Thursday, May 25, 2017
Forecast for no Riding
They were predicting rain, and my sister, Ellen, said if it was raining to not bother meeting her the next morning. When I saw the forecast on the 11:00 news, it looked very bleak. They predicted rain in the morning--after a rainy night. Even if it wasn’t raining, the river was too high.
I emailed her that I probably wouldn't be out there because of the weather. I felt really crummy.
I really did want to ride with Ellen, so I still set my clock to get up. When it went off I could hear the rain on the roof. I checked the radar, and I saw that there was rain over us, but it looked like it was moving out--and then there wouldn’t be any rain for a while.
I decided to head out to the barn. If the river was too high, she might not want to ride on the hill. I would watch her ride Dante in the arena and then maybe ride Cole on Ranger’s walk. I really don't know what I would do, but at least I could keep Ellen company.
When I got there, she was saddled and bridled and ready to go in the arena. She didn’t think I was coming out. By now, the rain had stopped, just as the radar predicted. When she told me the river was crossable, I couldn’t believe my good fortune. I had to do a little coaxing, but not all that much. I told her the rain stopped--and we should just go.
We rode down the hill to the river. It started drizzling. The river was a little high, but crossable. I told her it was her call. She said we should just do the hill. I asked her if she was sure, because the hill is either difficult--or boring. I told her it would be an easier ride if we crossed. She hesitated for about 3 seconds and then agreed.
Ellen gets nervous crossing rivers, even when they are low. She gets nervous riding on rainy days because Dante is somewhat troubled by loud traffic on wet roads. She worries about thunderstorms--after all, we were caught in a doosy, years ago, and a tree fell right next to us. She gets nervous about lots of things. Yet, here we were on a rainy day crossing a higher than normal river! Like it was nothing! This was awesome.
It started raining a little harder. I was beginning to think I looked at the wrong radar. Af first, Dante was pretty pokey. I tried to follow, but he was too slow for Cole. She told me to go in the lead.
Cole went faster--and Dante did too! Ellen didn't seem to be nervous at all. She seemed to like it! We moved out faster, and so did she. Dante didn’t go as fast as Cole, but he was going at a good trot.
When we got to the section we like to canter, she wanted to go in the lead to do a some of it. We started at a fast trot. Dante will always trot faster, here, because he is hoping to canter. I typically let them canter, and Cole trots behind. Dante started to canter, and I did something unusual--I asked Cole to canter, too. This is the trail that Cole sprouts wings at a canter. I will ride in front of my companions, and we will go off like a rocket. At the end, I just wait for them to catch up. In this season of hyper horses, no one has allowed me to do that, so I haven’t cantered much at all this year. It was time to try something new--cantering behind another horse.
Cole did well, but he was going too fast. In a short time, I had to bring him back to a trot--but the good news is he did just that--came back to a trot. Ellen asked Dante to trot, too, a few seconds later, but he didn’t just trot--he trotted faster than he has ever trotted with Ellen before. I know this because we were following. I think he was trotting faster than he was just cantering. It was awesome! Ellen wasn’t afraid in the least. She just went along for the ride.
It was time to turn around and head for home. It was still raining, but not really bad at all. There were no bugs, and it wasn’t too cold.
We did a mixture of walking and trotting on the way home. Ellen’s braveness was giving way, and she was nervous that her nervousness might cause Dante to be nervous crossing the elevated river. I was a good sister and agreed to switch horses. Dante crossed the river well, and then we waited for Ellen.
Poor Ellen, Cole decided he wanted treats. He got stuck on the river bank--demanding treats. When she convinced him to enter the water--I don’t know how many treats it took, he walked fast. Well, it wasn’t fast for Cole--but fast for Ellen. I heard her whining the whole time they crossed.
“Cole, slow down. Cole you are going too fast--slow down.” Cole ignored her, of course. He knew how to get her safely across. Cole always takes care of Ellen.
Ellen told me the reason she was so easy to convince to go on the ride was because she wasn’t anticipating it. Since she thought I wouldn’t be there, she just figured on an arena ride--and she had no real anxiety except with the river on the way home. I think I should do that in the future--tell her I’m not coming out--and show up.
It never did stop raining all day--it only got worse.
Starry and Bugs
I met Kevin out at the barn on a rainy day. It wasn’t raining, and according to the radar, there was a break in the action. If we went right out on a ride, we would be able to ride during a dry window.
