Wednesday, April 19, 2017

The Next Days on Dante

The Next Days on Dante

Ellen wanted me to ride Dante the next day, even though she was very sure he would be fine.  Dante had showed a pattern, over the years, of acting terribly the first day we try something we haven’t done in a long time--and then being perfectly normal the next day.  Ellen thought this would be the case.

It happened to be Easter Sunday morning, so the park was particularly quiet.  This time, it was only Ellen and me; going out alone.  We mounted at the beginning of the trail and headed down the hill.  I could immediately feel the difference in Dante’s manner.  This was the horse I knew--not the tense creature of the day before.

Cole was a different case, altogether.  Not that he was tense--he was just happy to have Ellen aboard.  He tried to do his silly walk numerous times--in hopes of getting a click.  Sometimes he just stopped and said he deserved a treat.  When that didn’t work--it would be time for the silly walk, again.  He had me chuckling all the way.

We crossed the river without much ado.  I put Dante in the lead, and we trotted off.  Dante is much slower, naturally than Cole.  Cole just can’t trot as slow as Dante.  Ellen would hold Cole back, click him, trot to catch up, stop, click him and repeat.  Cole thought it was a great game.  Finally, he got Ellen to give him a lot of treats!  Dante just trotted happily down the trail.  Sure, he tossed his head around a bit--he always does when he is excited--but his feet just trotted on, steadily and smooth.

He had one minor spook--but that was no big deal.  We continued on this way to the next river crossing, turned around and walked home.  This was the Dante we know and love!

The next day, I wasn’t going to ride until the evening and Ellen could only be there in the morning, so she rode with Kevin and Starry.  This was very, very brave of her, since if she had a problem, she couldn’t switch horses with me.  

Of course, they had no problems.  Once again, she put Dante in the lead, and they trotted most of the trail--except where they cantered.  Dante volunteered the canter, but Ellen insisted he trot--but after he trotted a bit more--Ellen asked for the canter.  They did great.

I was able to ride with Ellen the next day.  This time, we made things a little tougher.  About half of the ride, we put Cole in the lead.  Cole sets a faster pace.  It did cause Dante to break into an unwanted canter with a little buck, but it wasn’t anything Ellen couldn't handle with ease.  Towards the end of the trail, we put Dante back into the lead and Ellen asked him for a canter.  He did great.  Cole just trotted along behind him.  We walked home.

We are sure that there will still be hiccups in our rides, but things look pretty good right now.  Ellen is quickly getting her confidence back--for good reason, too.  She’s got a great horse.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Dante’s Debut

Dante’s Debut

All the stars were in alignment--the river was low, the weather was warm and Ellen and I were both able to ride on the same day.  Dante was going out on the trail for the first time since February.

Shari and Bella were joining us.

Shari rode over to our barn to meet us.  As Ellen led Dante down the driveway, we could see he was very, very excited.  Usually, he just plods down, quietly as Bella prances and Cole tries to do his silly walk.  Not this time.  Dante was very tall with a lot of spring in his step.  Ellen asked me if I could lead him on the street.  Of course, I did.  Dante was just fine.  When I got to the trail, I gave Ellen the reins, we mounted up and headed down the hill.

Bella went in front because that is where she is happiest.  Dante was still excited, so he followed Bella and I brought up the rear with Cole.  About halfway down the hill, The spring in Dante’s step came back, and I watched as his tail slowly started to rise into “Arab” position.  The first thought that came into my mind was, “Uh oh.  We are in trouble.”  It is rare for Dante, unless he is out playing, to do that.

At that moment, Ellen asked to switch horses.  She didn’t see his tail, but she could feel the electricity flowing through his body.  She was getting too nervous to handle him.

I gave her Cole and then led Dante down the hill.  He was very hyper, and I preferred that he settled down a little before I got on him.  By the time we got to the river, he seemed a little better, so I mounted.

Ellen brought Cole to the mounting block and told us to go right ahead and cross while she mounted.  Bella willingly walked down the bank and into the water.  Dante trotted down the bank, (without permission) until he reached the deep mud and then he got serious and walked carefully.  This was very unlike Dante--he is usually slow in approaching the river.  I think Bella was already across by the time Dante got all the way in the water.

