Monday, December 28, 2015

A Christmas Ride

A Christmas Ride

Ellen and I met out at the barn on Christmas morning.  It is a tradition with us to ride on Christmas morning—but then again, it is a tradition for us to ride on together on all holidays if we are both not working—actually, that includes weekends, too.  I guess riding on Christmas isn’t such a big deal, after all.

Going on a long trail ride on Christmas morning is special, though.  There are a lot of Christmas mornings that we have extreme cold, rain, ice, snow storms or can’t cross the river.  Even if we can get on the trail and across the river, it is usually very cold, so we go for a short ride.  This year was an exception.  With the temps’ in the 40’s, we were able to go for a lovely, longer ride.

There was only one problem.  The river was a little high.  Now, it was crossable.  I crossed just the day before with Kevin.  (Ellen was working.)  It was pretty high then, but we had no problems.  I knew it would only be lower, and she could do it, but since we haven’t had much rain in months, she was out of practice and was nervous about riding Dante across.

She had an ingenious idea—we would switch horses!  She would ride Cole Train and I would ride Dante.  (Why she felt braver riding a pony across when her own horse is a couple inches taller and much more sturdy doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, but I didn’t question it—it meant we would be able to go on a trail ride.)

We rode down to the river, slowly.  Cole wanted clicks from Ellen, so he started trialing behaviors.  He was doing silly walk and going sideways.  I saw him overdo the sideways and jackknife once.  I just kept plodding with Dante.

When we made it to the river, both horses didn’t really want to cross.  They each wanted the other horse to go first.  Cole finally stepped in, and Dante slowly followed.  It really wasn’t very high—up to the top of Cole’s knees.

Once across, Dante and I had a disagreement.  He wanted to go to the left.  He always prefers to go that direction.  We wanted to go to the right.  It is a nicer ride if you don’t want to go more than an hour and a half.  I circled him and pointed him the direction we wanted to go. 

I decided to go first so that Cole could follow slowly behind and not worry Ellen with any excessive speed.  She certainly had nothing to worry about.  Cole decided to take advantage of the situation.  He began trialing, again.  He would stop and tell her he needed a treat—and she would give him one!  Well, that opened the Pandora ’s Box.  He kept stopping, and I think she kept treating.  I don’t really know exactly what was going on.  We kept trotting and they were long out of sight.  At times, I stopped and let them catch up.  Dante’s favorite trot is much slower than Cole’s favorite trot, so this was a huge switch from normal.  Usually, I am waiting for Dante because Cole goes faster.  Now, I was waiting for Cole—simply unheard of.

We got to a point where we hadn’t seen them in a couple minutes, and Dante realized what was going on—and started to cry!  He has the most horrible voice.  We just stood there and waited.  Cole finally woke up and trotted up to us.

By this time, Kevin caught up on Starry.  The more the merrier on this Christmas morning.

We went down a little hill and around a corner—and got to the spot that we usually canter—we call it the canter stretch.  I certainly didn’t want to put Ellen through that.  Cole, if he is in the mood, will canter very, very fast.  I suppose I should call it a gallop.  It is my fault.  I love it and encourage him.  It doesn’t bother Starry or Dante when we get too far ahead.  They will go a little faster, but they get left in the dust.  We will stop and wait for them to catch up.  Any other time, he canters normal—but not on the canter stretch.  Dante goes a good, fast speed, but it is still a rational canter.  Ellen isn’t used to Cole’s gallop, so it was best just to trot.

Since all three horses would have preferred to canter, we trotted fast, and it was fun.  Ellen and I both love a fast trot.  We stopped at the next river crossing.  Since the river is always higher there, we decided to cross on the ford.  Since Ellen likes to lead across it, we dismounted and switched horses.  After that, it was a normal ride.

Shortly after, Kevin turned back.  He had less time than us because he had a Christmas event with his family.  Our family knows better than to schedule anything that would interfere with our riding.

On the way home, we once again switched horses to recross the river.  Cole is not happy about that river bank because it has gotten very muddy at the bottom and some of the bank has washed away.  He has to step down into the mud.  Dante just slides down the edge of the washed out area into the mud.  It doesn’t bother him at all.  We were across the river waiting on the other side, and Cole was still trying to find a way to avoid getting his feet in the mud.  Ellen patiently worked with him to get him to go down the bank into the water successfully.

Once they got across, we both opted to dismount and lead up the hill.  We were a little chilly.  On the faster parts of the ride, we got pretty sweaty.  As we walked home to cool the horses down, our sweatiness cooled us too much.  Leading up the hill is a perfect solution to warm up.  It is something we do often.  We switched back to our proper horses.

I had fun when I was riding Dante , and Ellen felt the same on Cole.  We now have a way that we can cross when the river is a little too high for Ellen’s comfort, yet it is safe to cross.  She could ride the little horse.  

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

My Garden

My big, multi-year project.  This is my garden wall that my sister rebuilt a few summers ago.  I have been working on bringing the garden back to life, but nothing has thrived.  This winter, I am bringing home tubs of rotted horse manure every time I go to the barn and adding them to my various gardens. This one has about 6 inches of manure on it, now.  In the spring, I will be planting all kinds of flowers in it.  Hopefully, the deer will allow some to grow.

This is the view outside my dining room window.  It used to be a thing of great beauty before the wall started to collapse and killed much of the flowers.  I hope to return it to it's former glory.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Update on Ranger and His Girlfriend

Update on Ranger and His Girlfriend

She loves him; simply loves him.  He thinks she is a pipsqueak and ignores her most of the time.  It is wonderful.  I can clean his stall when he is in it, and he isn’t trying to kick the wall or snake his head at her.  She will stand by his wall and reach her little nose up as high as she can to see him, and he doesn’t care.

The other day, we were out leading Ranger on the loop.  One end of the track goes along the fence of the outdoor arena, and the pony was out there.  We trotted Ranger along the fence, and she trotted alongside him.  It was so cute, and I could see he was watching her out of the corner of his eye, yet he was a gentleman the whole time.  He didn’t try to race her—or snarl at her.

She cries when he leaves the barn, and he could care less.  The more she adores him, the more he ignores her.  We couldn’t be happier!

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Waiting for Winter

Waiting for Winter

In the winter, I have limited trail riding because of the lack of daylight in the evenings and crummy weather on the weekends.  The transition to arena work is a tough one for Cole and me.  Between his over enthusiasm and his tremendously big arena trot that is tough to ride, I know I can spend a week or so straight getting us both used to a new routine.  This year, it just isn’t working.  The weather has been too nice to ride inside.  We have been having great trail rides on the weekend.  I have even managed to get out of work early a few times and go on trail rides.  On most of the evenings, it is so warm that I ride outside on the loop in the dark—round and round the quarter-mile track.  I do a little trotting and lots of walking.