Kevin was hesitant. First, he was worried he would get caught in the rain. Earlier in the day, he went jogging, and just as he was turning around to head towards home, it began to rain. He ended up getting soaked, and he wasn’t looking forward to being drenched again.
I assured him that we would stay dry. His other worry was bugs. Often, after it rains, the mosquitoes come out in droves--and Starry is so sensitive. They make him crazy, and he will act up. I suggested we go towards the Lagoon, which is a shorter ride and, where there are always less bugs. Since I was wearing a sweatshirt and a sweat jacket, I felt it was probably too cold for them, anyway. I didn’t even put bug spray on Cole.
Kevin loaded up Starry with spray and put his mask on. We headed down the trail. When Starry got to the bottom of the hill, he took off at a fast trot. I heard Kevin say something about “no brakes.” I was still going down the hill, and Cole saw Starry moving fast--and he decided to join him. I didn't have any brakes, either. (Usually, Cole will tolerate Starry doing things like this, so I figured he must be in “a mood.”
I haven’t ridden Cole to the Lagoon since last year, due to all sorts of reasons. Ellen and I plan to go on longer rides in that direction, so I figured that it would be good to get Cole there at least once before Ellen attempts it. It is a bit of a tricky trail, because it goes parallel to the street and the river. We just have a stip of trail with grass on each side between them. To make matters worse, there isn't a simple river bank alongside the trail. It is a 10 foot wall that drops down the the river.
It was one of those noisy days. With all the rain, the cars were very loud on the wet street and the planes were flying low. We ride quite close to the airport, and the planes are so loud that you can’t talk when one flies overhead. Today was really bad.
We arrived at the Lagoon. The first part of the trail actually has trees and shrubs along both sides. The rain had left lots of puddles, so Kevin was stopping to walk through them. That was great--he had brakes! Cole can go through puddles, but he prefers to tiptoe around them, so we did. At the last big puddle, Kevin just kept trotting. We trotted through it, and Cole’s belly got splashed. I had a sudden acceleration. He started to lean into the bit and then his head got lower than I like. If his head gets too low, he is known to toss in a buck.
I asked Kevin to stop, and he did. I pulled Cole back together, and we took of trotting, again.
We were now in the open area, and Starry picked up the speed. Cole could keep up, but I could feel the momentum building in his hindquarters. He then started pulling his head down, again. I thought a reset would help. I stopped him, and then asked him to trot, again. Unfortunately, Kevin didn't know we stopped, and he moved further away from us. Maybe stopping wasn’t a very good idea. Cole once again started to build up his excitement. Kevin stopped to walk through a rough patch of trail, and I was able to catch up. Before I had a moment to relax, he was off, again. My white knuckles reappeared.
We reached another spot that we typically stop to go down a gravelly slope. I caught up, again. Somehow, I ended up in the lead, and we trotted down to the end of the trail.
As soon as we turned around, Starry got bugs in his head. There were no bugs around us, but Starry is so phobic, that he acted like there was. He started swishing and belly kicking--and then he took off at a fast trot.
Cole thought he had a great idea--and took off after him. By now, I had had enough. I bent his head towards the left to slow him down, and though he fought at first, he did finally come down to a walk. Starry was a different story. They trotted out of sight.
That really got Cole upset. He tried to trot up, but I insisted he just walk. We compromised and walked very fast. As soon as we got around the corner, we could see Starry up a ways. Kevin finally got him to walk.
Gradually, we got closer to him, and I guess Starry realized there weren’t any bugs, after all. He relaxed and walked like a gentleman. He still tossed his head about at the imaginary bugs, but we made it all the way home without incident.
If it wasn’t his first time over there for the year, Cole would have been fine. If Starry wasn’t plagued by bugs and and acted like his usual self, Cole would have been fine, also. But a crazy Starry on a different trail? Well, it wasn’t much worse than I expected--and much better than I expected on the way home.
One thing I know for sure, it will be much easier to ride that trail with Dante!
Saturday, May 20, 2017
Bella is Bella--or is She?
It’s been nearly a year since Shari started riding Bella with us on a regular basis. Being an energetic National Show Horse, it was no surprise to see her spooking, dancing, prancing, trying to go at faster gait, etc. We used to say, “That’s just Bella being Bella.”
Through the summer, we saw her calming down. The more we rode together, the better she got. Shari used clicker training, and that helped immensely. Clicker changes the conversation--or in Bella’s case--brought her into the conversation. In the beginning, she just reacted to the environment. With clicker, Shari got her attention, and they were able to have the conversations.
