Monday, July 29, 2013

The Definition of Dante

The Definition of Dante

Ellen looked up the definition of Dante. Of course, Dante was a famous Italian poet, but what does his name mean? It means enduring, steadfast, long-lasting. Wonderful for a horse, but I will tell you what it really means—boring.

Dante is not going to give me much to write about. I got so many good stories to write about with Cole. Even Cole’s most boring and mundane experiences were more exciting than Dante. Dante is boring.

Well, I will give it a try.

On Friday, Ellen was alone. She rode Dante in the arena, and he did well. She then led him down the hill to the river. Dante pulled Ellen down the river bank to the water’s edge. He wanted to go on a trail ride, and he told her the only way he knew how.

She put her foot in the stirrup—and lost her nerve. Dante may be boring, but Ellen has always had some confidence issues, and she hasn’t been able to grasp the fact that Dante is boring.

She felt bad, and she promised him she would ride him on Saturday.

Saturday morning, we met at the barn—in the rain. Fortunately, Ellen wouldn’t let a light rain shower break her promise. She had checked the radar and knew it would be worse if we waited. We decided to go out right away. I saddled Ranger as she saddled Dante. The rain continued.

We led them down the hill, mounted and crossed the river. At first Dante was a little excited, but I put Ranger take the lead. We walked to the next river crossing, turned around and came home. That is the end of the story. Dante was flawless.

See what I mean about boring? Back in Cole Train’s early days, he would have pranced around, tried to trot, maybe jumped for joy. He would have tried to dash away when Ranger swished his tail, tried to bite Ranger and gotten Ranger angry or threw his head up in the air and waved his long mane all over the place. Oh, he would have also had a fit about the rain, too. Cole hated rain, even though he lived outside before I bought him. He would toss his head and try to run home. Not Dante. He just followed Ranger quietly.

Though it rained all morning and half the afternoon, it iddn’t rain so much that the river got bad. The next day, we got to try it again, but happily, the sun was shining.

This time, we thought we would up the ante. We were going to do some trotting. At this point, Ellen has trotted plenty in the arena and just a little at the bottom of the hill on the days she couldn’t cross the river.

We arrived a great section of the trail for trotting. We planned that Ranger would take the lead to set the pace—besides, Ranger prefers the lead at all times. We spend much of our trail riding time trying to keep Ranger happy.

Ranger trotted slowly, and Dante followed.

That is the end of the story. See? Dante is truly a boring horse. We would have had a more difficult time trying to trot Cruiser and Ranger together after a long break. Cruiser would try to fly past Ranger—and make him angry. Ranger would try to do his snake neck and make ugly faces at Cruiser.

The first time I trotted Cole Train on the trail—we launched forward at 100mph. For the first few months, Ellen usually joined me on foot, and she would see us go off in a flash and hope we would be able to stop before the next river crossing.

Dante just trotted along. Boring—but wonderful.

So, how did we get here?

First off, he did have trail experience from his years in West Virginia.

Second, he is a good natured, quiet horse who truly seems to enjoy going out and about. The only problems we ever had on his previous trail rides had to do with his over enthusiasm.

Third, we think the weather helped. Ellen was forced to spend a lot of time with him in the indoor arena in the last few months getting to know him. It was time well spent. He learned to trust her. How does a horse learn to trust his rider? By clear and consistent riding. It’s not magic, but it isn’t necessarily easy. We have to ride with awareness. You can’t ask a horse to do something one way, one day and a different way the next. You also need to respond in the same way to your horse’s actions each time. You just can’t get sloppy and careless, because then horses get confused and worried. Dante learned he could trust Ellen.

When Dante was ready to seriously start his trail riding career on Ohio, he told Ellen. He had had enough of arena riding. He was born to be a trail horse.

This is just the beginning. I expect more boring articles in the future.

Sorry, but the definition of Dante is boring.

Ellen is a very lucky person…

(She is also particularly pleased when Dante doesn’t give me anything to write about.)

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Perfect Night for a Ride

Perfect Night for a Ride

I had a really nice ride with my older niece last night. the weather was cooler and there were hardly any bugs for a change. Ranger was feeling his oats—all bouncy and Rangerish. Still, he didn’t intimidate my niece—she just quietly dealt with his silliness. Once we got down the hill and across the river, we did a lot of trotting. Since he was feeling so good, he went a little faster for her, and she was able to work on perfecting her posting.