Shari called out, “There’s a goose coming!”  Sure enough, a Canadian goose was in the middle of the river floating quickly in the current straight toward us.  I didn’t want to rush Dante across because he has been taught to walk carefully through the river for Ellen's sake--yet I did want him to rush across because we were on a collision course with a goose.  Shari kept warning us about the goose as he got closer and closer.  Dante decided to rush across, all on his own.  

The river bank on the opposite side is currently very muddy.  When Dante reached the bank, he leapt up it at a gallop and kept going.  He actually made it about 5 strides down the trail before I could stop him.  I tried to spin him at the top of the bank, but he used his Morgan “iron neck” against my efforts.

When I got him to a standstill, I could see Ellen still on the other side of the river with Cole at the mounting block.  She saw the whole thing.  Now, I would have to ride Dante for the next 2 weeks to prove to her he was safe.  Sigh…

We headed down the trail.  Dante was still an excited bundle of nerves.  I never rode him before when he felt this way.  We tried a little trotting to settle him down, but that had the opposite results.  It was going to be a walking ride.  

After about 10 minutes, his head started to lower and his rhythm started to get regular.  I felt like he was coming back to me.  We did try trotting a second time, but that got him all wound up, again.  We rode out to the next river crossing, turned around and headed home.

He was very good on the way home--much like his normal self.  We crossed the river, and I led  him up the hill.  He was feeling spunky on the hill, but he only showed it by walking faster than normal.

Throughout all this excitement, what was Bella, our problem child doing?  She was the perfect angel.  Not once did she misbehaved in the slightest.  We were so proud of her.

I asked Ellen if she was worried about riding Dante after seeing his unusual display of badness, and she said she thought he would be just fine because she saw how his behavior improved over a relatively short time.  She was sure he would be perfect the next time--I rode him.

Monday, April 3, 2017

The Chink in Starry’s Armor

The Chink in Starry’s Armor

Shari and I were riding Bella and Cole on the hill because the river was too high to cross.  We had been on the the hill for about an hour and heading up for the last time when Bella started to get all bouncy.  Shari thought that another trip down was in order so that Bella learns that rushing home wouldn’t get her home any quicker.  

As Shari turned a bouncing Bella around, she got a little too close to Cole.  Cole is very sensitive to other horses getting into his space--particularly if they are acting fractious.  He decided to hightail it out it of there.  He dashed up the hill.  Bella thought that was a great idea and followed.  I spun Cole to get him under control--and that was when he saw Bella coming up behind him.  He felt threatened again and tried to resume his run.

All of this took place in just a couple seconds, and in a couple more, we had Bella and Cole standing still.  They were both still agitated, and Shari suggested dismounting.  I was already jumping down before the word, “Yes” could get out of my mouth.

At that point, we saw Kevin, riding Starry, approaching us.

Kevin asked me to ride one more time down the hill with him.  Shari checked the time, and realized she had to get back to the barn.  I told Kevin I would go with him, and Shari left.

It was an uneventful ride down to the river.  We were about halfway up when we spotted the turkeys close to the trail.  Ten hens and one gorgeous Tom were strolling by.  We often see turkeys when we ride, but this time, for the first time ever, we got to see a Tom fully displaying his magnificence.  He was all puffed out and pretty.  We were fascinated and just stood there watching.

As they got closer, the Tom noticed us.  He would turn to us and puff out even more.  Oh, was he pretty  He kept doing it.  Maybe he thought we would take his girls away?

Starry, the horse who is afraid of just about nothing, was all alert.  Starry, who would let a semi pass him without batting an eye, was raising and lowering his head to try to get a better view of the turkeys.  Starry, who quietly watched a coyote chasing some deer just the week before, was standing there as tense as could be.  I couldn’t believe my eyes.

