Tuesday, December 31, 2013

More Old Pictures

Ellen on Ranger


Stormy, my sister's cat, in a tree


Dante with his little brother, Trey, at his old home

Monday, December 30, 2013

Old Photos

Ellen sent me some old photos
Here is Cole and me

This is Ellen on Ranger

Here I am with Cole

Cole Train when I first got him

Here I am on Cruiser on our first trail ride after he bowed his tendon--that's why his legs are shaved. He just had an ultrasound

Cole and I

My Journey to Quietude

My Journey to Quietude
By Ellen Daly

(Proof that Ellen is a better writer than me)

When you lose someone close to you, it’s incomprehensible. Reality is suspended and your brain won’t let you think of anything else. This happened to me a little over a year ago. My father died after a long battle with cancer. He had Multiple Myeloma, a little known cancer of the blood. He had been diagnosed years ago, went through chemo and had many happy years in between. But that spring, it caught up with him. He became weaker and the pain was unbearable. My normally active dad, who loved to tinker on his classic cars and never woke up in the morning without a plan for the day, was failing.

The big crisis hit when he had a series of bad falls. We gathered as a family and brought hospice in. My dad’s only wish was to die at home. He was funny. He never liked to travel. He said that everything he needed was right at home. It was his kingdom. We all wanted to fulfill his wish. It was the toughest seven weeks of our lives, and the ending was not happy, but he got his wish. He passed away in his own bed. We were left adrift and in despair without measure.

But taking a lesson from my father’s book, it was time to wake up and plan each day. The pain would lessen if purpose was found.

Now, onto the happy part of the story. My sister and I have long been into horses. My horse, Ranger, has been with me for nearly twenty years. They have been wondrous, fun and most of all, challenging. If you want to learn about yourself, get a horse. They humble you as they raise you up. It is awesome. But my Ranger was getting older. His once formidable trot had slowed and his awesome canter reduced to just a few strides. It saddened me, but I knew it was inevitable. To this day, I still enjoy our short, easy rides and no horse is better for teaching the youngsters about trail riding. That includes both equine and human.

The idea of a younger horse had started to take hold in my mind—someone to fill the space Ranger once ruled and keep up with my sister’s snappy Morab, Cole Train.

I started looking more to divert my mind from my grief than anything else. My sister started looking, too—now I knew I was in trouble. Then I got an e-mail from her with a link to a place called Quietude and there he was—a chestnut vision with this white blaze on his face. Quietude Dante. He reminded me of Ranger because he looked sturdy but beautiful.

He was a Lambert Morgan bred by a couple who had single-handedly resurrected the line. Wow. My education had begun about a type of horse who had been lost in history.

I have always loved Morgans. The first horse I every rode was my aunt’s Morgan gelding, Brandy. I was 4 years old. I imprinted. He was a bright chestnut with personality to spare. Many years later, my aunt gave Brandy to my sister. He was her fist horse. At almost 25 years old, he was nearly unstoppable. This started our journey that would lead to Cruiser, Ranger, Mingo and Cole. Would Dante be next?

It was late fall when I contacted the Hanleys at Quietude. A prompt return e-mail gave me Dante’s vitals, but he was in West Virginia and winter was coming. This delayed the trip until spring. I spent all winter looking at YouTube videos of the Quietude horses and reading about Lambert Morgans. Even the name, Quietude, seemed like a good sign. It was an expression my Dad used to use when things got hectic. My dad was never big on horses, but he was not a person to shy away from his dreams; as he collected multitudes of classic cars over the years and much of his time was spent restoring and driving them.

Spring was coming, and it was time to commit to my trip to West Virginia. I decided that around my birthday in April would be a good time just because it was my birthday. I talked to John, my boyfriend, about it. He was on board because he said we could make it a mini vacation out of it and camp. He loves to camp. I don’t like camping, but I would do it to make it fun for him, too

John is a planner so when packages from LLBean started arriving and long discussions about how to stay warm in the van ensued, too, I knew he was doing everything he could think of to make me comfortable in his van. It is a mini camper with a microwave and heater, so it wouldn’t be too bad.

I was very nervous leading up to the trip. This was a huge decision and there was the issue of my little cat, Stormy, to consider. We were taking the dog with us, but Stormy doesn’t travel well, and he is an indoor/outdoor cat. Someone coming over to keep an eye on him was not an option. My sister came to the rescue. He could stay at her house in an empty bedroom, and she would completely spoil him.

The time came to transport Stormy. He hates cars and messes in his carrier every time, but we got him safely to her house. Barriers were put up to keep the dog away and her cat, Thunder the Wonder Cat, was too scared to go near him. Stormy was not happy, but he was in the best possible hands.

My trip to Quietude began that night. Driving for hours gives a person lots of time to think. I was thinking a lot. Two horses would be quite a bit of work. Could I handle it? My sister had been doing it for years and rarely complained, so it was possible. A new horse is uncharted territory. Would my anxiety be too much to handle it or would it rise up to the challenge. My head was spinning. Would Dante disappoint in person and would it all be a waste of time? My journey physically and mentally continued. I had many cat updates. It sounded like Stormy was doing okay.

We made it to West Virginia the next day. It’s a beautiful place, especially in the spring; rolling hills and mountains covered in green. This was a good part of the travel; seeing beauty around each corner. We had a day of travel, then we camped that night with a trip to Quietude the next day. I was so excited and so cut off from the world. West Virginia mountains have no cell phone towers. No more cat updates. I was off the grid. One of the biggest decisions of my life and no one to consult except for John, who once tried to feed Ranger a hamburger.

The day finally arrived. It dawned cold but bright. The journey that started last fall was now real. We started out on winding roads up mountains to Hillsboro, West Virginia; the home of the famous author Pearl S. Buck. I saw her house.

We followed Sue Hanley’s careful directions down gravel roads and across creeks. We arrived at the site of the sight of the Highland Trace House--the Hanleys’ daughters’ impeccably restored summer home. Then up the road; horses everywhere. There was a big red barn where I saw some silhouettes of horses in stalls. Dante maybe?

We drove toward the Hanley house, down stallion row. Each stallion gazed at our van as we passed. I tried to identify them from their pictures on the website. There is nothing like the keen gaze of a stallion. We met the Hanleys and the young dog, Colt. He was a silly half-grown dog who was still learning about people. I had been there with our dog, Stubby, who was starting protectively from the van window.

We went into the house to get to know each other. John is an avid photographer, and so is Sue Hanley. They had a lot in common. It was fun. They are nice people. Then it came time to check out Dante. We drove back to the red barn where I’d seen silhouettes. We walked in—and I’d like to say I had eyes only for Dante—but their stunning stallion Quietude Jubilee Kingdom was in the barn. He dominated the scene, and he knew it. Then my eyes turned to Dante stabled next to his pasture mate, Trey. Dante watch us with much interest and was enthusiastic about the attention. He was a brighter chestnut than in the pictures and had thick hair on his legs like a draft horse. They took him out of the stall. He tied well and lifted his feet nicely. They handed me a brush and I worked my way toward his back and stood by his withers. I thought of my sister’s horse, Cruiser. Then I knew Dante was right. He had some professional training and had been on many trail rides. The Hanleys were forthright about his personality and skills. There was no reason to doubt them and besides, he gave me the Cruiser vibe.

After that, it was time to look over the 400 acres of Quietude. I have never seen so many horses and pastures. All the horses love people and are so curious. I met Dante’s father, Quietude Barcelona; a favorite stallion of Shannon and sire to many Lamberts. It is truly a special place where the land and animals are loved and respected.

When our tour was over, it was time to camp for the night. The Hanleys generously let us camp next to their daughter’s house. We had access to the house, electric and best of all—the bathroom. It was a perfect, clear night. We were surrounded by horses and my boyfriend took many nighttime photos of the stars.

Morning dawned and I was able to watch Dante amble about his pasture with his friends. I felt guilty about taking him from this paradise to a stall in Cleveland, but he had a destiny to fulfill. He is descended from a line of working horses who helped build our country. He would be glad to have a job and lots of human attention. He loves people and the trail; a natural traveler with his easy trot and curious eyes.

I was sad to leave Quietude the next day, but my new adventure would be arriving in Cleveland in a few weeks. Besides, I missed Ranger and my silly cat. As soon as we reach cell phone signal, it was time to spread the news. Dante was joining our herd and snappy, little Cole Train finally had a trail buddy who could equal him.

Somehow, I could hear my dad say, “Why another horse?” and see him roll his eyes and smile.