My first couple of arena rides were back in November, and they were really tough. After that, I have averaged about one a week—no way to build up any momentum.  He has gotten better, slowly.  I managed to do it twice last week for 20 minutes—and then went outside and rode on the loop.

I know eventually, the good weather will end and I will have to start working, but I just can’t motivate myself when I can comfortably bop around outside.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Quietude Dante

Quietude Dante

In the spring of 2013, my sister, Ellen, made the trip to West Virginia to the Quietude Stud.  She was going to meet her dream horse, but she didn’t know it at the time.   Her Morgan mix, Ranger, was getting up in years, and she was looking for another horse to gradually fill his shoes as he aged.  When she laid her eyes on Dante, she felt he would be the one.

We couldn’t have asked for a better horse.  Ellen needs a quiet, trustworthy horse, and that is what Dante turned out to be.  He hardly spooks, and when he does spook,  it isn’t bad and he calms down right away. 

Dante genuinely enjoys trail riding.  We have never met a horse that likes to look around at things as much as Dante.  He is such a sight seer out on the trail.  In the beginning, it made Ellen worry.  She He likes to touch things, too.  Whenever he sees something interesting, he tries to walk over to it to touch it.  He is such a curious and playful horse.  Ellen does nothing to stifle it.  We both delight in his silly ways.

We trail ride together as much as we can—nearly every weekend if the weather permits, and we take all our vacation time off together to trail ride, too.  We do lots of trotting and a bit of cantering on our rides.  Dante is, quite honestly, not the fastest horse in the barn—but he certainly is the smoothest.  If I lead on my Morab, Cole Train, we often have to wait for them to catch up.  Dante doesn’t seem to mind if other horses get too far ahead.  He stays calm and keeps going.  Now and then, he decides to go fast—his trot is still smooth and his canter is lovely.

Ellen and Dante have had some difficulties that they had to work through, but we found that once Dante knows what we want, he is happy to comply.  She has learned to trust him, and he has learned to take care of her.  If she gets nervous, Dante will often just stop to give her a chance to relax.

When Ellen bought Dante, she knew he would be a good horse.  She didn’t know he would be a dream horse; but she knows it now.  He’s a perfect match.  It takes time to build a horse/human relationship, but when everything starts to fall in place, it is a beautiful thing.

Maggie - Crazy Dog

This is Maggie at her craziest.  And yes, she really does have that much fur.  She isn't fat at all--just furry.  Every day, she wakes up, and it's a bad hair day.  I groom her often, but it never makes a difference.  All the hair does offer her protection from Thunder when he chases her, swiping at her as she scrambles away.  Sometimes, it looks like his claws get tangled in her fur, but I don't think he ever actually touches skin.

If you think her tail looks odd, it is because it is odd.  It is about 5 inches long and her hair hangs off it like a doggie pom-pom.  She was born that way, and it is really cute.

Actually, Maggie is very, very cute, and although she can drive me crazy at times with her perpetual puppiness, I'm glad I kept her when Dad died.  She is fun to walk, very devoted to me (particularly if I have food) and Thunder needs someone to chase around.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

A Thunder Thanksgiving

A Thunder Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving this year was celebrated at my house.  Ellen and her boyfriend, John, came over to have lasagna and pumpkin pie.  John is an avid and very talented photographer, and he can’t walk into my house without spending some time with Thunder taking pictures.

When Ellen first met John, he was a cat ignoramus.  He wasn’t raised with them and never knew a gentle cat.  When Stormy decided to move into their house, it took John a while to get comfortable.  He would only pick him up if he was wearing big gloves to protect himself.  Stormy is one of the sweetest, nicest cats in the world, and in time, he won John over.

John is an observer—very handy to be if you are a photographer.  He spent a lot of time watching and learning about cats, and the transformation in him is amazing.  John is now a cat person.  He understands them very well and has a talent of capturing their beauty with the camera.

Back to Thanksgiving—John took a bunch of pictures of Thunder.  Once again, he took a marvelous one.

After they left for home, I spent the evening snuggling with Thunder; reading a good book.  He was ecstatic about it.  There were purrs all evening.  It was a Thunder Thanksgiving.

Maggie aka Dumb Dog

Here she is.  She isn't really that dumb, she just isn't as smart as our past dog, Pollie.  Pollie was smarter than a lot of people I know.  Maggie is just a normal dog.  Well, not according to Thunder.  He thinks she is pretty dumb.

She is 6 years old, and she still acts like a puppy.  She may have been dropped on her head.  That is one of the reasons she seems dumb.  She just never matured.  Maggie has all the irritating qualities of a puppy--they just won't go away.  Being a rescue dog, she probably had a bad start in life.

Regardless how dumb or smart she may be--there is no denying that she is an incredibly cute dog. She is good with the Thunder and fun to take on walks.  She also has a good bark, and that is so important.  Maggie takes her job of guarding the house very seriously.  No squirrels will ever get in...

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Cold Weather Riding

Cold Weather Riding

It seems like just yesterday.  Ellen and I would saddle up Ranger and Cruiser on a brisk fall day and head out for the trails.  They could be very difficult when the weather cooled off.  They wanted to fly down the trail, and we were young and wanted to fly with them.  It would be a blast—and then we would turn around to go home. 

All summer, we would trot much of the way home on our trail rides.  The horses would get a little fast—Cruiser was constantly challenging Ranger for a race.  Ranger would accept the challenge—and we would have to intercede.  Cruiser often broke into a canter, and I would have to struggle to bring him back to a trot.  On some stretches of the trail, we would canter instead of trotting—making them all the more enthusiastic.

When the weather got cold and they would get hyper, we had problems.  I guess we made the problems all summer long with our fun, fast rides.  In the cooler weather, trotting towards home became very difficult; and sometimes even impossible.

We would trot a few hundred feet, and when they either got out of control, or ideally only felt like they might get out of control, we would bring them back to a walk until they settled down.  After a few minutes, we would try again.  When it was really cold and they were super wound up, we ended up walking all the way home.

The big problem with that?  It is hard to stay warm on a cold day when all you are doing is walking.  It is even harder if you broke a sweat on the way out and then had to walk home.  We would often have to lead our horses if we got too cold.

For years, Ellen and I thought this was normal horse behavior.  We figured all horses were that way—until I started riding Mingo.  Then, I thought Mingo was the exception—so quiet.  In the cold weather, he was a lot of fun to ride because he finally woke up and would go fairly fast.

We now know that Cruiser and Ranger were exceptionally spirited and Mingo was exceptionally quiet.  We had both sides of the spectrum, and most other horses fall in the middle.

