Monday, December 31, 2012

Maggie is in Lockdown

Maggie is in Lockdown

Something is going on in my house, and I’m not too happy about it. the last few days, Thunder the Wonder Cat has been afraid to go into the living room where all his toys and most of his cat furniture is. He won’t come in to sit on my lap, either. I’m pretty sure this is dog related as he seems nervous around her. So, that is it. Maggie is going to be locked in her room when I’m gone until Thunder gets his confidence back. I think she has been chasing him out of the living room. I feel bad, but not too bad. When I used to have her locked in there, she did fine. It is a large room with 2 windows that overlook the driveway. She has a real bed, and in her cage, she has a memory foam bed that I made her. I put all her toys back in there, and when I leave, she gets a very filled Kong Wobbler. I can’t have her tormenting Thunder. Unhappy Thunder + unhappy me.

Friday, December 28, 2012

House Cat Tip of the Month—Dog Torture

House Cat Tip of the Month—Dog Torture

Well, it isn’t really dog torture, that’s just what I imagine that Thunder would call it. Thunder doesn’t like being groomed. Maggie doesn’t mind it, but Thunder would think it is torture, so that’s why we call this game “dog torture.”

My dog, Maggie, and Spaniel/Border Collie mix, has a triple layered coat. She has short hair, medium hair and very long hair. Every day for her is a bad hair day. She looks like she was just in a wind storm. Baths and grooming don’t help the way she looks, but the do help the shedding.

She was afraid of grooming in the beginning, so I used clicker training to desensitize her. It didn’t take long and she loved it. I just give her pieces of her regular portion of dry dog food, but she is in heaven.

Now, one of Thunder’s favorite games is chasing pieces of his daily portion of dry cat food across the floor. Sometimes Maggie gets in the way of his game, so we play “dog torture.” I groom Maggie, click her, give her a treat and then toss a treat to Thunder. Thunder thinks the game is great fun, I keep Maggie from interfering and get her groomed at the same time.

Everybody is happy, and I have less black hair flying about the house.

The Chink in Cole’s Armor

The Chink in Cole’s Armor

No horse is perfect. Every one of them has a chink in their armor. You can work with them and improve them, but deep down, it never goes away. Starry D just hates bugs. Cruiser hates motorcycles. Ranger can’t deal with rain on the roof. (He’s the biggest sissy of them all.)

Cole Train is afraid of horses. He has been like this since I got him. I remember the first few weeks when I had a horrible time getting him to walk through one of the doors in our barn. He didn’t mind being inside and he wasn’t afraid of doors, since he would go through the other door, but refused on this door. Turns out, he was afraid of the mare in the first stall when she laid her ears back at him.

That was just the beginning. He was afraid to pass other horses, afraid of them walking behind him in the river and gets startled when they make the slightest aggressive mood—like swishing a tail. He likes Starry, but if he is next to him and Starry does one of his little bucks, Cole will either come to a sudden stop or shoot off sideways. If Starry briskly swishes his tail at the dreaded bugs, Cole will throw his head up in the air.

He has gotten used to Ranger snarling at him, and he will now cautiously pass another horse instead of refusing to pass or leaping forward to avoid getting bitten (even if they aren’t threatening him.)

I don’t know why he is like this, but he is.

The other day, I was riding him in the arena with a bunch of horses. He has gotten used to doing that, and we can pass horses and they can pass us. There was a woman who was standing on the end of the arena holding her horse on a lead line. Her horse got startled by something—she didn’t know what happened. He flew backwards very quickly—right into Cole’s path.

Cole took off and started bucking. After a few seconds, he stopped and was fine. I told everyone it gave me a chance to practice my “Velcro seat.” I didn’t think much more of the incident, but a few minutes later another horse spooked when we were fairly close and it caused Cole to erupt, again. This time wasn’t as bad, and I thought no more of it.

The next day, I was riding with Ellen and Ranger in the arena. I forgot all about the experiences from the day before, but Cole didn’t. We were walking along the wall of the indoor arena and Ranger approached on the inside. Cole bolted. Even though he is very good friends with Ranger, he didn’t want to be trapped between Ranger and the wall. A few minutes later, it happened again; proving that the first time wasn’t a strange fluke. I now had a problem.

Ellen stopped Ranger, and I tried to ride Cole to him. Cole refused to get within 10 feet of him. He was definitely scared. We had some serious Ranger desensitization to do. I was glad it was Ranger that I was going to work with since Ellen is the greatest and most understanding rider.

Of course, I used clicker training. I have found clicker to be the best for desensitization. I took Cole away from Ranger and asked him to approach. As he stepped toward him, I clicked, he stopped and I gave him a treat. Ellen was clicking Ranger for standing very still. I kept repeating this—getting a little closer each time. In about 5 minutes, he was close enough so Ellen could give him a treat. At that point, we started riding together with Cole following Ranger. He became more confident, and their friendship was restored.

A short time later, Kevin came out to lead Starry, and Cole seemed fine with him. When Kevin then came out to lead the evil mare, Cole was uncomfortable with her—for good reason. She has kicked at him in the past. We just stayed away from them.

Hopefully, Cole will take what he learned from Ranger and generalize it with other horses. If not, it will be a long winter of riding with other horses in the indoor arena.

No horse is perfect, and if this is the worst for Cole, I can live with it—as long as I have understanding people to ride with and help me out, we will be fine. Oh, and a Velcro seat helps, too.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Way too much nip

My sister's cat, Stormy, has a subsance abuse problem.

Monday, December 17, 2012


Isn't he handsome?

My sister and I went to our favorite cat shelter, Stay A While, yesterday. We wanted to pick cats out to sponsor for the year. I picked Sammy. Actually, I can't imagine why he hasn't been adopted. He is gorgeous and friendly. He is also huge--the size of a panther. He has to be at least part Maine Coon. Big cats purr loud.

He just sat in the tower, looking over his kingdom as it pet him and talked to him. He was definitely in charge of the place.

If I didn't have Thunder, I would have taken him home. I think he would make a person a good companion. Though, he would have probably scared Maggie.

Hopefully, someone will adopt him, and I could go back and pick out another cat to sponsor.

My sister picked our a small, orange long-haired female named Honey O. She is a real sweetheart, that doesn't believe in using litter boxes. They keep the cats there for life. They don't live in cages, but can roam about freely in rooms and patios. Honey is 13, now, and at least she has a home.

This is the shelter where I got Thunder, and his predecessor, Trickee. I owe them a lot for rescuing both my boys and bringing so much joy into my life. Sponsoring is the least I could do.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

New Convert?

New Convert?

Last night, towards the end of my ride with Cole, the new boarder came out. Her husband started leading her horse around the arena. It was the first time I saw him out of the stall. He looked like a Thoroughbred and walked like a gentleman.

I thought I would explain what I was doing with the clicks and treats that they saw me doing with Cole. I gave her a brief explanation, dismounted and told Cole to do his Cole walk. it is something he invented and I encouraged that looks like a low-stepping Spanish walk. The boarder was in awe. Actually, I never got such an enthusiastic response to his silly walk, before. I explained that I have found it useful when leading him on the street when a scary vehicle approaches. I just ask him to put his head down and do his walk. He ignores the scary vehicle and only pays attention to me.

After my ride, I went to clean stalls. The new boarder came into our barn and asked me how she could teach her horse clicker training. I didn’t know it, but he has braces on both her legs. Though her horse is well mannered, he walks too fast for her. She wants to teach him to walk slower. Right now, she is unable to handle her horse without assistance.

I showed her what a clicker looks like and how to get started with targetting. Cole was willing, and showed her how he could target a Kleenex box. I showed her how he puts his head down on command—a very useful thing. I also explained how good it would be to teach her horse to stand still on command like Cole. Walking slow, head down and stand should make it easier for her to handle her horse. I thought of this later—immediate halt to the word “whoa.” I taught that early on with Cole, and it is a wonderful thing.

She was so excited. I have tried to convert others at our barn in the past with no success, yet no one had bigger incentive than this young lady. She said she is going to do it, and she wanted to know what evenings I would be out at the barn.

