Monday, September 30, 2013

Kevin Nearly Falls off Starry

Kevin Nearly Falls off Starry

Since Cruiser is on the disabled list, the tables have been turned on us. Ellen and I used to ride 2 horses together, and then she would hike along as I rode the third. Now, I am the one hiking along as she rides the third. I miss riding Cruiser, of course, but I like going on the walks. Much of the time is spent alone, since I don’t trot, but I have company on my way home.

I was out walking with Ellen and Ranger. We saw a jogger that we have been seeing for years, though I don’t know his name. He is out in fair weather as well as foul—just like us. He’s seen me with Ellen and with Kevin many times. He has also seen Kevin out jogging, himself, many times.

(That’s how Kevin and I met—he was jogging on the bridle trail.)

He was taken aback to see me on foot, and I told him about Cruiser. He jogged on, and Ellen and Range soon followed. Kevin and Starry were up ahead of us, somewhere. I just wandered about, alone, looking at the fall flowers.

The jogger came back before Ellen or Kevin. He said he had an idea. He thought that since I was down a horse, I should take up jogging. I said that there was no way I would, and he said that he knew what he would do. (I can barely type this without chuckling.) He said,”I will talk to your father, and he will straighten you out.” I don’t know how I kept a straight face, but I didn’t correct him—I was too stunned. He thought Kevin was my father!

When Ellen and Kevin caught up with us, I told them about the encounter, and poor Kevin nearly fell out of the saddle—laughing.

(There is an 18 year difference between our ages, but Kevin looks quite young for his age. Then again, so do I—hence the confusion.)

Going Solo

Going Solo

Ellen tends to get anxious when she is riding, which usually has nothing to do with her horses or her skill. It is just part of her personality. Sometimes it gets in the way of her doing as much as she likes, and it causes her frustration. I’m sure she’s not alone, and hopefully people will be able to conquer their own anxieties as they read about hers.

She would like to take Dante on trail rides by herself when there is no one else around. Dante is a great horse, and there is absolutely no reason for her not to—except for that little voice in her head that causes her to hesitate taking the big step.

Enter the big sister—me. I had a plan. She would go on a ride by herself to test Dante and prove to herself that she could handle whatever he gave her on her own—with me not too far away. Dante wouldn’t know that I would be close enough to step in and help. Ellen would know, and that would boost her confidence, but Dante would be clueless.

She has ridden him without other horses, but I have always been on foot with her. She has trotted off without me, so that’s not the problem. My sister worried most about going down the hill and crossing the river. There have been times when he is a bit balky on the first part of the ride, and she worried that he might not go, might spook, might refuse to cross and probably a half a dozen other things that she didn’t tell me. On all previous rides, once she is across the river, everything goes pretty well.

Instead of walking with her, I drove down into the park and waited, hidden in the woods, on the other side of the river. I made sure that she couldn’t find me easily—and Dante wouldn’t see me at all.

The first horse to come into view on the other side of the river was Starry. Kevin had left before Ellen, but it was surprising to see that they hadn’t crossed the river, yet. I yelled hello. Starry neighed to me. In the distance, we heard Dante answer. Kevin realized he better hurry if Ellen was going to do this on her own. They scurried across the river and down the trail.

Soon, Ellen came into view. She was leading him down the hill, as she usually does and mounted on the convenient mounting block. He hesitated a little at the top of the river bank, but soon, I could hear the “good boys.” They went down the bank, approached the water, stepped in, walked across and then I couldn’t see them. Soon, they were up on the trail, and I announced my presence. She said that right before going up the river bank, he spooked at something, but she managed to get him through. Dante seemed excited, so she just got him trotting and left me in the dust.

Eventually, she did meet Kevin and Starry close to the spot where she planned to turn around, and they came back together. The whole experiment was a success, but Ellen still wasn’t quite as confident as she needed to be to do it truly on her own. That meant—let’s do it again.

A couple days later, we repeated the experiment. The only thing different is that Ellen would be leaving before Kevin with Starry.

She was worried the most that he would spook in the river like he did the last ride.

This time, everything went totally flawless. Kevin caught up with Ellen and they went home together. I asked her if she would try to do it alone if the conditions were right, and she said, “Yes, if the weather is good, it is a blue moon, the planets are aligned…” Something like that. I think that means she will.

Another long weekend

Ellen and it took a 4-day weekend to ride, and ride we did.  We had the most gorgeous weather you can get in northeast Ohio.  It was dry, cool and the humidity was low.  There were few bugs and the river was low.  It simply couldn’t get better.  I will update my blog on the rides in the next few days.  We also managed to go out with our best friend, Bonnie and tear down my stone wall garden.  Next vacation, we hope to rebuild it.

