Monday, July 28, 2014

Two more Firsts for Dante

Two more Firsts for Dante

On Saturday, we took Dante up to the show ring trail. Ellen has tried to ride him up the big hill twice, now, and he has refused both times. She ended up leading him. It was time for a rider switch. Before we got to the hill, we switched horses. When we got about 50 feet from the hill, Dante turned around to go home. He was really starting early this time. Near the base of the hill, he stopped. I started kicking constantly until he started up. After a few steps, I he started to slow and I started to kick, again. I stopped when he walked well and started whenever I felt hesitation. When he got 10 feet up, I clicked him, gave him a treat and asked for forward movement, again. I had no more troubles after that.

It is a very steep hill, and up until just the day before, it had a huge, scary rut going down the center. He either didn’t like the way it looked or didn’t like the steepness. Hopefully, it was the rut, since it is repaired now. I will ride him up it the next few times so we can straighten out the problem before Ellen tries, again.

We trotted all about the trails on top of the hill. I was in the lead on the way back, and I heard a bunch of noise behind me. Cole got scared and wanted to run. I spun and stopped him to see what was going on. Dante had stumbled on his front legs, and instead of slowing down and pulling himself up, he just kept trotting. I don’t know how he did it, but he went 8-10 steps scrambling like that with Ellen leaning over his neck. Finally, he caught himself. She dismounted and caught her breath and checked him out. He had a tiny bit of hair scraped off one knee. We walked him for the next 10 minutes, and he seemed fine. At the bottom of the hill, she mounted back up.

The river was very low, so I suggested that we switch horses, and I try to cross Dante on the river crossing that we have been avoiding by going on the ford. She wasn’t sure, but I was persistent. Cole went down the bank, first. Dante watched him step into the water, and I asked him to walk to the river. He put his nose down and stepped right in. It was a very uneventful crossing. One more thing checked off the list. At the next opportunity, we will try that river crossing on the way out, too.

On Sunday, we were very much relieved to find that Dante was completely unhurt from his fall. We took them out on an easy ride, just in case. It had rained the night before—must have been more than we thought because the river was higher and muddy. It was only slightly higher than it was a few weeks ago when I crossed Dante on his own, so I knew he would be fine, but Ellen was still very nervous about crossing. I showed her the rock tower that Kevin built to help us measure the depth of the river and explained if we saw that much tower, it would be knee high. She said she would try.

Cole went first, and she was with her own eyes that it wasn’t that deep. (Cole is, after all, a pony.) We were on the nearly on the other side when I glanced back and saw Dante take a step into the water. She clicked/treated him and then they were on their way. It was, yet another, uneventful crossing.

We had a leisurely ride for about an hour. When we got back, to our surprise, the river went up another inch. I know it doesn’t sound like much, but it does make it look scary since there was a lot less land showing on the other side. Once again, Ellen sent me into the water first. Dante then crossed like the gentleman he is. He walks slowly and carefully—stopping if she asks him to. Another item off the list—a little higher and muddy water. We are getting there.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Dante and the Steep Riverbank

Dante and the Steep Riverbank

Since the big storm in May, we have had a log at the top of one of our riverbanks. It is the steepest and muddiest bank we have to negotiate. The log is situated badly and too tall to step over, but you can take a quick right turn up an even steeper slope and go around it. It’s a bit tricky, but doable going up—but way trickier on the way down. I was able to coax Ellen to ride up it on Dante a while ago, but she was nervous about going down, so we have been crossing the river via the ford.

Last weekend, we rode that way and she had no problem going up it, of course. It had been a rainy morning and the streets were still wet. The cars on the river ford were very loud from it. The noise made Ellen nervous. She decided she would be less nervous on the riverbank than the street.

I took Cole first so she could watch him. He had been giving me a problem by rushing down it, but just that week, I convinced him slow and careful was better. (I go through this with him every year on this bank.) He carefully walked parallel to the river, stepped down the steep slope and adjusted his angle and went down into the water. I was very proud of him and was glad Ellen could see one of his best performances. I clicked and treated him at the bottom—he earned it.

I now got to watch Dante try it. In the past, he has been reluctant to go down this bank due to the steepness, so it was a relief to see him take his first step down. When he was in the steepest section, he started to slide in the mud. He handled it just like my Cruiser used to handle mud. He held steady until he stopped and took his next step. He continued down, slowly and carefully and quietly stepped into the water. Success! He did as well as Cole did without weeks of practice.