I hope she follows through. I’m sure she must be very frustrated to have such a nice horse and be so limited in what she could do. I will keep you updated.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Quick Update

I haven’t been feeling much like blogging. Cruiser’s cough is really getting me down. The steroids are helping, but not enough. We are hoping that when the temps get down below freezing there will be an improvement because it seems that his best days are the colder ones. I have only been riding him on the weekends. The rest of the time, I am just hand walking. He is gaining weight, and that is a good thing. With the cough came weight loss, and that had me worried, too.

Cole is doing well. His bowing is amazing, but he still will only do it in his stall. I have spent so much time teaching him to stand still outside the stall, that he doesn’t want to move. I guess I would rather have a horse that will stand motionless than one that wants to bow all the time. He does get carried away in his stall. He will do it over and over. I have to work in the arena during the week due to darkness, but he has been doing pretty well. That beautiful trot of his is tough to ride, and I have to work on building my endurance. He is getting much more consistent with it.

I have been able to trail ride on the weekends, but I don’t think it will last much longer. Once it gets cold enough for the ground to be frozen and ice forms on the river, we are limited. I won’t trot on frozen ground or cross on ice. The mild temperatures won’t last. This is Cleveland, after all. Then again, the cold might improve Cruiser. I would be glad to sacrifice the trail rides for his health.

There is good news. Ranger is currently lame free. My sister has been working him in the arena during the week and taking him on easy trail rides on the weekend—only walking and trotting. She will try a canter soon and see how he does. It was looking so bleak for him, but things appear to be on the right track. My sister still thinks she will get a second horse next spring to lighten Ranger’s work load.

Life away from the barn is improving. I am getting used to living alone. Well, if I’m at home, I am never really alone. Thunder and Maggie are always close by. My brother has been helpful with the things I’m not sure how to handle. I am cooking smaller portions and trying to have at least half of my meals healthy. I bought a bunch of seeds for my veggie garden next year. My brother cut down the annoying mulberry tree growing on the edge of the garden, so I have much more sunshine. Maybe next year will be a good garden year.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Cole Keeps Thinks Interesting

Kevin and I had the opportunity to take our horses on a long ride on Thanksgiving. Unfortunately, Ellen had to work, so we went without her. I took Cole Train, and of course, Kevin took Starry.

Life hasn’t been very cooperative, so this was only the third long ride of the year. Cole is faster than Starry over the long run, so just like in the past, we lost them a few times as we trotted along. Kevin warned me this might happen, so that I wouldn’t be alarmed when I noticed he wasn’t behind us.

The weather was unseasonably warm, so there were a lot of hikers and dog walkers on the trail. There is plenty of room to pass people on our trails, so if it is safe, I will keep going. I make sure that I never surprise or scare anyone.

We approached a dog walker who was standing off on the side of the trail. As Cole approached, he transformed and did his big, showy trot. (It is very passage-like and really something to see.) The dog walker was awed, and I laughed, clicked and treated him. That’s all it took. Cole put on a show for nearly every person we passed. Most people liked it, though some didn’t know what they were looking at. Cole thought it was fun. I thought it was funny.

We did have one problem situation. We were on our own, and there was a large group of people—half of them children—up ahead on the trail. We had been cantering, though we were trotting when we saw them. I don’t know what went through Cole’s head when he saw them, but he took off running--straight for them. I felt like I was on a bowling ball—heading down the alley—and we were going to topple some people over.

It took a bit, but I got him back down to a trot in time. He slowed enough, but wouldn’t stop. I ended up spinning him right in front of the group. They didn’t slow down, move to the side or stop—they just kept going. I had to ride through them. Cole didn’t want to walk, but did with a mixture of prancing and a few more spins. Children were running loose to the right and left. A kid asked his name. Next thing I knew, they were all screaming, “Cole Train. Cole Train.” That only added to the prancing and dancing. He put on quite a show.

Towards the end of the group, a parent reined the last of the kids in, much to my relief. Cole settled down, and the rest of the ride was uneventful. We met Kevin on the way home. He also went though the big group of people, but of course, Starry behaved perfectly.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Take a Bow

Take a Bow

This is all about “capturing a behavior” with clicker training. We can train a horse to do anything with the aid of a clicker. When we saw Cole stretch one morning, we thought it was so cute that we clicked and treated him for it.

I don’t know when we clicked him for it the first time, but every time we saw him do it, we clicked again. Sometimes it would be days even weeks between clicks. Last month, it seemed to be getting more frequent. We noticed he was most likely to do it when we weren’t paying attention—to get our attention. It was only in the morning when we were cleaning the stalls. We would just watch through the corner of our eyes. Anything that looked like a stretch got clicked.

Then, it happened—multiple stretches in the same morning. The stretches were morphing into a definite bow. One morning, he did it 8 times in a row! He made the connection. Now, it was time to put it on a cue. When we thought he might do it, we would say, “Bow.”

A few sessions like this, and we had a bowing monster. What he does is he stretches his front legs forward and parks out with his back legs like a proper Morgan. Then, he shifts his weight back and bows like a dog. It is adorable, but he does it over and over. A few times I had to leave the barn to get him to stop!

I have decided to only click him for mostly for doing it on command. When he does a really good one voluntarily, I can’t resist clicking that, too. The rest of the time, I am just saying “good boy.” He only does it in his stall at this time. I would like him to be able to do it out of his stall, too. I will not teach him to do it when I am in the saddle. No way.

When I get home from the barn, my little black dog, Maggie, also bows and bows and bows. I taught her without treats or clicks. She would do it occasionally when I would come home. She would stand on the top of the stairs and wag her tail. I started to say, “Bow” over and over. When she would, I would proceed up the stairs—just what she wanted. After about 10 times, she was doing it whenever I asked her—just to get me to come to her. Now, she does it all the time. I just praise her for it—better than her jumping on me or running down the cat in her excitement.

Now, all my black animals are bowing.

Oh, back to capturing a behavior. That’s what we did. Cole did something on his own, we liked it and caught it with a clicker. Then, by anticipating when he would do it, we taught him a connection between a cue, a behavior and a reward. It is like magic.

Cole is one step closer to being a circus horse.

Ranger and the River

Seems like I have written about this, before. If it sounds familiar, it probably is because it is.

Ranger was sound enough to go on his first trail ride in a couple of months. Hurray! We decided that he should go with Cruiser. Wow, was he excited. He pranced and danced and looked like he was a whole hand taller as Ellen led him down the driveway and down the hill to the mounting block by the river crossing.

Ranger decided he was going to work the hill for his first trail ride. Ellen decided he was going to cross the river. Cruiser quietly moseyed down the river bank. Ranger danced and reluctantly bounced down. He passed up Cruiser and it looked like he was going to make it. When he got his front feet into the water, he spun and just about ran right over poor, confused Cruise. Ranger didn’t want to cross, and he said no one was going to make him.

Ellen told me to ride on. Cruise and I had a nice, but short ride with as much trotting as his cough could handle. When we got back, there was Ranger, standing by the river. When Ellen saw us, she turned Ranger around and walked up the bank. We joined her.

She said she was at the river the whole time we were gone. Every time he turned away, she brought him back to the same spot. He was way to wound up to even try to go home or work the hill. She just tried to bore him into submission.

She could have forcibly tried to get him across, but she didn’t see it as a battle she wanted to fight. We just decided Ranger was a big dummy of a horse.

The next day, we tried it again. This time, he went down the driveway and hill just like a normal horse. When she mounted, he obediently walked down the river bank. I brought Cruiser into the water, first, and Ranger was right behind us. Once he got into the water, he motored past in his typical manner. Success. That day, he brain was in the right spot. The previous day, his brain wasn’t working well, at all. Ellen felt since he wasn’t in a reasonable mood, there was no reasoning with him. When he was in a reasonable mood, it was easy.

We had a very nice ride—mostly walking and talking. We have crossed together several times since with no problems at all. We have our Ranger back.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Geriatric Horses Doing All Right

Well, I think there is good news for Cruiser. By Sunday, the cough lessened a lot, so I think that proves it is a case of bad allergies. I rode him yesterday in the arena, and when we first started trotting, he did a lot of coughing—and then he stopped. We worked for half an hour.

