Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Riding over Christmas

We are one third of the way through winter! It hasn’t been bad at all. I can’t remember a December that I got to do so much trail riding. Every year, I want to trail ride for the Christmas holiday, and most years I end up in the indoor arena. This year was a huge exception.

I had to work Christmas Eve, but they let me out early. I went home, took care of the dog and cat and scurried out to the barn. I had just enough daylight to go dashing down the trail with Cole Train. And dash we did. It has been a while wince I have taken him out on a ride by himself, and I think that got him a little wound up—we just flew… It was about 60 degrees, so he got sweaty and we had to walk all the way home. Still, since he went so fast on the way out, we had no trouble getting back by dark.

It rained that night, so the river was too high to cross on Christmas. Ellen and I worked with Dante on the hill. He was a little bit excited, but Ellen managed him well. Cole was perfect.

The river was still a little high the next day. Ellen had to go to work, so I helped her out with Dante in the arena and out on the loop that is on the barn property. She went to work, and I took Cole out for a trail ride with Kevin on Starry. We did a lot of trotting and some cantering. It was fun.

The following day, we took Cole and Dante on an hour and a half ride and a great time was had by all. Once again, we did a lot of trotting and a bit of cantering. On the way home, we found Kevin with Starry and they joined us

Amazingly, we were able to get on the trail on Sunday, too, but since it rained the night before, the river was too high, again. Ellen and I worked them on the hill. For the first time ever, Dante was perfect for all 3 trips on the hill and the trotting back and forth at the bottom. It was a great way to end a long weekend of riding.

The weather has been so mild that the river hasn’t had a bit of ice on it. That will be changing this week as the weather is cooling off to normal. We are just grateful that we had the trail rides we did. It will make the whole winter seem shorter—since the first third was so wonderful.

Friday, December 19, 2014

The Big Step

The Big Step

Most of my life, I have played it safe, followed the rules and made mostly right decisions. The wrong ones were small ones. I live just like I ride. I wear a helmet, look both ways before I cross the street, train my horses with safety in mind, have as much fun as I can, but I don’t take unnecessary risks. I’m really a pretty boring person.

I have been living this way for 49 years, and it’s time to break a rule—very carefully, of course.

I will not work until I can collect social security—not even close. I’m going to take a chance. I’m going to retire early. I just want to spend my time doing what I want—and I think I can.

Oh, don’t worry, it is all planned out as carefully and thoughtfully as I have planned out everything. I am going to work about 80 more weeks. At that point, I will have worked at my job for 30 years, and I should be financially ready—if not, I will delay my retirement.

My house is paid for. My wants are few. In fact, the thing I want the most is to just have a little bit more time to ride…

I have to get a second horse…

Dog Discipline

Yesterday, I got home from work, and after feeding Thunder and Maggie (aka Dumb Dog) their supper, I sat on the floor to talk to Thunder. He started to tell me about his day, and then Maggie decided to crawl all over me and sit in my lap. I told her repeatedly to stop because I was trying to talk to Thunder. (Maggie wanted her walk.)

Thunder took matters in his own paws. He walked behind Maggie, said “Nyet” and swatted her in her in her pantaloons. When she didn’t respond, her said “Nyet” and swatted her again. That time, she skittled away and stood respectfully a few feet away from me. I was then able to continue my conversation with Thunder.

A little later, Thunder wanted me to talk to him again. I sat on the floor next to him. Maggie walked up and immediately laid down on her side and played dead. Thunder is a much better dog trainer than I am.

Thunder has a lot of words, and I know most of them. “Nyet” is a brand new one. I am hoping he meant “no” in Russian and that he wasn’t cussing at Maggie.

He has “I’m hungry,” I’m lonely,” “Come here,” “I hate dogs,” “I’m going to vomit,” “This is fun,” “I’m happy” and “I love you.” Now he has “nyet.”

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Winter Vacation

In case anyone missed me, I was on vacation. Somehow, Ellen and I ended up with too many vacation days left in December. Now, December in Cleveland can be pretty bad. There have been years that the river is frozen over, the driveway is ice, the temps are frigid and we have piles and piles of snow. Not this year. We were so lucky!

And the trail rides? They were very, very uneventful. I have nothing to write about. Sure, there were a few times that Cole got a little over excited. Dante did spook a time or two. Starry—well he is always getting into trouble, so that is normal.

For the first time—ever—Ellen and I have horses we can safely ride in cold weather. We have even had Dante and Cole out in the snow with little trouble. Cruiser was so bad when the weather cooled off that I couldn’t ride him on the trail in the winter and not be scared to death until he was around 7 years old. Even then, for a few more years, we could only walk towards home. Any faster work meant problems. Actually, I don’t think he could consistently trot towards home if we were fairly close until he was around 20. Ranger was nearly as bad. That meant we would either freeze on the way home or have to get off and lead.

Of course, Mingo was a sweetheart. I loved riding him in the winter. He would speed up, but he was so sensible. A ride with Mingo in the snow was a delight—but I couldn’t do it with Ranger or Cruiser. I had to go out by myself.

Cole and Dante are only slightly faster than they were in the warm weather. It is really hard to believe that Ellen and I can ride in the cooler weather with such ease. We finally have winter horses—and so far we have had a great winter to go along with them. I’m sure that part won’t last… At least we have used up our vacation riding on the trail.

I have reluctantly started to ride Cole in the arena. I put it off by riding out on the loop at night, but it started to get a little boring, and cold and dark. Now that vacations are over, I will be doing it on a more regular basis. We’ll see what we can accomplish this year.

Forever Morgan Horse Rescue has a Christmas Special

If you are considering a Morgan for your future, or if you are looking for a good horse, stop by and check out the older horses at Forever Morgan.   www.forevermorgans.org

Right now, they have a special on older horses.  Thanks to an anonymous donor, any horse that was born before 1998 will ship to his/her new home free of charge.  The adoption must be approved by December 31.  They have a number of high-quality, lovely, sound horses that have years left to their careers.

For example:

Tazara Cappuccino #0152301 (CN)
1995 Registered Chestnut Mare, approx. 15.1 hands
BDM Dancer's Captain (CN) x Marquesa Caress
Fostered in FL
Rescued August 2014
Adoption Fee: $700 $300 for the Home for the Holidays special!
Transport donated with Home for the Holidays special!
Cappuccino was owned by a broker who was going to sell her directly to slaughter, not even giving her a chance at auction. Thankfully, he was willing to sell her to FM, so she got on a different truck instead! She is sound, sensible, and solid, a good girl who tries to understand what is wanted. Cappuccino is a nice mare who continues to get better with more work. She is fostered at a lesson barn in Florida where she is ridden by the advanced/ intermediate students. She was a driving horse so is not yet sure of herself under saddle but is improving every ride. She is very good at walk and trot but not yet comfortable cantering under saddle. She lunges beautifully, has no issues being saddled and bridled, crossties, bathes, and is good for the farrier; her foster home is still working on being clipped and fly sprayed. Cappuccino is a very pretty mover, not hot at all, and would be a nice hunter or western pleasure horse.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Pictures of Cole Train in the Snow

We took these photos of Cole playing on Thanksgiving weekend. He had a lot of fun.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Just Out for a Walk

Just Out for a Walk

If we have time, Ellen and I often go on a hike after we ride. The easiest thing to do is to just walk on the hill that leads to the river—that way, we don’t have to drive anywhere. We typically do 3 trips up and down. It is a good workout.

We were out walking on the hill the other day, and it was covered with snow and very sloppy, so we weren’t going very fast. On our first trip up, we saw an old friend riding on a Quarter Horse mare that she started leasing this summer when her Arabian mare died. Those of you that have my book would recognize her and her horse, Beauty. I put several pictures of them in my book. She has had 3 Arabians, and I believe that every anecdote in my book that mentions an Arabian, it is one of hers. It seems like she was always getting into some sort of trouble back with I was writing my book.

She told us how well the lease was working out, and that, though she misses having an Arabian, she really felt that at this point in her life, a quiet Quarter Horse is so much more suitable. The only problem was that the horse that she is leasing is not at a stables with an indoor arena. She said it had been many years since she was out riding in the snow.

