Thursday, October 31, 2013

Cute Stormy Pictures

Happy Halloween!

This is my nephew, Stormy, dressed up as a pumpkin sitting on the porch.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Weekend Update

Weekend Update

Thursday, my sister and I took the day off to ride in the morning and wait for the farrier in the evening. The river was a little high, so she rode Dante in the arena while I led Cruiser. We then took Ranger and Cole and a very lovely ride. We waited and waited for the farrier. Turns out—he forgot about us. This is the first in 26 years, so I guess we will forgive him. He may be getting senile, but we will keep him—he’s a great guy and a great farrier.

On Saturday, since my sister hadn’t ridden Dante across the river because it was too high in a couple of weeks, it was cold and windy, and it made her nervous, she said I could ride him! Yes! I was happy to take him out on a ride. She rode Ranger—and it turned out that I had the easier horse. Ranger bounced out of the barn, kitten bucked on the trail and was just full of energy. Dante was feeling good, too, but all he did was try to trot a few times when we wanted to walk. We had a nice ride to the second river with a lot of trotting. Ellen got to watch him, too, so she could see how pretty he is.

This left me free to ride Cole with Starry. That meant I could go fast! Starry and Cole like to travel quickly together, and Cole was really feeling his oats. We had speed, some bucks and a very exciting ride. Starry behaved—he just had to keep up with Cole

On Sunday, Ellen rode Dante with me on Cole. This time, we crossed Dante’s difficult river. He walked very slowly down the bank, but he made it. Crossing went well. We did a lot of trotting and then turned around and came home. We crossed the river and did a bunch more trotting. It was fun. Cole was more himself and not the crazy horse of the day before.

Ellen then took Ranger on a ride and Kevin and I hiked along.

Cruiser keeps improving. He is trotting in hand faster and with longer strides. Things are looking bright.

Arena Ride Day 2

Arena Ride Day 2

Two days later, I am ready to tackle the arena, again. When I arrived at the barn, it was empty—so I hurried up and saddled Cole. When I got out there, a trainer was in the middle of the arena trying to put a bridle on a horse. The horse was fighting him. Cole came prancing in—a big version of his silly walk. I don’t know if that caused the horse to break away, or if the horse just didn’t want to be bridled, but the next thing we knew, the big horse was running all around the arena. I told Cole to stand still, and he did his best, but this was just too much for him. He danced about (really, he wasn’t bad—not as bad as Cruiser would have been) as I tried to calm him down. Keep in mind, other horses scare Cole—and a loose horse running around terrified him.

Thirty seconds later, the horse was caught, and I was heading out of the arena. Cole was too wound up for this, and I didn’t know what they were going to do with the horse. I was just going to ride around the property. I mounted up, and I could feel the energy coursing through Cole’s body. We headed to the back of the property, but didn’t get too far and turned back. I saw a couple ladies coming back from a trail ride, and they were heading for the back of the property, too. I asked if I could follow them. Cole did pretty well, but once we turned to go back to the barn, he started to prance and get excited. I dismounted and tried to lead him. He was just awful—prancing, dancing, spinning, trotting—it was a difficult walk back.

We went back into the arena. As we stepped through the gate, Cole bucked and kicked out. He likes to make an entrance. The horse that terrified him was being ridden all around in a lesson—and he made Cole nervous. I led him around, and he continued to misbehave. I put him into the silly walk, and we practiced parking out and bowing just so I could get him focused on me. It helped. By now, there was an audience. I got to hear about how cute he was, and that he would be perfect as the next Breyer model. I didn’t feel like that at the time.

After about 15 minutes, the lesson slowed down to a walk, so I mounted and walked around, too. Cole was much better. Once again, to focus him on me, we worked on our tricks—spinning and sidepassing. The other horse left, and we were alone. By now, our session was nearly over. I still had to walk Cruiser and do all my chores. I rode full laps at a walk a number of times in both directions, threw in some trotting and called it a day.