Ranger keeps improving, and Ellen said that today he didn’t seem lame at all. Our hopes are that the problem isn’t a permanent one and that it will go away in time. Right now, things are looking good for it, but I won’t get my hopes up, yet.

She has decided to buy another horse in the spring so that she won’t mind cutting Ranger’s workload back. She has one in mind, but we’ll keep you in suspense about it.

I did get to take Cole on a 2.5 hour ride this weekend. I went with Kevin and Starry. Once we got to the good trails, he told me that he didn’t know if he was going to ride at the speed I wanted to ride. He told me to just go on. We left them in the dust. 3 miles later, I turned around and walked until we met them. I had a great time. I haven’t been able to ride Cole like that since last spring. It was wonderful. We mostly trotted, but he really moved out like a Morab should. I think he had fun, too. Surprisingly, the trails out that way weren’t affected much by the storm. I could see where a lot of trees had fallen over the trail that the park had to cut up.

On Sunday, Ellen and I took Cole and Starry for a 1.5 hour ride. They were much quieter than the day before, but they still had enough energy to give us a lovely ride.

The season is winding down, fast. Hopefully, next year will be a better year for riding—and just a better year, period.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Time Catches Up with Us

Time Catches Up with Us

Ranger has had 2 hoof abscesses causing off and on lameness and Cruiser has a cough. It was time to call the vet.

I couldn’t be there because of work, but Ellen was. The results of the examinations—we have old horses. It seems like just yesterday, they were young. How did this happen?

With Ranger, it wasn’t a case of hoof abscesses not healing well. They did heal. It was just coincidence. The vet feels he may have an age-related problem like ringbone, or possibly he hurt himself, and it is taking a while to heal. She said that nerve blocks could possibly give a clearer definition, but she knows Ranger well enough to know he wouldn’t tolerate the process. Ellen agreed. Light riding is fine, and that is what she will do.

Cruiser’s cough is due to dust, which I thought originally, but when I gave him a round of steroids, and they didn’t help, I got worried it was something worse. She gave me stronger steroids to try. He also has developed a heart murmur. She said that light riding is fine.

We have two old horses. We will be doing a lot of geriatric rides and make the best of it. Honestly, we are just happy to have them. They are both high-mileage horses. Cruiser is 25, and we just celebrated his 23rd anniversary. We don’t know how old Ranger is, but Ellen is going to celebrate his 17th anniversary, soon. Every day is a blessing, and if we can still ride them, it’s all the more a blessing.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

A Bad Year

My sister and I have noticed that our lives have spells of bad luck that last 12 months, and then we will have good luck for a long time until the next “bad year.” We definitely have been going through a bad spell. We decided it started at the end of October last year when Dad first started feeling poorly. We rounded up to November 1st, which is his birthday, and decided that that’s when our bad year would end. We still had to get through October.

Ranger has been having abscess issues since early September. This month, Ellen was finally able to ride Ranger a little bit. He got that abscess in his front hoof, it blew out and we thought everything would be just fine. Well, when he blew it out, he tore up his heel, creating a huge crack. When the vet came out to give the horses their fall shots, Ellen had her look at Ranger’s hoof. She cut out some frog and found a pus pocket. She said it was left there as the infection traveled to his heel. That was also causing him discomfort.

Now, he had a badly cracked heel and his frog was sensitive as a result of the vet’s knife. The vet wanted her to douse it with iodine to toughen it up. At the time, Ellen was only hand walking him for exercise. We were both getting very discouraged. He was doing all right at a walk, but he was lame at a trot.

Right at this time, Cruiser had something happen to his head. I think he must have banged it into something. His face was swollen and he had a huge, fat lip. We now only had one horse to ride, Cole Train. Ellen was taking him out in a few mornings a week on her own, and she was enjoying her rides, but it is never the same when your own horse is ailing at the barn. I was riding Cole in the evenings and hand walking Cruiser. (When I got into horses all those years ago, I never expected to spend so much time hand walking!)

We scheduled most of our vacation time together for the month of October. This really messed us up--having only one rideable horse. Kevin graciously allowed us to ride Starry D. Still, it wasn’t the same.

After a while, Ellen started to ride Ranger lightly in the arena and on the driveway, and each time, he got a little better, but he still wasn’t there. Cruiser’s face swelling went down, and I was able to ride him in a side pull hackamore. Things began to look up.

Still, Ranger didn’t seem 100% at a trot. He was the worst when his bad foot was on the inside, which made sense. Ellen mostly walked him and would do a little trotting.

On the brighter side, I sold my old Camaro with 150,000 miles and started driving my dad’s much newer car with only 15,000 miles, the kitten my sister found that she turned into the greatest cat shelter ever---Stay a While Cat Shelter—got adopted. Could our awful year, the one that started at the end of October last year, be ending after all?

Then, Cruiser started to cough quite bad. He has seasonal allergies, and fall is a bad season for him. All the leaves came down at once—maybe that is why it was so bad. I started to ride him more cautiously. Some days—I just hand walked.

A few days later, after Ranger’s ride, Ellen noticed that his back hoof was mushy and wet. He was only in the indoor arena. I took a look at it—a hoof abscess had just blown out of the heel. The previous problem hoof was a front hoof on the same side. Could this be why he was still a little off when he should have been getting better?

A few days later, my “new” car got rear ended while I was at a standstill at a traffic light. More bad luck.

We had one more vacation day left for the month of October. Ellen and I take our time off together so we can go on trail rides, but due to her work schedule, we have to pick the days several weeks in advance. Turns out that this day was when the worst of Hurricane Sandy would be hitting Ohio. You know, Frankenstorm. Even though we were far from the coast, they predicted miserable weather. So much for our trail rides. More bad luck. Would we make it to the end of the month?

Ellen and I had planned to celebrate the end of the “bad year” and Dad’s birthday by making a couple of homemade apple pies—his favorite. We weren’t even going to eat dinner. We were going to feast on the pies.

Then Kevin’s furnace broke…

The night before, I was at the barn to ride and feed. Riding was out of the question—the wind was so strong that the arena was making all kinds of scary noises. I hand walked Cruiser and lounged and led Cole. He practiced his silly walk, and I taught him to chase a ball. At first, I clicked him for touching the ball. Then I would kick it a few feet, and when he walked to it, I clicked him for touching it. It didn’t take long for him to be trotting after it.

After we fed, I went to Kevin’s house to watch a DVD. I got a text from Ellen. It said, “I really think they shouldn’t let Dad control the weather. He is making the bad year go out with a bang. I think it’s a sign.” It made me laugh. My dad was obsessed with the weather. He would have loved following this storm—even more, he would have loved creating it.

At 10:30, Kevin’s power went out. I called my house, and the power was still on. I knew because the answering machine picked up. I got home around midnight. Fifteen minutes later, my power went out, too. Thunder and I snuggled close all night, trying to keep warm. I never spent a colder night.

The next morning, our day off, I called Ellen. The wind wasn’t quite as strong, but it was still raining. Her power was off, too. We decided to go to the barn, anyway. I only ran into one detour due to power lines being down. All was well at the barn, they didn’t flood and the horses were fine. We started our morning by riding Cole.

By some miracle, it stopped raining. We decided to lead Cruiser down to the river to see how much it flooded. As we started on the trail, we heard what sounded like a large branch fall. We were partway down the first slope when we heard another crack. We stopped, looked up, and we could see across the river a tree break about ¼ of the way up and crash down into the water. It was an awesome sight. I decided we should bring Cruiser back. He really liked the idea, too, and we spent the rest of his walk on the driveway. He didn’t cough at all on his walk.

We walked down to the river without a horse to see how high it was—and it was an amazing sight.

Ellen started leading Ranger on the driveway, but he was very excited, so she brought him in. Just as well, as the rain started up, again. I trotted him in hand for her to watch, and we decided that Ranger is no longer lame, at all. Yes, the bad year was ending.

We found a Taco Bell that was open and ate lunch. We called my house, and found that I still didn’t have power, so Ellen went her way and I went mine. No apple pies. The thing we were looking forward to the most wasn’t going to happen.

