Thursday, December 31, 2009

Trail Training Newsletter - #108 - A Happy Starry

A Happy Starry

Kevin has owned Starry D for a few years, now. He is a really good horse for Kevin. He’s friendly, gentle and usually listens well. Ellen and I have both taken him on trail rides. He has a slow walk, fast and bouncy trot and a gorgeous canter. There is only one problem. He does this “head thing.” When you go faster than a walk, he twists his head out to the side and fusses a lot.

We noticed he does it more when he is with other horses, so we thought it was a behavior thing. We used to think it was a Kevin problem, until we found out he did it with us, too. Sometimes it was worse than others. We thought it was about bugs, until he did it when there weren’t any bugs.

Kevin rode him in a snaffle, but since he needed just a little more stopping power, he switched him to a Kimberwicki. He stopped better, but he still did his “head thing.” Finally, I came to the conclusion that it was about the bit. One day, when Ellen rode him, she realized that his bit was much too tight. She loosened it. Not 10 minutes down the trail, Starry had his tongue over the bit and was acting like an idiot about it. She reluctantly tightened it up.

We tried to get Kevin to try our mechanical hackamore. Ellen got one really cheap at a used tack sale. She liked to use it on Mingo when she took him on rides. My mild 3-piece bit that I use on him only stops him when he wants to stop. It works fine for me because he nearly always wants to stop—but Ellen just felt more comfortable with something stronger.

It took a long time to convince Kevin that a mechanical hackamore has more stopping power than the bit he was using. It bothered him that there wasn’t a bit. Ellen was going to take him out for a ride by herself on a day that Kevin couldn’t get out to ride, so she took the initiative. She didn’t get to give it a good test because she ended up with some riders that only wanted to walk, but she did give it a few good tugs to make sure he wasn’t surprised by the different feel. Starry took it all in stride. He also didn’t fuss with his head a single time.

This convinced Kevin to try it. We had it all adjusted for him to make it easy. They went out on a ride and did a lot of trotting. Wouldn’t you know it—Starry went perfectly, and Kevin was one happy rider.

We aren’t sure if it was the bit that was the problem or if it was the tightness of the bridle on his poll. It could have even been both.

Kevin bought his own hackamore, and I can’t imagine him ever using a bit, again.

When you have a problem, sometimes it takes a little experimentation to find the answer.

Trail Training Newsletter - #108 - Shaping Behaviors

Shaping Behaviors

You may recall that last month Mingo developed a case of cellulitis caused by a “who really knows at this point.” At the time, we assumed it was the hoof abscess that started to drain a few days before. His leg became very swollen and painful—so painful that he didn’t want me to touch it. This was a big problem because I had to soak his hoof. I would ask him to lift his foot, and he would fly around his stall on 3 legs. I then would try to catch it with the soaking boot. It was a very bad scene. It sometimes took 10 minutes before I got the soaking boot on his foot. After soaking it, we had to repeat the whole routine to get the soaking boot off his foot.

He went to the vet clinic for all of his diagnostics and to treat the cellulitis. He came back, and a few days later he was abscess lame again. It was back to soaking and the problem was even worse—even though his leg was no longer painful to the touch. He was afraid it would hurt. As soon as I walked near that foot, he would lift up the opposite hind foot and start tapping the ground with it—putting all of his weight on the bad foot.

I learned that if I put him on a lead rope and asked him to back up and I was quick, I could catch his foot. Sometimes he would panic, and sometimes he wouldn’t. This is how I managed to soak his foot.

I really needed to solve this problem—absolutely before my farrier could come out, not to mention for Mingo and me. The following weekend, I had Ellen to help me. We decided to approach the problem using the clicker.

This is where “shaping” came in. We took Mingo out into the aisle of the barn. I stood by his leg. Of course, he started to tap the ground with the opposite foot. When he stopped and touched his toe to the ground, Ellen clicked and treated. We did this for several minutes. When I would attempt to lift his foot, it would be tap, stop, click, treat. Then, Ellen decided to up the ante. She would only click when he set the whole foot down. Once he was doing that, she clicked when I pushed him and he would put more weight on to opposite foot. When he was doing that well, she clicked at any sign of lifting his hoof. Finally, he lifted it up for us four times straight! I was so happy! This all took less than 10 minutes.

Sunday, we did the whole procedure again. This time, she moved from one phase to the next much faster.

I’m on my own on the weekdays, but since he was doing so well, I was able to do some clicking on my own. Now, I would insist I hold his foot for a little bit before I clicked. Ellen was back on Thursday to help. We trained him in 2 separate sessions that day, because the vet was coming out the next day to examine his hoof since he was lame again. By his second session, I was feeling pretty confident she wouldn’t have too much trouble.

She didn’t. At first, he did his toe tapping, so I just moved him and she caught his foot. He didn’t panic, but she told me he was shaking. She was able to pick up his foot a number of times and spent a long time looking for the hoof abscess. Unfortunately, she didn’t find it. She poulticed up his foot in hopes that it would drain on its own.

The next day, I realized I was picking up his foot with just tapping his leg. This was awesome! I did some clicking and treating, but not for every time he lifted his foot.

Two weeks later, when the vet came out to examine him again, we reviewed the routine while she was rummaging in her truck. By the time she got in to examine him, he was ready. He behaved for her beautifully.

Clicker saved the day. I’m sure he will be fine for the farrier. I actually haven’t clicked him for lifting that foot, since, and he does it very readily.

Shaping is teaching one behavior and then asking for a slightly different behavior until you get exactly what you want. You don’t need to do it with a clicker, but by using a clicker, he figured out quite quickly what I wanted. Clicker is definitely something I will be using with horses from now on!

If I wasn’t convinced that the clicker was a great tool for my training toolbox before, I am 100 percent sure of it now. By shaping Mingo’s behavior with the help of a clicker, we turned a terrible situation into a positive experience for everyone.

Ellen started clicker training Ranger that weekend…

Trail Training Newsletter #108 - Update on Mingo

Update on Mingo

We left Mingo last month with a poulticed hoof for an abscess and a bottle of antibiotics “just in case.”

Good thing I had those antibiotics. I knew that his abscess would probably get worse before it drained. I waited my 5 days, and nothing happened. That day, I took off his poultice, and then I started soaking his hoof. He started to get worse each day. He was limping and walking slower and slower. It looked like the swelling was coming back, too. By Thursday, his leg was swollen like a balloon, and he wouldn’t let me touch it, again. He was back to spinning around his stall on three legs rather than let me put his foot in his soaking boot.

I started him on the antibiotics that night and called my vet the next morning. She told me to give him a big dose of bute, keep up with the antibiotics and see what happened.

The following day, he was much better, but the swelling seemed worse. He did allow me to touch his leg, so I was able to soak it. Leading brought the swelling down some, but the following day it was back. By the third day, he was walking poorly, again. Still no abscess. I called the vet, and she said to give him another dose of bute.

Everything followed the same pattern. Three days later, he was very lame. One very odd thing happened—he starting eating his hay with gusto again. That didn’t even make any sense. Here he has a very sore foot/leg and he is eating better than ever!

The following Friday, the vet came out to see him, again. By now, she didn’t think it was an abscess. To make sure, she did a nerve block. Sure enough, he walked just as poorly after the nerve block as before. Since the bulk of the swelling was above his hock on the inside of the leg, she thought that was the source of the problem. She told me she sees leg swelling like this with horses that have broken their femur, not that she believed that was the problem, but that’s just how bad the swelling was.

She said the whole thing was bizarre.

She said to keep him on the antibiotics and give him 2 grams of bute a day to see if we could just get the swelling down. If we could get the swelling down, maybe we could determine the problem. We hand walked him each day, too.

By Monday, he was walking fast and acting goofy. Each day, the swelling went down a little bit more than the day before. Another thing happened on Monday. A bump that he had on the front of his pastern on that leg—about an inch above his coronet—burst. Yes, it was infected. By now, my head was spinning.

Now this bump showed up late last spring. I had our other vet out to see it shortly after when his leg started swelling. The vet said the bump wasn’t the problem—that he had a hoof abscess in his heel. Sure enough, the next day it started to drain, and then he was fine.

I figured this bump must be ringbone. That hoof is the one that had 2 operations for that bad abscess some years ago. Since then, the hoof has grown odd, and I figured it put strain higher up causing ringbone. I watched that bump all summer. It never was hot or caused lameness. I tried not to worry about it.

When the clinic x-rayed that foot last month, to my surprise, I could see it absolutely wasn’t ringbone. At that point I stopped worrying about it entirely. That’s why I was so surprised when it popped.

Could it have been infected all along? Could a chronic leg infection that didn’t cause lameness have made him lose all that weight? Is that why he acted so sick at the end of October? Is that why he started feeling better when they originally put him on antibiotics for the cellulitis at the clinic? Did it cause the cellulitis and the more recent swelling? Did the long-term use of antibiotics finally helped enough that he wanted to eat his hay again?

All I know for sure is we have to get this thing to heal, too.

I don’t know, and my vet doesn’t know, either. It makes sense, but what about the nerve block? Now, I am just working on healing it up. He is walking as good as ever. He is even trotting sound. We have reduced his bute but kept up the antibiotics. I will call the vet again next week to give her an update and see where we go from there. Right now, things are looking better than they have in a few months. I should have my horse back in the spring when I need him the most. We have nieces we are teaching to ride…

Trail Training Newsletter – 108

Trail Training Newsletter – 108
January 2010

Dear Readers,

December was a tough month for me due to Mingo and his mysterious illness. I haven’t spent any time out on the trail. I don’t ride Cruiser on frozen, uneven ground—must protect that tendon. We have been working in the arena. Of course, I haven’t been riding Mingo, at all. Someday…

Ranger completely recovered from his hoof abscess, and the first day Ellen got him on the trail, he was so hyper that he demonstrated his ability to buck—several times.

