Thursday, June 30, 2011

Bits of Trouble with Cole

Bits of Trouble with Cole

As I do more and more with Cole, I am finding more and more challenges. He isn’t as good in the evenings as he is in the morning. One of the reasons, I think, is that the bugs are worse. Another reason—no Ellen—either on foot or horseback. Riding through bugs and going alone are two things he needs to learn.

The bugs are making him flip his head around, and when they get really bad, he tries to spin to run home. That is, unless we are already going home. Then he tries to trot away from them. If you think about it, this is a normal response to insects—run for shelter!

I am just persistent in keeping him going the direction I want him to go and at the speed that I ask him. We will probably work this out by the time the cold weather arrives. Of course, I use bug spray, and he wears a bonnet to protect him from the deer flies.

Lately, he has shown reluctance to go down the first river bank and then to cross the river. The other night, I decided to tackle the problem with the clicker.

I asked him to go down the river bank, and he halted. I used my legs to get him going. At his first reluctant step, I clicked him. He stopped for his treat, and then we did it again. I think it took 5 clicks to get to the bottom.

Now, as far as crossing the river, the problem started one day when he put his head down at the edge of the water to give it a sniff, and he found a leaf laying there. He tried to grab the leaf, I wouldn’t let him, and then he didn’t want to cross. He just wanted to look for something to munch on. At least I think that’s what is going on. He doesn’t act frightened. He just wants to play with his nose by the water.

He walked to the water, put his nose in and started playing. I used my legs to ask him to go. He thought sideways would be the best direction, but I kept him pointed forward and squeezed harder. When he took a forward step instead of a sideways step, I clicked and treated.

I asked for another forward, and I got more sideways. (Why did I teach him to sidepass?) Finally, I got another forward and clicked him. This is how it went for the first five steps forward. At the halfway point, he walked normal, and I clicked him for that, too. I think that not having Ellen on the other side made him more reluctant to cross.

I took him on a short ride. When we got back to the river, I crossed back towards home. I decided to try to recross it. Now, my gut said that Cole would possibly be worse. I know that when I am bringing Cruiser home, if I turn around to cross back over, which I will do if I find someone struggling to cross their horse, he is very, very reluctant. He just wants to go home. He will do it, but he doesn’t set the best example. I could have more of a fight the second time than the first time.

Still, I have read that it is important to reinforce heavily when clicker training. I decided to try it, again.

This time, when I turned him to the river bank, he readily walked down! Wow, was I surprised. After a few steps, I clicked and treated, and did it several times before he reached the bottom. At the water’s edge, he did stop, but when I asked him to go forward, he gave me much less trouble. I would say it took less than half the time to get him completely in the water. I reinforced him the whole way across, and when he got to the other side, I gave him a jackpot—all the carrot pieces I had left. We then turned around and crossed back towards home.

When I got to the other side, I dismounted as a reward—I didn’t have anymore carrots, and wanted to do something nice. I then led him up the hill and back home.

It had to have been the clicking to cross the first time that made him so much better the second time. I will continue the clicking—fading it off as he gets better—and I expect he will.

Cole and a Few Obstacles

Cole and a Few Obstacles

As Cole started to improve on the trail, I felt it was time to give him a few challenges. One obstacle I wanted to get out of the way was the river ford. The fords are part of the street that the cars drive over to get across the river. They aren’t bridges, because the water will run over them when the river gets high.

We like to ride on the fords when the river is on the higher side, when we can. Of course, the first crossing we have, by the barn, has no ford, and makes our lives miserable in the rainy and icy weather.

Though Ranger and Cruiser are happy to cross the fords, (they seem to prefer it,) I had a long history of problems with Mingo. Early in his life, he got stuck on one while they were repairing it, and he had to step down off of it. We had to force him off, and he got hurt—not badly hurt—but enough that he was frightened. When the construction was done, he got stuck on it and had to be blindfolded to get him off.

I was able to get him crossing, again, a few months later—only to have him refuse a few years after that. It took a long time, but eventually, he started to cross it again. That lasted a few years, and then he wouldn’t…you get the idea. The last summer I rode him, with the help of my clicker, I got him crossing again. At least I know if the rainbow bridge is really a ford, he will be able to cross.

Anyway, I wanted Cole to be like Ranger and Cruiser—not Mingo. This had to be a good experience for him. We rode out to the ford, and instead of turning back there, like we did all spring, I decided to cross. Since we had been trotting, we left Ellen, who was out hiking with us, in the dust. I was on my own. I didn’t want to wait around for her assistance. Cole and I went solo.

