Wednesday, February 27, 2013

My Books

Books sales are just about non existent these days, and I fear it is because I haven’t been promoting my books, enough. So, since I don’t have much to write about this month—being one of limited trail riding—I will talk about my books. It is often hard for me to blow my own horn, but I will give it a try.

“Trail Training for the Horse and Rider” is an excellent how-to book for teaching both the horse and rider the ins and outs of trail riding. I address starting a green horse on the trail, retraining the problem horse, how to manage various problems that arise while on trail and how to cope with weather and emergencies. Through out the book, I tell you of my own experiences and how I learned from them. You will also see plenty of pictures of Cruiser, Ranger and my dear-departed Mingo. It is a helpful and entertaining book.

Now, what you won’t get in this book is a single word on clicker training. I had never even heard of it when I wrote it. For those of you who are sick of me talking about it, you might like that. By the way, this book did win Independent Publisher Book Award.

I know that there are some of you out there that don’t need a book like that, but maybe you know someone who does? It makes great gifts.

My second book is “Trail Horse Adventures and Advice.” If you like my newsletters, this book is for you. It is the first three years of the best of my newsletters. I’ve got a lot of fun stories in it which, like my newsletters, gives you advice at the same time. This handy little paperback is a fun book to read, and it has a lot of little pictures of the horses—including some of Starry. I really enjoyed writing this book because I got to relive a lot of good memories. I invite you to join Ellen and I in our early adventures.

Both of my books are available from most online book sellers and direct from the publishers. There is more ordering information at the bottom of this newsletter.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

House Cat Tip of the Month – Feed the Birds

House Cat Tip of the Month – Feed the Birds

This seems like a no brainer, and I always did the feed the birds in our bird feeder. Thunder used to watch the birds, but not consistently. It didn’t seem like such a big deal.

When I bought him his tower, I placed it in front of a different window that overlooked the front patio—on the other side of the house. I started to toss the food on the patio, and it works so much better. The birds and squirrels are much closer. I can even put it on the window sill, and they will eat it off there—even with Thunder staring down at them; swishing his tail.

On the days where there is snow on the ground, I can see all the prints. It is no wonder Thunder enjoys it so much.

Now, each morning, he will asks me to open the curtains so he can start to hunt. Close by is his favorite chair. I heat up his Snuggle Safe so he can either hunt from his tower, or if his feet are cold he can warm them up on the chair.

I have made one happy cat.

Monday, February 25, 2013

February—the Longest Month

February—the Longest Month

Most years, including this year, the calendar states that there are 28 days in February. If that is the case, why does it seem like such a long month?

Here in Northeast Ohio, we can typically ride on the trail regularly through November. Once December hits, it is touch and go—for months. Things get better in early March, and by the end of the month, we are trail riding on a regular basis.

I feel that Daylight Savings—this year on March 10th, should be a national holiday because I could now go on trail rides in the evenings after work. My life changes into one of lots of trail riding instead of occasional trail riding. Soon, I will be trail riding 5 days a week. I was one who cheered quite loudly when they moved it a few weeks early a couple years ago. I wish they would make it sooner.

Winter starts out good. I am usually all enthusiastic about working in the arena. I can concentrate on my training goals. This year, I wanted to master the canter with Cole—which I did on the left lead. We won’t talk about the right lead. I wanted to increase his duration of the “big trot” beyond a lap. I did, but I found I could only last about 3 laps top before I fell apart due to exhaustion. I fixed our sloppy turn on the haunches to the right. We solidified backing up. Our bends are becoming beautiful at a walk. The trot is tougher because of his impulsion, but I am working on it.

Ellen had her most productive winter, ever, with Ranger.

And now, it is February. Suddenly, Cole can’t trot far, again, because he needs to snort. I am losing focus and losing my seat at the same time. We get distracted with talking to people. Cole’s transitions are getting sloppy. My indoor rides are getting shorter if it is safe to ride on the driveway. I end up just walking up and down it—in the dark. Face it; we are bored in the arena. Ellen is, too.

Where is spring? We hoped it would start last weekend, and it didn’t. On Saturday, the driveway was too icy to go outside. On Sunday, the driveway was fine, but the hill leading down to the river was too icy. Will it be this weekend coming up? After all, nearly everything is melted and it is supposed to be above freezing all week—until Friday night. Then it is turning into winter, again. Alas, will consistent trail riding ever begin? I know it is close, but why does it seem so far away?

Monday, February 18, 2013

We Go on Our First Trail Ride of the Year

We Go on Our First Trail Ride of the Year

Well, my second, but my sister’s first. She had to work on the one nice weekend day during the January thaw. From then on, the river has been too high or the river, hill or driveway was too icy. The last time we rode together was some time in December. Each weekend we hoped the conditions are right, only to be disappointed.