She headed down the hill, and we followed, slowly, after her. We saw her at the bottom, and she asked me to check her new bit to make sure it fit correctly. It looked good, so she headed up the hill ahead of us. Her horse started jigging and prancing to get up the hill. She was very anxious to get home. As they started up the slope, we saw the mare do a couple of canter strides—and then buck. Our friend tumbled to the ground. She just lay there, still holding the reins, calling, “help,” as the horse looked like she was going to lick her face.

Ellen and I were scurrying as fast as we could to get to her. I got a hold of the reins, and I sighed relief as our friend stood up. She wasn’t hurt seriously, but she was shaken up. She took the reins, and we all started walking up the hill together. So much for a quiet Quarter Horse!

While leading the mare, we saw her feet were packing up with snow. Turns out they put shoes with borium to help her with ice—but no snow pads to help with the snowballing. I really don’t know what their farrier was thinking. With our snow, we either need to go barefoot or have snow pads. We all agreed that that may have been a reason that the horse became so uncharacteristically uncooperative. Also, we found out that she hadn’t been able to get her out of her stall for a few days—giving her an extra dose of energy.

She still wouldn’t settle down, and our friend could barely lead her. I reluctantly offered to lead her. I say reluctantly because I spent so much time leading Cole on the hill while he misbehaved back in the early days, that I have an aversion to leading misbehaving horses. Still, I had to help. I might not like to do it, but thanks to Cole, I am very good at it.

I took a rein in each hand under her head to lead her. This way, I could make the reins work the same way they would if she was being ridden. Also, I could get her to walk and stop straight—something that she wasn’t doing for our friend. I said a few kind words to the mare and asked her to walk. After a few steps, I gently asked her to stop. I had total success, and gave her a bunch of praise. I repeated it a few more times and then we were on our way. Anytime I would get too far ahead of Ellen and our friend, I would ask the mare to stop and wait. I showed them what I was doing with the reins and why. We made it up to the top without a bit of trouble. By now, our friend was recovered enough to take the reins and bring the mare home. I noticed, as she walked away, she had one hand on each rein.

We continued with our walk on the hill—relieved that no one was hurt and glad we were there to help. We don’t expect to see them out in the snow with improper foot ware again. It was also a reminder how much horses’ personalities can change when the weather gets cold. Some horses need to let off some steam if they haven’t had much exercise due to the weather. Even if they are exercised in an indoor arena on a regular basis, going out on the trail can get them rather excited. As Ellen pointed out, you never really know a horse until you’ve been through 4 seasons.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Ranger’s Issues

Ranger’s Issues

Ranger, my sister’s horse of nearly 20 years, has developed breathing issues. It was something that occurred gradually over the last year or so, but this fall, it got pretty bad. He wasn’t coughing uncontrollably like Cruiser was, but he was breathing harder going up hills and trotting. He would do better after a good snort, but it seemed like he had trouble getting enough wind to get the good snort.

When the vet came out to give the guys their fall shots, Ellen told her about it and she examined him. She said she couldn’t quite say he had COPD, but he definitely was having problems breathing. Her suggestion was to just dunk his hay in water before giving it to him. In her experience, this was usually enough to correct the problem. She said steroids might help, but Ellen didn’t want to do that unless absolutely necessary.

Cruiser was much worse with chronic coughing, breathing hard in his stall and rapid weight loss. I put him on steroids which only helped a little. I also took him off hay completely and fed him soaked hay cubes. He still didn’t improve until we put him on a round of antibiotics—even though his bloodwork showed no sign of infection. After that, his cough went away and his breathing returned to normal. We do think the steroids may have masked the infection—allowing it to get worse.

We keep our horses at a boarding stables, and Ellen felt bad about asking the feeders to do this extra step. As an experiment, I did it for her on the days that I fed in the evening. She noticed an improvement when she rode him the following morning, so she felt it was worthwhile. She bought a big plastic tub that the feeders could use to dunk the hay to make it easier, and we were on our way.

After a couple of days, he no longer wheezed when going up a hill, and his snorts were more substantial than before. After about a week, it was pretty hard to hear his breathing at all if he was doing light work. When my sister was riding him back and forth at the bottom of the hill a few weeks later, I noticed that he looked really good—and then I realized what the difference was—he was holding his head in a normal position. Previously, he had been traveling with his head much lower so he could breathe better. Ranger was definitely better than he was. The question is how much will he keep improving? When a person quits smoking, it takes a while for their lungs to heal. Ranger is in the process of healing.

When I watched Ellen trot him in the arena last week, not only did he carry his head higher than he had been, he was going faster and stepping further underneath himself. Maybe he wasn’t as arthritic as we thought? Maybe he had slowed down partially due to having breathing problems? He even threw in a kitten buck.

Ellen plans to ride him as much as she can outside to keep him out of the dust, but sometimes the weather and icy conditions will force them into the arena. We will continue to dunk his hay and see how far his recovery will go. I will keep you updated.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Dante’s Dark Side

Dante’s Dark Side

Ellen was working Sunday, and I thought I would take advantage of the great weather and ride Dante on the trail. I knew I couldn’t cross the river because I already rode down there with Cole Train. We would have to do the hill multiple times.

The hill can be a tricky place to work a horse. Once they are good at it, it is very easy, but there is a certain amount of training that comes first. We are so close to home that there is a tendency for horses to want to rush home, pout going away from home and not want to turn around to do another trip down. There are flat parts that we can easily trot and canter—the best one is right at the bottom of the hill. We like to go back and forth a bunch of times to give them good exercise.

It took me a few years before I could trust Cole on the hill for one trip, let alone multiple trips. It was always our worst section of trail. He didn’t want to walk either up or down and could get very hyper on the faster work. Even today, he gets faster with each successive trip—very different from the other horses that get slower each trip. Ranger, of course, is the expert. He loves just doing the hill and gets very excited when he doesn’t have to cross the river. Starry just seems bored.

Ellen and I just started working Dante with multiple trips on the hill just this year. We only do it when we can’t cross the river, of course, so the training is sporadic. I don’t think we have ever taken him down there by himself—with neither another horse nor a person on the ground—and asked him to do it more than once. As usual, Ellen finds a way to get me to do everything first.

I led Dante to the trail. Very shortly after I mounted, he neighed, hopped up and tried to turn around to go home. That surprised me, but I had no trouble getting him to stop and stand still until he calmed down. We walked a little further, and he did it again! This was unprecedented!

When we got to the bottom of the hill, I asked him to trot—and he leapt up into a canter! Now, last time we worked him down there with Cole Train, we did introduce cantering, so maybe he just wanted to show me he remembered the lesson. I was able to get him to trot immediately, but he wasn’t happy about it. He was tossing his head up and down and having a little temper tantrum about it. At the end of the trail, I stopped, turned him around, walked back and turned him back around to do it again. I was ready for misbehavior, but he was even more ready to misbehave. I asked him to trot and he launched into a canter—throwing in a huge buck this time. I was starting to wonder what horse I was riding. This certainly wasn’t Dante.

I wasn’t able to stop him until he got 8-10 strides in, and as we trotted to the end, he had another temper tantrum. We turned around and repeated—about 5 more times. He didn’t canter anymore, but the tantrums persisted.

That’s when I remembered that I had some candy corn in my pocket. I decided to employ clicker training. I would click him as soon as I got several decent trot steps in a row. We tried it again, and he was tossing his head like a bratty little colt. Then, he gave me 3 good steps. I clicked, he stopped, 1 gave him a piece of candy corn and asked him to trot again—he was perfect the rest of the way. Dante had magically transformed into his old self with one piece of candy corn. I couldn’t believe the dramatic change. All the trotting we did the rest of the ride was normal.

Now, I have to be careful with Cole when I give him really good treats—he is the quintessential overachiever. Once he knows there are good treats, he will try all sorts of things to get them—silly walk, laterals, more speed, more and more impulsion until I can barely hold on—all without me asking. Getting him to walk like a normal horse in a straight line is a huge challenge, if he thinks there are good treats in my pocket. I like to save them for when we are trying something new—he will then learn very quick. Dante, though, had a different reaction. He just became focused on what I wanted instead of what he wanted. I always find the contrast between our 2 horses to be very entertaining.

