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.