Thursday, December 30, 2010


I have been posting my newsletters here for some time, and I will keep doing it, but anyone wishing to get them via e-mail, which is the way I distribute them, can just send their e-mail address to mine:

Housecat Tip of the Month

Housecat Tip of the Month

I got this idea from Ellen. She made a maze of plant pots for her cat to play in, and he loved it. I had a bunch of boxes from all the mail order gifts I bought. I created a maze for Thunder to explore. He took to it instantly. He walked around, sniffing and rubbing his head on the corners. Some of the boxes he was able to go into or under. He liked chasing his toys through it, too.

After a few days, he seemed bored of it, so I rearranged it. His interest was renewed.

Even if you don’t want to have a bunch of boxes laying about all the time, just setting them up for an hour or so will give your cat a lot of entertainment.

Trail Training Newsletter #120 - Three Weeks Later

Three Weeks Later

Well, I hate to admit it, but I haven’t been trotting full laps with ease. In fact, I haven’t been trotting full laps at all. There always seems to be something that stops me from doing that. What I have been doing is walking full laps, trotting laps that are three quarters of the arena and trotting circles on the scary end.

One of the reasons that put me off doing the full laps is a little weird. It seems Cole is obsessed with going over to that end. Once, he tried to bolt to get there! He tries to drift that way, and if we do trot over in that direction, I have trouble stopping him! I’m not sure what this is all about, but at least he isn’t afraid! He is just being a little unpredictable about it.

I had 6 days in a row to work in the arena over the Christmas holiday. The first day, I lounged him first and he was a lunatic. Once he settled down, I decided to ride, anyway, and we had a really nice ride. He didn’t spook a single time, which was a miracle. Well, he didn’t spook for 5 of the 6 days, so my confidence has skyrocketed.

Another reason that I haven’t trotted full laps is that we have been working on a new lesson—riding with other horses. I even rode him with a horse and mule at the same time, one day. We even trotted! He will tend to veer in the direction of his companions, but that is the worst of it. Before my long weekend, he was spooking so much that I didn’t want to ride with anyone else. I worry about him startling the other horses and causing a wreck. I think I worry too much.

We even trotted circles with other horses. We even worked when a horse was being lounged on the other end—something I really struggle with when I ride Cruiser to this day.

We made great strides.

By starting him out mostly on the trail, I managed to teach him about following my weight cues—and I didn’t even know it. I am pleased to say that Cole understands turning with a shift of the seat bone. I gently support it with my outside leg, but as long as he is in a cooperative mood, the reins are already becoming irrelevant.

This is making me a better rider—fast. Every winter, when I start riding in the indoor arena, again, I struggle with my left seat bone floating away—and sometimes just not listening to me. This doesn’t work with Cole—I have to keep things exact or he does things I don’t expect. He may be doing them, not because he isn’t listening, but because he is!

On my latest ride, for the first time, I decided to try a figure eight. This was brave, because one half of it would throw me on the scary end of the arena. I wasn’t afraid for long. I was amazed. His circles were round and nearly equal in size, and the change of direction in the middle was perfect and effortless—to the aforementioned seat bone shift. I thought I was dreaming. We did three in a row. Though the circles were small, which is easier, I didn’t expect those results. We did it again! I swear he seemed to enjoy it. I certainly did. There was a moment when I had a Twilight Zone feeling. Just what was I riding—couldn’t be a horse of mine. It shouldn’t have been so effortless and successful. It must have been beginner’s luck because I haven’t had such circles since, but he has been doing the change in direction perfectly. At least it gave me a sense of what is possible.

Oh, and he is so sensitive with his walk/trot transitions. If I over signal with my leg, particularly early in the ride, he will jump or even buck. I have to be oh so gentle. Often, I just use the word. We haven’t started cantering, yet. (Rome wasn’t built in a day—I am only starting to get brave.)

Years ago, I had a 1981 Camaro Z28. The engine was a 350 with a 4-barrel carburetor. If you didn’t touch the gas pedal very gently, it would jump forward and startle me. That is what riding Cole is like. The car also had a double kick down. The kick down is when the automatic transmission shifts down to give you an extra boost of energy. Most cars have one, but this car would do it twice. My dad found this out one day when he was driving it. I never had the nerve to try. I somehow think that Cole might have a double kick down, too, but right now, I am afraid to try. His sudden spooks have shown me he certainly has at least one kick down.

So, Cole has been a challenge in the arena, but I am growing in confidence and learning, and it has been a lot of fun.

I still can’t wait to get back on the trail…

Trail Training Newsletter #120 - Arena Success with Cole

Arena Success with Cole
I wrote last month about the trouble I had riding Cole on the scary end of the arena. Cole was fine. The problem was me. We had so many reasons to stay away from the scary end when I first started to ride him, that now I was petrified to go there. He no longer spooked there anymore than any other place, but every time I tried to ride him over there, I got that panicked feeling in my stomach and couldn’t breathe.

This state of affairs bothered me so much. I wasn’t afraid to take him on the trail—we have trotted and cantered out there with great success. Just walking full laps around the arena was scarier than driving on a snowy street—something I do a lot this time of year. I couldn’t even imagine trotting. In my head, I pictured him bolting once he got around the corner and running to our barn door.

I knew I could handle his arena spooks. I have had plenty of experience with them, and I can get him to stop right away. I love to trot—particularly fast. If he decided to trot fast on that end, what would be the big deal? I have lounged and led him there, plenty, and he now gave me very little trouble. What was the problem? Irrational fear. I was frustrated with myself.

When I started this month, I could ride him at a walk if Kevin was by my side. A few evenings when I rode, I did wander over there by myself for a minute or two. I was so proud of myself.

I practiced in my head what I wanted to do, and when I would mount up, all those awful feelings would come back. I would use any excuse I could find to stay on the safe side. This had to end.

Now, there is something odd that happens to me at times. When horses intimidate me, I will say to myself that I won’t try whatever it is that I am afraid to do, and then in the next minute, I find myself doing it.

I am like my cat, Thunder, when I put something scary on the floor, he doesn’t want to investigate it, but can’t resist. He stretches his neck out but braces his body so he could jump back in a moment’s notice. That was me—but that is no way to ride a horse! A horse needs a confident rider, or he will want to jump back at a moment’s notice, too.

One evening, I decided ahead of time that I would mount right up and ride to the scary side and do my walking warm up, there. I made it three quarters to the end, circled back and made it all the way there! I then did large and small circles for about 5 minutes. This was a major breakthrough! I then did all my trotting on the safe side.

The next day I was at the barn, the weather was lovely for December, so I decided to take him for a walk on the hill. Even though I lounged him first, he was awful. When I got back, I was able to turn him outside to romp around. He ran and bucked and ran for several minutes. Then he was happy. I brought him in. No wonder he was bad on the hill—he had an excess of energy to burn off.

I brought him in and hung around talking to Kevin. I then had an inspiration—I would ride! He would be settled down from his running, and the arena was empty. They would be starting the afternoon feeding, soon, so I didn’t know how much time I would have, but I would at least get to warm up on the scary end, again.

I mounted and went straight over, rode some circles at a walk and felt pretty good. I went back to the safe end and started my trotting. Even with all the distractions from the people that were in the barn, he did pretty well. In fact, he started to do great for such a green horse.

I decided to see how far along the wall I could get to the scary end before stopping. We made it past the three quarter mark. I then walked the rest of the way back to safety. We trotted about, some more, and then I decided to try it again. I knew how far I could make it, so I decided to push to the corner and if I wanted, I could stop there. I made it to the corner, and decided to keep going to the center of the wall on that end. Three strides later, I was there—and decided to keep going to then next corner. He was fine, so I didn’t stop. I went around the corner, figuring I could stop there. Well, I didn’t. I just kept going. I made a whole lap. At that point, I decided to try it again—using the same plan. In the end, I did three and a half laps. I only stopped when Cole decided to stop on the scary end on his own—and didn’t want to go any further. I gently convinced him that he needed to go on, and we got back to the safe end. We walked a little more and then quit for the day.

I felt so great. I knew that, though I would still have to battle the fear for a little while longer, I had a new starting point. I felt as good as I did the first day we went on the trail, the first day we trotted and the first day we cantered on the trail. This was a big first day—I trotted laps. Soon, we will be going around and around, and I won’t give it a second thought.

Fear may be irrational, but it doesn’t have to be permanent.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Another Cute Cat Story

Sometimes my new dog, Maggie, can really get annoying.  One day this weekend, I came home from the barn and greeted her, of course.  I then went to greet Thunder, the wonder cat.  Anyway, Maggie, aka Dumb Dog, wanted to continue to greet me.  She started jumping all over me and knawing my hands.  She just wouldn't stop.  I kept telling her "down" which is the only command she knows, but she just kept getting worse.  Thunder got mad at her.  This has happened before. Whenever she misbehaves for me, Thunder shows up to discipline her. 

All he did was glare at her, and she layed right down.  I started to praise her, but Thunder didn't agree that she was good enough.  I think he wanted her to leave the room, so he smacked her in the head!

Last night, before her walk, she wouldn't let me hook up the leash because she was so excited.  She had been doing so much better with this, that it surprised me that she relapsed.  I was sitting on the stairs, trying to hook her up.  Finally, she stopped jumping around.  I hooked her up, looked behind me, and there was Thunder, glaring at her.

Is this really the cat that was so afraid of her in the beginning?

Cole Training

It was still a good night with Cole.  Hewas wild during lounging.  He started out great, and I was nearly ready to quit, when he grabbed my sleeve, and I smacked him.  Well, then he went into a rebellion.  I think it was about a power struggle.  There is a little stallion left in him,  I held firm and stayed patient during his bucking and rearing and bolting, and eventually he stopped and started to listen, again.  