My problems weren’t over, yet. It was time to go back up the hill and do it again. Dante was fine on the way up, but when I turned him around to go back down, he planted his feet and refused. I did some very assertive kicking, got a few more steps and he balked again. At least he wasn’t trying to turn to go home, but he sure didn’t want to go forward.

Now, I could have clicked him for taking a step forward, but horses are smart enough to chain several actions together, which can be used to our benefit, but we have to be very careful. I didn’t want Dante to think, “If I stop and refuse to go forward, then finally do, I will get clicked.” There is another thing I have learned—if you want your horse to go forward to light aids and he ignores them, use heavy aids, stop and repeat with light aids—then praise. What I decided to do was to get him going, stop, repeat and repeat until he goes for a light squeeze and then click. I think it took 4 more times before I got a good one. I clicked him, and since I was in a trottable section of the hill, I asked him to trot. He was fine the rest of the way down, but I figured out that this is a lesson that he really needs to know. I interspersed it throughout the ride after that and later told Ellen to work on it.

At the bottom, we did more trotting back and forth. By this point, I was able to trot both ways with ease. I decided to try for a canter, and I got it on the first request, but he stopped after a few strides. When I tried it a second time, he picked it up and held it. I then did a few more back and forths at a trot, so he would hopefully understand that cantering is with permission only.

We walked back up the hill, and when I got to the turnaround spot, he refused to either stop or turn. Even a strong leading rein didn’t work—he just belligerently braced against it. Well, he isn’t the first strong-necked Morgan in my life. Years ago, my horse Brandy taught me the only way to win with an iron horse is to outsmart them. As Dante braced on my right hand, I switched to the left and easily turned him. He wasn’t too happy about it, but I didn’t get any balking as I asked him to go back down the hill. He just pouted by walking slow. I started to work on walk/halt/walk transitions—clicking for good ones and that changed his mind.

This time, when we got to the bottom, I just turned him around to go back home. When we reached the turnaround spot, I asked him to stop. He didn’t, so I asked him to turn—which he did. I then dismounted and walked him home. Over all, it was a very productive training ride.

When I called Ellen at work and told her about the ride, she said she wasn’t surprised and now I knew he had a dark side. Mr. Perfect isn’t perfect, after all. I’m glad to say that his worst is nowhere near Cole’s worst, and look how good Cole is now! It won’t be long before we get these little problems corrected and then Dante will shine; whether he is with another horse or all by himself—because underneath that dark side is a heart of gold.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Night Ride

I think I am getting used to the colder weather. When I was out at the barn last night, it was in the 20s and I wasn’t even cold. I realized that if I rode, it would be Cole’s 8th day in a row—mostly in the arena. I thought that he might need a break, so I decided to do a light ride on the loop outside. The ground was frozen, and there were patches of ice and snow, so we had to keep it at a walk. I figured that should be easy on Day 8.

Wrong. I wasn’t in the saddle 3 minutes, and he was tossing his head around in excitement. I managed to keep him at a walk nearly the whole 25 minutes I was out there, but it was getting harder to do; not easier. I decided to take him into the inside arena and do some trotting. He was very happy to move around, and he trotted pretty scary in the beginning. He did settle, and we worked another 20 minutes. He only had one bad snorting episode, and I got him straightened out in less than a minute.

Tonight, he is getting his shoes pulled, so the snow won’t be a problem, anymore. Of course, the temps are going to rise this weekend, and the snow will melt. They are talking rain. With the snow melt, I bet I won’t be able to cross the river. I hope the weather is good for Thanksgiving, because we will be out there.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Here are some pictures of Starry and Dante on the trail. In rotten weather like this, it is nice to see green trees and ground that is not covered with snow.

January in November

January in November

That’s our weather, lately. Yesterday, it was like a very bad January day in November—and I happened to be off from work. Ellen got called in, and she didn’t seem to mind much. We were able to ride together in the morning—in the indoor arena. It was 11 degrees when I woke up and never got past 20. The wind was extra wicked, too. Maggie didn’t even get her long walk that we planned. I just wasn’t ready for this.

Neither were the horses. Cole, Starry and Ranger still have shoes, and the snow kept us at the barn this weekend. Dante doesn’t, so when Ellen had to work on Sunday, I took him out by myself on a trail ride. We had a very lovely time. on the way home, we found Kevin jogging. He walked back towards home with us. After a couple minutes, he asked to switch places. I was getting a little cold, so I was happy to walk while he rode. We passed up home and headed for the access trail. Kevin did some trotting and I struggled to keep up. We then swithched and I rode the rest of the way. Maybe it’s not so bad when Ellen works…

I have been struggling in the arena. Cole’s problem is consistency. We will be trotting about—just fine—and then he needs to snort. Instead of just snorting, he stops and may or may not snort. If he doesn’t, I get him going and then he will go fast, go slow, try to stop and on and on until he finally snorts. Then, he will do better, but if I take a break to do something else, he needs to snort when we start trotting, again. If I drive him forward too hard with my legs or whip, he gets mad and bucks or kicks out.

This isn’t a new behavior. I have been having a problem with it from the beginning. It is just more of a problem because I want to do more trotting now than I used to. Also, since I only have one horse, I want to ride him longer than before.

Here is what I do to try to change his behavior. We start with walk/trot transitions—and I click him for them. I then add more and more steps before clicking to reward him for good trotting. We can do this for 10 minutes, sometimes, and then the urge to snort starts. Why he can’t snort while trotting, I just don’t understand. This will even happen on the trail.

I am still struggling with the right lead. I can often get it the first time I ask if neither one of us overthinks it. If I put him on a bend at a walk and just ask at the magic moment, we will get it, and I immediately click him for it. The next time I ask, he is ready for it and insists that I really want the left lead. Since I have him on such a strong bend, he has a horrible time taking the left lead—I don’t’ know why he tries it. I think the next time I succeed, I won’t click and just let him go with it and see what happens.

I miss the trail…

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Another uneventful weekend update

I’ve done plenty of riding, but I don’t have much to write about.  Last week, I took a couple days off and got to ride with Ellen—and the horses were great.  We then rode on the weekend—and the horses were great.  On my own, I have ridden Cole out on the loop a couple times by myself in complete darkness—and he was great.  I love these rides, but what’s a blogger to do?
The weather is  going to change dramatically by tomorrow, so I think I will then just write about how the cold is shortening our rides… Sigh… Maybe we will have a warm December that will make up for it.
Ranger is having some difficulty with COPD.  He isn’t coughing much at all, just breathing louder.  We talked to the vet when she came out to give him shots, and she suggested just dunking his hay.  It is helping, and his breathing has already improved. 
My vegetable garden is complete except for a couple more kohlrabi.  It was a great year, and my freezer is packed.  My challenge will be to use everything up by next year. 
With the dark evenings, my dog walks are getting very short—and Maggie is getting restless.  She is already starting to drive me and Thunder crazy.  She’s not  the kind of dog who wants to play with people all the time.  actually, she doesn’t seem to know how to play with people.  Whenever I try, it just doesn’t seem to work.  She will climb all over you, try to gnaw on your hand, roll around and make strange noises—but fetch and tug-o-war barely works.  She ends up staring at you, puzzled.  Oh the trials and tribulations of a rescue dog.  What she wants to do is be in the way, beg for food, lick your face and disturb cat games.  It’s going to be a long winter…
Thunder is doing well.  Leaf hunting season is going strong.  He spends much of his free time sitting on his tower—stalking the blowing leaves.  It is serious business.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Weekend Update

Weekend Update

Bad weather weekend. It was rainy and horrible on Saturday, so we ended up riding in the indoor arena. I think it was Cole’s fourth time, this fall, and he showed significant improvement. In fact, I quit after a half hour and walked around in the rain for the rest of the ride. I wanted to end on a good note. Dante did great in the arena, but that is because Ellen has been working with him all summer. We just led Ranger outside for his exercise.

