Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Lots of rides

I haven’t been blogging cuz we were too busy riding. Ellen and I took a couple days off last week, and we put them to good use.

Wednesday, we rode Ranger and Cole up to the show ring trails, and we had a really nice time. We then did a repeat of Sunday with Dante—we wanted to work on the second river crossing, again. Ellen rode him up to here, but I rode him across. He was a little reluctant to go in, but Ellen lured him with apples, and then he decided the river was the place to be. Once we made it across, I left Ellen in the dust and trotted to the end of the sewer plant trail and back until we met again. She let me ride him home as a reward for doing so well with him. She walked with us, though.

On Thursday, we were just about to saddle Cole and Dante—when the skies opened up and it poured. We waited around, but decided to ride Ranger instead of Dante. We thought the river might have risen. We were right. The first river was fine, but the second, deeper crossing was higher and muddy. We crossed on the ford, there.

Since we knew we could cross the first river, we took Dante on a solo ride with me on foot. Yes, Ellen rode across, and I got wet. Kevin came on foot to walk with me, because soon as she got across the river, this time Ellen left me in the dust. She trotted away to the second river and back until she met us, and then we walked home.

Our next ride was on Saturday. This would be Dante’s big debut on a Cole ride. He was great. We did a lot of trotting, and he didn’t mind if he was in the lead or following. Ellen rode across the first river, but was still nervous about the second, so we switched horses. For the first time, Dante didn’t hesitate with the bank or the river. She let me stay in the saddle. We went passed the place I where turned around on Saturday—to a trail unknown to Dante—Flane. It is really named Fall’s Lane for the street we cross, but Kevin used to abbreviate it as F. Lane on his calendar where he recorded his rides, so we started calling it Flane.

Flane can be tough because it is out in the open and closely parallels a busy street with houses on the other side. There are a lot of distractions—but Dante handled it like a champ. We trotted both ways.

On the way home, he did hesitate at the second river bank, but Cole took the lead and he readily followed. After crossing, we switched horses and headed home.

Ellen worked on Sunday, so I went on a 2.5 hour ride with Cole and Kevin on Starry. We had a great time, but a half hour from home, Cole must have hit a bad rock and bruised his heel. He was fine on the flat, but very sore on any stones. It put a shadow over a lovely ride. We soaked it when we got home, and then we came back in the evening to soak it again.

Ellen graciously let me ride Dante on Monday evening with Kevin and Starry. She wanted him to do the second river one more time before she rode him. He was just awesome crossing it away from home. He hesitated on the bank going towards home, so I asked Kevin to bring Starry past. Starry crowded us on the trail, and then swung his rump into Dante’s chest. He stood like a statue. (Cole would have climbed a tree.) He then walked down the bank. He is totally ready for Ellen.

Cole was putting all his weight on his foot. I think he will be back to normal in no time. I don’t have any shoes in the back, and his heels got worn down too much—making them vulnerable. I will put shoes on him next year, for sure, because Ellen and I are going to be riding way more miles!!!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

One More Ride on Dante

One More Ride on Dante

I took Dante out for a trail ride yesterday evening with my older niece on Ranger and Kevin on Starry. We figured we would do a repeat of last week when I rode with my niece. We did the second river, passed home and did the access trail—my niece’s favorite trail. This was her last ride before going back to Cornell, so I wanted to make it a nice ride for her.

The river crossing went well. He is getting very consistent. When we turned at the second river, I suggested we try some trotting. This would be the first time that Dante trotted towards home with us. Flashback to Cole Train—fast and excited—going home at a trot was a totally exhilarating experience for him. I spent a lot of time clicking him for stopping to make sure we could stop when we needed to. He is great trotting towards home, now. Flashback to Cruiser—too fast and very wild. Just a couple years ago, I went through nearly a whole summer of walking only towards home because he got too fast for his age and physical limitations.

Forward to Dante. He was very quiet and responsive. Ranger and Starry were pretty far up ahead, but Dante was not bothered by it. This was too easy. When we started to walk, he told me he really wanted to keep trotting, so he must have enjoyed it, but he did listen to me when I insisted he walk.

