Thursday, May 24, 2012

Starry and My Niece

Starry and My Niece

My boyfriend, Kevin, was helping my brother pick up my older niece from college. That left me with Starry and no one to help with my barn chores. My younger niece enthusiastically agreed to come out and take Starry on a ride and do the watering when we were done.

Suddenly, Kevin became nervous. I shouldn’t have told him we were going to canter. My niece hasn’t had a whole lot of experience cantering, and looks like she won’t for a while. We aren’t cantering Cruiser in groups, anymore, and when she comes out to ride with Ellen and me, we take Cruiser. So, this was our big opportunity.

Kevin thought maybe she should ride Ranger instead of Starry. I assured him she would be fine on Starry. He still worried. Maybe it was because he was spending the day with her father. He insisted that Starry be in the lead on the canter so the ride would be slower. I agreed to it. He kept stressing that we had to be careful.

Well, we intended to follow Kevin’s instructions. We really tried, but it didn’t work. When we wanted to canter, Starry wasn’t sure what my niece wanted. She was having trouble sitting his boingy trot in order to ask him to canter. There was only one thing I could do—I had to take the lead. Since Cole likes to go fast, he would lure Starry into the canter

The first time we tried, I kept looking back to see them trotting. When we stopped, she told me she did get a couple strides of the canter. We tried it again. I kept looking back to see them still trotting. When she caught up with us at the end of the trail where we planned to turn around to go home, she said she got a few more strides that time. we walked home a ways, and then I suggested turning back around and trying one more time. Cole liked the idea and he went really fast. Towards the end, I brought him to a trot and looked back. Starry was trotting, too. I was disappointed. We were losing our one big opportunity. When my niece caught up with me, she had a big smile on her face. They had cantered the whole way right before I glanced back. We had success. She had a great canter experience.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Update on Evening Rides

Update on Evening Rides

Remember Cole Train—the horse who became a handful on evening rides? Well, things have improved immensely. All I had to do was just keep riding him on the trail in the evening. Our schedule has us out three nights a week. Each ride, he gets better. He has improved so much that I keep forgetting he used to be a problem.

One thing that happened that I didn’t expect—we have a companion on most rides. Kevin has been riding with us. We have found that our two horses get along beautifully. Cole Train slows down when he is with Starry, and Starry speeds up when he is with Cole. Kevin has learned how much more fun it is to go faster. He has even discovered cantering. Sure, he used to canter before, but now, he can go faster if he follows Cole. He is having great fun.

Consequently, I don’t ride Cole by myself often, anymore, but every now and then, Kevin can’t make it out, and we are on our own. Last night was one of those evenings.

When I ride alone, I do more training. My goal for the evening was the right lead. Cole’s automatic response when asked to canter on a straightaway is to use his left lead. Knowing that, I have been cueing his left lead with my right leg and saying the word “canter.” He is getting quite good at it. The other day, Ellen was riding him and inadvertently tapped him with her right leg—and he started to canter.

In an arena, to cue a particular lead, you bend him around a corner. There are corners on a trail, too. There is one very sharp right bend where I ride that is perfect for the job. I used to use it with Mingo to teach him the command for right lead. A couple days ago, when I was riding with Ellen, we did ask for a canter there, and he took the right lead. I wanted to see if it was a fluke or not.

When I got to the corner, I made sure his body was bent for it, tapped with the left heel (which I am sure he had no idea what that meant) and said the word. He was off like a rocket—on the right lead. To make sure, I pushed his long, fluffy mane to the side and saw his right leg was leading. It wasn’t a fluke. If I set him up for the right lead, he will take it. I am glad to report it is very much like the left lead. When I started riding Cruiser, years ago, there was a huge difference in the way the leads felt. His left lead was very coordinated and his right lead felt funny. I never had to visually check which lead he was on—it was so obvious. Cole Train is just a more balanced and coordinated horse than Cruiser was when he was young.

Cole is also much faster than Cruiser. I have been working on slowing him down with only minimal success. I guess some of it is the Kevin Syndrome. I find I like to go fast, too.

I stopped Cole right before we were going to go through some rocks. We walked over the rocks, and then he reminded me that we usually pick up the speed right there. I made him walk for a bit and clicked him for it. I decided since his memory is getting too good, that we should probably trot and not canter this section. He really wanted to canter, but I made him stay at a trot—so he did a very fast trot. (Don’t forget, this little guy is related to Dan Patch—one of the most famous Standardbreds of all time.)