Of course, if it rains all day—the river will be too high to cross the next day. We did the hill with Dante and Cole together. We trot back and forth on the bottom, and Dante thought it was great fun. He behaved fine, but he started to anticipate the trot as soon as we got to the bottom. Of course, if you always do the same thing in the same spot, your horse will want to do that same thing all the time. Ellen immediately asked him to stop—and he didn’t. Dante lost his brakes. That meant it was time to reinstall them. It took a few trips going back and forth, and then Dante saw the light.

She did try to do some cantering, too. We trotted with Cole in the lead, and since Cole is the faster horse, it was just enough to tempt Dante to canter. She got a few successful transitions. We did the hill a total of three times and who knows how many times we went back and forth on the bottom.

Ellen then rode Ranger on the hill.

We really wanted to get across the river. The park finally fixed some more of the trail—and we wanted to give it a try. That section of trail has been in sorry shape since the big storm back in the spring. I took a few days off work to ride this week, so I should be able to get there. Cole will be so happy?

With the time change, Thunder has been serenading me an hour early. He got quite frantic this morning, and I couldn’t take it anymore. I got up 10 minutes before the alarm, so I guess he won. Ellen’s cat, Stormy, doesn’t speak. He knocked books on the floor to wake Ellen up.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

The Loop

The Loop

Last year at this time, I tried riding Cole out on the loop—a small track that is about a quarter mile long that is behind the barn—and it was a disaster. I ended up riding him in the arena when it got too dark in the evenings to go on the trail. This year, I decided to try it again.

I began a few weeks ago by going on a short trail ride with the remaining daylight and then working on the loop when I got back to round out the ride. Since we made sure our short trail rides were vigorous, walking the loop was a way for Cole to wind down. Last year, he was explosive when I tried this. This year he was only a little explosive the first time, and he has done well ever since.

As would be expected, he would walk a lot faster on the way facing the barn than he did when he went away from the barn. Consequently, I clicked him for sensible walking when we were going away and for whoas when we were going towards the barn. This kept him focused on me and made it more fun for both of us. When we would make the turn at the intersection of the trail that goes toward the barn and the trail that starts the lap over again, I clicked him, too.

A few rides ago, I had to stop doing the mini trail ride because there wasn’t enough time. Now, we were working on the loop only. It started to get a little boring, so I started reviewing our arena exercises. We were fairly successful with shoulder-in in one direction and not so good in the other—something to work on. I added leg yielding, and he was much better than in the arena—where he wants to morph it into side passing. Since he wants to go forward down the path, it eliminates his temptation to go sideways—into the ditch, woods or fence that go along the trail. Every now and then, we would stop and do some turn-on-the-haunches or backing up.

Last night, I decided it was time to add trotting. This was his 6th ride in a row, and it was a very warm night for a horse with his full winter coat. It was also quiet at the barn, so there were no distractions. In other words, all the planets were in alignment. When we got to the side of the loop that goes directly away from the barn, I asked for a trot and got the most lovely, forward going but sane trot that I could have dreamed of. We stopped at the next corner, walked all the way around the loop and did it again. We repeated it 5 times and he was perfect. I gave him lots of verbal praise. We walked one more lap and then I headed to the driveway and went to the front of the barn where it is wide enough to practice small circles and then called it a day.

At least I now know that if it is a warm night and Cole isn’t in a feisty mood, we can do some trotting on the loop in the dark. Mission accomplished.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Old Poke Meets Mr. Smooth

Old Poke Meets Mr. Smooth

Oh, what a long weekend we had. It was 4 consecutive, sunny October days—perfect for riding. Of course, we had our usual vacation disaster, but this time, it had nothing to do with the weather or a high river. I will get to that, later.

Thursday, we had our plans, but they changed suddenly when Kevin invited his friend, Sarah, out to ride Starry. She used to ride him all the time until she moved to Missouri. She was here to visit her family and had a chance to visit Starry, too. Kevin asked if we could all ride together and if he could ride Dante. Of course, Ellen said yes. Kevin has leant us Starry so many times, it was the least she could do to pay him back. He had ridden Dante in the arena for a few minutes last winter, and he has always wanted to try him on the trail. Now, a reminder—Starry’s trot is a killer. You have to post it, and it is not very easy to do at that. Dante’s trot is fantastic. It is incredibly smooth no matter how fast he goes.

Ellen was on Ranger, Sarah was on Starry and I was on Cole, of course. With Ranger in the ride, it wouldn’t be fast. We are respectful of his age. Also, no one is allowed to pass him or he gets mad and tries to go faster than Ellen wants him to. When we trotted, we would allow Ranger to get a head start, and we would try to stay back. Kevin pretty much stayed in the back. Cole knows the rule when we ride Ranger, so he didn’t have any trouble. Starry is a different story, so Sarah had a tougher time. At one point, we let a lot of space between Ranger, and we all got to canter a bit before we caught up. It was a little chaotic, but everyone obediently stopped when we reached Ranger.

We walked all the way home, and that gave us plenty more time to trot. Ranger may not trot as fast as he used to—and he was really fast—but he still has a super speedy walk. I would look back at Kevin trotting to catch up and there was always a big smile on his face as he sat the trot. Dante and Kevin were very happy with each other.

Everybody was perfect on the ride and all of us were smiling.

Now, it is time for the disaster. After we got back, we were just standing around, talking. Dante has a weird habit of sticking his mouth through the opening of the bars on his stall where we pour the grain. He rests his upper jaw over the metal covered wood of his stall wall—just behind his incisors. We just ignore him when he does it. Well, he was doing it and something happened and he got stuck and panicked. We still aren’t sure what it was, though Ellen and I saw the whole thing. I did see the board go forward and then he tried pulling back. For a long 5 seconds, he struggled and there was nothing we could do—and then he was free. That was a relief—until we saw the blood pouring out of his mouth. It was awful!

Ellen looked in his mouth, but all we could see was blood, blood and more blood. She got a syringe and filled it up with water and started rinsing it out. It was hard to tell, but most of it seemed to come from his canine tooth on one side. We didn’t know if he cut his gum or damaged the tooth. He didn’t seem upset about it, and when his afternoon hay showed up, he didn’t have any trouble eating it. It still kept bleeding and bleeding but not as profusely as before. We decided that it could wait until the next day when the vet was scheduled to give them shots.

The next day, the vet said the tooth was fine, and it was just a cut on his gum. It finally stopped bleeding, and it didn’t look bad at all. The grain opening of his stall was altered to prevent it from happening again, and all was well in the world.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Struggling with My First Arena Ride of the Season

Struggling with My First Arena Ride of the Season

The days are short, and by the time I get to the barn, I only have a few minutes of daylight. I have been going on mini trail rides and finishing up my ride outside doing laps on the little track we have, but the other night was rainy. I was thwarted. With much reluctance, I entered the indoor arena.

Just a reminder for my readers—I had issues with Cole in the arena in the early days. He would get to the far corner and try to bolt back to the front of the arena. He did this enough in the first few weeks that I became afraid to ride over there. I would just ride circles on the safe half. This lasted a really long time, but I got over it. Nowadays, he seldom tries that trick—but when I haven’t been in the arena for a while, my old fears show up.

I started out working in his better-behaved direction. After a few minutes, we started walking laps. When I felt good with that, I would trot a little and ask him to stop before he got too close to the far end. Each time we did it, I got a little closer. Within 10 minutes, I was trotting full laps. He was doing his big show trot which is hard to post and hard to sit. I started out with posting and once I got used to it, (he seldom does it on the trail,) I began to sit the trot.

Now, it was time to try the other direction. This direction is more complicated because he likes to take off along the wall to get to the far corner. At the next corner, I have had trouble with him wanting to run down to the wall to get to our barn door which is just off the normal oval we ride at the corner. I began with the walking, again.

When it was time to trot, my nerves got the better of me. I decided to trot on the safe half. More than once, when he saw that far corner, he tried to go straight instead of circle to the center of the arena. I struggled to get him to continue with the circle. Great—he justified my fear of him bolting to the corner. I really hoped he had forgotten this behavior. To prevent it, I overcompensated by bending him too much on the circle and he began to lean. Neither one of us liked that—and finally he voiced his protest by having a temper tantrum when he saw that far corner—bucking and trying to get away. I quickly spun him into the wall and made some small circles until I felt he was under control, again. Now, I really didn’t trust him.

