Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Learning to Ride a New Horse

Learning to Ride a New Horse

My nieces are riding again with us this summer. Our younger niece always rides Ranger. This isn’t a problem, because Kevin graciously allowed us to use Starry, and Ellen likes riding Starry.

My older niece used to ride Mingo, and now she has to ride Starry, instead. (Because of Cruiser’s occasional unpredictable spooking, I am the only one that rides him. We don’t want any sort of accident that may cause him to re-bow his tendon.)

Well, all I can say is I miss my Mingo. My niece could ride him all she liked, and I barely worried a moment. He took good care of her, and she trusted him. There was something calming and soothing about Mingo. He was like a warm cup of hot chocolate on a cold day.

Starry is a horse of a different color. First of all, he is buckskin instead of black—definitely a different color. He is also HUGE—at least a hand taller than Mingo. His size can be very intimidating for a new rider. He can be quite spirited, and he is very fussy about bugs—tossing his head about.

Starry also has a trot that must be posted. This is a problem for a girl that learned to ride on the smoothest, non-gaited horse ever born. Although I did teach her to post, she had no reason to practice it until she could do it without thinking. If you did missed a beat with Mingo, it didn’t matter. Starry—well he may have the roughest trot in the world. I have never ridden a rougher one.

I thought I would introduce the trot slowly to my niece. I told her to let me know when she wanted to stop. I glanced back and saw a look of great discomfort on her face as she bounced along. She lasted maybe 5 seconds and she wanted to stop and rest. I don’t blame her. We found out another advantage of Mingo. When she would ask him to trot, he would walk faster and then ease into his trot. Starry leaps right into his bone-jarring trot and is bouncing her all about before she could even think of posting. By then, she is ready to quit, and I don’t blame her.

We tried a couple more times with about the same results. The last time we tried, Starry comes flying past me in the canter. I stopped Cruise and reminded my niece that if she pulled the reins instead of yelling to walk, he would stop. She did, and he slid to a halt. I didn’t expect the cantering, at all. By now, I was ready to walk the rest of the ride. I asked my niece how she felt about his canter, and she said, “At least it was more comfortable than his trot.”

We went down the trail just a few minutes to the next river crossing and then turned to walk home. This presented a new problem. The week before, Kevin was riding Starry, and he got attacked by some sort of bug in a very sensitive area of his underbody. Starry panicked. I didn’t see it because Kevin was riding alone that day. Apparently, Starry decided he was stuck in a snow drift and started going forward and backward; forward and backward; frantically. It only ended when Kevin slid off to the ground, fortunately unhurt. Starry was fine for the rest of the ride home.

A couple days later, I was riding with Kevin, and a nasty bug attacked Starry. He decided the best thing to do was jump up and down in place. (Starry, not Kevin.) That lasted only a couple seconds, but Kevin was having flashbacks, and he got very shaken up.

I was concerned that Starry might get attacked, again, and start to panic. My niece is not a good enough rider to deal with something like that. Ellen and Kevin had ridden Starry, since, with no problems. Common sense said everything would be fine. Of course, it was, but the whole way home, Starry was tossing his head about to chase the mosquitoes away. I kept Cruiser in the lead and just kept looking back, checking them.

Whew, we had a successful ride and made it home safely. I’m sure it is the beginning of plenty of good rides for my niece before she leaves in August to start her education at Cornell to study engineering. She may find that learning to ride a new horse is more challenging than anything she learns in college. She had the good life, before. She had Mingo. Yes, I miss him more than ever, now.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Update on Cole

I haven’t posted an update for a while. I had some time off of work, and I no longer have a home computer. Then, when I got to work, it took some time to get everything under control.

Anyway, not much has happened. We worked with Cole in the river, and the first day, he got 2 hooves in. The next day, he got 4 hooves in. The following day, he got a little deeper. The day after that, he decided to cross. When he stepped off the sandy area onto the slate bottom, he got scared and hurried to the other side. Then, he wouldn’t come home. He wouldn’t even follow other horses across.

After a half hour or so, a guy from our barn offered a few well-timed taps with his crop. I was getting desperate, so agreed. It worked. He charged across. I wanted to make sure he wasn’t traumatized, so I turned him around to face the river, again. His head was up and his eyes were big. I walked him to the spot we originally crossed from, and after a few minutes, he got all 4 hooves in, again. At that point, we went home.

He is doing great with the saddle and bridle. We are jiggling the saddle and leaning on his back. He is fine with all of it.