The good news—I was no longer nervous about riding on the far end of the arena like I was on Day One. I guess, once I had real problems, the imaginary ones just disappeared.

I’m not really looking forward to Day 3.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Arena ride--day one

Well, I got through it—my first evening arena ride. I had a surprise visit of nerves. Remember how I used to be afraid of riding over at the far end? It didn’t help that it was windy and rainy outside. The neighbor’s dogs were barking, too. If I would have spent the time early in the ride to walk the perimeter a few times, I might have been all right, but a kid was there that wanted to see the pre-ride warm up, so we put on a little in hand show of silly walk and bowing. Once I got into the saddle, he wanted to practice his side passes and spins—getting plenty of ooohs and ahhhs. It got Cole all hyped up. Once they left, he still wanted to put a show on, so he was very bouncy and reactive. The weird part is, if he would do those things on the trail, I wouldn’t get nervous at all.

Anyway, we worked through it. It took me a half hour before I could trot both directions around the far end, but I did it. Next time, I will immediately walk him on the far end, over and over, until my nerves are replaced with boredom. It has worked in the past, so I am sure it will work, again.

The big trot is back, and I feel like a lousy rider. He is throwing me all over the saddle, but apparently, he looks good. If I can survive the huge leap into the transition, I do pretty well. I will have to build up my muscles and endurance. I forgot how tough he can be.

I know we will get better—we have all winter to practice.

Now, for the good news. Cruiser keeps improving. We trotted probably a total of 5 minutes. He also threw in a canter in the beginning and a buck at the end. He is very happy to be doing the trotting, so that is a good sign, too. His speed has increased a little, and there is still no sign of lameness in either direction. He is prompt on his transitions, and it looks like he may be striding out a little more. The tough part is I don’t have much endurance for trotting in hand. This is another thing I need to build up on. I don’t want to lounge him because I don’t want to do a lot of circles. Things are looking up for Cruiser, and that is a wonderful thing.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Weekend riding

My niece came out to ride on Saturday. The river was too high for Dante, so I went with her on Ranger and me on Cole. We had a fine ride—except for the rain. We turned back a little bit early. Ellen was out hiking, so she got wet, too. She rode Dante in the arena while I walked Cole. The rain let up a little, so my niece rode Dante outside to cool off.

Ellen had to work on Sunday, so I had planned a long ride on Cole with Kevin. Since it rained all day on Saturday, we didn’t expect to cross the river, so we cancelled. I got out early, cleaned stalls and walked Cruiser. Kevin wasn’t there, yet, so I walked down to the river to check it. Much to my surprise, it was crossable! I called Kevin and left him a message. He lives very close to the barn. I walked back and he wasn’t there, so I killed some time. Still no Kevin, so I left him a note to say where I was riding and left on my own.

Cole was feeling very frisky in the cool fall air, and the first half hour had some challenges. Once we got to the good trails, I let him trot it out and he started to settle down. I threw in some cantering, but it was a mostly trotting day. He gets into a good, fast rhythm, and it is just a joy to ride. We turned around and trotted back. We were about halfway home when we found Kevin on Starry. We were all happy to see each other, and rode home together. Cole and I were out 2 hours and 20 minutes. Kevin was out about 2 hours. It was an extremely satisfying ride. I can’t wait until next year when Ellen will be joining me with Dante.

This week, I start riding in the arena for my evening rides. We have plenty to work on, but I will sure miss our goofing off on the trail.

Friday, October 18, 2013

A few more vacation days

Ellen and I took a couple of days off to ride and for fall shots. Unfortunately, the river was a little too high to cross Dante. We took Cole, Ranger and Starry up to the show ring trails and had a very nice time. I led Cruiser while Ellen worked Dante in the arena. They are steadily improving. Ellen then came over my house and we worked on rebuilding my garden wall. We got the first 4 layers finished. Since the big stones need to go on the bottom, there was a lot of heavy lifting. Most of the stones took both of us to lift. We were both very sore from it, but at least it is starting to come into shape. Now that we are down to smaller stones, I can work on it a little on my own.