Cole Train was nearly perfect—even when the bikes came barreling down the trail. He didn’t’ like a particular group of joggers, and they upset him long before they caught up with us and well past us. I’m not sure what that was about. He wasn’t afraid—more like he wanted to race them. (If my niece wasn’t there, we may have been tempted to trot after them.)

When we got back, I let Cole out to roll and play. He went crazy, as usual—much airs above the ground and some serious speed. We brought him in to settle down and then put Dante out. It was like going to see a professional fireworks display, watching the grand finale, and then on the way back to the car, you see some backyard fireworks shooting off. Well, Dante is the backyard fireworks. He did a little buck and trotted off to eat some grass. He is such a mellow horse—just perfect for my sister.

She rode him this morning in the arena, and then led him down the hill to the river and back. He did so well, she turned him around to do it again. He had a little tantrum—since he thought he was going home, but then he was all right. Since he was so good, I’m thinking she will ride him across the river, tomorrow. We definitely will on Saturday, but it is supposed to rain pretty hard—we aren’t getting our hopes up for Sunday, sigh…

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Another Rainy Weekend

Another Rainy Weekend

Friday, Cole I went on a chaotic ride with Kevin on Starry. With the bugs so bad in the evenings, Starry is frantic—and Kevin has been letting him just take off to get away from them. He knows I don’t like when he does that—and I struggle to keep Cole at the speed I desire, but even good horses have trouble when their friends take off. Finally, I had enough of it and told Kevin that I was going to lead and Starry had to stay behind us. It worked. Our speed was moderated and Starry was less frantic.

Saturday found us with a very high river, again. My younger niece came out, so she got to suffer with us. We started out our morning by riding Dante in the arena. Ellen rode him a little while and then my niece got to ride him for the first time. She mostly walked and did a little trotting. Dante didn’t see why he should trot for her, so most of the time, he just didn’t. It is funny how horses instantly know a beginner is on them and listening is optional.

We then did the hill with me on Cole and my niece on Ranger. To make it fun for her, we trotted a lot on the level part on the bottom. We just go back and forth. Ranger likes the game and gets very enthusiastic, so my niece got good posting practice. We did the hill 3 times.

Sunday, the river was lower, but not low enough for Dante to cross. Well, we know he could cross it, but we just don’t want to have any problems. Ellen skipped arena riding and we went right to the hill. She did it 2 times with a lot of trotting at the bottom. They practiced stopping, and he is doing so much better than he did just a few rides ago.

We then took Ranger and Cole up to the trails by the show ring. It is one of our favorite rides, but it has been about a month since we’ve been there. It was a leisurely ride and we all enjoyed it.

Yesterday, I took a solo ride on Cole in the evening. We did a lot of trotting and cantering—and it was fast cantering. I got the elusive right lead on our favorite sharp right corner. This time, there was only a small buck—and since I was ready for it, it didn’t matter. We trotted a lot on the way home—mostly to avoid the swarms of mosquitoes. It was the best he ever did trotting homeward—and we got pretty close before I decided he needed time to cool off. It was a fun ride.

He has sure turned into a great horse to ride. I can ride him on slow rides with geriatric horses, and anyone else can ride him. Yet, on the days I want to blast down the trail all by myself—we do. He’s getting pretty close to perfect. If only that right lead wasn’t so elusive…

Friday, July 19, 2013

Dante on trail

Ellen took Dante out on a trail ride this morning--without me.  Without anyone.  I am no longer needed.  Dante was very excited in the beginning, but calmed down, and did terrific at the end.  He only spooked once--when he saw a sheepdog.

The weather this weekend looks questionable.  Rain is on it's way.  If the weather gods are kind to us, we will get him out on the trail both days.  If not, we will make the best of it.

My niece and I are getting cukes, peppers and tomatoes from the garden.  The rabbit ate the beans, but I don't think I will miss them much.  He left the limas alone, so maybe they will make it.  The electric fence is as low as it can go, and I can't believe it is getting in, but it is--I've seen it.

Still no sign of squash borers.  The stuff I am putting on them seems to be working.  Maybe I will get some zukes this year.

The weather has been so hot!!!  I don't have air conditioning, so Thunder and Maggie have been very quiet.  Thunder doesn't want to cuddle, but Maggie still does.  It's way too hot for cuddly dogs!