We had some trouble with lounging. He is doing well at a walk, but is reluctant to trot. That is my project of the week. With clicker, I can reward him when he trots, but sometimes, he just wants to take off running and bucking. (Leftovers from his free lounging background.) Last night, I rediscovered my ability to make loud and scary noises. It has been so long since I have had a young horse to work with, I forgot how effective it is. When he tried to bolt, I hung on to the rope and made scary noises. Instead of nearly dragging me, he stopped. I then would restart the lounging and ask for a proper trot. Each time he we went through this, he ended up trotting when I asked the first time, and I was able to click him. Each time, he got better, too. There is hope.

He is doing better on his walks about the property and on the hill. Last night, we targeted a puddle, something I have had trouble with, and eventually, he walked right through it. I am going to do more puddle practice when I have puddles.

We did walk past a water truck parked on the street that was pumping water into a house with the diesel engine running and the pump making noises. He was a dream come true. I know Cruiser would have been worried, and we may not have been able to pass it with Ranger at all. Cole walked by quietly as if it wasn’t there. I think he must have seen a lot of farm equipment.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

New Blue Halter

Well, another birthday has come and gone. Now, I’m all of 45, and feeling old. If I feel this old, shouldn’t I be retired by now. Alas, years to go…

My boyfriend took the hint my sister gave him and got a new halter for Cole. It is bright blue and totally adjustable. He has a big jowl, a short head and a tiny nose. All the other halters, except Cruiser’s didn’t fit right. Cruise needed his—besides, it is the one that came with him 20 + years ago and I can’t even tell what color it used to be. It is some sort of greenish gray. I had been using Mingo’s old leather halter, but it made me nervous with the oversized noseband. Now, Cole can wear bright blue.

I’m riding with my oldest niece, tonight. I hope Starry behaves for her.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Cole's Weekend

This weekend, our goal was to get Cole down the trail, again. Last time I tried it, he kept stalling out, and I had difficulty getting him going. Friday evening, we practiced driveway and street. A friend came down the street, riding her horse towards the trail. I followed her on the street and we went just a short way down the trail, turned around and came home.

The following morning, my sister and I led him half way down the trail. He still kept stalling out. It was very puzzling, because he didn’t look scared at all. Since I have been working so hard on his transitions, I know he knew what I wanted. I was able to restart him in less then 15 seconds, each time, but I just didn’t understand what was going on. We got him halfway down the hill, when he started to improve, so we decided to quit while ahead. We practiced whoas and on the way home.

Sunday, we did it again. This time, my sister, who was far enough from him to really watch what was going on, figured out the problem. Each time he would stop, he would veer left or right—looking at the very enticing shrubs and trees the border each edge of the trail. Of course, he was stopping because he was more interested in checking out the salad bar on either side of the trail. His previous owner had told us that the only problem she ever had with him while leading was he would keep trying to stop and eat. I have a piggy horse.

Since we determined he wasn’t afraid, but only had a different idea of what he should be doing, we got tougher. Every time he stopped, he got a firm pop with the whip. It worked. We didn’t do this before, because if he was afraid, it would make him more afraid. Of course, he got praised for going forward. The problem eased up the further we went down the hill. We made it to the bottom, and a couple horses just crossed the river to go home. We didn’t want to follow them up, because we figured he would rush to try to catch up. My sister suggested bringing him to look at the river to get his mind off the other horses.

We didn’t expect much, so we were very surprised when he went down the bank and walked right to the water’s edge. He put his head down to look at it, but soon was distracted by the mother and baby deer down stream. He would alternate looking at them and looking at the water. He drank, dunked and started rotating his nose in circles in the mud. He didn’t seem afraid. He got clicked, of course.

About then, my sister realized that the mother deer was trying to teach the baby to cross the water, too! She would wade out, wait, go back and nuzzle the baby and wade out again. At this point, Cole got half a hoof in the water. The baby crossed, falling at one point where it got deep. Cole put a whole hoof in the water, took it out again and we decided we would quit on a good note. We took him back home, practicing whoas.

My sister did have a girth that fit him, so we saddled him both days. He is getting better with bridling, too. We did some ground work, and he seems solid lounging at a walk. I may try to up the speed this week, but I would rather spend my time walking him on the hill. It is cooler in the shade!

We had two very nice rides on Cruiser and Ranger, too.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Weekend plans

Hurray! The weekend is almost upon us!

Our plans this weekend is to ride (of course.) Aside from that, here are our plans with Cole:

Tonight, I am going to review all of our groundwork, with the help of clicker. If conditions are favorable, we will review walking on the road a bit.

