Tuesday, April 29, 2014



I couldn’t resist sharing this photo from my sister. I think it is so adorable. Her cat, Stormy, can’t seem to find good hiding places outside if it is raining. He will come in soaked and expects to be blotted dry. Well, he did it again, today. He got caught in the rain. Here he is getting blotted by my sister.

Bus Stop

I had a nice ride in the park with Cole, and I still had some time before sunset. It was time for another lesson in waiting for the bus. That is what I call standing at the end of the driveway; watching traffic. This was a good day for it because the roads were wet and that makes the cars sound much louder.

We were heading down the driveway just as Kevin was leaving. He had to get home to watch a basketball game, but he took the time to drive right up to Dante on his bad side. I clicked and started to give him carrots. He rolled down the passenger window and Dante stuck his nose in. Kevin gave him a carrot—and then Dante thought cars are really cool!

He drove down the driveway and we followed. Horses are always less afraid of something if they are following it. Kevin yelled out that when he lifted his hand out the window that he would honk. He did—and Dante didn’t care. He honked again and drove off.

We were left standing there, waiting for the cars. The louder noise didn’t bother him at all. I clicked for “head down” and quiet standing. We got bored and I brought him back. I let him out in the outside arena to play. I don’t think we will bother with Bus Stop any more.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Dante does it Again

I know everybody is waiting on the edge of their seats to see how we did with Dante this weekend. Well, at least Missy probably is.

I got to ride him on this weekend while Ellen rode Ranger. We led both horses down the hill. I hopped on Dante while Ellen took Ranger to the mounting block. Instead of waiting, I thought I would see what Dante would do if I didn’t tell him to do anything. he walked right down the river bank and stepped in the water! At that moment, I decided that it was time to try the next river crossing, too.

We walked and trotted to the next river crossing without any problems. When we got there, he tried to veer off to the other trail that leads to the street so he could cross on the ford. We had gone that way on the last few rides last fall because the river was too high. Obviously, he remembered and preferred that way. With a surprisingly amount of difficulty, I got him to turn around and head for the river.

The bank was very muddy—and he had protested about muddy conditions last year, but he quietly followed Ranger in without hesitation. Since he was never very good here, last year, we were so pleased with him! we rode on for another 10 minutes, and turned around to come home.

I was actually more concerned about him crossing on the way home than the way out. he wasn’t all that good there, last year. The bank is very steep and you land right in the water—and the mud is even worse here than on the other side. Cole even refused it the first time, this year. He hates that bank.

Dante just walked down slowly and carefully. He did better than Cole has all year. Then he crossed the river like a champ.

On Sunday, we did the same ride, and he was even better. I think Ellen may try riding him next weekend if the river is crossable—and then I will lose him. Sigh…

I did take Cole on great rides on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, too. I will have to get used to him being my only horse. Once Ellen starts riding Dante on the trail, it will be hard to get her off—except when we head on the scary trails on the other side of the park, but I don’t think they will be scary for long with Dante!

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Cole’s First Solo Ride of the Year

Cole’s First Solo Ride of the Year

I don’t get to take Cole out by himself very often since I am usually riding with Kevin and Ellen. Well, Starry got his feet done, yesterday, so he had the day off. Cole and I were on our own.

It was a very chilly night, which put him in a speedy mood. Once we got across the river, we started trotting—only stopping when the trail got stony. Once we were warmed up, I asked for a canter, and he gave me such a lovely one. I could tell he felt good to stretch his legs out. We stopped, rounded a bend and went down a little hill and we were off again at a trot. We went around another bend and reached our favorite part of the trail for cantering—and we were off. it was so nice to not worry about Kevin keeping up. We flew to the next river crossing. We crossed, trotted a bit, walked up a steep trail and we were on the sewer plant trail.

Close to the beginning of the trail, there is a sharp corner to the right. It is the one place where I have a really good chance of getting the elusive right lead. He expects me to ask for it, and there have been times where he bucks on the transition from excitement. I do not let him canter here when we are with other horses—and we will carefully walk or trot. Since I was alone, I couldn’t resist the temptation.

We walked to the corner. He was impatiently trying to trot, but I was insistent that we stay at a walk. When we reached the corner, I asked for a bend, tapped his side and we were off!!!! He did give me the correct lead and with no bucking. In a few seconds, I saw the small log over the trail that we had been jumping. Since I have basically just started jumping logs with him in the last few weeks, I didn’t want to go over it at such a high speed. I asked him to trot, we approached the log and he popped right over it—going back into the canter. His excitement level was way up, so I bought him back to a trot.