Fast forward to the present, and we are living in the world of normal horses.  Sure, sometimes Cole can get a little carried away and Dante‘s default trot is very slow, but they are both fairly normal horses.  Starry can move out when he wants to, but he never gets very carried away with excitement like Cruiser and Ranger did.  In fact, he prefers to just follow whoever he is with and seldom challenges our horses to a race. 

Going out on a ride and a brisk morning with Cole and Dante means they walk down the hill to the river just as slowly as they did all summer long.  Once we cross the river, Cole wants Dante to go first.  Dante trots too slow for Cole and he has to keep dropping to a walk when he gets too close to Dante.  He doesn’t want to pass—he just wants Dante to go faster.

Eventually, I convince Cole to take the lead.  He goes at a moderate speed—and we end up waiting for Dante to catch up.  When we get to our favorite section to canter, they both wake up and Ellen and I get a glimpse into the world we used to enjoy so much with Ranger and Cruiser.

If we have any regrets about having normal horses, now, they go away when we turn around to go home.  We can trot safely.  They go faster on the way home, of course, but they seldom get out of control like Ranger and Cruiser did all the time when the weather was cool.  We go fast and steady—and stay warm.  If we are walking for a while and want to get warmed up, we trot a bit.  The closer we are to home, the trickier it can be, but not anything like our other horses. 

Yes, we miss those days.  I talk to Ranger about them as we do our nightly constitutional on the loop.  I think he might miss them, too.  Cruiser and Ranger together were a force to be reckoned with.  But we are all older now, and honestly, this is so much easier.  We can ride in cold weather—even snow—and our horses stay sane and we stay warm.

Still, it is fun to reminisce…I sure do miss my Cruiser.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Is this cat for real?

This is, once again, Stormy, my sister's cat.  She tells me that he has a new way of hunting birds.  He sits in the bird seed and waits for them.

Our Evening Rides

Our Evening Rides

Now that the time changed due to Daylight Savings, it is completely dark when I get out to the barn.  A few times, I have ridden a little bit in the indoor arena, but I just can’t seem to get started in there.  It is a long winter of indoor arena rides.  It may seem funny to someone who doesn’t have the luxury of an indoor arena in the winter to imagine, but I begin to despise it.  I think it is because I feel trapped in it.  Back when I was first working with Cole, I used to take Cruiser on a trail ride and ride Cole in the arena most evenings, even in the good weather.  I didn’t mind it then since I was still getting a trail ride with Cruiser.

So I have been riding the Loop in the back of the property in the complete darkness.  Sometimes we even do a little trotting, but not as much as I was doing when it was still light out.  On a really good night, Kevin will walk along beside us to keep us company.  Cole doesn’t behave any better whether Kevin is there or not, but I like to talk to him as we walk around.

Most of the time he is good, but I do get a little nervous when I hear a noise and can’t see what is causing it.  I then make Cole stand until I feel it is safe to proceed.  I am concerned about a deer bursting out and startling him.  It hasn’t happened, yet, but that did happen when Tommy the Cat was out hunting on the loop. 

Another time, it started to drizzle, and Cole Train simply hates rain.  He decided to high-tail it back to the barn.  I stopped that fairly quickly, but it took a bit to settle him down after that.  The rain stopped a few minutes later, so at least we were able to keep riding.

I know I will have to buckle down and start schooling in the arena pretty soon.  The weather isn’t going to hold for much longer.  Still, on the snowy, moonlight nights, I can see me cutting my ring work short and taking a few laps on the loop.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Product Review - Two Horse Tack Makes Cole Sparkle

Product Review - Two Horse Tack Makes Cole Sparkle

Two Horse Tack asked me to review one of their products.  I got to choose the item.  I could use new stirrup leathers for Cole’s saddle, and the ones Ellen got from Two Horse Tack for Ranger’s saddle were great.  They were a pretty color, and she was able to get them with the holes 1/2" apart instead of 1" apart.  That makes finding the right length for your legs so much easier...

Stirrup leathers were too practical.  Besides, I couldn’t get them with bling, and I love their tack with bling. 

I threw practical out the window and opted to get Cole a new, bling-covered halter to match his bridle that I love so much.  Just like his bridle, I opted for black  Beta Biothane with dark pink rhinestones, and it looks so awesome on him!

One of the nice things about working with Two Horse Tack is that they custom make their tack right in Kentucky.  Consequently, I was able to get a narrower width halter that shows off Cole’s refined face. 

You would think that it takes a long time to get something custom made, but I received my halter in just over a week.  I didn’t get special treatment because I was reviewing the halter.  Whenever we have ordered something from them, we get awesome service.

The Biothane looks like leather, and it is only upon closer examination that you can see that it isn’t.  It is so nice that I don’t have to clean it.  I used to have a really nice leather halter for Cruiser, and I never managed to clean it.  With this one, I’ll never have to worry.  I can just hose it off if it is looking dirty.  (They do sell leather tack, too, but I would choose the Biothane over leather, any day.)

Now, if I wanted, I could have chosen from a whole slew of colors, but I opted for basic black.  There was plenty of choices in bling color, too.

I know that the halter will still look new at least a year from now, because Cole’s bridle does, and it gets a lot of use in all sorts of weather.

The website is easy to use and ordering was a snap.  I feel the prices are reasonable for the quality of the products, too.  Every month, they have a contest to win free tack, too.  Visit it here: When you enter, you get a $5.00 off coupon for your next purchase, too.

By the way, they also sell very nice dog collars.  My sister bought one for Stubby, and just as advertised, the collar doesn’t get smelly.  Besides, doesn’t he look handsome in blue?  I might get one for Maggie, but she has so much fur, that it would be hard to see.  I would have to get a bright color.

I still need new stirrup leathers…

Friday, November 6, 2015


Cole and I are spending our evening rides out on the loop.  The weather has been warm and the nights have been clear.  He has been behaving like a champ.  Sometimes Kevin comes out and walks with us, too.

I have ventured into the arena a couple of times to add variety after doing our loops, and he has been way, way better than he was that first night.  We have just done some walking and a little trotting.  Of course, we had to do laterals.  He just loves them.

As the weather gets colder, I will add more and more arena time.  It is bad enough riding in the dark, but it is even worse riding in the dark and being cold.

Things are different for Ellen during the week.  She can ride in the morning, so she has lovely daylight rides on the loop.  Dante is doing very well for her our there.  Last year, he wasn't consistent.  This year, he is great.

Weekends, of course, we are trail riding.

Ranger and his new girlfriend are working things out.  She greets him when he comes back to the barn.  Yesterday, Ellen heard Ranger squeal at her--and then she squealed back.  Ellen said it was a really cute squeal.