We have had very little snow, and on most days, the trail is frozen hard. Kevin has been riding Starry on those days, but he keeps him at a walk. We always walk our horses on frozen trail. One day, when it was slow at work, I found an old book on riding and training on the internet. I wondered if maybe we were overreacting by being cautious on the frozen ground. I wondered what people did when horses were a more important part of day-to-day life.

I skimmed through the book, and lo and behold, this author exclaimed that anyone doing fast work on frozen ground can be considered a murderer. Although he felt light trotting was okay, any more than that was out of the question.

I felt vindicated with my cautiousness. I’m sure that frozen turf has enough give in it, but our trails are hard enough in the summer. Freezing makes them even worse. Cruiser, back in the day when I would ride him on the trail when it was frozen, would trot a few steps out of exuberance—and then stop on his own because they were too hard.

Now give us a few inches of snow…

Monday, December 28, 2009

I think I got my Christmas present

Each day, Mingo is getting better. Yesterday, I took him for a walk down to the river. We did it the day before, and he really seemed to enjoy it, and he did fine with the hill. At the bottom, it is flat and level. I trotted him in hand, and he was quite sound and very enthusiastic. We went back and forth a few times, and he seemed happier each time.

The abscess on his pastern finally quit draining, too. It is just a bit seepy.

I called the vet this morning, and she said to keep him on antibiotics for 5 more days and bute every other day. At that point, we will see what happens, and then I will really know if I get my present.

I had a great ride with Cruiser in the arena, yesterday.

Tonight, the farrier is coming out.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Mingo looks good

More improvement for Mingo. After leading him last night, I set him free on the far side of the arena. On the near side is scraps of hay that fall from the loft. All through this mysterious illness, when I would do that, he would either slowly walk to the hay or try to take a fast step an nearly collapse his hindquarters from pain. It was heartbreaking.

Last night, he started walking really fast, cantered 4 strides and trotted 5 strides to the hay scraps. He grabbed a bite and then spun 180 degrees. He wandered about and then went back to the hay.

I previously trotted him on the lead rope and he seemed about 92 percent. Pretty good, I think. I believe that we just need to heal the bad sore on his pastern, and then we will be home free.

Yes, I got my Christmas present that I wanted so much. I got my Mingo back.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Mingo is Improving

What a nice feeling to be able to say that he is definitely getting better. There has been some interesting developments, but more on that later. Most of the swelling is gone. Now you really have to look for it. Yesterday, he volunteered a trot, and it looked sound. I didn't ask him for any more because we were out on the driveway, and it was pretty slippery. I made him stop and walk like a gentleman.

The vet told me to decrease the bute and keep up with the antibiotics--and see what happens next. The real test is what happens when he is on no medication at all.

This weekend, he was the best than he has been in 2 months. He's even gaining weight!

Friday, December 18, 2009

I had the vet out again last week because Mingo was getting worse. His leg was more swollen and he didn't want to walk at all. She still doesn't know what is wrong with him, but with a nerve block, ruled out a hoof abscess. She feels it is higher up in the leg where the bulk of the swelling now is. We continued with the antibiotics and put him on bute every day. I have been hand walking him. It helps with the swelling.

Overall, I would say that Mingo is doing better. We will see how he goes through the weekend. He is walking faster and with barely a limp at all. In fact, he is walking very fast—faster than he does when he is healthy. He has been bucking with the front half of his body—just out of exuberance. That is an improvement—last week he was only bucking with his head. He still isn’t bucking with his back legs. I have not tested him at a trot. His swelling is down, but there is still quite a way to go. I plan to call his vet next week to see how we should continue his treatment.

Cruiser has been very energetic. The cool weather agrees with him. I am only riding him in the indoor arena, now. Once he settles down, he is doing pretty good. I just have to work on my own skills. 9 months of trail riding has made me sloppy. Good thing for me that Cruiser is a very tolerant horse.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Got the vet out to see Mingo, again

I had the vet come out to see Mingo on Friday, and the news isn’t good. He was quite lame and swollen. She no longer thought it was a hoof abscess, but to make sure, she did a nerve block. Sure enough—it is higher in the leg—where the worst of the swelling is. She doesn’t know what the problem is. What we are going to do is continue with Bute and antibiotics for a couple of weeks to try and get the swelling down. At that point, there might be a little swelling left, and then we can examine and ultrasound that area.

With the bute, he walks pretty good, so I will be hand walking since that brings the swelling down, too. unfortunately, it comes back the next day.

His mood is good, he is eating and drinking. This is going to take time. At least it is winter and I’m not missing any good trail riding. Hopefully, he will be fine b spring.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

House Cat Tip of the Month

House Cat Tip of the Month

Want to get your cat some new toys for Christmas? You don’t have to buy the expensive toys at the pet store. Try going to a craft store. My sister bought her cat, Stormy, a whole bag of puffy toys for the cost of a couple at the pet store. Now, when he isn’t pressing the buttons on the radio or stalking her dog, he is tossing around his puffy toys.

Thunder prefers cranberries. If you buy fresh cranberries this month, toss one to your cat. Thunder plays and plays with cranberries. Stormy made a face and walked away. Ellen’s dog ate it.

Mingo Revisited

Mingo Revisited

Mingo seemed to be feeling much better. I soaked his hoof for 8 days—so long that he contracted a fine case of mud fever. I weaned him off the banding, but there was still some swelling all the way up his leg. He was once again playful and interactive. He still wasn’t eating his hay with vigor, though, and he walked stiffly on that leg. These two things were really troubling me. He didn’t want to trot. Finally, I forced the issue and made him trot—serious lameness. Could it be the abscess? Could he have hurt himself while we struggled with the soaking boot? What about those nasty moments during loading? And what about that gash in his hip that he got after he came home. Did he get cast and hurt himself? I couldn’t tell. It was time to call the vet about the leg. I wanted her to check Mingo’s teeth, too.

I called on Tuesday, but she couldn’t get out until Friday, which was the day after Thanksgiving. I was off that day, so it worked out well. On Thanksgiving, Ellen and I went out for a ride on Cruiser and Ranger. It was a beautiful day, which was really a treat, for often the weather is miserable by now. Our happiness was cut short when Ranger came up lame. Now, it didn’t matter what the weather was like, we both felt terrible. She led him home. By now, his limp was very prominent.

The good news? The vet was coming to see Mingo the next day, anyway.

We got to the barn mid morning. While we were waiting for the phone call from the vet’s office, we cleaned stalls and I rode Cruiser on the hill. We got back to the barn and found out the vet would be there in 45 minutes. Good—time for lunch. We dashed out to a nearby fast food place. The conversation was pretty depressing.

By now, we could tell that Ranger may have an abscess, too. He didn’t want to put any weight on his sore foot. We had the vet look at him, first. She agreed, and started testing his foot and digging. It took her a bit to find the abscess. Oddly, he was most sensitive on him toe, but the actual abscess was on the bar of his hoof. She kept digging and digging. Finally, I saw a bit a gray seep though. We hit the jackpot. Soon, it was dripping down his hoof. She poulticed his foot, and we were smiling. It was just an ordinary abscess.

There is nothing ever ordinary with Mingo. He walked stiffly and could put full weight on his foot comfortably. When she saw him trot, she said it looked like an abscess to her.

She dug and dug and dug—nothing. As I suspected, this was a very deep abscess that she couldn’t get to. She finally quit. I could tell she was discouraged, too. I was so hoping we could get this draining out the bottom. Since I had gotten it to drain from his heel with soaking, we hoped to get it to drain there, again. We went with the poultice for him, too. Not only does my vet feel it works better, but it wouldn’t contribute to his mud fever like soaking would.

She floated his teeth. They weren’t terribly bad—not bad enough to cause his weight loss. He did have some sores on the inside of his mouth from his teeth, though, and that might be why he wasn’t as enthusiastic about his hay. Time will tell. He needs a few days for his mouth to heal.

Our biggest worry was that his leg would swell like a balloon, again and develop cellulitis. She gave me a bottle of antibiotics to only use if it came back. It is now Monday, and his leg is no worse than before. He will voluntarily walk fast and sound, but I haven’t checked him at the trot, yet. On Wednesday, I will take the poultice off and see how he is. Ranger is doing great. You would never know he even had a problem except for the vetwrap on his hoof.

I’m hoping to have good news for you next month.

All I want for Christmas is my horse back.

My Little Mingo

My Little Mingo

I mentioned in last month’s newsletter that Mingo was suffering some health problems. Here is the whole story.

Mingo hadn’t seemed like himself. He had lost some weight, and there were days that he seemed so out of sorts. I also noticed that he wasn’t finishing his hay all at once. He would eat half of it and then take a nap. Later, he would finish it off. In fact, it seemed like he was sleeping all the time. Sometimes he would be laying down, and sometimes he would stand in his corner to rest.

Just about the time I was really getting uneasy about the change in his behavior, the vet came out to give him fall shots. She hadn’t seen him since the spring and was shocked at how much weight he had lost. She had me lead him around, and she watched how he moved. She took his temperature, and it was 99 degrees—slightly high. She suggested a blood work.

She was concerned about EPM, kidney disease, internal infections and tumors. She suggested Cushing’s Disease, but his coat had been growing normal, and he was a little on the young side for it. He also had four hoof abscesses back in May and June, (one in each foot) and this was possible a symptom of something.

So, then I waited and waited an incredibly long 2 days for the blood results. Thanks to the internet, I learned I didn’t want him to have EPM, and that kidney disease is often fatal. Needless to say, I was worried.

The test results showed on increased fibriginidin (sign of swelling) and low albumin (not absorbing protein.) She suggested what every non-trailer owning person fears—taking him to a clinic for further diagnostics.

Ugh. I made arrangements for the following week. That evening, the farrier came out to take care of our horses. To my horror, one of Mingo’s legs was swollen. My first suspicion was a hoof abscess. I told my farrier to look for one, but he didn’t find any sign. His pastern on that foot had been stocking up for some time, but it would go away in a few minutes with exercise. This was much worse, but he showed no signs of pain in the leg. Since he was going to the vet, I decided to wait until then.