Thursday, July 18, 2013

More Cole Pics

Starry was Bad

Starry was Bad

Starry, my boyfriend Kevin’s horse, hates bugs. He is typically a quiet, docile horse that has a wonderful trot and canter, but wants to walk at the speed of a snail—as long as there isn’t any bugs around. Let there be one single bug, and he is in a big hurry, kicking his belly and misbehaving. If there is a lot of bugs, look out.

It has been really hot in Ohio, and with all the rain we have had, there are a lot of bugs out there. Kevin and I decided to go in the “not as pretty but less buggy direction.” I’m glad we went that way instead of the worse way, because Starry was horrible.

He trotted down much of the hill leading to the river. Cole Train listened to me and walked. We caught up when we got to the flat areas. Starry trotted over the very stony section of trail. Once again, Cole listened to me. He doesn’t like stones, so it wasn’t too hard to keep him at a walk. we went up a hill and then Starry trotted down the other side. Now, Cole was losing his patience and tried trotting down to catch up. That was a touch situation. We trotted over a flat section to the river.

Starry crossed pretty fast, but Cole wanted to play in the water and got left behind. Once we made it to the other side, we realize that Starry was no where in sight. We managed to catch up at the street. At that point, most of the trail is in good shape, and we did some good, fast trotting. It was fun. When we got to our turnaround spot, Starry was much settled down, and he was happy to follow Cole home at a relaxed walk.

The horses were cool when we got home, but they appreciated us sponging the dried sweat off.

I hope Starry is better next time.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Monday, July 15, 2013

Weekend Update

I know that everyone ahs been sitting on the edge of their seats—waiting to here about our exciting adventures over the weekend. Sorry, there weren’t any. Dante is a boring horse.

Friday found me still riding on the hill to the river, over and over, because the river was too high. Cole was good, and we trotted up 3 times without a problem at all. I think the hill is conquered at the trot. Time to start working on the canter.

Saturday, we determined that we could cross with Ranger and Cole. Dante was to remain on the hill. First, Ellen worked him in the arena for a half hour. I led Cruiser around while she was working. It was a good way to introduce sharing the arena with another horse. Cruiser likes the company. Dante had his best arena ride, yet. He trotted with more energy than I’ve ever seen—until I took Cruiser out—then he didn’t want to work anymore.

We then headed down the hill. I walked with Ellen. They practiced their halts, and he was doing well. It was his best day on the hill, too. I think my training session with him must have helped.

We then took Cole and Ranger out on an easy ride. It appears he has recovered from his stone bruise. What a relief. We were worried it was really something worse.

Sunday, I got to ride Ranger and Ellen rode Dante on the trail. Dante was only really bad shortly after we crossed the river where the bridle trail is close to the bike trail. There were a bunch of bikes, and he took off at a trot. Ellen couldn’t get him to walk at all. Then she remembered the “Whoa” training. It worked. He came down to a halt. Why is it, whenever one of my horses bolt—they gallop? He didn’t even trot fast!

After that, it was a very boring ride.

That changed on my second ride. Kevin and Starry joined me on Cole. They were both feeling good, and we did a lot of trotting and some cantering. At one point, we were going to canter, and Starry did, but before I could ask Cole, he went into his awesome extended trot. I wish I could see it. The beat slows down and the strides increase. It is very easy to post to—and we were flying—until we came around the corner and saw 3 horses. We know them well, and they don’t even trot, let alone canter. You should have seen the look on their faces as we rounded the corner. We quickly brought our horses down to a walk.

I said, “You didn’t think we’d could stop, did you?” No answer.

I then said, “When you ride like that, you have to be able to stop.” That got a half smile from them.

We rode about a half hour, turned around and walked home to cool them off. We met Ellen on foot, and she walked with us. It was a fun ride.

This week is supposed to be very, very uncomfortable hot. We will have to moderate our rides because of it.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Cole Train

I Ride Dante

We have been having a record breaking amount of rain this summer, and yesterday was no different. It was our 16th day in a row of rain. Huge storms barreled through in the afternoon, but stopped just in time for our ride.

My niece came out to ride. Since Ranger is recovering from a stone bruise, my sister offered me Dante to ride. (I think she is trying to get free training—either that or she wanted to give me something to write about.) There was no way we were going to cross the river, so that meant that we could only do the hill.