Cuteness Time

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Ranger’s New Girlfriend

Ranger’s New Girlfriend

Ranger is a very temperamental horse.  He is in an end stall.  Years ago, my horse, Mingo was in the stall next to him.  They were great friends.  I had Mingo from birth, and Ranger helped raise him.  They always got along.  If Ranger was out on a ride, Mingo would stick his nose between the bars when Ranger came back.  Ranger would ignore him, of course.  They would hang out next to each other, and when it rained, they would both huddle in the corner together.

When Mingo went to the great pasture in the sky, Cole moved next to Ranger.  Cole was respectful of Ranger, but they were never friends.  Cole was only in that stall a short time and then he moved across the aisle and Sam, the Thoroughbred.  Ranger hated Sam.  He would kick the wall, screech at him if he was close by and constantly make faces at him.  We had to be careful when we were cleaning his stall that we did not get in the way of his antics.

When Ellen got Dante, we moved him into the stall next to Ranger so we could keep all the horses together.  Sam moved off to a different part of the stables and Ranger seemed happier—but poor Dante.  We don’t know what happened between them, but Dante just wouldn’t go by Ranger’s wall.  He would either stand exactly in the center of the stall or hang out on the other side.

Once Cruiser died, we moved Dante into his old stall.  The change in Dante’s stall behavior was measurealble.  He came out of his shell, learned to play with Starry and seemed like he was so much happier.

We had anoter horse in the stall for a few months, and Ranger didn’t much care for him.  He didn’t hate him like he hated Sam, but a lot of his kicking and screeching came back. 

The stall has been empty for a while, now, but we knew that wouldn’t last forever.  This weekend, a pony moved in.  She is only about 3 feet tall.  We are very optimistic that this might work out because she is so small that Ranger won’t feel threatened.  Also, her feed dish that is right on Ranger’s wall had to be lowered so far that it is funny.  I don’t know if we ever had Ranger next to a female, before, so we are hoping that might help, too.

When she showed up, I was told there was a lot of screeching and kicking from Ranger.  She got riled up, too, and they saw her rearing in the stall.  It must have been cute.  The next day, Kevin said he heard some screeching.  By the time I got out, things seemed quiet.  I took Ranger out on his walk.  When I put him back into the stall, I led him to where she was standing so he could see her.  Then she reached up her nose really, really high and barely made it to the bottom of the bars, but it was high enough that he could sniff her nose.  He gave a subdued screech and all was fine.

This morning, when Ellen got back from her ride, she rushed to see him.  He ignored her—just like he used to ignore Mingo.

I think the difference, this time, won’t be because she is small or a mare, but because she seems to like him.  He hasn’t had a horse that genuinely liked him since Mingo.  Hopefully, when he acts out, she won’t cower like Dante or become aggressive like Sam.  If she will be nice to him, maybe he will just calm down.  She sure is cute…

Monday, November 2, 2015

Cole Shows what Clicker Training can Do

Cole Shows what Clicker Training can Do

A couple days ago, a friend of ours who is interested in taking clicker training up to the next level, came out to see a Cole performance.

Julie has a Haflinger mare that has done a little clicker training on the ground. Her trainer, until recently, saw no need for clicker training. The mare had some soreness, due to saddle fit. The saddle was corrected, but they thought doing stretches would help her with the soreness. The trainer told Julie to bring out the clicker to help with the stretches. They used targeting to guide her in the way they wanted her to stretch. Now the trainer is interested in getting a clicker, herself!

Julie felt that though the clicker was helpful with her horse, she is not sure if her mare truly understands it. I will be visiting her at her stable in the future, but in the meantime, I thought it might be helpful for Julie to see what a clicker horse is like.

I put on Cole’s brand new bling-covered halter for his performance. (I will be doing a product review on his halter next month.) Now, it had been a long day for Cole. We took him out for a ride in the morning, and the vet came out in the afternoon to give him shots and float his teeth. I don’t think he was ready to put on a 100 percent performance. Still, he did well.

I brought Cole out in the arena, and he showed Julie how he can stand parked out and bow. I then showed her his silly walk and explained how he got it. I initially taught him to put his head down when I pointed to the ground with a whip. I turned that into putting his head down at a walk when I pointed to the ground. That was for safety. There were many times in the early days that he would get overexcited when I led him. By getting his head down, I got control of him.

Then, for fun, I taught him to match my steps as I walked. Julie wondered how I did that, and I explained that I matched his steps and clicked when we did it. (I did step harder to draw his attention to it.) After a while, when he understood what he was getting clicked for, he started to take the lead and match my steps. Of course, he got clicked for that, too. One day, he volunteered lifting up his feet really high while he was matching my steps—and the silly walk was born. It is his version of the Spanish Walk. (He does it under saddle, too.)

I showed her how easy it is too teach a horse to chase a ball—a game that really might engage her horse into the concept of clicking. I was disappointed that Cole wasn’t as spirited in his chasing as he usually is. He just walked after the ball instead of running and bucking.

I wanted to show how we can affect the quality of our horses’ gaits by shaping what we want. I asked Cole to trot on a lead rope next to me, requested that he lower his head, and he went into his show trot. (It is a very collected trot with a lot of suspension.) Of course, his show trot is something that didn’t happen overnight. I started it on the lounge line—clicking what was pretty—when he held his head at the right level, when he engaged his hindquarters and when he added suspension. Once he learned what I liked, I got to skip all the steps to get there, and I would just ask him to lower his head. Later, he volunteered it while riding at a trot and got clicked for it. The rest is history.

I thought it would be fun to show her that he can do it when he is free lounging when I stomp my feet, but Cole had other ideas. He just decided to run around, bucking and playing. In the beginning, he showed her how he stops when I tell him whoa, even if I don’t have a lead rope or lounge line to back up my command, but once he really got running, there was no stopping him. He was having more fun than eating a carrot!

I put him back in the stall and brought our Ranger to show her what I was doing to teach him how to stand. He did pretty well, and then he demonstrated his other talent.

When we first started clicking Ranger, he got so excited about the treats, he would try to help himself to them. I refused to give him a treat when he did that. Instead, after I clicked him, I would wait for him to turn his head away from me, first. It took him no time at all to realize that was what he had to do to get a treat. Ranger was glad to show Julie how he turned his head away so he could get a treat.

Many people worry that hand feeding a horse will cause them to be nippy and mug for treats. Ranger showed how hand feeding can actually stop such behavior. It is all in the approach.

Julie left that evening a total convert. I hope she can convert her trainer, too. Even if her trainer doesn’t want to use clicker in riding, by teaching “whoa,” “stand,” and “head down, “on the ground makes for much safer handling. Not to mention, all 3 of those cues are super helpful in the saddle.

Julie said she would keep us updated.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Adjusting My Routine

Adjusting My Routine

The hardest part about this time of the year is the shorter daylight hours.  Since I have to go home and take care of my animals after work, I run out of time to ride in the park.  In the beginning of the month, I would rush out and take a quick ride with Kevin—just barely getting back before it was too dark to ride the guys home on the street.  I don’t mind the darkness—it is sharing the road with cars that bothers me.