When we got to the river, I turned around to head home. I really was disappointed that I didn’t get to canter there, so after a few minutes of walking, I turned Cole back around so we could. He did a lovely transition from a walk, and we cantered to the river.

We had some trouble stopping. Yes, Cole Train likes this cantering game. We walked towards home for a few minutes, like before, turned around and—instead of cantering--we trotted to the river. I don’t want the little guy to think that we will always canter there.

I could have gone back and forth there for the next hour and had a lot of fun while teaching him that he has to go the gait that I wanted and not the gait he wanted, but I had to get back to the barn. Cruiser was waiting. I took him on a quiet, relaxed ride to the same spot. Could it be that 20 years ago, I was teaching the same thing to Cruiser in the same spot? Where does the time go?

Friday, May 18, 2012

Buying a Horse

Just for fun, I would like to share a link for a short story by William Dean Howells, one of my favorite writers.  Well, I have a lot of them, but he is one. It is for the story “Buying a Horse” and it was written at a time when people bought horses to use for transportation.  I really enjoyed reading it, so I thought some of you might, too.  It even has a Morgan in it!

Monday, May 14, 2012

What a wonderful weekend to ride! The temperatures were wonderful, the sun was shining and the mosquitoes haven’t started yet. I took Cole on a short ride with my sister and boyfriend on Friday evening. The horses were great. I then took Cruiser on a short, fast ride, and we had fun.

Saturday, my younger niece came out to ride. She rode Ranger, my sister rode Cole and I rode Cruiser. We went on a nice and totally uneventful ride. That’s how we like them. We did a fair amount of trotting. Cruiser set the speed, which was fairly slow, so my sister and niece had it easy. We then brought her to Burger King for lunch to fuel her up so she could earn her keep. We took her to my house where she helped rorotill my garden, put up the electric fence and set up the hoses.

Sunday, my sister and I took Cole and Ranger out for a longer ride to the Brookpark Bridge. We did a lot of trotting and a bit of cantering. Ranger is supposed to lead during the canter. This is Ranger’s rule. Cole hasn’t figured out how to canter quite yet. He does more of a hand gallop. Once we get close to Ranger, and I ask him to slow down, no matter how gently I do it, he goes back to a trot. We will get is all figured out. He just needs practice. I then took Cruiser on a walking ride with my sister on foot to keep us company. He loves walking with her. I’m sure he likes her more than he likes me.

I got some of my garden planted, and then it was time to go hiking with my boyfriend. We went on the Canal to see the bald eagle nest. We saw both parents and the baby. Then we went a bit further up the trail to see the bridge that the anarchists tried to blow up a couple weeks ago. We are glad they were foiled.

I was exhausted after all this and could barely keep my eyes open long enough go through Thunder’s nightime bedtime rituals. Play with feather, eat, play throw, eat, play follow, drink, cuddle, sleep…

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Ranger and Clicker – Coat Conditioner

Ranger and Clicker – Coat Conditioner

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

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

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

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

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

Clicker is sure amazing.

A Clicker Convert?

A Clicker Convert?

I was riding Cole Train in the arena, when one of the boarders that I haven’t seen for a while showed up. She has been working different hours than she used to and was coming out to the barn when I wasn’t there. Consequently, she hadn’t seen Cole’s new dance steps. I showed them to her—how he can do them in the saddle or on the ground, and she just laughed and laughed. He is even learning to cross his leg over when I cross my leg over—and of course he performs in a very dramatic way. I swear by the way he seems to show off, that he likes when he has an audience. I would even click him, and it would take him a few more steps before he stopped for his treat.

I told her that once he volunteered the step the first day and I clicked him, it only took about five minutes and he was doing it consistently. She said that her horse couldn’t learn anything in five minutes. My response, “Wanna bet?”

She wanted to lounge her horse first, so I went to clean our stalls. When I finished, she was ready. I told her to cut her carrots in small pieces, and I went to grab the clicker. (Cole doesn’t need a clicker because he has learned the tongue click.) I also grabbed a towel.

I told my friend that we were going to teach her horse to touch the towel. Her husband peeked in and asked her if she was only going to be another five or ten minutes. She laughed and replied, “I guess so. She says that’s all it will take.”

This mare had had no exposure to clicker training in the past. I spent about a minute to charge up the clicker. Once she knew a click meant a treat, I put the towel near her face. She touched it out of curiosity, I clicked and treated. It took another minute of her inconsistently touching it and getting clicked and then I saw that “look.” It is the look I have seen before when the light bulb goes off in an animal’s head—the connection is made. She knew that she could do something to make me click and treat her. Within only 3 minutes, she was deliberately touching the towel to get clicked. It didn’t matter where I put the towel, including on the ground. Her owner was amazed.

