Thursday, June 16, 2022

Trail Challenges

Trail Challenges

Ellen had a day off from work, and that usually means one of two things--bad weather or trail maintenance.  We had a bit of both.  The weather was extremely hot--and they were repairing the trail.

Though she saw that they were repairing the banks on the second river crossing, she still wanted to go on a trail ride.  Due to the heat, we would take it slow.  The river banks at our first crossing needed some repair, too.  If they were working on that when we got there, we couldn't cross the river.  If they started on it while we were out, we might have some problems getting home.  

When we got to the river, they were nowhere in sight, so we headed down the trail.  After about ten minutes, we heard some very loud machinery approaching.  We didn't know if it was on the trail or on the street.  The park workers will always stop when they see horses, but they have to see us first.

Ellen started to get that panicked sound to her voice.  She was in the lead, so she asked me to put Cole in front.  We still couldn't tell where the noise was coming from, so she told me to trot on ahead to find them and tell them to stop.  

We went trotting down the trail.  As I went around the corner, I saw a large front end loader coming right down the trail.  I asked Cole to stop and signaled to the driver to stop, too.  He did, and then I waved Ellen on.  Cole walked up to the machine to give it a sniff, and I thanked the driver and chatted as Ellen caught up.  I asked him if they were planning to fix our river bank, and he said he would try.  He didn't say when, though.  We were a little concerned that we might have trouble on the way home, but we proceeded, anyway.

We checked the work that they did on the second river crossing, and it looked great, but Ellen decided the river was a little too high for her to cross.  We crossed on the ford, instead, and continued down the trail.  At the next intersection, the park workers had backed up their flatbed trailer that they used to haul the front end loader.  It wasn't quite blocking the trail.  We could have squeezed by, but it would have been tight.  Since it was such a hot day, we didn't have the energy to try, so we headed back towards home.

First, Cole wanted to take a look at it.  The ramp was down, and it felt like he would have ridden right up it, had I asked.  When I turned him away from it, he did put one foot on the ramp as we passed.  He didn't seem startled, so I think he did it on purpose.  Dante also rode up to it, but he didn't get any silly ideas like Cole.

When we got to the hill we have to ride down, we could see a dump truck on the trail below--heading our way.  I could hear the trepidation in Ellen's voice--and then the relief when it turned and cut over to the road.  It was empty, so we figured they were heading to get more dirt.

As we moseyed on home, we kept our eyes and ears open to potential problems.  Ellen was telling me how she has been trying not to worry about things until they happen.  She saved herself a lot of worrying because when we did find the front end loader, he was parked by the side of the trail.  They were fixing a very stony section that always gets washed out every year because it is so low and very close to the river, and he was waiting for more dirt for the trail.  We stopped and talked a little to him--he said they may not get to our river bank for a few more days.  We told him how much we appreciate how well they take care of our trails.

Then we saw the dump truck coming down the trail behind us.  It was time to high tail it out of there.  Well, we actually just trotted.  We were pretty far down the trail when we heard the dump truck dump its dirt.

Not long after, we ran into Kevin on Starry coming our way.  We told him what was going on, and he decided to turn around and ride the other direction.  Poor Starry wasn't too happy when we crossed the river to go home, and he had to keep going the other way.

Both our horses handled everything so well!  We were very proud of them.

Ellen and Dante finished the Virtual Tevis Cup on this ride--100 miles in 100 days--so I am glad it had an extra challenge to it--and they rose to the challenge!

Tuesday, June 14, 2022

Cole doing his "silly walk" free style.

  Cole doing his "silly walk" free style.

Monday, June 13, 2022

Dante Takes Kevin for a Ride

Dante Takes Kevin for a Ride

Kevin had our friend, Grace, out to ride Starry.  Ellen had to work, so she offered to let Kevin ride Dante.

Kevin rides Dante every year or two--not often enough for him to really know what he's like. Of course, he is a very good, safe horse, and anyone could ride him, but there are little things about him that could surprise a new rider.