Visit Quietude here:

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Christmas Surprises

Christmas Surprises

I went out to the barn early and saddled up Cruiser. I like to ride him when it is quiet because he does tend to spook a lot if there is too much going on. I worry about him hurting himself by doing something sudden. We were out about 15 minutes in Ellen walked into the arena. I noticed she was moving funny with her broken ankle—but what I didn’t notice—the walking boot was gone! I knew she wasn’t wearing it in the house anymore, but it turns out she hadn’t worn it since Sunday.

This meant she could walk with us in the arena. Well, she walked, but she couldn’t get up to horse speed. I’m sure she was much warmer than when she could only sit on the mounting block and watch. It was a lot easier to talk to her, too.

I then rode Dante and led Ranger (with Ellen, again.)

Now, for the second surprise. Kevin showed up, and we decided to take the horses on the hill. The day before, we led them because it was very cold and we couldn’t cross the river. I suggested we put saddles on this time—just in case the river was low enough to cross. Much to our happiness—it was! I was able to cross for the first time in about 3 weeks. There was only a light coating of snow, and the ground was frozen just way too hard to trot, so we did get cold. I led Cole about half the time, but I could use the extra exercise after the way I have been eating…

Since we have been keeping the horses on the wrong side of the river, we can only get a Christmas trail ride sporadically. We have trouble with high water, ice on the river and the most frustrating thing—ice on the driveway. This was a real treat for us.

Kevin did his family thing for Christmas, and Ellen and I went to my brother’s house. We had a terrific meal, and then since it was my night to feed at the barn, I gathered up both my nieces and took them along. Since I wanted it to be more than just work, I turned Cole out in the indoor arena, and he put on quite a performance. He did his usually roll, buck and run. He then came back to me and he started up on his tricks. He parked out, bowed, picked up my gloves when I threw them, did his silly walk—mixing in more running and bucking—and a few unasked for rears. Cole is a tremendous rearer. I’m sure I could teach him to do it on command very easily, but I just don’t want him offering it to me when I don’t want it. When I quite playing the games and left him alone, he got upset and ran laps at top speed—I think to get my attention—and it worked.

After we finished feeding and watering, I took my nieces home and spent the rest of the evening snuggling up with Thunder and a good book.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Quick Update

Quick Update

I haven’t been blogging, but I have been riding. Since I am taking care of my sister’s horses, I can barely keep track of everything we have been doing. I have gotten Cole out on the hill a few times in the last few weeks. Yesterday, after a seriously rainy few days, we ended up riding the hill in sunshine! The temps were in the 50s! All the snow was gone and the river was roaring. Kevin joined me on Starry, and we did 5 trips up and down—with lots of trotting. We have winter weather, again. It was nice while it lasted. It would be nice if the river got low enough to cross on Christmas, though it will be very cold.

Cole has consistently been doing his new trot. My sister said it looks very pretty. We are both happier with it. Dante didn’t like the warmer weather we were having, and he got a little unenthusiastic about his arena work. I have been riding Ranger around the property whenever I have daylight—same with Cruiser. They both do great in the snow. The warmer weather worked well with Cruiser because he wasn’t as hyper. When he settles down at the trot, he does pretty well. I only trot him about 5 minutes, and the rest of the time we walk.

Ellen is getting better all the time. She thinks she may be able to help with the stalls next week. I would push the wheelbarrow, though. She is able to spend her time in the house without her walking boot. She still wears it out of the house for now.

Two more months of winter to go…

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

The Big Show Trot

The Big Show Trot

I have mentioned before that when I work with Cole in the arena, he has a huge trot. I am not exaggerating—it is huge. His suspension is incredible, and it looks nearly like the dressage movement called the passage. It is hard to ride. I can’t manage to post it because he nearly throws me on his neck, and I just can’t get the timing right. I have a very strong sitting trot, so I sit it. It is tough, and I usually can’t manage more than a few laps.

Now that I am riding most of my rides in the arena, we are having trouble. He is reluctant to trot well. Instead, he gives me his “stupid trot.” It is short-stepped, very slow with his head up in the air and his back is hollow. If I ask him for a better trot, I either get the big, show trot, he continues to do his stupid trot or he stops. Lately, he has been stopping way too much.

After a number of rides like this, I have had enough. Sure, the big, show trot looks impressive, but I don’t have fun riding it. (I have been riding Dante’s smooth trot—and I live it.) Maybe Cole is telling me he doesn’t have fun doing it, either. If I get exhausted doing it, maybe it is tiring him, too. The big, show trot had to go. I no longer wanted it as his default gait.

How do I get him to trot like a normal horse? I spent several days thinking about it.

He trots like normal horse on the trail, and if it is fast enough, I post it easily. If it is a little slower, I sit it easily. I decided that this would be my starting point—I would post.

I started our riding session with posting right from the start. Within 10 seconds, we found a nice rhythm, and I was posting easily. Of course, you can guess what happened next—I clicked.

He stopped and got his treat, and we did it again—over and over. Usually, I was clicking in the first 10 strides. I wanted him to be clear with what I wanted, since it was a totally new request. After a bit, I had him go longer before he got the click. It was working.

I don’t know if Cole is a particularly quick learner or if it is the clicker, but within 5 minutes, he was consistently trotting in a new way. (Why did I wait so long to do this?) I could either post it or sit it. The trot was much more comfortable. (Still not as smooth as Dante, but he is exceptional.) He was carrying his head in a lovely position—not with his nose in the air. The trot felt balanced, and I could tell there was more suspension than he would have on the trail. I was able to trot full laps without exhaustion, too.

It was time to get a second opinion. I called Kevin out to see us. I explained the problem I wanted to solve, and then I showed him our new trot. At first, he thought it was still the show trot, so I knew he looked good. Upon further observation, Kevin could see that it wasn’t as extreme—and he liked it.

Cole and I have a new trot, now! I think one of the reasons that he took to it so quickly is that he wanted a new trot, too. Once he got it, it was self reinforcing. This was just the first lesson, though, so we will see where we go from here.

I am sure that big, show trot is still there, and I will teach him a cue for it so he knows just to give it to me when I ask for it. In the meantime, I will encourage Cole to make the new trot his default trot. I think I am going to like this.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Update on winter rides

It’s snowy, it’s cold and the river is freezing. Trail riding has suddenly become very limited—and I have 4 horses to ride. The arena is starting to bore me—it has driven me out into the elements—at least when I can ride in the daylight. On the last few rides on Ranger, I have ridden him around a little trail going around the barn property—6 laps to equal a half hour. He was really happy to be out. I took Cruiser out for a couple laps at the end of his ride, yesterday and I also rode Cole on the hill leading to the river 3 times. They weren’t fabulous rides, at all. I just wanted to get outside.

That leaves Dante. I have kept him in the arena because he is such a joy in there. He has started to power up more with his hindquarters at the trot. His accuracy keeps improving and our circles are getting rounder. I like how he focuses on me—unlike Cruiser who’s mind tends to wander. Ellen is very happy with his progress.

I am having problems with Cole. He isn’t thrilled about doing his big trot—and I don’t blame him. I’m not thrilled about it anymore, either. It tires us both out too much. I want to do an ordinary trot. He has only been giving me 2 trots—his big trot and an awful, pokey, short-stepped trot with his nose up in the air. I want something like he does on the trail. Tonight, I am going to see if I can get it by posting—since that’s what I do on the trail. If I do, I will click him for it to encourage it. I just want a normal horse for a while.

I have been trotting Cruiser more and more and he is getting strong and more consistent. We are up to about 5 minutes. I know it doesn’t sound like much, but for a horse who hasn’t trotted in a year, it is a lot.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Winter is Here

Winter is Here

We had some lovely spring-like weather last week—and then it happened—winter. We are having very cold weather, and the forecast looks colder. The driveway was too icy to take the horses out on Sunday, but I barely minded—it was in the low 20s when we were riding. With all this cold weather, I am sure the river will be freezing. We may be out of good trail rides for weeks or even a few months—very depressing.

I have been staying very busy working the horses in the arena. Each week, I am taking a day off to help manage all these horses. Only 4 more weeks before Ellen will be able to help out, again. My riding is improving, and that is a good thing. It is one thing to practice circles on one horse—a far different thing to practice on four.