When we rode past the trail that crosses the river to go home so that we could go on the access trail, we ran into a problem. Starry and Ranger decided they didn’t want to go further. I stopped Dante behind them and waited, but nothing happened. Evidently, they wanted Dante to go first. I tried to pass them, but Dante did a right angle and tried to go down the riverbank. I stopped him halfway down, but couldn’t get him turned because we were too close to the edge of the trail on the left, and he wasn’t cooperating on the right. I had a cut on my rein finger on the right, so I couldn’t get a good hold of the rein. I ended up dismounting and leading him out of the predicament.

We then caught up with Starry and Ranger who made it 20 feet down the trail and were standing; waiting for us. I mounted, but then no one would go forward. Dante decided to turn to go home. I kept him turning until he was facing the way I wanted to go and gave him a big boot. He jumped and surged ahead of the other two horses. We were on our way.

We did the access trail at a trot for the first time with Dante. Range likes to go faster there, so I kept Dante in the back and he handled it fine. We turned around for home.

A most interesting thing happened with we got to the riverbank to go home. Instead of turning down the bank, he went straight ahead down the trail. I’m sure he knew that was the way home, but I think he didn’t want to go down without permission like he did on the way past a short time before—and got into trouble. Could he have learned that so quickly? Could he be so concerned about doing the right thing? I’m not sure. After we passed the trail, I turned him and we headed down the riverbank with no issues at all.

Overall, it was a good ride, and I think that Ellen will be taking him over, soon. I rather miss riding my little Cole Train—she has been riding him for me, and they have been having great rides.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Dante and the Second River

Dante and the Second River

I know everyone is sitting at the edge of their seats, wondering how my weekend went with Dante.

I rode him on Friday with Kevin and Starry. We went to the second river crossing, which I creatively named years ago as “The Second River.” It’s the same river, but the next place to cross on the trail.

A few weeks ago, Ellen did cross it on Dante, about halfway through, he nearly fell, but regained his balance in time.. On the way home, he refused to even go down the bank to the river, so she crossed him on the ford.

I thought it was time to try it again. I planned to do it the same way as I did on Monday with the first river crossing. The ride up to that point was just perfect. Starry went down the bank, first. Dante stopped 2 feet from the edge and wasn’t going anywhere—unless he was trying to spin to go home. In 15 minutes, I think I gained about 6 inches. It was time to get my feet wet. Sigh… I had my riding boots on…

I grabbed some long grass from the bank, and using that as a lure, I got him to inch down the bank. I would reach back and get more grass, and he would manage to step back. Eventually, I got so much grass in my hand that I was able to inch him down into the water. The first half of the crossing is sand, so at least I didn’t have to worry about him slipping. It was very slow going, but I finally got all 4 feet in the water. I was out of grass and nearly out of carrots, so I decided to quit on a good note and go home. Starry was standing in the river the whole time like a statue. Kevin told me it took 25 minutes.

Saturday, my younger niece came out to ride with Ellen, Kevin and me. This would be the first time that Ellen would be on Dante on the trail since the fall in the river. She asked that I cross the river for her—she would cross on Cole. This was fine for me—it would give her a chance to see how good he was doing before she tried herself. She was understandably very nervous about crossing on him after the fall.

Dante didn’t let me down. He crossed in his new, slow and careful manner. We switched horses and had a great ride to the second river. We came back, passed up home and rode out to the access trail. Dante, and all the other horses, were perfect. We switched at the river, and I rode Dante home. What a great ride.

We did have one incident. Dante was in the lead and Starry was close behind. We passed a group of 3 horses. A minute or two later, we heard a ruckus behind us. It sounded like a horse was running up the hill. I asked Dante to stand, and he did. So did Starry. I was hoping everything was okay with Ellen and my neice. When all was quiet, I looked back, and there was one of the other riders on the ground. Ellen was on foot, but it turns out that she had dimounted right after croosing the river, so she hadn’t fallen. It turns out, that as the were going up the slope, one of the other horses began to misbehave, and the horse ended up falling when he tried to back up the hill. The rider fell, too, of course. I’m glad that Ellen was on foot because any sudden moves by another horse really freaks out Cole. He thinks they are going to attack him, and he will try to get out of the way. With Ellen next to him, he felt safer, and he was all right. Ranger was fine, too, and the fallen rider seemed okay, so we headed home. I was so pleased on the way Dante reacted. That’s not how Cruiser would have been!