I arrived at the river long before Starry and Dante, which is normal, and Cole was having a drink.  When Dante reached the bottom of the hill, he took off trotting.  He never does that.  I thought that maybe Starry got too close to him.  Kevin doubted that was the problem, but he admits he wasn't paying attention to where Starry was--and Grace didn't know she had to be careful not to get too close to Dante.

Dante is very sensitive to horses in his personal space.  Ellen is very careful to keep Dante clear of other horses or at least have him standing when they pass.  Starry is notorious for startling Dante, though Kevin seldom realizes it.  (He is like Mr. Magoo in that sense.)  He is usually not looking.  Often, all it takes is for Starry to swish his tail or kick at a bug, and Dante reacts.  Ellen is constantly warning Kevin not to ride too close, and Kevin typically replies, "Don't worry, Dante isn't afraid of Starry."

This has gone on for years.

When I told Kevin why Dante probably trotted away, he was very skeptical.  He still is.

By now, all three of us were down by the river's edge with Starry in the middle.  For whatever reason, Starry swung his hindquarters toward Dante.  He only took one step, but that was enough for Dante to jump and spin.  This time, it was obvious what happened--and Kevin was very surprised.

The nice thing about Dante is that he always calms right down, and he did this time, too.  We crossed the river with no other problem.  On the other side, we decided to put Starry first, followed by Dante and I would stay in back to keep an eye on things.  Grace asked Starry to move into the lead, and just as he started to pass Dante, he began trotting.  I watched Dante take a single side step into the woods.  Kevin didn't notice, so I didn't tell him.  Dante then trotted off behind Starry.

Kevin was enjoying Dante's smoothness--the exact opposite of Starry's bone-jarring trot.  Dante was much slower, and Grace had to keep stopping Starry to let us catch up to them.  Kevin didn't seem to care.  He loved just sitting the trot for a change.  Cole practiced his transitions.  He would trot up to Dante, walk for a while and trot back up.  Some days, he is willing to slow down to Dante's speed, but not this time.

Ellen only gave us permission to ride to the second river crossing.  She didn't say we couldn't do some back and forth, though.  We turned around, trotted towards home for a half mile and planned to trot back to the second river crossing.  Grace and I had to wait for Dante.  When he caught up with us, we decided to put him behind us before we started trotting to the second river.  That meant he had to pass us.

I went behind Starry by about ten feet to a wider part of the trail.  Grace was on the corner where the trail is a bit narrow.  There was plenty of room for Dante to pass.  Any other horse would have been just fine.

As Dante went around the corner, he turned his head to grab some branches to munch on.  Kevin pulled his head back--and Dante saw Starry just a few feet from his side.  He leapt up into the air and took off running!  Cole just watched him canter past--he has been ridden with Starry for so many miles that he is used to horses getting into his personal space.

Like I said, Dante calms down very quickly, and as soon as he thought he was safe from Starry, he stopped.  Well, at least he was now behind us where we wanted him.  We all trotted off to the second river crossing, and it was completely uneventful.

Kevin was now convinced that maybe Dante does act out when other horses are too close to him.  After that, both he and Grace were more careful.  I was chuckling inside.

When we crossed the river on the way home, we could see a group of three horses coming down the hill.  Kevin immediately took Dante off the trail into a large clearing alongside it, and let him watch the horses travel down the hill.  We joined him, but he warned us not to get too close.  I was chuckling inside even more.

Kevin wisely let Dante watch the whole thing.  When the horses passed us up, he quietly watched that, too.  Kevin now understands Ellen's caution.  I told Ellen that I didn't think Kevin will ever again say, "Don't worry, Dante isn't afraid of Starry," again.

In spite of all that, Kevin had a wonderful time, and he hopes that Ellen will let him ride Dante again.