Starry was frozen.  When Kevin tried to turn him away to proceed up the hill, Starry tried to scurry away.  This is normal behavior for a spooky horse, but it was bizarre behavior for Starry.  Kevin decided he was safer on the ground.  Starry was still dancing about.  I told him to face the turkeys before trying to dismount.  Kevin turned him toward to the turkeys, and Starry froze once more.

Kevin safely dismounted.  I was already on the ground.  Once Starry started to act up, I got off to prevent a repeat of what happened with Bella.  Cole is very reliable.  When I dismount, he parks out like a proper Morgan and won’t budge--even if I want him to.

Starry was still scared, of course.  We carefully led them up the hill, and I don’t think Starry relaxed until we were about 50 feet away.  Cole wasn’t worried about the turkeys at all.  For all the excitement with Starry, we were happy we got to see the turkeys.  That Tom was just so pretty.

And I got to see Starry acting like a real horse, for a change.

Friday, March 31, 2017

Everybody has a Bad Day, Sometimes

Everybody has a Bad Day, Sometimes

I have been riding Cole on the trail all winter.  Our extremely warm weather has kept the river thawed and ice off the hill most of the time.  I don’t know for sure, but I would guess I have ridden on the trail at least once or twice every other week.  In March, I have been out on the trail most days and across the river much of the time.  With all this trail riding, Cole is acting nearly as good as he does in the summer.  

Last week, there was a day that the river was too high to cross, so Kevin and I rode up and down the hill, instead.  The temperature was extremely high for horses with partial winter coats, so we expected them to be very quiet.  

A woman at our barn was also leading her new yearling down to play in the shallow part of the water.  We passed them on our way up the hill the first time.  They had just arrived at the bottom of the hill.

On our second trip down, they were in the water.  We caught the filly’s attention as we passed, and she neighed at us.  I think that might be what got Cole going.  He leapt into the air and charged towards Starry.  I got him back under control, but he tried to rush all the way up the hill.

When we turned around to go back down for the third time, he kept trying to trot.  He doesn’t have the kind of trot that you want to go downhill on, that is for sure.  I managed some semblance of control.  Kevin was almost clueless to my problems.  Starry was a perfect gentleman.

We turned around to go back up the hill.  The filly neighed, again.  Cole was even worse, this time.  When we arrived at our turnaround spot, here came Jack on his very hyper Tennessee Walker.  That was all I needed.  I immediately hopped off.  Jack rode past us and Cole jumped up into the air and started bucking.  If Kevin didn’t comprehend Cole’s rambunctious mood before, he sure did after that!

Kevin wanted to go down the hill one more time.  I agreed, but there was no way I was going to ride.  I lead Cole down to the river and back.  The whole time, he was rather horrendous.  The only time he did halfway decent is when I had Starry in front of us.

The next day, I rode Cole and he was back to his old self.

That weekend, I rode a couple times with Shari on Bella.  Bella had been sick, so she hadn’t been out on the trail very much for a few weeks, and she was particularly good.  We were so pleased.

A few days later, Shari was able to ride with me in the morning.  Once again, the river was too high, and we were limited to the hill.  Shari’s barn is down the street from us.  There was a bunch of machinery going on in her yard when she left, so by the time she got to the trail, Bella was a little wound up.  

She seemed to settle down--until we got halfway down the hill and could see and hear the park maintenance crew cutting a tree and putting it through the chipper.  That’s all it took to send Bella to the darkside.  She wasn’t bad in a dangerous way, but she was nervous and prancy.  We tried walking back and forth on the flat bottom part of the hill.  That didn’t help.  We tried a little trotting,  and that made it worse.  We went back to walking.  She seemed a little better so we went up the hill partway, turned around and rode back down.  She was just as bad as before.  Shari looked at me and asked if we should just go home.  We did.  Bella was having a bad day.

The week previous, Dante had a bad day in the arena.  You have to understand, he is a very steady arena horse.  Some days he is a little more cooperative than others, but that is the worst he does.  Ellen was riding him in there when the neighbor started calling for her dog.  He couldn’t see her because her yard borders the solid wall of the arena.  She was calling and calling.  The disembodied voice bothered Dante so much.  His head went high and he tuned Ellen out.  Even when the person stopped calling for the dog, he kept searching for the voice.