When I rode, he spooked once when Starry squealed.  After that, we did lots of trotting, transistions and a series or perfect figure eights.  I never tried them before with him, and I was astounded.  They were small, so that makes them easier.  He did even circles and effortless changes in the center with only a weight shift.  I was stunned.  He seemed to like doing them.  I have never, never ridden such easy 8s on any horse.  It must be beginner’s luck.  I’m sure he will start to challenge the concept, soon.

At one point, he trialed a Passage!  I clicked him for it, but he didn't repeat it.  It felt beautiful.  I didn't have him collected--we aren't even on the bit, yet.  I'm not sure what induced him to do it, but for a moment, I was riding a Lippizan.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Cole's Christmas Gift to Me

Looks like we are getting a thaw next weekend! Hurray! Hurray!

It was a fine Cole weekend. Wednesday evening, I started out lounging him, and he was a lunatic—airs above the ground—bigtime. I nearly didn’t ride him, but he suddenly settled down. He has been settled ever since. I rode him that evening, and 4 more days—and no spooking. It was a big event to get through one ride in the arena without a spook, but more than 2 never happened before this weekend. Five rides? Heaven…

We rode with other horses being led or also ridden. Other than trying to drift their way, he did fine. The transition to a grown-up horse was the best Christmas gift I could imagine—and I certainly didn’t expect it. But then, that has been how Cole has been all along. He improves suddenly and permanently. He just needed to get used to the arena, and now that he has, he is ready to work.

I am also way more confident riding him than I was just a week ago. I’m sure that is helping, too.

I rode Cruiser, too, each day, but he just doesn’t have any enthusiasm for arena work, anymore. Right now, I am just making sure he is getting enough exercise to help with his insulin resistance. After all these years, if he doesn’t want to work hard, I won’t make an issue of it. We’ll be back on the trail soon enough. He is getting nervous in the corners going in one direction. (Eyesight? He is getting a cataract in that eye.) He is reluctant to go in a collected frame, and I suspect his thyroid tumor, which has really grown in the last year, may be interfering.

Cole likes his new stall. It is larger with 2 windows, and maybe we can open them next weekend during the thaw. He and Cruiser definitely like each other. We will be putting bars up between them. Right now, it is solid wood with a 3 inch gap between 2 boards that they can see each other—and nibble noses.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Ice skating

It was a lovely evening, last night—about 30 degrees and no wind. I decided to check the ice on the creek behind our house to see if I could ice skate. Creeks can be very unpredictable. You think it will be fine only to discover that the water ran over the ice and turned it into slush. Or, that slush froze and made crummy ice that shatters and sends you down to the next layer of ice—totally unskateable! We have always called it “shatter ice.”

Of course, getting a few inches of snow ruins everything, too. Last year, the ice always had too much snow, and I am too lazy to shovel. I didn’t skate a single time.

Well, it was a miracle. I found I had a long stretch (about 1,000 feet) of good ice to skate on, and with care, I could reach a few other decent areas to skate. It was really fun. Though our creek is now part of a public park, I am the only one that skates and very few people are there at night. I was all alone; it was so quiet and peaceful. I love the sound of the skates on the ice.

I have been skating since I was a teenager. Our best friend lived next doore and had a pond, and we would shovel it off and skate much of the winter. I learned how to skate on that rough ice, so it was easy to teach myself how to go backwards, spins and such. We eventually started to skate at the local rink when the pond wasn’t any good. We both even worked there for a while in the snack bar. On slow days, I would take my skates and go out skating on during the pubic sessions.

I am totally self-taught, and I skate more like a hockey player than a figure skater. Honestly, it is the only time I ever feel graceful. I don’t know if I look graceful, but at least I feel like it.

When I was in college, I skated with my then boyfriend. Sometimes, we would go as much as 3 times a week, and we used to frequent 3 different rinks. For Christmas, he got me a really nice pair of skates to replace the hand-me-downs I had been using. I still use those skates over 20 years later. Thanks, Jeff, if you happen to read this.

I no longer skate at rinks very often, but if the weather is right, and the ice is right and I am actually at home for a change, I grab my skates, go down the hill in my backyard to our creek and enjoy one of the few nice things about winter.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Cat Chases Dog

I wouldn't have believed it if I didn't see it with my own eyes. Thunder didn't just stalk and pounce Maggie, he chased her. And, he didn't just chase her a little, he chased her around and around the living room--over the couch, over the loveseat and around and around, again. The dog thought it was fun until he caught up with her and she felt his needle-sharp claws dig into her hind leg. She yipped and ran some more!

I was laughing the whole time. Thunder loves when I laugh, so that only encouraged him. Afterward, he started walking with a swagger--he was rather proud of himself.

The dog is more cautious around him, now, and there hasn't been a repeat of it. He still stalks and pounces her--he has chased her out of a few rooms, too, but she just gets out of his range and doesn't let him get to her, again.

We've come a long way...

Monday Rides

Tolerable temperatures and no major snowstorms for the immediate future.  What a relief. 

My rides last night went fine.  Cole was a little fractious, at times, but I could see some progress being made.  We did a lot of walking and a fair amount of trotting.  He behaves better counter clockwise than clockwise.  We were working on out clockwise bending at a walk.  We walked on the scary end--no trotting there--to hyper.  I think I will concentrate on that tomorrow.

Cruiser was pretty hyper, too.  I started out with a lot of transistions, and that always gets him excited.  It also got him paying attention to me.  He became more responsive and I ended up riding him nearly an hour. 

I have a 4-day weekend, but I will be stuck in the arena.  It will give me an opportunity to really focus on the arena riding.  I really wish I could go down the trail.

Monday, December 20, 2010

I miss the trail!

I haven't been on a trail ride since Thanksgiving weekend, and I really miss it this year.  The river is already frozen, and the footing it bad.  My old horse, Cruiser, doesn't go out in bad footing. My young horse, Cole, is simply too hyper going up and down the hill to the river.  I have done some leading with him, and once he gets bored, he starts to act up.

I do have the indoor arena, but it hasn't been satisfying this year.  Cruise  has been acting like one of the directions is uncomfortable.  He has started spooking, too.

Cole has been pretty good if I can ride him alone, but I don't feel comfortable riding him with other horses.  Yesterday, when it was time to ride him, there were 3 other horses in the arena, so I just led him to get him accustomed to all the activity.  He was very excited, at first, but he started to behave decent, so it was a good lesson--still, by the time I had the arena to myself, it was nearly time for them to get their afternoon feeding, so I quit.  Totally unsatisfying for a person who loves to ride.

Some good news--Cole is going to move to a better stall.  It is a corner stall with 2 windows to the outside.  currently, he doesn't have any window--just open bars to the stalls next to him.  It is also quite big, so he can do all of his stall exercises with more room.  It is next to Cruiser, and I have permission to install bars between their stalls so they can interact.  I will move him in the next few days.  There isn't a big hurry, since it is too cold to have the windows open right now.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Wednesday Night Rides

The wind died down, so I was able to ride Cole, again.  I lounged him a little, first, but he seemed quiet, so I thought 10 minutes was enough. 

My boyfriend was leading his horse around at the beginning of our ride, and although Cole did want to visit him, he behaved overall.

The first two times I asked him to trot, he did it with a buck.  When my boyfriend took his horse out of the arena, Cole did have a temper tantrum--taking off and running towards the barn door.  After that, he was rather hyper.  When we trotted, he went very fast and at first was all over the place.  He did settle down and do better.  Though I didn't do full laps around the arena, we did do small circles on the scary end at a trot.

I am only now starting to realize how sensitive he is to weight shifts.  Shifts that would put Cruise into a nice arc sends him into a tiny circle.  There is no doubt that this horse is going to make me a better rider--once he settles down, and we can really work.

Cruiser did well on his ride.  Each time, he is getting a little better.  I started to do some series of half halts with him--it makes him round up and move with more spring.  I didn't want to do this until I knew he was physically ready.  After travelling long and low all summer, it is a big change for him to move with some collection.

I have also realized that half of my body is frozen at the trot.  I might have picked this habit up over the summer with Cole--nerves may have froze me.  When I pay attention to what I am doing and move in a more symetrical manner, he vastly improves.

My boyfriend had to leave to watch the Cavs play against Lebron, so I did all the feeding and watering myself.  There are about 30 horses.  They only get hay in the evenings, so it isn't so bad--pretty easy money. I do it twice a week.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The storm is over

They predicted 3-7 inches of snow for last night.  We got a quarter inch.  I believe it over.  The wind was vicious, though.  I rode Cruiser last night in the arena, but I decided to play it safe and not ride Cole.  The doors were constantly banging, the wind whistled over the roof and there were all sorts of other noises going on.  I led and lounged him, and he was very edgy.  I then turned him outside to play in the snow.  He carefully ran and bucked a few times--and then wanted to come in.  He is a funny horse.  He used to live outside before I got him, and he doesn't seem to want to stay out there, now.  I'm sure it would be different if there was grass to graze.

It sounds like I will be able to ride him tomorrow when I go out.  The wind is already easing up.  I sure have had enough to winter!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Arena Triumph!

I rode Cole on Friday morning. I was alone in the arena.  He was doing really well, and I decided to trot a full lap around.  That meant the scary end!  Well, I ended up doing 3 laps in a row, and he was fine.  So was I.  There is nothing like conquering fear.  I was walking on clouds all day.

Unfortunately, the arena was very busy on Saturday, so I just led him on the trail.  Sunday, I didn't have enough time because I had to go to a very boring Christmas party with my dad.  Ugh.  Anyway, I only lounged him.

I am going out tonight, but we are supposed to have high winds.  Young horses are hard to ride in the wind when you are in an indoor arena.  We'll see if I can even lounge him.  I can't wait to try, again, but I have to be sensible.

Weather Update

We didn't get much from the big storm.  It was north of us, and we mostly got rain.  Once it got cold, we got a few inches.  I cleaned off 6 inches from my car this morning, but the roads were ok. 

