Friday, September 30, 2011

What we do when we can’t Cross the River

My sister and I took a 4-day weekend off from work to get some trail riding in. Just like the one we tried a few weeks previous, we couldn’t cross the river the first 3 days. That meant doing the hill leading to the river with Cruiser and Ranger and working Cole in the arena.

Having Ellen watch me and Cole during our rides was very helpful. She gave me all kinds of good advice, and she took video with her smart phone. She was able to show me how I was riding. One of the videos from the first day is on Facebook. With her suggestions, we improved over the weekend. It is amazing how much the way we ride effects the way a horse moves. By adjusting my seat, Cole adjusted the way he moved and improved on his consistency. So though we didn’t get on the trail, at least the time wasn’t wasted.

One of the days, my youngest niece came out to ride. She goes with us on the trail. She rides Ranger, Ellen rides Cruiser and I ride Cole. Just going up and down the hill isn’t the most exciting thing to do. Ellen suggested that I ride Cole in the arena, and if he is doing well, my niece can ride him, too. Then we would take Cruiser and Ranger on the hill. Ellen didn’t mind not riding the hill, since we did plenty of it the two days before.

Cole was doing very nicely in the arena. His big trot was up to full form, he was responsive and very well behaved. He was in the perfect mood for a novice. After about a half hour, I asked my niece if she wanted to ride him, and she dashed into the barn to get her helmet.

I think it had been a couple months since she rode him in the arena last. She climbed aboard and proceeded to walk around the arena. He kept offering to trot—and it was the big trot—not a good trot for a beginner! He was throwing her off the saddle. She figured out it was because she has short legs that rest on his side—where my long legs go beyond his sides. Her normal pressure was probably cuing the trot. Yes, he is that sensitive.

I told her that he will stop if she says, “whoa.” That offered her a new challenge because he stops from a trot very suddenly if you ask him. (Cole is always an over achiever.) That’s basically how their ride went. Walk, go into the big trot, sudden stop and walk again. Yet, she kept her composure and stayed in the saddle. When I asked her if she wanted to ride him down to the river, her face lit up!

We headed down the hill. Ellen and I were at her side, but she was still a little nervous. Ranger goes fairly slowly down the hill. Cole is a speedy downhill traveler, and she was concerned he would try to trot. Since he was doing it for her in the arena, and I used to have trouble with him trotting down the hill, it was a reasonable thing to be concerned about. I had her do a lot of transitions down the hill when he got too fast.

About halfway down the hill, on a level section, Ellen noticed a red-tailed hawk sitting on a log by the side of the trail. We stopped Cole and Ellen went on ahead to shoo the bird away. We figured if we were close and he flew up, Cole would be startled. As Ellen got closer, the hawk just looked at her. There was something wrong with it. Ellen told us to continue down to the river, and she would call the park.

When we got to the bottom of the hill, Cole did try to trot with her a few times. Fortunately, my niece knew just what to do to keep from bouncing off. He walked quietly on the way back up to my sister. She said the park had her call the Lake Erie Nature Center; which specializes in wildlife rehabilitation. They told us we would have to bring the hawk in to them. They didn’t have anyone that could come and get it. Yeah, right. We were going to catch a hawk.

We went back to the barn and called Kevin. We also talked to a woman at the barn who has a big heart for animals—and birds at home. She showed us a large cat carrier that was at the barn. Suddenly, this seemed doable. While we were waiting for Kevin, we took Ranger and Cruiser out for their ride. The hawk was still there.

On our last trip up the hill, here comes Kevin. He was all excited and enthusiastic about catching the hawk. He checked out the situation, headed back to the barn and gathered everyone that was going to help. Ellen went with them, but I stayed with my niece to untack and clean up the horses.

After a while, they came back with the hawk. Apparently, as Kevin was about to throw a blanket on him while our friend was stroking his beak with a stick to distract him, Kevin slipped and fell on top of the hawk—catching himself before he crushed him. The blanket wrapped around him and they were able to get him in the cat carrier. Kevin was going to take him Nature Center, Ellen was going with him and I was going to take my niece home. (That is, after a visit to Taco Bell.)

When I dropped her off, I told her mother we had an exciting day, and told my niece to tell her about it. She replied, “I rode Cole down the hill.” There’s a kid after my own heart. She didn’t mention finding and capturing a large bird of prey. What was important to her was riding Cole on the hill.

(It turns out the hawk had a damaged eye, and since their eyesight is so important to hunting and flying, she was weak from lack of food and dehydrated. If she can heal enough to hunt, she will be released.)

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