Then I pointed to the ground, and her mare put her head down. One click and I captured that behavior. She did it each time I asked. Now, her owner was shocked. She saw it was in the timing. She realized the consistent tone of the clicker marked the behavior. During my demonstration, I didn’t just teach a horse the basics of clicker training, I taught her owner, too.

I told her how you can teach a horse anything with a clicker. If there is a problem in her current training, it could help her solve it. I also told her that clickers are cheap. If it didn’t work for her, she wouldn’t be out much at all. And when she is done with her horse, she could use it with her dog. Then, she really laughed. It makes me wonder what her dog is like?

I told her where she could buy a clicker, and I think she might do it. She works a lot of hours and often doesn’t have much time for her horse. Most of the time, she just does ground work. Clicker training would be a perfect fit for them. I hope she follows through. Cole Train may not be the only dancing horse at our barn.

Ranger Tests Ellen

Ranger Tests Ellen

It’s not often I mention that Ranger is having a problem, and that’s because he is a fairly consistent horse. Every now and then, he throws in something to keep my sister, Ellen, on her toes. Well, he did it, again.

One day, back in November, he acted very strange during tacking up. We typically saddle our horses in their stalls, and that has always worked out well. We keep them in a busy boarding stable, so this way they aren’t in anyone’s way. We don’t have to worry about them being unattended if something comes up, and it is necessary to leave the barn for a few minutes, either. Besides, I have never felt that crossties are a good form of restraint. I have seen too many horses, including a few of my own, get startled, take a step back and panic when they got to the end of the crosstie.

On this particular day, Ellen saddled Ranger, and he got very agitated. He then was difficult to bridle. When she tried to lead him out of his stall, he bolted out the door. It was definitely a bad day in the barn. The ride went fine.

After the ride, she inspected her girth and noticed it had some worn spots in it, and it may not have been laying flat on his belly. She switched girths, and the saddling problem and the bolting went away in a few days. The bridling problem got worse.

At the same time, my boyfriend, Kevin, was having trouble haltering Ranger to take him out of his stall so he could clean it. Ellen had no trouble haltering, but asked Kevin not to halter until Ranger got over this.

It went on for a few weeks. She tried clicker training, but it didn’t help much. She tried apple therapy, but he still didn’t show any improvement. There was one thing I noticed with both her and Kevin. They had poor technique. They haltered and bridled without putting their right hand over the top of the horse’s head as a mild form of restraint. Ellen confessed that she never had anyone teach her to bridle. She had always bridled cooperative horses. Sloppy technique was never an issue.

Now, I know I taught Kevin the right way, years ago, but he just got lazy and out of the habit. He was worse than Ellen because Starry is so good with him. He faces the horse to bridle and halter. That makes it easy for the horse to step back.

I showed Ellen the way to do it, but by now, Ranger didn’t want anything to do with the bridle, so it was too late. She was stressing, big time. She switched to riding with her bitless bridle, but he was being troublesome with that, too. She got more stressed and started to teach him commands without reins, since it looked like she wouldn’t have any, pretty soon. She was a wreck.

I was perplexed that it went this far. One night, when she wasn’t around, I decided to try it for myself. In Cruise’s early days, he was horrible to bridle, so I developed a good technique. Combined with clicker and treats when he listened, I just thought I would try to see how far I could get. I had no other goals.

When I got to the barn, I went into his stall with a halter and clicked him for him allowing me to put the noseband on him a few times. I added the ears and clicked a few times for that. This was easy stuff, but it set the stage for success—I hoped.

I went and saddled Cole. I came back this time with his bitless bridle. I clicked a bunch of times for him letting me put it on his nose. I added his ears and clicked a bunch of times for that, too.

I finished tightening up Coles girth, got his bridle—and then thought—I wonder how Ranger would act if I showed him Cole’s bit? I went to Ranger, asked him to open his mouth for the bit and about 10 seconds later, he relented. I didn’t put the bridle on because it was too small for him. I did give him a handful of carrots.

I then rode Cole and Cruiser. The whole time, I was wondering if I should go one step further.

When I finished my ride, the barn was quiet, and Kevin was throwing hay down from the loft. This was as good a time as any.