Yesterday, the river was too high for us to cross any of our horses. Once again, I led Cruise while Ellen rode Dante in the arena. Then we rode Cole and Ranger on the hill three times. We went out to lunch at Burger King—then came back to wait for the vet. I untangled Cole’s mane and part of his tail—then I got bored. I never got to Cruiser’s mane and tail. I just groomed him. The vet was on the early side. All the horses got fall shots. Dante was really good. Since Ranger is petrified of the vet, it was nice that Ellen ended up with a horse that wants to make friends with the vet instead of run away. Only Ranger and Dante needed their teeth done. The other three are good for another year.

The weather is not looking too promising for the weekend. Whatever happens, we will make the best of it. Next week, there just will not be any time for a trail ride after work—it will be time to start riding Cole in the arena. Sigh…

Monday, October 14, 2013

Dante and the River

I know that everyone is sitting on the edge of their seats—just waiting to hear all about our riding weekend. Such excitement.

Anyway, Kevin and I went on a short and fast ride Friday evening. It went well, but we realized it would have to be the last of the year like that. It was just too dark to be riding along the street when we got back. Time to start riding in the indoor arena. Kevin is retired, so he will just ride without me during the day.

On Saturday, Ellen and I took Cole and Dante out. Remember last weekend when Ellen ended up leading Dante across the second river because he refused to cross? Well, this time, she brought a change of clothes. Her plan was to dismount if he seemed at all hesitant—before he figured out that she was dismounting because he wouldn’t cross. Right away, when they reached the spot where the trail splits—one way leading to the river and the other to the street—Dante demonstrated that he wanted to go to the street. Ellen dismounted.

I rode Cole into the water, and Dante came down the bank—one slow step after the next. I would say that it took him less than 5 minutes to get into the water. It was a huge improvement over last weekend. Ellen remounted on the other side and we continued the ride. On the way back, she dismounted right away—after all, she was already wet. This time, he went down the bank fairly steadily. I would say it was less than 2 minutes to get into the water.

We rode home happily.

She rode Ranger while I hiked along.

On Sunday, we planned to do the same thing. As we neared the river, she told me she had a theory and she wanted to try things a little different. If they worked, she would tell me the theory. I asked her if it would give me something to write about. When she told me “Yes, absolutely.” I was all enthusiastic. She said to ride just beyond the spot where we turn to the river and approach it from the other direction. There was a convenient tree in the right spot to loop around. I brought Cole first. She followed along with Dante—staying in the saddle this time.

Dante slowly and carefully made his way down the bank. There was very little hesitation. I would say it took less than 2 minutes to reach the water. He then carefully followed Cole across.

We enjoyed a nice ride on the other side, turned around and came back to the river. We approached it the same as always, because there was no choice in this direction. He was in the water in less than a minute.

I know you are dying to know what her theory is, but I am going to hold back until we get a little more proof to support it. There has been a number of odd things that Dante does that have been puzzling us all along. Her theory explains them all, but I want to observe him a little bit more before I let everyone know what it is. The theory is a little off the wall, so I don’t want to sound like we are crazy. I do know that it worked.

She then took Ranger on a ride as I hiked along.

Now for the best news. Cruiser’s appetite is fully up to where it was before he lost it. He is back to eating like a horse.

Another thing—right before he lost his appetite, I tested him at the trot—and he seemed stiff but as sound as he was before the injury. (He has a bit of arthritis as most horses his age.) I didn’t tell anyone because he then lost his appetite, and I didn’t know what was going to happen. I then decided to keep it to myself for a while since I have gotten my hopes up before only to have them dashed to the ground. It’s bad enough that I have been going through an emotional roller coaster—no reason for Ellen to go through it, too. Well, while I was walking him this weekend, he started to misbehave and Ellen saw him trot. the cat was out of the bag. I asked her opinion as to if he looked as good as he did before the injury, and she agreed.