I turned Dante on the trail to get him facing up hill, and I made a huge mistake. I have been riding Cole so much, I didn’t realize that Dante needed more space. Cole is a little smaller, but his back is very short—making tight turns quite easy. As we turned on the haunches, Dante’s hooves went right to the edge of the hill which had a sheer drop into a deep ditch. I didn’t think he would make it, and I was scared, but Dante managed. That is the scariest moment I have had with a horse in a long time—and every one else was just as scared as they watched us. I guess Dante wasn’t going to allow slipping into a ditch to happen, and I shouldn’t have been worried. I will be more careful in the future.

That still left us the second river to master.

Sunday, we took Ranger, Cole and Starry for a great ride to the show ring. When we got back, it was time for our training session with Dante. Ellen and I both donned tennis shoes, grabbed our helmets and took Dante down the trail. I rode him across the first river with Ellen by my side—with apples! We were practicing the halt in the water—something he is very reluctant to do. Well, just the smell of apples makes a clicker horse very interested in pleasing, so we accomplished a number of halts in the water. It was great. When we got to the other side, Ellen climbed up and it was my turn to hike.

She did a lot of trotting—clicking him for downward transitions. I walked really fast, and would catch up with her—and then they would trot off, again. When we got to the second river, it was my turn to ride. Ellen had handfuls of grass and a bag of apple pieces—we were ready to go.

He did go down the river bank, and it didn’t take too long for him to step into the water. He followed Ellen, taking one careful step after the next. About halfway across, it suddenly gets deeper and the bottom becomes slippery slate. This is where he nearly fell last time. He carefully negotiated it and then walked away from Ellen, still carefully, to the other side. Success.

We still had to get back, and I expected that to be more difficult. We decided to do it right away. We turned around and faced the bank. The bank is very steep, here, making it much more imposing. He didn’t want to go down it, and while he was pondering it, we heard something crashing behind us. Ellen looked back and saw 2 deer running by. Dante stood still through this, and was fortunately still standing quietly when the dog that was chasing the deer showed up. The deer got away, but the dog slowed and stopped when he saw Dante—maybe his next victim.

This wasn’t a black Lab or a Border Collie. No, this was a monster of a dog that Ellen said was a Cane Corso—a dog that can be aggressive and dangerous, and here he was, alone, without a collar—looking at Dante and deciding what to do next. We were perched at the top of a steep bank. Dante’s head was very high, but he stood motionless as Ellen ran at the dog, yelling at him to go home. Even that didn’t cause Dante react. The dog turned tail and ran away. Whew. Ellen knows way more about dogs than I do, and she said that if a dog is out of his own territory, they will usually run away if you act like that. She said that she wouldn’t let any dog hurt her horse. I’m so glad she was there, and I wasn’t doing this by myself.

We still had the river to cross. Dante inched down the bank to the water’s edge, but that’s as far as he wanted to go. We saw our friend, Pat, on her Morgan, Beau, on the other side. She asked if we needed any help, but we said we didn’t because we had apples.

Ellen walked ahead into the water to lure Dante. I was asking him to walk. When we got a step in, we clicked and treated. Each step was laborious. He didn’t seem frightened—he just didn’t think he should cross. Maybe he remembered there was an easier way to go by crossing on the street. He did the best he could to keep his hind feet on land. Once they got into the water, it became a little easier. He still took one slow step after another, but we didn’t mind—that’s just what we wanted. When he got to the sandy half of the river, he walked more confidently, and when he saw Beau, he just walked right to him. We did it!

Ellen let me stay in the saddle, and she walked home with us. We stayed with Beau, and a couple other horses from our barn joined us. It was a boring ride home—in true Dante fashion. When Beau tried to lounge up the hill, I asked Dante to stand, and he did. When Beau and the other horses got too far ahead, Dante was happy to stay with Ellen. Though the park was busy since it was late morning, Dante was unaffected. And best of all, he crossed the river like a gentleman.

We decided that we will repeat the lesson in a few days when Ellen and I are together, next. I’m sure that will go well, and it is probably unnecessary, but we want him to think the second river is a happy place to be with praise and treats.