I went back in Ranger’s stall with his snaffle bridle. By now, he liked me a lot. I had turned into a treat machine. I showed him the bit, brought it to his mouth and moments later, he opened up. I clicked and treated. By now, I was very confident. It was time to bridle him all the way. It only took a couple seconds. I clicked when I got it over his ears and gave him his treat. That is when I decided I would bridle him ten times in a row.

Ten times later, each with a click, I knew the problem was a thing of the past. I called Ellen at work. She couldn’t believe it and was so happy I fixed her problem.

Her problem wasn’t Ranger fighting the bridling. Her problem was the stress it caused her. When she walked into the stall, Ranger knew she was stressed with the fear she was going to fail. Being a sensitive soul, this made him nervous and uncooperative. I was confident with my abilities and since I didn’t plan to ride him, if I didn’t succeed, it didn’t matter. Sometimes we just need a neutral and confident person to step in and help.

The next morning, we planned to ride together. I bridled him for her so she could see that he was a new horse. She was thrilled and all of her confidence came back. After the ride, she gave it a try, herself. Ranger was more than happy to allow her to bridle him.

We are all victims of the “confidence crisis” at some time or another. It wasn’t that long ago that I was afraid to ride Cole to the scary end of the arena. I know now, just as I suspected then, that my nerves made him spook when we got over there. It was a self-fulfilling prophesy. He actually got better with his spooking before I did. He must have thought I was a real dolt.

A few days later, Kevin was able to halter Ranger, too. He was going to demonstrate to me how Ranger didn’t want anything to do with him and would back away as soon as he saw the halter. Ranger made him look like a liar and let him slip it right on. Of course, I told him he had to use the correct technique.

He hasn’t given anyone a problem since.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Two Years Ago, Today…

Two Years Ago, Today…

Two years ago, today, I bought Cole Train. Seventeen years ago, today, Mingo was born. He died a month before I bought Cole—and I bought Cole to replace the hole in my heart. It is hard to believe that Mingo was such a young horse when he died. I bred and raised him all myself, and he was the sweetest horse. I still miss him.

Anyway, back to Cole. It has been an exciting 2 years. He went from being afraid to step on pavement to an awesome trail horse. I never doubted that he would be a good trail horse because good training equals a good horse. The awesome part is what thrills me. Some things can’t be trained—they are born into a horse. He seldom spooks—and has always been that way. He has tons of energy, and now that he is fairly fit, he has shown that he has plenty of endurance, too. He has a lovely ground-covering trot—my most favorite gait for traveling. For all of his spirit, he is a very level-headed horse. He is perfect for me—there is only one other horse I have found that fit that description, and that is Cruiser. Having Cole is helping me adjust to Cruiser getting older. It turns out that Cole isn’t the horse to replace Mingo, but the horse to replace Cruiser and that is a good thing.

Cole was a 4-year-old unridden stallion when I bought him. He was gelded before delivery. I have been kicked, dragged, stepped on a hundred times in the first couple months until he figured out how to stay out of my space, tossed to the ground and run off with. Just why did I want a young horse? Because I knew just how satisfying it is when everything comes together.

Last night, I took him on a short ride with my boyfriend. It was supposed to rain, so we kept an eye to the sky. For the first time, my boyfriend and I cantered together. I have been putting it off because my boyfriend’s back has been causing him some problems, and cantering seems to irritate it. He said he was sound, so when we got to a good spot on the trail, I told him to get ready. We started out in the lead. Cole did a huge bound and a few very fast strides that left Starry in the dust. He then moderated. Starry wasn’t upset, but followed at a good speed. This is the first time I have cantered with my boyfriend in years—since I was able to do it with Mingo. I haven’t been cantering Cruiser with other horses, since he doesn’t have much enthusiasm for it on his own—I’m sure for physical reasons—I don’t want him to do something he shouldn’t out of excitement.

After our little run, we trotted to the end of the trail and turned back for home. We did a mixture of walking and trotting—making sure they didn’t get too hot. When we got back, I quickly saddled Cruiser and rode down to the river. We trotted a few times at the bottom and headed home when we heard the thunder. We got back just in time before it started raining and rode our last 10 minutes at a walk in the indoor arena. I try to do a minimum of ½ hour a day with him, 5 days a week. He is insulin resistant, so not only is he on a low carb diet, but the regular exercise is vital to keep his sugar in balance. So far, we have done well with this—no laminitis.

I’m so glad we didn’t get caught in the rain, again.