She took him to the safe end of the arena and worked there for a while.  He did a little better.  She dismounted and led him back to where the voice was.  He did all right.  As she led him back, a door suddenly opened and made him spook.  Princess, the feline barn tyrant was in his path.  She had to dash away.  Ellen gave up after that.

She was very worried.  Her wonderful arena horse was dramatically different from what she was used to.  Her fear was that he was ruined from this bad experience.  I told her he just had a bad day, and he would be fine the next ride.  That didn’t stop her from worrying.

Of course, he was perfect the next time she rode him in there.  He just had a bad day like Cole and Bella.  Sometimes there is a cause for the bad day, and other times there seems to be no cause at all.  I wonder if there are times that they may have a headache and just don’t feel like cooperating.  One bad day doesn’t make a bad horse.

We all have bad days, sometimes….

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

A Week with Starry D.

A Week with Starry D.

And it was a bust.  Not that it was Starry’s fault.  It was the fault of the weather.

Kevin had to babysit his grandchildren for the week, and Ellen and I had to babysit Starry.  Two days before Kevin left, the farrier replaced Starry’s shoes with snow pads with plain old shoes.  Of course that could only mean one thing--snow.  Ellen was supposed to ride him on Saturday and Sunday on the trail.  Not only was it snowy, but it was so cold that I didn’t ride Cole on the trail, either.  March can be like that, sometimes, in Cleveland.

The snow melted and the temperatures improved on Monday, so Ellen and I were able to take him on a lovely ride with Cole.  That was our only good ride of the week.

We got rain on Tuesday, and it made the river too high.  I was out, by myself, in the evening and took him on the hill.  I was going to go three trips, but it started to rain on my second trip up, so we went home early.

I knew the river would still be too high on Wednesday, but I was hoping to do better on the hill.  It was an extremely windy afternoon.  Honestly, I have never experienced wind like that in my life.  It was constant strong winds with gusts up to 60 mph.  I took Cole out for a ride, first.  We didn’t get very far at all when we came across a pine tree crossing the trail that it didn’t look like we could go around.  I thought I might be able to lead Cole under the branch on one end, so I got off.  Suddenly, a huge gust of wind came and all the trees were waving.  I could hear cracking over my head--and I realized that I shouldn’t even be out there.  I turned back.  Starry didn’t get ridden at all.

It may be a good thing that I did turn back.  There were 3 other trees that had fallen on our trail--including one that was right where I was standing when I turned around.  There were others that fell closeby, too.  I don’t know if any of them would have fallen when I was riding, but I am glad I wasn’t there to find out.

The following day, my car died, and I wasn’t able to get out to see the horses at all.

Friday was my last chance.  It was cold, the river was still a little high but I managed to take Starry up and down the hill three times.

Kevin was back on Saturday to take him on an extremely cold ride, again.

And now there is snow...

Friday, March 3, 2017

Flashback Fun - March 2001 - Ranger's Left Lead

Ranger’s Left Lead
By Ellen Daly

This is a different approach to trail riding, but I think that a good trail horse benefits from a certain amount of arena work. I know going around in circles, often indoors, is the equivalent of algebra to many people. Before we collectively groan and move to the next article, think about the pleasure of a horse that does gait transitions well and switches leads like a dream. Often, the best place to start this transformation in our horses is in the arena.

My horse, Ranger, is a fine trail horse whose greatest ambition is snatching sunflower leaves from the side of the trail. This changed one day when I decided to raise our goals--so to speak. I know the benefits of switching diagonals when doing a lot of trotting. We all have a favorite diagonal. When traveling in a primarily straight line on trail, there isn’t an obvious need to switch diagonals, but it lessens the all around muscle strain on a long ride and works both sides of the horse. Even though one diagonal is more difficult for me than the other, I still switch. My trick is to do the difficult diagonal going away from home when my horse is naturally inclined to go slower, then switch to the easier one on the way home when Ranger likes to go faster.