That leaves me the loop and the arena.  It is so hard to ride, inside, when the weather is nice, that I have mainly been on the loop.  It is about a quarter mile long and is in the back of the property.  When our trail rides first started to get too short, I would tack on a few trips on the loop to lengthen my ride.

In the beginning, Cole was a handful.  He felt like I was riding a stick of dynamite, but to tell the truth, he never did anything truly wrong.  He did some prancing and walking with his head way up in the air—waiting for a reason to dash back home.  That is one of the reasons the loop can be tricky—the barn is in sight.

To counter his mood, I did a lot of walk/whoa transitions.  I clicked him when he was good, and that got his attention on me.  Once I had his attention, we practiced leg yielding and shoulder-in.  I still find shoulder-in difficult if I don‘t have a wall to guide me, but we were doing something lateral.

After a few weeks like this, I had a day I couldn’t get on the trail at all.  It was just way too cloudy.  It was too dark to ride on the street before I even started.  I would have to do my whole ride on the loop.

The big surprise?  He was fine.  That day, we were able to add trotting when we are going in the direction away from home for the first time this fall.  I’ve had little trouble, since.

One day, it started to pour just as I was going to go ride outside with him.  It seemed like hail, it was so loud on the metal roof.  I had to ride in the arena for the first time this fall.  I honestly can’t remember the last time I was in the arena.  Consequently, Cole was very, very excited about it.  There was one other horse in the arena, the rain was deafening and Cole wanted to perform.

Just leading him around it was a problem.  When he wasn’t doing a very enthusiastic silly walk or trying to stop and bow, he was bucking in hand.  I really didn’t appreciate that.  I tried leading a couple laps and then gave up.  It looked like I would have to ride if I wanted to get anywhere.

Remember when I talked about riding a stick of dynamite on the loop?  Multiply it by 10 times and that is how wound up he was.  Just as on the loop, I tried walk/whoa transitions with clicking good behavior.  It didn’t work as well, this time. I stayed on the safe side of the arena; doing circles, and the woman I was riding with stayed out of my way.

After about 15 minutes, I decided to try trotting.  I warned my riding friend.  Cole was still very excited, but I thought if I could trot, it would give him a direction for his energy.  Yes, it did.  He trotted so big and so bouncy that I nearly flew right off.  I think I went 5 strides and I asked him to stop—and clicked for the stop.  My riding friend was amazed at what he did.  She had never seen his show-stopping show trot before, and this was the show trot on steroids.

I spent the next 10 minutes or so working on trotting short distances on the circle.  I eventually was able to do a half circle at a time, but it wasn’t easy.  He did have 3 different bucking episodes that I had to manage.  

By now, the rain was abating and my nerves were shot.  My friend finished up her ride, and Cole calmed down a little since he was by himself.  We just walked, practiced side passing and turn-on-the haunches (his favorite.)  I made it a total of 40 minutes and called it a day.

I haven’t been in the arena, since.  I know I will have to, soon, but hopefully I can let Cole run around it, first, so get the excess energy out.  It is amazing that he would get so excited about being in there.  Hopefully, he will adjust to it in a reasonable time like he did the loop.  Otherwise, it will be a very long winter…

Monday, October 26, 2015


Int the world of cat blogs, this is Tocktober--the month when the cats show off their tocks.  My sister's cat, Stormy has the cutest tocks, that I had to show them off!

Princess - Feline Tyrant at Our Barn

Doesn't she look innocent and sweet?  Don't you want to give her a great big hug?  Well, you better ask permission, first.

Princess loves attention.  If I call her, she will typically appear within a minute for her pets.  Sometimes, she is up in the rafters of the indoor arena; hunting for barn swallows, and she will work her way back to me.  She will gallop across the hayloft, down the ladder and into my arms.  Even if I don't call her, she often tracks me down when she hears my voice.

Why does she like me so much?  I think because everyone else is afraid to touch her.  She is a ticking time bomb--ready to explode if you touch the wrong spot. No one has escaped the wrath of Princess.

Like a fool, I keep calling her and she keeps galloping to me for pets--until she has had enough!

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Storm in the Dirt

When my sister emailed me to tell me that her cat, Stormy, was playing in the dirt, I never pictured this!  Look at those paws!  Thunder would be horrified.  Cats are not supposed to get their paws dirty! (According to Thunder.)

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Vacation and Short Days

Vacation and Short Days

Ellen and I are in the middle of a great riding month—sort of.  We had a 4-day weekend for riding—with 2 more scheduled.  The weather has been mostly wonderful and the changing trees are gorgeous.  That’s the great part.  The sad part of October is the days are getting short, and so are my trail rides.  I am rushing home, gulping down a quick meal, taking the dog for a short walk, patting the cat on his head and running out to the barn for a very rushed ride.  (My cat is not happy about this arrangement.)  Still, it is better than riding in the indoor arena.  I have months of that ahead of me; no reason to start prematurely.

Last night, was the first time that I couldn’t make it to my usual short-ride turnaround spot.  Kevin left before me and I met him right before he was going to cross the river to go home.  He turned Starry around and rode with my 10 minutes before we had to go back home.  I don’t mind riding in the dark.  I just don’t want to ride on the road in the dark. 

When we got back, we walked around the loop in the back of the property for 3 laps.  I was glad to have company, because when I tried that a few days ago after my ride when I was by myself, Cole was a bit fidgety.  With Starry there, he did fine.  It won’t be long, and that will be all we will do until the weather gets crummy.

And that is why I like to take vacation time in October!  Our rides have been so wonderful—and uneventful—that there isn’t much to say about them.  Dante and Cole have just been dream horses.  We invite Starry along, sometimes, just so we can have someone who will misbehave.

They are staining the stall walls in our barn.  Ellen was out there the day they started.  The guy was brushing the bars to clean them.  Dante was very curious, wondering what he was doing.  Cole was attacking the brush.  Ranger was hiding in the corner of his stall.  We have 3 very different horses…

I get to review an item from Two Horse Tack!  Hurray!  Ellen and I just love our bling bridles.  I’m getting him a bling halter to match his bridle.  I think he will look so handsome in it. 

Last night when I was at the barn, Princess, the evil cat who loves me, came to talk to me.  She had a burr on the tip of her tail.  There was no way I was going to allow that, so with a little struggle I got it out—without a single scratch.  (I was rather proud of myself.)  She did seem happy about it and show me by not whipping her tail around quite as much.