Overall, Dante was flawless. What a great ride it was. I am going to miss him when Ellen takes over.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Dante Ride Two

Dante Ride Two

What would Dante do when he saw the river? That was the question. Would he refuse to cross? Would he remember what he learned—that slow and careful steps are less scary? That was the other question.

It was time to find out the answers.

My older niece was joining us on Ranger and Kevin was with us, once again, on Starry. The night was much cooler, and I had on a light jacket.

Dante reached the river’s edge, first. He stopped and looked at it. Starry and Ranger headed across, and Dante stepped in! Only 10 seconds! Hurray!

He started slow, but started to pick up speed. I asked him to stop, but he didn’t notice. He took a very quick step, slipped a little—splashing Kevin. (The water was very cold on this chilly day.) Rather than panic like in the past, he immediately went back to slow and careful. I clicked him a number of times, but he didn’t stop for a treat.

We made it to the other side safely and dry—except for Kevin. I knew the rest of the ride would go well, after that.

Dante did try to trot quite a few times when we were supposed to be walking, but he came back to the walk right away when I asked. When we did want to trot, Dante was in the lead. That went well for a little bit, but then Ranger got angry and tried to race. Ranger will never change. We put him in front, and he trotted off much brisker than he has been this summer. Starry and Dante followed behind quite happily.

We turned at the next river crossing—I will save that one for the weekend. We walked back with no problems. Ranger was very perky and led the pack. Dante wasn’t walking as fast as him, so we had to trot to catch up quite a few times. Once, he decided to trot to catch up, but I wouldn’t let him. I want my horses to wait for permission. That was all it took. The rest of the evening, he waited for the request.

We decided to do something new with Dante—we passed home. He has done that, before, but we stopped at the street. This time, we were going to go to my nieces’ favorite trail. We call it “The Access Trail” because that is what it is. It veers off the main trail and heads to the street—bypassing the ford so that the park can get vehicles into the area when the river is flooded over the ford. It isn’t long, but it is a nice way to extend the ride a little.

First, we had to cross the street. I thought I would make it easy on Dante for his first time and have him follow one of the other horses. We stopped and asked for a volunteer, but Ranger and Starry stopped and refused to go first. My niece and Kevin asked them to pass, but they wouldn’t budge. So much for his horse friends. Dante went first.

Right across the street is a steep hill. Dante walked quietly up the hill and down the less steep hill on the other side—over the access trail to the end by the street. He led the whole way—looking intensely to the left and right. We turned around to head home.

I wasn’t sure how he would be about going down the steep hill. I had so much trouble with Cole on hills. Cole tried to rush down them—out of control. It took a lot of work to get him to walk down in a balanced way. Cole was from the flatlands of Indiana. Cruiser was from an even flatter part of western Ohio, and he initially had no balance whatsoever going down steep hills. He didn’t know how to control his legs. Both are great, now. Cole steps carefully and only has to be reminded now and then to slow down, and Cruise, when I can ride him, gaits down quickly and sure-footedly.

Well, Dante’s mountain life paid off big time. He traveled down the hill like a champ. I felt safer on him than any horse I have ever been on. That’s one less thing to worry about. He even stopped at the bottom by the street—something that was a challenge for Cole who would build up too much momentum.

We then went home. He crossed the whole river with the slow careful steps. I think he really did figure it out. A few more times, and Ellen can stop worrying and ride him across. It was totally uneventful ride. Dante really is a boring horse, but such a nice one to ride.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Cat Training Update

Cat Training Update

I managed a couple more training sessions with Thunder. On Sunday, we just reviewed walking from his scratching pedestal to his scratching post and sitting up. He did it well.

Yesterday, it was time to try a new old trick. This time, I took 3 boxes. One of them he had to step into, and the other two he had to step on to. we practiced going from one box to the next. At one point, he heard something outside and had to go look out the window. I thought the session was over, but after a minute or so, I tapped one of the boxes, and he came back and sat on it.

That’s when I decided to make it tougher. He would be on box #1 and I would tap on box#3—so he had to go over box # 2 to get there. we did some back and forth, and finally, he decided to stop.

Back in the old days, he could go across 5 or 6 boxes at a time. I think I need to get some more boxes. He may be ready for it, soon.