Now we come to the canter, and that is a different story. If switching diagonals is good, so should switching leads at the canter. But what if you have a horse who will only take one lead? That was Ranger’s problem. He is very content to canter along on his right lead, still trying to snatch sunflower, of course. I was happy, too, until I started to read books and talk to people about trail riding. After two years of ignorant bliss, I decided that it was time for Ranger to start taking his left lead. I wasn’t sure how to do this, but I knew I would have to start this project in the arena. Luckily, I had a beautiful sand based outdoor show ring at my backdoor. I had a sketchy plan and a long-term goal. Obviously, I knew that there was no easy solution, and it would take time to achieve my left lead goal—but I was on a mission.

First, we had to adjust to arena riding and work through a certain amount of spookiness and misbehavior. This was a public show ring in a park, so there were many distractions. I started with basic walk /trot transitions and circles, stressing obedience and paying attention to the rider. We would work maybe once a week for a maximum of a half hour with a short trail ride afterward as a reward. The rest of the time we would just trail ride and relax like usual.

There is a trick that someone told me about teaching canter transitions. It is to simply to do it at the same spot every time. This builds up a lot of energy and anticipation in the horse and can result in a more willing performance. So, I did just that in Ranger’s good direction to teach him control and calmness at the canter. Eventually, we did canter transitions all over the arena but only in his good direction. We spent plenty of time trotting and doing walk/trot transitions in his bad direction. I wanted him to learn to contain the build up of energy that transitions can create in a horse but also to learn to listen to me when I ask him to go to a faster gait. It took time and patience. There were many distractions and spooks with the trail always beckoning to us. We muddled through and achieved a certain amount of precision. My scarce attempts at his difficult left lead usually ended up in a racy trot or with the wrong lead. Once again a plan formed in my mind and the time felt right to start to work the hard lead.

I had read the books about bending the horse and small circles, but this had no affect on Ranger at all. He was instinctively inclined physically and mentally to the right, so I decided to build on my transition work. Once again, I employed the “secret of transitions” of using the canter cue at the same spot every time and energy that it creates. We would warm up a bit at the trot and take the canter his preferred direction. Ranger is on the hyper side when it comes to the canter, so that was easy. We worked the hard direction doing trot transitions to get his attention and build up the all-important energy. After a while, I asked him for the hard lead at my chosen canter spot. I tried to bend him and use my seat bone to cue him as I do for his easy direction. At first he took the wrong lead, but I immediately brought him down to a trot and asked for the difficult lead again He didn’t understand and took his easy lead once again, thinking that it was what I wanted. After the second try, we did some walk/trot transitions to collect our thoughts. This pattern continued for several weeks of arena work, and he was getting very good at transitions all the transitions except the one I wanted the most

One day, we were working well together, trotting down the straight part of the arena in his difficult direction, and we were coming up to his canter corner. I felt him gather in anticipation of my cue. I asked for the canter and of course he took the wrong lead. I brought him down to a trot and within a few strides asked for the canter again. That time he took the difficult lead. It was rough and choppy, but he took it. We came down to a walk just a few strides later, quit the arena the day and headed down the trail.

From that day on, he understood his left lead and it just become better ever since. For a long time he took the wrong lead first but when I would bring him down to a trot and ask again he would take the proper lead. Eventually we could do circles and attain a certain amount of control. It took him a while to physically adjust to using muscles that he hadn’t used in years. All in all, I would say that it took us about eight months working a half an hour, once a week in the arena. The rest of the time, we would trail ride. He still occasionally misfires, but we always recover. On trail, he prefers his easy lead, and I have a difficult time with the other one. That is our next project. Could we have done this on trail and not in the arena? I suppose one could argue the point, but by going to the arena with a specific goal in mind, it forced us to concentrate. This was the best way for me to do it with Ranger. Trail riding is so enjoyable and relaxing that sometimes it is hard to think about goals and training. I saw how being able to take both leads at the canter could benefit Ranger on trail, and I knew that the arena was the best place for us to start. Our next challenge is taking our arena work and utilizing it on the trail. Next time it maybe the other way around and we will take our trail work and use it in the arena. The key is to have an open mind in both horse and rider, form a plan and follow it through—adjusting it as you go to suit your needs.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Dante’s First Time Out

Dante’s First Time Out

Dante is a strange horse.  He is very quiet and safe to ride on the trail, but if he hasn’t been out in a while, he gets over excited and unpredictable.  On a typical winter, we can have long spells where we are stuck inside the barn.  Usually, it is extreme cold, an icy driveway and/or a frozen river.  