Now, the real problem-LAKE EFFECT!!!  Being close to Lake Erie is a real problem.  The lake is still warm.  When the cold air goes over the lake, it makes snow--lots of it.  They say it may stop by Wednesday, and we should have a foot or so.  But it is so hard to predict that it may be much less or way more--depending on the direction of the wind.

We had the same thing happen last week, but this time, it is much colder and the wind is worse.  We live in the secondary snowbelt.  The horses are out of it, and usually have half the snow.  In the snowbelt, they are expecting 2 feet on top of the 2 feet from last week.  I wouldn't live there if they paid me.

I am so ready for winter to be over.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Good arena ride

I had a very good ride with Cole in the arena, last night. I lounged him first, but I reduced his time from 20 minutes to only 12. I decided that he starts to act up when he gets bored, and maybe if I lounged him less, he would be better overall. I was right. By the way, I get bored of lounging, too.

I started the ride by going right down to the scary end of the arena and walking about over there for about 5 minutes. He behaved perfectly, and now I am so much more confident over there. I then did some trotting, but kept it on the safe side. Rome wasn’t built in a day. I think he was trying to figure out how to get clicked. He tried going faster, going with his head up, down and turned the wrong way. He threw in a half-hearted buck, too. When he dropped his head and took light contact with the bit, I clicked him. (I have been clicking him for this all the time on the lounge line.) I also clicked him when he went at a rational speed. After a bit, he did both at the same time—and he started to repeat it after I clicked and started him back up.

I am now starting to see how clicker works. At this stage of his training, Cruiser would just lug at the bit and ignore me as we trotted about. It took a long time before he started to understand lightness. Cole is guessing, and when he gets it, he is clearly rewarded so that he wants to repeat it.

I have a long weekend, so I probably won’t be back in the arena until Monday. I am looking forward to seeing if I can build on this.

Cruiser had a good ride, too.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Bah Humbug

Okay, here is the big confession. I don’t like Christmas. In fact, I don’t like any holidays. My sister is the same way. We would love to completely skip the whole thing. I don’t want gifts. I don’t like trying to figure out what gifts to give people. I hate shopping. I don’t care for the decorations, and I hate the music. The songs “Winter Wonderland” and “Let is Snow” should be permanently banned. Whoever wrote those obviously didn’t live up north. Getting together with my family doesn’t mean anything. They all live in town—we can get together whenever we like. We don’t need a holiday to do it.

This isn’t new. I remember starting to feel this when I was a teenager. It gets worse every year. We haven’t put up a tree or decorated in decades.

Total Bah Humbug.

I do like the food and the days off from work. That is about all.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Weekend Update

It was a pretty crummy weekend to ride. The terrain wasn’t suitable for Cruiser, so we stayed in the arena. My sister joined us on her horse. Both days, when we were done, we took Cole for a walk up and down the hill to the river. I must say, he is noticeably improving. The first trip up and down goes well. The second, he starts to get bored and the third, he tries my patience. The good news is, he used to try my patience every time we went on the hill. If I solve this problem—it is our worst one—I feel he will improve with everything else. I click him when he is good, stop him or circle him when he tries to trot or walk in front of me, and make him stand until he settles down whenever he gets wound up.

I rode him in the arena Friday night, and he is getting better. We trotted on the safe end and walked full laps to the scary end. I have clicked him so much for quiet behavior over there that, not only does he behave there, but he keeps trying to go over there! Now, it is only scary for me. I am getting better, too. He did have one bad spook, but he was in the middle of the arena, at the time.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Wednesday Night Rides

Cole was a handful, last night, when I lounged him. He kept spooking, and when he couldn't run away, he would rear straight up in the air.  One time, when he landed and looked at me, I just yelled, "Mingo!" and then I realized my mistake. Whenever Cole frustrates me, I call him Mingo.  I lounged him for 25 minutes--much longer than I normally do--just to make sure he was safe to ride.  I think it was the wind blowing at the doors and walls.  In the end, it was a good lounging session.  We worked on trot extensions for the first time.  He caught on beautifully.  I don't lounge him with a whip.  I was merely raising my arm, clucking to him, and he would extend out.  He never changed his rhythm, either. It was awesome.  I rode about 15 minutes--mostly at a walk since he had had such a vigourous workout.  We practiced walk/whoa transitions.  He only spooked once, and I got him under control very easily.

Cruiser did well after a lackluster performance on Monday.  I was relieved.  I was starting to worry he was having physical issues.  I think it was just too warm on Monday (50s.)  The cold weather, last night, brought him to life, too.  He did far less of his Saddlebred imitation and acted more like the Morab that he is.  We got some great bends and transitions.  His carriage in improving, too.  I always find that after a summer of trail riding, he has trouble getting into his pretty, round way of going.  It takes about a month of work for him to get those muscles working, again.  Well, it's happening.  We take a lot of breaks, though.  I don't want him to do too much, too soon.  He can move quite gorgeously.  By the time we are really excelling, it is spring and I head out for the trail for long and low riding.

We'll see how they do on Friday.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010


What would any non-sport person Clevelander do on the night Lebron is coming back to town? Turn off the TV, turn on some Springsteen and have a Cat Party!

Yes, I do believe that Thunder and I are going to have a celebration. No basketball for us--it will be feather toys and catnip.

My boyfriend will be at his house, glued to his TV, while we are playing Throw and Chase. Who do you think will have more fun?

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Cats Rule

Cats Rule
Yes, it’s true, at least in my house. Thunder is completely adapted to our new dog, Maggie. He likes to stalk and pounce her, and he is now regularly chasing her with all claws out. He feels comfortable going anywhere in the house and will take naps downstairs, too. If Maggie misbehaves for me—like getting hyper and fidgety when I put her leash on, Thunder will walk up, do a Thunder roar and swat her. Now, when she starts to act up, I just tell her, “Thunder is going to get you.”

Maggie has learned to leave us alone when we play games. She will stay in the other room, and I will periodically give her pieces of cat food. She will even let me chase Thunder around the house or throw cat food for him to chase. I am very amazed.
I have been clicker training Maggie, and Thunder (a clicker savvy cat,) started out by watching us. I wanted Maggie to chase a Frisbee. I started with clicking her when she touched it. After a while, I started asking Thunder to touch it, and I clicked him. I gave Maggie a treat for staying in position with the same click.

Maggie moved up to following it when slid it on the floor. A few times in the beginning, when she got confused, Thunder walked up to it and sniffed it. He got clicked and treated, of course.
We tried the same lesson the next day. Maggie and Thunder started to understand about taking turns. After a bit, Thunder got tired of the game since I was only using dry cat food for treats. I concentrated on Maggie. One time, I slid the Frisbee on the floor towards Thunder, and since the floor is wooden, the Frisbee started spinning. Thunder thought that was so neat. He walked up to it and took his paw and spun it over and over. It was the cutest thing! I clicked Maggie for just sitting still and letting him play. It lasted for 10 minutes until Maggie heard something and started barking.
I’m so happy everything has worked out. No one can imagine how upset I was, in the beginning when they were having problems. Now, not only do they get along, we can even play training games together.

Tackling the Arena

Tackling the Arena
I believe I have hinted a few times that Cole doesn’t behave well in the arena. I have managed to avoid it as much as I could by taking long weekends so I can trail ride instead and sometimes I spend my arena time just lounging.
I am nearly out of vacation time. The evenings are too dark to ride on the trail, and the weekends aren’t going to be much better pretty soon. It’s time to get serious about the arena.
The problem stems from when I used to ride him there in there during the summer. The far end and one side of the indoor arena are bordered by a pasture. In the summer, there is a horse out in the pasture. As he walks by the walls of the arena, the noise would spook Cole. If Cole saw him walking by through the window, that be another excuse to run. Also, there was the next door neighbor. We were on the same schedule. When I rode, she would turn her horses out to play. The sound of them frolicking around or banging the gate was enough to cause Cole to take off. Though I haven’t fallen off, and he has not succeeded in getting more than a couple strides in before I spun him, the damage was done. He was prepared to spook from noises over there, and I was prepared to have a problems.

I spent my rides this summer on the safe side of the arena. That was no guarantee that I would avoid the spooks, but at least he wouldn’t’ bolt across the arena to the gate that leads into our barn. It still gave us plenty of room to work.
Honestly, the biggest problem, (and I actually hate to admit this) was my nerves. After having so much trouble, ride after ride, I was afraid to go to the far end of the arena. I rode a lot of circles, which really isn’t’ a bad thing. Still, I knew I had to conquer the problem.
As the weather got colder, the pasture horse was brought in and, on most days, the neighbor’s horses weren’t outside. To make things better, they closed the windows. I no longer had an excuse.
I started out by lounging him before his rides. He was only a so-so lounger, since he really didn’t need it in the warm weather. With the help of a clicker, I got him listening pretty well. My biggest problem was Cole deciding to practice his “airs above the ground” while I lounged him. I did the only thing I knew, which was to click him a lot for trotting well and increasing the duration. Though he will still play games, they are far less than the early days. Some days, I just worked on the lounging. It was nice to see the improvement. Now, I will click him when he drops his head and steps well underneath him. The good news is that he is starting to offer it on his own, and I am now working on duration.
The next step I started a couple of weeks ago. It was time to lounge him on the scary end of the arena. It was tough in the beginning. We did a lot of transitions, and he did spook a number of times, but I was persistent, and we worked through it. Soon, he was trotting around with his head down and focused on me instead of the outdoors.
When I rode, though, I stayed on the safe end. I found out that I could barely breathe when I approached the scary end. At the end of the ride, I would lead him around and around on that side. He wasn’t spooking, but I was.
Fear can be irrational. I’m a capable rider, and all he does is spook and try to run. I quickly spin him, and he stops readily. It’s more dangerous to be riding him on the trail, yet when I ride over there, my heart starts to race, I lean forward and quit breathing.
Each ride, I kept pushing myself a little out of my comfort zone. I did my circles in the center of the arena and drifted that way. I spent a lot of time finding reasons to click and treat him over there. We did have a few spooks, and that didn’t help my nerves at all. One time, I was actually leaning over his neck giving him a treat, and we heard a noise and he bolted.
Finally, one day, I knew what would help me relax—Kevin. I asked him to walk with me while I rode. I know that Cole likes to be with people on foot and that alone boosted my confidence. Just talking to Kevin as I rode got me to relax so much. I breathed, again. I kept getting closer and closer to the far wall. I was there! I started doing circles. It worked! He didn’t bolt, and I didn’t get too scared. I gave him lots of treats, too.
Looking back on the last few weeks of rides, I realized he isn’t spooking there any more than anywhere else in the arena. I just have to stop spooking myself!
Kevin has been by my side on a few other rides, and what a difference it has made. I can now trot three quarters of the arena. I still get worried, but I am getting better. I am hoping that by the time winter is over, this person who wasn’t afraid to take a horse on trail who had only been ridden a week, will be able to trot full laps without a care in the world.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Thunder takes control!