Speaking of cats, Maggie the Cat needed an operation to remove a cyst in her ear.  Ellen and I said we would pay for whatever is left of the bill that other donations don’t cover.  We are lucky to have a vet tech at our barn who gets discounted vet care for the barn cats—not to mention how great it is to have someone with so much cat knowledge.  Sadly, her horse died a few weeks ago.  She is looking for another one, not only so we can have her feline expertise, but because she is a super nice person.

Maggie is doing well, but she has to wear the cone of shame until she gets her stitches out.  She isn’t happy about that, at all. 

Just waiting for the next long weekend…

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Fun Fall Riding

Ellen and I are continuing to enjoy the fall riding season.  Last Friday, I took Cole out for a quick ride before dark.  It was very, very windy and cold.  That meant Cole was fast and fun.  We avoided getting hit by any falling branches, though we did hear a few ominous cracks. 

Saturday, it was rainy all day—except for a few hours in the morning—and that’s when Ellen and I zipped out onto the trail.  We kept the ride a little short because we didn’t want to get caught in the rain, but we still had fun.  It still wasn’t raining when we got back, so we took Ranger out for a walk on the hill to the river.  He was very hyper.  Leading Ranger is always great exercise.

Sunday was perfect.  We took Cole and Dante up to the show ring trails—doing our favorite back trail and also the front loop.  On the way back, we met Kevin and Starry after they just got up the very steep hill leading to these trails.  Poor Starry, he went up that huge hill, just to turn around and go back down.  All horses were as good as the weather.

This is such a boring blog post.  Such wonderful rides—it doesn’t give me much to write about.

My weekday rides with Kevin and Starry have been very short because it gets dark so fast.  We rush around do get home at a safe time.  I don’t mind riding in the dark, but we have that little bit by the street that I worry the cars won’t see us well enough.  At least we are still able to get out.  Soon, I will be stuck riding the loop in the dark, and once the weather gets crummy, I will begin to ride in the arena, again.  It has been so long…  It is hard to motivate myself to work in there.  We do have a lot of vacation planned in the upcoming weeks, so that will help with the transition.

The other night, after our ride, Kevin had heard that the International Space Station would be passing over us.  It was a perfectly clear night, so we were out there, waiting.  There are so many airplanes, we were worried we wouldn’t be able to know the difference, but we did.  At the precise time, we could see it going across the sky.  We waved, but I don’t think they saw us.

Vote for Stormy--cutest cat around.

Vote for Stormy--the cutest cat around

Please vote for Stormy for cutest pet.  I have been posting adorable pictures of my nephew for years because I think he is so irresistible.  Now, lets show the world how true it is.  Click on this link to give him a vote.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

A Historic Ride

A Historic Ride

On our second September long weekend, Ellen and I took Dante up to the showring trails. That isn’t historic at all, but we did have a few “firsts.”

As is typical on our vacations in the fall, we tend to run into park maintenance. Sometimes they are fixing our trail, sometimes trimming trees and then there is road maintenance.

This time, the road maintenance was not a problem for us in the least. We rode past it the day before. It was far enough from the trail that the horses didn’t care. The good news was they closed the 2 fords, so there was no traffic between them.

The following day, we decided to ride across the ford. The only risk would be a truck from the construction passing us, but since we hadn’t seen one, yet, we figured we could do it.

This would be the first time Ellen ever rode Dante across the ford. I ride Cole all the time, but Ellen still gets nervous in traffic, so she leads.

Since the road was all ours, Dante was perfect. I didn’t realize it until Ellen told me, but this was literally the very first time Ellen had ever ridden Dante on the street in any way except to cross the road. It was a big step for her.

We rode up to the show ring. At the end of the pine forest, we can either go left to a very pretty trail or right to the show ring, itself. We haven’t gone to the show ring proper all year. The trail loops around the show ring and it is almost all sunny—not something you want to do in the hot summer.

As we neared the intersection, a horse went by at a walk going down the trail we wanted to go, and we didn’t really want to follow her. She was bareback, and it looked like she was out for a quiet stroll. We wanted to trot. Rather than catching up with her and having to pass, we just decided to go the other way towards the show ring. It wasn’t historic, but it was the first time this year.

When we got back to the pine forest, we found Kevin on Starry. We then all continued down the trail that we originally wanted to go on. We got to do all our trotting, and we were happy.

On the way home, Ellen decided to ride down the big hill—for the first time. It is a really long and steep hill. Dante has always been good on it, but she preferred to lead—just to be safe. Cole hasn’t always been good on this or any hill, but I have been riding him down it, and he has proven to be a good boy. Dante did, too. He was so good that Ellen rode him down the next day without hesitation.

Since she was already in the saddle, she didn’t lead through the lagoon, either. That is the part of the trail that is closest to the street for about a half mile. Last year, she was riding through it, but this year she wasn’t comfortable with it. I encouraged her to just keep leading through it until it felt right. Well, this day couldn’t be any righter. Dante was perfect.

Just to round things out, she rode back across the ford on the way home, too.

It was a historic ride because Ellen and Dante did some things for the first time and others for the first time this year—and Dante proved to her that her confidence in him wasn’t misplaced. He was just stellar.

Monday, September 28, 2015


My sister has a great catnip bush growing by her house. Thunder likes her catnip better than the stuff I grow. Her cat, Stormy, likes to hide in it.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Ranger on Standing and Dante with His Invisible Stall Guard

Ranger on Standing and Dante with His Invisible Stall Guard

I think Ranger is understanding that he needs to stand quietly until asked to go forward, but he still has a long way to go.  He has definitely improved when Ellen takes him outside and runs down the stirrups.  One day, I asked him to stand so I could pet my cat friend, Princess.  He was a perfect gentleman.  A little while later, I tried it—and he realized what I was doing.  He decided to pet her, (chase) too.  Well, that didn’t work.  A few days later, he did stand for me while I petted her.

He does quite well if I am at his side, but when I am in front of him, he wants to walk towards me.  Also, he thinks he is supposed to move when I move—which makes sense.  He is slowly getting better.  I think he will have it in only a few weeks. 

Invisible stall guard is working well.  one day, I was cleaning Dante’s stall when he was in it.  Ranger, who is in the stall directly across the aisle, had his door open.  Dante kept stretching his neck over to engage Ranger in play.  I was worried he would knock down the wheelbarrow, so I stepped out to close Ranger’s door.  As soon as I was out of the stall, Dante knocked down his wheelbarrow.  The way it tipped over, Dante could have walked out of his door, but he just stood there.  Not only did invisible stall guard work, but it demonstrated why it is such a useful skill to teach.

Since I insist that his hooves stay on his stall mat—and he thinks he should stand one half step out of the stall, we still have a lot to practice.  On his last session, he only tried to step forward a couple times, and he even let me stand on the other side of the aisle and he stayed on his mat.