This year has been an exceptionally good year.  I have been able to get Cole out on the trail; even across the river at least once or twice every week or two.  Ellen has opted to keep Dante inside the indoor arena.  She doesn't’ see the sense of taking him out for a ride or two and having to deal with his “problems” only to be stuck inside for a week or so and have to start all over again the next time.  She wants to bring him on the trail, get through those first few rides and be done with it.

The last few weeks have been very, very mild.  We have made a concentrated effort to turn Dante out, outside as much as we can.  After Ellen rides him in the arena, she brings him outside, too.  In the beginning, it was just to stand and look around, but this last week, she has ridden him around the driveway.

I have been able to ride Cole on the trail, a lot, with either Shari or Kevin, and he is finally settling down and becoming reliable, again.

The long term forecast still looks good, and we are entering the time of year where we can ride on the trail regularly.  Ellen decided it was time.

I didn’t know it ahead of time.  She didn’t even ask me to come out and ride with her in the morning.  Lately, I have been going out to ride in the afternoon in the heat of the day.  It was going to be a warm morning, so I just showed up.  She had decided that if I showed up, she would take Dante on the trail.

She wanted me to lead him on the street since he is not always that good with traffic if he is excited.  The night before, I played “bus stop” with him, and he didn’t flinch at any of the vehicles, so I figured he would be good for the street--and he was.

We mounted up at the trailhead and rode down the hill.  Ellen was nervous about the river, as always, but to complicate things even more, there is now some very deep mud on the riverbanks on both sides.  Earlier in the week, a woman from our barn was riding through it and her horse panicked and went sideways, off the trail where the mud was up to his knees.  He panicked and started bucking.  Eventually, he calmed down and everything was okay, but it demonstrated what deep mud can do to a horse’s mind.

Dante is a mudder, though.  He has never been troubled by mud.  (Cole has--he hates mud.)  I told her he would be fine, and he was.  He walked down the mud, crossed the river slowly and walked up the mud on the other side.

On the other side, we tried to trot, but he started tossing his head all around and getting agitated.  Okay, so maybe that wasn’t a good idea.  We opted to walk.  Cole was in the lead, and at one point, Dante threw his head up in the air and charged past him.  That was a first.  He doesn’t like passing other horses--they make him nervous, but he evidently wanted to lead.  He must of figured that Cole couldn’t attack him this way.  (Cole has never, ever attacked him, but Dante always acts like he will.)

We let him stay in the lead, after that.  Ellen wanted to know if it would be all right if she turned around early.  She was getting nervous.  I told her it was.  She still rode on.  After a while, she decided to try trotting again, but wanted me to hold Cole back a bit.  That way, he would be trotting all by himself, basically.  I stopped Cole and let her trot.  I then walked until she stopped and then I trotted to catch up.  We had success!  We did this for short stretches all the way down the trail.  Each time she went a little longer.  Cole was a perfect gentleman, of course.  It seems he always knows what Ellen needs.

We made it to our destination--the next river crossing.  We turned there, put Cole in the lead and walked home.  Ellen still worried about the mud and river on the way home, but there was no need to,  Dante was great.  What she should have worried about was turkeys.  On the way up the hill--nearly to the top, he did a big spook.  She circled him about and he quieted down.  It was at that time that she noticed the turkeys on the other side of the ravine.  They weren’t close, but they may have been shuffling about, making noises.

I led Dante on the street, and the horse gods were smiling upon us.  No cars passed us.