Of course, Maggie sat at my side the whole time to get her kibbles every time Thunder got his Party Mix. I don’t know if she will ever figure out that he is getting treats and she is getting boring dog food.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Switching Horses

Switching Horses

Dante fell in the river. Ellen was riding him, he slipped and they both took a bath. Ellen’s confidence was shaken. Dante’s biggest, and perhaps his only problem is rushing across the river. It would be no problem if our river had a sandy or rocky bottom, but it has a slate bottom—a very slippery, algae-cover slate bottom. It is as slick as a hockey rink right after the zamboni cleans the ice. I have tried to walk on it, myself, so I know what it is like.

I offered to trade horses for a while. Ellen could ride Cole, and I would ride Dante. This way, he could get some trail rides during the week when I ride in the evenings. Ellen doesn’t feel comfortable going by herself in the mornings. I wouldn’t be by myself. I have Kevin with Starry D. She would still ride Dante in the arena as well as ride Cole on the trail.

My goal—to teach Dante that it is safer and less scary to cross the river at a slow walk. My plan was to stop him multiple times; clicking for the stop to slow his momentum. Once he slows, I would click him for walking slow. This is how I taught Cole to walk down the river banks like a gentleman.

I rode him down to the river with Kevin on Starry. Unfortunately, he remembered his bad experience, and he didn’t want to cross the water. Sigh. Kevin asked Starry to stand in the middle of the river.

I would click him for stepping in the water, but once he got his carrot, he would step back. We had plenty of spinning away from the water—and me spinning him right back to face it. Once I got him to go further in, he was backing back out—with much precision. At one point, to Kevin’s horror, he thread himself backwards between two large rocks.

After a long time—seemed like hours to me—Kevin thought he would bring Starry back and try luring Dante across. Dante had his front hooves in the water. Starry was positioned a couple feet in front of him. I asked for him to step to Starry. He did, reached out to touch Starry and I clicked him. This time, when he got his treat, he didn’t back up. Kevin asked Starry to step forward a few more feet. Dante stepped forward, too, reached out and touched Starry. I clicked and treated. Yes, it turns out I was targeting Starry—but it worked.

Starry advanced, but now Dante was all on the slate. He started to walk faster, passing Starry. It tried to halt, but he was oblivious. He started to slip and panic. Kevin said it was his hind legs, and it was like he was spinning his wheels on ice. I must confess, I was getting worried at this point. I continued to try and stop him—and he paused. I clicked, but he ignored and continued across the river.

I kept trying to stop him, and then I realized—he was taking small, slow and careful steps! He was doing just what I wanted. I clicked and clicked, but he never stopped for a treat. He just kept going, got to the other side and was praised profusely.

What a relief! We did it and did it well. It took us 15 minutes to cross the river.

We then went on our ride. Dante was his perfect, boring self. He spooked a few times. The way he spooks is he quickly lifts his head up. Yeah, that all he does. We trotted a lot. Starry refused to take the lead, so Dante was in charge of setting the pace. At first, he went too slow for Kevin to be comfortable. Starry’s trot is much too rough to sit, and if it is too slow, it is tough to post. So, I encouraged Dante to pick up the speed—and we found the perfect speed for Starry. He stayed at that speed for the rest of the ride.

We turned at the next river crossing—one was enough for me. We walked back; chatting. I was concerned about how he would be going across the river to go home. I figured he’d go right in, but I didn’t want him to go too fast and slip. Also, I wanted to teach him to go slow.

We had Starry go down the bank, first. Kevin stopped him a couple of times so that Dante would, too. We didn’t need him jumping into the water. Starry moved out into the river and stopped. Dante followed, but rather than stopping behind Starry, he kept going—oblivious to my requests. He passed Starry so close that my leg scraped against his side.

Throughout the crossing, I was trying to get Dante to stop, but he had no breaks. Then, I realized that once again, he was taking those small, slow and careful steps! I was so pleased! I clicked him, but he ignored me and kept walking, just like before. I just let him keep up and praised him.

I hope he has a good memory for the next ride. Actually, I think he might. This is a perfect example of how Dante learns—and once he does figure something out, the lesson is done.