Back to the Internet. From his blood work, it sounded like he might have an internal abscess. It made sense. He might have something that was causing abscesses all over him. I knew that the specialist planned to do an abdominal ultrasound as well and a body tap. I was sure that she would be checking for one. An internal abscess could be serious, and I was worried. It could burst any moment, and he would be dead. New worries. I was waiting for the phone call from the barn with bad news.

He still wasn’t eating enthusiastically, was more lethargic and the leg was more swollen. He wasn’t lame on it. I would lead him around, and he moved fine. A couple days before he was supposed to go, I was leading him and stooped down to look at it. He didn’t want me to touch his leg. He pulled it away violently. I did feel the heel—it was wet—and it smelled of a burst abscess! It must have been very deep for my farrier not to detect it, and for it to not make him dead lame. (This has happened before with heel abscesses—very little lameness.) That explained the swelling, too.

I brought him back to the barn and heated up some water. It was a struggle to get his soaking boot on. He flew all about stall—this wasn’t normal.

I called my vet the next morning and told her what happened. I wanted to know if the abscess was the cause of the problem or a symptom. She thought it was a symptom. It would explain the fever and the high fibriginidin, but not the weight loss and lethargy. She said to continue with my plan.

The next morning, the trailer arrived. I wanted to soak his foot that morning, but I just couldn’t get the soaking boot on. His leg really bothered him. Loading him took about 15 minutes, but he traveled well.

The vet examined him—said his leg had cellulitis and she wanted to keep him. I reluctantly said yes. She was particularly concerned that he might have Equine Motor Neuron Disease. (EMND) It happens to middle-aged horses that don’t have access to pasture. One of the factors is vitamin E deficiency, and it is treated with supplements. She noted that sleeping when he should be eating hay, lethargy and rapid weight loss along the topline (like his) are the main symptoms. She would check for other problems, too, while she had him.

I went home without him and without any answers. That evening, she called to say he was resting well. They had the leg wrapped and were giving him IV antibiotics. They had done a full rectal and a few other things, and all came in negative. They still had tests to run.

She called me the next morning to tell me all the other tests were negative, and that they did the biopsy and Vitamin E/selenium test. They would get the results on that the following week.

That evening, she called to tell me the leg swelling was already down 90 percent, and I should be able to get him on the weekend.

Back to the Internet. EMND is a serious, but very rare disease. It is the horse version of ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease.) He did have most of the symptoms, and it made so much sense. I was miserable. It is sometimes fatal and often the horse doesn’t make a complete recovery.

I was able to get him on Saturday. He had been traumatized. Poor little guy was afraid to come out of the stall at the clinic. We had to tranquilize him and even then, we had to back him out of the door with much difficulty. Getting him in the trailer wasn’t much better. It was an awful experience. Those of you who are lucky enough to have your own trailers don’t realize your good fortune. Not only can you practice loading, you can take your horses to enjoyable places—instead of only to the hospital.

Once he got home, he was eager to get back to his stall. All the horses and his girlfriend, Katie the Mule, called out to him. I had my horse back, a big bill and no answers.

He was no better than before we went to the clinic—still lethargic, uninterested in his hay and very tired.

Monday night, I took the bandage off his leg as instructed. It looked good. The next morning, I had a vacation day. My most wonderful boyfriend bought me a ticket to the Bruce Springsteen concert for that day. I was going with his daughters—both Springsteen nuts, just like me. I have been a fan since Junior High School when we used to sign his albums out at the library.

It was not to be a happy day. Mingo’s leg was all swollen up, again. Ellen and I took the other horses for a ride. When I got back, I called the vet and waited for a response. I didn’t get any. I decided to lead him about, and the way he reluctantly placed him foot on the ground told me the whole story. I realized he had the abscess back in his hoof. I struggled with the soaking boot and gave it a good soak. When I was done, I led him, and he walked fine. I had gotten the abscess draining, again.

The vet did call when we were in the restaurant before the concert. She told me that the leg had been depending on the bandage, and I would have to re-bandage it and wean him off of the bandage. It wasn’t the cellulitis returning. I started to relax a bit, and I really enjoyed the concert. It was the best I had ever seen Springsteen perform.

I still had worries. I was waiting for the EMND test, and he was still out of sorts. Getting the soaking boot on and off was a trial, too. I was resigned he had the disease—until I remembered she was checking his selenium levels. Back to the Internet. It turns out the selenium deficiency can cause some of the problems that he is experiencing. Well, that would be better than EMND.

Finally, she had the results, and they were negative. I was very much in shock at the good news. We discussed how to get the weight back on him. I asked her what caused the weight loss. She told me that I’d be surprised how fast a horse can lose weight when he has an infection and chronic pain. It was the hoof abscess all along. It must have been going on for some time. They x-rayed his feet, and suggested putting on shoes with pads—, which we will do—but right now, we are working on getting him to left his foot up readily.

This went on for two and a half very long weeks. I wasn’t eating well, either, because I was so worried. I figured we had, at minimum, a chronic, if not fatal problem. Rather, we had the same old problem. I hope shoes will help with the abscessing. It sure is worth a try.

The moral of the story—don’t worry until you know what you have to worry about. It is so hard for me to not stress out over those I love—whether they have two legs for four. I will try to be more logical, next time.

Yeah right—that’s like telling me not to like Bruce Springsteen.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Weekend update

We had a good weekend. Unfortunately, the day my niece came out to ride, we couldn’t cross the river—way too high. We did the hill 3 times. She still had fun. Since we had some extra time, we taught her a little about ground work and leading. She practiced on Mingo and Ranger. We then took her on a long hike and out to lunch at Burger King.

Sunday we were able to cross, and my sister and I had a very nice ride. I rode Mingo wioth my sister on Ranger and then took Cruiser out by himself. All the horses and people were so glad to get across. We have been doing the hill all week because of the rain.

We have a 4-day weekend coming up, and we just can’t wait! My boyfriend agreed to let us have Starry on one day for a long ride with Mingo. We had such a good time with them last time, we wanted to do it again.

Friday, October 2, 2009

House Cat Tip of the Month

House Cat Tip of the Month

Indoor cats love to play with outdoor toys. I had a cat who loved to chase acorns, but Thunder wasn’t impressed with them. When I saw one of the barn cats playing with a buckeye, I thought I would bring one home for Thunder. I set it down near his toys to play with later, but I never got the chance. The next time I saw it, it was shredded. Pollie, our dog found it. So much for that idea.

I gave him a tiny summer squash, and he was having fun batting it around. I warned him to watch out for Pollie, but when I glanced over, I realized I was too late. He was looking at the bare floor, bewildered, and I could see the dog in the other room eating the squash.

My sister’s cat likes small sticks, but her dog will sometimes take them away. The cat and dog sometimes play tug-o-war with them, but the dog always wins.

Thunder does like to play with green beans. His favorite beans are the Chinese Yard Long beans that I grew this year. They are about 2 feet long. Kevin’s cats think that these long beans are great, too. My sister’s cat likes normal green beans. She puts one at the end of a stick for him to follow around. The best thing about green bean? Dogs hate them.

Adventures in Clicker Training

Adventures in Clicker Training

As I have mentioned in previous newsletters, I have been playing around with clicker training with Mingo. He now goes down the first riverbank like a normal horse instead of molasses in January. I only click him for it once every couple of weeks or so when I remember to bring him a treat. I haven’t tried him on the river ford for quite a while, but I have a feeling that when I do, he will go as confidently as he did in the spring when I worked with him with the clicker.

Our new project does not involve the trail. With the shorter evenings, I am taking Cruiser on trail rides and riding Mingo in the big outdoor arena. I like working out there, though I only do it for a few months in the fall. It is too wet and sloppy in the winter, so I use the indoor arena in the inclement weather.

My main project that I decided to work on with the clicker is improving our walk/trot transitions. He is fine out on the trail, but in the arena, he feels that trotting is optional. This is something I have struggled with him, forever. When he does trot, often he only trots with his front legs and walks with his hind legs. Finally, towards the end of the session, he would give in and start to work. By then, I would be worn out, and we would quit for the day. It is all so frustrating. Last winter, he had me convinced there was something physically wrong with him—until we started riding on the trail in the spring, and he transformed into a regular dynamo for the first month.

We worked a little with clicker transitions on the trail. I would ask him to trot, he would, I would click, he would stop and I would give him a tiny piece of carrot. Sometimes, I use green beans from my garden. It worked fine on the trail, but then again, I seldom have trouble getting him to trot on the trail.

To make things easier for me, I trained him to understand a click noise I made with my tongue. I switched, not so much, because it is that hard to use a clicker while riding, but because it was so hard to remember to bring the clicker with me on the rides! It took only a couple tries, and he knew the tongue click.

Our first venture into the outdoor arena went very well, and I was so excited. At first, I clicked for a transition. When he was doing that well, I had him trot a little before clicking. I gradually increased the distance that we trotted and finally only clicked when he trotted well. Towards the end of the ride, he was going so fast that I was sure we had made a breakthrough.

The next week, he was back to his old self in the arena. I realized that the first time, he was probably just excited to be in the arena after many months on trail. I tried doing what I did the previous training session, but it didn’t make much difference. It was like it always was—it was only towards the end of the ride that he promptly went into the trot and trotted well.

This happened ride after ride, and honestly, I was getting discouraged. We were on our seventh ride. I led him along the perimeter of the arena, and he walked with enthusiasm. This is a rare thing with Mingo at any time; let alone in the arena. This has happened a few times before with him, and I knew something was up. He had something on his mind.

I mounted and started warming him up at a walk. He continued to go fairly fast. I asked him to trot—nothing. I asked him more vigorously, and he gave me a halfhearted trot. It was something, so I clicked. I asked him again—a little better. One more time, and we had it.