Tomorrow, we will attempt the trail again. If you remember, the last time, he was nervous and kept balking. I am hoping since we have worked so much on the forward cue, and he trusts me more, now, he will be more relaxed and willing. Clicker should help. We don’t plan to go far. Rather, we are going to walk back and forth the first part of the trail, practicing our clicking transitions. I believe this will change his whole attitude—get him from nervous into seek mode. It should make a very positive trail experience.

If all goes well, we will expand it on Sunday.

On the weekend, I usually work him in two short sessions. The first is before my sister and I take Cruiser and Ranger for our ride and the second is after. On our second session, we will work on lounging at a walk on the lead rope and standing quietly.

My sister thinks she has a girth that might fit haim. I am bringing out a new bit that I bought for Mingo last fall when I thought he would get better. It is a 3-piece happy mouth snaffle. I think it may be too big for him, but it will be a good one for him to play with since it will be freshly flavored.

Weekend plans

Hurray! The weekend is almost upon us!

Our plans this weekend is to ride (of course.) Aside from that, here are our plans with Cole:

Tonight, I am going to review all of our groundwork, with the help of clicker. If conditions are favorable, we will review walking on the road a bit.

Tomorrow, we will attempt the trail again. If you remember, the last time, he was nervous and kept balking. I am hoping since we have worked so much on the forward cue, and he trusts me more, now, he will be more relaxed and willing. Clicker should help. We don’t plan to go far. Rather, we are going to walk back and forth the first part of the trail, practicing our clicking transitions. I believe this will change his whole attitude—get him from nervous into seek mode. It should make a very positive trail experience.

If all goes well, we will expand it on Sunday.

On the weekend, I usually work him in two short sessions. The first is before my sister and I take Cruiser and Ranger for our ride and the second is after. On our second session, we will work on lounging at a walk on the lead rope and standing quietly.

My sister thinks she has a girth that might fit haim. I am bringing out a new bit that I bought for Mingo last fall when I thought he would get better. It is a 3-piece happy mouth snaffle. I think it may be too big for him, but it will be a good one for him to play with since it will be freshly flavored.

Cole Baby Pictures

Cole's breeder sent me some baby pictures.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

3 weeks

It has been 3 weeks since Cole moved into my life. I am enjoying him so much.

Last night, we did a little more lounging. First, free, and then I put him on the lead rope and he walked quietly around me. We did both sides, and he acted like he's known how to do it all along.

We practiced standing quietly. He is getting better, but it will be a while. He just wants to be next to me all the time. What a friendly horse he is.

I put the saddle on his back 4 times from each side. Then I decided to try the girth--and oops--Cruiser's girth is too short for Cole--by a lot. I will try Mingo's old girth. I think it may be long enough. If not, my sister may have an extra one. Her horse is a bit on the big side. Cole is still pretty chubby. He lost a little weight since I got him. He has a lot to go. I can barely feel one rib.

I had my older niece out to ride with me. I rode Cruiser, and she rode Starry. She had fun. I sure will miss her when she is off to college.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010


Silliness on my part, I know.  I have a picture of my first horse, Brandy.  He was an old-time Morgan.  Now, Cole is a Morab, but he looks like an old-time Morgan. I have a picture of Cole that is nearly the same angle as the picture of Brandy.  I had them next to each other, and I realized their bodies had nearly the exact proportion.

Now, I only had Brandy a couple years, but my aunt had him the 20 years before, and we used to go over her house and ride him.  He was a very special horse.  I learned so much from him.  He was a barn sour, hard mouthed prancing runaway out on the trail.  We worked it all out, and had 2 great summers on the trail.  I still don't know how I survived to get us to that point, but I was young. 

He was a gently, sweet horse just like Cole, but he had a bad start in life.  I actually met his original owner--the one who wrecked him.  She would race him on the trail as a 3-year-old, and then he learned to go, go, go.  She put a stronger bit on him to try to stop him--a curb.  He learned to twist his jaw and break the chains.  She had to carry spares.  Soon she traded him to my aunt for a used saddle and $50.00.  I think an old truck might have been part of the deal, but I'm not sure on that.

Brandy paddled when he trotted, but it never caused him any lameness.  On the trail, he had a good Morgan fast trot.

The other day, Cole trotted towards me, and I saw it--he paddled.  He wasn't as bad as Brandy, but it was a paddle.  I missed it when I checked him at the breeder.  He was trotting in circles, and I only had him walked towards me to see if he moved straight.  He doesn't seem to paddle at a walk.  I'm not worried--it never did cause any problems with Brandy.

Back to the silliness.  I always thought that animals can be reincarnated.  In fact, before he died, I told Mingo to come back as a cat and find me.  Anyway, could Cole be my old Brandy, back so he can have a good start in life?  Yeah, I know, silliness.  But he treats me like an old friend...