Here is a brief update on each:

He went through a phase where he just didn’t want to work. I adjusted our workout by starting with a bunch of tricks—side pass, turn on the haunches, transitions and leg yield attempts—with lots of clicks. It seems to be putting him in the right frame of mind, so when I start to really work, he is more enthusiastic. We have been attempting to do a leg yield at a trot, but since Cole is an over achiever, he is doing a sidepass at a trot. I have been shaping him to go more forward, and I think I will have it by spring. Last night, I introduced shoulder in at a walk, and he seemed to get it right away. I have taken him out on the trail whenever I can, and he has had some hyper moments to say the least, but most of the time, he has been terrific. A few of the days had very bad footing due to snow and ice, and he trotted very carefully when I needed him to.

I am riding him about 3 times a week, and leading him the rest of the time. Most of the time when I ride, I do a little trotting. He has been improving, and he feels stronger and more balanced—even though it has only been a couple weeks. He seems happier now that he is working, but I might be just projecting my feelings to him. No further signs of digestive discomfort, I am very happy to say.

Dante is doing very nicely. He is a very steady and consistent horse to begin with, and that is only improving. He is starting to understand inter-gait transitions. The neat thing is—if I get him to go faster or slower—he then stays at that speed until I ask him to change it. I am getting more precision with him. He bending and circles are improving. Ellen is pretty happy with what he has been doing. We still haven’t gotten the canter in the arena, though. I hardly care since his trot is just so nice. My niece has been riding him about once a week, and he is really helping her learn to ride. Last week, I did bring him on a trail ride, and he was a bit excited since another person that we never met joined us, but he still contained himself.

Ranger is tough because of his arthritis. He needs a long warm up, and he isn’t too enthusiastic about the work. A couple rides ago, I thought of clicking him when he trots a little livelier, and that is helping. I will keep up with it, and maybe it will make a difference. I did take him out on the trail before the weather turned and we had a great time. Some days, I just take him on a walk on the hill—and we have fun. He is a very pleasant horse to lead and since he has a terrific walk in spite of arthritis, you get a good workout with him.

He is completely recovered from his hoof abscess! Kevin has been riding him whenever the weather is nice.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Long holiday weekend

It was a nice 4-day weekend. I was able to get Cole out on the trail 3 of the days. On Saturday, the driveway was just too icy. We were alone on our rides since Starry is recovering from a hoof abscess and my sister broke her ankle. My niece came out on Saturday and rode Ellen’s horses. I rode them the rest of the time—all in the arena. I have also been riding Cruiser a little, too. I am having fun, but it is exhausting.

I thought I would work on circles for all off them. I had my niece do circles, too. I need the practice, since one of my seat bones doesn’t listen to me and tends to float off the saddle unless I am really concentrating. I also forget to use that outside rein for support. Since I get to practice on 4 horses—each with their own way of going on circles, I am hoping to instill good habits in myself.

Ellen came out to watch us ride her horses on Saturday and Sunday. So far, she approves of what I am doing.

Kevin rode Dante a little bit in the arena this weekend, and he fell in love with the way he trots. Kevin has never been able to sit a trot in his life, so he was so surprised to find out that he could on Dante. Dante even listened to him—something my horses never do…

Back to Starry’s abscess. I had Kevin poulticing it since Starry wasn’t cooperating with soaking. I think a poultice is better, anyway. Yesterday, he thought the leg was swollen. I looked at it later when he wasn’t there, and it didn’t look swollen to me, but I figured it must have been stocked up and since Kevin was hand walking Starry, the swelling went down. His leg didn’t seem hot or sore. Starry has been walking well for the last couple days, and when I changed the poultice on Friday, there was evidence of draining. Starry was very fractious in his stall, too. He wasn’t acting like a sick horse.

When I got home, I called Kevin and told him what I thought. He went back out to the barn, thought it was swollen more and started asking everyone about it. One person touched his leg and Starry picked it up, so she assumed it was sore. Another person sprayed liniment on it to reduce the swelling. Kevin started to get confused.

When I went over Kevin’s house for dinner, he wanted me to go back to the barn with him to check Starry. By now, he thought the leg would be swollen up to the top. He thought the infection got into his bloodstream and maybe we would find him dead in his stall. Sometimes Kevin’s mind gets a little out of control.

I looked at it, and it still didn’t seem swollen to me. One leg has a stocking and the other is a grayish brown color (he is a buckskin) so I was thinking it might be an illusion. I told him to go lead him. He walked sound. I touched his bad leg, and he did pull it away. I touched his good leg—and he did the same thing. I reminded Kevin that we teach our horses to pick their legs up when we touch them. It wasn’t hot, and when I firmly felt along his leg, he didn’t react.

I tried to trot him in hand, but he wouldn’t. Kevin thought that he couldn’t, and that we shouldn’t even try. I told him—how else do we know how bad it is? We need to trot him every day so we could see if there was any improvement.

Kevin saw my logic. I was sure he was still lame, and I told him that so he wouldn’t be disappointed. We set Starry loose to free lounge him.

Starry went crazy—trotting around like a maniac—never taking a single bad step. He is as sound as a dollar. We were both laughing with joy. He trotted both directions with a lot of bucking and some cantering, too. I was surprised that the boot that was covering his poulticed hoof stayed on through it all. Kevin was acting light hearted for the first time in days.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Sudden Change of Plans for Thanksgiving

Sudden Change of Plans for Thanksgiving

Ellen and I were going to go to my brother’s house for our Thanksgiving—and then the plans came to a screeching halt. My sister-in-law called and postponed it unitl Saturday. She isn’t feeling well.

That left Ellen, her boyfriend and me with no plans at all. I could have gone with Kevin, but that would leave Ellen stranded. Since I don’t think I can make it to the grocery store, I made a list of items that I could throw together for dinner and let Ellen pick. I sent her the following email invitation:

You are cordially invited to Thanksgiving Dinner at the Mansion on the Hill. What do you desire for dinner? I don’t have time to go to the store for lasagna fixings. Please choose from the following menu.

Chicken Cacciatore
Sausage soup
Home made macaroni and cheese
Pasta with sundried tomatoes and various vegetables
Homemade applesauce
Whitefish and tuna dinner
Turkey and giblets
Mixed grill
Salmon dinner

The last few items were what I could find in Thunder’s cupboard.

She chose spaghetti and found me a recipe for butterscotch brownies with cream cheese filling for dessert.
It’s going to be a great meal—and we still get to celebrate on Saturday, too!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

So Many Horses to Ride

Good news about Ellen. Her ankle is cracked and not completely broken. They put her in a walking boot—for only 6 weeks! She is off of stall rest, and she is now on the hand walking stage. She even might stop out at the barn this weekend for a visit—though she won’t be able to do any work, yet.

Now, a quick update on my rides. My niece came out on Saturday and she rode Dante in the arena. He listened very nicely to her. As she made corrections to her riding, he improved. We finally got a horse that she can learn on! My horses generally won’t listen to anyone except Ellen and me. Ranger isn’t a whole lot better. They are just too used to us and won’t take anyone else seriously. I remember Cruiser just walking to the corner of the arena with them and refusing to come out.

She rode Ranger on the trail with me on Cole and Kevin on Starry. It was a very chilly day, so we were only out just over an hour.

Sunday, I got to the barn early and rode Dante in the arena. He was such a good boy, and I know I am going to like riding him while Ellen is recovering. I then rode Cruise in there for the first time since he colicked. He was all over the place—wanting to look out windows and generally not listening well. I did trot him under saddle for the first time, and he is as sound as he was before the suspensory injury. (He hasn’t been quite right since the bowed tendon in the same leg.)

I then went to take Cole on a trail ride with Kevin and Starry, but Starry kept coming up short. Kevin took him back, and left me to go on a very slow ride with Cole. It was in the low 20s, the ground was frozen solid and only suitable for walking. Cole didn’t like it, and went very slowly. I ended up leading him all the way home to stay warm. I really didn’t enjoy myself very much.

I planned to ride Ranger a few times on the hill, but I didn’t want to freeze anymore, so I led him. It was about a half hour. He was in a very perky mood. The frozen ground didn’t bother him in the least!

Monday evening, I worked Cole in the arena, and he was just horrible! He bolted 3 times and did a lot of jumps and spins. I don’t know what got into him.

My next horse was Cruiser, and I was impress on how much more focused he was than the day before. He behaved like a gentleman, went straight and bent correctly on all his corners. We kept it at a walk, though. There was another horse in the arena with us, and I didn’t want to push my luck.

I then took Ranger for a spin. I haven’t ridden him much at all in the arena, and at first it felt so strange to be on such a big horse—and so wide! In the end, I really had fun. He has a few basic things that need to be smoothed out—like bad circles. We worked them at a walk and trot, and I did see some improvement. At the end, we did some clicker fun. I decided to try to teach him turn on the haunches. We got a number of correct first steps to the right. He loves clicker, and I bet next time it will be a lot easier.