There are 2 more logs on the trail, fairly close together. He trotted over the first and jumped the second. Now, he was really excited, so it was time to walk.

We went on to the next section of trail, called Flane. It is in the wide open and parallels the street—one only to be trotted or cantered on a quiet horse. We walked. He tried to trot, but I stuck to my guns and kept him walking. We got to the end, turned around and headed home. We did some trotting but mostly walking.

As we walked along the street heading home, who should I see at the end of the driveway? Dante! Kevin and Dante were practicing bus stop. They were watching the cars go by and Dante was being a perfect gentleman. We stopped to talk to them, and then left them there. Dante didn’t even mind the Cole walked away. Kevin just kept clicking and giving him carrots.

If Kevin can do it so easily, so can Ellen. This morning, she was out with him by herself. She almost made it to the end of the driveway. She then took him to the neighbor’s driveway and a car pulled in—but Dante didn’t care. They watched cars for a while and all he wanted was his carrots. This is a major breakthrough for Ellen! I am so proud of her.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Dante and the River

Saturday dawned a beautiful morning—and it was the day that Dante was going to cross the river. The river was finally low enough for us to cross safely. I met Ellen at the barn—all excited. I was the one who was going to ride Dante. She would be on reliable Ranger. Ellen was very nervous—I was just excited.

Dante wasn’t always the most reliable horse last year with the river. Last summer, he was crossing with Ellen, but he would go really fast—and it scared Ellen. Finally, his rushing caused him to fall. Neither Ellen or Dante were hurt, but they were both scared.

I stepped in to save the day, but it wasn’t easy. The next time when we took Dante out for a ride, he refused to cross and it took about 15 minutes until he did. After that, he was hesitant but improved. We had him crossing at the next crossing—and then he decided he didn’t like that, either, and we had to do more work with him. That actually happened twice. On one other crossing, we only tried once—and failed miserably, though I think it was because of the deep mud leading up to the water that was the problem.

Since he dipped his toes in the water a number of times, I wasn’t too worried. His usual ploy was to dart to the left as soon as he reached the water. I was ready to counter with the right rein—and if that failed, circle him to the left until we were facing the water, again.

I had nothing to worry about. He stepped right in and walked across. He did go a little too fast, but not the way he used to. I tried to get him to stop halfway, but he completely ignored me.

We had a wonderful ride with some walking and some trotting. He was simply perfect—just following Ranger along like he didn’t have a 4-month break from trail riding.

On the way home, the river bank was very muddy, and he didn’t like that—yet, he wasn’t going to let that keep him from getting back to the barn. Once again, I tried to stop him as he crossed, and he just kept walking. We rode up the hill to home beautifully. His first trail ride of the year got him an A+.

Sunday also dawned a beautiful morning—and everything else was the same as the day before—except he did stop in the river when I asked him to—and earned himself a click and a carrot. A+ all the way. Dante is a great horse! I can’t wait to ride him next weekend!

Monday, April 21, 2014

Pictures of the boys

Cole, Dante and Ranger.  They are about halfway shedded out and looking much more presentable.  Cole is parked out, of course.  I don't think I could get a picture of him any other way.  I just look at him, and he parks out.  He is such a silly boy. 

Dante--Ace Trail Horse

Isn't he a cutie?  We had a wonderful weekend.  He went on 2 trail rides and was simply a dream horse.  I'm hoping the river will stay low for a while so I can take advantage of Ellen's nervousness and get some more great trail rides on him.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Dante’s Next Challenge

Dante’s Next Challenge

It seems that the one lesson on traffic desensitization worked a miracle with Dante. My next goal to prepare him for Ellen was to conquer the hill, and after that will be the river. Of course, he had been on the hill many times last year, but that is never a guarantee that things will go smoothly after a long winter away from the trail.

One weekend morning when Ellen was working, I put Dante’s halter on and headed for the hill. I stopped him at the end of the driveway to watch a few cars go by before venturing onto the street. Of course, he got clicks and treats for behaving. A car did pass us while we were walking on the street, and he was perfect.

We headed down the hill, and in the beginning, he was very good. I clicked and treated him for good behavior. He was even good on the way back. I wasn’t going to stop with one trip, though. I turned him around and asked him to go back down. That is when he threw his little temper tantrum. He raised his head up, stomped the ground with his front legs and tried to pull away. I held steady, and we continued down the trail. He threw several temper tantrums on the way down, walked quietly up and there were more temper tantrums on the third trip down. In no way were any of his misbehaviors dangerous or hard to handle, but I was still disappointed.