At 12:30, I walked into the house, and to my unbelieving ears—I could hear the furnace running. Dad realized his mistake and intervened. We had power. I called Ellen up and she came over. We made 2 delicious apple pies and ate them for supper. The bad year is over, and we had our celebration. We are going to try to do this each year in the future in honor of Dad. He loved our homemade apple pies.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Frustrations getting better

I got to ride Cruiser!!! Yes, the swelling on his face went down enough to ride. His lip was still puffy, so I rode him in a side pull hackamore instead of his bridle with a bit. On Friday, we just rode around in the arena and driveway to make sure he was all right. Saturday and Sunday we went down the trail. My sister rode Cole with us. Cruiser doesn’t have good breaks, anymore, and even less in the side pull. Cole has excellent brakes. I figured as long as my sister could stop Cole, I could stop Cruiser. We had no problems at all, and the rides were great.

More good news—Ranger is improving. My sister rode him all 3 days in the arena and driveway. By Sunday, he was only lame when he went the sore direction when she pushed him to go faster. His split heel is feeling more solid, too. I can’t wait until he can go on the trail, again—hopefully it will be before the weather goes sour.

My overall mood is improving as the horses improve. They are so important for my coping with the loss of my father. That goes for my little angel cat, Thunder. Animals can really make a difference in a person’s life.

Monday, October 15, 2012


Life just hasn’t been going smoothly, lately. When I went to bridle Cruiser on Wednesday, he simply wouldn’t cooperate. That’s when I noticed he had a fat lip—a really, really fat lip. Somehow, he must have bruised it. It hurt him a lot. I managed to get a halter on him, and we have been hand walking instead of riding, ever since. It did look considerably better, yesterday, but I’m not sure when I will be able to ride.

My sister’s horse, Ranger, had a terrible abscess that blew out and made a mess of his hoof. He hasn’t been able to be ridden, either, so it has been quite a bummer. We saw improvement with him, yesterday, too. Still, it may be a while before he is on the stony trails.

My sister and I have been sharing Cole Train. She likes him a lot, but it’s never the same if you aren’t on your own horse.

So we are both off of work tomorrow with only one horse to ride between us. Hopefully, my boyfriend will take pity on us and lend us Starry, again. We also plan to finish rebuilding my garden wall that was collapsing. So, even if the riding isn’t what we want, the day won’t be lost.

On the good side, it looks like I sold my car. I inherited my father’s car, so I didn’t need two cars. His has a tenth of the miles (15,000) that my Camaro has, so it is the smart thing to do, but I confess, I will miss my Camaro. I had it nearly 13 years, and it is the fifth in a series of great Camaros that I have owned. I now will be driving a sensible, economical Ford Focus. Time to grow up, I guess. (I hate driving a rear wheel car in the winter, so this really is a good thing.)

Before the potential new owners came out for a test drive, I had the windows open to air it out. I hope they won’t mind the smell of horses!

Crossing the River

My sister took these pictures from the pesestrian bridge that crosses the river.  This is me on Cole.  The water was pretty deep, but the current is slow at this crossing, so it is easy to cross.  Cole kept wanting to stop so he could try catching the leaves floating by.
Here is Kevin on Starry.  Starry is a much taller horse, but it was even deep on him.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Maggie at Large

Maggie at Large

When my father died, he left me with his dog, Maggie. No one else wanted her, so she is all mine. She came with some problems. When we adopted her from a rescue 3 years ago, she didn’t even know what “Good Girl” meant. We found that we had to keep her on a leash because not only will she run off, but running into the woods wasn’t good enough. She wanted to run down to the street—a very busy street—to look for garbage to eat. Yes, they found her doing just that when they rescued her. Anyone familiar with the west side of Cleveland knows what Train Avenue is like. She is from Train. Ironically, our last dog was found on Train, too, but she was just a pup and probably wasn’t on the street long at all.

That was problem number one. I can manage with that. Problem number two was worse—separation anxiety. If left alone, all paper products became vulnerable. My dad started by locking her up in his room when he left, but soon she was destroying that, too. we ended up getting her a cage. That worked, but my dad usually wasn’t gone that long when he left her. I spend the day at work and a lot of hours at the barn. She was destined to spend a lot of time in the cage. I wanted to find her a better home, but since no one wanted her, my sister suggested cleaning out my dad’s room of all paper products and leaving her locked in the room.

It worked. I would pack up a Kong toy for her and leave her in a large room with great windows overlooking the driveway, a bed, cage, water and toys. When I was home at night, she was allowed the whole house. Thunder and I sleep upstairs where she can’t go because of the metal spiral staircase that doesn’t work well for dogs. The first few weeks, she did find things to destroy in the house. Sigh.

Then, I started to sit with her a few minutes on her couch every night before bed. I reminded her that we used to call her Blunder when she was bad in the early days. I said that if she makes any mistakes over night, I would call her Blunder all the next day instead of Maggie. “Do you want to be Blunder or do you want to be Maggie.” After that, I never did have to call her Blunder. I still have the talk with her since she likes the cuddling time. Thunder thinks she should be called Blunder—he likes the sound of it.

Anyway, it has been over a month of the Blunder talk, and I decided to try not locking her up during the day. I did it a few times when I was only going to be gone for a short time, and to my surprise, she was fine. I expanded it to all the time and she hasn’t made a single blunder. I think it helps that I keep a very regular schedule. When Dad would leave her, she didn’t know if he would be gone 20 minutes or 5 hours. Routines are good for dogs.

So, now I have a proper watch dog who can roam about the house and bark to scare off any intruders. The intruders are usually deer, and they typically just stare at her when she barks. She gets very frustrated.

I’m not sure if Thunder likes her being loose during the day. She brings toys into his “play area” and leaves them there. Since she has more windows to bark out of, there is much more barking going on. He hates her barking. I do believe that she sleeps most of the day—just like she did when Dad was around to keep her company. For a young dog, she is pretty low energy. I guess I am lucky with that.

When I have time, I make sure she gets long walks, and she really likes them. I have started up here clicker training. She is awesome jumping through a hoop. I think I will try with the Frisbee, again.

Keeping her isn’t htat bad, after all. She has adjusted, and I am starting to like her more. Ask me again when I am walking her in the winter.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Mundane Stuff

I don’t feel like writing. I feel too empty. There aren’t any words in there. I am so ready to be done grieving, but I guess it’s not something for me to decide.

Writing sometimes helps me feel better, so I will give it a try.

Ranger is still ailing from the hoof abscess. The vet came out for fall shots, and Ellen had her check his foot. She found a pus pocket in his frog and cut it out. He is doing a little better, but it has only been a few days. Ellen is so worried that it is really something else. She has been riding Cole Train and Starry, but it’s never the same if you aren’t on your own horse.

I have been eeking out very fast, short trail rides after work, on Cruiser, but it won’t last much longer. I have been working with Cole in the arena. We are still struggling with the right lead. He is so awesome with the left—so that’s all he wants to do.

My sister and it started rebuilding the top garden wall by the house. That garden used to be so pretty, but in recent years, the walls started to collapse and the plants disappeared with the soil that got washed out. The top part won’t be so bad. Next year, we will begin the bottom part. That will be tough.

I turned the furnace on—but only to 56 degrees. Don’t worry—it will be warmer, soon. We are still getting mild afternoons, so the heat is only for those cold nights. Thunder has been very cuddly.

Maggie is now at large when I’m not home. I started experimenting last week, and she has been perfect. I thought she might be—once she stopped getting into things at night when she was alone. She doesn’t sleep with me because of the metal spiral staircase—too dangerous for clumsy dogs. Besides, Thunder needs a place of his own. I am so glad she is no longer locked up in her room. It was a nice room, but this way she has more windows to look out of—and how could she be a proper watchdog if she is locked up?

We have sold 5 cars. My Camaro is for sale, as I will be driving my dad’s Focus. I have someone from work bringing his daughter to see it this weekend. I wish my father would have bought me a sports car when I was a teen. I ended up buying my own—my first Camaro—a 1974. I followed it with a 1976 Rally Sport Camaro, a 1981 Z28 Camaro, a 1990 Camaro and then this 2000 Camaro.