I only work with them on their new projects just a few minutes at a time, but that is how we train horses in their daily routines—and we can either ask for improvements or accept the status quo.  It really depends on what you want.  Ranger isn’t that fidgety with Ellen when she needs him to stand—it is definitely tolerable—but this makes things just a little easier for her.  We could make sure that Dante always has his real stall guard up—but this is just a handy safety feature to have.  Anyways—the big thing is—I am having fun.

Starry is still a little difficult when cleaning his feet.  Maybe this winter…

Friday, September 18, 2015

You Can Teach an Old Horse a New Trick—or at Least Try To

You Can Teach an Old Horse a New Trick—or at Least Try To

Ellen has had Ranger about 20 years, and they have done all sorts of things together. She has done a good job training him to be a reliable and fun horse to ride. Somehow, she did forget an important lesson, and I didn’t even realize it.

One really, really important thing that a trail horse needs to know is to stand still upon request. This includes both in the saddle and on the ground. I never realized that Ellen didn’t take the time to teach Ranger to stand when she is leading him. That explains why he dances around so much when she tries to run down his stirrups when she takes him outside. I thought that he was misbehaving, when actually, he was doing what he was used to doing. He didn’t know he was supposed to stand still for tack adjustments.

Well, now that he is my evening project, I have a goal. I am going to teach Ranger to stand still on command. He doesn’t have to park out like Cole—or bow. He just needs to be still.

I have been working with him for about a week, and he is starting to get it. Things always go quicker with clicker. After our evening walkabout, we stop in the driveway and stand. I click him when he is still. When he moves, I ask him to stop and start all over. The first day, he was very fidgety. Each time after that, he got better.

I noticed that if he is standing balanced, he will maintain his position longer—more clicks and treats. So, even though he isn’t parked out, the squarer his stance, the better he does. It is about setting him up for success. He loves the treats and the attention. I have started to walk from one side of him to the next while he is standing, and it is working.

He is far, far from perfect. About the maximum time he has lasted has been 30 seconds, but he has a lifetime of fidgeting to forget. I’m sure Ellen will be eternally grateful when he will stop and stand still for her until she asks him to go forward, again.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Ickiest Job of the Year

Ickiest Job of the Year

We have a 20-year-old Thoroughbred at our barn, Star, who has a very bad respiratory infection. They were treating it for a while with antibiotics, and it wasn’t working. The vet put a scope down her windpipe to find very swollen. It was open only about the width of a coffee stirrer.

Star needed a tracheotomy. They made a whole in her neck and put a metal piece in it to allow her to breath. This was weeks ago. The vet did do a followup, and there has been some improvement.

She was always pretty noisy at feeding time—but she can’t neigh anymore. Instead, she blows really hard through the hole.

The other night, her owner didn’t have any help when she came out to clean the apparatus. She begged me to help. I’m the squeamish kind and volunteered Kevin, but then realized I’d probably do a better job.

The metal piece is in 2 parts. She had to remove the part that inserts into her windpipe, and I had to hold the metal washer in place on her neck until she was done.

It was a weird sensation—feeling her breath on my hand while my hand was on her neck. Good thing I was there, because a fly landed near it, and she tossed her head.

It is a good thing that Star is so compliant. We are all hoping that she will recover soon.

Monday, September 14, 2015



Yup, Ellen and I did it again. We took another horsecation—and it was great. Anytime we can get away from work and get some time in the saddle is a good thing. The weather was cool, and the rain stayed away until our vacation was technically over. A special part of this vacation was that we had an extra horse to ride. Kevin was taking care of family business, so we were taking care of Starry.

On our first day, we took Cole and Dante out for lovely ride. There really isn’t much to say about our rides. The horses are well behaved, and we have a great time.

We then saddled up Ranger and Starry. I haven’t ridden Starry that much over the last few years, so he takes a little getting used to. First of all—he is really tall—and narrow. I had to shorten my stirrups to ride him. He has a rather uneven walk, because he has a pretty bad club foot. That is a little weird, too. Then, there is his trot—the worst in the entire world. Bad enough it throws you so far up into the saddle, but it is irregular, too, due to the club. I figured it didn’t matter much, though. We were only planning to do a little trotting. Now that he is older, Ellen asks Ranger if he wants to trot—if he does, great. If not—that is fine, too.

So, we walked and talked and enjoyed the weather. We did trot a little, as expected. Ranger seemed to like the company, and Starry behaved like a gentleman.

The next day, Ellen and I took Cole and Dante on a longer and lovelier ride. We went up to the fields by the show ring to enjoy the goldenrod. The weather was cooler, and we even got to wear jackets. Yes, we like wearing jackets because it is great to have pockets.

I got to ride Starry, again. The cooler weather got Ranger revved up—and Ellen trotted him a lot. I couldn’t believe it. There I was, struggling to get Starry’s rhythm—and I think she was laughing at me. We would walk a little bit and then she would go off, trotting, again. She finally got revenge for the times that she rode Starry with me, and I made her trot. Still, I was very glad that Ranger was having a good day.

Later that afternoon, the rain started. We did get a few breaks and we were able to ride the following morning, but only up and down the hill to the river. The following day found us on the hill, too. We got a lot of rain. Dante and Cole seem to like doing the hill. We usually go up and down it 3 times with a lot of trotting and a little bit of cantering.

We took the extra time we had with our shorter rides to get some pictures of the guys, which I will be using to decorate the blog in the weeks to come.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Invisible Stall Guard

Invisible Stall Guard

With more time on my hands since MerryLegs left, no horse in our little herd is safe.  I decided to teach Dante “Invisible Stall Guard.”  It is something I taught Cole a long time ago, and it is so handy.  I can leave his stall door open with no stall guard up, and he will stand at the door and wait for me.  I don’t push my luck and leave him attended for very long.  Still, if I need to dash over to the tack room because I forgot something, I can do it with such ease…

I’m not a fan of crossties, so years ago, when we moved our horses to a barn with only 1 set of lousy crossties, we got into the habit of tacking up in the stall.  We never got out of it.  We have good cross ties at this place, but still tack up in the stalls.  So having a horse that knows “Invisible Stall Guard” is so handy.

It was very easy to teach Cole.  I just gave him treats for standing by his door quietly.  I gradually increased the time.  I don’t have to click him each time we do it—I just tell him he is good.  Every now and then, we have a reinforcement session.  Cole has only sneaked out of his stall once, and I just gently turned him around and guided him back to his stall without even a rope or halter.

Dante has had a few of sessions, and is proving to be way more tempted to wander out than Cole.  I made the rule that he has to stay on his stall mat.  When he stands for 10-15 seconds, I click and treat.  When he steps out, and I push him back in place.  Now, here is the tricky part—I don’t want him to chain incorrect behaviors.  Simply, I don’t want to teach him that if he steps out, gets pushed him back and then he stands for 10-15 seconds that he will get a click.  Yes, horses can do this.  Once I put him back into his stall, I have to wait a lot longer before I click him for staying in his stall.  That is harder, so then he wants to step out again before he gets clicked for staying in—and we are back to the beginning. 