Then, it was time to doctor up Starry’s hoof. I thought he had busted out an abscess a few weeks ago on the pointy part of his frog, but when his farrier looked at it a few days later, he said it was just a shedding frog. So rather than cutting it out a little further, he told Kevin to put iodine on it. I was shocked that I could possibly be wrong. Mingo had that bad abscessed hoof that we struggled with for years—including 2 operations a year apart. He also abscessed in his other hooves. I know abscesses. When Starry had trouble on the frozen ground, I thought it was an abscess after all. Probably the original didn’t finish draining before it sealed. Kevin had a different farrier look at it, and he agreed. It is a very deep one that he didn’t think he could cut out. He told Kevin to do the soaking routine. By yesterday evening, it was much worse, and there was no doubt that it was an abscess. Starry wasn’t’ compliant with the soaking—it hurt too much, so I talked Kevin into a poultice. I helped him with it, and hopefully it will drain in a few days. I think it will be coming out of his heel, since it seems sensitive—and it wasn’t on Sunday.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Cole Train Saves the Day

Cole Train Saves the Day

Ellen and I took a few vacation days last week for trail riding. The first day was another of a series of near perfect rides with Dante. The second one was the same until the end.

A while back, I mentioned that Ellen had a theory as to why Dante was being odd at one of the river crossings and it explained a few other odd things we noticed. That day, she angled him down the bank in a different way, and he was much more cooperative. We are fairly certain that there is something odd about his right eye. We have been around enough horses with blindness issues, that we know he isn’t blind at all, but maybe it that eye isn’t as strong or has poor depth perception—something like that. It happens in people; why not animals?

It explained why he had trouble walking into his stall door. Ellen learned to circle him around to get him out. With a lot of positive reinforcement, he is fine, now. He also would get very nervous when horses approached him on the right—even horses he knew. We experimented with him and Cole, and there was a distinct difference in his behavior. On the left, he could care less. On the right, he shied away. This has also improved.

We think he was relying on the wall in the indoor arena, because in the one spot that he had to leave the wall to make the turn, (it is slightly “L” shaped) he would fight to say on it. That, too, is nearly gone.

The one thing we haven’t been able to fix is traffic. He is great with cars on the left and very upset about cars on the right. He is fine if they approach from the rear, but if they approach from the front, he is spooking nearly every time. It even happened to me one day when I was leading him, and I forgot about it—so it wasn’t a case of him picking up on my anticipation. It wasn’t a problem until one day, a car went past him too close and too fast on his right side. An ordinary horse would have gotten over it in a short time, but Dante is special.

It really isn’t a big problem, because when you are on the proper side of the road, cars pass you from the right.

Well, on this fateful day, we stepped out of the trail to get to the barn—just 2 doors down—and there was a truck completely blocking the right hand lane. Ellen and Dante were in the lead. There was no traffic coming, so she was going to go around the truck and back to the proper side of the street. When she got into the far lane, a car was pulling out of the driveway from the neighboring stable—forcing Ellen to the wrong side of the road. Though the driver went slowly, she was very close to Dante. He spooked and just as she passed him, she jammed on the gas and took off.

Dante was a nervous mess—and another car was coming. To get him out of the way for everyone’s safety, Ellen decided to bring him into the ditch alongside of the road. It is a shallow ditch and there wasn’t any water in it. It seemed like a perfect solution to the problem. Dante did spook again, too. Unfortunately, Ellen took a misstep caused my the uneven ground and went down—hearing an audible snap as she did.

I wasn’t too far behind with Cole, so I was there, immediately. She felt she could walk, but walking Dante was out of the question since we didn’t know how he would behave. She told me to give her Cole. At worst, if she couldn’t walk, I knew that Cole would stand quietly for her until I could get help. Of course, he would probably be parked out and bowing, but he would stand.

I took Dante and we headed down the nearby drive—tears in my eyes. Ellen was following with Cole—very slowly—much slower than Cole would typically be walking with the barn in sight. The woman who owned the neighboring barn saw and asked if she could take Cole to help, but Ellen declined because Cole was supporting her and she gimped along.

I got Dante back to the barn, and Kevin was there. He rushed out to Ellen and helped her to a chair. I unsaddled the horses and we prepared to take Ellen to the hospital. This is when she told me what Cole did for her. He really did save the day. A few years ago, I taught him to match my footsteps when I walked deliberately—mostly to get control of him when he used to be a bit wild. This morphed into his silly walk. When I lift my legs high, he does too. Well Cole, who Ellen says is her hero, matched Ellen’s slow and deliberate step as he brought her home.

Her ankle is broken, and she is very, very upset. I will be taking care of her horses until she gets better, so I will be quite busy. Too bad for me that winter is here and most of it will be indoors. Good for her, though. She won’t be missing any fantastic trail rides. The only ones she’s miss will be very, very cold.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Cruiser Dodges a Bullet—I Hope

Cruiser Dodges a Bullet—I Hope

It was a very rough weekend. I went out to ride Dante on Friday night in the arena. (I was giving Cole a break.) When I brought him back into the barn, Cruiser was laying down. That alone wouldn’t have been alarming, except that Kevin mentioned he was laying down earlier. He was on his side and breathing hard. I thought I would lure him to get up to make sure he was alright. I grabbed his hay cubes that had been soaking and put them in his stall. He immediately got up. I went to unsaddle Dante, looked back at Cruiser and he was standing in his hay cube dish instead of eating out of it. I got scared. He then lay back down, and I grabbed the phone to call the vet.

Of course, it was the emergency vet at this time of the night, and I didn’t know her. I told her what was happening. She said she was out walking her dog and would call me when she got back in. By the time she got back, Cruise seemed perfectly normal—and was trying to get to the hay cubes I had taken away from him. He didn’t have a fever, either. I was worried he may have gotten the virus that Ranger had a few weeks ago. She said not to give him any food and see how he was in the morning.

The next morning, he was fine. Ellen and I went riding, came back and he still looked good, so I gave him some hay cubes. Ellen went out to ride Ranger, and I walked with her. When we returned, Cruiser still seemed good, so I took him on his half hour walk. He then had his lunch, and I went home.

A few hours later, I got the call. Cruiser was lying on his side and breathing hard. Kevin lives very close to the barn, so he went to check. I didn’t wait to hear from him, but called the vet right away. It was the same emergency vet since it was the weekend. She was way out on the other side of the world and couldn’t make it for an hour and a half.

I went out to the barn to find Kevin leading Cruiser. He kept wanting to lay down. This was serious. When the vet finally arrived, when she saw him, she told me she didn’t have a good feeling about it. We brought him back to his stall. She gave him a tranquilizer and a shot of Banamine. She then examined him and tubed him. He had passed plenty of manure while we were waiting for the vet, so an impaction seemed unlikely. She couldn’t find anything apparently wrong, and that was a good sign, but it could be a sign that things were more complicated. The biggest problem—his age. She felt it was serious enough that she gave me the “talk.” If he doesn’t improve in 48 hours, it will be time to end his suffering. He was no candidate for surgery, and if I took him to a clinic for further examination, I wouldn’t like what I saw—and couldn’t do anything about it. Though, she did say that he looked very healthy and that was something in his favor.

When the tranquilizer wore off, he immediately tried to lie down. She said that was a very bad sign. We pulled him out of his stall and kept him walking. Every time I tried to put him back in his stall, he tried to lie down, again. When the vet left, she told me I could give him another dose of Banamine and it would take about 45 minutes to work. I did, but it didn’t. 45 minutes came and left. I would allow him to stand as long as he was comfortable. When he felt bad, he wanted to walk. A few times, he nearly knocked me over in his desire to be moving. We would walk a few minutes, and then I would try standing, again. Eventually, I realized that I could have him stand by the mounting block and then I could sit down. Kevin got us some dinner from Burger King, and we ate in shifts.

Almost an hour and a half from the time I gave him the Banamine, I had him standing by the mounting block and one of the boarders was talking to Kevin and me. I was just watching Cruiser and noticed his eyelids were getting heavy. Could it be? Yes! He was falling asleep! I let him rest a few minutes, took him back to his stall and right away, he fell asleep standing up. The worst was over.

Kevin and I went back to his house for a few hours. When I came back, Cruiser looked fine, just tired. I led him around to make sure. Then—back to Kevin’s for a few hours and then back to check on him. All was the same. I went home. I knew they did the AM feeding about 5:00 AM, so I slept—waiting for the phone call—and it didn’t come.