Now, this meant that my niece, Missy, and I could ride this trail on our weekly rides. A few days later, we headed out. Dante has been a bit pokey crossing the water at this crossing in the past. He is slow to step in and tends to stall while crossing. This evening, he passed up Cole and got into the water well before Cole was even close. I had told Missy to click him when he got all four hooves in—and he deserved it. He then went across the river like a gentleman—with no stalling. Of course, he had no trouble going up the steep bank with the log on the other side, since he has done it a number of times already.

We had a nice ride on the other side. Dante did spook once—we don’t know at what. His form of spooking consists of taking a sidestep and trotting 4-5 steps before stopping.

Now, it was time to go down the riverbank. I had Missy watch Cole; who was perfect, again. I guess Dante couldn’t let Cole be the only perfect one—he was too! This time, he didn’t even slide in the mud. What a great horse!

Now, Cole couldn’t let Dante be the star of the show. He had to show us how he does the riverbank on the crossing closest too home. At the very bottom of it, we have to step down into very deep mud for about 2 feet until reaching the water. There is no way around it except for a tiny bit of dry trail that is a hoof wide on the far left of the trail.

I told Missy to watch and gave Cole his head. He walked down the bank right into the river without stepping one step in the mud. Even upon seeing it, she could hardly believe he was able to do it. Ah, the advantages of riding a little horse… By the way, I never taught him to do this. He just didn’t like going in the mud and came up with his own solution.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Garden Update

Garden Update

Achieve1dream asked about my garden—I really didn’t think anyone cared! I am happy to do a garden update.

So far, things are looking fantastic—and I can hardly believe it. Some of the tomato plants are getting yellow, lower leaves, and I am concerned that I might have the blight, but since I planted 27 plants, even if the yield is a little less, it won’t make much difference—I am only one person. I am confident there will still be enough for me and plenty for my brother—the tomato obsessed one in the family. I have already picked a dozen cherry tomatoes.

Some of my peppers died—I think it was the greenhouse blight. Not much that I can do about that. I still have enough plants left. I have already picked one and put it in the chili I made last weekend.

The eggplants this year are black fingerlings. That is all the greenhouse had left. They are very healthy and I already picked one. I plant them amongst my lima beans. They make terrific companions. I haven’t had a bad crop of eggplants since I learned how much they like beans. Good thing I planted them in the lima beans last year instead of the green beans! They would have been lonely eggplants—thanks to the rabbits.

The rabbits haven’t snuck under the electric fence this year. Last year, they decimated my green beans. I know it was them—I saw one. This year, the beans look terrific. I even picked a handful to go in my rice casserole this week. In a few days, I am sure I will be freezing them.

I didn’t get the greatest germination with my lima beans, but I still think there will be plenty. I like them better than green beans. I freeze them, too. I also planted little black beans for dried beans. I haven’t done that for years—wait I did try last year, but the rabbits got them. So far, they look good. They just started to bloom. I like them in soup.

My squash and cukes look great, but I haven’t’ picked any, yet. I will do a whole post telling about my squash project once I see the results. It is just so nice to see such vigorous plants.

I planted some beets—even though I don’t like them. They are just so nutritious. I put them—beets + greens—in casseroles. It looks like I will definitely have reddish casseroles, soon. They let me make pink potato soup, too.

Last but not least, I have the best basil crop, ever. I dry basil in my dehydrator so I can use it the rest of the year. I just finished last year’s basil. I also dehydrate my cherry tomatoes to make sun dried tomatoes. I like them a lot better than fresh. If I have extra peppers, they go in the dehydrator, too. Oh, when I freeze my beans, I toss in a few stalks of basil in the package and freeze them together.

So that’s it, so far. I should really learn how to take pictures from my phone…

What My Sister did Today

What My Sister did Today

During the week, Ellen and I work different hours, so we can’t ride together. She has been working Dante in the arena and walking him around the driveway and such. She has still been nervous about going on the street by herself ever since she broke her ankle while leading him on the street last fall. When she is with me, she does great leading him. I somehow boost her confidence.

She was by herself, today, and she got the nerve up to lead him down the street. First, she rode a little in the arena—and then down the driveway she went. When she got to the road, she saw a police car had pulled a car over and had his lights flashing. She didn’t let this deter her. She walked out onto the road.