We spent the session working on our trotting, and overall he did very well. We practiced transitions and then went to practicing the trot. He gave me a lot of steady, consistent trotting. He wasn’t perfect, but when he didn’t get it right, he didn’t get a click. I think this may work, after all.

I know that I will be able to fade the clicker out—just as I did with the riverbank, so that isn’t a worry. In the end, I think he will realize that even if he doesn’t get a treat all the time, just trotting along without me constantly urging him on is much more pleasant than what we have been doing. Once he is consistent, we will move on to other things—like trotting a whole circle without stopping. What a novel idea. The rides will become more fun for both of us. He is going to love working on canter transitions. (He loves to canter!) Maybe we will finally get out of kindergarten—at the age of 14. Come to think of it, Cruiser was about 14 when we started to do really well in the ring.

Our next training session worked out about the same. There was no improvement, but he didn’t get any worse, either. Our last training session took place out on the trail. He did very well, but he always does better on the trail. Once he started doing well with the transitions, I started clicking for high quality trotting. When we got to his favorite section to canter, he wouldn’t. He only wanted to trot. Could it be because he figured he’d get a click for trotting? I’m not sure, but I didn’t make an issue of it. It will be interesting to see if his highly successful trail ride will influence his next training session in the arena.

My hopes will be that we will learn a lot this winter. I predict, if that happens, in the spring I will vow to continue working with him in the arena through the summer so we don’t lose anything that we gained. I also predict that I will ride him on the trail all summer—like I always do, and then we will have to start all over in the fall.

I will keep you updated on our progress…

Riding with Our Niece

Riding with Our Niece

After a break of three weeks, we found ourselves riding with our youngest niece, again. It was the most perfect September morning. Fortunately, she remembered everything we taught her. She saddled and bridled Ranger with no trouble, and we were off.

Little does she know that we carefully plan ahead of time everything we are going to do with her on the ride. We were determined to get some good cantering in. The last few weeks, we had been practicing cantering Cruiser and Ranger together to reinforce good manners. The last thing we needed was for the horses to decide they were going to go on a race. Mingo, well, he is not a problem. Ellen hasn’t been able to get him to canter for her in years, which is weird, because he loves to canter with me.

We got to our favorite section of trail to canter. It is so suitable for cantering that we call it “The Canter Stretch.” We didn’t start cantering at the beginning of it, because that is what we call ”The Trigger Point.” They get so excited there that they tend to just take off flying down the trail. We don’t mind, ourselves, but we wanted a positive experience for our niece.

When we got to a good spot of the trail and the horses seemed to be in the right frame of mind, I warned my niece, and asked Cruiser to canter. He went into a quiet canter just behind Ranger. He slowly started to pass Ranger, and I told my niece to ask him to canter.

He went into the most perfect canter—not too fast—not too slow. After a bit, I brought Cruiser down to a trot so he wouldn’t encourage Ranger to speed up, and we traveled along the trail as happy as could be.

At the end of it, where we had to stop for the river, we waited for Ellen on Mingo. We saw them trotting around the corner. Ellen said she gave him a clear cue to canter twice, but he said he preferred to trot. Maybe next time…

We met our goal, but we still planned to ride on. The next section of trail is one I love to ride on, but Ranger tends to be a little spooky. We got to a good place to start trotting. Now, for some reason, Mingo thinks this is a fun trail—could it be because I usually canter here with him when I ride by myself? Well, once we started trotting, Mingo felt he should be in the lead. Ranger thought that was wrong, very wrong. He charged forward and did a couple “kitten bucks.” We call them “kitten bucks” because they are very tiny, but since they are usually without warning and actually quite jarring, they can be bad news.

I watched as my niece braced herself on Ranger’s neck so she wouldn’t fall off, and then, as he surged forward at a canter, she shortened the reins and told him to trot. The crisis was over, and all was well. We stopped all the horses, put Mingo in the back where he belonged and trotted on with Ranger in the lead.

Our niece certainly had something to be proud of. It was Ranger’s kitten bucks that threw her older sister off a few months ago. She did great by staying on.

She instinctively handled the problem correctly. We told her the only other thing she should have done was warn us that she was having a problem. That way, we could have stopped our horses to help diffuse the situation. As it was, I saw what was happening and warned Ellen. We did explain that if she was riding a real buck, like the ones that Mingo does in the spring, her first response should be to pull the reins up to keep his head from getting low. Low head means high buck—and possibly multiple bucks. Doing that with Ranger when he was doing his kitten bucks would have made him buck more. He needed to go forward. The faster a horse goes, the smaller the buck.

We had no other incidents. On the last stretch of trail before turning home, she was trotting on in the lead. Mingo was keeping up, and I pointed out to Ellen the way that our niece was posting. Her timing was beautiful—it was the best posting she’s ever done.

We walked most of the way home. At one point, we optimistically tried to trot, but the group dynamics weren’t working, so we went back to a walk. Our niece is learning a lot about herd dynamics and horse behavior—a very important lesson for a trail rider.

We all celebrated the great ride at Taco Bell.

A week later, Ellen had a revelation. She figured out why Mingo wasn’t cantering for her. She knew he wanted to, and he was ready—he just didn’t. When she rides Ranger, she just tells him to go faster and he goes into a canter—usually on the right lead. She just doesn’t worry about leads on the trail. I do, and I will always tell my horses which lead I want. Poor little Mingo—he was simply waiting for her to tell him which lead he should take! Since Ellen didn’t squeeze with one of her legs, like I do, Mingo figured she just wanted to trot, so he did.


Most of September was filled with gorgeous weather and great riding. Sure, it was a little warm for horses with their winter coats, but at least we stayed dry. That ended last weekend, when we went into monsoon season. Of course, we got caught in the rain, again. It was a bad one, and my boots were wet for days…

We had two long weekends this month. On one of the days, we took Mingo out with Kevin’s horse, Starry and a longer ride than we typically go with them. They are both such slow horses that it never occurred to us before, but since we were off from work, we had a lot of time. We had so much fun on our ride.

Ellen has been working with Starry on his canter whenever she gets a chance. (Kevin’s back bothers him when he canters, so he seldom does it.) The trail we took that day has many good places to canter, so we took advantage of it. We put Starry in the lead and put a lot of space between the two horses so Mingo wouldn’t challenge him. At first, he seemed confused with the whole process. She did a number of sloppy transitions, and then he didn’t go very far before coming down to a trot. She stopped and let us catch up with them, and we took a little walk break.

Starry was excited from the cantering. His whole attitude changed. Ellen thought it might be a good time to try again. He understood perfectly this time and went right into the canter. He still had trouble with duration, though.

Later, on the way home, we were trotting, and Starry wasn’t paying attention. He slowed down to a walk and Mingo got too far ahead. Ellen asked him to trot on, and he demonstrated a perfect canter transition. Of course, she didn’t let him work on duration, this time, and brought him back down to a trot, but it shows that he may have learned his lesson.

We enjoyed our ride together so much, that we already asked if we could have Starry back for our next long weekend. Kevin agreed, so now we just have to hope that the rain will stop by then!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Mingo's boo boo

My horses make me worry, so much. Last week, Mingo had a big sore on his face. It looked like he scraped it. It didn’t look too bad, so I didn’t worry about it. A few days later, he started itching at it so much, I figured it was a bug bite. Then, it got infected. It swelled up more, and blood and goo just kept draining and draining. We were washing his face at least 2 times a day. I was ready to call the vet.

This happened last year on his neck, and it healed up without a vet—but it sure was ugly.

The evening I decided to call the vet, I went out to check him first, and it was a little better. There was a little less swelling, and it was draining less—but still continually draining. I decided to wait one more day.

Well, I went out yesterday, and couldn’t believe the difference! It stopped draining, had a scab and the swelling was less by half. What a difference a day made. All that worrying and fretting for naught. I’m sure other people would have looked at it, shrugged and said it would be fine in a few days and not worried. I wish I could be more like that. But they are my babies!

Maybe his curse is over, now. This started before I did my good deed at my aunt’s. Maybe she decided to remove the pin from the head of the black horse voodoo doll.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Going back to the past

I had a strange thing happen to me this weekend. I will try to give you some of the background.

Years ago, I kept my horse at my aunt’s barn. She has a rental stables. I trained one of her horses for her, and in exchange for my work, she allowed me to breed her. That is how I got Mingo. Right about weaning time, she offered to buy him, and I turned her down. The following week, she kicked us out of her stables. We don’t know why, for sure, but I always felt she was upset she didn’t get Mingo.

Since then, we have returned to speaking terms, but we try to avoid contact with her. We simply don’t’ trust her and don’t like her. Life is too short to spend time with people you don’t trust—even if they are family.

She is a self-professed witch. I’m not kidding. We always joked that all of Mingo’s hoof abscesses were caused by her—that she had a black horse voodoo doll, and she stuck pins into it’s feet. The last 2 abscesses that he got at the same time in different feet happened just a couple days after my boyfriend talked to her at the horse show and told her I was out riding Mingo. Coincidence? Even we were starting to believe our running joke.

She still does rentals. Yesterday, I was riding when I saw a fellow that works there. He’s the same guy we saw all the motorcycles with last month. Over the years, he has become a friend. He is still fairly new at horses. He used to rent out a horse every week, but now he takes out the trail rides and cleans stalls in exchange for riding privileges. This man loves horses so much.

He asked me if I would do him a favor. There was an unplanned trail ride at noon, and he was by himself. He had to use a horse that they don’t use often, and he has a horrible time bridling him. He asked if I would come over and help.

How could I say no? I didn’t want to step a foot on her property and certainly didn’t want to see her! Still, when I finished my ride, I drove over. I hid in the barn which is behind the house by a few hundred feet. My aunt is so unpredictable. She could come out screaming or welcome me like a long-lost relative.