Now, I didn't see this.  I was out riding at the time.  My dad saw Thunder, not once but twice, chase Maggie into the room where he was at.  I think that they are trying to figure out a game to play together.  Maggie then went and attacked the toilet paper. 

When I got home, I decided to do some clicker. I have a small dog frisbee.  I have been using it as a target.  We have finally advanced to where I can slide it on the floor and Maggie will usually follow it. 

In the beginning of our lesson, I was clicking Maggie for touching it when I held it to her.  I then told her to stay and clicked Thunder for touching it.  They both got treats.  Thunder for touching and Maggie for staying.

I then started the sliding and Maggie was doing pretty good.  Then, she got distracted or confused--I don't know what.  Anyway, at that point, Thunder got up and walked over to the frisbee and sniffed it.  Of course, I clicked him.  He did it several time.  Cats really are smarter than dogs.  They don't usually show it since they don't have the pack mentality.  I have read that they will watch a dog or another cat in training and then just do it themselves right away.  Thunder proved it!

We will work on more, tonight.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Amazing Dog

She used to be Dumb Dog, but now she is Amazing. I worked with her a few days with the clicker to get her to stay in the other room when I played with Thunder. Every minute or 2, I would come back, click and give her a treat.
Thunder's favorite game--one we weren't able to play unless she was outside or locked up is "Throw." I would throw a piece of dry catfood across the wooden floor and he would chase after it, and of course, eat it. Maggie would come in whenever she heard it, and we would have to quit.
Saturday, I tried to get a few throws in before the dog heard, and found myself doing lots of throws. I figured Maggie was asleep. I finally checked her--and found her with Dad--wide awake--waiting for a treat! Of course I gave her one.
By Sunday, I was able to throw food off and on for Thunder for about 10 minutes while I was on the phone--I was unable to reward the dog. Still, she waited.

Thunder and I can now play all of our games--including me chasing after him through the house.
I am so happy about this, that now, I am more interested in playing with Maggie. I just need to figure out what she would like to do other than go on walks. She is very athletic. I would like her to catch a frisbee, but she doesn't understand, yet.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Another 4-day weekend!

Yes, I am trying to use up my vacation time before Cruiser's shoes are pulled--which is next week.  The weather won't be like last week, but I think it will be good enough.  My sister will be able to ride with me on my first rides, but then she will have to go to work.  My boyfriend will be around, of course.  He is retired and loves having me around.  He may be able to ride with me on my second rides.

I also have a 4-day weekend next weekend because of Thanksgiving.  This is the life...  Then it will be back to work until Christmas and then nothing until spring.  I don't waste vacation in the winter.

I plan to get more of the garden cleaned up, and if I finish up the beets, I will take the electric fence down.  Then, I will be done with all my outside stuff.  We don't rake until spring, and thats just by the house. We have a lot of red oaks that lose most of their leaves in the spring. 

The dog is getting better.  She hasn't had an accident in more than a week.  If I tell her to stay away from us, she leaves me alone to play with the cat for a few minutes, otherwise, she gets in the way.  Thunder then starts to stalk her.  He's getting more aggressive with his pouncing.  She doesn't like it, but hasn't figured out just to leave us alone.

Monday, November 15, 2010

My weekend

Wow, did I pick 4 fantastic days for a long weekend. The weather was so awesome--not the typical November Cleveland weather. Of course, I rode--I ride regardless--but it was nice to be comfortable instead of cold.

Cole was horrible the first day, but he did great the rest. Yesterday, my sister even rode him a little bit on the trail. I walked, she rode. Cole was a little confused when she went to mount him, and pranced a bit for about a minute, but then he settled down. She even trotted him a short distance a few times. She liked the way he felt--he is like a small version of her large horse--just as round.

When she had enough, I rode the rest of the way.

Cruiser was great the whole time, of course.

I am going out to ride again, tonight. I have to feed, so I might as well ride, too. It will be in the arena, though.

I took off this Thursday and Friday coming up, too. I gotta use the vacation up before Cruise's shoes are pulled! I only ride him very limited on the trail without shoes. He needs them for support for his bad tendon.

Maggie and Thunder are doing better all the time. He is regularly stalking and pouncing her, now. She just gets confused and ignores him--just like Pollie does. I praise her each time I see her do that.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Long weekend

Well, I have to use up the vacation days, and since the weather is going to be great, I now have a 4-day weekend!  I plan to ride, of course. 

I will be going out to the barn, tonight, too.  Due to economic conditions, when the barn manager decided to switch back to 3 feedings a day, I gladly took the opportunity to feed on Mondays and Wednesdays.  It helps with the bottom line.  I used to do it a few years ago, but they dropped the evening feeding and I was laid off.  It is only hay and water for about 30 horses.  Often, my boyfriend is there to help.  He is good at watering--it's mindless.

Anyway, I will probably just lounge Cole, tonight.  I want to continue to desensitize him to the far end of the arena.  I will work Cruiser for a while, too.  I hope he does a little better than he did on Monday!  Then, the rest of the weekend I will be on trail.  I love the trail!

I will also continue working with Thunder and dumb dog.  Last night, I was working on Stay while I would run out of the room--chasing Thunder around.  This is the one game of Thunder's that I thought was gone for good, so I am very amazed that Maggie listened.  I love clicker.  I was inspired by the excellent show on PBS, Nova, that was showing how smart dogs could be--as I was doing the training.  Maybe I should stop calling her dumb dog.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Cruiser and Cole in the Arena

I rode Cruiser in the arena for the first time since mid March, and it didn't go so well.  It was obvious his mind wasn't on it.  I would ask him to trot, and he would halt.  Sometimes he just stopped on his own.  When we got to the far end of the arena at a trot, his head went straight up like a Saddlebred.  I would calm him down, but each time we got there, he did the same thing.  He drifted off the wall and he couldn't stay in a steady rhythm.  I can see we have a lot of work to do this winter. 

Last winter, was the winter of Mingo's illness, and I wasn't able to focus well when I rode Cruiser.  I know I was lax, and I think I am paying the price for it, now.

I mostly lounged Cole on the scary end of the arena for desensitation.  I haven't been riding him over there due to his volatility.  He was volatile on the lounge line, but he improved as time went on.  I then saddled him and worked on riding him over there at a walk.  We did have one really bad incident the second time I took him through it and one stop in place spook the third time over there.  After that, he was fine. We just kept going in circles on that end.  This has been our biggest arena issue.  Most times, I just stay away, but I have to solve it eventually.  Now that it is quiet outside the arena (the source of the problem in the beginning) I have no excuse.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Demon Dog Miracle

It was a miracle.  The dog who wouldn't go outside alone (abandonment issues, I think) went to the door and looked at it.  I asked her if she wanted to go out, and she wagged.  I opened the door, she walked out and 15 seconds later did her business!!!!  I praised her from inside the house.  She was so happy that she did good.

She is doing great with Thunder, except she wants to chase him when he playfully runs around.  I stop her, but I can't help but think that Thunder wants her to chase him.  He loves when I chase him, but when I catch up to him, I pet him.  I'm not sure what she will do if she caught up with him, so I discourage her.

A Trail Ride with Cole

A Trail Ride with Cole

Early in the month, the weather got very chilly. With chilly weather, we get hyper horses. Well, Cruiser and Ranger are getting up there in years, so the hyperness it nothing more than a small challenge and an opportunity for a few laughs. Cruise will unexpectedly dash ahead to the lead as we quietly plod along, or Ranger will toss in one of his kitten bucks. It’s not a big deal to us.

Cole, on the other hand, is an unknown. We never know what to expect with him. I am now regularly lounging him before riding—just to test his mood. He has definably been more challenging in the cooler weather—yet we have had some great rides.

I took him out on a ride on the first Sunday of the month. I had ridden him the 2 days previous, so I figured I would skip the lounging, since we were going on the trail. He does better on the trail than the arena.

I rode him by myself down the hill to the river. The hill has always been the toughest place for him (he thinks he should be allowed to trot downhill), but the day before, we practiced it 3 times. I must say, he was the best he had ever been this time. He only tried to trot a couple times, and they were very half-hearted attempts.

He willingly crossed the river—though he had never crossed it that high before, and we met Ellen, on foot, on the other side.

We walked for a few minutes, and he was very relaxed. I knew this was going to be a good ride. We trotted away from Ellen, and he didn’t even get upset about leaving her. We trotted and walked and trotted and walked for about 15 minutes when we got to the next river crossing.

I hadn’t gone across this one alone for a few weeks. We have either turned around, here, or followed Ranger. I expected some resistance, and Cole didn’t disappoint me. He stopped and told me that this is where we turn around. I accidently reverted to how I had to ride with Mingo, and gave him a big boot to get him to go forward. Oooops!!! That is not something you do with Cole. He is very, very sensitive to the forward cue. He jumped and started to trot down the bank. I made him walk, and he did until he saw the muddy bottom. I decided to try a different tactic to get him going. I squeezed my legs and held. When he took one step, I released, clicked and treated. I then asked again. This time, he responded right away. I rewarded him, again and asked him to resume walking. This time, I didn’t click him until he was walking through the mud. I decided that warranted clicking, too.