Learning to Lunge

Cole has been keeping me busy. Most of the time, he is a fun horse to work with. When he doesn’t understand something, he just freezes. That was what was happening when I asked him to lounge. In his eyes, he only will move forward if I am standing right next to him in the proper leading position. In any other place, he stalls. If I feed the rope out to get him to move further away from me, he stalls. If I try to lead him between 2 hands, he stalls. I tried to click him for sending him away, and that seemed to help, but he still wasn’t consistent. He wanted to be right next to me.

His previous owner free lounged him in her round pen. She just chased him away with a whip to get him going. I wanted a gentler approach. We have a round pen at our barn, but it is very small. I thought of trying to and keeping him at a walk, but the day I wanted to use it, circumstances wouldn’t let me. I turned him loose in the big arena, and did a little in there. I shooed him away with a waving rope, and when he left, I clicked. He came back for his treat. I did this a few times, and he was listening, but by then, we were hot from the sun and the half hour of ground work we had just finished.

The next day, I still couldn’t get to the round pen, so I took him right to the big arena. At first, I just let him play while I cleaned stalls. When I got back, I called him, and he galloped to me. (Pretty for 2.5 weeks.) I then practiced sending him away and clicking. It worked. Sometimes, he took off running and bucking around the arena, but he didn’t get a click for that. After about 20 minutes, maybe less, he was trotting full laps around me. I put him on a lead rope, and he lounged around in both directions at a walk. I think we did it.

Tonight, after review, I am going to work on downward transitions. I am sure he will take to them well, because he is now following my body language quite well. I never expected him to free lounge in the big arena so well, so quickly. We will also work more on leading and I might just put the saddle on his back.

I love clicker.

More Cole


Friday, June 11, 2010

Visit from the farrier

Yesterday was Coles experience with my farrier. Although his previous owner said he was fine for trimming, I had much trepidation. His feet were many weeks overgrown. They really were awful, but when I got him 2 weeks ago, he wasn’t good about holding his feet up. I decided to work with him and just have him trimmed when my farrier did Cruiser.

I had nothing to worry about. He wasn’t perfect, but he was mostly polite. The few times he did try to pull away, he didn’t try too hard. My farrier just hung on, and Cole gave up.

His feet look so much better. They aren’t where we want them—that will take a few more trims. I’m sure he will be so much more comfortable, too. I’m sure they will be a bit sensitive for a little while, so I will keep him in the soft arena.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Smokin Cole Train

Clicker and Cole

We are clicking!

Last night, I took Cole out in the indoor arena, threw his target on the ground, he walked right to it, touched it with his nose, I clicked, his head shot up and he came over for his carrot. Now I am sure he has got it.

We started off with walking around the yard. It is pretty big, and I took him places he hasn’t been, yet. We practiced multiple walk transitions with the clicker, and he did well. He was starting out with the lightest of pressure. Even when he thought he was going back to the barn, and I turned him away, he only hesitated for about 2 seconds. I did about 15 minutes of work on this.

I put him back in the barn, cleaned stalls and took Cruiser out for a ride. When we got back, we started new stuff. I warmed up with head down—something we started a couple days ago, and he took to it very fast.

In the indoor arena, I worked on sending him away from me as if I wanted to lounge him. Now, I know I can chase him away with a lounge whip—that is how his old owner did it, but I prefer a gentler approach. My problem? He doesn’t want to leave me. I worked on both sides, and I got him to step about 3 feet away from me. It was a big improvement.

We then started to teach him to move over from hand pressure. He was clueless on this one, and I discovered it when I was cleaning his stall and I wanted him to move away from me. Instead, he moved into the pressure and started to squash me towards the wall. I had to shove him to get free. This happened a couple times, so this lesson went way up on the list.

I had him standing, and I poked my finger into his side and waited. After about a minute, he finally stepped. I clicked and did it again. It took about 3 times on each side for him to step fairly quickly to a light pressure. We will practice this one every day, and I think he will be on to it pretty good in no time.

Next plan was to get him to move his hindquarters over with a tap of the whip on his leg. I tried this without clicker before clicker was installed, and I tapped and tapped and tapped. He never did budge, so I gave up. This time, it took him a minute to shift his weight. I clicked for that. Then next attempt was 30 seconds and he backed. I clicked—at least he was moving. My third attempt was a sidestep. The fourth was a big sidestep. I was starting to run out of carrots, so I went to the other side. It was about the same as the first side, but I spent less time tapping to get results. I will work on it more tonight.