He was finishing the saddling and was waiting for the customers to arrive. I helped him bridle the horses, and then we got to the problem horse. I was going to bridle him in his stall. Sure enough, as soon as I got the reins over his head, the horse spun wildly about the stall. I got him in a corner, and he stood quietly. I tried to bridle him, and he did fuss about, but within 30 seconds, I had the bit lined up with his lips, stuck my thumb into his mouth and had success. I slipped him a peppermint to make it a nicer experience.

My friend was in awe. Fortunately, Mingo will give me trouble at times if he wants to eat his hay and I want to bridle him. This horse was no worse than Mingo on a bad day (except for the spinning.)

I had to help get the horses down the drive, as the last horse in line liked to turn and go home. This meant walking right past the house. I hoped I wouldn’t see my aunt. I held my breath and made it through. Probably she knew I was there and wanted to avoid me, too. They left, I hopped in my car and got out as fast as I could!

The place has become so rundown, that I was ashamed of it. Boards off fences, boards missing in the stalls, holes in the walls…I did see Mingo’s mother. She has really aged. She is the same age as Cruiser, but looks so much older. I think Cruiser looks so good because I have always kept him in top shape. She acted like her old self, though, and completely ignored me. She never had much personality—something Mingo more than made up for. If Mingo had her personality, I don’t think I would have kept him. He loves people and seems to prefer them to horses, at times.

All the horses looked fat and healthy, at least.

I am hoping that if there is a curse on my little Mingo, that my good deed was enough to break it. Believe me, it was as very hard thing for me to do, to go back…

Monday, July 13, 2009

Rainy ride

Well, my sister and I were determined to ride. The weather forecast was for thunderstorms at 11:00. That gave us 2 hours and 20 minutes. We decided we would ride an hour and turn around and come home. At the 59-minute mark, we heard thunder. We immediately turned around. Ten minutes later, it started pouring. When it got real bad, we took shelter in a picnic pavilion. (Don’t tell the rangers.) It eased up, and we headed home. By the time we walked down the driveway, it was just a drizzle.

The good news? We weren’t in the barn 5 minutes before it really started to pour! Even though we couldn’t get much wetter than we already were, we were relieved that we missed the worst of the storm.

Cruiser got wet—Mingo got the day off.

The weather Sunday was beautiful, but my sister had to work and I rode by myself. I took both horses for a nice ride, but I sure did miss my sister.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Horse Books

Here is a new link I am adding to my website. It is for Sharon's Corner Bookstore. On it, you will find a list of horse books for all ages—both fiction and non-fiction. What makes this site special, is that they feature small publisher and independently published books (like mine) that you may overlook at the big retailers. Sharon doesn’t sell the books. She set up her website just to help authors and readers connect. She directs you to the authors’ websites where you can get more information.

Our Other New Apprentice

Our Other New Apprentice

Our older niece, Sarah, was able to come out with me for her first “real trail ride.” Originally, she was supposed to ride Mingo, but due to a hoof abscess, she had to ride Ranger. The biggest difference between Mingo and Ranger is Ranger you must post his trot, and with Mingo, it isn’t necessary. I decided this would be a perfect opportunity to teach Sarah to post. I e-mailed her the following instructions to read beforehand:

How to Post

Posting is the most wonderful riding invention since the stirrups. If my memory is correct, it was discovered by the boys who would ride postillion. Back, many, many years ago when there were carriages with four and six horse teams, they would have a boy ride one of the horses as well as a driver driving the team. These horses didn’t do the slow cow horse jog. They did a fast ground-traveling trot. Some anonymous genius discovered that if you rise up and down with the beat of the horse it turned from misery to comfort.

When you ride a horse with a bouncy trot, the bounce is not caused by the step up into the air, but when your horse’s body comes back down. On a speedy or big stepping horse, the body goes down faster than you do and you bounce when you hit the saddle. To make matters worse, the horse’s body goes down on one side first and then the other side. This leaves you flying all over the saddle. Not fun for you or the horse.

Posting is like dancing. In the beginning, your horse leads and you follow. Later, as you get better, you will dance in time with him. When you get really good, you can lead and your horse will follow you!

As you start to trot, your horse will lift you up into the air. You need to time it so you stay up in the air a beat as his body travels down. This way, you miss a bounce. He will come back up to get you. You will follow him back down in perfect timing—so you miss the next bounce, too. Immediately, he will bring you back up and it will start all over again. It is really tough at first—like riding a bike.

Once you learn it, you will never forget it—like riding a bike. You’ll know when you get it right—it will just feel right. Once you know the feeling—just keep trying to find that feeling again. At first, you may only get one or two beats, but before you know it, you will be able to post for miles effortlessly.

With a smooth horse, like Mingo, you don’t need to post at all. You just follow his body with your body as if you were connected with Velcro. It is very hard to learn to post on a horse like him because he doesn’t give you much lift. Once you learn, you will find it possible to post on him or any other horse.

The Ride

Just as we had done with her sister, I taught Sarah to saddle and bridle both horses—then down the trail we went.

We rode down the hill, crossed the river and trotted a short section of trail. I was in the lead, so I couldn’t see what was going on. When Sarah caught up with me, I found out that she had no success with posting. We walked over a rough section of trail that gave her a chance to rest. We tried another short section of trail, and she said she got a few beats.

The next section of trail was longer. Once again, I was in the lead. I didn’t realize that Cruiser got so far ahead of Ranger until I glanced back to see him cantering! Well, Sarah said she was posting until he started to do “something funny.” I knew success was in our reach.

The last section of trail that we planned to trot is a long one, and by the time we got to the end of it, Sarah was happily posting along. We walked back to the beginning of the section and did it again for practice.

I wanted her to do a little bit of cantering to take the mystery out of it. We tried the section a third time. It didn’t work with me following, so I took the lead and cantered—hoping Ranger would follow suit. Then I heard the yell, looked behind and saw Sarah tumbling off the saddle right into a nice, soft area off the trail. Ranger gave a little buck and away she went. At 5’10”, all I saw were arms and legs. She was on her feet in no time, and I told her to grab Ranger. She was unhurt, thankfully. I had her walk Ranger for a few minutes until she relaxed a little. She mounted back up, and we had an uneventful trip back to the barn.

Good news—even though I made her lead Mingo for 20 minutes (always a challenge for the uninitiated) and then clean 12 feet, she still wants to come out and ride again.

Clicker Training Mingo

Clicker Training Mingo

Last month, I wrote about clicker training my cat, Thunder. I was having so much fun with Thunder; I thought I would experiment with Mingo. (Cruiser is very limited with treats, so he was out of the question.) I bought a good book on clicker training horses, and I worked up my plan.

Clicker training is based on 100% positive reinforcement. When a horse does something you want him to do, he gets a reward—usually in the form of a treat. The beauty of the clicker is that you click at the very moment of the correct behavior. This makes rewarding your horse clear and consistent—something that is incredibly important with horses. Let’s say that you want your horse to step over a log, and decided to give him a reward when he did. If you stop and give him a treat after he steps over the log, he may not understand why he is getting the treat. It may be because he stepped over the log, but it might be because he stopped or because he is standing still. See where the confusion lies? With a clicker, you can click as your horse is stepping over the log. Once he hears the click, he knows he will get a treat, so the reward is clearly for stepping over the log.

A trainer can clicker train a horse from the start to the finish of his career. It applies to tricks, groundwork and riding. It sounded like intense clicker training would be good for winter training, but this is trail-riding season here in Ohio. I wasn’t about to spend a lot of time in the arena, right now.

From working with Thunder, I knew that clicker training could work for isolated behaviors, too. I chose a few projects to work on that would help us with our trail riding. I wanted to teach “walk faster” and its corollary “walk down the river bank faster.” I also wanted to reinforce confident walking over the river ford.

The first thing to teach Mingo was that the clicker meant “Good boy.” It took about 5 minutes. The book suggested using a cone, but I decided a hammer would be better. I didn’t want him acting silly around cones. As he stood in his stall, I held the hammer out. Being naturally curious, he touched it with his nose. I clicked and gave him a treat. We practiced this. If he touched my hand—nothing. He had to touch the hammer. Eventually, he would touch the hammer wherever I stood. When I clicked, he turned his attention to me and waited for his treat. Finally, I would throw the hammer on the floor, and he would walk over and touch it. Mingo is an equine genius.

As he had a hoof abscess at this time that required hand walking, my next step was to teach him “walk faster.” It only took one session—even with a sore foot. I would cluck my tongue, tug the rope, he would speed up and I would click and treat. He was even trying to trot. I didn’t click for that. Before I knew it, the tongue cluck was all he needed to speed up. A miracle.

When his hoof healed up enough to take him for a walk down to the river, I practiced on the hill, and then we did the riverbank. Several years ago, the riverbank washed out resulting in very deep mud. He hated the mud, and got in the habit of walking very, very slowly down the bank. When the park fixed the bank, there was nothing I could do to get him to go down it faster. Once he decides something should be done slow, it is so hard to convince him otherwise.

Clicker training works best if you break the project down into small steps. (Mingo is good at small steps!) He has always been reluctant to take the first step down the bank. As I led him down a couple steps, I clicked and treated. We went a few more steps and I did the same. I also clicked at the bottom. I turned him around, brought him up and did it again. By the third trip, he knew just what I wanted.

At my next opportunity to ride him, I rode him down the bank several times. When you ride a horse and click, he will stop and wait for his treat. After a few times, when he was walking quickly every time I asked him to step further down the bank, I decided to click him at the bottom only. He was ready to walk quickly down the bank. It was another miracle.

Since I didn’t want to give him a treat every time we went down the riverbank, I phased the clicker out. I did give him verbal praise, and I wouldn’t let him stop and wait for the treat. This was a couple of months ago. I now only give him a click and treat maybe once a week when he goes down the bank, but it is enough. His old habit was changed and a new habit is in its place. He now walks down the bank at the speed of a normal horse without me even asking.