I don’t exactly know what we will be doing in the near future, but only a couple months after I gave up complete hope, there is some hope back that I may be able to do light rides with him next year. He has pulled off miracles before in his life, and he might just do it again. He has sarcoid warts that disappeared on their own—astonishing the vet, and tumor on his thyroid that vanished—astonishing the vet, he came back from a bad tendon injury (not so miraculous, but close) and completely recovered from that hopeless cough last year due to COPD—and we haven’t had any trouble since—just by switching from hay to hay cubes.

Will he be able to heal from a bad injury at such an advanced age? Or will he manage to aggravate it again. Time will tell, and I am actually reluctant to start hoping, again, but I am human. And hope springs eternal in the human breast…

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Thunder the Wonder Cat – Clicker Training Update

Thunder the Wonder Cat – Clicker Training Update

I have been only doing Thunder training a couple times a week. I am going to try to do it more because he really seems to enjoy himself.

I made him a little box tower. I had 3 very sturdy boxes that I got from work. I used 2 as the base and put the third on top. This way, he has steps to get to the top. He is a very careful cat—not the kind that would leap up from the floor. No, he likes to step up. To make it even easier, on 2 sides of his box tower, I placed 2 even lower boxes alongside. This way he can go up 2 steps to get to the top.

He likes to go on his box tower even if we aren’t training, but he really likes when I incorporate it in his training sessions. Sometimes, when he hears me get the clicker, he goes to the top of his box tower to wait for me.

The training is simple I tap the top of the box, and he walks up. I click and treat him. Then I ask him to come down—then go sit on the coffee table—then back to the box tower. You get the idea. I will throw in a few “sit ups” and “touch nose to target” for variety.

Well, the other night, I took a small scratching post that he never uses and laid it on it’s side to turn it into a jump. He has done jumping in his training before, but here is what got me so excited about this. On my first request, he jumped down from the box tower and leapt over the jump in one command. When I tapped the top of the box tower, he leapt the jump and then jumped up to the top of the tower. It wasn’t a fluke. He did it a number of times. He was so cute.

At the end of the session—which can only go about 10 minutes because his tummy gets full—I realized that Maggie never moved from my side. I give her a treat with every click, but in the past, she was so excited, she would get up and I would have to reposition her. This time, she didn’t move. No wonder my session went so well. Maggie wasn’t distracting Thunder.

That only inspires me to do more training. If Maggie stays still, we can train over a larger area.

When Thunder was finished, I spent some time with Maggie practicing her jumping through her hoop.

Cruiser feeling better--and Cole feeling full of himself.

The picture is Dante.

Cruiser seems to be over whatever it was that made him go off his feed. We did switch his grain from Safe N Easy to Triple Crown Senior. It has a little less carbs, more fiber and smells much more palatable. That wasn’t the problem, though, because he wasn’t finishing his alfalfa cubes, either. Now, he is eating everything. It is wonderful. I was so worried.

On Monday, I was only able to work Cole on the hill since the river was too high. It was very overcast, too, so I didn’t have very much time. It was the first cool day we had in a while, so he was very, very hyper. On the second trip up, we saw a raccoon run across the trail, and he bucked and tried to go after it. After that, I decided that 2 trips was enough. We went back to the barn and I led him to the back of the property and then took him in the arena and did some in-hand work. With Cole, that means trick. We did park, bow, silly walk and big, bold trot in hand. Each time, the trot got bigger and more spectacular because I was clicking him for it. He is such a show off.