I went back to walking laps. I did some short trot spurts and practiced stopping. He started to get better. When I tried to take him down the wall that leads to our barn door, he braced himself to go straight to the door—rather than turn along the track. I ended up spinning him again. I went back to rotting circles on the safe end, again. He kept trying to get either to the far end or our barn door. When I could keep him from overbending, I could feel my old Cole from last year return to me.

A friend showed up, and we started to talk as I rode. We seemed to relax, then, and I started getting good circles without fighting. It was getting close to an hour of riding, so then I just went and walked the hard direction. At least I was no longer afraid when I reached the far end.

I know it will get better—and probably just in a few rides. I had to contend with my nerves, re-familiarizing myself with his big show trot while he was getting used to working in a manner that he hasn’t worked in since back in March. The challenges did make the ride much more entertaining and the time went fast. We never even got to work on our laterals.

Working on Straightness

I haven’t seen Ellen and Dante work in the arena, lately.  The last time I did, I helped her with straightness and corners.  She tells me she is still having some trouble with the corners, but he is doing well on the straightaways.  She is learning to correct him when he goes crooked. 

Often, from the saddle it looks like your horse is traveling straight along the wall or fence, but upon closer examination, you will see his shoulder is the same distance from the wall as his hip.  Since a horse’s shoulder is narrower than his hip, this means he is crooked.  His shoulder should be directly in front of his hip—making it further away from the wall.  If you are unsure, have someone stand in front of you while you ride down the wall, and that person can tell you what is happening.

Once you know your horse is crooked, you need to be able to develop the feel for when he is crooked and when he is straight.  When he is crooked, you need to adjust him right away and do it every time.  It’s a lot of work just to ride a straight line along the wall!  Corners are even more complex.

No wonder I like to trail ride, but I know that schooling in the arena is important to making a well-rounded horse and rider.  If you are aware of the changes in your horse’s body—telling you he is going crooked, you are more likely to notice any changes on the trail, too.  He may be a little anxious about something off to the side or nervous when you are riding next to another horse.  It gives you an early warning that something may happen and the potential to avoid it. 

Sometimes Cole gets upset when other horses are close to him.  When he “tells” me, I move him ahead or behind.  If I’m not paying attention, there are times that he will bolt forward or sideways to get away.  (Cole is a big sissy.)

Learning to straighten your horse easily can be handy, too.  Let’s say there is some mud and your horse doesn’t want to get his feet dirty—but by going around it, your knee is aiming for a tree.  By making a slight adjustment, you may save your knee and maybe still stay out of the mud, but you need the ability to make that adjustment—and your horse needs to know what you are asking.

So, working on straightness in the arena is a worthwhile endeavor—as are many other things that we do.  I know this is the truth, but why is it so hard for me to get used to riding in it now that the evenings are dark and I can’t go on the trail?

Monday, October 20, 2014

Pretty October Rides

We had some great riding this weekend. It was rainy on Saturday, but not too rainy to ride--just rainy enough to keep the tourists out of the park. We were nearly alone--except for the usual joggers.

On Saturday, Ellen and I took Dante and Cole out on the short ride (5 miles) and they were great. Since Cole’s weekday rides have been shortened due to the early darkness, he was a bit full of himself. We let Dante lead for a while, but we couldn’t take the slowness any more. When we took the lead, Cole flew along the trail. We did some terrific trotting and had a great gallop. We can get away with it because Dante remains calm. We just wait for them to catch up. Ellen did canter Dante a couple times, too. Ellen did insist on leading the way home because she wasn’t so sure that Dante would tolerate Cole vanishing from sight.

Cole did get frightened by a loose dog. The dog was Daisy, one we know well. She jogs along with her owner, and is one of the best behaved dogs we have ever encountered. She just started running around like a nut--to the embarrassment of her owner. Once I got Cole to stand, he just froze until she settled down. Dante was fine.

Sunday's ride was a little challenging. It was sunny and beautiful. We headed up to the show ring trails. They started off both walking dreadfully slow. By the time the trails improved and we could trot a lot, Cole came to life. We had one leap into a canter accented with a buck at the bottom of the big hill. That completely took me by surprise. He stopped readily. They both handled the hill beautifully. Once on top, Cole led at the trot. He was rather spunky, but he was reasonable. I kept looking back to make sure that Dante wasn’t upset when we got too far ahead. There were muddy patches on the trail that we stopped to walk through, and Dante would catch up with us.

All was going well until we got to the end of the trail by the street. I heard some odd bird noises coming from a tree right by the trail. As we neared to a stop by the tree, Cole flew sideways—away from the tree in alarm. He settled down, Ellen caught up with us, and Dante got startled by the tree, too. We turned them around and asked for a walk and Cole leapt up and said we should just get away from that tree as fast as possible. I calmly circled him back under control. Dante was also nervous. As we walked down the trail, 2 hawks were flapping and calling from tree to tree as if they were following us. I don’t think they were—it was probably coincidence. The only thing we could think of is that they were having a territorial issue.

Once we got away from them, we trotted with Dante in the lead. Ellen got him to go fast enough for Cole to trot comfortably and they were great. We decided to pass up the trail leading home and ride out on the front loop that goes around the show grounds. This was the first time we ever did it with Dante. Most of the summer, it was just too hot to go out into the sun and just walk around. Being right out in the open, we have found our horses can get pretty excited the first few times. We were right—they were both keyed up, but all went well.

I had one more problem spot with Cole. When we went down the big hill, Cole decided to trot. The big hill is very, very steep and it has a large rut that was caused by erosion going down the center of it. It wasn’t a place for rambunctious. I asked him to “whoa” which is something he is very good at, and he ignored me. I resorted to bending him sharply—not something I wanted to do on the hill, and finally he stopped. I made him stand quietly for about 30 seconds and then decided I was better off leading. He did better, but he had one more bad moment when we got close to the bottom. That time, it was a little easier to stop him. He hasn’t pulled anything like this since back in the spring. I think it was just his mood. We rode at a walk the rest of the way home, and other than refusing to stop and stand—which is pretty bad for him—he was fine. Dante did better on the ride, overall.

I my issues with Cole are related to cool weather and shorter, less vigorous evening rides. We do have another long weekend coming up—that should help a lot.

Both days, Ellen rode Ranger on a short ride while I walked with him. He was in a great mood.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Long, Overdue Update

I haven’t blogged for a while because I have had a cold, and it has taken away my creative energy. It hasn’t stopped me from riding, of course.

Ellen and I had a 4-day weekend, last weekend. The park was paving the road by the northern trails, but we still had the southern trail. It isn’t as long, but we were just glad they weren’t paving there, too. The weather was nice and the horses were great. We had lovely rides.

On Saturday, we were able to go north, so we decided to go on a long ride. We hadn’t done it for a while because of everything going on in the park and all the paving. This is the ride we used to go on with Ranger and Cruiser in their youth. For the first time, Ellen was brave enough to cross the big river on Dante. The only time I handled him was to lead across the busy ford. He was perfect for everything, of course.

The whole ride went well, but we were still disappointed. Now that we didn’t have any new goals to accomplish over there, we were just frustrated. These used to be awesome trails that we could trot and canter most of the way. It was a thrill to go ride fast and far. The problem—the trails are still a mess from the big spring flood. There is gravel, everywhere. We would trot for a minute and walk for a minute. This went on most of the way. Towards the end, it got better, but we were anxious to get home. We had to turn before we got to the best part of the trail. It took us 3 hours to do a ride we used to do in 2 hours. We got back right in time for the horses to get their noontime meal—and Ellen wasn’t able to ride Ranger.

It was disheartening to look forward to being able to go on the long, fast and far rides and find out that we can’t do it anymore. We can do really long, slow rides where we feel guilty with every bad step the horses take on all the stones. We can’t have what we used to have until they do some repair work, and they are too busy worrying about repaving the road. I don’t know if anything will ever happen. They did do a little repair work on the other short trail, but not all that much—though we will take anything we can get.