Well, Saturday didn’t disappoint us. The river was low with no ice, and just a couple days before, the hill thawed out. We were in business.

We thought we would ride in the indoor arena first to settle them down, but at the last moment, we changed our minds. We couldn’t bear to go in there after all these weeks. We decided to go straight to the park.

It was very cold, but there was no wind and the sun was shining. This time of year, it actually gives off some heat.

Our biggest concern was crossing the river. Cole is pretty good, but as you have read in the past, Ranger can be funny if he hasn’t crossed in a while. That happened back in November after he was laid up with an injury for a few months. When we tried the next day, he crossed, but the first day he panicked, spun and simply refused as I rode off down the trail, alone. We didn’t know when we would get another chance, so we wanted him to cross so much on his first try.

I rode Cole down the river bank, first. Ranger followed right behind. Whenever Cole hasn’t crossed for a while, I click him for his willingness to step into the water. He took one step in; I clicked him and gave him his treat. I heard Ellen saying, “I don’t think Ranger is going to cross.” At that moment, I saw Ranger approach the river.

I asked Cole to proceed. When he had his two front hooves in the water, I clicked him, he stopped and I fed him his treat. I saw through the corner of my eye that Ranger stepped into the water. I then heard Ellen say, “He’s going to spin.” She was wrong. He just kept going; passing up Cole and getting to the other side long before we did.

The best part was that Ellen never told him to cross. He just did.

Since the ground was frozen, we kept the horses to a walk. We knew as long as we were leaving home, they would be fine. The big question was what would they be like on the way home? Cole has a tendency to want to trot home if he hasn’t done much on a ride. Ranger is usually fine. He will just walk fast. This is where Cole’s spirited personality sometimes gets the better of him.

Just like with Ranger and the river, Cole surprised us. They both walked home at a good speed, but in a sensible manner. About halfway home, we found Kevin on Starry and he joined us.

We didn’t have a single problem with any of the horses on the ride. this ride wasn’t much different than if the ride way in July. In fact, the only difference is that we were really cold. Once we crossed the river on the way back, we dismounted and led them up the hill.

We were in a state of shock that the ride went so perfectly

To top off the ride, when we dismounted, Cole went into a bow.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Cabin Fever

Cabin Fever

Or maybe I should say indoor arena fever. It has been a while since I have been on the trail—weeks—and even longer since I could cross the river. last week, the driveway was icy and we couldn’t even get out of the indoor arena. Since then, I has thawed, and we have been spending a lot of time going up and down the driveway. I am so bored of the arena.

This happens every year at this time. I am hoping for a change in the weather, soon. The trail is calling.

In the meantime, Cruiser keeps getting better, and now he is starting to gain weight. He has been frisky and fun. I’m not going to ride him until he puts more weight on, but at least it looks like I will be riding him, again, someday…

Monday, February 11, 2013

Cruiser Surprises Me

I took Cruiser for his evening walk on Friday night. For the first time in a few weeks, we had to walk in the indoor arena. The driveway was a sheet of ice, and though I didn’t want him to be in the dusty arena, I didn’t want him on the ice, either.

Since he got his cough, I only hand walk him for a half hour. It had been a few weeks since he quit coughing during his walks, but his breathing is still labored—but gradually improving.

We were lucky to be sharing the arena with a really nice woman and her horse. Hand walking goes much faster if you have someone to talk to. It was a windy night, and the doors were pounding. It was also chilly and Cruiser had the day off the day before. The other horse was white, and Cruiser always acts goofy with white horses. I guess I am just trying to make excuses for his bad behavior. After only 5 minutes, we had our first spook. It wasn’t a little spook, but a full-blown, Cruiser-style, leap-buck-spin spook. He made the other horse spook, too. Then he spooked again. Then again and again. At that point, I quit counting.

He told me we were going to slow, and he started to gait. By now, our companion was standing in the middle of the arena—afraid to move since Cruiser kept spooking her horse. Gaiting wasn’t fast enough, so he started to trot. I figured that maybe if we trotted a little, he would settle down and stop spooking. I was worried about him coughing, though. I jogged alongside, waiting for the cough. Cruiser kept going faster and faster. He tried cantering in hand, but I drew the line with that. When he still didn’t cough, I decided to see how far we could go. After a few laps, I had to quit to catch my breath—but he didn’t want to. I rested and we trotted again until I got too tired. We did this a number of times—and he never coughed.

I was astounded. Just the week before I tried trotting him and he coughed a lot. My spirits fell as much that day as the soared this day. Maybe there is hope that I will be riding him in the spring, after all.

We did some more trotting Saturday and Sunday, and he didn’t cough a single time.