The river was down, yesterday, so Kevin and I took Starry and Cole on a quick 40 minute ride before the sun went down. Cole had wings on his feet, again. When we got to the spot that I like to canter, I kept him at a trot—and we flew. It is so exciting to ride a trot like that. Starry had to canter to keep up. I kept hearing Kevin saying I should slow down, and I just told him I was only trotting. We trotted on the way home, but we kept Starry in front. He goes speedy, but sensibly. Cole knows he must follow other horses quietly, so it settled him right down—and we got home before dark. I am going to miss these short and intense rides. It won’t be much longer, and we just won’t have time left to do it.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Weekend update

It was supposed to be a rainy weekend, but we managed to get our rides in. Friday night, Kevin and I had a quick ride before sunset. We have to make it fast, now, if we want to get a trail ride in.

Saturday, I took Cole with Ellen and Dante. All went well until we wanted to cross the second river, and he didn’t. Just getting him down the bank was tough. She finally told me to ride on without her. I left reluctantly, and met her on the way back. She had to lead him across, and she was still on foot and not very happy. Of course, she had to cross on the way home, too. She was wet and on foot, so she led him down the bank and across the river. Although he didn’t do it readily, he still managed to get into the water in just a couple of minutes. Once he is in the water, he is fine. We don’t really know what the problem is, but it may be the steep, muddy banks. He has crossed this river quite well a number of times until last week. We are very perplexed about it.

She then rode Ranger, and I went hiking. She met Kevin with Starry, and we all came home together.

It rained on Saturday night, and the river was elevated, but not bad. We took Cole and Ranger out on a really nice ride. The second river crossing was too high—as it is normally deeper there to begin with—so we crossed on the ford.

Ellen didn’t feel very good about taking Dante across the river—it was just a case of nerves. It really wasn’t very high. She told me I could take him on a ride, instead. I jumped at the chance. She walked with me down the hill and crossed the river on foot with us. Dante was just fine. Once on the other side, I took off trotting and barely stopped until it was time to turn around. Even then, I continued to trot home until I caught up with Ellen. We walked from there. Dante was very good the whole ride. The only thing that bothered him is when the wind would gust very hard—and then acorns came flying off the trees. It was like we were under attack. I just made him stand each time until the crisis was over. We had 3 gusts like that.

Now for the sad part of the weekend. Cruiser was off his feed. He was only eating about half his grain and half his hay cubes. He was just fine on Friday, off on Saturday, improved on Sunday and much better on Monday. Ellen checked on him this morning, and he ate all except about ½ pound of grain. He seems all right in all other ways. There was another horse just 2 stalls down that went through something like this last week, so maybe there is something going around—I don’t know, but it sure does put me out of sorts with worry. It might be a dental issue, and the vet is scheduled to come out next week for shots and dentals, so we shall see.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Stormy with too much nip

My sister's cat really does have a substance abuse problem.  You would never see Thunder in a state like this! 

Starry D

Starry D is my boyfriend's horse.  He is an Appendix Quarter Horse (half Quarter Horse/half Thoroughbred.)  He is the tallest horse in our little herd.  Cole looks tiny next to him.  He is very gentle and good natured.  His one big fault is he hates bugs.  Now that bug season is over, he is a much happier horse--and goes much slower.  He is the slowest walker when there are no bugs.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Update on Maggie the Sprollie

Maggie. The dog I didn’t want. The dog that Thunder didn’t want. Problem was—no one else wanted her, either. When Dad died, we were stuck with her, so we had to make the best of it. I am no stranger to having dogs. Our family had dogs all my life. Pollie, the last one, was a real treasure. When Dad wanted another one, I cried. I didn’t want to be walking a dog every day in all kinds of weather. I didn’t want a dog to be interfering with my Thunder time. Dad was so lonely after Pollie died, of course I gave in. Maggie came into our lives.

Now, she has been mine for a year. I don’t like that I have to come home from work to take her out—I wish I could go directly to the barn—so much. I lose a lot of trail riding time because it is too dark when I get there. I love trail riding on chilly October evenings. Well, that is no more.