Was it a perfect ride?  For Cole, it was, but Dante got a “B-.”  Still, that wasn’t bad for the first time--and he was great for the things that Ellen is the most nervous about--the street, the river and the mud.  The rest of it was him being very, very excited about being on the trail for the first time since some time in December.  

Great job, Ellen and Dante.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Team Sharibella (Shari/Aribella)

Team Sharibella (Shari/Aribella)

Once again, we were able to ride with Shari and Bella on a surprisingly nice day in February.  We were even going to be able to cross the river!  It had been cold the last few days, so we knew that the ground would be frozen and rough.  The ride would be a walk-only ride, but just getting a trail ride in February is such a treat, who were we to complain?

Kevin had family obligations, so Ellen got to ride Starry.  I was on Cole, of course.  We met at our usual time and headed for the trail.  Bella seemed very excited, but sensible.  It looked like it was going to be a successful ride.

As we rode down the hill, we caught up on what we have been up to.  The river bank looked very muddy, and there was a line of inconsequential ice along the edge of it about a foot from the water.  The ice had formed when the river was a little higher, and when the water retreated, it left the ice behind.  It was about a foot wide, and so thin that it would just crumble away when stepped on.

We knew it was harmless, but Bella thought it was very dangerous.  Starry crossed, first.  Cole had seen ice like this before, so he didn’t even notice it.  I had him go next, and I hoped that Bella would see his confidence and willingly follow.  She didn’t.

Ellen and I watched Shari and Bella from the other side.  She went back and forth, back and forth.  She didn’t want to step over the horse-killing ice.  After a few minutes, I brought Cole back across to try to lure her in.  He stood in front of her quietly in the water, and still she refused.

Eventually, we gave up and went back, across.  Shari told us to go on our way and hopefully she would eventually be able to cross.  

I kept looking back, and I could see Bella standing there.  

Ellen and I rode out to the next river crossing and turned around to come home.  A couple minutes later, who should we see but Team Sharibella.  Bella was walking quietly with a relaxed look on her face.  Success!

After we left them, Shari reached into her clicker training tool kit.  She asked Bella to take four steps, clicked, treated and repeated--right into the river.  She crossed the river a little on the fast side, but once she got to the other side, she relaxed and walked like a lady until she caught up with us.  She was a little excited when we were walking home, but that wasn’t a surprise--she was going home, after all.  Just the same, we were very impressed by her.  It has been weeks since she was across the river.  We didn’t think that she would be this calm.

This gives us great hope for the springtime transition to trail riding.  Bella may not be as excitable this spring as she was last spring.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Flashback Fun - February, 2001 - Where I Ride

Flashback Fun - February, 2001

Where I Ride

I live in a suburb of Cleveland, Ohio. It may seem an unlikely place for a trail rider, but that is not the case at all. We have a park system that circles the city and is consequently called “The Emerald Necklace.” Within our great park, we have over 82 miles of bridle trails to ride on. Anywhere you live in the county, you are less than a ½ hour away from the trails. Most of them are well maintained and easily accessible. There are plenty of boarding stables all along the perimeter of the park where hundreds of people keep their horses (including me.)

Typically, the trails are wooded. There are some hills, fields, marshes and a lot of creeks and rivers. My particular area is noted for a wide variety of lovely wildflowers and gorgeous views of the Rocky River. There is a large diversity of trees in the area making the fall foliage spectacular. One particularly splendid spot is an old pine forest on the top of the valley. It changes dramatically with the time of day and the time of year. I never get tired of looking up at those awesome pines. Another thing about our trails is that there are plenty of places for trotting and cantering, and we take advantage of it.

The downside of living in a very populated area is that we must share our trails with many people. I’m not just talking about other trail riders. If only it was that easy. We deal with heavy automobile traffic, pedestrians, joggers, dog walkers, bikes, cross country skiers, roller bladers and miscellaneous strollers, kite fliers, rocket shooters and even a bagpipe player now and then. Sometimes it gets rather stressful. We really have to spend a great deal of time with our horses to get them used to all the craziness out there. In a way, that is what inspired my book. If it had been easy for me, I would have thought it was easy for everyone, and I would have never written my book.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Ranger is Back

Ranger is Back

I am glad to report that Ranger’s most awful abscess is fully healed.  With the cooler weather, he breathing problem is greatly improved, so Ellen decided it was time to start riding the old guy, again.