For the first time in my driving life, I won’t have a Camaro. My brother is keeping my dad’s, and he said I could drive it if I wanted. It is a 1967 Convertible. I took it to a car show, years ago, and on the way home, both sets of brake lines blew out at a light—then a miracle happened. It stalled. I pulled it into a parking lot and it stalled, there, too. There was a payphone, so I called Dad. He came and got me and drove it home using the emergency brake. I never thought that—as it rolled through the intersection—me screaming and honking.

I am keeping the 1962 Metropolitan—cuz I always liked that car and it isn’t worth much money. Will we be able to get it to run is the question. Of all the cars, that is the one that has been sitting the longest. We won’t even try, this year. We have other things to worry about.

That’s about it. Nothing exciting. I don’t feel much better for writing, either.

Just a note for anyone who has read this far. Grieving takes a lot of time. Chances are, you may know someone who lost someone precious in the last few months. I guarantee, they aren’t over it. Please be kind and understanding towards us mourners. It isn’t easy, and healing doesn’t go fast. Just because you don’t think of their loss often, I am sure they do.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Canter Continued

Canter Continued

After a weekend of trail riding, I was back in the arena with Cole last night. I am glad to say that I think we have solidified the canter left lead. We did a bunch of transitions, and he was getting them 90% of the time. I was varying our distance before clicking, so he was never quite sure when he would get clicked. We went our furthest ever—three quarters of the arena.

It was time to start the right lead. On the trail, he takes the left lead readily, but the right lead rarely. I have one favorite sharp right turn that I like to use for it, and there were successful times and unsuccessful times. I knew that the arena wouldn’t’ be easy.

I ended up with all the problems I had when I first started the right lead—combined with his preference for the right. I didn’t get a single successful transition. Once, he felt like he started to take it up properly with the hind leg, and then lost it. I did click him for that because that was the closest we got.

I need to get candy.

Surprisingly, there was just enough daylight to take Cruiser on a quick and fast trail ride with Starry D. That was fun.

Friday, September 28, 2012

House Cat Tip of the Month – The Tower

House Cat Tip of the Month – The Tower

I have always wanted to get Thunder a fancy piece of cat furniture, but my dad didn’t want huge cat towers in the house. When my dad was sick and no longer mobile, I was feeling really down and out (of course.) I splurged and, without telling him what I did, I bought Thunder a multi-level cat tower. It has 5 scratching posts and 3 levels. Thunder was fascinated when I was assembling it. Once I stood it up, it took him 20 seconds to get to the top.

He loves his tower. He sharpens his claws on it all the time, and sleeps on the highest level and is always climbing up and down. He will curl up on the top of it and just purr and purr while I pet him. I put it in front of a picture window, so it has really improved his “hunting.” He has more fun with his tower than anything I have ever gotten him. I’m sure if my dad is looking down at us, he would be smiling, too.

The tip of the month is not necessarily getting your cat a cat tower to play with, but to not wait to get something really fun for you cat—and yourself. I wish I would have got the tower for Thunder long ago…Dad wouldn’t have minded once he saw us.

Life is too short to miss out on an opportunity to have a little fun.

Cantering in the Arena--at Last

Cantering in the Arena--at Last

I know, I know, this is way overdue. We did a little cantering last year in the arena and a little the year before, but I never worked on it steadily enough to get a solid transition. I decided to canter a lot on trail this summer, and I did. We loved it. I figured once we got back in the arena, that it would be easy—wrong. Reality couldn’t be further from the truth. It was just as hard as ever to get him to canter.

I didn’t use the clicker on the trail for cantering Cole because the one time I tried, we went sliding. I realized the footing wasn’t good enough for sudden stops. I did click him for coming back down to the trot when I asked him to, and consequently, he had good brakes. (Except for that one time...)

Last week, he started to work well at the walk and trot in the arena. I decided it was time to try the canter. I got bucking, sudden stops, huge trots, strange gaits and a few times—a canter. I clicked him for the transition, he stopped and got treats.

I was disappointed. I thought he would do as well in the arena as he does on the trail. I then remembered how he was when I first started trotting him in the arena. I discovered my horse has the natural ability to do the Piaffe—a dressage movement where a horse trots in place. I’m so glad I had witnesses that day. It took a number of frustrating tries before he actually took a step forward. I clicked him for the forward steps, and soon he was leaping forward into the trot. That scared me to death. That is Cole Train—always the over achiever.

The next arena ride went slightly better. We got just as much variation, but we did get a few more canters. He knew I wanted something, but he still wasn’t 100% sure what I wanted. I also think that going in a smaller space with corners rather than straight down a trail at incredible speed is a little intimidating for him. Throw me on his back—bracing myself—expecting a buck--doesn’t help. Some of those bucks were huge! Thank you Mingo for teaching me how the ride a big buck.

The third lesson started out like the second one, and then I remembered that I threw some pieces of candy in my pocket. I grabbed a piece and rattled the wrapper. Cole’s head went up, and he glanced back at me with an excited look in his eyes. It was if he was asking me what he had to do for the candy.

We cruised around the arena at a nice trot. When we got to the far corner, I asked him for a canter in the same manner as the trail—and we got it. I clicked; he stopped and got his piece of candy. It was like magic. Of course, we only got a couple strides in because he always stops when I click. We did it again and again and again. I lost count. A few times he bucked, so I didn’t click him. I started to wait a few strides before the click. A few times, he stopped on his own to get a treat. Of course, I didn’t give it to him. Finally, alas, I ran out of candy. When I switched to carrot pieces, he realized he was tired and lost his enthusiasm. I was tired, too, so we did some walking work.

Kevin was cleaning the stalls while we were doing this, and he missed it all. He came by to dump a wheelbarrow, and I told him what I was doing, and then joked and said I couldn’t do any more because I was out of candy. He reached into his pocket and pulled out some Werther’s! I rattled the wrapper, and Cole was ready to go, again. I took him to that same corner, asked for a canter and we did. After a couple strides, he tried to stop, but I encouraged him to keep going with me legs. He did, and I clicked. We repeated it, but went a little longer.

Kevin went to dump the wheelbarrow, and I continued to work. Twice, we started at the first corner and went along the short wall and through the second corner before I clicked him. The second time, all I had was carrots, so I decided to give him a bigger reward. I clicked him, and when he stopped, I dismounted. We were done for the day.

Well, not completely done. He was a little hot, so I led him around and we practiced our silly Cole walk. I kept clicking for it, and he was having so much fun that when I tried to get him to leave the arena to go back to our barn, he tried to go right past the doorway. Silly horse didn’t want to go home. He wanted to keep dancing for treats.

I was very pleased with the quality of canter he gave me. Last year, he tended to bolt when I asked for the canter. This year, he went slowly and carefully. It was so smooth, it was dreamlike. You see, both Mingo and Cruiser would fall apart if they went too slow. My very first horse, Brandy, had a fantastic canter at any speed. It has been a long time since I had a canter like that. Cole is built with the same Morgan proportions as Brandy, so it may not be a coincidence. Brandy was amazingly balanced at all gaits, and Cole is turning out to be the same.

Now, I am sure that some of you are rolling your eyes about all the clicking and treating, but is it any worse than the options for a horse so reluctant to canter. Would I really have been better if I slapped him with the whip or spurred him? I did use light taps with the whip, but nothing other than what I needed to encourage him. Once we got the candy out, I no longer needed the whip. Instead of a horse that got crabby and resistant from the use of force, I got a horse that was willing and delightful once he learned what I wanted.

I need to buy some more candy…

Thursday, September 20, 2012

The Challenges of the Arena

The Challenges of the Arena

This year, I had to start my arena work a little early because I have sole custody of the dog. No more running straight out to the barn after work to ride before sunset for me. Well, September isn’t so bad. I have enough time to ride one horse on a quick trail ride. that horse is Cruiser. Two weeks ago, Cole began his arena work.