The picture is Cole Train with me aboard up at the show ring trail.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

The Evenings get Short

The Evenings get Short

Each day, I have less daylight to ride after work. Since I have to go home to take care of my dog, I just can’t get out to the barn as early as I used to. I think I will only have just one more week of evening trail riding.

As it is, I must ride fast to make it home before dark. Alas, such a sacrifice—no more leisurely rides. I am being sarcastic. I love riding fast, and since it is so much cooler, now, I can get away with it.

Last year at this time, I was still working with Cole to trot home calmly. Now, calmly doesn’t have to be slow. I just want a steady trot that I can stop whenever I want and that doesn’t morph into a canter. Over the summer, Cole figured it out, and now I can do a lot of trotting towards home, and we get very close without him going out of control from excitement. It is so much fun. Kevin likes doing it, too, so also Starry gets a brisk workout.

I don’t canter towards home with him, yet. He is the fastest horse I have ever owned, without a doubt, so I don’t need to add further temptation to him. I used to canter Mingo towards home when we were close, but that would only get him up to the speed of a normal horse. Cruiser and Ranger would just get too excited when we would try it, so we only did it when we were miles away. It is something that you have to do with care. Maybe someday I will try it with Cole, but as long as he does that exciting, fast trot, I don’t think that I will be that tempted.

And Dante? Well, he’s not out with us in the evenings because Ellen is working. When we do ride together and Cole trots very fast, Dante trots faster than he was, but not quite as fast a Cole—yet. He is getting stronger and going faster all the time. Ellen enjoys the faster speed, too, so I think that next summer, we will be going on long and fast rides—the first time we will be able to do that together for years.

Back to my diminishing daylight—soon I will be riding in the arena at night. I just can’t get into the idea. It has been such a fun year of trail riding, that it is tough to go back to the arena. Maybe another week…

Monday, September 23, 2013

Rainy Weekend

The weather lived up to the forecast this weekend. I was able to take Cole on a fast, short ride on Friday night. it was very hot and humid for this time of year. It was no surprise when it started to rain at night and just didn’t want to end.

I brought my niece out to ride with us, but it was still raining. We let her ride Dante in the arena, and he did very well for her level of experience. To keep her humble, we then let her try to ride Cole Train. Cole just can’t stand to be away from me, and unless the rider really knows what to do, it can be a problem. When I left her alone, they managed a few laps at a walk, but then he started to look for me, again. I did have her try to trot, and he made about 5 steps—that’s about all anyone could do except Ellen. In the arena, he launches into his ever-so-lovely show trot—the one I seldom get to see since I am usually doing the riding. She nearly went over his neck. I got tired of watching her struggle, so I rode him for a bit. The rain started to ease up, so we sent her to saddle Ranger for a trip down to the river. As soon as we got outside, the rain resumed. We still went. The river was very high, and I knew, then, that we weren’t crossing on Sunday, either. We trotted a little bit back and forth at the bottom and came back home.

Sunday, Ellen rode Dante in the arena while I led Cruiser. Cruiser spooked several times, but Ellen just stopped Dante and he stood there until the fireworks were over. I’m glad he didn’t get bent out of shape from Cruiser’s antics. Some horses do. I then put Cruiser in the stall and Ellen rode Dante down to the river. After that, we rode Cole and Range 3 trips on the hill. Once, on the bottom, we were going to trot and Cole burst into a couple huge canter strides. I think he liked the cooler weather. Ranger got very upset about that. We walked for a while to settle them down.

Not much of a weekend for riding, but that happens sometimes. We are hitting a dry spell, so next weekend should be a good one.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Thunder the Adorable

This is not from my cheap tracphone, but it's from Ellen's good smartphone.  I just have to get her to take more pictures of him.  This is his dining room window chair. He has an old saddle pad on a chair that he likes to sleep on in the afternoon.

Quick Update on what's Going On

On Wednesday, Kevin and I had a short but nice trail ride with Cole and Starry. We did lots of trotting and cantering.  I wish the sun didn’t set so soon. I will only have a couple weeks more of ever-shortening rides, and then I will be in the arena.

Thursday morning, Kevin went on the same ride with Ellen, since I was at work. They had a fun ride. Dante led the whole way, since Starry refused to take the lead. They trotted from the time they crossed the river until they turned around, and then they walked home.  She then took Ranger for a ride.  Somehow, she still had energy to go to work. 

It looks bad for the weekend. They are predicting a lot of rain for tonight and more in the morning. I hope we can at least ride on the hill.