To make things more positive, I dismounted to lead him. I had a pocketful of carrot pieces and away we went. I was lucky that not a single car passed us the whole time. Every few steps, I clicked and treated to get him in a go forward state of mind.

One of the most crucial parts of crossing the ford, according to Mingo, is when you go from the blacktop road to the concrete ford. The change in the color of the pavement was what scared him the most. As Cole stepped over that line, he got clicked.

Cruiser never cared for the edge of the ford. It isn’t solid, but “serrated” so the water can flow over it. He spent years, looking at it crookedly. When Cole got to that section, I just kept clicking and treating so that it wouldn’t bother him. He did eye it funny, but once I clicked him for walking forward, he forgot about how weird it looked.

I clicked him for going over the line where the concrete become blacktop on the other side, and we were across.

I mounted up and away I went.

The trail we were now on was one he had been on a number of times last fall, but this was the first time for us this year. I kept him at a walk, and he showed me everything that looked different from last year. Which meant he looked intently at each fallen tree. Horses’ memories are amazing.

Where the trail came out to the street, a big tree had fallen across. The park sawed the branches away, at the edge of the trail, leaving the rest pointing towards the trail at eye level. Cole didn’t like the look of that, at all. He stopped, put his head up and started blowing. This is the first time this has ever happened to us while I was riding him. I let him stand and look. He started to step back. I squeezed my legs, and he stopped. I tried again, and he stepped forward.

Since I still had plenty of carrots left, I clicked him. He stopped, and I gave him a treat and asked for another step. This time, he was more willing. I clicked immediately, and we repeated. We did this until we got past the tree. On the other side, I turned him around to go back, and he ignored the tree altogether—of course, it helped that we were now heading towards home.

Who then should appear, but Ellen. I told her what we did, and I wanted to show her. I turned Cole back around to pass the tree, but I had nothing to show Ellen. He walked by the tree like he had been walking by it every day of his whole life. What a good boy.

Clicker was very handy that day.

We rode home at a walk, and he didn’t try a trot step a single time. It was a great ride.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Hills, Again

Will my trouble with hills ever go away? I am glad to say that Cole and I conquered the first hill leading down to the river—both up and down. If only that was the only hill on the trail.

Not far from the barn, there are 2 short and very steep hills. Last fall, I did try riding down them, and, of course, he went too fast and out of control. My last attempt ended with us nearly trotting right out into the road at the bottom of the hill. Well, that was the last time I tried it. Now, I lead him down those hills. Good thing he is short and easy to mount.

There is another hill that is a more serious problem, and that is the one that leads up to the show ring. It is very, very steep, long and has a sheer drop on one side with deep ruts down the center. I definitely lead down this one.

Ellen and I recently started riding up to the show ring, again. We love that ride, and plan to do it every week, weather permitting. The first time we went there with Cole a few weeks ago, he was horrible when I tried to lead him down. He kept going too fast, cutting me off and his legs were all over the place. We ended up putting Ranger in the lead, had him walk slowly and that helped control Cole.

I really think this isn’t a behavior problem, but an inability to control his short legs on the steep slope.

I needed to teach him to slow down. What better way than to use clicker? On his next trip down the hill, I asked him to put his head down and walk slowly down the hill. (His command to put his head down is me pointing to the ground.) When he took a couple slow steps, I clicked and treated. Of course, he stops for the treat, and then we get to start again. That alone helps him control his momentum—making it easier for him to take more slow steps.

We continued this for about 5 rounds of clicks when he decided he would improve on it. He shortened his steps and lifted his feet higher. I clicked. He kept “improving” his way of going down the hill. I ended up laughing at him. I turned my horse into a circus horse—he arched his neck, lifted his hoof very high and set it right in front of the other one. It was so cute. I just kept clicking away.

Simply asking him to put his head down made him do this as long as the hill was very steep. At the bottom, where the slope was more reasonable, he picked up the speed, again, and tried to cut me off. Overall, it was an improvement, though.

The next day, I decided to try it on one of the shorter hills that is close to the barn. I rode him to the top of the hill, got off and started to lead him down.

He remembered what I taught him the day before, but since this hill isn’t as steep, he didn’t have as much reason to take his time. At first, he would only take a step or two, get too fast and cut me off. That is when I would just turn him around and walk up the hill.

With practice, (and dandelion leaves instead of carrot pieces,) he improved and only had trouble at the very bottom where it isn’t as steep, and he would get excited because he was going towards home. This is where he tried to run into the street last year. I did a “whoa” and clicked him for stopping there.