The next disappointment of the weekend happened on Sunday. Our niece, Missy, was home from college and was supposed to ride with us. She called me in the morning as sick as a dog and cancelled. (Turned out she has mono—no wonder why she felt so horrible.) We did the ride that we planned, just the same. It was time to go to the show ring. Missy never went up there before, and she would have loved it. We had a great ride. The weather was perfect for October, the trees were lovely and the trail up there is far from the river, so it’s never harmed by flooding. We trotted and trotted and trotted. It was fun. We met Kevin and Starry on the way home. It was the best ride of the weekend.

My evening rides have been short. I just don’t have much time before it gets dark. I rush home, eat, feed Thunder and Maggie, take Maggie on a short walk and rush to the barn. I can saddle in less than 5 minutes and be on the trail, but I can’t go far. When I get back, I ride the loop in the back of the property in the dark. I was unable to do this with Cole last year due to misbehavior, so I am happy I can do it now. I am just not ready to ride in the indoor arena—maybe next week if the weather is bad. I just can’t do it, yet.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Arena Update

Arena Update

Dante has been sound, but the wound on his heel where the abscess burst out became aggravated the week before—probably from crossing the river, so we decided to keep him dry until our 4-day weekend this week. Consequently, Ellen rode him in the arena this weekend.

She has been having problems with him drifting off the wall and cutting the corners. On Saturday, I let her warm up and watched what they were doing. I saw some very lovely trotting, but she was having problems. I haven’t ridden Dante in the arena in many months, so I thought I would take a spin on him. I wanted to determine if the problem she was having was rider error or an evasive horse. Dante is such a cooperative guy, I really thought it was Ellen. So did she.

I cruised around for a while and had no trouble at all. That meant, I had to figure out what I was doing right.

Now, confession time. Ellen and I never had a real lesson. (Have you seen the prices of lessons? We have horses! How can we afford lessons!) We are self-taught with the help of books and a few DVDs. Our favorites are Mary Wanless and Jane Savoie. Mary to help us with the riding and Jane to help us with the training. Overall, I think we’ve done pretty good.

I have had way more arena experience than Ellen because I have had more horses, and I can’t ride on the trail much of the year because of the dark evenings. Ellen is able to ride in the morning. I have been forced to spend the more time in the arena than her. Besides, I’m the big sister.

I realized that the aids I used to keep Dante on the wall and in the corners were a strong thigh when I felt him deviate and an indirect inside rein combined with my thigh as I approached a corner. I explained what I was doing with Ellen, and then it was her turn. She walked him around in the more difficult direction, and not surprisingly, Dante understood what she wanted. I had her trot a lap—and wallah! It was like they had been doing it all along. She wanted to quit, but I told her to do one more lap to get the feeling in place. She repeated her success. She found out she just needed to work a little harder.

On Sunday when she rode him in the arena, she didn’t even need me. They trotted around like a dream. Of course, when you work harder, you get warn out. Once she reached the exhaustion phase, we went outside to walk around. She now has something to work on when I’m not around.

We took Ranger and Cole on lovely rides each day.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Ranger showing his Age—or is He?

Ranger showing his Age—or is He?

We think Ranger is around 25 years old. There is no doubt that he has some arthritis and he’s getting a cataract in one of his eyes, but overall, he is doing well. Ellen has had to limit his riding to make sure she doesn’t overdo it and make him sore. He no longer will canter for her—she is sure it is physical since he has always loved to canter in the past. He doesn’t trot near as fast as he used to either, but he still has his great walk.

Last weekend, she bought him a new girth. She rides him English. His old girth was too short and she had to use a girth extender to make it work. Also, it was stretched more on one side than the other which was evident when on she would hook up the billets. It was a very expensive, brand name girth, but it just wasn’t working right, anymore.

She bought a longer girth, so that Ranger no longer needed a girth extender. The new girth is also contoured for comfort. She didn’t get the expensive brand, again, since she didn’t like how it pulled at his long winter coat. (She had to use a girth cover to prevent it from bothering him.)

She tested it out on Saturday. I was on Dante, and as I followed along, I was marveling at how perky Ranger seemed. He had had a few days off, and I just figured that was the reason. Ellen did notice that he moved smoother than he had been when she went down slopes. She attributed it to the new girth.

Dante had a sore hoof on Sunday, so Ranger ended up going on the longer ride—even though he had a brisk ride the day before. We figured he would be grumpy and unenthusiastic—even though it was to his favorite destinations—the show ring. I rode Cole.

Once we started trotting, I was surprised how fast Ranger went. He wasn’t tearing up the trail like he did 10 years ago, but I was able to follow at a comfortable posting trot—and he stayed like that for all the trotting we did. By now, we were starting to become suspicious. It was Day 2 and rather warm for a horse with so much winter coat. Could it be the new girth?

We talked about it and thought we would just see how the whole ride went. When we turned to go home, he pouted—as he usually does. He used to live up there, and he always thinks he is leaving home when we turn to go home.

Once we got far enough away from his old barn, though, he picked up the speed. Now, that wouldn’t be unusual for the Ranger of years gone by, but this is a pretty long ride and for the last year or so, he would walk slowly all the way home. Cole had to keep stopping to wait for Ranger to catch up. We attributed it to his age, but now, we are thinking a little different.

Horses don’t change their behavior for no reason at all. Maybe the reason he walked slow on the way home was that he was aggravated by his girth—not by his age. Maybe he is now walking fast on the way home like he used to because his girth isn’t bothering him anymore?

We met Kevin on Starry on the way home, and Ranger happily led his herd back to the barn.

Ellen just ordered a new girth for Dante…

Friday, September 26, 2014

Update on Dante’s Hoof

Update on Dante’s Hoof

The farrier was out, yesterday to give the guys their pedicures. Ellen explained the abscess, so Ken took a look. He found a hole on the bottom of his hoof, opened it up a bit and it was as dry as could be. It didn’t seem to bother Dante at all, too. They spot where it busted out on the top of the heel is dry and only a little sore. Ken said to go ahead and ride him—and Dante will let her know if it is bothering him.

As it turns out, this weekend is going to be the prettiest weather of the whole year—70s’, sunny and no humidity. We are glad that he gave his blessing to ride. Dante will go on the geriatric ride, tomorrow, with me in the saddle. Ellen will ride Ranger. If all goes well, he will go on the main ride with Cole Train on Sunday.

Hurray for heeling hooves!

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Thunder Worries

Thunder had a bad weekend.  He started having diarrhea, and that made him so uncomfortable that he would vomit when he finished with the litterbox—at least that was the best I could figure out.  It started Friday evening.  By Saturday morning, he wouldn’t eat.  I went to the barn to ride, and then rushed back home.  He started eating a  little—I didn’t really want him to eat a lot, but I was glad he was interested in food, again.  He needed a lot of consolation.  He likes when I sit on the floor while he sits on one of his pedestals and he will just lean his forehead on my face and purr while I pet him.  If I leave him, he calls out to me to come back.  He just doesn’t want to be alone.  By Sunday evening, he was much his normal self and I didn’t have to take him to the vet Monday morning as I had planned.


What a relief.  He is back to his old self.  He gets very upset when he doesn’t feel good.  A hairball is a big deal, and if I am at home, he needs petting and consoling for at least a half hour.  He gets so upset that he shakes—it is awful.  And then he will be just fine.  I feel bad whenever I find out he had a hairball, and I wasn’t there to comfort him.


He reminds me of my old horse, Mingo.  When Ming would get a hoof abscess, and he had many, it was the end of the world.  I remember once when my sister saw him laying down in his stall because of a hoof abscess.  He saw her watching him.  He nuzzled his back hoof to show her the problem and flopped onto his side and said he was going to die.  What a contrast to Dante this weekend!  We thought his foot was fine, and he ended up blowing out the abscess during the ride.  He didn’t even limp.