The good news is I got a new roof on my house this week, so there is no more worrying that the next storm will be the one that will cause it to leak. It was pretty bad. It looks so nice, now. Poor Thunder was very frightened and spent his time under the chair. He only started purring again last night. He is still being skittish.

I went to my 30th class reunion last weekend, and I had a nicer time than I thought I would. I don’t know how we all got so old. I had a very tough time recognizing people. Next time, I hope they make the name tags larger, as my old eyes had trouble reading them. The good news—no one had any trouble recognizing me. Horses keep you young.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

A Riding Vacation!

A Riding Vacation!

Ellen and I like to take time off just so we can ride. We just did a 4-day weekend.

On the Wednesday before, I went for a ride with Kevin and Starry, and it was so hot and humid. We took it easy and didn’t go that far.

On Thursday, Ellen and I took Dante and Cole on a 5-mile ride. We crossed both rivers with ease. Ellen is getting very confident with the river and Dante and rewarded her with slow and careful crossings. It’s hard to believe he is the same horse that used to rush across and panic if his foot slipped. Now, if he slips, he slows down. Ellen then took Ranger on a short ride with me on foot. (I can’t keep up when they trot.) Ranger was very perky—and he was thrilled when he found Kevin on Starry on the trail. They came home with us.

It rained overnight, so the river was too high for Dante to cross. We were able to cross with Cole and Ranger, so we took them up to Ranger’s favorite trail—the show ring trail. I don’t know if Ellen will take Dante up there anytime soon—Ranger likes it too much. The goldenrod is in full bloom, and it was very, very pretty. Once again, Ranger was perky. Cole Train could barely contain himself for the first half hour. He settled down after that.

Kevin was babysitting, so he said that I could ride Starry on the second ride. I haven’t ridden Starry in years—since I always had 2 riding horses and Ellen had one. Unfortunately, because the river was too high for Dante, we stayed on the hill. The first time I trotted Star, I was shocked. I didn’t remember his trotting to be that rough. The only words that could come out of my mouth were, “This—is--wrong.” Each time I trotted him, I did a little better. I remembered Ellen saying that you had to post on the very first beat or it takes to long to coordinate your movement with his. That helped. Also, I had to make sure my timing never got behind his. He throws you up very high. In the end, I think I was doing pretty well. Ellen said Starry looked much better, too. I felt very satisfied to have accomplished so much. We did 3 trips on the hill. The only problem with the ride—it rained most of the time.

Saturday, the river was still too high for Dante. My younger niece came out, so I took her on a ride. She rode Ranger, and I rode Cole. Kevin joined us with Starry. It was a perfect September day, and all had a fine time—lots of trotting. Poor Ellen only had an arena ride and we met her on her way down the hill with Dante.

Sunday, we were able to take Dante and Cole on a ride together. This time, there was a lot more cantering and lots and lots of trotting. We crossed the second river via the ford, since it was too high for short horses like Cole. It is very deep there, and we are lucky to have the option. Dante did well with the ford. Ellen led him, just to be safe. She then rode Ranger while I walked on the trail. Even though it was Ranger’s fourth day in a row, he still did well. I think we have found the right balance of work for him.

Monday, it was back to work. Sigh… It didn’t mean I was done riding, though. I was scheduled to feed that night, so I went out to ride. The weather was very cool, but this was day 6 for Cole. I didn’t know how he would be feeling. We went on a short ride with Starry—since it gets dark so soon, now. Anyway, Cole was on fire. He had a lot of energy. We did some fast trotting and some super cantering, turned around and trotted quite a bit on the way home. The ride was only about 45 minutes, but it was intensely fun. Best part—in spite of a vigorous ride, both horses behaved beautifully.

Dante Kicks It up a Notch

Dante Kicks It up a Notch

It came time to canter Dante. Ellen tried it in the arena with no luck at all. He just trotted faster. We wrote his old trainer for advice, and he was very helpful. Still, Dante only trotted faster.

Plan B—try it on the trail. Ellen and Dante were out with Cole and me and we were at our favorite place to canter. I asked Ellen if I should canter Cole and see if that would tempt Dante to give it a try, and she said to go ahead. Since this is Cole’s favorite place to canter—he was off like a bullet. We got to the next place to cross the river, looked back and there was Dante, trotting along. Ellen said he didn’t canter, but trotted fast for her for the first time. after that, whenever we got to a good stretch of trail, I would ask Cole to trot fast so Ellen could enjoy the new speed. This made me happy. Regardless whether Dante ever cantered—I no longer had to hold Cole back.

We didn’t get to ride together until the next weekend.

When we got to our favorite spot to canter, we decided to tempt Dante again. This time, I made my transition a little closer to Dante to tempt him even more. As we pulled into the lead, I heard Ellen say, “He’s cantering. He’s going really fast. I’m scared.”