I had one more project—the river ford. When he was just a colt, we had an incident on the river ford where he got scared and hurt. To make the long story short, he didn’t want to cross any of the fords. I retrained him, and it worked for a couple years—then he quit, again. It took a couple more years for me to convince him it was safe, he did well, and last year, in a rainstorm, we tried to cross one of the fords and he refused. The next week, on a dry day, he refused again. He still crossed the other fords, but I realized how shaky his confidence was. He could refuse anytime, and then it would be back to square one. All spring, we had been crossing one of the fords by following other horses, and he was doing well, but I wasn’t sure if I wanted to try by myself. This is where clicker came in.

I went out for a ride on my own. When I got to the river ford, I dismounted (it is easier to give him a treat, and I knew he would be more willing if he followed me.) His trouble spot is a line where the black top pavement changes to cement. He thinks it might be a sheer drop off into the middle of nowhere. There is one on each side, of course. I clicked on the approach, clicked when he stepped over the line, clicked in the center and clicked when he crossed over the second line. We repeated the process on the way home, too. Every ride that I did this on, he was more confident and willing to cross the ford—even if he wasn’t following another horse.

Next time I am riding and the fords are closed allowing us to cross but not cars, I will go back to the one that he absolutely refuses to cross, and we will have another training session. I will let you know how it goes. It should be better since he has a reason to “walk,” “walk faster” and “walk over the line.”

Clickers can be purchased for a few dollars at many pet stores. I got mine at Pet Supplies Plus. You can use them with any animal. I now see the clicker as another tool in my toolbox to solve problems. Besides, it is a lot of fun seeing the animals figure things out and do them because they want to—not because they have to.

It was a Quiet Sunday Morning

It was a Quiet Sunday Morning

One Sunday last month, Ellen and I went on a ride up to the public show ring. We don’t ride in the ring—just all about the trails up there. The horses love the ride, since we used to board them close by, and their enthusiasm is overwhelming. We like it, too, and try to go there once a week.

It was a totally successful and enjoyable ride. We were on our way home, when I heard Ellen say, “Uh oh.” This is never a good thing to hear on a ride. We happened to be on the Lagoon trail. It is right out in the open and just a few feet from the street. On the opposite side of the trail is a rock wall with the river below.

As I glanced behind me, I saw a couple police cars with their lights flashing. My first fear was that they would turn on their sirens. We turned the horses around to face the cars. Horses are less likely to bolt if they are facing the monster. That is when we saw the motorcycles coming around the corner, and remembered there was a motorcycle rally that was going through the park that day. We were at the absolutely worst place we could be.

Ranger and Mingo’s heads were up, and they were very tense. The motorcycles were coming down the street, and there was no end in sight. Ellen started walking Ranger towards them, and we followed. This seemed to help. Just when things seemed like they couldn’t get worse, one the bikers got the idea in his head to honk and wave to us. Then they all started honking and waving!

We stopped the horses right before the trail goes into the trees. Since the trail still follows the road, the trees would have obscured the bikes, but wouldn’t have taken us away from them. We thought that would be worse. As the motorcycles passed us, two by two, we just sat there on our horses, half heartedly waving back with fake smiles pasted on our faces.

Before we even saw the motorcycles, we had seen a friend of ours, Dave, down the trail coming towards us. He was soon by our side. He said that his horse, Montana, was doing fine until they started honking. That is when Montana decided to spin around. Dave knew if he caught up with us, Montana would be fine. He was right. So now, all three of us were standing there, waving as the motorcycles went by, honking at us.

It was easily a full five minutes until they all passed us. At the end of the caravan, there were more police cars with flashing lights and then a huge utility truck! The horses still just stood and stared. Finally it was over and time to go home.

I was grateful that I wasn’t riding Cruiser. Mingo handles motorcycles much better than Cruiser. This may have been a little too much for his Arab nature. As it turned out, Mingo and Ranger behaved in a perfect manner, and we were so pleased with them. We were also glad that we were there to help Dave through it.

The moral of the story? Next time we hear there is going to be a motorcycle rally, we will still ride, but we will ride on a trail that isn’t so close to the street!

Monday, July 6, 2009

Holiday weekend

It was a disappointing holiday weekend. On Friday, I had car trouble and didn’t get out to ride with my sister. By the time I did, the fireworks were bad enough that I didn’t want to risk riding on the trail. I just led Cruiser around for his glucose therapy. Saturday was a better day. I did get to ride both horses. I took Mingo with my sister up to the show ring and that was fun. I also took Cruiser out for an hour ride. Sunday, my sister had to work and I had to rush to finish in time. My boyfriend’s family was having a get together and I agreed to go. I took both horses out for about an hour. I hate rushing. Next weekend will be better.

Last night and this morning were a little tough. Don’t worry—this has a happy ending, so don’t worry. Last night, I woke up to find Thunder, my beloved cat, shaking in pain! He then threw up. There was a little grass, and maybe hair. I brought him back upstairs, and he was trembling very badly. He started purring really loud—due to the discomfort—this happened once before. He shook so hard. I just held and comforted him. I was so upset. After about a half hour, his shaking and purring gradually subsided, so I felt better, too. I figured he ate a bad bug or something and throwing it up solved the problem. He went downstairs. I waited a bit and then brought him back up. He seemed better—and then he jumped down and started eating! I went to sleep. He left and didn’t come back. I got up early—and couldn’t find him!!! I searched for 15 minutes. When he doesn’t feel good, he hides—but never this good. I spent 15 minutes looking for him before I heard him cry. I still couldn’t find him. He was mewing every couple minutes. I was in the basement and it occurred to me—the rec room. The door was closed, and he was trapped inside! He must have pushed the door open and it closed behind him. He was fine and happy—came upstairs and ate. Then he went back down and wanted to go back into the rec room. I left the door open for him. I was so scared and so relieved!

Monday, June 29, 2009

Weekend update

We had a great weekend for riding. Friday evening, I took Cruiser out for a fast and fun ride (gotta keep his insulin in control aka excuse to ride more)

Saturday morning, my younger neice came out to ride again. Her posting is becoming solid. Unlike her sister, she didn’t fly off at the canter. We only cantered a little. She has very little experience with it, and I could see her going too far off the saddle and I didn’t want her to lose her balance. It will come in time. My sister rode Mingo—his first ride in nearly 2 weeks. He did well and seemed to have fun. Cruiser was great, of course. It is unusual for us to take all 3 of our horses out at once—and surprising how well they behave. We decided that home is not the stables but the herd. When all 3 of the herd is out, there is no reason to hurry back to the barn. They just strolled along and took their time.

Sunday, I finally got to ride Mingo, myself. We took him and Ranger up to the show ring area and trotted about. He seemed sound. I will ride him again, tonight. I rode Cruiser by myself, and halfway home, it started pouring rain. It quite by the time we got back. At least it wasn’t a cold day. I’m riding him again, tonight.

My garden is growing so well, my sister said it didn’t look like my garden. Usually, I struggle so much. I picked over 100 radishes this week! I think they are nearly done, now. We are starting to eat small turnips, and the lettuce is great.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Monday night at the barn

I had a lovely ride last night on Cruiser. He was in a great mood. We went about 5 miles—trotted and cantered on the way out—walked and trotted on the way home. He offered some gaiting, too, I think to get away from the bugs. It worked.

Mingo is healing fast. His front foot is 100%. His back foot is about 75%. There is no pain when he walks or trots. It is still warm around the heel and hurts to the touch. I’m still soaking. I don’t think I will ride him until the weekend at the soonest. I did turn him out to play, and he did some awesome bucks and ran about like a colt.

Tomorrow, my oldest niece is coming out to ride with me. It will be her first real trail ride. The younger niece is coming out on Saturday. She was supposed to ride Mingo, but she will have to ride Ranger. She will also have a crash course in posting. She can easily sit Mingo’s trot, but posting is necessary with Ranger. She has never ridden him, before, so it will be a good experience.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Mingo's Month

What a Month for Mingo

Early in May, Ellen and I went for a ride up to the show ring. Mingo was stumbling on his back hoof, and it reminded me of last fall when he got an abscess in it. The ride was uneventful—that alone should have been a clue. Mingo still hadn’t settled down for the year, and suddenly, on his favorite ride, he was behaving? I was suspicious.

I brought him home, and put him in his stall. I kept an eye on him, but nothing seemed amiss, so I saddled up Cruiser for his ride. Ellen was going to drive down to the trail and hike out to meet us. I left before she did. When she caught up with me, she told me Mingo was miserable and had an abscess in a hind hoof. He told her he couldn’t even walk, and he was the unhappiest horse in the world. Mingo is known for drama.

I hurried back, and Ellen went returned to the barn, too. I brought Mingo out of his stall and led him about. It really wasn’t that bad. He could walk on it, and only favored it slightly, but I could tell it was an abscess. I’ve had way too much experience with abscesses.

I called my farrier. Last time this happened, I called the vet and my farrier said that was silly because he would have been glad to come out, and he would be cheaper. I left him a message to call my cell phone. This was on Saturday. By Monday, I didn’t hear from him, and that was really strange. I figured he was out of town. (Turned out, he did call—I just haven’t figured out how to use cell phones, yet.) I spent my time soaking Mingo’s foot. You should have seen the expression on his face. It was one of plain misery—yet he could still walk very well.

Monday morning, I called the vet, and she took a look at it. She said it was ready to pop out of his heel, and she couldn’t find a place to drain it. It must be under the frog. My job was to soak it some more and let it resolve itself. As Kevin led him around, she marveled that he wasn’t favoring the foot at all—just going a little slower.

The next morning, Ellen was cleaning Ranger’s stall, and she saw Mingo trying to lie down. As he slowly lowered himself, it hurt and he reversed direction and stood up. He tried it again and just about crashed to the ground. She checked his heel, and it was wet. It probably just burst. She left him that way, and I soaked it in the evening.