We then went into the river—and it was deep! I couldn’t see the bottom! I didn’t realize the depth until I was right in it. The current is very slow there, so it wasn’t a problem—it was just something different for him. Cole did just fine.

Once we got across the river, I felt his excitement level rise. I knew there was a group of 4 horses ahead of me, because I had seen them cross the river from a distance. I think that is why he perked up. We walked a bit until we got back in the woods—away from all the human caused distraction. I have only done minimal trotting in this area, so it was no surprise to me that when I asked him to trot, he went very fast. After about 15 seconds, I asked him to stop. We walked a bit and then trotted, again. We did this routine 4 times, and only on the last time, did he settle down and we went further. I walked for a few more minutes, passed up the other horses on their way home and shortly after, turned around to go home, myself.

Soon, I met Ellen and she walked with us. Well, she sort of walked with us. I had to keep stopping Cole to let her catch up. (Good practice for Cole.)

The trip home went well. He walked fast, and a few times he tried to trot. Sometimes, we could see the horses up ahead. Turns out, they were all mares. We passed up other horses going the opposite direction, and he acted very appropriate.

Overall, the ride was a great one. At the final river crossing, I left Ellen. On the other side, there was a woman and her daughter on horseback on top of the bank. They were just standing there. As I came up the bank, the woman asked me how Cole had been doing. I told her that he was doing great. The words were barely out of my mouth, when he jumped up the last stride of the bank and tried to lounge towards their horses! I quickly spun him away from them and threw in another spin for good measure. I guess he had been good for too long. I got asked him to stand, and when he seemed settled down, I got off and led him up the hill.

It was a great ride, but he made sure I didn’t forget that he is still a very green horse.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

More saddle pictures

No, that's not a horn in the back.  It it meant to keep the pack secure.  I can take it entirely apart.  The 2 bottom panels come off, too.  On the inside, you can see the ring that you would attach your saber.  I keep an identification tag on it.  The tree is attached by rawhide strings, so it is flexible.  Every horse is smoother in this saddle.  I think that is why.

If you ever find one--they are on Ebay, now and then, consider purchasing it to use.  I only needed to have the billets replaced.  Between the purchase price and repairs, I think it was about $150.00.

Mingo's Old Saddle

I was going through my old e-mails, and I found the photos of Mingo's saddle that I sent off to Japan for verification--and much to my joy, there was Pollie, the best dog ever, that passed away in the summer.  I sure do miss her.  I call our new dog, Maggie, "Not-the-Pollie."

Anyway, back to the saddle.  I bought it at an estate sale and got it fixed so I could use it.  Turns out it is a Japanese military saddle from WWII.  It is so comfortable, and it was the only saddle that Mingo was happy with. 

It is now Cruiser's saddle.  It is too easy to come off of, so I don't dare use it with Cole for a while.

Autumn Trail Ride on Cole

Here we are experiencing the last of the fall color.  It is all gone, now, and it looks very, very bleak.  I can't wait until spring.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Thunder Meets Devil Dog

Thunder Meets Devil Dog

Last summer, our wonderful dog, Pollie, passed on. She was the most perfect, best dog, ever. It was heartbreaking. In fact, my heart is still broken, and I still miss her, so much.

I didn’t really want another dog. I’m not really a dog person to begin with, and I knew we would never find one as perfect as Pollie. Thunder, the cat, and I were perfectly content with the way things were.

I live with my dad—the dog person. Our fates changed the day my dad went to the doctor. When the doctor asked him if he had any questions, my dad replied, “Do you think I should get a dog?” The doctor said, “Yes.” My life was ruined.

Dad wanted one as much like Pollie as possible. Pollie was a Sheltie mix. I went to Petfinders. I couldn’t find a dog at all like Pollie under the Shelties. I decided to try Border Collies. There was a young female listed at a cat rescue in our area. Her name was Maggie. What attracted me to her was the cat lying down in the background. As I am looking at the ad, my office mate’s radio started playing the song, “Maggie” by Rod Stewart. Was that a good sign? It sure was weird.

A few days later, I sent in an application for approval. As I was writing my sister in an email about it, that song came on, again. It was really getting weird.

Through emails and phone calls, we worked things out and a couple weeks later, they delivered her to our house. She was the right size—30 pounds, friendly and incredibly cute. We said we would take her. They said she was good with cats. That was the most important thing to me. Thunder is my best buddy, and I wanted him to be happy. He liked Pollie, even if Pollie was indifferent to him. He would stalk and pounce her.

Now, here comes one more weird thing. I asked the volunteer where she was found, and I couldn’t believe it—Train Avenue. That’s where Pollie was found all those years ago. If you are a westsider of Cleveland, you would know Train Avenue. It is a spooky, mostly deserted street with train tracks, trash and a few businesses. The cat shelter feeds feral cats and does trap/neuter/release with any cats they don’t think can be adopted. They found her, gave her some food and as they left, she chased the van. She didn’t want to be alone.

The first thing she did was chase Thunder through the house. He was so fearful. He ran upstairs to my bedroom. I had the stairs blocked so a cat could go up, but a dog couldn’t. He didn’t come down until the evening. When she found him, he panicked and ran. Like all dogs, she chased. It was awful. He was so scared, and I was so upset. There was another incident the next day that was just as bad.

Now, Thunder has never been known for his bravery. He is quite the chicken cat. I was starting to think he would be living upstairs forever. I moved up his litter boxes, food, cat furniture and toys. We were both miserable. I thought I made the biggest mistake of my life.

With the help of my brother and sister-in-law, we came up with a possible plan. We have a hallway that leads to a couple rooms and my bathroom. I would block it with the fireplace screen, and put him there so he could see her, yet still be safe. It might help to desensitize him. I would work with him in short sessions and then let him back upstairs.

In the meantime, she needed to learn some manners. I got out my trusty clicker and taught her to lie down and to stay. It only took a couple lessons. The first day I tried our experiment, I worked with the dog on the far end of the house. Thunder got curious and sat on the safe side of the screen and watched. I brought her closer and he was okay with it. As long as she behaved, he would watch.

Each time, I got closer. Eventually, I clicked and treated the dog for lying quietly by the screen. Thunder just watched. On the second day of training, he asked to come out. I opened the screen, held the dog and he walked around her to go up the stairs. The dog got a lot of treats.

A week after we got the dog, I was brushing my teeth at night. The screen was in place, but open enough for me to get in. Thunder was upstairs. The phone rang, and I ran to get it. It was dark, and I didn’t see the screen—I ran straight into it and fell. The answering machine got the call before me. I told Kevin to call back. I waited. The dog went into the bathroom. I called her to come out and she did, but she went back and started making funny noises. I went to investigate and found Thunder cornered in the bathtub! He must have come down when I was brushing my teeth to visit me. I rescued him.

From that day, things got steadily better. I wonder if Thunder, since he was cornered, had to defend himself and found out the dog wouldn’t hurt him if he showed her his claws? He started coming downstairs when the dog wasn’t in the living room and skittering up when she found him. He spent a lot of time watching her from the safety of the stairs—studying. Thursday morning, he sniffed her nose. Thursday evening he spent downstairs with me whenever he felt safe. Friday, he was downstairs even more.

Saturday, he gently pounced her. Later in the day, he charged her with claws flying and she backed off. From that point, he no longer acted afraid. If she was too pushy, he growled. He spent a lot of time sniffing her. He made friendly gestures. She tried puppy play position. He didn’t understand and growled. There is a definite language problem.

On Halloween, he was no longer a scaredy cat. In 2 weeks, he made an amazing transformation. Maggie seems to ignore him unless I am paying attention to him. It is something we will have to work with. I am hoping to be able to play games with him downstairs, someday. Everything was a success. I really think they will end up being friends. Maybe that song was a good omen.

Dad has his dog, and I have a much braver cat. In fact, he seems all full of himself. Cats are amazing, adaptable creatures.

Trail Training Newsletter #118 - The Canter

The Canter

I won’t keep you in suspense for long. I wanted to get the canter in, soon, so it wouldn’t get intimidating for me. In the past, I have cantered my green horses within a few weeks of the first ride, but that has always been in the arena. I have been having problems with Cole in the arena—partly because I have been spending a lot of my time on the trail. We only work in the arena 1-3 times a week at the most, and since the weather got cooler, there have been days that we haven’t’ gotten past lounging. I have been working in the indoor arena, and if there are horses outside moving about or it is windy, he becomes very volatile—spooking at any noise. I also figured out that he wasn’t very consistent with his lounging anyway, so there are days I stick to the safer activity.

On the trail, he hardly spooks, and he is much more advanced than he is in the arena. I decided the place to introduce the canter was on the trail. I know this isn’t what most people do, but it seemed like the best plan.

I didn’t know what to expect. Would he buck for the fun of it? Would I be able to stop him? Would I ever get him out of a fast trot? Would he have a comfortable canter? I remember Cruiser’s canter was pretty rough when I started him. He has a tendency to do a 4-beat if he doesn’t have enough impulsion. When I cantered him for the first time on the trail, he actually went slowly. Some horses are just made to trot. I have to confess, I was nervous—more nervous than the first time I ever rode him.

Ellen and I decided we would do it the same way we started the trot on the trail. I would have her walk down the trail a ways while we waited and I would try to canter to her. He is conditioned, with the clicker, to stop when he gets to her. This way, I would have brakes if he got excited.

I started out by trotting him out for about 10 minutes to settle him down. We then turned and headed back towards home until I met Ellen on foot. I turned him around to face him away from home (always a good idea when you are introducing any type of speed) and sent Ellen up the trail. We did a few short stretches at a trot to remind him what the game is about. It had been about a month since we did it last. He remembered. I clicked and treated when I got to Ellen to reinforce the stop.