The first evening, I decided to try the outdoor arena. Usually, there are horses turned out in it in the evening, and this is one of the rare evenings it was free. There was still a little daylight, too, so I jumped at the chance.

It had been over a year since I rode in it, and we weren’t very successful on those rides. When he got to the far end, he would get antsy and sometimes bolt. I didn’t trust him. then, and I still didn’t trust him, now. I decided to start with leading him along the fence.

As I feared, when we got far from the gate, he started to get nervous. In a few minutes, he was rearing and bucking. I just kept leading and leading in circles and back and forth over there. After countless incidents, he seemed a little better. I began leading him on the perimeter. After a few laps each way without incident, (after 15 long minutes of leading) I decided it was time to ride. I stayed on the safe end of the arena. He spooked and tried to bolt, once, but I stopped him immediately. I only walked. When he was calmed, in about 5 minutes, I decided I would take him to the indoor arena to finish the ride.

He did do a little better in the indoor arena, although he was very, very spooky. Every little noise made him jump. Once, a man in the adjoining barn sneezed, and he spooked. We did some incredibly hyper trotting. In the end, the only thing that got him focused and settled down is when we started practicing turn on the haunches and sidepassing.

I was very discouraged.

A few days later, I tackled the arena, again. I gave up entirely on the outdoor arena. This time, he was very crabby—swishing his tail and kicking his belly. I thought something was wrong with the saddle, so I checked everything and even resaddled him. It made no difference. He did stop when we were trotting, but as soon as we walked, he started up, again.

I was still discouraged.

My sister suggested switching the saddle pad. I did, and all the swishing was gone after that.

After another weekend of trail riding, I tried it again.

This time, our work in the arena went better, but he was leaning on the turns, resisting direction changes, cutting his corners and at times, turning when I wanted to go straight. Ugh. I wanted to just go on a trail ride. Oh, and I just couldn’t coordinate the big trot. I was doing so well last winter, but now I was flying all around. So he would quit.

We practiced our corners at a walk and then advanced to a trot. When he did well, I clicked him. He started to get better. I began to ride ahead of us. For example, when we were near a place that he was volunteering a circle when I wanted to go straight, I braced my inside leg—and then praised him when he made it through. I guess it wasn’t only my body that wasn’t used to working in the arena, but my mind, too.

At least this time, I wasn’t so discouraged. I saw improvement.

A few days later, I had the opportunity to ride in the outdoor arena for a little before it got dark. I wasn’t going to try it again, but my teenage friend, who always makes me brave, was going to ride in there, too. She was on a quiet Thoroughbred. I led Cole around a couple laps—with only a single grunt in the far corner accompanied by a head shake. I then rode for about 10 minutes on the safe end. He did well at the walk, but was TNT at the trot. I couldn’t relax, so I brought him to the indoor arena to finish the ride.

There, he had his best ride this fall. He was paying attention and staying in his big trot for longer periods. The corners were improved, and there was less all-out trying to take control of the ride situations. I was having an easier time with coordinating my own body, too.

Towards the end of the ride, I switched from carrots to candy—leftovers from the cold I recently recovered from. I was clicking him for the big trot. It kept getting bigger and stronger—and he was experimenting with different dance steps. That’s when I decided it was time to switch to quieter work. Besides, we were nearing the hour mark, and I still had to feed the horses their hay. We went to working on our newest project—backing up. We did work on it last year, but with only intermittent success. I decided to approach it with “walk-whoa-back-click.” It seemed to work better than anything I worked on last year, and he was consistently taking a step back. As always with Cole, the first step is the hardest—the rest are easy.

This is a reminder for those of you that are like me and primarily work on the trails. When you are forced to stay at the stables and ride, it may not go so well, at first. Don’t give up! Keep working at it. It should get better.

I wonder how Cruiser will be when I start riding him in the arena again…

Wednesday, September 19, 2012


I have been riding, but I have been having trouble writing about it. This grief thing is a horrible place to be, and I can’t wait to leave it all behind. Sometimes if feel normal. I managed 2 days in a row last week, and then I fall back into the abyss. I miss Dad so much. Unlike my sister and brother, I lived with him. The house is so empty without him. I am forming new routines for myself, and I miss the old ones—but they don’t work without him.

For years, I centered my life around taking care of Dad. Going to the grocery store, now, is so tough—I only buy food for myself. Instead of cooking things that will make him happy, I only have me. It just isn’t the same. I planted my vegetable garden for him. Now I have beets that I don’t know what to do with. I have given away so many tomatoes. I don’t know what I will plant next year—it’s just me. The center has dropped out of my life.

And then there is Maggie, the dog I never wanted—and still don’t want very much—but when I had a chance to give her away, I couldn’t. She annoys me all the time. Why did Dad want a dog? Since she is home alone a lot, she really wants to be with me—very close to me. I can’t get away most of the time. Thunder the Wonder Cat doesn’t like her, and is pouncing her more than ever. Poor Maggie is very intimidated. I must say that I usually laugh when I see Thunder go after her.

Thunder has been the most fun. I think he is intentionally trying to cheer me up. As I glumly eat my supper, alone except for Maggie who only wants food to fall on the floor, he calls me from the other room and runs around. I have to go see what he wants—and the dog doesn’t follow me! She won’t leave my supper. He is thrilled—he has me with no dog in sight. Usually, he charges up his tower, flops over and starts to purr.

I threw out the loveseat. It was disgraceful—decades old—and a remnant from when we didn’t know that you could get cats scratching posts. This opened up a lot of room in Thunder’s “Play Area.” He loves it. We have tents, boards to jump, boxes and scratching posts. Don’t forget the tower by the window. I’m so glad I bought it for him. I think he must sleep on it most of the day.

So, my advice for anyone that is grieving—hang out with a great cat. It takes time—you will have good days and bad, but your cat will always be there for you. He will wait until you get better and try his best to speed it up.

Dogs, well, they are just waiting for your supper to fall on the floor.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Cole is a handful

I only had enough daylight to ride Cruise on trail. We went with my boyfriend and Starry. It was a very nice ride.

When I got back, I decided to try the outdoor arena with Cole. I haven’t ridden in there in over a year. It is huge and Cole gets very strange in it. I started by leading him until he settled down. When we got to the far end, he got wild and was bucking and rearing. He did this a number of times. I just sighed. This is what happened with him last year on the far end. I use the arena for turnout, and I think he wanted me to set him free so he could run.

I led him for 15 minutes, and when we were able to make it a lap without incident, I decided it was time to ride. We stayed at a walk and stayed near the gate. He did spook once, but I was able to stop him on the first step. Five minutes was long enough for me. It was getting dark, anyway.

I brought him into the indoor arena so we could do some trotting. Trot he did. He did the fast trot, the big trot, the high stepping trot, and every now and then, a quiet trot. He was totally unpredictable. He spooked when a horse was banging in his stall a number of times. He spooked when a man sneezed. I kept on riding. Eventually, we were able to trot a few decent laps. I then had him walk to relax. He did some marvelous turn on the haunches in both directions and side passes. Maybe I should have started with lateral work earlier to settle him down and focus him on a task?

The ride was challenging to say the least. I do remember when Cruiser was his age, the first few arena rides, after a summer of trail riding, were very exciting. I have ridden him a few times in the indoor this year, but none of them on such a cool night. We’ll see how he does tomorrow…

Monday, September 10, 2012

High River Rides

Another rainy weekend here in Ohio. I think the drought is over. Anyway, the river was too high to cross on Saturday and Sunday. while everyone else was riding their horses in the indoor arena, we were riding up and down the hill that leads to the river.

On Saturday, I started with 3 trips on Cruiser. My sister didn’t ride Ranger due to his abscessed hoof. She thought she would give him one more day for recovery. Instead, she walked next to Cruiser.

I then brought Cole out for his three trip. Remember, we are still in training on the hill. It is just across the street from our stables, so the horses have a reason to rush home. We have been working sporadically on trotting up the hill. Saturday, Cole did awesome. The only time he seemed to get excited was on the central level section, so we would start walking at that point.