Overall, we did 4 full trips up and down the hill with I don’t know how many partial trips. Believe me, I didn’t have much fun in the summer heat. I would have preferred one of our regular rides. My feeling was a little time spent practicing the hill would pay off in the long run. I don’t know if that is true, yet, so stay tuned…

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Cole rolling and running

Not the greatest quality, just like the last ones.  The girl took it from her phone when she was hand grazing her horse, but it gives you an idea of how he runs!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Back from a long weekend.

Busy, busy, busy…

I had a long weekend, which means lots of work before I leave and lots of work when I get back to work. I haven’t been able to blog much, but I have been riding plenty.

My sister and I were off on Friday, so we took Cruiser and Ranger to some of the further away trails. Wow, the floods in the spring took quite a toll on them. Consequently, we did more walking than trotting. When we got back, we were shocked to find we were gone for 2.5 hours. The ride didn’t seem that long at all. I took Cole out alone for a quick ride, and it started to rain. That made him sensible, and we had a terrific ride with a lot of trotting. We got back soaked but happy.

Saturday was the first time this year with our youngest niece, who is nearly 16. We went on an hour ride. She was on Ranger, my sister on Cruiser and I rode Cole. We had another smiling teenager riding my boyfriend’s horse, Starry. We kept it at a walk and had a fine time. Then, it was off to Taco Bell…

Sunday, we took Cole and Ranger up to the show ring area. We went on the front loop—something new for Cole, and did some trotting. Our results were mixed, but it was a beginning. We then headed out on the back trails for a short way—tried trotting and failed completely. That was enough for us.

On the way home, he had a few issues, but we worked through them. he improved going down the steep hill. I will write about that later.

I then took Cruiser on a fast and fun ride. Starry had left about 15 minutes before, so Cruiser was intent on catching up. When we did, we continued on for a while and had a nice time. I don’t get to ride with my boyfriend that often. He is retired and tends to ride when I am at work.

It was hard to come back to work today…

Cole Videos

I have some videos of Cole.  They were taken from my teenage friend’s phone while she was grazing her horse.  It wasn’t a planned thing, so the quality isn’t too good.  One of them is a side pass and there is one of us trotting. 

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Been doing lots of riding...

I’ve been getting a lot of riding, and mostly on the trail. Sunday, we took Cole and Ranger up to the show ring trails for the first time this year. Ranger was so excited to be up there! We boarded there many years ago, and he didn’t forget. He actually went slower on the way home. Cole didn’t understand. They both behaved. We kept the ride at a relaxing walk.

I did a fair amount of trotting on our solo ride on Saturday. He still hasn’t settled down with it, but I am getting used to the speed. Friday, I rode him in the arena, and yesterday I took him on a short trail ride. The bugs were really irritating him, and he tried to run away from them, once. We nipped that in the bud, and he didn’t try it again.

Of course, I have been riding Cruiser on each day, too. For the first time this year, I took him to the Lagoon trail. It goes along the street, and can be noisy with traffic. I quit going that way last year since he was spooking at motorcycles so much. He has improved considerably this year, so I thought I would try that trail. As it turned out, there were no motorcycles because it looked like rain. There were also less bugs, so it was a very enjoyable ride. He was excited, but behaved like a champ.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Terrific Trail Rides!

Oh, I had such a fun time riding yesterday evening.

First, I took Cole Train out for a 3 mile trail ride. we went by ourselves. He wasn’t perfect, but this is, by far, the best evening trail ride we ever had. He was reluctant to cross the river, and once across, he didn’t want to continue down the trail. I think he was looking for my sister, who is usually on foot when I ride him on the weekends. Once we got gong, he did fine. We trotted where we could, and although he was very fast, he didn’t canter. Once we got to the next river crossing, we turned and walked home. The bugs were annoying him, and they made him antsy a few times. Overall, it was a very successful ride for him.

Cruiser didn’t want to be outdone. He was fantastic! The cool weather turned him into a 4-year-old, and we flew down the trail—including plenty of trotting towards home. The ride was exhilarating, to say the least. We went about 5 miles. I love riding Cruiser, and I hope that someday, I could ride Cole with such abandon, too.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Great Weekend!!!