After a week of soaking and leading, I took him on a short ride down the hill. All seemed well. The next time I took him out to ride, he was limping on a front leg! I ran my hand down his foreleg, and he had a large area that was hot, swollen and very painful to the touch on the inside of his cannon bone.

I couldn’t believe it. I iced it and called the vet the next morning. He came out and said it was too swollen to determine the cause of the problem. It could be a bruise or a suspensory ligament. Of course, he had been resting in his stall, so it shouldn’t be a ligament, but how did he get a bruise? And, by the way, he has an abscess in the heel of that same foot, and it is ready to burst! Once again, it was in at spot that the vet couldn’t drain.

I had to ice the leg and soak the hoof in hot water. Mingo is a wonderful patient. He allowed me to do both at the same time. In a couple days, the abscess burst and the swelling in his leg was going down. A week later, I called the vet, gave him an update, and he told me to start working Mingo again to see how he does. That night, I trotted him on the lounge line, and he seemed sound. The following day, we rode down the hill and did some trotting, and once again, he was sound.

The next day, I decided to take him out on a real ride. We went out by ourselves. He walked slowly down the hill and crossed the river very much like his old self. I started to trot on the other side. He seemed sound for the first 10 steps or so, and then I felt him go down in the hind. I groaned, but then I realized that he didn’t sink due to lameness, he sunk down to better launch himself into a huge buck of joy! When I got him to stop, I quickly checked my tack to make sure it was a joyful buck and not one from a bad saddling job. The saddle was fine, and we trotted on.

A little down the trail, he bucked again. As we traveled along, he got faster and faster. Once we got to the spots that we like to canter, he really, really trotted fast. There was another buck and a big spook. Mingo felt fine, and he wanted me to know it. I had my horse back. I figured if his leg could survive this ride, it was proof that it was just a bruise. I brought him home sound, and he was fine when I rode him the next day—if a little hyper. He has been sound ever since, and he still hasn’t settled down, either. Maybe in June…

Our New Apprentice

Our New Apprentice

Many years ago, Ellen and I were blessed with two nieces. The first niece, Sarah, started going on “rides” when she was just two years old. She liked to ride, but her little sister, Missy, was afraid to try. Every time Sarah came out to ride, we would ask Missy if she wanted to ride, and she would shake her head and hide her face from us.

One day, when she was five, I asked her again and this time, she nodded. We put her up on Cruiser, led her around and she was hooked. Over the next 8 years, she and her sister would come out to ride about once a month. Eventually, we didn’t have to lead them, anymore. Missy would ride Ranger and Sarah would ride Cruiser. They took a liking to riding down to the river. Sarah graduated to riding Mingo. Finally, Missy went through a growth spurt and her feet reached the stirrups. One day last fall, we let them cross the river, and we went on a trail ride. Now, Missy was really hooked.

Missy is now thirteen. Last month, she suggested coming out with us on a Saturday without her mother. Her older sister, being in high school, has a very busy schedule and if Missy waited for her to be free, she would be waiting a long time.

I picked her up on my way to the barn. We decided she must be very serious about this since she was willing to get up early in the morning on the weekend, so we decided to put her into training. She is now our apprentice.

To accelerate her learning, and she has so much to learn, we decided she would saddle and bridle all three horses. This would triple her speed of learning how to tack up. Since each horse acts different, she would learn that much more. This was great—Ellen and I just supervised.

The ride was about an hour long, and very uneventful. Well, Ranger did spook at a chipmunk, twice, but both times consisted of a tiny hop. We did a fair amount of trotting so Missy could practice posting. Mingo and Cruiser were just along for the ride. Cruiser took the lead and Mingo stayed in the back. Everyone behaved so well that were wondering if they really were our horses.

When we got back to the barn, Missy cleaned 12 hooves, and we just relaxed. It’s nice having an apprentice…

Needless to say, Missy had a wonderful time. We already picked out another date for next month.

Stormy Weather

Stormy Weather

I shouldn’t listen to Kevin. Last week, the weather forecasters predicted only a slight chance of thunderstorms, so when we were leading the horses down the driveway, Kevin was sure those big black clouds would pass to the north of us.

I suggested just riding up and down the hill, so if it started storming we would be close to home. Unfortunately, I let Kevin convince me to cross the river. I should have known better. I did say that when we got to a particular spot on the trail—only about 10 minutes away, we would reevaluate the weather and turn back if it looked bad.

We were trotting along and were nearly to that spot when the wind started blowing really, really hard. I decided right there that we should turn back immediately. It was too late. Seconds later, it began to pour. I shouted to Kevin that it felt like déjà vu, and that I was having flashbacks. I was remembering the time that Ellen and I got caught in a sudden storm with a lot of wind and a huge tree right next to us crashed to the ground—fortunately away from the trail and not right on top of us.

The words were barely out of my mouth when I heard a loud crack. I turned Cruiser towards the sound. If a tree was falling, I wanted him to be facing it. I saw a large branch break. I didn’t see it hit the ground because Cruise was startled by the sound and began trotting. He was easy to stop since he was heading towards the noise and away from home. Kevin did likewise. Once the horses were back in control, we turned around and headed home.

We didn’t have to ride far, but we got soaked. At least it wasn’t a cold day. We got back to the barn, scraped the excess water from the horses, finished our chores and headed to his house to watch a movie. Friday night is movie night for us.

As I have often said, the risk of a tree falling during a storm is less likely than a day or two later. The wind and rain weakens the tree, but it may not fall right away.

Sunday, I took Cruiser out on my own. It was very cool and sunny—perfect riding weather. We simply had an awesome ride with a lot of trotting and a little cantering. He didn’t sweat a drop. On the way back, I met Ellen, who was hiking out to meet us. We walked back towards home. About 15 minutes later, we noticed a Ranger’s car in the street by the trail—it was there to stop the traffic—a tree had fallen right across the road. It was close enough to the trail that even the best of horses would spook if they saw or heard it fall. Ellen didn’t see it when she walked by, so it must happened recently.

I felt like I was the luckiest person in the world.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Long weekend

Long holiday weekend! Hurray! We will be riding each day, of course. tomorrow, my 13-year-old niece is coming out to ride with us. This is the first time without a parent. She has decided that she really wants to get involved with horses, so we are putting her in training. She has so much to learn! We are going on a regular trail ride. She will ride my sister’s horse, Ranger, my sister will ride Mingo, and I will be on Cruiser, of course.

Her older sister is too busy with school, but if you wants to get in the program, I offered to take her out alone this summer in the evenings. I could use the company.

Mingo was having problems, but he is doing fine. He had 2 abscesses and a leg bruise within 3 weeks of each other. I’m not looking forward to that vet bill! We were concerned that under all that swelling, there was something more serious, but to my relief, he is fine. We have been riding and having fun, again.

Thursday, April 30, 2009



Our part of the world if filled with whitetail deer. I see more of them on a typical ride than I see squirrels. They terrorize my gardens, and the only way to protect my vegetables is with an electric fence. An electric fence won’t help us on our trail rides. We just have to deal with them.

Since we see deer so often, the horses aren’t frightened of them unless they do something sudden. We just need to be alert and spot the deer before the horses do.

The other evening, I was out riding Mingo by myself. Since he is still working off his springtime silliness, he was being a little unpredictable. We did some trotting and some cantering, and all went well. When we got to our favorite spot to canter, he became very animated with anticipation.

(If you do the same thing in the same spot all of the time, your horse will want to do the same thing in that same spot all the time. We are guilty of creating a bad habit—but it is such a great place to canter!)

Right at the moment of his transition, a goose or duck landed loudly in the river that was right alongside us. He leapt sideways into the canter rather than straight, and that was a good excuse to toss in a little buck. No big deal for me—I’m used to it this time of year with him. He just gets excited—and his bucks are really easy to ride. I just pushed him straight into a canter. He did great, though faster than his usual slow speed. I was enjoying it quite a bit when we saw a deer close to the trail jump forward. We must have startled him, because he took off running and jumping off through the woods. Mingo was startled, too, and came back down to a trot. Since the deer was running parallel to the trail, I thought it would be a good idea to encourage Mingo to follow—staying on his trail, of course.

Mingo thought this was the greatest idea in the world! He kept going faster and faster to catch up with the deer. I couldn’t believe the speed he reached. Problem was—it was at a trot. Once Mingo starts to trot fast, he can’t seem to coordinate a canter transition. I didn’t know the little guy could trot so fast. We were going Cruiser speed—the speed Cruiser is discouraged from doing these days. Wow, it was fun.

Mingo slowed down as we approached the next river crossing. By then, the deer was gone. He must have turned away from the trail when I wasn’t looking, and that is probably why Mingo slowed down. He was tired, and I was happy. We turned around and headed home.

As we walked along, it occurred to me that chasing another animal is probably instinctual. After all, horses were used for centuries to hunt. Those that didn’t boldly chase after the bison wouldn’t be much use. I’m sure horses chased deer for hunters—not to mention chasing after the fox. Then there is Mingo’s Quarter Horse cattle chasing roots. He was just doing what he was meant to do—and it was fun for both of us.

The following week, Ellen and I were coming home from a ride and had to cross the river to get home. On the other side, there was a group of six deer scuffling around and playing a little. We needed to cross, and Ellen was worried that the deer would do something to startle the horses while we were in the middle of the water. It is very slippery and not a good place for a spook. We waited a bit for them to go away, but they started toward us! One of them even walked into the water.

It was getting late, and I still wanted to ride Cruiser, so we couldn’t wait forever. I remembered how Mingo was when we chased the deer, and said to Ellen, “Don’t worry, Mingo will take care of them.” I asked him to enter the water, and we slowly walked across. At the halfway point, I turned him directly towards the deer, and finally, they turned around and walked away. Ellen and Ranger were then able to safely cross. Mingo saved the day.

