Monday, April 30, 2012

Wildlife on the Trail

Wildlife on the Trail

We ride in a very urban park, and see a whole lot of people, but we still see a lot of animals, too. The most common thing we see is the white-tailed deer. They are all over. Sometimes they startle the horses if they move suddenly, but usually they aren’t a problem. Cruiser likes to chase after them.

We see the usual amount of chipmunks and squirrels. We actually have red squirrels, fox squirrels, gray squirrels and black squirrels. I think they are all cute, but my favorite is the red ones. We call them speed squirrels because they are so fast. They are there and gone before you know it. Chipmunks have been known to startle Ranger.

The Canadian geese can be a problem at nesting time. We have been flown at and attacked. Unfortunately, we have one nesting on the hill that leads down to the river. They can get very militant while they are sitting on their eggs. So far, we only had one run in with this one, and it wasn’t a bad one. The geese just aren’t afraid of horses. Cruiser likes to chase them.

I love when we see the wild turkeys. We have a flock of over a dozen that sometimes parades through. The horses don’t really know what to do with them. If it was one, I don’t think they would care—it’s just the size of the flock that confuses them. They just stand there, puzzled, until they pass. If we see them enough, I bet Cruiser would like to chase them.

We have other large birds. There are the red-tailed hawks, blue herons, mallard and wood ducks, buzzards, owls and on a great day, we will see a bald eagle. Their nest isn’t too far away—as the eagle flies—and they fish in the river.

Towards dusk, we might see a raccoon or ground hog. That’s usually when we will see an owl. I’ll hear them more often than see them. Usually, it’s the barred owl that I hear.

Sometimes, we will see a turtle. That always gets Kevin really excited. He loves turtles.

Now and then, we will see something rare like a red fox, mink or coyote. The coyotes make the horses uneasy. They are amazingly big and they move so quietly. The horses know that they aren’t dogs. I know there are beaver because I have seen the damage they have done, but they come out late—same with the possums and skunks. Sometimes we will see an early bat.

I’m glad to say that the black bears haven’t made it quite this far west. There have been sightings in the far eastern edges of the park. I am hoping they don’t cross the highways between here and there. I just don’t know how our horses would deal with them.

The wildlife doesn’t seem to be afraid of horses, so we typically can get a better look at it when we are riding. It’s one of the neat bonuses of trail riding.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Working on Our Little Problems

Working on Our Little Problems

I have had Cole for nearly two years, now. When I got him, he had had a saddle on his back, but that’s as far as his training went. We have come a long way, and he has given me much to write about. Now that we have accomplished most everything I wanted to, I fear I am going to run out of things to write about and will start to bore my readers.

There are still a few things left that we are working on. One thing that has bothered him from the beginning is having horses walk behind him when he is crossing the water. I don’t think it is the noise that bothers him but the splashing. He doesn’t like when water hits him. Ellen and I decided that we need to tackle this. There are going to be times when horses will be crossing the river behind him, and I sure don’t need him trying to bolt to get away.

He is fine when he is following a horse or walking next to a horse—it is just when the horse is behind him.

We decided to approach this gradually. I ride Cole into the river and stop him. Then Ranger walks pass him. I click him for standing quietly. Once Ranger is past, he is fine, so it is only for a few seconds that he is put under pressure. It doesn’t always work. Sometimes he skitters about. A few times, he has stood, but Ellen says his expression is one of great worry. He really gets upset about this. She judges by his expression how close she passes him. It is great to ride with someone like Ellen. She just understands.

Eventually, I will ask Cole to walk while a horse is following him—stopping him when he gets stressed and letting the horse pass. This might take all summer, but we have all summer, so that doesn’t matter. I’m sure he will eventually figure out that other horses aren’t going to hurt him—even if they do splash him.

Another problem—rain. This is a crazy one because he lived outside at his previous home. When it starts to rain, he wants to go home—the fastest way possible. So far, we have only been caught in light showers. Each time, he does improve a little. Right now, he shakes his head and dances about. I think he doesn’t like it hitting his ears—hence the head shaking. Probably he just needs exposure—something I prefer to avoid, myself. One thing I know, though, if I ride enough, we are going to be caught in plenty of rain.

Cantering is still a project. What I need is a lot more long rides. On our short rides, there are only a few good places to canter. This makes it tough because he will anticipate those spots, so I can’t canter them all the time. He must learn to go at whatever gait I want—not what he wants. Hence, we don’t get enough practice.