On the way home, we stopped at the trailhead before crossing the street. He stood for a few seconds, and then he flew backwards for no apparent reason! I just held still like a post. When he got to the end of the rope, he came back and we walked home. That really made me disappointed.

I’m not one to give up easily. My next opportunity came on an evening later in the week. I didn’t have enough daylight to do more than one trip. Once again, he was perfect on the street. We didn’t get too far down the trail when he started crying. He doesn’t have a pretty voice in the least. Think of a loud, hoarse goose honk.

I just talked to him and kept leading him. After a few cries, he changed his tactics. He would cry, throw his head up in the air and throw a temper tantrum. He kept doing this, so eventually; I pulled down at the halter and yelled at him to stop. He didn’t, so I repeated. No clicks for Dante. Once we got down to the bottom of the hill, he settled down, and I clicked and gave him a bunch of carrots. On the way back home, he didn’t cry, but he jogged—which is not acceptable. I made him stop and stand each time he tried to trot.

At the trail head, I made him stand like the last time, and when he did, he got jackpotted with a handful of carrots. He tried rushing home on the street.

I wasn’t able to call Ellen before she went to bed, so I left her a message about what a terrible time we had. Cole wasn’t very good on his ride—bolting at the bottom of the hill and refusing to stop when he saw a deer. (Like we don’t see deer on every single ride!)

Ellen heard my message and didn’t understand why I sounded so sad. She saw that he was good on the street with the cars. She wasn’t as disheartened as I was, at all, and did her best to cheer me up.

Two days later, I had another chance to try the hill. Once again, I didn’t have enough time for more than one trip. It didn’t matter. Except for crying a little bit, he was perfect—100% perfect. He did it again. He thought about what he learned and applied it to the following lesson. This has been a Dante trend from the beginning.

The next day, Ellen was there. She and my niece rode Dante in the arena, and then we untacked him and led him down the hill. Kevin was up ahead on the hill with Starry, and even though Dante could see him, he behaved. He didn’t mind when Starry passed him going up when we were going down, either. He caught up with us, and we joined him on the way back up the hill. Dante was perfect except he didn’t want to go home—he wanted to stay with Starry, but Kevin was doing multiple trips and we weren’t. Dante cried, but he did walk quietly home. Ellen got to see him on another perfect day!

She had to work the following day and I didn’t, so I was back on the hill with Dante. My plan was to do 3 trips. He was perfect on the way down except for crying. He saw a person walking a dog on the other side of the river, and it fascinated him. I walked him to the river bank and on a hunch, we walked down it. The river was pretty high, and we wouldn’t think of crossing him at that height for the first time of the year.

I led him to the edge of the water—click/treat. I asked him to step in—1 toe—click/treat. I asked for the other toe—click/treat. Then, I asked him for another step—but I didn’t intend on getting my feet wet. He had to do it without me—and he did! Click/jackpot treat!

I let him stand in the water. I knew that if I wanted to get wet, he would have walked right across. We left, went up the hill and came back down, walked down to the river and repeated everything. We walked up the bank, walked a little, turned around and went back to the water. In all, we did 3 trips on the hill and 6 trips into the water. He was heavenly.

Was this really the same horse?

As soon as the river is low enough to cross on a day that Ellen and I are both there—we are crossing—and I don’t expect we will have any problems at all. I hope she lets me ride him. Soon, very soon, I will have nothing to write about.

The many faces of Thunder

My sister came over this weekend to visit Thunder, and she took some pictures of him. He was defending his tower, so he had some unusual expressions!

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Desensitizing Dante to Traffic

Desensitizing Dante to Traffic

Dante isn’t good with traffic. If a car passes him on the left, he is fine. If a car passes him on the right, he consistently gets reactive. That is how Ellen broke her ankle last fall. Circumstances dictated leading him on the wrong side of the street, and Dante spooked at a car and knocked her over somehow. Ellen hasn’t led him in traffic, since. Mostly, she hasn’t led him because she was recovering from a broken ankle, and then we had the longest winter, ever.

I decided I would help by spending my free time desensitizing Dante to traffic. The other evening, I got to the barn before Kevin. I filled up my pockets with little pieces of carrots and walked Dante down the driveway. Once we were in front to the barn, Kevin drove up—perfect timing. I stopped Dante and motioned to Kevin to drive towards us. He slowly approached, and I clicked and treated for standing. Kevin shut his car off, and I clicked and clicked. When Dante seemed settled, we started walking around his car—always with the car on the right—the scary side. The clicks and carrots kept coming. On one side, he had to thread through a 10-foot space between Kevin’s car and my car. I could see he felt claustrophobic about it, so I asked him for “head down” and clicked him.