I guess animals, as well as people have different tolerances to pain.  I also know that some animals will hide it because they don’t want to appear vulnerable.  I don’t think that was the case with Dante, since it was evident he had an abscess a few days before.  It probably just moved to a spot in the hoof that didn’t cause him pain when he put weight on that foot.

Forever Morgans

Forever Morgans
If you haven’t figured it out already, Ellen and I are big fans of the Morgan horse.  My first horse was Morgan, and though I then branched off to a couple of Morabs, I still loved the Morgan side of them.  Ellen’s horse, Ranger, is suspected to be a Morgan mix.  When it came time for her to buy another horse, her first thought was to get a Morgan—resulting in Dante.  Kevin’s first horse, RB, was a Morgan, too.  If he hadn’t fallen in love with Starry, (really, it was love at first sight for him.)  I think he may have found himself a Morgan, too.  He still admires them.
Morgans make awesome trail horses, so they are perfect fit for people like us.  They are hardy, sensible, intelligent and enjoy having a job.  They are known for their stamina and some can really trot fast.  I personally think they are beautiful, too.
They are also very popular with the Amish, and when they get a little bit too old to go 20-30 miles a day, they tend to end up at the auctions—and we all know the potential fate of any horse that ends up at an auction—ask Ranger.  That’s where he came from.  The meat man bought him, but he was put in the wrong pen and didn’t go in the trucks with the other horses.  A kind woman, seeing his potential, bought him from the meat man and later sold him to Ellen.
That is where Forever Morgans steps in.  They are a Morgan horse rescue group that purchases horses from the auctions or directly from caring Amish owners, puts them in foster homes and finds them homes. 
The reason I mention this here is to let you know if you are looking for some excellent future trail horses, please check them out.  Many of the horses are registered.  They are upfront on the horse’s abilities and limitations, and they only want them to find the perfect home where they will be loved and cared for, for the rest of their lives.  There are some horses that are only suited for a pasture pet, but many of them are sound and young enough to have years of riding. Their prices are very reasonable, too.  In other words, you can get a great horse for a great price—and feel really good about it. 
They are also on Facebook

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Making Lemonade

Making Lemonade

My sister and I take our vacation days together so we can go riding. We have to pick our days weeks ahead of time because if the way her employer’s system works. It’s not like we can look at the forecast and pick the days with the best weather. Instead, we just guess.

Our vacations are notorious for having bad weather and high rivers. If we get a long weekend where we are able to ride as much as we like without being affected by the weather, it is rare.

Well, we planned a 3-day weekend, and the weather wasn’t the problem this time. The week before, we found out the park would be repaving the road that runs adjacent to the bridle trails. A few days after that, Dante started acting like he had a hoof abscess. Yes, it was vacation time.

It looked like Dante was brewing a rear heel abscess. He was reluctant to place weight on his heel and he was a little lame. We were doing the soaking routine, and nothing seemed to happen. Our farrier was scheduled to come out in less than a week, so if it wasn’t better by then, we would have him drain it.

Saturday, Dante’s hoof seemed better—so much better that he wasn’t showing any lameness at all! Could it have drains from a tiny hole, and we didn’t know about it? We led him around and turned him out to trot around.

They are only working on the street paving during the week, so there was no problem with going on a trail ride. We then took Ranger and Cole out for a ride up to the show ring area. It was a fun ride with a fair amount of trotting.

Sunday, we led Dante around outside on the hard and stony ground. He still didn’t show any signs of lameness.

Ranger can manage one longer ride at a time, but we don’t want to overdo it with him, so Cole and I left 20 minutes before Ellen and Ranger. We had a vigorous ride with a lot of trotting and cantering while Ellen had a slower and shorter ride with Ranger. I met them on the way back right at the spot where Ellen was planning to turn around, and we walked home together. She said Ranger was rather slow, but when she told him to “find Cole,” he started to neigh and went faster. (We used to play this game with Ranger and Cruiser, and they learned the find command back then. Starry knows it, too.)

Monday, our vacation day, was the day we made lemonade out of the lemons. Ranger earned a day off, so Kevin graciously offered us Starry.

Starry is a great horse in so many ways, but he has the misfortune of having a very, very uncomfortable trot. I have never ridden a worse one. You have to post, of course, but it is so bouncy and inconsistent that it is very tough to post. Once we got across the river, we started to trot, and the first words out of Ellen’s mouth were, “This is horrible.”

I just trotted happily along behind them. After a while, I suggested she try cantering, and she did. She found his canter much more comfortable than his trot. When we got to the spot that Cole loves to run, I took the lead and left them in the dust, as usual. Ellen cantered and trotted along at their own pace. I waited for them to catch up. I think she had fun.

We crossed the river and did a lot of walking because the trail conditions are horrible over there. When we got out to the street, we could see they had just sprayed the road with some sort of sealant. We didn’t want to step on it—not knowing what it was—but we were able to ride over to the intersection and go around it on the other road. Though neither horse has ever done that before, they both took it all in stride.

We then have a quarter mile of good trail, so Ellen took the lead with Starry and we began to trot. I don’t think she could manage the trot any longer due to muscle fatigue, so she asked him to canter. Cole just trotted behind. We made it to the end had headed home.

One the way home, we realized how lucky we were to pick our two best horses in traffic. By now, the paving was beginning. There were lots of alrge noisy equipment on the street—things that would have gotten Ranger all wound uup and way more than Dante’s ever been exposed to. Dante might have been fine, but Ellen would have been so worried that it would have ruined her ride. Cole and Starry didn’t seem to notice.

All the loud noise did bother us, so we trotted to get away from the worst and then walked the rest of the way home. We were so happy we had the right horses for the ride.

Back to Dante. Ellen rode him in the arena and he seemed sound, but a little slow. She then took him outside and we walked the loop. We discovered he thinks wild turkeys are cool and wants to follow them.

When we got back, Ellen found that the abscess had busted out of his heel while she was riding him. Now, we just have to wait for him to heal his heal.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Long Weekend Update

Dante is doing so well, I have very little to report. Basically, we are just working on building Ellen’s confidence. I say “we” because Dante and I are doing together.

We had a3-day weekend. As usual, on the first day, the river was too high. It was rainy, anyway. We worked on the hill. We took each horse separately. First, Ellen went with Dante. This is to help wean her off Cole. Dante was fine by himself—he always has been. He does tend to cry a little bit. He has the hoarsest voice I have ever heard on a horse.

At the bottom of the hill, we have a smooth, flat section that she trotted back and forth. Dante was a little fast and hyper to start with, but then he settled right down.

I then took Cole on the hill by himself instead of with Ranger. That way, I could do faster work. We did a lot of trotting, some cantering and Ellen placed some small logs on the trail so we could try jumping. He mostly trotted over them. Once, he did a large canter stride.

She then took Ranger on a quiet trip around the back loop with me walking beside them.

Saturday turned out to be a much better day. We took Cole and Dante on the short, fast ride. We did lots of trotting and a little bit of cantering. Since the river was still a little high, Ellen just rode Ranger on the hill. He was quite full of himself and trotted rather fast on the bottom.

Sunday was the best day of them all. We took Cole and Dante up to the show ring trails. There was a show at the ring, but we went nowhere near it. We just trotted The back trails. Both horses behaved lovely. Ellen then took Ranger across the river as l hiked along. They found Kevin with Starry along the way, and that made it even more fun.

On a sad note, but days are getting shorter and there is barely enough time for me to get a trail ride in after work. Kevin and I have had such a nice summer of trail riding in the evenings this year—I am really going to miss it. I just can’t get into the mood of working in the arena. I have one more week.

Monday, September 8, 2014

The Goldenrod Ride

The Goldenrod Ride

My sister and I love to ride up to the show ring trails all the time—but particularly when the goldenrod is blooming. Sunday was a chilly, sunny morning—a perfect day to see the goldenrod. Instead of Dante, Ellen took Ranger. Ranger loves the trails up there since he used to live there. He gets all excited on the way out and pouts on the way home.

This day was no exception. He was a little slow to warm up as any 25-year-old would be, but once he did, he was very eager to be out. Ranger is the bully of the barn, and he loves to pick on the other horses. He likes to lead at the trot and gets angry when other horses pass. If we are walking and the bugs are bad, he wants the other horses to go first, though.