She barely rode him all summer because of his breathing, and only rode him lightly the previous spring.  She did ride him once in the fall, but he seemed off that day.  He also seemed troubled by his inability to see clearly.  One of his eyes has a cataract.  Just a few days later, he came down with the abscess.

She rode him a few minutes last weekend by herself.  He seemed fine.  Yesterday, I was with her when she wanted to ride.  With his vision, he seems much more comfortable when he has someone next to him.  We think it gives him a sense of security.  She was going to ride him outside on the loop.

He seemed unsteady--not physically unsteady, but confidence unsteady.  We just talked to him as I walked next to him--handing him treats.  She may have ridden him 10 minutes, and she got off to lead.  Immediately, he walked faster and with confidence.

Today, we planned to do the same thing.  It was snowing like crazy.  Ranger always seemed to like snow.  

Ellen climbed aboard, and I slipped him a peppermint.  As he moved off, he was a completely different horse from the day before.  Actually, he was like his old self, again.  I still gave him some treats, but he didn’t have to walk right next to me.  He wandered off to the other side of the trail. He even said he wanted to go a different direction than I did.  We let him have his way.  He was walking his normal speed with a spring in his step.  It was so nice to see Ranger being himself, again.

Ellen only rode until she got cold, and then she lead him to keep warm.

We think he is about 27.  All we know for sure is that he was an adult when Ellen got him 22 years ago.  After today, I think we can change his status from retired to semi-retired.  Go Ranger!

Friday, January 27, 2017

Flashback Fun - January, 2001 - Mingo's Meltdown

Flashback Fun - January, 2001 - Mingo's Meltdown

My boyfriend, Kevin has been leasing Mingo for more than a year now. In November, he was going to go on a trail ride by himself. He rode down to the river, and just as he was going to walk down the bank, Mingo grabbed at a branch. Kevin pulled the branch out of his mouth the best he could, but then Mingo started tossing his head around and fretting. They stepped over to the river, and my little horse completely refused to cross. He continued tossing his head around and began to franticly dance about and even buck. 

A woman came by and thought that Mingo would cross if he could follow her horse. It didn’t work. By now, Kevin was suspecting that something must be wrong with the bridle. He asked the woman to take a peak. She pulled up his lip, and sure enough, his tongue was over the bit. It probably happened when he tried to eat the branch. Kevin knew he had to get Mingo back to the barn because Mingo was so worked up by now, that he didn’t think he’d be able to re-bridle him safely by the river. He turned to go up the hill on the way home. The woman who was trying to help him across the river allowed her horse to run up the hill. This was all Mingo needed in his frantic state of mind. He tried to follow, and when Kevin tried to stop him, Mingo started backing up and almost stepped off the edge of the trail into the ditch. Kevin’s guardian angel was looking over his shoulder, and stopped Mingo just in time. It then occurred to Kevin that there was only one safe thing to do. He quickly dismounted and led Mingo back to the barn.

I heard the story with a mixture of pride in Kevin because of his sensibility and horror at the thought of what could have happened. It wasn’t until later in the night that I began to worry about the river. I’ve seen too many people trying to cross that river on a horse that didn’t want to cross, and I have been there a few times myself. Anyone who has been following my adventures for a while may remember that Mingo was the horse that got stuck on the ford. When Mingo doesn’t want to go somewhere because he is afraid, there isn’t much you can do about it. A couple days later, I had my opportunity to see if he would be afraid to cross the river. I rode with my sister’s horse, Ranger, down to the river. My angelic little horse just walked right across. He wasn’t afraid of the river at all that day; he was upset about the way his mouth felt and was telling Kevin in the only way he knew how. I’m so proud that Kevin realized that there might be something wrong when a normally quiet horse acts very out of character and thought to check his tack. It is something we all should remember.