On Sunday, My sister rode Ranger for the first time in a week. He went on Cruiser’s ride and we just walked the three trips. I expected Cole to do better on his ride since it was the second consecutive day, and I was right. on the first trip up, we trotted from the bottom all the way to the end of the center section. This was the furthest we ever trotted. We walked up the next steep slope because of stones and we even trotted on the top section, in view of the street, a couple times. I would ask him to stop before he built up momentum and click him for it.

The second trip up went well until we got to the center section, and then I felt his excitement. I thought I would see how far I could get before I needed to stop him. There was a muddy spot up ahead. I thought if we could just get through that, I’d be happy. Wouldn’t you know it—he chose that moment to throw his head down, do a tiny buck and break into a canter.

“Great,” I thought, “the street is just ahead. I hope I can get him to stop before it.” Then, I decided to say, “Whoa.” It was that simple. He slid to a stop, I clicked him and gave him a bunch of carrot slices. I have tried this before when he has taken off, but it has never worked. When it happened, I was astounded—and pleased. I usually don’t click him after he’s done something bad and then followed it by something good. I don’t want him to decide that if he does his bad behavior, it will lead to a good behavior and then a carrot—but this was extraordinarily good—he deserved that carrot.

We walked to the top, turned around and headed down for one more trip. That time, I walked up—because I always walk the last trip.

In retrospect, since he wasn’t in a panic, I think he would have stopped at the steep gravelly slope with very little encouragement. He hates stones, and I don’t blame him. Still, he wasn’t thinking of that at the time—he was having fun and going home.

Tonight, I will start our arena schooling since, with the early sunset, I won’t have time to take both of them on the trail. Cruiser gets priority for trail riding.

Friday, September 7, 2012

1953 Ford for sale

1963 Chrysler 300 for sale

Edsel for Sale

1957 Chevy Hardtop for sale

1953 Chevy truck for sale

My sister has fun with Cole

My sister took Cole Train out on a solo ride, yesterday. She said she had a lot of fun. They did plenty of trotting, and when she was real careful with her posting—timing it precisely to his footfalls, he went into his show trot. (You got to see it to believe it. We need more video.) He kept doing it for her—he’s such a silly guy. She did try to do some cantering, but he just gave her a faster trot—but she liked that, too. They trotted a lot on the way home because of the bugs, and he went at a relaxed speed.

She’s taking some vacation time without me in the next few weeks, so I told her she is welcome to ride him all she likes. I hope she takes me up on it. With the short daylight, I don’t have much time to trail ride, so if I only have to ride one horse, it makes it easier for me. Next month, I won’t have any time at all and we will be working in the arena during the week. I have saved my vacation days for next month.

Looks like a rainy weekend in store for us. I don’t know if we will be able to cross the river at all. My sister will probably start to ride her own horse lightly and see how he does. She could still ride Cole if she likes. That way I get to look at him. He is such a pretty little horse.

Thunder the Wonder Cat

My sister's toothless tiger--really--no teeth

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

1961 Corvette for sale

Since I figured out how to put pictures up, here is a picture of the Corvette we have for sale. 


Soggy cat

My sister's cat got caught in the rain.

More Thunder Pictures

I figured out what was going on, and now I can post pictures, again. 

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Maggie aka Dumb Dog

Thunder Pictures!!!

Antique Cars for Sale

For some reason, Google won't let me post pictures on my blog--which makes for a pretty boring blog. 

We have a few antique cars for sale.  I know most people who are interested in my blog are here for the horses--but some of you might be married.  Think how happy your husband would be with one.  You have horses--he could have horsepower.

Anyway, you can see pictures on my brother's blog.

Best Laid Plans

Best Laid Plans

My sister and I were planning long rides on this holiday weekend. Saturday morning, we headed out on the first one with Cole and Ranger—and when we started trotting, Ranger was lame. Our hearts fell. It’s bad enough to have a lame horse, but it is way worse when the horse is on the older side. The anxieties are multiplied a hundred times. Could this be the big one? Is it something chronic that will limit his use?

We watched him and discussed the problem over and over. The best case scenario—a bruise. He was a little off a few days before, but had the day off on Friday. A bruise wouldn’t get worse with no work. Yes, but an abscess could. Could it be a hoof abscess? When we got back to the barn, Ellen led him in the soft indoor arena, and the lameness was gone. It was evident the hard ground was a factor. He had been a little reluctant about cantering the previous week, but Ellen thought it was the hot weather or hard ground. Maybe it was an abscess all along? We decided to wait and see. We predicted an emergency holiday weekend vet visit. Nothing like the emergency charge?

Then next morning, Ellen was looking at his hoof and saw something that wasn’t there before. She called me over to see. I looked at the gash on his heel, pushed down and he said it hurt. I heard a squishy noise, but nothing came out. I smelled my finger.

I am to hoof abscess expert—having dealt with Mingo’s chronic abscess for years. I would recognize that smell, anywhere. I assured Ellen that Ranger had an abscess that blew out overnight. The worst was over. No vet—we could take it from here.

She led him around. Some people make their horses rest when they have an abscess. I like them to move. It helps them drain. He was lame, but he improved as each minute went by—just like a typical abscess. She walked him for a half hour and then poulticed and wrapped his hoof.

She got to ride Cole Train and I rode Cruiser. Since they are both my horses, they don’t get out together, often. They traveled beautifully together. Cole gets frightened by any aggressive moves from other horses—no matter how subtle. Cruiser is the most non-aggressive horse, ever. Cole hardly knew what to do with himself. He just trotted happily next to Cruiser. He gets nervous with other horses when he is right next to them. Cruiser liked that Cole didn’t challenge him to any races. Well, I should say that I liked it. Cruiser loves to take up a challenge. I feel he is too old to go racing around, and I strive to keep him at a reasonable speed. Cole and Cruiser were awesome together.

On Monday, Ranger was even better. He only appeared lame at the very beginning of his walk. At the end, he even trotted decently. My sister wrapped and poulitced, again.

She could have ridden Starry, but she chose Cole, again. We went on the same ride, and it was just as pleasant as the day before. She will be riding Cole by herself one day this week and maybe with me on the weekend. I’m not sure when she will be riding Ranger. The gash in his heel is on the fleshy part, and she doesn’t want it to get wet or muddy until it is healed. I somehow think that she will keep riding Cole as long as she can. She really likes the little guy.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Rainy Day Ride

Rainy Day Ride

As is much of the US, we have been in a drought. It isn’t as bad as some parts of the country, but it still is pretty bad. Every cloud has its silver lining, and as trail riders, this means we don’t have many days we can’t cross the river. It has been a fine summer for riding. I don’t know when I’ve ever seen the river so consistently low.

When it does rain, we are so happy to get it, that we don’t even complain if we can’t cross the river. This happened the other night. For the second time this year, I had an opportunity to work Cole with trotting up the hill that leads to the stables. Since Cole is can be very enthusiastic on the way home, this is an important lesson. (With a horse like Mingo, who was very mellow, this wasn’t a lesson at all.)

The hill leading down to the river is divided into three level sections. Between each section, there is a slope.

I rode Cole down to the river, trotting on the level sections. He demonstrated to me that he liked how the rain softened the trails by trotting with a lot of energy. I was wondering if trotting up the hill was a good idea.

Where the trail ends, I turned him around and walked him to the base of the hill. It starts out very steep, so I decided we would trot right away to get control of the energy. When I requested the trot, he seemed surprised. We had never trotted there, before. Cole carefully powered up the slope. I loved the feeling of Cole striding deeply underneath me. I forgot what that felt like, it had been so long. I haven’t trotted up such a steep slope in years. I insist Cruiser walk up all hills, and Mingo, being Mingo, refused to trot there. He would wait until we got to the less steep section to trot.

The trick worked, and when we reached the spot where Mingo used to trot (and I have trotted Cole before) he stayed steady and calmly trotted. After a bit, I clicked and treated him for his good behavior. We then started again. We made it to the middle level section. I stopped him, clicked him for stopping, walked, clicked for walking, trotted, clicked for trotting and stopped and clicked for that.