I got such quick results getting him to move at from the tap this time compared to the first time. I think it is because I got him into the learning mode. I think he was trialing behaviors to figure out how to get a carrot. It was wonderful. I am so glad I found clicker. Who would have thought that teaching my cat to jump through a hoop would lead me to this? Thank you Little Thunder for showing me how to teach with a clicker.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Cole Training

Cole made it down the trail! Friday evening, I decided to try to cross the street and get to the start of the trail. Remember, last week, he was afraid to even step onto the paved surface of the street. He went right across. At the trailhead, he was a little nervous about the posts that keep cars off the trail that he had to walk through, but my work with the forward command got him through. We only went a few minutes, then we turned back to come home.

I figured out why I have been having trouble getting him through one of the barn doors to get to his stall. I feel so stupid that I didn’t notice this right away. As he would step through the door, the mare in the corner stall was laying her ears back and baring he teeth. She was what made him nervous. He only stalled out once this weekend at the door, though. That was when she charged at him.

Saturday, we led him all the way down the hill that leads to the river. Of course, we aren’t attempting the river itself for a while. Sunday, we did the hill twice. When I wanted to turn him around to start the second trip, he got very balky. We worked through it the very way I did with going through the barn door. We were successful, but I had to be patient and persistent. Finally, he gave up and walked down the hill.

We have also been practicing standing still and lifting feet. Standing was very hard for him, at first. He just wants to be with me every moment and didn’t like me stepping away. That is when I figured out the wither rubbing trick. I stepped away for a few seconds, and if he didn’t step forward, I came back and rubbed his withers. If he did step forward, I backed him back in place. He has also gotten very good at backing!

I have been doing clicker targeting, and I believe he is starting to understand clicker. It only took Mingo 1 lesson. He touches the target, hears the click and gets the treat. He just doesn’t realize what the click means.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Pictures of Cole

My sister sent me a few pictures. 

Cole - Moving Forward

My biggest problem with Cole, so far, is that he doesn’t want to enter the barn or his stall. He does better with one entrance than the other. I’m not sure if it is fear, reluctance to be put in his stall for the rest of the day or that he wants to explore the barn and visit with the other horses. He isn’t giving me any good clues on the cause, but it is a problem that definitely needs to be solved.

I have been working him a lot on walking forward to pressure on the halter. Just like Cruiser, when I got him 20 years ago, he seems to think it is optional. He is catching on. He will now walk and whoa fairly consistently from both sides. I would like to reinforce this with clicker, but though he is targeting very well, he doesn’t seem to understand that clicker means “good boy” with anything else.

I can’t wait for clicker. I need to work on this now. I figured I needed to do it with good old fashioned negative reinforcement. Negative reinforcement is removing pressure when the horse responds, and it is how most horses are trained. Last night, after we did our leading, I decided to tackle the barn. I brought him to the entrance, and he put on the brakes. I asked him with a light tug, no response. I increased to a strong pressure and held it. I was not going to let go until he took a step. Timing is essential for him to learn. It seemed like it took forever, but finally, he took a step, I released and of course, he stopped. I asked again, and we had another long wait. I released and got him all the way to the stall where he balked, again. I repeated, got him in the stall and took him right back out again.

We practiced this from both entrances—going into the stall each time. at first, it was a trial, but each time, he got a little better. When I decided to quit, I would only be holding strongly to the lead rope a second or two. When I quit, we did targeting in the stall, to make being in the stall a fun time.

Somehow, I think this whole episode will help me in the long run. It is one thing to teach a horse to move from pressure when he doesn’t mind moving from pressure like our training sessions in the arena. It is another thing to teach a horse to move from pressure when that is not what he wants to do. We did this without fighting and in as clear and consistently as I could do it. I could see him learning the lesson and understanding the command.

He wasn’t the only one learning. My boyfriend was watching the whole thing. He wants to be able to take Cole in and out of his stall on when I’m not there. He got a perfect demonstration on how to use negative reinforcement.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

So far with Cole

There is one word that most describes Cole—friendly. Mingo loved people, and that was one of the nicest things about him. Well, Cole took over where Mingo left off. He loves everyone and wants all the attention we can give him and more. He is gentle and polite. I’m sure he will test me as he gets more confidence in his new situation, but so far, so good. Ranger adores him—I mean really adores him. He was so lonely after we lost Mingo.

Lets see, I have had him since Thursday. Friday, I turned him out into to large outdoor arena to run, and he really showed his stuff. When I went to see him at the breeder, he was in a round pen. In our arena, he was a far more gorgeous mover than I imagined him to be. Wow, what a beautiful trot and canter.