Next, another police car comes down the road with the lights and siren going. Dante was fine! Ellen continued down the road. Shortly after, here comes the original car with siren blaring and lights flashing. Dante was still fine with it! Poor Ellen was shaking, but she kept going.

She got a little ways down the hill, and Dante started to get fussy. She continued, but so did he. She ended up turning him around and coming back home. He was great leading on the street. He wasn’t done working though. She rode him for a while in the arena.

She sounded disappointed with herself, but from what I could tell, she did great. I never would have expected her to take Dante on the road once she saw the police car. Then, to top it off, he did great. I think it was a blue ribbon day for her!!!

Monday, July 14, 2014

Just a Bunch of Ordinary Rides

Just a Bunch of Ordinary Rides

Things have gone very smoothly with project Dante. My niece rode him on the hill the other night when the river was too high. He was reluctant to turn back down the hill to do it multiple times, but nothing she couldn’t handle. It doesn’t give me much to write about.

My sister took him up to the show ring on Saturday, and other than balking about going up the hill, again, he was perfect. That doesn’t give me anything to write about, either.

Ellen had to work on Sunday, so I took Dante for a short ride. The river was the highest he has ever crossed—and muddy so he couldn’t see the bottom. He crossed it without hesitation. We did a lot of trotting and a little cantering. It was as enjoyable as can be, but it doesn’t give me anything to write about.

Cole has been consistent and well behaved. He doesn’t care for the heat, the bugs or the hard trail, and he tells me about it. Still, he has been fun and willing to ride. That also doesn’t give me anything to write about.

I hope these good, unexciting rides keep on coming!

Today is Thunder’s anniversary and Starry’s birthday! July 14th is a good day for us. I think it might be good day for a tuna sandwich. Thunder loves to drink the juice.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Wow, We did It!

Wow, We did It!

My goal since Cruiser and Ranger got too old to go on long, fast rides together, has been able to go on long, fast rides with my sister. I have worked hard to get Cole ready, and we have gone on long, fast rides with Kevin and long, fast rides alone, but not with my sister.

Once she bought Dante, I knew it would happen sometime in the future, but it seemed so elusive. The weather was horrible last summer with high rivers every weekend—or so it seemed. We got Dante to the point where we could go on short, fast rides—and then Ellen broke her ankle, winter showed up and we had a late spring. Since then, we have been picking away at the various obstacles to get to the good trails and building up Ellen’s shattered confidence from the ankle incident.

The key was to traffic desensitize Dante to the max. To get to the long ride trail, we have to deal with plenty of traffic and chaos. Memorial Day weekend was a huge turning point. By the end of the weekend, Dante was doing well through a very difficult stretch of trail called the Lagoon. Unfortunately, we had more high rivers to contend with—and Ellen had to work some days on the weekend, too.

We did get side tracked by getting Dante up to the show ring trails on the other side of the chaotic Lagoon area. I rode him a few times up there, first, and this weekend, Ellen rode him there for the first time. He was mostly great, and when he wasn’t, it wasn’t anything she couldn’t handle.

Now, it was back to our project—getting to the good trails. We had 3 more obstacles to get through. The first was another ford. Since he has been working very well with the first 2 fords, I wasn’t too concerned. The only thing that made this one tougher is that the traffic was controlled by a light at the other side of it. That meant that we may have to thread between the edge of the ford and idling cars.

We then had to cross a very busy intersection, but at least it is controlled by the light.

The final obstacle is the “big river.” It is at least 3 times as wide as our other river crossings. I have crossed it a number of times with Cole, but Ellen hasn’t crossed it in years. When we have gotten Ranger to that side of the park, we have crossed on the bridge. It is a long bridge with a lot of traffic, so we thought it would be better to cross the river with Dante.

After doing all that, we have a bridle trail that we can ride with abandon—well almost. We share it with many other users, but we don’t have to worry about that kind of stuff with Dante.

The big day arrived. Dante had been ridden for the last 6 days in a row, so his mind was in a good place. Ellen would ride him on all the familiar trails, and then we would switch horses. She was very nervous. I was excited because we were chipping away on the last piece of my goal.

The first part of the ride went well. When we got to the ford, dismounted and led the horses across. They did fine, in spite of the traffic. We stood at the light, it changed and we led across. None of the traffic bothered Dante.

We mounted and rode to the river. Honestly, I wouldn’t have worried one bit about the river, except that last fall, we tried a new river crossing with me aboard, and Dante simply refused. After about 20 minutes, we gave up and went home. We have been avoiding that one ever since by going on the ford, instead. Would Dante refuse on this one, too?