I went back to the barn in the morning, and he looked good. I called the vet, and she said we could feed him some hay cubes and see what happened. I waited to feed him so we could make sure he was alright. The vet had said we had to remain vigilant for the next 24 hours. Ellen and I were there all morning, riding the other horses, and when he still seemed healthy, I figured I could go home for a few hours. I gave him the cubes—made them really soupy—not the way he likes them. He nibbled at them. When the other horses got their grain and he didn’t, he was very upset. He stopped eating his cubes and stood by his grain dish. He was going back and forth. Finally, he took his hoof and flipped the hay cube dish upside down. I went to get him some hay to soak and Ellen scooped the mush back into his dish. He started to eat then, since at least it wasn’t soupy. He dug into the soaked hay, too.

The day before, it seemed that the colic showed up about 3 hours after feeding. I had time to walk the dog, take a shower and get a nap in before the call would come—but it never did. I went out to see him in the late afternoon, gave him more cubes, back to Kevin’s for a few hours and then back to the barn for another small meal of hay cubes.

We have been giving him many small meals, and he hasn’t gotten any grain, yet. Maybe in a few days. He seems 100% normal. Since we don’t know what caused it all, we don’t know if it will happen again. He has never been a colicky horse. Time will tell, but in the meantime, I am just thankful I still have my wonderful Cruiser.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Riding Vacation

Riding Vacation

I took a little riding vacation in the middle of the week, and it was so much fun. It started on Monday night. I decided to give Cole a day off and rode Dante in the arena, instead. This is the first time I ever did it without my sister around, so I got to ride the whole session. I really enjoyed myself. He was so well behaved and attentive. There was another horse being lounged and later ridden while we were in there—and he never even glanced his way. That’s not how it would have been on Cole or Cruiser. It was most wonderful.

Tuesday, we woke up to our first snow of the year—and it was pretty chilly. Ellen was off, too, so we took Cole and Ranger out in the snow for a 5-mile ride. We had fun and managed to stay warm. The river was a little high, so she rode Dante in the arena. I was able to take what I learned from riding the night before to help her out. I have never seen her ride him so well. I had introduced half halts to him, and he was starting to understand them. Well, I coached Ellen on it, and she continued the lesson. He kept moving and a prettier and prettier frame. I led Cruiser for 15 minutes and then rode him for 15 minutes. He did well.

Wednesday, Ellen had to work, so I planned a ride with Kevin. For variety, we decided to do the show ring trails. I haven’t been up there in about a month. Well, between the wind and cold and the fact that it was in the middle of the afternoon—a time I seldom ride—I ended up with a very hyper horse. His worst moment was when Starry took off while he was behind him and startled him. Cole bolted and bucked. You should have seen the look on the fisherman’s face that we nearly ran into. Well, it wasn’t that close, but I think the fisherman thought so. From then on, Cole was charged. I ended up leading him part of the way home—partly due to his behavior and partly because I was cold. I was glad I did because we heard some pretty loud gunshots and he leapt into the air. Starry didn’t notice. I think he is a mutant horse.

Thursday, Ellen was off, again. She asked me to ride Dante since the river was too high for her comfort, but she knew I would be fine. She rode Ranger. Dante was just awesome, though he did spin at the water’s edge on our first try. He was very willing for the second try. We trotted a lot and he didn’t even spook when the flock of turkeys took off to fly across the river. They were so beautiful. A blue heron flew by at the same time. What a sight.

I then took a ride with Cole and Kevin on Starry. They were so much better than the day before, but we were on familiar trails, so that helped. It was the warmest day of the 3, making it a very enjoyable ride.

Ellen then came over my house and we worked on my garden wall until dark. It is nearly complete. Almost all the stones are laid down. I have one corner to fix and then we will level the dirt and wait until spring to get some new topsoil and plant flowers. It has taken me all summer and fall with help from Ellen and Kevin, but it was worth it. It will be so pretty when it is planted.

Monday, November 11, 2013

This is our world in November

November in cleveland can be pretty dreary. Most of the leaves are down and it is very gray. We get a lot of cloudy days this time of year—and the few sunny ones are to be treasured. Here is Starry crossing the river this weekend. Being a dirty buckskin, he kinda blends right in!

Dreariness doesn’t keep us from riding, though. As long as it isn’t raining, you will still find us out there. The park is quieter and that is a bonus.

It is supposed to snow a little over the next few days, so that will liven things up.

Fun Fall Riding

We had such a nice fall weekend. On Saturday, my niece came out to ride with us. She rode Ranger—who hadn’t been on the trail in a week because of his virus. Since it was his first time out and the weather was chilly, he was a bit of a challenge. He did a couple of his kitten bucks and there were countless spooks, but my niece stayed on and had a good time. Cole was very patient and well behaved. Due to the height of the river, Ellen chose to ride Dante at the barn. She worked him in the arena for a while and then let my niece give him a try. She rode him a few months ago in the arena, and he was totally uncooperative. This time, he was very responsive. We then took him outside with Cruiser, and we rode the barn trail. Both horses did well.

On Sunday, I got to ride Dante on the trail and Ellen rode Ranger. Both horses were awesome—Ranger was much more reasonable than the day before. This meant I could ride Cole on my own—no more being kind to my fellow riders. We went blasting down the trail, and we both had so much fun. Towards the end, a squirrel ran right in front of us. Cole was startled and swerved away and I lost my balance. He wouldn’t stop, and he was running right for the street. I didn’t think I would be able to stay on, and I wanted to keep him off the road. I put my effort into trying to turn him. I started to regain my balance—and he swerved the other way! I nearly lost it, again, but in the end, I lost my other strirrup, instead, grabbed his belly with my legs and somehow found myself right in the middle of the saddle where I belonged. Then he stopped. Silly boy—all over a squirrel.

On the way home, we met Kevin and Starry out for a ride and moseyed on back with him.

Then I got to ride Cruiser again! My third time! I am leading him for 15 minutes and riding him 15 minutes. He is doing well and seems to like it.

Friday, November 8, 2013

How to Make a Special Day

How to Make a Special Day

Ellen and I were going to take a day off, together, but she couldn’t get that day. I decided I would take it off, anyway. She would be able to ride with me in the morning, so all wasn’t lost.

Then I saw the forecast—it was supposed to rain all night and continue on into the morning. There was enough rain to ensure that the river wouldn’t be able to be crossed. All was lost. I would have been better off at work.

Then I had a brilliant idea. I didn’t tell anyone what I planned. I was going to make it a special day—after all—I was celebrating an anniversary. Well, I don’t know what the actual date of the anniversary was—I never wrote it down—but I knew that I bought Cruiser 24 years ago in early November. It was early November. I was going to celebrate—by riding him!

I felt he was ready to go. I had been trotting him every time we went on our physical therapy walks for a month and I hadn’t seen a bad step. It was time to increase his workload, and I would do it by adding my weight on his back. I know that it was an important part of his recovery from his bowed tendon, so it should help with the suspensory ligament.

When I told Ellen, she was surprised and happy. We started our morning with her riding Dante in the indoor arena. I wanted to lead Cruiser for 15 minutes and then ride 15 minutes. Towards the end of her ride, I saddled up and brought Cruiser in to lead. After a warmup walk, we did some trotting in hand. A few times, it turned into spooking in hand and even bucking in hand. I think that Cruiser was excited to be saddled up. He seemed to have more lift in his step in both the walk and the trot. He definitely was acting out, too.

Ellen put Dante back in his stall and came out to help me with Cruiser. She held his stirrup, and I climbed up. I gave a happy sigh. I was at home. we walked around a few laps and then the rain quit. We headed out and rode the little trail loop in the back of the property until we hit our 15 minutes.

Of course we stayed at a walk. His walk felt good with no irregularities. If anything, it seemed more even than in the past. Ellen told me it was a little pacey, but it wasn’t so fast that he was doing his stepping pace.

It was a lovely and exciting feeling to be back on the best horse—ever. I hope Cruiser wasn’t disappointed that it was such an unexciting ride, but he seemed content. He has always been a horse that was happy to work—as long as he was on the trail. This was kind of a trail. Maybe it wasn’t a special moment for him, but it sure was for me.

Ellen rode Ranger and then she had to go to work. I took Cole on the hill, and we rode up and down 4 times--twice we trotted up. We did a lot of trotting and cantering at the bottom, too, so he ended up getting a good workout.