Monday, May 7, 2012

A Long Fast Ride

A Long Fast Ride

I love riding with my sister—no one is better than her. We usually ride together only on the weekend, and I look forward to it so much. There is only one problem. I have a young horse and she has an older horse. We aren’t sure how old Ranger is, but he has to be over 20. He has arthritis in his hind legs that has made it impossible to put shoes in the back, and that’s where he really needs them. He moves with a little twist of his hind hooves which used to wear the nails of his shoes right off. Without the shoes to protect him, he wears his feet down to nothing if he has too much riding. Besides, at his age, Ellen wants to be careful not to overdo it. She doesn’t want him to go on those long and fast rides. I understand. I am in the same boat with Cruiser who is almost 25.

Cole is only 6. He needs those long and fast rides. So far, this spring, we have gone on medium-length moderate rides with Ranger. I have loved every minute of it, but when Ellen said she had to work on a Sunday, I started planning a long and fast ride.

The good news is that when she works on a weekend, she starts a little later and still has time to go on a short ride with Cruiser and me. I don’t lose out on all of my sister time, and Cruiser and Ranger love spending time together, too. After our short, fun ride, Ellen scurried off to work, and I saddled up to ride Cole Train.

Kevin, my boyfriend, showed up. He wanted to join me with his horse, Starry. I wasn’t sure how it would go. Starry hadn’t been on the trail I planned to ride in some years. The last time Kevin attempted it, Starry wouldn’t cross the big river. (The big river is about 3 times as wide as any of our other river crossings.) The time before, he crossed the big river but wouldn’t go up the bank on the other side. Kevin wanted a horse to follow to help him through. He didn’t know how long he would go on the ride since Starry isn’t quite as fit as Cole at this point. We decided to play it by ear.

I have been riding Cole with Starry in the evenings on short rides, and they have gone very well together. I knew what to expect as far as behavior. The trip to the big river went just as good as expected. Starry went right down the bank into the water without any encouragement from Cole. I showed Kevin the smoothest place to cross. It went without a hitch. On the other side, he followed Cole up the bank, and we were on the good trail.

I like this trail so much because there are so many good places to trot and canter. The park has recently repaired it; too, so most parts are better than ever.

Starry was afraid of a culvert that he has always been afraid of. Once we got past that, we started to trot with Star in the lead. If a horse has a decent trot, Cole is content to follow along, quietly. We went quite a ways, slowed down to a walk for a few minutes to give them a break and started back up—Cole leading. They went faster, now, because Cole has a ground covering trot. When we reached the Brookpark Bridge, Cole spooked at a suspicious looking pedestrian that he just couldn’t get a good look at. Once she was out in the open, he was fine. We proceeded at a trot with Cole in the lead once again. Cole increased his speed—he was having a great time. Kevin said we should stop, and when we did, I understood why. Starry was huffing and puffing. Cole—well he isn’t ¼ CMK Arabian for nothing. His breathing was slightly elevated. We walked to the next bridge and gave Starry a chance to catch his breath.

At the 480 bridge, Kevin said I should just trot on. He was going to walk. I said I would catch him on the way back. It was only about a mile to the place I wanted to turn around. This section is what my sister and I call “The Canter Stretch.” It is where we used to let Cruiser and Ranger just fly down the trail as fast as they wanted—and we loved it. I so miss those days…

I started off at a trot. I glanced back, and Starry was trotting behind us. After a few minutes, Kevin wanted to stop. He told me to go on without him, and he followed through. We headed out. Now, this time, knowing I didn’t have to worry about pushing Star too hard, I just let Cole trot full out. It was great, but it didn’t take long before I wanted to relive my glorious past. I asked for a canter and away we went. He stopped on his own about 20 seconds later. We trotted a little further and I asked again for the canter. This time, he stayed with it. We went fast and I started laughing with joy. Soon, we saw a group of people ahead. I asked Cole to slow down to a trot. He complied, but it was a fast trot. We passed the hikers, and there the trail was a little rough. I opted to stay at a trot.

We got to a trail intersection and swung to the path on the right, trotted down the trail to another intersection. There was a little trail that shoots the right, goes down a small slope and straight out to the picnic area where I planned to turn around. I used to gallop Cruiser on this trail. Since I wasn’t quite as confident with cantering Cole (yet) I trotted down the slope. When I hit the bottom, the old Judi came out, again. I whispered, “Canter” and we flew down the trail—not slowing down for the dog walker as he pulled his dog off the trail with seconds to spare. Cole didn’t know he was supposed to either turn where the trail turned or stop at the picnic area, so we did go a few feet into the grass, but then he stopped.