What a wonderful weekend for riding. It started on Friday where I had a good, but short ride on Cruiser. During it, he cantered 48 strides before he stopped. I see a pattern, here. 16-32-48…

I attempted to ride Cole on the trail Friday evening, and he wasn’t good at all. He kept trying to trot, tried to spin towards home once and just wouldn’t relax. Sigh. We turned back early and headed home. The good news? He got quieter the closer we got to home, and ended up walking up the last hill without a single attempt to trot. Well, I did lead him, not ride him. By that point, I had had enough.

Saturday, I rode Cruiser with my sister on a great ride. They have finally settled down. We trotted a lot…I then took Cole out on another ride. He was a different horse. Since he was quieter, we did do some trotting. He only tried to canter twice. He really loves to trot…he walked home.

Sunday, we had a repeat ride with Cruiser and Ranger. Yes... consistency. I decided to go a bit further with Cole. In order to do that, I had to cross the concrete ford that the cars use because I didn’t want to cross the river in that spot. It was pretty deep and murky, and there are huge rocks scattered through it. Without being able to see them, I didn’t want to ride through it.

The ford isn’t really a big deal, but I used to have so much trouble with it with Mingo. In the end, he was crossing, again, but it was an on and off again thing. I wanted everything to go well with Cole. I was alone, so I dismounted to lead him. I clicked him all the way across, and I was lucky that no cars came by. He looked at the serrated edge with some worry, but we made it across beautifully. On the other side, I had to ride him up a short but steep and rutted hill. We haven’t been there since last year when the hill didn’t have any ruts. He did well. On top of the hill, he pointed out to me everything that was different from last year. Mostly it was fallen trees. When we reached the end of the trail, there was a particularly scary-looking fallen tree that he didn’t want to pass. His head was up, he was blowing and trying to back up. I asked for one step forward. He gave it to me, and I clicked. I kept doing that, and soon we went right by. I turned around, passed it again and then repeated it. He was no longer worried and walked by like a champ. Clicker did it’s magic.

He behaved all the way home—including crossing the ford. Things are starting to fall into place…

Thursday, June 9, 2011

If you can't stand the heat--go riding

Hot rides last night!

I took Cruiser on trail. Due to the bugs, I tried a new thing on our ride. We trotted and cantered until we got to the next river crossing. Instead of crossing, I turned back there and trotted back towards home. You see, the bugs are so bad through there that when we use that section of the trail for cool out, we are swarmed. I passed up home and headed the other way for the cool down, and I was right. There were less bugs—and we got to go on a trail that we haven’t been all year.

We quit going there last summer because it is closer to the road, and for some reason, last summer he was spooking at motorcycles like crazy. It took the fun out of going that way—which is less scenic, anyway. When he started to spook so much, I began to stop him whenever I heard a loud motorcycle coming toward us. I think my strategy worked, because he is spooking so much less at them this year. I may start going the other way on a regular basis.

This was the second ride that I did a lot of cantering. Instead of stopping at 16 strides, he was going to 32—in spite of the 90 degree weather. I was so glad he was so happy to canter last night.

I rode Cole in the outdoor arena. It is huge, and I am working on riding him the full perimeter. My concern is bolting and spooking on the far end.  It is funny—the braver I get, the smaller the arena appears. I can walk him counter clockwise all around and do a little bit of trotting. We are having trouble clockwise—my weaker side, regardless what we are doing. On our first lap around, when we were at the far corner facing the gate, he tried to bolt to it. I was able to stop him on the first stride and made him stand. Then we walked to it. After that, I mostly worked him on that arena side and corner. He didn’t try any more shenanigans. It didn’t seem to bother him that the horses were turned out next door by that corner or that the kids where riding ATVs on the other end.

We only did a little trotting cuz of the heat. The mosquitoes and gnats were awful, since we were walking. He had another lesson on keeping moving even when bugs are annoying him.

I was pleased with our progress…I just wish it was cooler…

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Ranger in the River

Here is my sister on her horse, Ranger, crossing the river.  Isn't he a beautiful horse?  We don't know what he is, as he was an auction rescue.  She has had him for 16 years, now.  We think he is about 20.  Cruiser and Ranger are best friends and trail pal--just like my sister and me!

Cruiser Misbehaving

My sister sent me this picture.  I think her boyfriend took it.  I'm not sure what was going on, but it is evident something must have startled Cruiser while he was going up the river bank.  I don't remember it.

Cruiser is easily startled, but not nearly as bad as he was years ago.  I remember being happy after a ride back in the early days where he only had 3 bad spooks.  We had a lot of white-knuckle rides.  These days, I only worry that he will hurt himself (reinjure his bowed tendon) doing something sudden.  I learned long ago that I wouldn't fall off, and I could stop him pretty quick.  I no longer let anyone other than my sister ride him.  I just don't want to spend months and months healing his tendon, again. 