We then did some walking around, and he showed me that not much scares him. I did some targetting with clicker, and he caught on very fast.

Saturday held a few surprises. After his run, I walked him down the drive and to see traffic. He was indifferent to the cars. I asked him to step onto the street, and he refused. He said he has never been on pavement before, so how does he know it is safe. Sigh, I finally gave up and brought him back to the barn. I took him back to the barn and practiced leading in the indoor arena. I discovered he didn’t understand leading on the off side. We took Cruiser and Ranger out for their ride. When we got back, we tried the street—this time with Ranger—hoping he would follow. Nope. We gradually coaxed him closer. When I got to the edge, I turned him onto the street to see if he would approach at an angle. He reluctantly put all 4 feet on the pavement. It was time to quit while ahead. I tried clicker, but he decided he didn’t like carrots, again.

New problem—he didn’t want to go in his stall.

Sunday, we took him down the neighbors drive. He refused about 10 feet from the edge. We coaxed him one step at a time. When he reached the edge, I turned him sideways again. He stepped out on the pavement, and we walked along the street, heading for home. We got to our drive and went back to the barn. Talk about a nice reward. I did more leading. With the help of the rope halter, he started to understand leading from the off side. I was very careful to time my release precisely when he stepped forward. We were able to do target with clicker. this time, I had trouble getting him in the barn. When we did, it was still tough to get him in his stall. When he got inside, I gave him a handful of grass. I was wishing that we were ready to use the clicker.

Monday was a better day. we took him to the end of the neighbor’s drive, and he readily stepped into the street, we walked down it to our home, went to the barn and repeated. We went to the barn and back down the drive. This time, I turned him away from home and went about 10 feet, turned him back, went down the neighbor’s drive, flipped over to ours, went to the end, turned him away from home, went to the neighbor’s drive and headed home. Success.

Later, after our trail ride, I worked some more with clicker targetting and took him out into the arena to practice leading. He led well with stop and go on both sides. I then tackled the barn. I have figured out I can bring him through the outside door and walk him to the stall, go in, go back out and back into the arena. He didn’t want to go in the door by the arena. After a few times, he didn’t want to go out the arena door to the outside, either. All this has me stymied. I did click him when he went into his stall or stepped in the direction I wanted when he stalled out, but it may be too early for him to really understand what the clicker means.

I’m sure we will work it out. I do believe that since he live outside, that barns and doors may bother him. if he equated it with losing his freedom, I don’t think I could get him in the one direction, but not the other. It is very odd.

I am really enjoying working with Cole. He’s just a sweet horse.

Pictures of Cole

I don't have any pictures myself, but here you can see pictures of Cole at the breeder.  Just scroll down, and you will see them.

House Cat Tip of the Month

House Cat Tip of the Month

Here is something I wish I would have thought of a few years ago. We have a low windowsill that Thunder can put his paws on and look out of. I noticed that when he heard the wind blow in the spring and fall when the leaves were falling, he would run to the window to watch the leaves.

One day, when I was sitting with him as he was hunting leaves, one of them flew onto the outside windowsill and then flew off again. He was so excited that he pawed the window. I went outside and gathered up some leaves and placed them on the outdoor windowsill, and he hunted them until they flew off.

This has turned into are new windy day game. It doesn’t matter if he actually sees me put the leaves there, either. In is overactive indoor feline imagination, they are still wild leaves to be stalked and hunted.

When he is hunting leaves, if I walk into the room, he runs to me, meowing and leads me to the windowsill to see the leaves. (If a cat walks away from you with his tail up, he wants you to follow him.) He either sits on the floor or puts his paws up with his head and ears flattened. It is simply adorable.

I know not everyone has a good set up for leaf hunting, so that really isn’t the tip. The real tip is to observe what interests your cat and find ways to use that information to entertain him.

Trail Training #113 - Waiting for Cole

Waiting for Cole

Wow, it was a long, almost 3 weeks. Cole was gelded at the breeder, and he spent a week or so learning how to load. I just waited.

I started to second guess my decision. Maybe he was too small, maybe he was gelded too late, maybe he didn’t have the nice personality that I thought I saw, maybe he had some major conformation problem that I missed, maybe Ranger would hate him, maybe, maybe, maybe…

Finally, the day arrived. I took a vacation day from work and met Ellen out at the barn to join her on her morning ride. We had a good ride, though the bugs were bad and Cruise was still coughing from the cottonwood trees. All I could think about was Cole.

We then sat down at the barn and waited. About 11:30, I got a call that she made a wrong turn on to our street. I straightened her out, and she was on her way. I had 5 minutes to go.