My plan was to reinforce walking forward on command with clicker on the short stretch of trail leading to the river. I ran into a problem, though—he was so excited to be on a new trail that I couldn’t get him to stop so I could ask him to “walk.” I gave up and hoped his enthusiasm would carry him into the water.

He was in the lead—since I couldn’t get him to stop and let Cole pass. He paused at the top of the river bank, and we used that to get Cole in the lead. I pointed Dante to Cole’s rump, and we followed him right in. Whew, what a relief. The worst was over.

Well, so I thought. I forgot about Ellen—a person who has always been nervous crossing the river. Cole slowly walked across and Ellen was a wreck. At one point, Dante tried to turn around, but I kept him turning until we were facing Cole again and after that, he committed himself to crossing. Cole slipped, Ellen squawked. Cole slipped again, Ellen squawked again. I avoided the spots that Cole had trouble. The slate bottom had a thick coat of algae making tough whenever they stepped on an uneven spot.

There is a small island in the middle that we rested on. Ellen worried Dante wouldn’t want to step off the island, but he did—passing Cole and getting to the other side long before him. Cole wanted to play in the water and was pretending to drink. Once Ellen learned the game, she gave him a kick.

She said she was shaking—then I realized I was too. She was shaking from nerves, but I was shaking from excitement. I had reached my goal!!! We stepped up onto the trail on the other side and just walked along.

We weren’t going to go far—we would save that for another day. We just wanted Dante to enjoy himself on the other side and then we would head on home. We would turn around in a small open area. In the distance, we heard a bagpipe. Remember when I mentioned that we have a lot of people using our trails? You never know what you might find. We usually find a bagpipe player once or twice a year, but never with Dante. It got louder and louder. We decided not to push our luck and turned a little earlier.

That meant we had to do everything all over again.

Dante went right into the river, and I had no trouble with him except he did slip a few times. Though it is scary when he slips, he doesn’t panic but slowly negotiates himself through the rough spot. All went well for me.

Poor Ellen was having a panic attack. Cole walked faster, this time, since he was on the way home. He slipped a few times and she was squawking incessantly. I couldn’t even stand to watch them in her panicked state. Cole got across just fine, but Ellen was shaking, again. I was shaking, too, from happiness that Dante did so well.

Next step—the intersection and the ford. This time, we had to cross both streets of the intersection—which meant going right into the traffic. I led him, and he did well. The ford itself was easy because a car stopped at the beginning of it and blocked all other traffic until we got across. We truly appreciated that kindness. Once we were on the other side, I got off the street at the earliest possible moment by taking Dante up a little slope—and he burst! He did a dance and I had to spin him. This seems to be his normal response when he has to be good through a stressful situation—as soon as he is out of it, he reacts.

We switched horses and Cole was so happy to have me back. The rest of the way home went well. We did it! by this time next year, we will be doing all this without thinking twice, but there is always the “first time” to get through, and we did it and did it well.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Belated Weekend Update

The week is nearly over, and I haven’t even mentioned what we did lat weekend, yet.

On Saturday, we decided to take Ranger and Dante up to the show ring trails. I got to ride Dante. Kevin joined us with Starry. The ride was very successful and rather uneventful.

Our plan on Sunday was to take Dante and Cole up there, but Ellen called me in the morning—she had a tremendous migraine. I was on my own, so I took Cole up there by ourselves. I have only done it with him, alone, a couple of times, and he hasn’t always been that good. This time, he did quite well. We did a lot of trotting on the way out, and a little bit on the way home. He got rather excited on the way back, and since it was very hot, I figured that he would be better off doing a bit more walking.

We met Kevin on Starry on the way home. Kevin decided to ride on, since his ride had been too short. I told him I would catch up with him on Dante. Well, as Cole and I headed up the hill on the way home, who should we see, but Ellen! After talking to me on the phone, she went back to sleep for a while and woke up feeling much better.

My plans suddenly changed. She would ride Dante and I would ride Ranger. It is so strange to ride such a big horse. We had a nice time, and we met Kevin and rode home with him.

We have a long holiday weekend, but it is our least favorite. Our urban trails are a little risky around the 4th, so we ride conservatively. There are a few idiots out there that have fireworks and think it is cute to scare horses. Still, at least we get a day off of work.