dream said...

So awesome!! Sounds like an amazing ride full of amazing accomplishments. What a fun ride. :D