Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Dante’s Turn

Dante’s Turn

It was time to get Dante down on the trail.  I had been taking Cole out quite a bit once the time changed, but Ellen rides in the morning when I am at work.  She doesn’t want to do this on her own, when it is too cold, when the river is a little too high, if it is windy or if she isn’t feeling confident.  We kept putting it off.  In the meantime, she was working in the arena (and getting bored of it) and riding Dante on the loop in the back of the barn’s property.

Easter Sunday was warm and beautiful.  The river was in good shape, too.  Ellen had ridden Dante 3 days in a row.  I felt it was time.  I’m not sure what she felt, but since I was going to ride him, I took charge.  Ellen would ride Cole Train.

We turned Dante out to play and chased him around.  He ran a bucked and ran and bucked.  He was ready. 

We survived the ride.  There was spooking, stalling out, bursting with excitement, a slip in the river caused by another spook and lots of silliness.  That was Cole.  Dante was perfect.  I mean simply perfect—an A plus ride.  He did absolutely nothing wrong—that is—if you don’t count not wanting to turn around to go back home.  He was so happy to be out, he wanted to keep going.

Sure, he was excited and tossed his head around.  He always tosses his head when he is feeling good.  No matter how much he tossed his head, his feet did just what I wanted them to do.  After a while, even the head tossing that went away.

He readily stepped into the river, he had fully functional brakes and nothing seemed to bother him.  He spent the time looking to the left and looking to the right—there was so much to see after the long winter.  The ride was mostly trotting on the way out and we walked on the way home.

That was my ride.  Ellen’s was much different.  Cole was playing games with Ellen, and she fell right into his trap.  He would refuse to go—and say that he needed a treat.  She would give him the treat, and a few minutes later, he would stop and refuse to go, again.  I told her he wasn’t supposed to get treats on demand, but she has a hard time saying no to him.  The good news—he will be just fine when I ride him.  He always is.

He’s the one that spooked when the loud motorcycle went by.  Dante ignored it.  Cole refused to go down the river bank on the way home.  We just watched on the other side.  (Cole doesn’t like the mud.  Dante likes to slide down the mud.)  Oh, and Cole had a Cole Burst.  That is what we call it when he just jumps in the air and say he wants to go.  It is easy to stop him, so they don’t intimidate either of us, but it is not something that Dante does.  Cole was doing silly walk—and I saw him side-passing a few times, too.  There is never a dull moment when you are riding Cole!  None of it was scary except when he spooked and slipped while crossing the river.  It is never fun to have a horse fall in the river.

So, overall, I had the easy ride, and Ellen had the fun one.  I don’t know if she will take Dante on the next trail ride and give me my entertaining horse back or if she will stick with Cole a few more times.  I’ll keep you updated.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

The First Evening Trail Ride of the Year

The First Evening Trail Ride of the Year

This is a day I always look forward to each year—the first ride after the time change—no more riding in the inside arena or on the loop in the dark.  I get to ride on the trail.  Not only that, but I get to go riding with Kevin and Starry.  We have a great time on our evening trail rides.

Not surprisingly for the month of March, the river was too high to cross.  Actually, that is better than the last few March’s when we couldn’t cross because the river was still frozen.  Riding up and down the hill isn’t that much fun most of the time, but this time of year, it is a treat just to be out.

This certainly wasn’t my first time on the hill this year.  I have done it a number of times by myself and last weekend, I did it with Ranger.  This was my first time with Starry in a long time, and we thought the horses might be a little hyper.

We were right.  Cole was just plain excited to be on a trail ride in the evening and he scurried down the hill at a very fast walk.  Starry strolled down, slowly, but when he got to the bottom, he was all excited because he wanted to trot.  We opted to put Starry in the lead, because Kevin thought he might act up is Cole trotted too fast.  My challenge would be keeping Cole quiet.

As Kevin started to trot, I felt Cole surge, but gently asked him to trot steady, and he did.  We made it to the end of the trail in seconds, turned around and walked up the hill.

The sky was getting a little dark, and I knew there was rain coming because I checked the radar.  Still, we both agreed to got back down the hill.  One trip didn’t seem enough, and there was no trace of thunder.

When we got to the bottom of the hill, we felt the air change temperature.  Starry trotted off in the lead, and Cole was a little tougher to keep behind him, but in the end he cooperated.

When we turned around and looked at the sky, it seemed a little ominous.  We knew this would be our last trip.  A few minutes later, as we were walking up the hill, I said, “We aren’t going to make it.”  I hopped off in anticipation of problems. 