The only other event on the ride was when we were leading the horses on the street to the barn. It is only a short distance—maybe a minute. When we got out into the street, we noticed a motorcycle way behind us. We hurried to get to the driveway before it reached us. I really wasn’t sure how he would act. Starry was in the lead, and we were close behind.

Long before that motorcycle reached us, one approached us from the front. We were trapped between two motorcycles. Kevin stopped Starry to wait for it to pass. Dante stood and watched it. He did flinch when it went by, but that’s all.

We still had the one behind us. Vehicles from be behind are always scarier than from the front. Since he was not his usual relaxed self due to the first one, it was very likely he would react to the second one. It was a very loud one, too.

I pulled out our secret weapon—the one that works so well with Ranger and Cole, that Ellen had to teach it to Dante. I pointed to the ground in front of him, and he arched his neck and put his nose down—the best “head down” I ever saw him do—it rivaled Cole’s. He held it there as the motorcycle passed—not reacting in the least. I clicked him and gave him a handful of carrot pieces.

Dante is a treasure, and he is undoubtedly the best horse that Ellen could have gotten. Once we get this river problem solved, the sky is the limit.

I will be riding him again, very soon.

To be continued…

Long weekend update

My sister and I had a long weekend—well sort of. She had to work on Saturday. We started out with a nice ride on Cole and Ranger on Thursday morning. She was going to take Dante out solo with me on foot. Unfortunately, we didn’t get far. Dante and Ellen fell in the river. He was rushing across, as he usually does and tripped, and though he tried, he could not regain his balance. The water was a little high and the ground was very slippery. We cancelled the ride and went back home. It was a very disappointing experience.

Friday, the river was too high. Though none of us got much rain at all, it must have really stormed upstream. We did the hill with Cole and Ranger and rode Dante in the arena. I rode him for a while, too. Ellen has been doing very well with him, and he was a total pleasure to ride.

Saturday, I took Cole out on a long ride with my boyfriend, Kevin and his horse, Starry. We were out for two and a half hours and did a ton of trotting and a little cantering. The horses were just wonderful, and we both had a great time. I can’t wait until Ellen can ride with me on this kind of ride. Back when we both had young horses, we rode like that all the time—and we took it for granted. We never even thought that things could change.

Sunday, Ellen and I took Cole and Ranger up to the show ring trails. We trotted all about—and then we did something different—we took the street home. We wanted to try it. They just finished widening the road, adjusting the dips and corners and paving it. In the past, there were bad blind spots and it was too narrow to ride comfortably. We did it a few times due to rivers going up or moving to a new stables, but we couldn’t see doing it often. Well, I’m glad to say it is considerably better. I can envision us taking the street to get to the trails when the weather is nice, but the river is too high to cross.

Both horses behaved. This was Cole’s first time, and he was as cool as a cucumber. He just wanted to explore the yards we passed. It’s only about half a mile or so, so it didn’t take long. It definitely gives us other opportunities to ride.

Ellen didn’t feel up to tackling the river with Dante and just rode in the arena. We did make a decision about what to do. Her confidence is shaken and Dante needs to get more trail rides than once a week. So, we are switching horses. I will ride Dante in the evenings with Kevin and Starry, and she can ride Cole in the mornings. Cole will help her with her confidence—she trusts him more than I’ve seen her trust any horse, before. He listens well, seldom spooks and stops on a dime if you need him to. He will stand like a statue as long as you need him—even if the world is falling apart around you. He’s just that kind of horse—the horse that Dante will soon be.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Weekend Update

Weekend Update

Friday, my older niece came out to ride. We took Cole and Ranger out, and had a great time. She has gotten so confident with Ranger, that we can do a lot of trotting—even towards home when he naturally goes faster. As we reached the intersection of the trail that leads across the river to home, it started to rain. I asked her if she wanted to go home or ride the access trail which adds about 15 minutes to the ride. She chose to go on. We got pretty wet, but fortunately, we had jackets on, so it wasn’t so bad. We did enjoy going a little further, so it was worth it.