It turned out to be a great day after all.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Leaf Season

This is a very busy time of year for Thunder—leaf hunting season. With all the leaves falling, he seems to be glued to the windows. We have 2 large picture windows—and they both belong to him. If we have one of those gusty days, and he is busy elsewhere, he will run to the window when he hears the wind whistle. He just gets so keyed up.

In the morning, after a big breakfast, he will go up on his tower and refuse to come down for his teeth brushing. I can’t pick him up because he just hangs on tightly with his claws. Sometimes, I have to put the chair by the tower and threaten to brush his teeth while he is up there. That convinces him to come down for a couple of minutes. I brushe his teeth—and back up he goes.

In the evenings when I come home from work, he is definitely more tired than normal. I think that leaf hunting is cutting into his napping.

He has even been coming to bed late. He wants to stay up and watch the leaves. I am feeling so irrelevant.

Still, it is only a few short weeks in the fall and spring that he gets like this. (Much of my trees are red oaks that lose most of their leaves in the spring.) I do find I can get more things done around the house because he is so busy.

If I bring a leaf into the house, he doesn’t make the connection that it is just what he has been so intently hunting.

Maggie, aka Dumb Dog, doesn’t get leaf hunting at all. This is a good thing—since she tends to mess up his squirrel hunting. When she starts to bark at the squirrels, he climbs down his tower just far enough so that he can reach her—and bats her in the head. At least he can hunt his leaves in peace.

Arena Ride Day 3, 4 and 5

Arena Ride Day 3, 4 and 5

With all the excitement of Ranger’s virus, I forgot to mention about Cole’s arena work. On Day 3, I opted to turn him out to play in the huge outdoor arena. It finally was dry enough that I felt he would run. (He won’t run much in mud.) Run he did—until he was just dripping in sweat. I cleaned him up the best I could and then rode him at a walk out on the drive for a half hour until the indoor arena was empty of riding lessons. We then went inside and rode all around the arena—mostly at a walk since he was exhausted. After 15 minutes, he was totally desensitized in the indoor arena.

I gave him a day off and then tried Day 4. I waited until the arena was empty and the barn was quiet. Well, we were successful. He did try to run to the barn door on the first lap around, but when he found out that didn’t work, he behaved quite well. We worked on trotting on the scary end, and by the end of this ride, I was totally desensitized to the indoor arena.

The next couple rides fell on the weekend, so we managed to get a couple trail rides. Yesterday was Day 5 in the arena, and he was his old self—and so was I. We were able to work on our transitions and consistency with his trot. I am just so out of practice. This arena trotting is tough. His movement is just so big. The most I managed was one and a half laps before I would have to stop, pull myself back together and then start again. I made it a half hour and then headed outside to ride on the drive because it was such a pretty night.

Now that his mind is in the right place and my nerves have been calmed, maybe we can start having productive arena rides, again.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Scary Weekend

 Ellen, Kevin and I all the 5:00 AM phone call on Saturday morning from the barn manager. Ranger wasn’t eating his breakfast and was acting like he was uncomfortable. No one wants to get that call. Ellen went out, and I just waited by the phone. I couldn’t go back to sleep—I was a wreck. I’m sure Ellen felt even worse. She called me a short time later—she was going to call the vet. Something was really wrong. I still waited at the phone. The vet was there and gone by 7:00 AM. It wasn’t colic! Hurray! It was a virus. He had a 102 degree fever and was feeling pretty bad. She gave him 3 shots, and gave Ellen all kinds of instructions.

I was supposed to take my niece out to ride that morning, and she called a few minutes later to cancel. I headed out to the barn to find Ranger looking mopey, but he was eating. After a while, he just broke out into a full body sweat. There was steam all over. He was eating, though. Ellen rode Dante in the arena while I walked Cruise. When we were done, Ranger seemed much better. I took Cole out on a ride with Kevin and Starry, and Ellen hiked along. The ride went well. We all went back to the barn. Ranger seemed pretty good—just tired.

Ellen went later in the evening to check on him. His temperature was normal, but he still seemed tired.

The next morning—you would never know anything was wrong at all! She took him with me on Cruiser’s walk—and he was friskier than Cruiser. Hard to believe he was the same horse. What a relief.

The river was still too high for Dante, but Ellen didn’t feel like riding in the arena. Instead, we did the hill twice. He is having some issues on the hill—multiple trips seem to bother horses until they understand the routine. There is nothing we can’t work out with practice—he is nowhere near as bad as Cole was for the first couple years. Cole was just a terror on the hill. Dante just wants to rush a little on the way home and not stop. When we got home, we didn’t take him into the barn, but led him to the back of the property—something he often does after an arena ride. Well, Dante threw a few temper tantrums because he didn’t go back to the barn. He gave us one more thing to work on.

I was able to take Cole on another fun ride with Kevin and Starry. The second river was pretty high, but it was clear. Since the park was so busy with people enjoying the beautiful fall weather, we opted to cross the river instead of using the road. Cole did so well! He took slow, careful and steady steps. I gave him peppermints. He deserved them!

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Cute Stormy Pictures

Happy Halloween!

This is my nephew, Stormy, dressed up as a pumpkin sitting on the porch.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Weekend Update

Weekend Update

Thursday, my sister and I took the day off to ride in the morning and wait for the farrier in the evening. The river was a little high, so she rode Dante in the arena while I led Cruiser. We then took Ranger and Cole and a very lovely ride. We waited and waited for the farrier. Turns out—he forgot about us. This is the first in 26 years, so I guess we will forgive him. He may be getting senile, but we will keep him—he’s a great guy and a great farrier.

On Saturday, since my sister hadn’t ridden Dante across the river because it was too high in a couple of weeks, it was cold and windy, and it made her nervous, she said I could ride him! Yes! I was happy to take him out on a ride. She rode Ranger—and it turned out that I had the easier horse. Ranger bounced out of the barn, kitten bucked on the trail and was just full of energy. Dante was feeling good, too, but all he did was try to trot a few times when we wanted to walk. We had a nice ride to the second river with a lot of trotting. Ellen got to watch him, too, so she could see how pretty he is.

This left me free to ride Cole with Starry. That meant I could go fast! Starry and Cole like to travel quickly together, and Cole was really feeling his oats. We had speed, some bucks and a very exciting ride. Starry behaved—he just had to keep up with Cole

On Sunday, Ellen rode Dante with me on Cole. This time, we crossed Dante’s difficult river. He walked very slowly down the bank, but he made it. Crossing went well. We did a lot of trotting and then turned around and came home. We crossed the river and did a bunch more trotting. It was fun. Cole was more himself and not the crazy horse of the day before.

Ellen then took Ranger on a ride and Kevin and I hiked along.

Cruiser keeps improving. He is trotting in hand faster and with longer strides. Things are looking bright.

Arena Ride Day 2

Arena Ride Day 2

Two days later, I am ready to tackle the arena, again. When I arrived at the barn, it was empty—so I hurried up and saddled Cole. When I got out there, a trainer was in the middle of the arena trying to put a bridle on a horse. The horse was fighting him. Cole came prancing in—a big version of his silly walk. I don’t know if that caused the horse to break away, or if the horse just didn’t want to be bridled, but the next thing we knew, the big horse was running all around the arena. I told Cole to stand still, and he did his best, but this was just too much for him. He danced about (really, he wasn’t bad—not as bad as Cruiser would have been) as I tried to calm him down. Keep in mind, other horses scare Cole—and a loose horse running around terrified him.

Thirty seconds later, the horse was caught, and I was heading out of the arena. Cole was too wound up for this, and I didn’t know what they were going to do with the horse. I was just going to ride around the property. I mounted up, and I could feel the energy coursing through Cole’s body. We headed to the back of the property, but didn’t get too far and turned back. I saw a couple ladies coming back from a trail ride, and they were heading for the back of the property, too. I asked if I could follow them. Cole did pretty well, but once we turned to go back to the barn, he started to prance and get excited. I dismounted and tried to lead him. He was just awful—prancing, dancing, spinning, trotting—it was a difficult walk back.

We went back into the arena. As we stepped through the gate, Cole bucked and kicked out. He likes to make an entrance. The horse that terrified him was being ridden all around in a lesson—and he made Cole nervous. I led him around, and he continued to misbehave. I put him into the silly walk, and we practiced parking out and bowing just so I could get him focused on me. It helped. By now, there was an audience. I got to hear about how cute he was, and that he would be perfect as the next Breyer model. I didn’t feel like that at the time.

