Monday, December 31, 2012

Maggie is in Lockdown

Maggie is in Lockdown

Something is going on in my house, and I’m not too happy about it. the last few days, Thunder the Wonder Cat has been afraid to go into the living room where all his toys and most of his cat furniture is. He won’t come in to sit on my lap, either. I’m pretty sure this is dog related as he seems nervous around her. So, that is it. Maggie is going to be locked in her room when I’m gone until Thunder gets his confidence back. I think she has been chasing him out of the living room. I feel bad, but not too bad. When I used to have her locked in there, she did fine. It is a large room with 2 windows that overlook the driveway. She has a real bed, and in her cage, she has a memory foam bed that I made her. I put all her toys back in there, and when I leave, she gets a very filled Kong Wobbler. I can’t have her tormenting Thunder. Unhappy Thunder + unhappy me.

Friday, December 28, 2012

House Cat Tip of the Month—Dog Torture

House Cat Tip of the Month—Dog Torture

Well, it isn’t really dog torture, that’s just what I imagine that Thunder would call it. Thunder doesn’t like being groomed. Maggie doesn’t mind it, but Thunder would think it is torture, so that’s why we call this game “dog torture.”

My dog, Maggie, and Spaniel/Border Collie mix, has a triple layered coat. She has short hair, medium hair and very long hair. Every day for her is a bad hair day. She looks like she was just in a wind storm. Baths and grooming don’t help the way she looks, but the do help the shedding.

She was afraid of grooming in the beginning, so I used clicker training to desensitize her. It didn’t take long and she loved it. I just give her pieces of her regular portion of dry dog food, but she is in heaven.

Now, one of Thunder’s favorite games is chasing pieces of his daily portion of dry cat food across the floor. Sometimes Maggie gets in the way of his game, so we play “dog torture.” I groom Maggie, click her, give her a treat and then toss a treat to Thunder. Thunder thinks the game is great fun, I keep Maggie from interfering and get her groomed at the same time.

Everybody is happy, and I have less black hair flying about the house.

The Chink in Cole’s Armor

The Chink in Cole’s Armor

No horse is perfect. Every one of them has a chink in their armor. You can work with them and improve them, but deep down, it never goes away. Starry D just hates bugs. Cruiser hates motorcycles. Ranger can’t deal with rain on the roof. (He’s the biggest sissy of them all.)

Cole Train is afraid of horses. He has been like this since I got him. I remember the first few weeks when I had a horrible time getting him to walk through one of the doors in our barn. He didn’t mind being inside and he wasn’t afraid of doors, since he would go through the other door, but refused on this door. Turns out, he was afraid of the mare in the first stall when she laid her ears back at him.

That was just the beginning. He was afraid to pass other horses, afraid of them walking behind him in the river and gets startled when they make the slightest aggressive mood—like swishing a tail. He likes Starry, but if he is next to him and Starry does one of his little bucks, Cole will either come to a sudden stop or shoot off sideways. If Starry briskly swishes his tail at the dreaded bugs, Cole will throw his head up in the air.

He has gotten used to Ranger snarling at him, and he will now cautiously pass another horse instead of refusing to pass or leaping forward to avoid getting bitten (even if they aren’t threatening him.)

I don’t know why he is like this, but he is.

The other day, I was riding him in the arena with a bunch of horses. He has gotten used to doing that, and we can pass horses and they can pass us. There was a woman who was standing on the end of the arena holding her horse on a lead line. Her horse got startled by something—she didn’t know what happened. He flew backwards very quickly—right into Cole’s path.

Cole took off and started bucking. After a few seconds, he stopped and was fine. I told everyone it gave me a chance to practice my “Velcro seat.” I didn’t think much more of the incident, but a few minutes later another horse spooked when we were fairly close and it caused Cole to erupt, again. This time wasn’t as bad, and I thought no more of it.

The next day, I was riding with Ellen and Ranger in the arena. I forgot all about the experiences from the day before, but Cole didn’t. We were walking along the wall of the indoor arena and Ranger approached on the inside. Cole bolted. Even though he is very good friends with Ranger, he didn’t want to be trapped between Ranger and the wall. A few minutes later, it happened again; proving that the first time wasn’t a strange fluke. I now had a problem.

Ellen stopped Ranger, and I tried to ride Cole to him. Cole refused to get within 10 feet of him. He was definitely scared. We had some serious Ranger desensitization to do. I was glad it was Ranger that I was going to work with since Ellen is the greatest and most understanding rider.

Of course, I used clicker training. I have found clicker to be the best for desensitization. I took Cole away from Ranger and asked him to approach. As he stepped toward him, I clicked, he stopped and I gave him a treat. Ellen was clicking Ranger for standing very still. I kept repeating this—getting a little closer each time. In about 5 minutes, he was close enough so Ellen could give him a treat. At that point, we started riding together with Cole following Ranger. He became more confident, and their friendship was restored.

A short time later, Kevin came out to lead Starry, and Cole seemed fine with him. When Kevin then came out to lead the evil mare, Cole was uncomfortable with her—for good reason. She has kicked at him in the past. We just stayed away from them.

