Monday, November 25, 2013
Cole Train Saves the Day
Ellen and I took a few vacation days last week for trail riding. The first day was another of a series of near perfect rides with Dante. The second one was the same until the end.
A while back, I mentioned that Ellen had a theory as to why Dante was being odd at one of the river crossings and it explained a few other odd things we noticed. That day, she angled him down the bank in a different way, and he was much more cooperative. We are fairly certain that there is something odd about his right eye. We have been around enough horses with blindness issues, that we know he isn’t blind at all, but maybe it that eye isn’t as strong or has poor depth perception—something like that. It happens in people; why not animals?
It explained why he had trouble walking into his stall door. Ellen learned to circle him around to get him out. With a lot of positive reinforcement, he is fine, now. He also would get very nervous when horses approached him on the right—even horses he knew. We experimented with him and Cole, and there was a distinct difference in his behavior. On the left, he could care less. On the right, he shied away. This has also improved.
We think he was relying on the wall in the indoor arena, because in the one spot that he had to leave the wall to make the turn, (it is slightly “L” shaped) he would fight to say on it. That, too, is nearly gone.
The one thing we haven’t been able to fix is traffic. He is great with cars on the left and very upset about cars on the right. He is fine if they approach from the rear, but if they approach from the front, he is spooking nearly every time. It even happened to me one day when I was leading him, and I forgot about it—so it wasn’t a case of him picking up on my anticipation. It wasn’t a problem until one day, a car went past him too close and too fast on his right side. An ordinary horse would have gotten over it in a short time, but Dante is special.
It really isn’t a big problem, because when you are on the proper side of the road, cars pass you from the right.
Well, on this fateful day, we stepped out of the trail to get to the barn—just 2 doors down—and there was a truck completely blocking the right hand lane. Ellen and Dante were in the lead. There was no traffic coming, so she was going to go around the truck and back to the proper side of the street. When she got into the far lane, a car was pulling out of the driveway from the neighboring stable—forcing Ellen to the wrong side of the road. Though the driver went slowly, she was very close to Dante. He spooked and just as she passed him, she jammed on the gas and took off.
Dante was a nervous mess—and another car was coming. To get him out of the way for everyone’s safety, Ellen decided to bring him into the ditch alongside of the road. It is a shallow ditch and there wasn’t any water in it. It seemed like a perfect solution to the problem. Dante did spook again, too. Unfortunately, Ellen took a misstep caused my the uneven ground and went down—hearing an audible snap as she did.
I wasn’t too far behind with Cole, so I was there, immediately. She felt she could walk, but walking Dante was out of the question since we didn’t know how he would behave. She told me to give her Cole. At worst, if she couldn’t walk, I knew that Cole would stand quietly for her until I could get help. Of course, he would probably be parked out and bowing, but he would stand.
I took Dante and we headed down the nearby drive—tears in my eyes. Ellen was following with Cole—very slowly—much slower than Cole would typically be walking with the barn in sight. The woman who owned the neighboring barn saw and asked if she could take Cole to help, but Ellen declined because Cole was supporting her and she gimped along.
I got Dante back to the barn, and Kevin was there. He rushed out to Ellen and helped her to a chair. I unsaddled the horses and we prepared to take Ellen to the hospital. This is when she told me what Cole did for her. He really did save the day. A few years ago, I taught him to match my footsteps when I walked deliberately—mostly to get control of him when he used to be a bit wild. This morphed into his silly walk. When I lift my legs high, he does too. Well Cole, who Ellen says is her hero, matched Ellen’s slow and deliberate step as he brought her home.
Her ankle is broken, and she is very, very upset. I will be taking care of her horses until she gets better, so I will be quite busy. Too bad for me that winter is here and most of it will be indoors. Good for her, though. She won’t be missing any fantastic trail rides. The only ones she’s miss will be very, very cold.