He needs to lose the sense of novelty and excitement. The first stride tends to be a huge buck—even though I hold his head up. He wants to go very fast if we are by ourselves. With Ranger, he goes more sensibly. I just need to get him on some long rides with a lot of cantering. I can’t wait to give it a try.

I need Cole to learn to behave for other riders on the trail. My sister is going to help with this starting this weekend. My niece is coming out to ride. She rides Ranger. This time, I will ride Cruiser and Ellen with ride Cole. We will do this enough, and eventually, my older niece will start riding him when she gets home from college and we go out in the evenings. In the past, she has ridden Ranger, Starry and good old Mingo. Time she rides a little horse.

We are also working on ground tying with the help of clicker. It is going excellently at the barn. I am heavily reinforcing it. If the reins are hanging on the ground he must stand—that means no eating grass or even begging for treats. He has to have his head straight ahead and be focused on his task. I haven’t tried it yet on the trail, though. I am going to wait for the habit to be very firmly established.

We are adding little stretches of trotting towards home when we are fairly close. He does very well with Ranger and pretty good alone. I think in no time we will be in good shape, there.

This spring, he is doing excellently walking down hills. Not once has he tried to race down at a trot. What a relief. He was pretty scary at times. The worst hill was the one where the street is at the bottom of the hill. I still click him at least once on the way down, but soon we will be fading that off. I still haven’t ridden him down the huge hill going to the show ring, but he is doing well being led down it.

So though he is doing very well on the trail, we still have our little projects to work on. I will keep you updated on how he does.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012


Long Weekend of Riding

I’m back from a 4-day weekend that was mainly for riding with my sister. We had so much fun. Thursday, we went on a 2-hour ride with Cole and Ranger. We did a lot of trotting on the way out and a little on the way home. The horses were great. We went on a trail that neither horse has been on since last year. It was great. When we got back, I took Cruiser on a short ride.

We weren’t sure how they would feel on Friday, so we went on a shorter ride with a lot of trotting and a little cantering. I wasn’t concerned about Cole, but Ranger is probably over 20 years old, so we are careful with him. I’m glad to say he was just fine, and we had another great ride. I haven’t done that much cantering with other horses on Cole, but he did really well with it. I’m sure we will be doing more of it. When we got back, we took Cruiser, and my boy friend’s horse, Starry on a short ride. Then we waited around for the vet to give them their second round of spring shots. She was early! Hurray! It was a short wait.

Saturday had an extreme weather change. It was downright chilly, so we did a 5-mile ride with Cole and Ranger. They were both hyper because of the weather, but we managed. On the way home, we were riding parallel to the river and the shale cliff on the other side decided to avalanche. Both horses went flying! We stopped them without any serious trouble. I don’t know if they can ever get used to the rocks sliding down the cliff and falling in the water.

I then took Cruiser on the same 5-mile ride. He enjoyed himself—and so did I, of course.

Sunday was a little warmer, so we went up to the show ring trails. They were both a handful, so we ended up doing more walking towards home than we usually do up there to keep them calm. Still, it was a good ride. I took Cruiser on a short ride when we got back.

The weather is going to be cold and crummy, tonight, but at least we aren’t getting the snow they are getting to the east of us. I should still be able to get them out for a ride if it doesn’t rain.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012


Well, we had a great time at the Bruce Springsteen concert, but then how could big fans like us not? Three solid hours of rock and roll. There’s nothing like one of his concerts. I went with my boyfriend and his 2 daughters.

To keep this blog horse related, did you know that his daughter rides and shows? This could be why some of the songs he’s written in the last few years mention horses.

One song is titled “My silver palomino” who is “Sixteen hands from her withers to the ground” and there is “Outlaw Pete” where Pete stole a Mustang pony and was pursued by a man on an Irish stallion. “There's a pale horse comin'” in “Dead Man Walking. “Her Appaloosa's kickin' in the corral smelling rain” in “Dry Lightning.”

I’m sure there are more, too, but these are the ones that come to my mind.

We got home pretty late—mostly because of the parking garage—we lost the car in it. It was pretty funny. We were one of the last cars to leave. As I walked into the door, I heard another beautiful voice singing—Thunder! He was so glad to see me. He hates when I come home late—and I sure do get a greeting.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Land of Hope and Dreams

Had a great ride—actually 2 great rides, yesterday. The first was on Cole with my boyfriend and Starry. I think my boyfriend is getting a little crazy. He always complains that his horse goes too slow, and he does. Well, he speeds up with another horse. We started out trotting with Starry in the lead—and I saw my boyfriend tapping him lightly with the whip every few strides. I was hoping for a quiet trot, and he wanted just to go faster and faster. Cole took it all in stride.

