Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Ellen Rides Dante on the Trail

Ellen Rides Dante on the Trail

Ellen hasn’t ridden Dante on the trail since she broke her ankle. By the time it healed, we were in the middle of one of the worst winters in years, and we could only work in the arena. When winter finally ended, she was too nervous to ride him on the trail. I happily volunteered to do it. I rode him 5-6 times, and he did very well. It was time for Ellen to take up the reins.

She was riding Ranger on all those rides, so she saw how good he was, but sometimes your brain is your enemy, and her brain was. She was very anxious about the ride. The biggest obstacle was the river. Last summer, he fell while crossing it, and she has been nervous about it since.

I had reviewed Dante’s lessons from last year. He is supposed to walk slowly and stop whenever asked. He was a little rusty the first couple times, but by them time Ellen was ready to ride, he was an angel.

I was going to ride Cole. This would be the first time they were ridden together since that fateful day, last fall. They are a very good combination together. Both of them are afraid of Ranger. He is a big bully, and he has managed to intimidate them. Cole is afraid of most horses, but he isn’t the least afraid of Dante. Dante moved into Cruiser’s old stall that is next to Cole, so they are really good friends, now.

Ellen successfully led Dante down the street. He was perfect, but that was no surprise to me. I have been spending a lot of time with him playing “bus stop.” She opted to lead him down the hill and mount on the bottom to cross the river, so I did the same with Cole. Dante crossed like a dream, and then we were on our way. Ellen has never been nervous about riding him on the trail itself. It was just the road and river crossings.

We passed up a couple of horses, and Dante did something he has never done before—he tried to turn around and follow them. Ellen circled him back to the right back to our direction.

One very pleasant thing happened over the winter—Dante sped up his trot! We allowed him in the lead, (something isn’t allowed to do with Ranger,) and he went at a very good, steady speed. He really likes to be in the lead. If Cole is following, he will just match the horse he is with. This way, Ellen got to control the speed. She even asked him to go faster at one point.

In no time at all, we got to the next river crossing. This one is tougher. It is deeper and the banks are muddy. The bank on the far side is very steep, too. She told me later that she didn’t want to do it, but did it anyways—that is real bravery.

Dante decided he didn’t want to cross and tried to cut out to the street to go to the ford. He has done this with me, too. He prefers the ford—they all do—and he remembers using it last year when the river was high. We prefer the water because we don’t want to ride with the traffic. Ellen circled him back to the river bank.

I rode Cole into the water, first. Dante was rather slow on the river bank, and that got me worried he wouldn’t step into the water. Ellen kept urging him forward, and they made it! She clicked him and gave him a carrot. Cole proceeded a few steps, stopped and waited.

This is where Dante did something very unusual. He didn’t want to go forward. Ellen, who told me she was shaking when he first stepped in the river, was no longer afraid—she was frustrated. She was kicking and kicking and kicking. He would take a step and stop—then she had to go through it all over.

We were stuck. Then I had an idea. She had taught Dante to touch his nose to her whip with the clicker. She didn’t have a whip, but I brought mine. It has a white handle. I reached the handle back as far as I could. Dante saw it—and stepped forward to touch his nose to it. Ellen clicked. I took a few steps and repeated—more success. It worked all the way across the river.

Now, it was time for the steep and muddy river bank. None of the horses like it. Cole went first and Dante followed. When Dante got to the top, he did another inexplicable thing—he tried to turn around to go back down the bank. Ellen just spun him—something pretty scary on such a steep and muddy river bank, but she did not want to go back into the water. She got him turned around and we were on our way, again.

Poor Ellen was at the end of her nerves—and her horrible sister made her keep going! We didn’t go that far. We mostly walked for about 10 minutes and turned around for home. This meant we had to do the river again.

She afterwards told me that she kept trying to come up with a reason to get me to switch horses. She was really nervous about going down that steep and muddy bank into the water. I went first with Cole. When we got into the water, we waited for them. Dante handled it quite well. I told her to jack pot him with carrots. He then crossed like a gentleman.

We walked on home and crossed the final river successfully, too. Ellen then immediately dismounted. She was exhausted and had enough stress for the day. I think she did awesome.

We were perplexed about the river crossing where he stalled. He has been fine for me. We came up with 2 theories. The only thing Ellen did differently is that she only gave him one carrot with his click. I have been jackpotting him. This happens with Cole if I give him a carrot he deems too small. He will protest—pretending that he had dropped his carrot—and I have to kick him to get him going.

The other possibility—Ellen’s nerves confused him. Remember, she did say she was literally shaking.

Unfortunately, she had to work the next day, so she couldn’t try again—but I could. I took Dante out with Starry, and he was nearly perfect on the ride. I really liked his faster trot, too.

I called Ellen at work to tell her the good news and the bad news. The good news was Dante was good. The bad news—it had something to do with her. She had to go back to work, so we couldn’t discuss it too thoroughly. After talking to her, I was concerned that she would be upset that Dante was good for me and not as good for her.

She called me a few hours later when she got a break. I asked her if she was upset, but she said she was relieved. She was afraid Dante was backsliding. I know she will get better. On a horse as good as Dante, it is inevitable.


Mariodacat said...

I admire the two of you for training horses to to what you want them to do. They are a large animal, and probably want to do their own things just llke us cats. Good job ladies. Congratulations on your successful ride.

achieve1dream said...

You are such an awesome sister! Posts like these make me really miss mine. I'm a lot like your sister I think. So many things make me nervous and anxious and I just have to push myself through it. She's lucky to have you. :D