Thursday, March 28, 2013

Naughty Starry

Naughty Starry

I went on an evening ride on Cole with my boyfriend and his horse Starry D. Starry is normally a quiet horse, and he’s a good match for Cole Train’s exuberance. Cole wakes Starry up and Starry calms Cole down.

Once we crossed the river, we decided to give trotting a try. I don’t know what got into Starry, but he was dancing, throwing his head around and trying to canter. We stopped and restarted—well tried to. Starry was in the lead, and he didn’t want to go forward. That’s not a surprise. He is a follower, not a leader. I just wanted him in the lead to keep the speed down.

Sigh. Since my last solo ride with Cole was positive, I decided he should lead and I would deal with the speed. I didn’t get speed—rather I got a nice moderate trot. after about 20 seconds, I heard my boyfriend say that Starry was out of control. How could this be? I was in the lead and if Starry was out of control, I would think he would be passing us. Confused as I was, I stopped Cole and waited. Turns out Starry was bucking and dancing and throwing his head around.

My boyfriend told me to go on ahead, and he would meet me on the way home. So I did, thinking Starry might be better alone, and just having a companion made him excited.

So, I trotted on. Cole continued the moderate trot until I got to the section where we cantered most of the summer. His trot picked up faster and then even faster. I thought I would test the brakes—and there weren’t any. I used the bend to the left, bend to the right, bend to the left… technique, which usually works, and it did. It was time to do transitions. We did walk, whoa, click, treat a few times. we then moved to walk, trot, whoa, click, treat. We did that about 10 times—each time I got a better stop. By the end, he was trotting just the way I like and stopping on a dime to a vocal command. I reinstalled the brakes.

We turned around (turn on the haunches, of course) and headed back. We met Starry. My boyfriend said he kept him at a walk until I was out of sight and started trotting. At first, Starry was rambunctious, but then he calmed down and he was fine. he hadn’t been ridden the previous 2 days, the weather was cold and it was only the second time this year that he wasn’t on the trail alone. All this added up to a hyper horse.

We walked quietly back to the barn, and Starry was perfect. Cole did get wound up when a deer started trotting toward him.

Back home, my boyfriend immediately checked his tack to make sure it was adjusted correctly. He then lounged Starry for 10 minutes and couldn’t believe the energy he had. That confirmed the problem was that Starry was feeling good.

I was very proud of Cole for handling everything so well.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Cole’s Second Evening Solo Trail Ride of the Year

Cole’s Second Evening Solo Trail Ride of the Year

I found myself out alone, in the cold with Cole Train. There was a few inches of snow on the ground and more falling. Will spring ever get here? Is it really the end of March?

Once I crossed the river, I decided to trot right away to see what his mood was like—and to keep warm. He turned into Turbo Cole. He trotted very fast, and every few strides he increased his speed. I was having trouble posting—as it has been months since I’ve posted much at all. I don’t know if it was exuberance, or that he couldn’t stand my posting anymore, but he broke into a canter. Well, that was unacceptable, so it tried to get him back to a trot. It became a bit of a fight, but I eventually got him to stop and stand. I let him think for a moment and then we proceeded at a walk.

We went down a slope, and when we reached flat ground, I asked for another trot. I anticipated a repeat of his past performance, and I was shocked when he trotted like a normal Cole at a moderate speed. In fact, he maintained his sensible trotting for the rest of the ride. We ended up doing more trail trotting than we have as of yet this year.

All too soon, we arrived at the turnaround point. I planned to walk him home, as I don’t trot towards home when we are this close until later in the spring when they are calmer. Unlike our last solo ride, he walked quite well. It looked like I was going to be able to ride all the way home.

The trail parallels the river. On this part of the trail, there is a tall shale cliff on the other side of the river. In the winter, the water running down the cliff forms giant icicles. The icicles aren’t content with just melting in the spring. They seem to prefer to fall off the cliffs into the weather like glaciers calving. It consistently frightens all horses—including Starry. I looked ominously over at the icicles and decided I needed to keep two hands on the reins.

We nearly made it. As we neared the end of the cliff, we heard the ice sliding down and splashing into the water. Cole jumped forward. My cat-like reflexes had him turned—facing the ice avalanche before I even knew what happened. (Thank you Cruiser, my very spooky horse, for the training.) We turned back and proceeded down the trail. Cole was relaxed like nothing even happened. That lasted maybe ten seconds. Another ice avalanche came crashing down.