Her mother and my younger niece came out to bring her home, as I was going to go over Kevin’s to watch our latest installment of “Dexter.” My sister-in-law never saw Dante, before, so we turned him out to play. He put on a great show. Then we decided to give her a double header and gave Cole a chance to stretch his legs. Stretch them he did—he is quite a wild horse when he runs. He reminds me so much of the movie, “The Black Stallion.” (He is on 25 percent Arab, but this is when it shows the most.) It is amazing that he is such a cooperative horse to ride, when he feels like he does when I set him free--after the ride.

After that, it was time to do chores and walk Cruiser. I had plenty of help, and we were done in no time.

Saturday, my sister and I took Ranger on Dante on a trail ride. We did a lot of trotting—taking turns with the lead. Dante was great.

For the first time, we went beyond the “second river crossing.” We got to see on Dante would do on a different crossing. Ranger went first, of course. Dante stopped at the edge of the water, and it took him a whole 10 seconds before he stepped in. The river starts out shallow, but then gets higher than their knees. When Dante got to that spot, he tried to lift his legs all the way out of the water on each step. That didn’t work so well, and he tripped and went down in the front. Ellen stayed still, and he regained his balance, pulled himself back up and continued across the river.

All went well on the other side. We did a little trotting and mostly walking, turned around and headed home.

Ranger went in the river, first, and we stopped halfway and waited. The bank is about 10 feet and very steep. Dante stopped at the top and looked around. Ellen got him to take a few steps down, but he really wanted to keep looking about. At this point, Ranger started making a noise that sounded like a dog growling. He then started turning—doing a 360—growling the whole way. My sister saw what was going on, and said I should just cross him. Ranger doesn’t like standing in the river, and we had reached his limit.

Ellen asked Dante to proceed, but he spun and dashed back up the bank. She didn’t want a fight and said she would cross on the street. This would be the first time he was ever on the ford, and he didn’t like the way the water looked from it, but he did cross without drama. By now, I was across and Ranger looked back—and there was no Dante. He was very upset. I guided him up the little trail that leads to the road, and he called out to Dante. Dante answered and Ranger realized that all was right with the world.

Ellen felt that Dante would have crossed if she would have just let him stand there, looking around, until he was ready. That is what happened before when she was working with the first river crossing. Ranger was the problem, this time. Next time, maybe we will bring Cole—he loves standing in the water.

The ride home was uneventful.

Sunday, my younger niece came out to ride. We saddled up the horses and headed down the hill—only to be shocked that the river was too high to cross. We all knew it had rained, but we never thought it rained that much. We are now calling our rainy summer, “The Curse of Dante.” We did the hill three times and rode around the loop at the barn.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Cat Training

I decided to start up Thunder’s training, again. We pretty much stopped it a few years ago when we got Maggie the dog, and I began clicker training her. It saved us much misery, but made it complicated when I would clicker train Thunder. Maggie wanted to join in. At first, I would put her outside, but once she figured out what was going on, she started jumping at the door to come in. I tried ignoring her, but Thunder couldn’t. Her noise distracted him.

My next attempt was to take turns. I would ask Thunder to do something, click and treat him. I would then ask Maggie to do something, click and treat her. Thunder would lose his momentum and Maggie would distract him. Keeping a cat’s attention is not as easy as keeping a dog or horse’s attention.

I missed Thunder training, and I needed a new project, so we have started it back up. My new method is to ask Thunder to do something, click and then treat him and Maggie. Maggie is getting the same click as Thunder, and she is being rewarded for sitting still. Of course, she is sitting glued to my side. Thunder is only getting a little distracted with this technique.

The disadvantage is that Maggie gets up if I get up. That makes moving to a different spot tough disrupting to Thunder. I think that in time, she will stay in one spot. She is very food motivated.

We have had just 2 sessions. Right now, Thunder and I are only working on simple things to review his old tricks. I am just trying to get him into the routine of training. We do targeting, moving from box to box and sitting up. We will build up to his more complicated tricks. Thunder is not a very food motivated cat, so that is a challenge. Plus, his tummy fills up quickly. I break his treats in half to fill it up slower. We get about 20-30 clicks, and then we are done.

Maggie could go all day.

Thunder is a very cautious and careful cat. Where a cat might jump onto a box, he slowly steps up. That is his nature, and it is reflected in his tricks. Getting him to jump through a hoop is tough because he will do his best to step through it, first. Hopefully, we will be doing hoop jumping, again, soon.