I suppose I seemed over anxious. I stood at the end of the driveway and waved her in when I saw the trailer. He made it. Cole was home.

She unloaded a very nervous horse, dripping with sweat and trembling. He was beautiful! “He’s so cute!” Ellen exclaimed. He stood there for a few minutes to get steady, and then we led him to his new home. He didn’t want to go into the barn door, but finally, he took a brave step in—he made it. The horses neighed a greeting.

In a few minutes, he was munching hay and drank some water. Ranger’s stall was on one side and Katie the Mule was on the other side. Neither one could take their eyes off him. He explored the stall, stopped trembling and visibly relaxed. He rolled a couple times. I think he was exhausted. Ranger screamed a few times, but Cole was silent and very polite.

We stayed with him about an hour to make sure nothing bad happened. I was concerned that the stress and sweating may have caused complications, but he seemed fine. His old owner left. I groomed the dried sweat from him. He stood in bliss. I’m sure he must have been itchy. He really has a lovely coat.

I was hungry, so I got Kevin (Ellen had left for work long ago) and we went to Burger King. I figured Cole needed to rest, and he would do better without us staring at him!

When I came back, he seemed fine, so I thought I would take him for a little walk. He had never been in an indoor arena, before. He walked along beside me, looking about, but never acting scared and never misbehaving.

I got brave and took him out on the driveway so he could look around. What a wonderful horse. Here he was in a new place, with a new person on the most stressful day of his life, and he acted like nothing was out of the ordinary. Was he real? If I brought Cruiser to a new barn, he would be excited and fidgety. I had to pinch myself to prove I wasn’t dreaming. I realized that I would be riding him down trail sooner than later. This horse had a good, sensible brain. Wow.

Of course, he didn’t get scared when the barn owner drove the tractor past. This was a real country horse. He knew tractors.

I brought him back to his stall, and soon it was feeding time. As he started to eat the new hay that he got, I figured it was time to go home. He was going to be fine. Ranger loved him, he liked Ranger and Katie was head over heals.

I smiled the whole way home…

Trail Training #113 - Ranger and Clicker – Coat Conditioner

Ranger and Clicker – Coat Conditioner

Ellen decided it was time to try another clicker project with Ranger. Every Sunday, she puts him in the crossties, cleans his feet and then sprays coat conditioner on his coat. Ranger thinks she is actually spraying battery acid or some other caustic substance. He dances all about. This has been going on for years. He isn’t any better for bug spray, which we will be using very regularly, shortly.

She decided to see what clicker could do to solve the problem. It isn’t so much that she minded him dancing, but she didn’t like him getting upset.

First, she held the bottle towards his neck. His head went up and he moved away. She didn’t move, but waited until he stood still. At that point, I clicked and treated. She then moved to another spot and did it again.

She pretended to spray his whole body. Soon, he wasn’t moving at all. She added a small squirt, and he didn’t even flinch. We clicked and treated as she sprayed his whole body. He started to relax—and shine.

This all took less than 5 minutes in one session. She was able to show him that it wasn’t battery acid, it didn’t hurt at all and he could get some treats out of the deal. We will practice more in the days to come to see if he can change his attitude about being squirted with stuff and form a new habit.

Clicker is sure amazing.

Trail Training #113 - A New Adventure Begins…

A New Adventure Begins…

There are only two things that seem to help me when I lose one of my beloved animals. The first is time, and the second is getting another animal to distract me. I decided I didn’t want to wait for time, I would get another horse, instead.

Nothing can take away the loss of Mingo, but a new project would get my mind off those last horrible months. Just looking for a horse helped me stop looking at the past and got me pointed toward the future.
I wanted another Morab, like Cruiser, and I wanted a gelding because he would fit in better with the rest of the family. So, a few weeks ago, I found myself heading out to Indiana with Kevin at the wheel. We were going to look at a 4-year-old Morab stallion at a breeder. Smokin Cole Train was black, 14.2 hands and never been ridden.

When I am bored at work, I have been known to look at Morab breeders’ websites just for fun and to give me fodder for my daydreams. I have been looking at Tamar’s Ventures for years. I remember when she posted pictures of Cole when he was just a baby, and I watched him grow up. I never imagined I would be going to go see him.

The trip took us three hours. We only got a little lost, but with the help of my cell phone, we arrived safely. (Just over 20 years ago, the same thing happened when we went to go see Cruiser, but we didn’t have cell phones back then. What a nightmare looking for a payphone out in the middle of nowhere!)