In the last few years, he invented a new game. Instead of trotting fast so other horses can’t pass, he slows down or stops to let them pass and then makes angry, threatening faces at them as they try to pass. Cruiser never cared—he was just happy to be in the lead. Cole and Dante get intimidated. We don’t like it because we want to keep trotting and not play the game at all.

I decided to try something new. Ellen would trot off with Ranger. I asked Cole to stop, clicked and treated him. That gave Ranger a chance to get 20 feet or so ahead. Then, I asked Cole to trot and match Ranger’s speed. The speed was a little slower than Cole wanted, but I just kept praising him and telling him what wonderful horse he was. The only time we ever caught up with Ranger was the time I wasn’t paying attention. It worked like a dream. Ellen got to trot Ranger as much as she liked, and Cole didn’t get picked on.

As we were trotting through the Lagoon, some people were standing in a parking lot by the trail. They pointed out Ranger and watched as he went by. I told Cole that this was our chance. I quit posting, squeezed my legs and Cole launched into his “Show Trot.” Ellen heard me chuckling, and she knew just what happened. I don’t know if the people looked at us, but if they did, Cole looked fantastic.

Ranger marched along to the big hill. Ellen leads him up because she wants to make it as easy as possible for him. (She has been getting spoiled from riding up with Dante.) We walked through the pretty pine forest and then we reached the “Pig Trail.” It is the best trail in the whole park since it is no where close to the river and is not subject to flooding. We trotted along—stopping only where it got muddy. Then, suddenly the trees ended and we were out in the field of goldenrods—and they are at their peak of blooming. It was yellow everywhere—except for the places that were the homes of purple asters and the last of the Joe Pye Weed. The sun was at a perfect angle—it looked quite magical.

We trotted along to the end of the trail, turned around and headed back. We did a little bit of trotting, but we didn’t want to overdo it with Ranger. We explored one side trail that doesn’t go far, but it is a fun trail, nonetheless. It is seldom traveled and many tall plants were obscuring the trail. Ranger had a great time eating. I was able to keep Cole from eating, and gave him a carrot at the end for resisting all that temptation, but I don’t know if he understood it.

After a walk break with Cole in the lead, Ellen thought we could try trotting with him in front. She doesn’t want Ranger to push himself too hard, so I would have to keep Cole at a slow and steady speed. I used to do this back we would ride with Ranger when my niece, Sarah, rode him, so I knew that Cole was up to the task. I asked Cole for a slow trot, and he went so slow that Ranger caught up to us and Ellen told us to speed up. I could feel Cole reacting to the pressure of Ranger being close to him. I asked him to go faster, and he did—but then Ranger turned into a bully—and Cole said, “I’m out of here.” He took off like lightning to get away from Ranger. I stopped him as soon as I could, looked around and saw Ranger charging down the trail. I missed his kitten buck and a couple of canter strides. (Ranger doesn’t canter under saddle anymore, so that was the real surprise. The kitten bucks are normal.)

So much for that experiment. After that, we walked home. At times, Ranger would want Cole in the lead, we would pass, he would make faces and sometimes get upset that Cole was then in the lead and insist he went in the back. Poor Cole. He was always glad to get behind Ranger.

It was a great ride, and I think that Ranger really enjoyed himself. Ellen and I sure did enjoy ourselves. I hope Cole did…

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

More Cuteness

Holiday Weekend

Holiday Weekend

Dante did great this weekend. On Saturday, we went out to the Brookpark Bridge for the first time. It is a massive bridge and very noisy. Cole Train was nervous the first few times under that bridge. Dante asked to touch the pillar. Ellen let him. Cole stood and watched—appalled. Ellen clicked him and gave him a treat. It was a very hot and humid morning, so we didn’t go really fast. we met Kevin on Starry on the way back. it turned out to be well over 2 hours.

On Sunday, we did the show ring trail. it was ordinary and a very nice ride—just hot and humid.

Monday, the heat and humidity continued, so we decided to do the shorter ride. Ho hum. Uneventful. We met Starry on the way back.

The big news is my garden! I have been harvesting non stop. My freezer is getting filled and my dehydrator has been running non stop. I have piles of zucchinis—yes piles. This may have been my best garden, ever, in spite of my tomatoes getting blight. I have so many of them, I don’t care if the plants die early. my lima beans have hit their stride, the beans just won’t slow down and I am still eating cucumbers. My peppers were the only underperformers, but the have started to produce, too. my only problem—will I be able to eat all the veggies I have stored for winter by next summer?

On Saturday, Kevin and I went downtown and caught the end of the air show. The Blue Angels put on a fine show. We also got a few good hikes in over the weekend.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Long Weekend!

Long Weekend!

Ellen and I had a 4-day weekend, and we spent it riding, of course. Thursday, the river was too high to cross. I watched her ride Dante in the arena and then she did the hill a couple times with him. We then rode Ranger and Cole on the hill.

Friday, the river was low enough to cross, so we took Dante and Cole up to the show ring trails. They were both so good and we had a great time. it was so oppressively humid that Ranger got the day off. we just led him in the arena to loosen him up.

Saturday, we did the shorter ride because it has a good section for cantering. When we arrived, I cantered off with Cole. Cole can be very fast, and we lose most horses we canter with. When we got to the end, we stopped and waited for them to catch up. Turns out that Ellen got to gallop Dante for the first time. she thought it was because Cole got so far ahead, but when she stopped, she found a huge, ugly horsefly on his rump. It left Dante before she could kill it and came right to Cole. It landed on his shoulder and was flat on the ground the next second. It will never bother another horse, again. The rest of the ride was routine, but fun. To make it a longer ride, we passed up home and rode the access trail. Ranger went on a short ride and I hiked along with them.

Ellen had so much fun cantering that we did the same ride on Sunday. Dante cantered his normal speed, and she loved it. She took Ranger on the short ride, again and I hiked, again.

The rides are becoming so ordinary, I don't have much to write about. That's a good thing--but it makes boring blogs.

Next weekend, the weather looks like it will be cooler and hopefully less humid. We plan to do some longer rides.

My nephew

Adorable--as usual

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Flying Kitty

Stormy goes airborne!

Monday, August 18, 2014

The Rides are Becoming Ordinary

The Rides are Becoming Ordinary

And that’s a good thing. It just doesn’t give me much to write about. I only got to ride with Ellen on Saturday, and we had a really nice time. We went up to the show ring trails. This time, we even rode up to the show ring. It is a large open field with the trail going around the show grounds. The area can be active, so it was no surprise that we ran into 5 horses. Dante handled the horses passing him without any trouble—unlike last weekend. It may have been because he didn’t feel trapped this time. We didn’t ride the whole trail because it was very hot in the sun. We usually only do it in the cooler weather. We prefer take the back trail which is scenic and very quiet.

Ellen tries to do a “first” on every ride. Her “first” on this one was to ride down the very steep hill. It has been years and years since she has done that, and she made it about a third of the way down before her nerves told her she should hop off and lead the rest of the way. Dante was perfect.

She had to work on Sunday, so I planned a good, long ride with Kevin and Starry. This was my longest ride of the year. They were so slow for the first half of the ride, but once I threw some cantering in, Cole woke up. Soon, we lost Starry as we flew down the trail at a trot—he actually got too hyper to canter safely. It was so much fun. While we were enthusiastically trotting down the trail, I had a wonderful thought—Cruiser must have come along for the ride! Cole was acting just like him. When we got to the homestretch, I figured Cole would fly down it—after all, that’s what Cruiser always did. I asked him to canter—and away we went. He stopped quietly at the end and then we waited for Starry to catch up.

We did a mix of trotting and walking on the way home. It started to rain, but it never got so bad that we were uncomfortable. The ride took us 2:50. I used to do this ride in less than 2 hours when Cruiser was young. He was indefatigable. Part of the reason it took so long is that the trail is in such back shape in many places that we only trot—and I used to canter it with Cruiser. I sure hope they intend to do some repairs on our trails. We still had fun, despite the trail condition.