I have had him for over 21 years, and he really is a terrific horse.  He never gets tired and has so much enthusiasm.  He is a happy horse on the trail and a joy to ride--unless he spooks--but I can forgive him for it.

Maggie is a Sprollie

I figured out what our dog is.  She is a Sprollie--a Border Collie/Spaniel mix.  Whether she was intentional or an accident, we will never know.  Judging from the area she was found in, anything is possible.  It was a very poor area that is somewhat close to one of those trendy areas (Ohio City) of Cleveland.  They certainly are cute puppies.  Since she isn't trustworthy off leash, she could have run away and got lost.  The vet thinks she is only a year old or so, so they found her when she wasn't even full grown.

Since we got her in October, she has grown a beautiful coat.  It is so long and soft with pantaloons and a pom-pom looking short tail.  The vet felt her tail was natural and not docked.  She is 32 pounds--a very good size.

Other than the fact she likes to wander out to the street and look for garbage and chase deer out of the county when she sees one, she's a pretty good dog.  (We keep her on a leash.)  She listens to Thunder the Wonder Cat when he reprimands her, which is a lot. 

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Successful Monday Rides

Had the best ride on Cruiser of the year! We went out on trail for more than an hour with lots of trotting. He was calm enough that we did some cantering. He only goes about 15 strides and then drops back to a trot (arthritis), but he is more than happy to do it! For the first time this year, we were also able to trot towards home—which was great since the mosquitoes were brutal. He would still get a little fast, and then I would make him walk for a bit until the mosquitoes caught up, again. He had lots of energy left when we got home, and I think he’d of done another hour. I guess that warm weather, 4 consecutive days of trail riding and being a few weeks away from turning 24 meant that he finally settled down to acting like a normal horse.

I rode Cole in the outdoor arena, and I am very happy to report that the “big trot” is back. He was more consistent, and when he lost it, I was able to get him back with very little trouble. I think I figured out the problem—the saddle was a little too far forward (maybe a half inch) and that may have been inhibiting his shoulder movement. I should have known better, (I have a section on it in my book with a lovely diagram) and I’m not sure why I had been saddling him that way, but for the last few weeks, I haven’t been able to get the girth as tight, either, which I didn’t understand because he hasn’t gained any weight. It can’t be coincidence. I got a reminder from reading one of the blogs I follow, and the light bulb went off in my head. I was thinking it was a saddle problem, but he wasn’t showing any signs of soreness. He just didn’t want to stride out with his shoulders inhibited.

When I was done riding him, I turned him loose to roll, and he had a really good run. My teenage friend videoed it, and she is going to give me a DVD with it. She is so sweet.

I went to water this morning before work, and I saw I forgot to turn on the electric fence. The next thing I saw was the baby deer in my bean patch. It dashed out, and I plugged in the fence when I was done. I saw no damage since the beans haven’t sprouted, yet. My cukes are sprouting, already.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Great Weekend for riding and dogs

Finally, we had a great weekend for riding. I took Cruiser out Friday night by ourselves. Saturday and Sunday morning, I rode him with my sister on her horse. Each time was about 5 miles. It was so great to just get out and ride.

I got Cole on the trail Saturday and Sunday for about 3 miles each day. We did some trotting and though he kept trying to canter, he would come back to a trot when I asked. We just flew down the trail. That horse can trot-fast. My sister said that when he starts out, his hindquarters sink down and then he takes off. I know he will slow down, because he did last fall after a dozen rides or so with trotting. It is a little scary to fly down the trail like that, but I know me well enough to know that given time, I will revel in it. I love a fast trot, and I don’t allow Cruiser to do it like we used to protect his tendon.

The best news of all—on the way home, after all the trotting, he was quiet and only half heartedly tried to trot when I wanted him to walk. I guess he needs to get it out of his system, and then he is fine.

Next weekend, I am going to increase the distance of our ride on Saturday and on Sunday, if everything feels right, we are going to go out with Ranger to different and more challenging trails.

Maggie, aka Dumb Dog, made her debut at the animal shelters fundraising car show. My dad had a car in the show. I brought her up there, where she met my sister’s dog for the first time. They acted like they knew each other their whole lives and were bored of each other. (We were concerned because my sister’s dog can be aggressive with other dogs.) I didn’t know how she would be with all the activity, but she was very well behaved and relaxed.