After that, I thought I would lead. Starry usually won’t pass another horse. This way, I could control the speed. We started out trotting the next section of trail much calmer—until Star did try to pass! Cole didn’t like it and stopped. We walked a ways until we got to a spot where I have cantered Cole a lot. I was in the trotting in the lead and Cole was hoping to canter, so he really picked up the speed. I heard Star cantering behind us. Cole kept at the trot. My boyfriend was happy, and so was I. We took a little break and then did one final stretch of trail with Cole in the lead. He went a little slower, but still kept a fast enough speed that Starry and my boyfriend were happy. We turned around and walked home. It turned out to be a great ride.

I took Cruiser out by myself. We did the same ride, but I had to do some trotting on the way home because I was running out of daylight. Of course, Cruiser was getting excited from it. I had to keep stopping him and restarting him. We did make it back to the barn before it got too dark. I don’t mind riding in the dark, but we do have to go along a little stretch of road to get to our barn.

They get the night off, today. I have a date with a guy named Bruce…

Monday, April 16, 2012

Thunder Road

Born to Run

Good news for the horses! Cole must of just had a stone bruise, as I was hoping. Throughout the week, I soaked his hoof and hand walked him. Thursday, the farrier came out and couldn’t find any trace of an abscess. By then, he wasn’t even limping in the least. Friday, I did my leading out on the hard and stony drive, and he was fine. I rode him on Saturday and Sunday, and he was sound and a joy to ride—even though he had a week off. I took him out with my sister and her horse, Ranger. The first day, we only did a little trotting since they both just had trims, and we thought they might be tender. Sunday, we trotted a lot and even cantered a little bit. What a relief.

Another big relief—Friday, when I rode Cruiser with my boyfriend and Starry, he was off at the trot. Now, this happens now and again, and the vet said not to worry—just keep him going, after all, he is almost 25 and is a high mileage horse. He must have arthritis—then there is his carpal tunnel on his bowed tendon leg. Thing is with Cruiser—nothing slows him down. He just wants to go and go and go. Saturday, I took him on a walk-only ride, and he seemed to move well enough. Yesterday, I added some trotting, and he was sound. Whew. It could have been caused by the farrier stretching out his bum leg when he was shoeing him. Cruiser had an uncomfortable look on when he did that.

So, I went from 2 lame horses to 2 sound horses in a week’s time. Things are looking good for our long weekend of riding coming up.

At home, things are still complicated—though improving in some aspects—still very sad, though. Having the horses sound will give me a way to escape for a little while. When they were hurting, I had no refuge.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Here in Northeast Ohio

Here in Northeast Ohio

I haven’t blogged lately, because I have been overwhelmed with life. I won’t go into it, here, but it has just been a tough time. I don’t know if it will get better, either.

To add to my problems, over the weekend, Cole became lame. As far as I could tell, it was either a heel bruise or an abscess in the heel area. I have had a lot of experience with abscesses from my times with Mingo (chronic abscess for years—with 2 operations that still didn’t fix it) so I can be relieved that it may only be an abscess, but I can be terrified, too. I know how bad an abscess could be. Ironically, it happened 2 years from Mingo’s death day—almost to the day. It’s like he just wanted to make sure we wouldn’t forget about him—like I ever could.

Anyway, I treated it as such with soaking in Epsons. Cole did great with a soaking boot. The soaking helped. Each day, it has gotten a little better. Last night, you would never know there was a problem—except that hoof was warm. After leading him, I soaked him, again. The farrier is coming out, tonight, so he can take a look at it. I will wait a while before riding him. As you can imagine, he is just full of himself.

I have been riding Cruiser, of course. The weather has been cool, and he has become quite hyper. Last night, he was awful. My boyfriend snuck out of the barn before my sister and I were tacked up. We thought he was going to wait for us in the driveway, but he started down the trail. Cruise was determined that he would catch up with him—and he was hardly controllable. I couldn’t keep him at a walk—he kept going into his gait. Ranger can’t walk that fast, so he was prancing and fighting to trot. We had to turn them away from the direction Starry was going, pass up home, turn around and pass up home again. That’s when Ranger started to pout because he thought he was going home. He slowed down to a walk, and my sister was able to click good behavior. That worked with him, but I had to keep stopping Cruise so Range could catch up.