The hill has consistently been Cole’s worst trail, though he has improved, and lately we have been able to trot up it a few trips in a row before he gets too scary. When we trot the flat parts on the way down, he is very fast and would be too much for a novice like my niece. We would definitely keep our ride at a walk.

I broke all the rules. I didn’t turn Dante out to play. I didn’t ride Dante in the arena for 15 minutes first. I just put the saddle on him and took him out.

We mounted at the top of the hill—another broken rule. Ellen waits at least until the center or possibly at the bottom. My niece mounted Cole, and he decided he wasn’t going anywhere. Dante wanted to go-go-go. This was an awkward start.

Dante was trying to trot, but he would come down to a walk when I asked him. I decided to stop him so Cole could catch up—no brakes!!! Ellen said he had no brakes on the trail, but I didn’t realize how bad he was. It really doesn’t make any sense since he is so good in the arena. I think it is just excitement. I tried bending him and spinning him like I used to do with Cruiser when he wouldn’t stop, and it made no difference. At least with the spinning, Cole caught up.

I knew that Kevin was somewhere walking on the hill because I saw his water bottle. I needed him. Dante kept walking faster and faster—throwing in some trotting. Spinning still didn’t help. Though I could do a flying dismount if necessary, I preferred not to. I was on a runaway walking horse. As we neared the steepest part of the hill at the bottom, he started to trot. Finally, I saw Kevin, and I called to him to come to me right away.

His response was, “Why is Cruiser being so bad?” Well, I know that they are both chestnut and have blazes, but Dante and a skinny blaze and Cruiser has a very wide blaze.

Anyway, having Kevin next to me helped a lot. I knew that he could stop him if things got out of hand. When we got to the end of the trail, Dante still wouldn’t stop. It is quite wide there, so I just took him into small circles and waited until he decided he wasn’t having any fun. I think it took about 5 rotations and then finally he stopped. I clicked and treated him. We stood and at that point, Kevin glanced back at my niece on Cole and said, “So, how is Ranger doing?” Sure, one is dark brown and one is black—hard to tell the difference in the shade, but one is a pony and the other a behemoth. At first, I thought he was kidding, but he wasn’t. We all laughed.

We started up the hill. Dante was in the lead. Kevin was holding a rein, and I was determined to get him stopping. Over and over, I asked him to stop, and he would very reluctantly stop. At first, I needed Kevin’s help, but gradually he relinquished control. I clicked and treated each time. When we got up to the top and turned around to do it again, I told Kevin to let go and I would do it on my own. Right away, I asked for a halt and got it. Click/treat. We did lots of halts, and he kept getting better. I had Kevin give Dante grass as treats. Cole was no longer listening to my niece. He saw Kevin with grass, and he heard me clicking. He thought he should be getting treats. We got to the bottom, turned around and rode to the top. I had a different horse. He was stopping promptly and traveling more relaxed. I couldn’t believe the difference, but Dante is a very quick learner, and clicking is a very quick way to teach a horse. He already knew how to stop, but he didn’t want to. With clicker, he had incentive—and turned his attention to me rather than his own agenda.

My niece told me after the ride that when Dante was misbehaving, Cole was perfectly behaved. This made me very proud of my little horse.

We went back to the barn, and I let my niece continue to ride Cole in the arena while I walked Cruiser. My nieces are lucky that we take them on trail rides, but they have large knowledge gaps with their riding skills because of it. This way, I was able to explain to her how to ride straight lines and turns. She had to improve her reactions (Cole preferred to stop and look out the windows) and think ahead to what she wanted to do next. I definitely saw improvement.

Overall it was a good evening where everyone learned a little bit.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Rain and more rain

Dante is doing well, but we haven’t gotten as far with his training as we would have liked. The problem has been the weather. There has been so much rain since we got him, that the river has been a big problem. It has rained 16 days straight. There was another inch overnight at my house. So though the road construction isn’t a problem anymore, Ellen still hasn’t been able to do much during the week except ride in the arena. Sigh…

I have been forced to work Cole on the hill that leads to the river. He is now fine when we are at a walk or if we are trotting away from home. My goal is to trot quietly up the hill. He is good the first time, but the second and third time gets a little trickier. I just stop him when he gets too excited and we walk until he settles down. I don’t click him for trotting quietly, because he stops so reluctantly for his treat that I think a better reward is to allow him to keep going. I do click him for good whoas while going uphill.