Within a minute, it wasn’t just raining, it was a deluge.  Cole freaked out.  I wasn’t surprised.   Not many things bother Cole, but rain can really get to him.  He has always been this way.  The very first time it started raining when I was riding him, he tried to spin and run home.  I thought it was a fluke, until it happened the second and third time, too. 

After getting caught in the rain way more times than I can count, Cole has learned to tolerate it.  A light rain doesn’t bother him at all—but this wasn’t a light rain.  It was very hard, very sudden and it was the first evening trail ride of the year when he was wound up to begin with.  The wind was gusting and there was plenty of thunder and lightning to boot.  He wanted to go home—as fast as he could.

What followed was several frustrating minutes of circling, and trying to keep him out of the ditch on his side and me away from the edge of the hill on my side.  They trail that is wide enough to drive a truck down, suddenly became very narrow. 

And then something happened.  Cole just settled right down.  Maybe he realized that he couldn’t get home fast if I kept circling him every time he tried to charge.  Maybe he realized the rain wasn’t going to hurt him.  I really don’t know.  He just put his head down and marched home.  I tried to click him and feed him treats while he was walking, (he wasn’t going to stop for a treat) but I had trouble getting them in his mouth.  Instead, I just started a “good boy” chant.

We were less than 10 minutes from home when the storm hit.  We were drenched.  Lucky for me, I had a jacket on, so simply taking it off and switching from my wet boots to my dry shoes made a big difference.  Kevin didn’t have a jacket, so he decided to go home and change.  (He only lives a few minutes away.)  I scraped the excess water off Cole and started cleaning stalls to warm up.

I was disappointed that I couldn’t take Ranger outside for his walk, since it was still raining.  Walking about the indoor arena isn’t very exciting.  To make it more fun, we played “touch Princess.”  She is the tyrant cat that follows me all over the place.  She loves attention, but too much will end up with teeth and claws.  When Ranger touched her gently, he got a treat.  He liked the game, and Princess was cooperative.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Bus Stop Revisited

Bus Stop Revisited

Traffic is Dante’s Achilles heel, and one bad behavior moment ended up with Ellen breaking her ankle—causing her a lot of anxiety whenever she has to lead him on the street.  The following spring, I spent a lot of time getting him accustomed to traffic.  After doing it in the driveway with Kevin in his car, we ventured out towards the real world.  I would lead him to the end of the driveway and stand there to watch traffic.  I called it Bus Stop.

Dante learned to enjoy the game.  In fact, it became his very favorite game, ever.  When a car would come by, I would ask him to lower his head, and I would then click him for standing still with his head lowered and his eyes on me.  He could play this game all day, and I would end up getting bored and bring him back to the barn.

Now that we are reintroducing him to the great outdoors after a winter in the indoor arena, it was time to review his favorite game.

Last Saturday, after Ellen rode him in the arena, I led Dante down the driveway with Ellen at our side.  She was so nervous!  The only thing I was nervous about was the possibility that Dante would disappoint her.

We walked halfway down, stopped and waited for a car.  Car, click, carrot and continue.  We went about 10 steps further down the driveway.  Finally, we were close to, but not quite to the end.  The very end is under a tree, so the sun hadn’t melted the ice that covered the whole driveway, just the day before.  I didn’t want any horses dancing around on ice, so I thought it would be best to stay where we were. 

Our street doesn’t have a whole lot of traffic, so there was more waiting than clicking.  Ellen was still nervous.  I was getting bored.  Dante was perfect.

Ellen was worried he might misbehave when I turned him to go back to the barn, so she explained to me how I should point to the ground to ask him to lower his head on the turn.  It worked like a dream.  He dropped his head and followed my hand as we turned to home.  Of course, he got clicked for that.

He walked back to the barn like a gentleman.

Ellen was so happy that he was so perfect.  She was just beaming.  Day one of traffic training = A plus.

Day two was the next day.  This time, the driveway was completely thawed and I was able to lead him down to the end of it.  Once again, he got an A plus.  Once again, Ellen was elated.  I don’t think he will be any trouble leading on the street this spring.  I will review bus stop as much as I can until then.

It never hurts to review old lessons like this.  It reassures the horses because we aren’t rushing them into scary situations, and it reassures humans that our horses will be able to handle those situation.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Cole Train in Slow Motion

video

Ellen had a little fun with her camera this weekend and took some video of us in slow motion.  This is the bottom of the hill right before the river.  There is a short, flat section of the trail that we will trot and canter back and forth when we can't cross the river--like this weekend.