Finally we found Starry on his way home. We insisted my boyfriend turn around and go with us, and he did. He snuck off because he thought he would be in the way. We told him to never do that again. The horses were fine on the way home. The geriatric ride turned out to be a pretty fast one—considering we didn’t do any trotting or cantering.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Great Evening Rides

I took Cole Train on another solo evening ride, and he was great—even though it was a chilly evening and I hadn’t ridden him the day before. I think the problem has been solved. I doubt if I will ever have a hesitation in taking him out, alone, again. Of course, he will be 6 in a couple weeks. I have found at the age of 6, horses grow up. He certainly has been acting very mature. I really do feel like I bought a winning lottery ticket with him.

We did our usual short ride to the second river crossing. We mostly trotted. A few times, he started to gain momentum and I stopped and restarted him. His feet seemed a little tender. He will be getting shoes next week, so that should help.

On the way home, we did some short stretches of trotting cuz I was cold. I didn’t dress warm enough. Anyway, he was great. Cruiser still hasn’t calmed down enough this spring to trot towards home. Usually, I can’t do it until June with him because he gets so worked up. I’m glad Cole was so sensible.

He was getting an A+, but when we were fairly close to home, he threw in some halfhearted trot steps when we were walking. It was no big deal, but to get an A+, he has to be perfect. As we neared the river crossing by home, he burst into a big trot surge. I stopped him and blurted out A-. Still, he did a great job, and I was very pleased.

I didn’t have a whole lot of time for Cruiser’s ride. I had passed my boyfriend on Starry when I was on my way home with Cole, so I knew I would meet him on the trail with Cruiser. Cruiser stayed sensible and we did some trotting until we found them—right where I knew we needed to turn around to make it home before dark. Cruiser was happy to see Starry, and told him it was time to go home. Cruiser cruised home gaiting. He isn’t supposed to be a gaited horse, but it does show up in some Morgans. Cruiser is a Morab (Morgan/Arab). If he is excited or in a hurry, he does an awesome stepping pace. We go as fast as a slow trot. Starry kept having to trot to catch up with us, but thanks to Cruiser, we got home before dark.

Tomorrow, I am off from work for Good Friday, and we traditionally get round one of spring shots. My sister and I ride in the morning, go out for lunch and then wait for the vet in the afternoon. I feed in the evening, so it makes for a long day. If I have time between vet and feeding, I’ll go out to eat and for a hike with my boyfriend. It will be awfully nice to have a long weekend for riding. They are predicting nice weather all weekend. Hurray!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Cole Train only gets better.

Cole Train only gets better.

Well, I blogged last week about Cole’s first evening solo ride of the year. Evening rides have been his Achilles heel, for some reason. He will do great in the morning, but the next day he’ll be a different horse in the evening. I think we may have left that problem behind.

I graded his first solo evening ride of the year a “C.” A couple days later, I tried it again and he got a “B-” due to some spooks, breaking into a canter a few times and trying to trot when I wanted to walk on the way home several times.

Then came the weekend. I took him on an awesome ride with Ranger on Saturday morning. Sunday morning, we were by ourselves, again. I went on a longer ride—and he was great. He got an “A” on that one. Yesterday evening, I went by myself, and he scored an “A-.” The minus only came because we were trotting a long stretch of trail and halfway through, he decided to go into the canter. That wasn’t so bad—it was how he decided to do it. He leapt straight up into the air as if he was doing a capriole. Maybe that’s what he did do. It certainly wasn’t a normal buck. When he hit the ground, he was cantering. I got him to stop only a few strides down the trail, and then we resumed trotting. I had no problems the rest of the ride. He walked home very quietly, which is a first for him. If he is alone, he will walk very fast and try to trot.

The problem horse this weekend was Cruiser. Well, I should say it was the Cruiser/Ranger combination. My sister and I rode them together for the first time this year. They are old buddies, and we have always had trouble with them in the spring. We tried trotting only once, and they wanted to race. Cruiser was so excited just to be out that he was gaiting instead of walking—I couldn’t slow him. Ranger had trouble keeping up. At one point, I looked behind while we were on a very narrow trail, and Ranger was cantering toward us—bucking. My sister was in terror that her knees would hit a tree!

Finally, my sister had an idea. We would turn them towards home and ride for a couple minutes and then turn them away from home. They got all excited that they were going home—then we burst their bubble and turned them back. They both started to pout—and slowed down. The rest of the ride we spent at a quiet walk. My sister said she only wants to ride with Cole, now. Ranger behaves with him. Poor Cruiser—my boyfriend doesn’t want to ride with him, either, because his horse tries to play with Cruiser. That’s all right. I like spending time alone with Cruiser—he behaves better when he is alone, too.