Hopefully, Cole will take what he learned from Ranger and generalize it with other horses. If not, it will be a long winter of riding with other horses in the indoor arena.

No horse is perfect, and if this is the worst for Cole, I can live with it—as long as I have understanding people to ride with and help me out, we will be fine. Oh, and a Velcro seat helps, too.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Way too much nip

My sister's cat, Stormy, has a subsance abuse problem.

Monday, December 17, 2012


Isn't he handsome?

My sister and I went to our favorite cat shelter, Stay A While, yesterday. We wanted to pick cats out to sponsor for the year. I picked Sammy. Actually, I can't imagine why he hasn't been adopted. He is gorgeous and friendly. He is also huge--the size of a panther. He has to be at least part Maine Coon. Big cats purr loud.

He just sat in the tower, looking over his kingdom as it pet him and talked to him. He was definitely in charge of the place.

If I didn't have Thunder, I would have taken him home. I think he would make a person a good companion. Though, he would have probably scared Maggie.

Hopefully, someone will adopt him, and I could go back and pick out another cat to sponsor.

My sister picked our a small, orange long-haired female named Honey O. She is a real sweetheart, that doesn't believe in using litter boxes. They keep the cats there for life. They don't live in cages, but can roam about freely in rooms and patios. Honey is 13, now, and at least she has a home.

This is the shelter where I got Thunder, and his predecessor, Trickee. I owe them a lot for rescuing both my boys and bringing so much joy into my life. Sponsoring is the least I could do.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

New Convert?

New Convert?

Last night, towards the end of my ride with Cole, the new boarder came out. Her husband started leading her horse around the arena. It was the first time I saw him out of the stall. He looked like a Thoroughbred and walked like a gentleman.

I thought I would explain what I was doing with the clicks and treats that they saw me doing with Cole. I gave her a brief explanation, dismounted and told Cole to do his Cole walk. it is something he invented and I encouraged that looks like a low-stepping Spanish walk. The boarder was in awe. Actually, I never got such an enthusiastic response to his silly walk, before. I explained that I have found it useful when leading him on the street when a scary vehicle approaches. I just ask him to put his head down and do his walk. He ignores the scary vehicle and only pays attention to me.

After my ride, I went to clean stalls. The new boarder came into our barn and asked me how she could teach her horse clicker training. I didn’t know it, but he has braces on both her legs. Though her horse is well mannered, he walks too fast for her. She wants to teach him to walk slower. Right now, she is unable to handle her horse without assistance.

I showed her what a clicker looks like and how to get started with targetting. Cole was willing, and showed her how he could target a Kleenex box. I showed her how he puts his head down on command—a very useful thing. I also explained how good it would be to teach her horse to stand still on command like Cole. Walking slow, head down and stand should make it easier for her to handle her horse. I thought of this later—immediate halt to the word “whoa.” I taught that early on with Cole, and it is a wonderful thing.

She was so excited. I have tried to convert others at our barn in the past with no success, yet no one had bigger incentive than this young lady. She said she is going to do it, and she wanted to know what evenings I would be out at the barn.

I hope she follows through. I’m sure she must be very frustrated to have such a nice horse and be so limited in what she could do. I will keep you updated.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Quick Update

I haven’t been feeling much like blogging. Cruiser’s cough is really getting me down. The steroids are helping, but not enough. We are hoping that when the temps get down below freezing there will be an improvement because it seems that his best days are the colder ones. I have only been riding him on the weekends. The rest of the time, I am just hand walking. He is gaining weight, and that is a good thing. With the cough came weight loss, and that had me worried, too.

Cole is doing well. His bowing is amazing, but he still will only do it in his stall. I have spent so much time teaching him to stand still outside the stall, that he doesn’t want to move. I guess I would rather have a horse that will stand motionless than one that wants to bow all the time. He does get carried away in his stall. He will do it over and over. I have to work in the arena during the week due to darkness, but he has been doing pretty well. That beautiful trot of his is tough to ride, and I have to work on building my endurance. He is getting much more consistent with it.

I have been able to trail ride on the weekends, but I don’t think it will last much longer. Once it gets cold enough for the ground to be frozen and ice forms on the river, we are limited. I won’t trot on frozen ground or cross on ice. The mild temperatures won’t last. This is Cleveland, after all. Then again, the cold might improve Cruiser. I would be glad to sacrifice the trail rides for his health.

There is good news. Ranger is currently lame free. My sister has been working him in the arena during the week and taking him on easy trail rides on the weekend—only walking and trotting. She will try a canter soon and see how he does. It was looking so bleak for him, but things appear to be on the right track. My sister still thinks she will get a second horse next spring to lighten Ranger’s work load.

Life away from the barn is improving. I am getting used to living alone. Well, if I’m at home, I am never really alone. Thunder and Maggie are always close by. My brother has been helpful with the things I’m not sure how to handle. I am cooking smaller portions and trying to have at least half of my meals healthy. I bought a bunch of seeds for my veggie garden next year. My brother cut down the annoying mulberry tree growing on the edge of the garden, so I have much more sunshine. Maybe next year will be a good garden year.