I don’t know how many times we circled Kevin’s car, but at one point, I saw another car pulling into the driveway. Dante did, too, and he spooked—even though the car was very far away. I had him halt and the car passed him. More clicks. As it pulled into a parking spot, we followed it. More clicks. I have always found that if a horse can follow a monster, they will treat it as less of a monster.

I was running low on carrots, so I told Kevin to go park. He did something better. He started his car (spook) and then kept going forward and backwards while Dante watched—on the right side—and finished off the carrots. It was a good session.

The next day, Ellen was there. She rode him in the arena, and then I thought we could do a little bit of driveway work. I took over. I led him down the driveway, and then chaos erupted. I just wanted him to watch them at a distance from the street, and there were plenty of cars out there, but then we had some pull in the driveway and some pull out of the driveway. A car went into the driveway right next door. A couple minutes later, they left. A noisy truck came down the street. Seeing us, the driver pulled into the driveway across the street and came over to ask us if we had a dozen empty stalls at our barn. We directed him down the street—so he started up his very noisy truck and drove away. More cars came by. We decided to bring him home, and another car pulled up to us. The woman driving knew about the desensitization program, so she kept her car still and allowed Dante to approach. She then left.

Through all of this, he only gave one small spook and that is when he heard a farrier open up her truck bed. We were amazed and very pleased. Of course, all the carrots and clicks made it a very positive experience for him. Ellen was simply awestruck.

To be continued…

Friday, April 4, 2014

Dante Improves

Each day, I seem to be a little bit sadder about Cruiser. I thought it was supposed to go the other way! I don’t even feel like riding, but I have been, anyway. One thing that really makes me feel better is working with Dante.

I mentioned how awful he was on Monday. Well, he was the opposite on Wednesday. I was so tickled with the improvement. After a generous turnout where he ran plenty (which didn’t help at all on Monday) I took him for a little walk. We started with the same routine that we did on Monday, and we had no issues whatsoever. I pushed the envelope by adding the loop—still good. He got plenty of praise and a few clicks, too. I then went back to the barn, passed it up and headed down the driveway. We stopped about 20 feet from the street and watched a few cars go by. He didn’t see bothered by them, but he didn’t want to stand still. I simply kept circling him around and stopping him when he was facing the street. It was all so uneventful. I brought him back to the barn, and he reminded me of Mingo—the way he carefully walked with his head about the height of my hip. He was extremely relaxed. I will push the envelope more this weekend.

I want him to be back to his old self by the time the river is low enough to cross. Ellen is very nervous about all this—it is her nature—so I am glad I am able to help her. She needs to see him behave with me. She is a very visual person, and if she can see it, she can process it.

Cole has been very good on his hill trips with Starry. I wish it wouldn’t rain so much! We haven’t crossed the river in over a week.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

It just wasn’t right looking at Cruiser’s empty stall, so we moved Dante into it. It’s a better stall, anyway. Dante and Starry are now best buddies. They play with each other just as much as Cruiser and Starry used to. it was a good move.

We got an unexpected 6 inches of snow on Saturday night. The river was too high to cross, so we took Starry, Ranger and Cole on the hill. It was one of the prettiest snowfalls I have ever seen. Since it wasn’t that cold, it was the really heavy snow that sticks to all the branches. It was truly a winter wonderland, though the calendar said it was spring. Even more unusual—it was a clear blue sky. The sun was causing the snow to melt quickly, and we were getting pelleted by chunks of snow falling off the branches.

The picture shows Cole in the front and Ranger’s ear.

Yesterday, the river was still high because all of the snow had melted. I rode the hill with Kevin on Starry. We had a nice time. I then let Dante out to play while I cleaned up his stall. Once he got all his bucks out, I took him for a walk in the back of the property—and found out he still didn’t have all his bucks out. Turns out, every time we would go in a direction that he didn’t want to go, he would throw a temper tantrum. He basically just wanted to go back to the barn. I just held steady—sometimes circling him. in about 10 minutes, he was walking like a gentleman. We will work on this more later in the week.

Of course, I miss Cruiser, but I have to keep going forward. Cruiser believed in always going forward—as fast as allowed. I will take his advice.