When I clean his stall and he is in it, I trained him to stand back away from the door, so I can get to the wheel barrow.  He does this very well.  I did add a good chain to the behavior.  Sometimes his neck or big head is still in the way, so I taught him to stand quietly, and when I approach with the pitch fork, he will swing his head away from me in the opposite direction to make room for me to reach the wheel barrow.  I click him every 3-4 forkfuls.  This is a good chain.

My last session with Dante is demonstrating to me that he is starting to figure out what I want.  After we did a lot of gentle pushing back into the stall, he started to stand with his feet on the matte—and when I looked at him, he swung his head out of the way like he does when I clean his stall.  Then he looks at me as if he is saying, “I did it.  Do I get a treat, now?’’  Of course, as long as he keeps his feet on the mat, he gets clicked and treated.  He made another good chain of behaviors—even though that isn’t exactly what I intended, it is good enough for me.

I think it will only take a few more training sessions and he will understand.  It will still take a lot of reinforcement until he is reliable like Cole—and I will have to increase the duration, too, but he is on his way.

Long Labor Day Weekend

Long Labor Day Weekend

Hot.  That is the best way to describe this weekend.  Hot.  We did a lot of sweating.

Saturday, the river was too high to cross, so we just rode on the hill.  The biggest event of that ride happened towards the end.  We like to trot back and forth at the bottom of the hill.  Usually, we let Dante lead because Cole gets hyper and will go faster than Ellen may want Dante to go.  When we were nearly done with the ride, I asked if we could do it with Cole in the lead.  We zipped down to the end.  Cole seemed happy to stretch his legs.  We zipped back—trotting over a little dip in the trail.  Ellen didn’t want to trot it, so she paused Dante.  I dind’t know and trotted on.  Well, Dante decided he needed to catch up—and jumped the dip.  Ellen was very surprised, of course, but she was also thrilled.  I wish I could have seen it.

Sunday, we decided to go on our usual shorter ride because of the heat.  It was just so uneventful—but nice.  I talked Ellen into passing up home and heading for an access trail a short distance away.  We often use it to lengthen out the ride a little bit.  We were walking down the hill towards it when the airport fired a shot.  They shoot to scare the geese when they block the runways.  Ellen and I both jumped.  Dante lifted his head up a little higher.  Cole didn’t seem to notice.  A minute later, they fired another shot.  Ellen and I spooked—Cole lifted his head a little higher and Dante ignored it.  They must think we are way too spooky.

Monday, we would have gone to the show ring, but it was still so hot.  Much of that ride is in the sun.  it seemed so unappealing, so we just did the same ride as the day before.  The ride was slow and steady, due to the heat.  On the way home, we met Kevin and Starry.  We opted to cross the river via the ford because it is deeper there, and the water was very muddy.  We couldn’t see the big rocks we have to thread through.

Ellen and Kevin were ahead of us, and Cole had dropped behind a bit.  They were already off the ford when I looked back and saw a large truck pulling something.  We are riding right in the street with no place that we could move to give traffic room.  I didn’t know how Cole would react to it, so I stopped him and asked him to stand.  The truck was actually pulling a large boat.  They passed within a couple of feet of us.  I clicked Cole for his marvelous behavior, and I was giving him his treat when the motorcycle following the trailer passed him.  Cole was so awesome.   Poor Ellen—she was shaking.  She said Cole looked so small next to the truck.  Of course, Cole looks small compared to just about everything.  He’s a big horse in a pony’s body.

A picture is worth a thousand words—a video even more.  I was looking at the latest sales video from the place that took MerryLegs.  There he was, in the background, being lounged.  He looked quiet, relaxed and obedient—just as good as when I would lounge him.  Later in the video, the sales horse is going through his paces in an indoor arena, and MerryLegs is tacked up, tied to the wall.  He appears calm and well fed.  Good for MerryLegs.

In other news, I saw 5 monarch butterflies migrating; 3 on Sunday and 2, yesterday.  I don’t see as many as I used to, so I was pleased to see some.  This year, my milkweed patch did attract 1, but I got no caterpillars.

One of my night-blooming Cereus bloomed last night for the first time in years.  It was quite pretty.  The flower only lasts for one night.

Kevin and I celebrated our 19th anniversary.  He took me out to dinner, we fed the horses and then spent the evening watching “Shameless.”

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Ranger Lesson #1

Ranger Lesson #1

This is not about me teaching Ranger something, but Ranger teaching me something.

Lesson #1—do not, repeat, do not clean feet out of order.  It is left front, left back, right back, right front.  Don’t even think of starting with the right front.  I usually just grab the hoof that is closest—my mistake.  It actually took me a few days to figure out why he was so snarky when I was cleaning his feet.  When I realized my mistake, all was well with the world.

Ranger absolutely does not like any change.  Things are done a certain way—his way or the highway.  Well, after 20 years in our family, he has earned the right to be a tyrant.

Left front, first, always…

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

My New Horse

My New Horse

One of the reasons I got MerryLegs is because I missed my Cruiser.  I thought a new horse would help me miss Cruise a little less.  Well, that didn’t go as planned, but Ellen recognized the situation and gave me Ranger.  Well, I should say that she is sharing Ranger, but as far as I’m concerned—when she isn’t there, he is mine.  If I can’t have Cruiser, I can have his best friend.  (This doesn’t mean I am sharing the cost of his upkeep—I can’t lose with this situation.)

Ellen thinks that the more he gets out and moves, the better it will be for him.  In his mid-twenties, he is arthritic and has breathing problems.  Still, in his head, he is a young horse with too much energy, but his body just doesn’t want to cooperate.  We think that more exercise sessions of short duration is just what he needs.

I plan to take him on walks around the property in the evenings.  He is a great horse to walk, and goes so fast that I will get a terrific aerobic workout—just like when I used to lead Cruiser during his last few years. 

He will occasionally spook—more so now that he is older.  It is probably due to the cataract in one of his eyes.  It takes him a bit to settle down, and sometimes he doesn’t settle down at all.  You must remain calm and get him to a safe spot to relax. 

Once the weather turns, we will be stuck in the indoor arena.  I will still walk him, but that gets a little boring in there.  Ellen did tell me I can teach him some tricks.  Ranger loves clicker training, so I think he will be a quick study when it comes to tricks.  I just have to make sure that none of the tricks are too obnoxious.

So my new horse is our old horse, and I am fine with that.  Ranger and I get along great, and I am glad I get to spend extra time with him.

I always wanted a horse like Ranger—now I’ve got one.