I started to laugh with joy, again. He was catching his breath and I grabbed my phone to call my sister. I happily told her where I was and how much fun I had and how I wished she was there, too.

We walked for a minute or so and headed back on the other trail that loops right back to the first intersection to the main path that will then lead us home. We took off at a ground covering trot and found Kevin and Starry waiting for us. Kevin said Starry didn’t mind us leaving him at all. We started the long walk home. I didn’t want to wear Starry down. After a while, we saw someone I knew and stopped to talk. Kevin decided to head towards home and I could catch up with him. After about 10 minutes of chatting, Cole and I trotted to catch up with Kevin. He had been doing some trotting, too, so it took a while before we found Starry.

When I did, we just walked on home. The ride was about two hours and forty-five minutes—and the longest one for both of us for the year. Overall, Cole and Starry were terrific. The only way the ride could have been any better—if Ellen was there.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Thunder and his Feather Toy

This is my baby Thunder. He is on his round pedestal—note—he is sitting on a feather toy. Every day, and sometimes a couple times a day, I put it on the sewing machine with the feather end just sticking over the edge. When no one is around, he stretches up and knocks it down. Sometimes he leaves it there where is falls. Sometimes he carries it places. The other night, he brought it upstairs and left it on my bed. I have found it on the dining room table many times. He’ll put it on his pedestals or just leave it in random places on the floor. I

I find it, and make a big deal about it. He pretends he knows nothing about it. I put it back, and when no one is around…

Cole Train in the Rain

Cole Train in the Rain

Sure, he used to live outside. That doesn’t mean he likes rain. He has the good life, now. No rain—unless I am riding him.

The first time we got caught in the rain, he immediately tried to turn and run home. That took my by surprise. After that, I was prepared, and he never succeeded in the spin, but he would shake his head a lot and try to go faster if we were going towards home. It was a little rainy one day when my sister was going to ride him, and she put his bug bonnet on. That did the trick, so he mustn’t like the rain hitting his ears. Cole Train is a sissy.

I only experiences drizzle with him—not real rain—up until just recently. Kevin and were planning on going riding one evening, and though the clouds looked ominous—I just wasn’t in the mood to ride in the arena. We gambled and lost.

It was a short ride, and just about at the turnaround point, we started to hear thunder. The clouds weren’t too dark, so we thought we might be able to make it home. No such luck. It started to drizzle. Cole started to shake his head and prance. He didn’t want to walk—he wanted to trot. Since it is against the rules for him to change gaits, I insisted on walking. The thunder became louder and though Cole didn’t spook from it, I started to get nervous. Kevin was counting the seconds between the lightning and thunder and telling me how close it was. The lighting was now right over us. Cole was prancing.

I decided to dismount. I waited until he seemed calm—I didn’t want to reward inappropriate behavior by dismounting. When he was quiet, I hopped off. I know that when I get nervous, he gets worse. I do better on the ground. Besides, my legs wouldn’t get as wet, and I would stay warmer. Though it wasn’t windy, yet, I didn’t want to be in the saddle if a tree went down. Been there—done that already. It isn’t much fun when a tree falls while riding. I have lost count of the trees that have fallen while I am riding Cruiser. He seems to be getting used to it. Cole hasn’t experienced it, yet, and we had enough going on with the rain desensitization.

He was still bouncy, but as each minute passed, he settled down. Once he was completely soaked, he was fine. He started to walk slower. Kevin didn’t have to keep trotting to catch up with us. Finally, Cole found a nice tree, stopped and stood under it. He found good shelter, I think, and he wanted to wait out the storm. He wouldn’t budge. Kevin passed us up on Starry and Cole reluctantly followed. Starry is a pretty slow walker, and the rain didn’t speed him up in the least. If anything, he seemed slower. I convinced Cole to pass Starry and that sped us up—until he found another good tree. That’s how it went until we got to the river. There, I mounted, and we crossed.

The rain was lighter, and Cole wasn’t concerned anymore. He took the lead and Starrry followed along. By the time we got to the driveway, the rain stopped, of course. We knew that would happen all along. Kevin announced that he was there, “for Cole’s baptism.”

Since I had a jacket on, I didn’t get as wet as Kevin in just a t-shirt. I also had a dry sweatshirt in my car. He took care of Starry and headed home to get warm. I saddled up Cruiser and went out for another quick ride before sunset.

We stayed dry.