After about 15 minutes, the lesson slowed down to a walk, so I mounted and walked around, too. Cole was much better. Once again, to focus him on me, we worked on our tricks—spinning and sidepassing. The other horse left, and we were alone. By now, our session was nearly over. I still had to walk Cruiser and do all my chores. I rode full laps at a walk a number of times in both directions, threw in some trotting and called it a day.

The good news—I was no longer nervous about riding on the far end of the arena like I was on Day One. I guess, once I had real problems, the imaginary ones just disappeared.

I’m not really looking forward to Day 3.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Arena ride--day one

Well, I got through it—my first evening arena ride. I had a surprise visit of nerves. Remember how I used to be afraid of riding over at the far end? It didn’t help that it was windy and rainy outside. The neighbor’s dogs were barking, too. If I would have spent the time early in the ride to walk the perimeter a few times, I might have been all right, but a kid was there that wanted to see the pre-ride warm up, so we put on a little in hand show of silly walk and bowing. Once I got into the saddle, he wanted to practice his side passes and spins—getting plenty of ooohs and ahhhs. It got Cole all hyped up. Once they left, he still wanted to put a show on, so he was very bouncy and reactive. The weird part is, if he would do those things on the trail, I wouldn’t get nervous at all.

Anyway, we worked through it. It took me a half hour before I could trot both directions around the far end, but I did it. Next time, I will immediately walk him on the far end, over and over, until my nerves are replaced with boredom. It has worked in the past, so I am sure it will work, again.

The big trot is back, and I feel like a lousy rider. He is throwing me all over the saddle, but apparently, he looks good. If I can survive the huge leap into the transition, I do pretty well. I will have to build up my muscles and endurance. I forgot how tough he can be.

I know we will get better—we have all winter to practice.

Now, for the good news. Cruiser keeps improving. We trotted probably a total of 5 minutes. He also threw in a canter in the beginning and a buck at the end. He is very happy to be doing the trotting, so that is a good sign, too. His speed has increased a little, and there is still no sign of lameness in either direction. He is prompt on his transitions, and it looks like he may be striding out a little more. The tough part is I don’t have much endurance for trotting in hand. This is another thing I need to build up on. I don’t want to lounge him because I don’t want to do a lot of circles. Things are looking up for Cruiser, and that is a wonderful thing.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Weekend riding

My niece came out to ride on Saturday. The river was too high for Dante, so I went with her on Ranger and me on Cole. We had a fine ride—except for the rain. We turned back a little bit early. Ellen was out hiking, so she got wet, too. She rode Dante in the arena while I walked Cole. The rain let up a little, so my niece rode Dante outside to cool off.

Ellen had to work on Sunday, so I had planned a long ride on Cole with Kevin. Since it rained all day on Saturday, we didn’t expect to cross the river, so we cancelled. I got out early, cleaned stalls and walked Cruiser. Kevin wasn’t there, yet, so I walked down to the river to check it. Much to my surprise, it was crossable! I called Kevin and left him a message. He lives very close to the barn. I walked back and he wasn’t there, so I killed some time. Still no Kevin, so I left him a note to say where I was riding and left on my own.

Cole was feeling very frisky in the cool fall air, and the first half hour had some challenges. Once we got to the good trails, I let him trot it out and he started to settle down. I threw in some cantering, but it was a mostly trotting day. He gets into a good, fast rhythm, and it is just a joy to ride. We turned around and trotted back. We were about halfway home when we found Kevin on Starry. We were all happy to see each other, and rode home together. Cole and I were out 2 hours and 20 minutes. Kevin was out about 2 hours. It was an extremely satisfying ride. I can’t wait until next year when Ellen will be joining me with Dante.

This week, I start riding in the arena for my evening rides. We have plenty to work on, but I will sure miss our goofing off on the trail.

Friday, October 18, 2013

A few more vacation days

Ellen and I took a couple of days off to ride and for fall shots. Unfortunately, the river was a little too high to cross Dante. We took Cole, Ranger and Starry up to the show ring trails and had a very nice time. I led Cruiser while Ellen worked Dante in the arena. They are steadily improving. Ellen then came over my house and we worked on rebuilding my garden wall. We got the first 4 layers finished. Since the big stones need to go on the bottom, there was a lot of heavy lifting. Most of the stones took both of us to lift. We were both very sore from it, but at least it is starting to come into shape. Now that we are down to smaller stones, I can work on it a little on my own.

Yesterday, the river was too high for us to cross any of our horses. Once again, I led Cruise while Ellen rode Dante in the arena. Then we rode Cole and Ranger on the hill three times. We went out to lunch at Burger King—then came back to wait for the vet. I untangled Cole’s mane and part of his tail—then I got bored. I never got to Cruiser’s mane and tail. I just groomed him. The vet was on the early side. All the horses got fall shots. Dante was really good. Since Ranger is petrified of the vet, it was nice that Ellen ended up with a horse that wants to make friends with the vet instead of run away. Only Ranger and Dante needed their teeth done. The other three are good for another year.

The weather is not looking too promising for the weekend. Whatever happens, we will make the best of it. Next week, there just will not be any time for a trail ride after work—it will be time to start riding Cole in the arena. Sigh…

Monday, October 14, 2013

Dante and the River

I know that everyone is sitting on the edge of their seats—just waiting to hear all about our riding weekend. Such excitement.

Anyway, Kevin and I went on a short and fast ride Friday evening. It went well, but we realized it would have to be the last of the year like that. It was just too dark to be riding along the street when we got back. Time to start riding in the indoor arena. Kevin is retired, so he will just ride without me during the day.

On Saturday, Ellen and I took Cole and Dante out. Remember last weekend when Ellen ended up leading Dante across the second river because he refused to cross? Well, this time, she brought a change of clothes. Her plan was to dismount if he seemed at all hesitant—before he figured out that she was dismounting because he wouldn’t cross. Right away, when they reached the spot where the trail splits—one way leading to the river and the other to the street—Dante demonstrated that he wanted to go to the street. Ellen dismounted.

I rode Cole into the water, and Dante came down the bank—one slow step after the next. I would say that it took him less than 5 minutes to get into the water. It was a huge improvement over last weekend. Ellen remounted on the other side and we continued the ride. On the way back, she dismounted right away—after all, she was already wet. This time, he went down the bank fairly steadily. I would say it was less than 2 minutes to get into the water.

We rode home happily.

She rode Ranger while I hiked along.

On Sunday, we planned to do the same thing. As we neared the river, she told me she had a theory and she wanted to try things a little different. If they worked, she would tell me the theory. I asked her if it would give me something to write about. When she told me “Yes, absolutely.” I was all enthusiastic. She said to ride just beyond the spot where we turn to the river and approach it from the other direction. There was a convenient tree in the right spot to loop around. I brought Cole first. She followed along with Dante—staying in the saddle this time.

Dante slowly and carefully made his way down the bank. There was very little hesitation. I would say it took less than 2 minutes to reach the water. He then carefully followed Cole across.

We enjoyed a nice ride on the other side, turned around and came back to the river. We approached it the same as always, because there was no choice in this direction. He was in the water in less than a minute.

I know you are dying to know what her theory is, but I am going to hold back until we get a little more proof to support it. There has been a number of odd things that Dante does that have been puzzling us all along. Her theory explains them all, but I want to observe him a little bit more before I let everyone know what it is. The theory is a little off the wall, so I don’t want to sound like we are crazy. I do know that it worked.

She then took Ranger on a ride as I hiked along.

Now for the best news. Cruiser’s appetite is fully up to where it was before he lost it. He is back to eating like a horse.

Another thing—right before he lost his appetite, I tested him at the trot—and he seemed stiff but as sound as he was before the injury. (He has a bit of arthritis as most horses his age.) I didn’t tell anyone because he then lost his appetite, and I didn’t know what was going to happen. I then decided to keep it to myself for a while since I have gotten my hopes up before only to have them dashed to the ground. It’s bad enough that I have been going through an emotional roller coaster—no reason for Ellen to go through it, too. Well, while I was walking him this weekend, he started to misbehave and Ellen saw him trot. the cat was out of the bag. I asked her opinion as to if he looked as good as he did before the injury, and she agreed.

I don’t exactly know what we will be doing in the near future, but only a couple months after I gave up complete hope, there is some hope back that I may be able to do light rides with him next year. He has pulled off miracles before in his life, and he might just do it again. He has sarcoid warts that disappeared on their own—astonishing the vet, and tumor on his thyroid that vanished—astonishing the vet, he came back from a bad tendon injury (not so miraculous, but close) and completely recovered from that hopeless cough last year due to COPD—and we haven’t had any trouble since—just by switching from hay to hay cubes.