Now, it was time to canter. Unfortunately, we didn’t have a cue for it. We haven’t lounged at the canter, yet, because he has been getting too excited in the arena. The first few times, I just tried leg pressure when we were trotting. He just trotted faster. I then tried a few times with a whip tickle. (A strong whip would likely make a sensitive horse, like Cole, buck.)Finally, he got it and burst forward at the canter—or was it a gallop? He came to a halt when he reached Ellen. Even in the excitement, he understood the game.

The next time I asked him, he knew right away, and so we were able to go a little further. He got steady on the last few stride before he got to Ellen. I did it one more time, but this time, I didn’t need the whip tickle.

The following day, I decided we would do the same thing. This time, he flew into the canter when I asked him to walk towards Ellen. Yes, he remembered what he learned. On my next attempt, I made sure he walked first, and then trotted when I asked him to trot. When I said the word “canter,” away we went. Of course, he didn’t know the cue, but I think he was looking for anything that he might consider a cue.

Because of his extreme enthusiasm for this game, I decided we should do a few short stretches of trotting up to Ellen. I am please to say that he was a perfect gentleman, but when I eventually asked for a canter, he was clueless for the first few attempts. When he did figure it out, he was just as enthusiastic as before. I decided it was time to quit the cantering for the day. He was hyper all the way home—trying to trot and throwing in a few spooks. It could have been about the cantering, it could have been the wind and all the leaves blowing around or it could have been because Starry joined us on the trip home. My feeling is that it was everything combined. He was over stimulated. I was glad to dismount.

His canter was fast and powerful, but a lot of it might have been just because it was new. We will see how he does when he relaxes at the canter once the novelty is gone. His transitions were like a racehorse bursting out of the starting gate. At least there was no sign of bucking from the excitement.

The funniest part about the whole thing is how, not only did he wait for Ellen to walk down the trail, but he would actually stop to let her go on ahead. He really liked the game.

I don’t know how much more cantering on the trail we will do. The season is winding down very quickly, and I really prefer to work on trotting quietly with other horses. I certainly am not ready to try cantering with another horse! At least, I got the initial cantering over with, and if we start having any success this winter in the arena, I won’t be hesitant to add it into our training. Then, in the spring, he will be much better when I try it on the trail.

Trail Training Newsletter #118 - Trotting for Two

Trotting for Two

I have been taking Cole out on the trail and doing a fair amount of trotting, but it is always when we are riding by ourselves. There are times that he is very hyper and doesn’t want to settle into a steady trot or tries to canter. By doing walk/trot transitions he will eventually even out. Other times, he gets a little reluctant to go, and I just use gentle urging with my legs—releasing when he listens. It has to be gentle. He has a very sensitive gas pedal.

It was now time to trot with other horses. The horse of choice was Ranger, since Ellen is the greatest person to ride with. The problem that we had to face, though, now had two faces—the face of Cole; an energetic, green horse and the face of Ranger; the leader of the herd who doesn’t want some whippersnapper little horse to be in the lead.

Oh, how I miss my Mingo. He was the perfect horse for times like this. Most of the time, he was uncompetitive. He was happy to let his companion horses go on ahead of him. He would just travel along at a comfortable speed for himself. He knew we would always wait for him. Mingo was the perfect anchor horse. Ranger doesn’t believe in being an anchor horse.

The first day we went out on a ride planning to trot together, we started in an area where Ranger typically goes slower and gladly lets Cruiser take the lead. The first attempt went well. The second was so-so. The third—Ranger got mad and Ellen had a tough time keeping him from blasting past Cole. That was enough for the day. We walked the rest of the ride.

It was another week before we could try it again. This time, Ranger was upset the first time. The second time, he threw in a few of his kitten bucks. It was time to change our plan. This just wasn’t working.

In the spring, when Cruiser and Ranger are really hyper, we go back to practicing transitions. I suggested we try this with Ranger and Cole. I figured if I worked with the clicker on the downward transitions, it would encourage him to stop instead of race. We put Cole in the lead, trotted about 20 steps and stopped. I clicked and treated Cole. Ranger happily stopped to Ellen’s command since Cole stopped first.

We did it a few more time, and each time they behaved a little better. Ranger remembered the game, and when I would tell Ellen that I was going to walk, that was enough for Ranger to walk on his own. They both slowed down and trotted steadily.

Each time, we went a little further before stopping. We put Cole behind Ranger, and he was so focused on me—waiting for a whoa—that he didn’t try to pass. Ranger was perfectly happy. Finally, we were going about 30 seconds at a time when we reached the next river crossing.

We decided to turn home, there. We went about a quarter mile home, turned around and did it again. This time, we only did a few transitions. It was great. It never, ever worked this well with Cruiser!

We couldn’t resist the temptation—we did it again. The last time, we trotted the whole way without stopping. Cole was a bit reluctant to go again, but Range was fine with it. It all went so beautiful.

Then next opportunity we had, we were on a trail that Cole is less familiar with, and it didn’t go quite as good, but it still wasn’t bad. It was the trail that added the excitement. We only did it 3 or 4 times and then stuck to walking.

We now had a way to get Cole accustomed to trotting with another horse in a mannerly way. I wonder if it will work at a canter?

Monday, October 25, 2010

Cantering Cole

I cantered Cole for the first time! (Canter is a version of gallop.) We were on the trail, since he does better for me there than the arena.. Saturday, when I asked him, he didn’t have a clue what I wanted. I ended up having to tickle him with the whip. When he got it, he went very fast. I have him trained to stop when he reaches my sister, and he did. We did it a couple more times, and then we quite for the day.

Sunday, after riding him about 20 minutes, we decided to try again. I sent my sister up the trail. When I asked Cole to go, he remembered the lesson from the day before and burst forward into a gallop! He stopped at my sister, and I started to breathe, again. The second time I tried, he walked, then trotted, then cantered on command. He still went fast, but is was more reasonable. We did it one more time, and we were very successful.

We headed home, and he was very hyper. I think he enjoyed his cantering. It was also very windy and leaves were falling everywhere. I think that got him going, too.

Since he got hyper, I may not do it again for a while. I just wanted to get it over with. Honestly, that was much more scary than riding him for the first time. I’m glad it was uneventful. He sure has a powerful canter.

Cantering Cole

I cantered Cole for the first time! (Canter is a version of gallop.) We were on the trail, since he does better for me there than the arena.. Saturday, when I asked him, he didn’t have a clue what I wanted. I ended up having to tickle him with the whip. When he got it, he went very fast. I have him trained to stop when he reaches my sister, and he did. We did it a couple more times, and then we quite for the day.

Sunday, after riding him about 20 minutes, we decided to try again. I sent my sister up the trail. When I asked Cole to go, he remembered the lesson from the day before and burst forward into a gallop! He stopped at my sister, and I started to breathe, again. The second time I tried, he walked, then trotted, then cantered on command. He still went fast, but is was more reasonable. We did it one more time, and we were very successful.

We headed home, and he was very hyper. I think he enjoyed his cantering. It was also very windy and leaves were falling everywhere. I think that got him going, too.

Since he got hyper, I may not do it again for a while. I just wanted to get it over with. Honestly, that was much more scary than riding him for the first time. I’m glad it was uneventful. He sure has a powerful canter.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Wednesday Night

I had a very nice trail ride on Cruiser. He was definitely feeling his oats!

I had a tougher time with Cole. I wanted to ride him in the indoor arena, but figured I would lounge him first. Well, the horses were out next door, and they were running around and banging the gate. This really revs Cole up. He kept having tantrums on the lounge line. I worked him through it, and we actually did some good stuff, but by then, he had had enough of a work out, so I didn't ride. I took him for a quiet walk outside to cool out and relax.

He has a good side and a bad side. On the good side, I am able to shape his shape by clicking when he drops his head and rounds his back. It worked--he kept going back to it quicker each time.

On the bad side, I was just content with him going forward quietly. I clicked him for that.

I wish it wasn't too dark to take both horses on the trail. Unfortunately, in a few weeks, it will be to dark to take either one out.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Thunder the Brave

Thunder is the smartest and bravest cat. I am now thinking things will work out. I carried him down the stairs and placed him on the other side of a hall that I had blocked off. It contains 2 bedrooms and a bathroom. I used a fireplace screen as my blockade—braced with a couple of boxes. The dog was locked in another room with my dad watching TV.

After a couple minutes, he realized he was safe and in a couple of his favorite rooms. He walked around, ate some food and was quite comfortable.

I went to train the dog. We mastered down the day before, and now I added on stay. She caught on pretty quick. I peeked out across the living room to check on Thunder. He was on the other side of the screen, listening. I brought the dog out, and as far away as we could, we went through the routine. When she noticed Thunder, I changed what I was doing. When she looked at him, I said her name. When she looked at me, I clicked and treated. We lasted about 5 minutes.

I put her back with Dad, and went to talk to Thunder. He was so happy! He was rolling and stretching and purring. I got out one of his toys and we had a fine play session.

We had 2 more clicker sessions with dumb dog. Each time, we got closer. Finally, we were about 3 feet from the screen. I kept giving her treats for just sitting and behaving. Thunder just sat in the hall and watched with the most intelligent look on his face. He looked like a scientist studying a new form of life. He was so brave.

While she was locked up with Dad, I opened the screen. He did come out and walk around the living room and dining room. He finally got to explore the fireplace—since I removed the screen. He has wanted to do that for years.

When he decided to go upstairs, I got dumb dog out. I went to go talk to him upstairs and couldn’t find him! I called him and here he came up the stairs! He went down by himself! The dog was wandering about, too, so I don’t know if he came up because of me or her.

Anyway, this morning after breakfast, I heard him jump off the stairs, he walked into the dining room, meowed and I went to see him. The dog ran over to him, and he ran up the stairs. I hollered at her, and she came back to me. Thund didn’t seem panicked this time and dumb dog didn’t seem like she was chasing—just wanting to see him.