Once again, I quickly got control of him, but this time, he was upset. He wanted out of there. He tried trotting and prancing. I turned him around and made him stand. That didn’t’ help this time, and as soon as he was facing home, he tried rushing again. I turned him away, again, only to see a jogger come around the corner. He was worried about the jogger, but once he passed, Cole decided he wanted to go with him.

Sigh. I dismounted to lead him. He settled down fairly fast once I was on the ground. It was very muddy and sloppy from all the snow. My legs got very wet. I wished I had worn my half chaps.

Even after he settled down, I stayed on the ground for the exercise. I mounted to cross the river and rode partway up the hill. He behaved lovely, but I got off so I could stay warm.

There are some things that you just can’t desensitize a horse for, and ice avalanches are one of them. We also get avalanches in the summer as parts of the shale cliffs come down. Over the winter, a large part of the cliff broke away and fell into the water taking a half dozen trees with it. We are all so grateful that none of us were there with horses when it happened. (Though we would have loved to see it if we didn’t have the horses with us.) The scary part is that it created a large crack in the cliff, and we are waiting for that to break off and fall.

Anyone want to go for a ride with us?

Monday, March 25, 2013

Cold Weekend for Riding

Cold Weekend for Riding

But that didn’t stop us! I just can’t bear the thought of riding in the indoor arena, anymore. Friday, I went on an evening ride with my boyfriend on Starry. Cole was a little hyper. Of course, Starry wasn’t. Once we crossed the river, we thought we’d try a trot. We put Starry in the lead, because is Cole is in the lead he goes to fast. Kevin tapped Starry with the whip, Starry spun his tail and Cole got scared. He threw his head up, danced a little and then leapt into a very excited trot. We didn’t make it too far and I suggested stopping and trying it again.

We repeated it and everything turned out the same. We repeated it and it was the same again. A definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting something different to happen. I suggested Kevin not use the whip to ask Starry to trot. Kevin simply got into a lazy habit. He used his legs. Starry only did a little swish and Cole was fine. He trotted happily behind Starry. For some reason, Cole is very frightened of other horses—even ones he knows well. A swishing tail scares him; as well as any form of aggression.

We went to the next river crossing, turned around and walked them home. This time Cole walked home much quieter than a few days before. I was very happy about that.

Saturday morning was cold but sunny. My sister and I went on a ride. She rode Ranger. The trails were frozen and not suited for trotting. Both horses were great. The sun kept us warm enough so we weren’t uncomfortable until the very end.

Sunday was a different story. There was no sun. This time, when we turned around, we both dismounted and led the horses until we had to cross the river to get home. We climbed on, crossed, dismounted and led the rest of the way. Both horses behaved, once again.

The weather is still going to be very cold this week—just a few degrees above freezing for the highs. I am really looking forward to the day when spring really arrives.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Our First Solo Trail Ride of the Year

Our First Solo Trail Ride of the Year

Not only was it Cole’s first solo trail ride this year, but he hadn’t been ridden the day before, it was very chilly (below freezing with snow falling) and it was in the evening. Our horses are always more fractious in the evening. In fact, it was the first evening that I could cross the river. It was a recipe for disaster.

Needless to say, I wasn’t expecting much. This wasn’t the plan. I was hoping to get my first evening ride with Kevin and Starry, but there was some big basketball game on TV. Yes, I am a basketball widow of sorts. So Cole and I went out on our own. My gut said it was a dumb thing to do, but I just so wanted to go on a trail ride.

I led him down the hill to the river so I would get a little warmer. He behaved lovely, but we have been practicing hill work the last couple of weeks while we waited for the river to be crossable. I mounted to cross the river. On the other side, I decided I might as well get him moving sooner than later. I cued him for a trot. It was a very enthusiastic trot. His little legs were going so fast—very unlike his long-strided arena trot that I am accustomed to. I think it was just excitement.

After about 20 steps, I asked him to stop because he was building momentum, and I was having trouble getting the posting rhythm right. I sit the trot on our arena work. We then started to trot again—only to stop a short distance later. That’s pretty much how the ride went. I did click him on the good stops. Some of them were very reluctant stops—no clicks for them. I tried to click him for steady trotting, but he didn’t want to stop for his treats.