There are places that are good to trot when we are going downhill. It is funny that each successive time we go down, he gets faster—very unlike all the other horses I have down this with. They stay the same or slow down the more we do it. After 3 or 4 trips, Cole is burning up the trail. Consequently, working the hill is a good workout for him.

Good thing, since it looks like we will be doing it a lot in the next few days…

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

More Rain

We got caught in the rain, yesterday evening.  I thought I would have enough time for an hour ride, but 30 minutes was all we got.  Even though I have ridden Cole 6 days in a row, he still was eager to go.  Since I was by myself, we did a lot of cantering.  We trotted much of the way back because of the rain, and he did it very sensibly.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Weekend Update

The weather frustrated us—again. I had a 4-day weekend, and the river was too high to cross Dante and Cruise on Thursday. we took them down there, but when we saw the river, we turned around and did the hill a few times.

Ellen worked on Friday, so I went to the barn alone. I led Cruiser down the to the river and it was too high for him to cross—as I expected, but I could cross with Cole. When I got back, Kevin was there. We rode down—only to discover the river had gone up—too high for Cole. I did the hill with him—trotting it 3 times and walking once. At least he got a good workout.

Saturday, the river was low enough for Ranger and Cole, so we went on an easy ride on the other side. When we got back, Ellen rode Dante in the arena and then down the hill. She did the hill twice with a lot of trotting on the bottom. it was his best day, yet.

Sunday, my younger niece came out to ride. She rode Ranger, Ellen rode Dante, Kevin was on Starry and I rode Cole. The river was a little high, but Dante went right in. We had a short (about an hour) and very, very successful ride. Finally! Looks like the rain will be easing up this weekend, so we are looking forward to good riding next weekend.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Thunder my buddy

Looking forward to relaxing with my little friend, Thunder, this weekend, as I have 4 days and no big plans other than riding. He has been surprisingly cuddly all week, even though the weather has been warm. He just purrs and purrs.

Lately, he has also been particularly rough with Maggie, aka Dumb Dog. Maggie has been interrupting his window hunting, and it has been aggravating him. Good thing she has long hair, as he has been chasing her and trying to grab her rump with his claws. She has been very good with him for months, now, but he hasn’t let up on trying to keep her in her place. Sometimes he is gentle and will sniff her face and paws. Maggie just freezes—afraid to move. I tell her she is good. She is three times his size. He thinks she smells…

Monday, July 1, 2013

Team Work

We have had so much rain, that the river was too high to cross from Wednesday until Sunday. Even on Sunday, it was too high for new horses and fragile horses. I spent a lot of time going up and down the hill to the river! I was able to trot Cole up the hill twice in a row. Usually, he is too excited to do the second trip, quietly. That was an accomplishment.

Sunday, we took Ranger and Cole on a very nice, but uneventful ride.

So, now what everyone has been waiting for:

The Dante Report.

Ellen worked him in the arena last week. He was giving her some trouble when she would circle him near the barn entrance. He would fight to go to the door. She was getting very frustrated. On Saturday, she worked with him away from the barn door—getting closer and clicking him when he mad the turn correctly. We then took him down the hill to the river and he was terrific.

On Sunday, my sister did even better, but still she couldn’t get very close. Than, she offered to let me ride him. Right away, he tried to get to the door as we walked by. Having ridden Cole Train for the last 3 winters in the arena, I have developed a very strong seat—you need it with his huge trot. Dante has a normal trot, and it is so pleasant. I called my strong seat out of winter storage, and we started with some circles in the direction that he behaves perfectly. I did a small one fairly close to the door, and then switched directions and took him right around the corner that Ellen hasn’t been able to trot because of his behavior. It worked! He didn’t expect it, and trotted right through. I clicked him for it.

I then was ready to do it the regular way. I had suspicions that Ellen was floating her outside seat bone on the corner and Dante was walking through the door she left open. (Happens all the time to us right handed—and I worked really hard to get control of mine.) I trotted him down the wall. As we got a closer, I lightly vibrated the inside rein as a very crude half halt and a way to prepare him to bend. When we got the corner, I glued that outside seat bone into position (slightly behind the inside) and placed my outside leg back and lightly on his side. He glided around the corner like a champ. I clicked him.

We did it a few more times. He was giving me a lovely bend and not fighting in the least. I explained it to Ellen, and she gave it a try—he was perfect. She immediately quit, and we went down the hill—where he was perfect. I think she will be fine on her own, now.