Instead of Bella saying, “I’m going. I’m spooking. I’m going, again.” She was saying, “I’m going. Shari, do you like the way I’m going? You do? I’ll do it some more, than.”
Sometimes, it was Bella saying, “You don’t like this? What about this? Do you like this?”
There are plenty of times that she does something she thinks is really awesome, and then she turns her head back and tells Shari, “I think that deserved a click.”
With the mild winter, we were still able to get out on the trail periodically. Bella had her first ride in the snow! In the spring, when we really started riding again, we had a few bad rides. You read about them here. Then, she suddenly became the horse she was at the end of the fall, last year.
Soon, it seemed like she spooked less, traveled with a loose rein, more and just seemed more relaxed. That’s when we really started having some terrific rides. So we worked on her following instead of leading. That was a very easy lesson--because this isn’t the same Bella as before.
The phrase, “Bella being Bella,” is outdated. Bella is a different horse, now. We are going to have a fantastic summer of riding.
But what am I going to write about?
Thursday, May 11, 2017
My publisher is downsizing their warehouse. Consequently, I now have several cartons of books at my house that I want to sell.
“Trail Training for the Horse and Rider” is a highly readable, how-to book for trail riding. I cover training the green horse, retraining the spoiled horse, negotiating difficult obstacles and terrain, conditioning, dealing with difficult weather and more.
It costs $20.00 plus $4.00 to ship. If you are a local person, we could arrange to meet to save shipping costs.
Monday, May 1, 2017
The next day, Shari and I found ourselves back on the hill. The river can be very troublesome in the spring. We did one trip down with Cole doing some trotting in the lead and Bella following like an angel. On the way back up, we found Kevin and Starry.
Remember that Starry has been struggling since last summer with his own leadership problems. He doesn’t want to be lead horse. He has improved so much since then, but he still isn’t reliable.
There is another problem. Starry has fallen in love with Bella. He will follow her to the ends of the earth. He doesn’t like Cole to be between them. Cole doesn’t mind if he can’t follow directly behind Bella, so that isn’t a problem. The real problem is how to get Starry in front of Bella.
Kevin knew all this, and decided he would just leave. He didn't want to mess up our ride. It took much convincing to get him to stay. This was a training ride for us, and it could be a training ride for him, too. The hill can be so repetitive that we welcomed having another horse to liven things up. We wanted to see if Bella would follow a horse other than Cole. Of course, we had to get Starry in the lead, first.
Right away, Starry went into his backing up routine, swishing his tail and adamantly refusing to go in front of Bella. The hill is a terrible place for this behavior with a nearly sheer drop on one side of the trail and a ditch on the other side. Kevin decided to wait and try at the bottom.
We have learned that one way to trick Starry into taking the lead is to stop the other horse either on a slope or at the very bottom of one. Starry then has momentum going down the hill and keeps going past. Sometimes he will stop at the bottom and Kevin has to urge him on. Sometimes it doesn’t work. It didn’t work this time. Kevin had to use his mean voice, and Starry reluctantly stepped forward. He then got a lot of praise.
Kevin asked Starry to trot, Bella was second and I took up the end. We trotted along the flat stretch of trail at the bottom of the hill with ease. Yes, Bella will follow other horses, too.
On the way back, there was an incident that caused a 4-letter word to leap out of Kevin’s mouth--and Starry wasn’t even leading at the time. We were trotting ahead of him, and he turned into the Bella of old. He wanted to catch up and was snaking his head; trying to pull the reins out of Kevin’s hands. After that, Kevin really just wanted to go back home. He didn’t think he could convince Starry to cooperate at all and once again was worried that he would ruin our ride. We insisted he stay.
We went back up the hill, turned around and headed back down. At the bottom, Shari stopped and Kevin kept Starry going--right past Bella. We trotted, and it was great. We turned around and Kevin was able to convince Starry to pass Bella and then to pass Cole, too.
We did another trip up and down the hill with sometimes Starry leading and sometimes Cole leading. Starry still wanted to be by Bella, but he didn’t have to be following her anymore. He seemed content to have her close behind.
Kevin was so proud of his Starry. In the beginning, he was certain of failure. Shari told him he was being too negative. Starry is a good horse and if we all work together, he will become an even better horse--just like Bella did.