Monday, June 6, 2022

Working on My Posting

Working on My Posting

Last winter, I sprained my ankle really bad.  It was so bad that months later, it still hurts when I ride, though it is gradually getting better, week by week.  It feels the worst when I post.  

I don't complain about it these days, because back in January--it really, really hurt when I posted.  Now it just hurts just a little bit.

I never missed a ride, I just did what I could.  I could feel myself going crooked, so I fought that.  Sometimes I had some trouble with my rhythm, too, because the ankle would get tired.

I got through all of that, but by the time I was trotting long distances on the trail, I found myself missing a beat, now and then.  It got me to examine my posting, and I realized that a winter in pain created a few bad habits that needed correcting.

I figured out the adjustments that needed to be made--that was the easy part.  What I am doing now is practicing and trying to form new habits.  It is so easy to get distracted when I am trail riding.  There is always something to see, and then I find myself slipping back...

As always, when it comes to posting, I need to practice it on both diagonals.

There is one good thing about practicing your riding when you are on trail--with a good horse like Cole, I can just tell him how fast I want to go, and then all I need to do is focus on what I am trying to do.  Good habits are created by repetition, and we can work on lots of repetition on the trail.

I'm glad to say that after a month of working on my posting, there are times I find that I am doing it correctly even without trying.  The new habit is forming.

We never stop learning to ride.  There are always improvements that can be made and bad habits that can be fixed.  I don't find it to be frustrating that I can never ride as well as I want to.  Instead, I find it motivating.  Learning and improving can be so much fun--and so rewarding.  I have to confess that I find myself smiling when I check my posting, and I am doing it correctly.

Ellen and the Second River Crossing

Ellen and the Second River Crossing

To be able to ride over an hour means we have to cross the river a second time--regardless of the direction we go.  Ellen is really good crossing the first river, but the second rivers have always been a problem for her.

Dante isn't afraid to cross, but he likes to stop, look around, play in the water, take a step, stop, look around, play in the water...  The longer Ellen is in the water, the more nervous she gets.  When Dante senses her nervousness, he stops, looks around, plays in the water...

Ellen doesn't always get nervous, but the whole process can be so dragged out, that it is just easier to cross on the ford.  Everyone, including Ellen, agrees that if the river is low enough to cross, it is safer than riding on the ford with the traffic, so that is really where we want to be.

The second river crossing is much deeper than the first one, and we don't like to cross it unless we can see the bottom--at least a little bit.  Consequently, there are less chances to cross it in the spring if it is rainy.  There are also days that Kevin and I can cross, but it is still too high for Ellen.

Early in May, she spent many rides just going up to the edge of it or walking in a few feet, but she just couldn't bring herself to try crossing.  Dante liked the game because he could stand, look around, play in the water...

Ellen was starting to think that I should ride him across the first few times.  I've done that before for her; including last year.  She can then practice on Cole.  There is one risk, though.  There was a day this month when the first river crossing seemed intimidating to her.  I rode Dante across for her--and then I didn't let her have him back until we turned around to go home.  She did ride Dante back across the river to get home.

One morning, the second river was very crossable, but she hadn't planned to cross.  The weather forecast was grim--rain, rain and more rain.  If she didn't cross, she wouldn't be able to try again for a while.  When we got to the river, she rode over to it to take a look.  Kevin asked me if she was going to cross, and I told him that I didn't think so.

I was wrong.  She marched right into the water.  When Dante stopped and tried to play his games, she just told him to keep going.  He kept trying, but she just insisted he cross--and he did.  Ellen triumphantly emerged from the water on the other side.  We followed on our horses and had a lovely ride on the other side.

She wanted to go first when we got back to the river on the way home.  Going home is always easier.  When she got to the other side, I could faintly hear her say, "Yee haw!"

Now we need to work on crossing the second river in the other direction.

Saturday, May 28, 2022

Starry and Dante

  Starry and Dante

Monday, May 23, 2022

Friday, May 20, 2022

Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Friday, May 13, 2022