I replied, “Do you want me to stop?”

There was silence for a few seconds, and then I heard, “No. This is fun.”

Since Ranger hasn’t been cantering much, anymore, and certainly not as fast has he used to, Ellen just wasn’t used to the faster speed. It didn’t take her long, though. Dante didn’t do any of the silly things that Cole did when I first started cantering him on trail—like bucking, squealing, grunting or bolting away. He just simply cantered—fast and smooth.

They have cantered with us since then, and everything has been going well.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Needy Thunder

Thunder was so needy when I was getting ready for work this morning.  Most mornings, he is just interested in hunting.  Once he gets his teeth brushed, he just stalks the critters from his tower or hiding behind a box by the window.

Not this morning.  After his breakfast, he wanted me to sit and talk to him while he purred.  I brushed his teeth, as usual.  Then he wanted me to go with him to the litterbox.  After that, he wanted me to go outside and pick him some grass.  Then, he wanted me to sit with him while he ate.

I had to go upstairs to curl my hair--and he came with me.  He wanted me to snuggle with him by the window in the other bedroom.  I was running out of time, and when I explained that to him, he crawled down from the window perch to the ironing board.  He slowly stretched out his back legs and curled his tail.  Then, forgetting he was on the narrow end of the ironing board, he attempted to flip over on his side.  He was able to hang on to the ironing board with his front paws.  I assisted in boosting him back up.

I then had to console him because he was very upset.

I barely made it to work on time.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Dante Extends

Ellen and I had a couple of great rides this weekend. She declared that the one on Saturday was the best ride she ever had with Dante. She changed that on Sunday, for she decided that Sunday was the best ride ever.

What made them so special? Dante was perfect. Not once did he misbehave. We did about 5 miles each day with a lot of trotting.

In hopes of encouraging Dante to canter on the trail, yesterday I cantered Cole ahead of him. Ellen couldn’t convince him to canter, but for the first time, he offered a fast extended trot. She was ecstatic. She loved the trot so much, that I don’t think she was disappointed at all that he didn’t canter. I was happy that I could do some faster work with Cole. We did some cantering and some very fast trotting, ourselves.

Cole is very relaxed and comfortable with Dante. With other horses, even Starry and Ranger who he knows well, he gets nervous on any sign of aggression. Even actions that aren’t aggressive are interpreted as so by Cole. Dante isn’t aggressive at all, and Cole is learning that he won’t have angry faces directed at him. Dante will not try to nip or crowd him, challenge him to a race or even lay an ear back. Yesterday, Dante swished at a bug, and Cole didn’t get scared in the least. When Starry swishes, Cole throws his head up in the air. Cole is learning that he can be a leader without constantly monitoring the horse behind him—when the horse is Dante. Finally, we let them sniff noses when they were resting. Cole didn’t cringe—rather he had the prettiest look of happiness on his face. We are going to start turning them out together. We were reluctant to turn our young horses out with the old guys in fear that the young horses might push the old guys to play too hard. (We know of horses who have gotten hurt this way.) Now that we have 2 young horses that appear comfortable with each other, we may have a perfect friendship in the making. They are the same age, and they are going to spend many miles together in the years ahead. It is all the better that they are happy with each other.

Ellen and I have some more vacation time this week, so that means more trail miles if the weather cooperates. We love riding in the fall. We look forward to it all year long. This is simply heaven to us.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Quick Update

I have been remiss in blogging. Well, there really isn’t much news. The horses were visited by the farrier last week, so they feet were a little tender. We adjusted the rides accordingly. We did try to a different river crossing with Dante, but it didn’t go well. The bank was very, very muddy, and though we were finally able to convince him to step in the mud, he wouldn’t take the last two steps to go into the water. We gave up after a half hour and will work on it another day. It isn’t crucial to cross the river, here. We can cross on the street very easily.

I rode Cole with Kevin on Starry last night, and he demonstrated to me that his feet now felt fine. it was a lovely night—cool and few bugs. I didn’t even put spray on him. We did a lot of trotting and a little bit of cantering. When we got back, I let Cole outside to play, and he ran and ran and ran. He evidently loves the weather, too.

When I was doing Cruiser’s physical therapy walk, I tested him on the trot. I saw a measurable improvement from last week. Once he tried trotting, that’s all he wanted to do. When I wouldn’t let him trot, he gaited. He gave me quite a workout. At times, he became quite unmanageable—as only a 26-year-old part Arab can. His brain wants to go, but his body isn’t ready for it. What’s he going to be like when it is really chilly out? I was glad to see some improvement.