Cruiser’s New Speed

Cruiser’s New Speed

Cruiser has always been a speedy horse, and I love him that way. Unfortunately, with a healed bowed tendon, I didn’t think it would be wise to blast down the trails like he loves to do in the spring when he first gets out. Extended trotting can be hard on a bad tendon, so I needed him to slow down for his springtime conditioning.

We started out just trotting short sections of trail. When he got too fast, I brought him to a walk for a minute and then tried again. This worked well when we were riding away from home, but when we tried it going towards home, he was fast on the first stride, and he just wouldn’t settle down. I decided we would spend going towards home at a walk for a while. It worked, sort of.

Since Cruiser wanted to go faster and I wouldn’t let him, he decided to gait. He has been occasionally gaiting ever since I got him nearly 20 years ago. He would only do it when he traveled downhill or was really excited. I think it is a stepping pace that he does. It’s faster than a walk, but not as fast as his trot, and I have always enjoyed it. He just cruises along on a loose rein. There are gaited Morgans, and gaitedness shows up in Arabians now and then. He could have gotten his skill from either side of his family tree.

Well, this spring, he was gaiting a lot—which I think is a good sign since he hadn’t offered it very much in the last few years. I think he has been telling me that he feels good (and wants to trot towards home.) A few weeks ago, for the first time when he did it, I told him “Good boy.” He heard those words and accelerated! I was shocked. I never thought he knew that “good boy” really meant “good boy.” I figured it was just mindless chatter to him. I tried a few more times, and he ended up going faster than he ever did for me at his gait. We were flying down the trail. I was thrilled. I decided I wanted to do this more often—but how could I cue him to do it?

The next ride, I experimented. I learned from Ariel that collection can help, but it made no difference with Cruiser. He just collected his walk or went into a collected trot. If I just urged him forward, he wanted to trot. I was just not getting through to him. It wasn’t a surprise. A nearly 22-year-old horse that has never been asked to gait can’t be expected to know just what I want him to do.

Since Ellen and I only have three horses between us, on the weekends she often walks with me on the trail when I ride my second horse. The following weekend, she joined us. Of course, she can’t keep up with us when we trot, so I end up way ahead of her. I then turn around and head towards home. Years ago, we taught Cruiser to play the “Find Ranger” game. If Ranger’s shoes were too worn and Ellen didn’t want to take him on a long, fast ride, she would leave the barn later than us and meet us on the way home. I would tell Cruiser to “find Ranger” and after doing it enough, he knew the game. I would say the words, he would raise his head, look around and go faster.

This game transformed into “Find Ellen.” When we were looking for Ellen, his head would go up, he would look around and trot faster. I thought I would try it to encourage him to gait. It worked like a charm! I was so amazed. He instantly went from a walk into his gait. I said it a few more times, and he went faster!

I can only use this command when Cruiser will actually find Ellen. I don’t want to ruin the magic. What I have been doing is adding some gentle leg pressure—just enough to speed him up, but not enough for him to think I am asking for a trot. I think he is making a connection because he is starting to gait from the leg pressure. I have been tossing in “good boys” and that is helping. He still does the best when we can “find Ellen.”

He won’t do it with other horses—he doesn’t want to leave them, and he walks with Ellen for the same reason. I wouldn’t be surprised if he does it less in the summer because of the heat and the mere fact that I will be trotting him more. Just the same, I am having a lot of fun with this.

The most surprising part is how he picked up on the word cues. I never would have predicted the success. It goes to show you that we are teaching them all the time whether we know it or not. Also, it shows that we can teach an old horse a new trick.

Trail Training Newsletter – 100 - part 1

Trail Training Newsletter – 100
May 2009

Dear Readers,

This is the 100th newsletter. I never would have thought I had so much to write about! If you have only been receiving the newsletter for the last few years, and you wish you had read the early ones, you can buy my book “Trail Horse Adventures and Advice.” My sister gave a copy of the book to a woman she works with. She had never even touched a horse in her life. She loved the book and told Ellen it is about more than horses. She said it is about philosophy, learning and the lessons of life. She was right, but I never thought anyone would figure it out. We live our life through our horses, and everything about us is reflected in them.

If you haven’t bought a copy of “Trail Training for the Horse and Rider,” here is a review from the blogosphere that might convince you to give it a try: It sure made my day when I read it. It makes me want to go back and read my book! I haven’t read any of it since my very last edit—but I have looked at the pictures. There are pictures of Mingo when he was just a little 3-year-old on his first trail rides. What an exciting time that was. He took to the trail like a fish to water—much easier than Cruiser who was afraid of everything. Those early rides with Cruiser were exciting for a different reason!

Spring has finally arrived in Ohio. We have been trail riding and loving it. The hoses are thrilled to be out of the arena. It was such as long, long winter. We are conditioning the horses for longer and more vigorous rides. Mingo and Cruiser still haven’t’ settled down, but I think they will be very soon. Ranger is acting sensible—except when one of my silly horses is with him. Silliness can be contagious.

We plan to take a few more vacation days this month. Our attempts last month were met with rain, so we are due to have some good luck.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Update on Ming

Last night, after work, the abscess still hadn't bust out. I soaked him while I cleaned stalls, and went for a ride on Cruiser. When I got back, I turned Mingo out in the arena. He hobbled around a little and thought about rolling, but wouldn't. I brougth his best buddy, Ranger out to keep him company. Ranger did his best to get him to run. He actually did a slow trot. Then he rolled and walked all about with Ranger.

My sister checked him this morning, and he was laying down. His heel felt damp and it was smelly, so it might have busted out. I hope so. I will soak it tonight, and put on his bootie to keep it clean.

If I don't forget my clicker, again, I may do some training.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Hoof Abscess

Mingo has another hoof abscess. I had the vet out, but after a thorough search, she said that it must be under his frog, so she can't drain the hoof from the bottom. I will have to soak and soak and it should pop out if his heel in a few days. Poor little guy--I wanted him to have some relief. He isn't lame, and he will put weight on his heel about half the time.

My vet can't believe his high tolerance to pain, but I'm used to it. I only knew there was a problem because I know him and abscesses so well. Poor little guy. He has such a stoic look on his face.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Fun evening ride

My sister was able to ride with me last night. Since she works evenings and I work days, this doesn't happen often. I'm usually by myself. Now and then, my retired boyfriend joins me, but he usually rides in the morning, too.

Anyway, Mingo and Ranger behaved their best yet for the year. We trotted much of the trail on the way out and walked home so we could talk on the way back. There was no bucks and no racing. What a relief--they are finally settling down. This weekend, we plan to bite the bullet and do some cantering together.

I had enough time to ride Cruiser and few times on the hill. We got in just before dark--and just before it started raining.

I'm staying home, tonight, but tomorrow, I'm going to ride Cruiser. My boyfriend has to babysit, so I will be by myself, but at least I won't have to watch the Cavs with him. (Usually I go to his house after my Friday night ride, and we watch a movie.) I can't wait until the playoffs are over!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Great Weekend

We had a nice, long weekend. The weather was great on Saturday and Sunday. I rode Cruiser longer on both days than I have been. He is starting to settle down. We did take Mingo and Ranger up to the show ring. As expected, they were very, very excited. We didn’t do any trotting until we turned to go back home. Yes, they like it up there so much that they go slower on the way home than on the way out. It’s silly, but I think it is because they lived up there for 4 years.

We loved boarding up there, and would still be, today, but the owners of the little place we kept them out went through a divorce and the house ended up getting sold. It was a sad situation. We didn’t have an indoor arena, though, so the winters were pretty tough.

Monday, it rained. We got a short ride in between showers. I even managed to take Cruiser on a walk between a couple more rain showers. We then waited for the vet to come and give them their second set of shots. She was early this time. Hurray! My sister and I then went over my house to take the dog on a long walk. It was sunny when we left, but just as we turned to go home, it started raining like crazy. We could barely see. My dog wasn’t too happy, either.

We got pizza from our favorite place and ate until we were stuffed.

Friday, April 17, 2009

The weekend plan

My sister and I took Monday off for the second round of shots for the horses. Of course it is supposed to be cold and rainy. Hopefully we will be able to get a ride in and the vet won't be too late.

We plan to ride Mingo and Ranger up to the show ring for the first time this year tomorrow. They get so excited up there that we will probably only be able to walk the first time. They used to live up there, years ago, and I think that is a cause of the hyperness. They were never that way when they lived there, though.

We have to go up a very steep hill, and then we end up in a small but gorgeous pine forest. Outside the forest, the path goes two ways. One is just thought a mowed field that loops aroung the public showring. The other goes through a really pretty section of the field is growing out. There are a lot of pretty shrubs. It then goes to a wild meadow, past a couple private barns and along the street beside another wild meadow for a bit. Then it ends at the road.

The trails are the best condition around. We usually end up taking the meadow trail and riding out to the showring. It is a pleasant and pretty ride.

I hope Mingo doesn't buck...

Monday, April 6, 2009

Weekend rides

Saturday’s ride was disappointing because we weren’t able to cross the river. We rode up and down the hill leading to it 3 times with each horse.

We then waited for our niece to come out and take Ranger for a ride. she has just ridden sporadically over the years. The last time she was out was in the winter, and we tried to teach her to post. Posting is necessary with Ranger if you want to be comfortable. She kinda understood, but didn’t really have it. well, she rode down to the river and we let her trot at the bottom. She posted like a champ. Somehow, she learned to post over the winter on her own. She didn’t tell us her secret.

Sunday was wonderful riding. We took Mingo and Ranger out for about 5 miles and we were able to do some trotting without them being too competitive. We did walk all the way home, though. We didn’t want to push our luck.

I took Cruiser out for about 4 miles. We did a lot of trotting and a little cantering. On the way home, we met my boyfriend on Starry, and we rode the rest of the way together. Starry did some bucking and general silliness, but Cruiser still acted mature. I was proud of him.

I am going out to ride tonight, but it is snowing. If it sticks, Cruiser will have to stay inside (shoes), but Mingo will go down trail. He just loves snow.