Will he be able to heal from a bad injury at such an advanced age? Or will he manage to aggravate it again. Time will tell, and I am actually reluctant to start hoping, again, but I am human. And hope springs eternal in the human breast…

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Thunder the Wonder Cat – Clicker Training Update

Thunder the Wonder Cat – Clicker Training Update

I have been only doing Thunder training a couple times a week. I am going to try to do it more because he really seems to enjoy himself.

I made him a little box tower. I had 3 very sturdy boxes that I got from work. I used 2 as the base and put the third on top. This way, he has steps to get to the top. He is a very careful cat—not the kind that would leap up from the floor. No, he likes to step up. To make it even easier, on 2 sides of his box tower, I placed 2 even lower boxes alongside. This way he can go up 2 steps to get to the top.

He likes to go on his box tower even if we aren’t training, but he really likes when I incorporate it in his training sessions. Sometimes, when he hears me get the clicker, he goes to the top of his box tower to wait for me.

The training is simple I tap the top of the box, and he walks up. I click and treat him. Then I ask him to come down—then go sit on the coffee table—then back to the box tower. You get the idea. I will throw in a few “sit ups” and “touch nose to target” for variety.

Well, the other night, I took a small scratching post that he never uses and laid it on it’s side to turn it into a jump. He has done jumping in his training before, but here is what got me so excited about this. On my first request, he jumped down from the box tower and leapt over the jump in one command. When I tapped the top of the box tower, he leapt the jump and then jumped up to the top of the tower. It wasn’t a fluke. He did it a number of times. He was so cute.

At the end of the session—which can only go about 10 minutes because his tummy gets full—I realized that Maggie never moved from my side. I give her a treat with every click, but in the past, she was so excited, she would get up and I would have to reposition her. This time, she didn’t move. No wonder my session went so well. Maggie wasn’t distracting Thunder.

That only inspires me to do more training. If Maggie stays still, we can train over a larger area.

When Thunder was finished, I spent some time with Maggie practicing her jumping through her hoop.

Cruiser feeling better--and Cole feeling full of himself.

The picture is Dante.

Cruiser seems to be over whatever it was that made him go off his feed. We did switch his grain from Safe N Easy to Triple Crown Senior. It has a little less carbs, more fiber and smells much more palatable. That wasn’t the problem, though, because he wasn’t finishing his alfalfa cubes, either. Now, he is eating everything. It is wonderful. I was so worried.

On Monday, I was only able to work Cole on the hill since the river was too high. It was very overcast, too, so I didn’t have very much time. It was the first cool day we had in a while, so he was very, very hyper. On the second trip up, we saw a raccoon run across the trail, and he bucked and tried to go after it. After that, I decided that 2 trips was enough. We went back to the barn and I led him to the back of the property and then took him in the arena and did some in-hand work. With Cole, that means trick. We did park, bow, silly walk and big, bold trot in hand. Each time, the trot got bigger and more spectacular because I was clicking him for it. He is such a show off.

The river was down, yesterday, so Kevin and I took Starry and Cole on a quick 40 minute ride before the sun went down. Cole had wings on his feet, again. When we got to the spot that I like to canter, I kept him at a trot—and we flew. It is so exciting to ride a trot like that. Starry had to canter to keep up. I kept hearing Kevin saying I should slow down, and I just told him I was only trotting. We trotted on the way home, but we kept Starry in front. He goes speedy, but sensibly. Cole knows he must follow other horses quietly, so it settled him right down—and we got home before dark. I am going to miss these short and intense rides. It won’t be much longer, and we just won’t have time left to do it.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Weekend update

It was supposed to be a rainy weekend, but we managed to get our rides in. Friday night, Kevin and I had a quick ride before sunset. We have to make it fast, now, if we want to get a trail ride in.

Saturday, I took Cole with Ellen and Dante. All went well until we wanted to cross the second river, and he didn’t. Just getting him down the bank was tough. She finally told me to ride on without her. I left reluctantly, and met her on the way back. She had to lead him across, and she was still on foot and not very happy. Of course, she had to cross on the way home, too. She was wet and on foot, so she led him down the bank and across the river. Although he didn’t do it readily, he still managed to get into the water in just a couple of minutes. Once he is in the water, he is fine. We don’t really know what the problem is, but it may be the steep, muddy banks. He has crossed this river quite well a number of times until last week. We are very perplexed about it.

She then rode Ranger, and I went hiking. She met Kevin with Starry, and we all came home together.

It rained on Saturday night, and the river was elevated, but not bad. We took Cole and Ranger out on a really nice ride. The second river crossing was too high—as it is normally deeper there to begin with—so we crossed on the ford.

Ellen didn’t feel very good about taking Dante across the river—it was just a case of nerves. It really wasn’t very high. She told me I could take him on a ride, instead. I jumped at the chance. She walked with me down the hill and crossed the river on foot with us. Dante was just fine. Once on the other side, I took off trotting and barely stopped until it was time to turn around. Even then, I continued to trot home until I caught up with Ellen. We walked from there. Dante was very good the whole ride. The only thing that bothered him is when the wind would gust very hard—and then acorns came flying off the trees. It was like we were under attack. I just made him stand each time until the crisis was over. We had 3 gusts like that.

Now for the sad part of the weekend. Cruiser was off his feed. He was only eating about half his grain and half his hay cubes. He was just fine on Friday, off on Saturday, improved on Sunday and much better on Monday. Ellen checked on him this morning, and he ate all except about ½ pound of grain. He seems all right in all other ways. There was another horse just 2 stalls down that went through something like this last week, so maybe there is something going around—I don’t know, but it sure does put me out of sorts with worry. It might be a dental issue, and the vet is scheduled to come out next week for shots and dentals, so we shall see.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Stormy with too much nip

My sister's cat really does have a substance abuse problem.  You would never see Thunder in a state like this! 

Starry D

Starry D is my boyfriend's horse.  He is an Appendix Quarter Horse (half Quarter Horse/half Thoroughbred.)  He is the tallest horse in our little herd.  Cole looks tiny next to him.  He is very gentle and good natured.  His one big fault is he hates bugs.  Now that bug season is over, he is a much happier horse--and goes much slower.  He is the slowest walker when there are no bugs.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Update on Maggie the Sprollie

Maggie. The dog I didn’t want. The dog that Thunder didn’t want. Problem was—no one else wanted her, either. When Dad died, we were stuck with her, so we had to make the best of it. I am no stranger to having dogs. Our family had dogs all my life. Pollie, the last one, was a real treasure. When Dad wanted another one, I cried. I didn’t want to be walking a dog every day in all kinds of weather. I didn’t want a dog to be interfering with my Thunder time. Dad was so lonely after Pollie died, of course I gave in. Maggie came into our lives.

Now, she has been mine for a year. I don’t like that I have to come home from work to take her out—I wish I could go directly to the barn—so much. I lose a lot of trail riding time because it is too dark when I get there. I love trail riding on chilly October evenings. Well, that is no more.

That’s the worst part, though. I was worried that she wouldn’t be able to adapt to being home by herself while I was at work, but I was blessed by her being a dog of less-than-average intelligence. Pollie would have been a problem. She was smarter than a lot of people—being a Sheltie mix. Maggie is a Sprollie (Border Collie/Spaniel) but she takes after the Spaniel side—no sheepdog in her brain. Give her a duck to chase, and she is happy.

She doesn’t need a lot of mental stimulation. She hasn’t developed any issues at all from her mostly boring life. Rather, she adapted like a champ. She is at the point where she only destroys things that are easy to get and tempting. It’s been months since she knocked down the garbage can. I do have to be careful what I leave in my coat pockets if she can reach them. I lost a cell phone that way…

The walking is good for me, and I don’t mind it if the weather is nice—never did. Winter is tough, but since I have been doing it for decades, what’s a few more years?

She doesn’t come when she is called—and since she likes to run down to the street, I can’t let her loose in the yard. (I think her time in the wild taught her that there is garbage to eat by the street.) She is great on a leash—until she sees another dog on a leash—then she goes nuts. I don’t know what to do about that.

Thunder does pick on her an awful lot. I yell at her if she tries to retaliate, and praise her when she runs away. She does sometimes interfere with our games if she hasn’t had her walk, yet.

She is a good guard dog. The other night, she was barking like crazy at something—and it continued until shortly before I got up. When I came downstairs, I found a dead wasp, so I guess she was defending the house.

So overall, we have adapted—though I think Thunder wouldn’t mind if she decided to go live with the coyotes. He does like chasing her, though.