I got a little more done in the garden.  I planted the lima and green beans and got the electric fence working before the deer discovered the wire wasn't hot.  My first batch of zukes are sprouting!!!

Friday, June 3, 2011


There is more to me than just horses. I am an avid gardener, and wow, has this been a frustrating spring. There has been so much rain, that I never got my veggie garden tilled. I finally gave up, and started to do it by hand last weekend. I have been working very hard, but haven’t gotten much accomplished. I got my tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, cukes and zukes in. I hope to get the beans in this weekend.

The flower gardens are a mess because it was so wet that I couldn’t get much work done in them. At least they are very green. I mostly have perennials and weeds. I want to put some nasturtiums, the annual of the year, in, but haven’t had a chance because of the veggie garden. Ugh…

It hasn’t rained in a week, now, the longest we have gone all year. I even had to water a little last night. I am sure we will end up in a drought, soon.

All the better for me riding!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Cole and the River

Having a river crossing just a quarter mile down the trail means you need a horse that is willing to cross water—and one that does it safely.

I have been very conscientious with Cole’s river training. I make sure that he is most likely to succeed and give him a lot of praise. With all the rain that we have had this year, there were days that I could cross Cruiser, but I wouldn’t risk it with Cole. I bad slip or fall could be a real problem. Whenever Cruiser falls in the river, it takes about a week to persuade him to cross again. I don’t need that with Cole.

I gradually increased the depth of what I was willing to cross, and though sometimes he hesitated, he still entered the water. The only complaint I have is sometimes he rushed.

This river crossing is over an uneven slate bottom, and it is easy to slip or trip. I prefer a horse to cross slowly and pay attention to where his feet are going.

Finally, I decided it was time to cross knee high and muddy water. Earlier in the day, Cruiser and Ranger crossed with ease. I was going to see how Cole did. This is the first time we were attempting completely muddy water where he wouldn’t be able to see the bottom. The current was rather brisk, too. I was doing this without the help of another horse that would lead the way.
We approached the water, and after about a minute, he stepped in. Once again, he rushed across. Halfway to the other side, his hind legs slipped! My heart was racing, but he caught his balance and walked slowly the rest of the way. We made it!

On the way home, a miracle happened. He walked slowly and carefully across to the other side. The other miracle—that’s how he has crossed every time since then.

Some lessons I can’t teach him. Some lessons he just has to learn on his own.

The Hill Revisited

Anyone who has been following the “Adventures of Cole” knows that I have struggled with the hill at the beginning of the trail leading down to the river. Cole wanted to trot it regardless of the direction we are traveling.
Last month, he really improved with going downhill. Now, he seldom trots more that a few steps occasionally on the steepest part.

We still needed to tackle uphill, which was more difficult because that is the direction of home.
Since we had so much rain this month, I only got Cole across the river 4 or 5 times. That meant that I had plenty of time to work him on the hill. To start with, I continued to work with him in the arena or walk him up and down the driveway for a few minutes before putting him in his stall after coming up the hill.

Early in the month, I worked him in the arena, first, and then Ellen and I would take him on the hill—me riding and Ellen walking. Each time, he did a little better. A few times I did it by myself in the evening. At furst, he he was ready to burst on the way home those evenings, so I rode down and led up. by the end of the month, I could ride up, too.

The last couple weekends, I was sick of riding in the arena and I just needed a break. This is when he was being strange in there, so I think he needed a break, too. I decided to do multiple trips with him on the hill. Back last fall, when I was first trying to get him to settle down on the hill, I was leading him multiple trips. The result was that each successive trip, he got worse instead of better! I’m glad to say that this time he got better on each trip down. The first few times I just did 2 trips and towards the end of the month I was doing 3 trips each ride. sometimes Ellen rode Ranger and sometimes Kevin rode Starry. A few rides were with Ellen on foot.

I don’t really need Ellen’s help. I could try it by myself, but she likes joining us. She does the same if I am riding Cruiser. It is great having a companion like Ellen, and the horses think so too. they really like her, and I spend a lot of time keeping them from trying to nibble her.

The results from all my hill work? Last weekend, I took Cole down trail. I met Ellen on the other side of the river, and she walked while I rode. It was the best ride of the year, and for the first time this spring, he did pretty good trotting. When we got back to Ellen’s car, she went home and left me to finish the trip by myself. I had been leading him up the hill after a trail ride because that’s when he was typically the worst. This time, I rode up—and he was perfect!!!! Not a single trot step!!!!!

Now, that put a smile on my face.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011