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The phrase, “Bella being Bella,” is outdated.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.