That’s the worst part, though. I was worried that she wouldn’t be able to adapt to being home by herself while I was at work, but I was blessed by her being a dog of less-than-average intelligence. Pollie would have been a problem. She was smarter than a lot of people—being a Sheltie mix. Maggie is a Sprollie (Border Collie/Spaniel) but she takes after the Spaniel side—no sheepdog in her brain. Give her a duck to chase, and she is happy.

She doesn’t need a lot of mental stimulation. She hasn’t developed any issues at all from her mostly boring life. Rather, she adapted like a champ. She is at the point where she only destroys things that are easy to get and tempting. It’s been months since she knocked down the garbage can. I do have to be careful what I leave in my coat pockets if she can reach them. I lost a cell phone that way…

The walking is good for me, and I don’t mind it if the weather is nice—never did. Winter is tough, but since I have been doing it for decades, what’s a few more years?

She doesn’t come when she is called—and since she likes to run down to the street, I can’t let her loose in the yard. (I think her time in the wild taught her that there is garbage to eat by the street.) She is great on a leash—until she sees another dog on a leash—then she goes nuts. I don’t know what to do about that.

Thunder does pick on her an awful lot. I yell at her if she tries to retaliate, and praise her when she runs away. She does sometimes interfere with our games if she hasn’t had her walk, yet.

She is a good guard dog. The other night, she was barking like crazy at something—and it continued until shortly before I got up. When I came downstairs, I found a dead wasp, so I guess she was defending the house.

So overall, we have adapted—though I think Thunder wouldn’t mind if she decided to go live with the coyotes. He does like chasing her, though.

Dante Stalls Out

Dante Stalls Out

Ellen and I took Dante and Cole on a trail ride one day. When we reached the second river crossing, Dante tried to zip up the trail that leads to the ford to avoid crossing the river. That didn’t surprise us too much, since Cole did that for a while once he learned he could cross that way and keep his feet dry.

Ellen turned him to the river bank—and he refused. He had been crossing there very reliably, so that was a surprise. Then she remembered that he stumbled in the water crossing on the way home the previous ride. This had happened before, here—Dante stumbles and then he won’t cross the next time. Evidently, a stumble is a traumatic thing for Dante.

It didn’t help that when he took that bad step, he splashed Cole. Cole has always been funny about getting splashed. These days, he usually just cringes or walks a little faster. This time, he got splashed a lot, so he started dancing and sidepassing about—making it a much more chaotic experience.

It took Ellen about 10 minutes before she could persuade Dante to cross. The whole time, Cole stood in the water and waited patiently.

We continued on our ride, turned around and headed home. This meant we had to cross the river, again. Since we were going the same direction that we were when Dante stumbled, he was much more resistant. Ellen couldn’t even get him to take a single step down the bank.

After about 10 minutes, she gave up, dismounted him and he fairly readily followed her across. It is pretty deep where we cross, so she got soaked. The whole time, Cole stood patiently in the water.

I suggested that we ride past the trail that leads home and go on a fun little dead end trail that we like to do when we want to make our ride a little longer. We have done this before with Dante, and he can be resistant about passing home. Ellen suggested keeping Cole right by his side to block him from turning down the trail that leads across the river and home. I tried, but Dante just stopped since he couldn’t turn. Ellen tried to shake him loose, but he wasn’t budging. After several minutes, I suggested bringing Cole back to him to see if he would follow Cole.

I circled Cole around and brought him right to Dante. Rather than walking past Dante, Cole paused, swung his head to Dante’s face and uncharacteristically pinned his ears back and opened his jaws wide—pointing his nose at Dante’s face.

I pulled Cole away from Dante—and Dante stepped right behind Cole without the least bit of hesitation. I don’t know what Cole said to Dante, but I’m thinking he got tired of waiting for him in the river, and he didn’t want to wait here any longer.

The rest of the ride went smoothly.