I will keep working with them like this. I need to get dumb dog as obedient as possible. She is learning fast. if things work out, I will start to call her Maggie.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Weekend Update

My sister and I had a 4-day weekend that consisted of a lot of riding! I rode both horses each day (and yesterday, too) On the first day, the river was too high for Cole, but we crossed with the other horses and avoided the rain. I rode Cole in the ring (where he did very well for a change) and then took him on the hill. It started to rain, and he panicked. Very odd since he used to live outside.

Friday, I took Cole out with my sister’s horse and we worked on trotting together. We have a double problem with that since ranger likes to challenge horses to a race when we trot. Okay, so does Cruiser. We created the problem ourselves. What we did was trot very short distances and stop. They both caught on and settled down very nicely. Before we knew it, we were trotting calmly down the trail! It was great.

Saturday, my niece rode with us. We took all 3 horses out together for the first time. Cruiser never went out with Cole before, and he was so excited! He couldn’t take his eyes off of him. After he settled down, he was thrilled to walk with him. They are both capable of walking fast. We kept stopping to wait for Ranger to catch up. We stayed at a walk the whole ride.

Sunday, we took him up the the shwo ring area. The ride was successful, and we did a few short stretches of trotting. He was a little jumpy, and it really seemed like he was spooking at his shadow. It was early in the morning, and the shadows were longer than he has ever seen them.

I rode yesterday in the ring. He did spook a few times, but I got control of him right away and he settled quickly. We did a fair amount of trotting—enough that he wanted to stop on his own. After about a half hour, the coyotes started howling outside, and I decided it was time to quit.


I rode Cruiser on the trail last night, and he was great, of course. He always is. Someday, Cole will be there, too.

I think I don't like dogs.

Things have improved slightly with the dog situation at my house. First off, we had a couple good training sessions. She will now lay down when I point to the ground. (We skipped right over “sit.” She kept laying down and I figured that was good enough for me.) I am now trying to install a voice command. Tonight, we will do that and work on “stay.” I realize I must get her listening if I ever expect her to behave around Thunder.

Thunder, of course, is still hiding out upstairs. We have circular stairs. I have them blocked so the dog can’t get up them. I did notice last night, when he heard the dog moving around, instead of climbing up the windowsill—the highest point in the house, he walked to the edge of the stairs and looked down at her. I think that is a good sign. Also, I put treats on the top 2 steps before I went to bed, and he ate some of them. I’m hoping that if he gets comfortable sitting on the steps, he could watch the dog from there.

Monday, October 18, 2010

New dog

Well, we got our new dog. She is adorable. Dad loves her. She loves Dad, and Thunder is petrified. She chased him, and now he won’t come downstairs. I brought all his furniture, food and litterboxes into my bedroom. I opened up the other bedroom up there, too. I am so upset becaseu he is upset. I wish we never got devil dog. The stairs are blocked so she can’t get up them.

She is about 30 pounds, black and white and is supposed to be a Border Collie mix that likes cats. Yeah, right. I’m ready to turn her loose for the coyotes.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Tuesday Evening at the Barn

I started down the trail yesterday evening with Cruiser. I got down the hill to the first river crossing and it started. First there was a loud screech and then boom…boom…boom…screech. Well, Cruiser is half Arabian—he thought we were entering a warzone and he got very, very frightened. I got off, turned him around and led him back home.

We are close to the airport, and every now and then, Canadian geese congregate on the runways. They shoot something at them—sounds like loud fireworks—to get them off the runway. Usually, it is only a few shots, but not last night. I brought him back to the barn to let him unwind. He was petrified. I cleaned stalls as he settled down. When it seemed quiet, I took him back out. He hesitantly, yet bravely headed back into the park. Once he realized it was going to be quiet, he settled down and we had a nice ride.

When I got back, it was Cole time. I have been having inconsistent rides in the arena. Sometimes, he is fine. Sometimes, he is very speedy and feisty. Other times, I have troubles with him spooking and trying to take off. (This is the worst thing he does, but I always catch him before he gets far.) It has put me off from doing ring work with him. On the weekends, and sometimes if I have enough time before sunset, I have been taking him on the trail where he is more consistent. My hopes are that as his good behavior on the trail becomes a habit, he will transfer it into the arena.

Well, I think it is working. It has been nearly a week since I tried the arena, and he was considerably better! In fact, it was by far, our best arena ride, yet! We walked and trotted about, practiced transitions and turns and didn’t have a single spook. He got a little goofy towards the end of the ride, so I just started to review very simple things to settle him down and when he was listening, again, we quite for the night. What a relief. I have a long winter ahead where I will mainly be riding in the arena, so I am glad things are starting to work out.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Great Ride Sunday

After 2 less than great trail rides on Friday and Saturday, Cole redeemed himself on Sunday when we took him back up to the show ring area.

Friday and Saturday, he was questioning me as to why he had to go at the gait I wanted to go. When I trotted, he wanted to canter. When I walked, he wanted to trot. We worked through it all, but it was work--not fun.

Sunday, though, he was wonderful. We went with my sister on Ranger, kept the ride at a walk the whole time and that's what he did--he walked. He didn't spook when a dozen motorcycles passed us, he went calmly up the steep hill, and he did better when I led him down the steep hill. Even though the park was chaotic and we rode into the busy area, he acted like he did it his whole life.

Next weekend, I have a 4-day weekend with lots of riding planned!

Friday, October 8, 2010

Warm and Sunny Weekend

Oh, it is going to be such a fine weekend. After days of rain, we are going to have warm days of sunshine. We will be doing a lot of riding--including a trip up to the show ring area with Cole and Ranger on Sunday! It will only be our second time up there with Cole.

He did fair in the indoor arena on Weds. He did sppol a few times and was more hyper than usual at the trot. I think that with all the trail riding, he is getting in better shape, so it takes more to tire him out. I will ride him in the arena tonight and see how it goes.

I am taking Cruiser on the trail for a quick ride before sunset. Cruiser is doing well, so there is seldom much to say about him. I certainly appreciate him a lot more now that I have Cole!

Monday, October 4, 2010

Weekend Update

I had a 3-day weekend, which meant 3 days of trail riding! Friday was perfect, and we had a great time. Saturday and Sunday were drizzly and chilly. We still managed to trail ride, though. We just didn’t go that far.

Cole is doing well. His biggest accomplishment this weekend was crossing the river when it was a little higher and muddier than he was accustomed to. He hesitated, but I just kept my legs on him until he took a step.

Another thing we worked on was increasing speed on command. He was a little slower, so I decided it was time to ask for more speed at a trot. I simply squeezed my legs, and when he picked up the pace, I released and clicked. He understood right away, but I did it a lot to reinforce the command. I will continue to do it. I’m hoping that when he really understands, I can get him to canter from the trot on command. We haven’t worked on cantering on the lounge, so we don’t have any cue for it at all.

This evening, I will be riding him in the arena for the first time in more than 2 weeks. I don’t know what to expect. How well will he transfer what we have been working on to the arena? We shall see…

Thursday, September 30, 2010

House Cat Tip of the Month

House Cat Tip of the Month

Here is a tip that I thought everyone knew, until I was out with my girlfriend and she was telling me about her new kitty. She didn’t realize that if a cat sticks his tail straight up in the air and walks away, he wants you to follow him.

Follow is a great game to play with cats. I play it at least once a day with Thunder, and sometimes, depending on his mood, we play many times. I follow him and pet him as we go. He likes to show me whatever is on his mind. If he had spent the afternoon looking out a particular window, he takes me there. I remember when the robins built a nest in the bathroom window. He was constantly taking me there to show me the birds.

He likes me to open doors for him, so he will ask me to follow him to a door, than he will put his paw on it to tell me to open it. He then wants me to go into the room with him and explore it—often bursting into a run.

Sometimes, he just wants me to follow him until he falls over on his side and wants me to pet him. Of course, if he is hungry, he will bring me to his food.

Not all cats do the tail thing. Our Siamese cats didn’t seem to do it. If you have the kind of cat who does, follow him and see where he takes you. You may learn something you didn’t know, and your cat will love the attention.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

A Dog in our Future?

Dad went to the cancer doctor, today, for his check up. He checked out fine, and the doctor told him he should get a dog. So, now that he knows he will live a while longer, he made the decision. He wants a dog.

We will start looking, but I sure wouldn’t mind not having a dog over the winter. I am the one that does the dog walking in the dark and in the snow. We shall see how it goes. He wants one as much like our last dog, Pollie, as possible. We will never find a dog that good, and he knows it. He just wants someone to keep him company, and though Thunder is trying his best, my dad is a dog person.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Successfil weekend with Cole

I had a very successful weekend with Cole. Friday evening, we had a decent ride in the arena. It was incredibly hot (90s), so we only did a little trotting. I didn’t want to get him too heated up with his winter coat. He was steady and well behaved. At this point, I can’t ask for much more than that. I was very pleased.

Saturday, the weather was chilly. That’s how it goes here in northeast Ohio. I took him out alone about 5 miles round trip on the trail. We did a lot of trotting and ended up and a brand new trail for him. On the way home, we met my sister on foot and walked back with her. It was an A+ ride. I was in heaven.

I never expected Sunday would be just as good. This time, we went with my sister on Ranger. We did some trotting together. We put Cole in the lead, and he was just fine. My sister was the one with the challenge. Ranger likes to be lead horse, and she had to tactfully keep him behind Cole. We trotted 3 stretches of trail that morning and walked the rest of the time. Cole got an A+ again! It was an amazing weekend.

This weekend coming up is a 3-day one for me. My sister has to work on Saturday, so I will be alone that day. This evening, I will try him in the arena, and Thursday he is getting his feet trimmed.

Cruiser was great all weekend, of course.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Wednesday night ride

Cole and I had a better than normal arena ride, yesterday. Finally, some improvement! There was a lot of factors on my side. First, it was hot. Second, I was able to turn him out to play, first. I have been having trouble with the turning out. He doesn’t like it, and pushes, paws and rears at the gate to get out. This time, I stayed in the pen with him and encouraged him to run about. Although he stopped at the gate, a lot, he didn’t show any signs of trying to get out. I’m starting to think that Cole gets separation anxiety—from me leaving him.