It was a lot of clicks in a short stretch of trail, but I really wanted him to know that trotting up the hill is not about charging recklessly with abandon. Keep in mind, the street is at the very top and the barn is on the other side. Discipline is very important with this training exercise. In fact, I guess you can say that it is the point of the lesson. I much rather do it with clicking than hauling on the reins.

We turned around right before we got to the short slope that leads to the top section and headed back down. This time, he was much more hyper than the first time. (That is exactly opposite of what Ranger and Cruiser do when we work the hill.) We rode to the end, once again, turned around and walked back to the base of the hill.

In the previous lessons we have had on trotting the hill, this is where the troubles would begin. He has never made it up the second time without trying to canter. I think it is because of excitement. Today, he was perfect. I did the identical thing as last time with a few less clicks and more verbal praise. When we reached the spot where we turned around on our first trip, we passed up the neighbor walking her dogs down the hill. I rode Cole at a walk to the top, turned around and headed down, again.

I did click him for turning around. Cruiser and Ranger are so reluctant to turn around. I like Cole to have a reason to do it. Most of the time, we do it as a turn on the haunches.

We motored down the hill. I thought I might run into the neighbor with her down at the bottom, and I was right. She had brought her dogs down to the river’s edge. We were going to trot right past her. Since she is a horse person, I thought I’d let Cole show off. (Okay, maybe I was showing off—but I’m proud of my little horse.) I was hoping this would work as we’ve only had 2 schooling sessions in the arena since April. As we neared her, I sat the trot, asked him lower his head (I just vibrate the rein), squeezed my legs lightly and he transformed right as we got close to her. He went from an endurance Arabian to dressage horse. I was so proud of him.

“He looks good.” she said as we trotted by. It humbly thanked her and continued to the end. I thought that was fun, so we then rode back and forth at the bottom a bunch of times and practiced it. I clicked him for the transformation—asking him to go further each time before the click to get duration.

It was starting to get dark, so finally we headed home. We walked up the hill, and I clicked him a few times for it. It is a nice way to explain that even though we sometimes trot up the hill, we still walk unless I tell him otherwise. Besides, I had a lot of carrots left.

(I usually only use one carrot each time. I just cut it into slivers no thicker than a nickel.)

I can’t wait until we start doing the hill at a canter…

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Crazy Day in the Park

Crazy Day in the Park

My sister and I planned to take Cole and Ranger up to the show ring area for a ride, but it looked like rain. She checked her smart phone, and sure enough, rain was on the way. It was hard to tell how much time we had—maybe and hour or maybe two?

We decided to take the chance and ride, anyway. We would keep an eye on the sky and turn for home if it looked bad. The ride we were planning takes about an hour and a half if we do a lot of trotting.

Ellen also told me that it looked like the Susan Komen Run for the Cure was coming through the park. We had more than potential rain to deal with, but that didn’t put us off, either.

The trip up to the show ring area wasn’t too bad. The park was pretty busy with a lot of traffic and people all about, but once we got up the big hill, away from the main trail that stays close to the rode, it was quiet. We usually take the back trails, but Ellen suggested we take the front trail, instead. It goes around the field, and we would have a clear view of the sky.

We got out into the open and saw the big clouds. It was only a couple minutes later that we heard the first thunder. It was time to go home. We were about a half hour away from the barn.

We got the horses back down the big hill and re-entered the busy part of the park. I saw through the trees a woman on a paved cross trail wearing a long, white cape that was billowing in the wind and warned Ellen. We stopped and let her pass before we got too close. The horses did pretty well with that.

We crossed the street and rode on the trail that parallels the road. The paved trail on the other side of the street is where all the action was, and there was a lot of it. There were women all over. With the threat of imminent rain, they put on their plastic ponchos. Cars were honking them encouragement. People were yelling. There was one conglomeration where a large group of participants were clapping and cheering. Ranger started to prance. It started to drizzle. Cole is still funny about rain, but usually only for the first few minutes. After he gets wet enough, he takes it all in stride. (With the drought, this year, we haven’t had many chances to practice.) Cole decided it was time to high-tail it to shelter. Ellen and I thought it was time to dismount.

I know a lot of people will stay in the saddle in these kind of circumstances—feeling they have better control there—but Ellen and I find we do better on the ground. I immediately pointed towards the ground. Cole dropped his head and started to do his silly walk. He forgot about the rain and excitement in just a few seconds. My sister told Range to put his head down, and he did the same, stopped prancing and just marched quickly towards home. The horses were now more relaxed than we were. It started raining harder.

We kept leading, though. Ellen prefers to use a mounting block, as Ranger is much taller than my pony. The honking, clapping and cheering continued. We rounded one corner to find a car by the side of the road with the driver standing outside in the rain shouting encouragement to the women as they went by. More honking…people everywhere…

Right before the next river crossing, there are a bunch of boulders. Ellen picked the smallest one and mounted up. I climbed on Cole, and we crossed the river. We went up one hill and then had to go down a short, steep hill that ends with an intersection with the road. Halfway down the hill, we saw the woman on the bicycle going along the road with her huge plastic poncho blowing in the wind. If I have ever seen Horse-Eating Monster, this was one. By my estimation, we would be just about to the bottom of the hill when she would pass us. Roadside spooks are bad news—particularly with the amount of traffic there was.

Then a miracle happened. Not only did she see us, but she must have known something about horses because she stopped well away from us to let us pass. We thanked her so much, crossed the street, and went into the woods; away from the chaos. We could still hear the honking in the background. The rain was letting up and though we were wet, we weren’t soaked.

We got back to the barn. Eventually, the rain did stop and I was able to take Cruiser for a relaxing ride.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Slept in My Own Bed

Slept in My Own Bed

When my dad got really sick over Memorial Day weekend, I started to sleep in the living room—right outside his bedroom. That way if he needed me, I was right there. It was a little adjustment for Thunder, but he got into the routine. When my dad died, I decided to continue to help Maggie with the transition and since we had a hot spell, it was much cooler.

The other night, something happened. I’m not sure what, but all parties looked guilty. I heard Maggie jump up and run quickly. I don’t know if she was guarding me and Thunder got too close, if Thunder pounced at her, or maybe he sniffed her, woke her up and that caused the ruckus. Thunder was nervous the rest of the night, I had trouble sleeping and literally had nightmares of Thunder getting hurt by the dog.

It was time to start sleeping in my own bedroom.

My room is on the top floor—up the metal, circular staircase. The stairs are not safe for any dog to climb—but particularly a clumsy one like Maggie. She falls going up the regular steps. I have it blocked so Thunder can go up, but Maggie cannot.

I brought Thunder’s water dish upstairs, filled his dishes with dry food and made the bed. He was watching everything I did. I filled up Maggie’s Kong toy to help out. It was a nice feeling to bring up my pillows. Next step—I brought up Thunder. As typical, he sniffed around and went back downstairs. This is his routine if he isn’t real tired. I gave him some fresh can food downstairs to fill up his belly and brought him back up. It worked. He curled right up and fell asleep.

I tried listening for the dog to make sure she didn’t get into trouble. I forgot how much louder the crickets were up in my room than downstairs, and I was actually straining me ears. It sounded like she was chewing her nylabone. I read for a while and went to sleep.

Thunder slept with me the whole night, except when he went downstairs to eat every scrap of canned food I left for him. He ate some of the dry upstairs, too. He seemed so happy in the morning—filled with purrs. I then discovered that Maggie got into the only garbage that was available to her—from my bathroom. She ate some toilet paper tubes. Well, I can eliminate that problem. Let’s see what she gets into, tonight.

Maybe this is why Thunder has lost some weight since the ordeal began. He may not be relaxing enough at night to eat his normal amount. He currently looks like a Siamese with long hair. He has always been a thin cat. He still seems healthy, and it isn’t unusual for him to lose weight I the summer heat, but I just don’t like him this thin. Maybe the dog situation at night was more of a stress than having other people in the house during the day?

I sure hope Maggie doesn’t get too destructive, so I can continue to sleep in my bedroom. I think it will be good for both Thunder and me. My mood was much happier this morning, too. Waking up in the living room was just a reminder of things I’d rather forget. I really want to go forward in my life instead of dwelling on the sad times of the last few months.

Please, Maggie, let this work.