I had to be very, very careful in the spots that I cantered a lot last year. Each spring, I pay the price for the sins of the year before. I know I shouldn’t canter in the same spot all the time, but there are some places that are so perfect for cantering that I can’t resist. There are spots on the trail that we call “trigger points” where our horses anticipate cantering. I made sure I walked through all the “trigger points.” I was very careful my legs didn’t touch his sides, too. He was so ready to go, it wouldn’t have taken much—just a light brush of the leg...

In no time at all, I arrived at the spot that I planned to turn around. Cole was eager to keep going, but I knew it would be a long walk home if I did—and we didn’t have that much daylight.

As soon as I turned him towards home, he wanted to prance and trot. I made him stop and then decided to dismount and lead. Alas, my first horse was a barnsour runaway, and I get nervous when horses rush towards home. I always say that each time we ride, we are riding all the horses we ever rode before.

On the ground, I am not nervous at all, so rather than letting my nerves compound the problem, I led him. Besides, did I mention it was cold? I would have been an icicle in no time at all.

Cole walked fast, and every minute or so he would break into a trot. I would then have him walk a tight circle around me and then stand for a few moments. After 15 minutes of walking, he started to figure it out and stayed at a walk for the last 5 minutes to the river. That’s when I started to click him for walking like a gentleman.

I mounted so I could cross the river. The bank is very steep and muddy. Cole wanted to rush down it and go around the mud at the same time. I circled him back up the bank and tried it again. This time, he was more careful. I clicked him for it. After his treat, he just plowed through the mud into the water.

He crossed well, and I dismounted on the other side. The hill is where he is typically the worst, but he only tried to trot once. I think he learned.

Well, he actually learned to walk towards home a long time ago, but the first rides in the spring bring out the colts in our horses. It takes a dozen or so rides until they settle down. that means—I have 11 to go!

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Very limited trail riding

It’s been a week and a half since the time changed, and by now, I would be blogging all about my evening rides. Well, the weather hasn’t been cooperating. It has been rainy, snowy or the river has been high. I did lead Cole twice on the hill to the high river—it is much warmer to lead than ride. The first time, he was horrible—bucking, spooking and prancing about. When I took him the second time, he was much better.

We did get a nice ride on Sunday with Cole and Ranger. It was cold, though. We did a lot of walking and a little trotting—then walked all the way home. I think it was less than an hour since they walked so fast.

This weekend coming up doesn’t look a whole lot better. Sigh. I could really use some good trail riding right now.

Stormy after he ate too much


Stormy and his best friend Stubby

Monday, March 11, 2013

Finally! Springtime Weather

Finally! Springtime Weather

We hit a home run for the first weekend in March. On Saturday, it was a chilly start, but it was just so nice to be out on the trail. We took Cole and Ranger together. When we first crossed the river, we did a little trotting because the footing was good. The trail goes along a fence that has a paved trail on the other side for bikes and walkers. We made it about 5 seconds before Ranger tossed in a little buck. We brought them down to a walk for a few seconds and tried the trot again. We made another 5 seconds before Ranger spooked at a jogger on the other trail. We brought them back to a walk and kept that way until we were well away from the fence with its distractions.

We tried trotting one more time, and this time, Ranger acted sensible, but he was playing a game with Cole. I wanted Cole to follow Ranger. Ranger wanted Cole to pass, so he could surge forward and challenge Cole to a race. How did we know? Because Range plays this game with Cruiser. I try to keep Cruise behind, but he never wants to be in the lead and will ignore me, trot past Ranger and then Ranger gets his surge. Cruiser falls for it every time.

Ranger kept going slower and slower with his head bent slightly so he could keep a close eye on Cole. Cole struggled with the slow speed, but didn’t pass. Ranger was thwarted. We walked the rest of the ride. It was sunny, so we didn’t even get cold.

The only problem was when we were nearly home, and we passed up a fractious barn mate. Cole began to get fractious, too, and he stayed that way even when the mare was well out of sight. Fortunately, he calmed down by the time we got to the street.