The next thing that was on my side, and this is a big one, it was quiet around the barn. The horses that had been turned out alongside the arena weren’t. He couldn’t see them walking past the windows, and they weren’t’ making any unexpected noises.

He didn’t spook a single time. He walked and trotted on request and listened most of the time. We were able to practice our turns, circles and transitions. I was so glad to have a good ride in there. This is his second within a week. Maybe winter, when we can’t get on the trail, won’t be so bad, after all.

I took Cruiser on a trail ride for about an hour. He was great, of course. I was surprised how sweaty he got, and had to sponge him off when we got back. He has quite a bit of winter coat, already. So does Ranger. Cole hasn’t gotten much coat, yet. I bet he will be cute when he is shaggy.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Long weekend

Well, here I am, back from my long weekend. The good news—Cruiser’s hives healed up enough that I was able to ride him the whole time. He was great, of course, he always is.

Cole was both good and bad. I took him down trail each of the 4 days. The first day, we did trotting by ourselves. It was his best day, I’d say. He did nothing terrible except rushing down the first hill.

Day 2, the river was higher and muddy, and I decided to solve the hill problem instead of pushing him with the river. I lounged him and rode him in the arena, to start. It was the best he ever was in the arena, by far. In fact, he seemed like a whole different horse. I think all the trotting on the trail has settled him down to trot in the arena like a gentleman. I was very please. We did the hill 3 times. He got better each time. He stopped rushing down the hill, but he did show some reluctance, a few times. That is normal, of course. We worked through it pretty easy, since my sister was walking with us. I would ask him to go, and when he wouldn’t, she would walk ahead and he would follow.

Day 3 was a bit tougher. I headed out by myself, and he was very balky on the hill. I had to grab a stick and use it, fortunately very lightly, to get him to finally move. He didn’t want to go down the river bank, either, but a tickle with the stick got him to change his mind. When we got across, I trotted immediately and he liked that. A couple times, when we were walking, I think he tried to turn around, but I was able to intercept him easily and keep him going. We trotted to the next river crossing, and then waited for my sister to catch up with us on her horse, Ranger. We then rode home, passed it up and headed out to the challenging Lagoon area. I have led him there several times, but never ridden him. It is a very active area that goes along the road and everything is all out in the open. He was very nervous and reluctant to go forward. We suspected problems that are why we brought Ranger along. On the way home, he hit something in one of the river crossings—and took off trotting across! He charged up the river bank, too. Not good. He was wound up the whole way home.

Day 4 was both good and bad. We went with Ranger though the Lagoon, up a very, very steep hill to ride in the back trails in the show ring area. He was fine on the way out, except for extreme reluctance on the same river crossing that he panicked the day before. He went up the big hill like a champ—no rushing or stalling out. He was great all through the back trails—except when that branch swung at him and hit him in the private parts. All I could say, is you aren’t bucked off if you land on your feet, are you?

I led him down the big hill on the way home. He was fine all through the Lagoon and over the problem river. Our biggest problem occurred when I rode him down a small, but steep hill. When he got close the bottom, he decided to trot the rest of the way down. I got him to stop at the bottom, before he went into the street, and when I tried to get him to go back up the hill, he had a temper tantrum that wasn’t pretty. I got him to settle down and then dismounted and led him up and down the distance he trotted 3 times for practice. He did that, perfectly. We were fine the rest of the way home.

So, where he was surprisingly awesome much of the time, he still made me remember that he is a green horse and we have a long way to go.

Tonight, I will ride him in the arena. There is only enough time in the evenings to take one horse down trail, and that is Cruiser—a horse that I can relax and just ride. Someday…

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Evening Ride

It was a challenging ride on Cole, yesterday evening, but all went well just the same. It was a first in 2 ways. I had never taken him on the trail in the evening, and I had never taken him without my sister either on foot or on her horse. I was alone. He was goofy as I led him down the hill to the river. I should have ridden, I think he would have been better. Before crossing the river, he did some sort of dance, but crossed anyways. Later, he did have one spook and tried to turn home. I circled him around, but he insisted it was too scary and he had to go home. I circled him again, and away we went. He tries things, but he isn’t a fighter. He gives up as long as I am firm with him.

We did a lot of trotting. In the beginning, I only let him go about a hundred feet, and then we would come back to a walk. A couple times early on, he tried to surge faster on the transitions, and I had to patiently correct him. He started to understand and simply trotted when I asked him to. We got to a spot that where we had plenty of trail, and I let him trot a long distance. He really did well with that.

At the end of that stretch, I heard my boyfriend’s voice. He was up the trail on his horse, talking to someone. We waited for him and we rode home together. Cole was a bit in a hurry, and I had to correct him several times when he tried to trot.

Overall, it was a good ride considering the circumstances. I have noticed that my horses are always more hyper on evening rides than morning rides. There is a first for everything, and I figured I would just get it over with.

Cruiser’s hives were pretty bad. I hope they get better, soon. I really want to ride him this weekend.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010


My sister called me at work, today. Cruiser has hives that broke out, again. they are in the saddle area. She cleaned him up and put some Betadine on him. I am really sad about this. Not only because I was planning to ride him tonight, but because we took Thursday and Friday off for a 4-day weekend of riding. I may not be able to ride him at all. This has happened several times this summer, and I don’t know what is causing it. They have been all over his body, but the ones in the saddle area are to worst. If they don’t improve, I will start him on a course of steroids, again. They help a lot, but I don’t like to use them if I don’t have to.

Of course, I have Cole to ride, but that means we may have to do things a little different than we wanted to. I haven’t worked with Cole with trotting with other horses. That may be our project.

I may take Cole down trail, tonight. I have never ridden him out there in the evening, and if my boyfriend doesn’t show up, it will be the first time that I’m without either my sister on foot or another horse. We’ll see how that goes. I’ll have to do it, eventually—it may be tonight. I will lounge him a little first, but not too much because daylight is limited.

We’ll see how it goes…

Monday, September 13, 2010

More Cole Training

I had a lot of fun with Cole this weekend. Friday evening, we simply worked on lounging. He hasn’t been consistent with it, and since I will be using it more in the cooler weather to take the edge off of him before I ride, I decided I should concentrate on it.

Sometimes I feel like I am training 2 different horses. One is an arena horse, and one is a trail horse. The trail horse is far advanced from the arena horse.

The first five minutes, he acted like he didn’t remember a thing, but then, something clicked. (Actually, it was my clicker.) Suddenly, he understood that I wanted forward motion. Soon, I merely needed to point the whip at him, and he would move off, trotting—not bucking or jumping about. He was trotting 2-3 laps at a time, and then I would click and treat him when he looked balance and calm. What in improvement. I will give him at least one more lounging lesson before I start riding him in the arena, again.

But, the weekends are for trail riding--particularly in September in Ohio. Each day, I rode Cruiser with my sister on Ranger. When we got back, it was Cole time.

Saturday, I rode him down to the river, crossed itand met my sister, on foot, on the other side. She decided it is now too cold for her to walk through the water. We walked a bit until he seemed quiet, and then I did some short trotting stretches, just like last week, stopping when we would reach her. I needed to make sure he had brakes. Since he wants to stop by her, anyway, it is easy to get him to whoa when we reach her.

Now, you people with Quarter Horses are probably laughing at me. If you are, you probably never rode young, barely trained Morgan, Arab or Morab. They are gentle and kind horses with an incredible amount of energy and a love of going and going and going. Why do you think they do well in long distance competitions? They not only have the physical ability, but the drive. These horse love to go. Brakes are very important.

Once I knew I had brakes, I went off on my own and trotted about a quarter mile—stopping once when he decided to canter and 2 more times. He was settling down and getting rhythmic. I was posting.

Wow, was that nice. We walked home. I’m glad to say that he tried trotting without permission far less than the previous weekend when I had him on the trail.

Sunday, I knew he would be better. Sundays, he is always better. Once again, I met my sister on the other side of the river. We walked a bit, and then we trotted up to my sister a few times. Things were going pretty good, and I was ready to leave her in the dust. This time, I had about a half mile of trail until the next river crossing where I intended to turn around. I stopped him a couple times before I got there, walked him a bit and went back into the trot.

All I could say is it was just simply wonderful. He took light contact on the reins, found a steady rhythm, and was as balanced and perfect as could be. He once we got to that beautiful gait, he neither accelerated nor decelerated. We flew down the trail. Cole was made to do this.

Those of you that have been following me for years, know that I love a good, fast trot, and Cruiser has one. Since he bowed his tendon, I have discouraged him from doing it. An extended trot does put some strain on tendons, and Cruiser is too precious to me to risk re-injury. Mingo never believed in speed, so we seldom got up to a fast trot. This was heaven to me.

I got to the next river crossing, and Cole didn’t want to stop trotting this time. I persisted, and he agreed, but I didn’t turn around as planned. We walked right across the river to ride further. He felt he should trot on the other side, so I decided it might be better to walk. He had only been ever there a few times, anyway. I went along for about 5 minutes. I did ask for a trot, once, and he was quite excited and out of control. I decided walking was better. I’m glad he now had reliable brakes. I went a little further and turned back for home.

He didn’t want to turn back. He pouted, but at least he walked. After a few minutes, we came across my boyfriend on his horse, Starry. Cole took the lead and headed for the river. He was thrilled to see my sister on the other side. He had to greet her before continuing along the trail.

I’m very glad that he only tried to trot a couple times on the walk home, and that was when we were very close to the barn. By doing so many walk/trot transitions, he seems to be figuring out that I choose the gait. This has been the hardest lesson for him to learn, but I believe he is finally learning it. It is a very satisfying feeling to know we are progressing so well—and so is knowing that I have a horse with such an awesome trot.