I was determined to go with an open mind and not just buy on impulse. That is how I ended up with Cruiser just over a week after my first horse, Brandy, died. No, this time, I would look with a critical eye. When I got out of the car, looked across to where I saw a black horse, my heart skipped a beat and jumped into my throat all at once. I told it to get back where it belonged. I was going to be objective. Besides, I knew she had other black horses. At this distance, it might not have been him.

Tamara came out of the house and took us right over to him. That was Cole, my new horse Cole. No, I was going to be objective…

He had had a saddle on a few times, so she suggested we try, again and see how he was. I thought it was a great idea. With that and the very, very strong wind, I would be able to see how he acts under adverse conditions. That is one way to see the true character of a horse.

She caught him and brought him over to the round pen. He allowed her to saddle him, but I could see the wind was making him nervous. The wind was making me nervous, too. She let him loose and he went straight up in the air like a bucking bronco—twice. Wow. The wind had caught the saddle blanket and flapped it around on his back. Cruise would have been startled by that, too, but I don’t think he would have jumped that high. No, Cruiser would have dashed forward at top speed.

He acted rather disturbed about the wind and the blanket for a couple minutes as he danced about the round pen, but then I saw him gradually relax and start to work. He trotted and cantered very nicely. I really liked his trot.

He is 75% Morgan and 25% Arabian, yet he looked more Morgan than most Morgans. At 14.2 hands, he was as big as can be. It wasn’t just because he was overweight; it was because he had that Morgan big-horse look. I started thinking to myself, “Am I going to buy a draft pony? I can’t believe I am buying a draft pony?” I started to wonder if his father really was a Morgan or if one of those Amish horses got loose one night…

I remember when I got my first horse, Brandy, a Morgan. When we backed him off the trailer, a bystander exclaimed, “Wow. What a big horse.” He was just over 14.2 hands, himself. I was going back to my roots.

Tamara gave me the rope so I could lead him. As I walked him about the round pen, I could see he was looking at me—watching me—paying attention. It took me years before Cruise would pay attention. Half the time, he still isn’t. Cole would stop, I don’t know why, and refuse to go. I would just step him slightly sideways to the outside, and he would proceed. I’m not sure if he was testing me or if he was just unsure of himself. Either way, we worked it out easily. My gut feeling said that not only did he pay attention, but he was a thinker. Yes, there was a little Mingo in him, and that isn’t a bad thing.

I asked her to hold him while I lifted his feet. Not only did I want to take a look at them, I wanted to see how he acted. Of course, he wasn’t like Cruise who lifts his feet like a dream—but we have been doing it for years and have a routine. He wasn’t like Mingo, either, who always pulled his back feet away and you had to wait for them to come down. I’m glad to say he wasn’t how Ranger can be, making evil faces and acting like you are going to kill him. Though Cole wasn’t quick about it, he did fine with only slight coaxing. In time, I could see him being like Cruiser.

Kevin wanted to Tamara to lead him on a straight line, so she took him out and led him down the driveway and back. I took him and did the same thing. He led fine and traveled well. Kevin wanted to try. I told Tamara this would be a good test because horses didn’t listen to Kevin. Mingo never did. Kevin got him to the end, turned him around and Cole refused to move. We all started to laugh. Kevin yelled over, “What is it about black horses. Why won’t they listen to me?” He swung the rope to Cole’s side, and he dance away in shock. I saw that Tamara never had to use any serious pressure with him—a good sign. Kevin got him moving and brought him back.

To tell you the truth, I was not sure what to do. He was a good horse that was just a bit chunky and needed his feet trimmed, but I couldn’t find anything glaringly wrong with him. He had a terrific temperament that made you forget he was a stallion. Yet, it was such a big decision that would affect me for years to come. What to do?

Tamara put him back in his pen, and she took us on a tour. Wow, she has a nice barn, but all the horses lived outside in paddocks and pastures. I saw lots of beautiful horses, and most were related to Cole. She had one black stallion whose face reminded me so much of Mingo, it was uncanny, since they were of such different breeding. He also moved like Mingo—like a horse who didn’t have to be anywhere. It was surreal.

I still didn’t know what to do, so I decided to call Ellen. I told her all about him, but she didn’t know what advice to give. Then she confessed that even if she was there, she wouldn’t tell me what to do, either.
I sighed. In the end, I followed my heart. The negotiation was simple and painless, and it didn’t end with a handshake but with a hug. I believe Cole is going to make a fine trail horse, and now he’s mine. I think Tamara might have figured out what a good home he is getting, too.

Tamara agreed to take care of the gelding. Just going to a new home is stressful enough, he didn’t need to have an operation when he got there. So, now I wait...

On the day that I bought Cole, Mingo would have turned fifteen.