Sunday was a warmer, prettier day. We decided to do more trotting than the day before because the trail was softer. For the most part, it went well. Ranger did try to lure Cole, but I convinced Cole he was better off where he was. As Ranger got bored of Cole not playing the game, he increased his speed. By the end, they were awesome. We walked all the way home. At one point, we saw about 20 turkeys far into the woods. As they got closer to the pave trail and further from us, a Norwegian Elkhound on her walk spotted them and tried to chase them—pulling her owner along. Of course, that startled the turkeys and they scattered. They were far enough away from us that it didn’t bother the horses. I don’t even know if they saw.

Some of the turkeys took to flight, and it was very pretty to see. Turns out they aren’t as accurate as other birds and a few of them hit some small branches which broke. That startled the horses, but it wasn’t a bad startle as startles go.

We have only been seeing turkeys for 5-6 years, and not so often that it isn’t still a treat when we come across them.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Bread in the crockpot

This is a really neat recipe and as easy as it is delicious.

I have learned to line the crockpot with greased wax paper to keep it from sticking.

I use whole wheat flour because I love the taste, and it is so much better for you.

If you overcook it, it will get dry.  I think it depends on how hot your crockpot cooks.  Mine does well with 2 and a half hours.


1 envelope (.25 ounce) of active dry yeast
1 tsp sugar
1/4 cup warm water
1 egg
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 cup lukewarm water
1/4 cup sugar
3 1/2 to 4 cups flour


In a bowl combine yeast, 1 tsp sugar, and 1/4 cup warm water. Allow yeast to foam, about 5 minutes.

Add egg, oil, lukewarm water, salt, 1/4 cup sugar, and 2 cups of flour. Beat with an electric mixer for 2 minutes on low.

With a wooden spoon, stir in remaining flour.

Place dough in greased 4-5 quart slow cooker. Cover and cook on high heat for 2-3 hours. Remove stoneware from cooker and let stand for 5 minutes before slicing.

Lap Wars

Lap Wars

I have a favorite chair—the brown chair. It is old and falling apart, but I think it is so comfortable. I love to curl up on it and read a book on the brown chair. Thunder the Wonder Cat loves to join me. Unfortunately, Maggie, aka Dumb Dog, likes to join me, too. Problems ensue…

Usually, Thunder is the first one to get to my lap since Maggie likes to play with her toys when I go into the living room. He climbs up so he can sit a couple of inches from my face and purrs and purrs and purrs. He still keeps an eye on the dog, as she makes a lot of noise and it disturbs him.

After a while, she is ready to take a nap. For a young dog, she needs a lot of sleep. She comes over to the chair and starts staring at us. About this time, Thunder turns around so he is facing in her directions and glares at her. My lap is his territory, and he doesn’t want any dog disturbing us.

Most times, Maggie goes to lay on the couch—watching us—waiting for her chance. Sometimes he face looks so sad that I expect tears to fall out of her eyes. Eventually, she will go to sleep.

Other times, she will put he front paws on the chair and Thunder we skittle off to his tower and glare at her. I don’t let her come up when she chases him off since I don’t want to encourage that behavior. I wait about 5 minutes or so. If Thunder doesn’t come back, I call her up to my lap.

So, instead of a tiny, soft, purring cat, I have 35 pounds of smelly dog engulfing me. She will promptly fall asleep. Sometimes, if there is room, Thunder will come back and lay next to her, but he will not purr, nor will he let any of his clean fur touch her smelliness.

There is a truce in the lap wars.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Don't you just want to give him a big hug?

Stormy's winter coat

Stormy Sleeping

Stormy playing on the stairs

Waiting for spring

Spring is right around the corner, but it still isn’t here. We continue to have less than average temperatures. It was a very chilly weekend. We did manage one wonderful thing—on Saturday, Cruiser went down the hill to the river, and back. Drum roll, please…he didn’t cough. We repeated it on Sunday—still no cough. He went even faster on Sunday than Saturday. He was very excited, but he did behave. He continues to slowly gain weight. I could be riding him, soon.

Saturday, my sister and I worked in the arena and then went out on the driveway. Sunday, we skipped the arena and rode the hill twice. (The river was too high for us to cross.)  On the way home, Cole got all jumpy and prancy on the road and driveway. That meant that we went straight to the indoor arena and worked in there another 15 minutes. I’m not sure what got into him. Ranger was fine through it all.

I rode in the arena last night. I only have 2 more dark evening rides to go. The weather is looking up, too. I am hoping we will be regularly riding on the trail, soon. I want to leave the arena behind…