Thursday, April 30, 2015

Leading Dante

Leading Dante

Dante seems to have a pattern.  Every time I take him for a walk in a new area, he has to throw a tantrum the first day—and then he is good after that.  This spring, when I go out to see Cole in the evenings, I have been spending some time leading Dante around.  Well, on Monday evening, I decided we would go for a walk on the hill.  Last month, we walked on the hill a few times in the morning.  The first morning he had tantrums—the next one he was fine.  Since then, he has been ridden a number of times on the hill with Cole.  You would think there would be no problem.

But this is Dante.  He can’t do something new the first time perfectly.  Though we have led him by himself in the morning and ridden him with Cole, this time I was taking him by himself in the evening—without Ellen by my side.  Two things changed—evening and no Ellen. 

He cried as I led him down the street and cried on the top part of the hill.  He doesn’t have a pretty voice.  The closest thing I can compare him to is a Great Blue Heron.  Ranger has a trumpeting neigh, Cole has a stallion neigh, Cruiser had a high-pitched squeally neigh, Mingo had a gorgeous, musical neigh—Dante squawks.

When we got to the first part where the hill goes down, Dante threw a temper tantrum.  That means his head goes up, he lunges and waves his front legs in the air.  Sigh…I circled him, stopped him and asked him to walk—another tantrum.  I think we had 5 tantrums to get 10 feet down the steep slope.  I honestly don’t know if he wanted to go home or just wanted to go down the hill without me.  Since he was crying for his friends, it make sense that he wanted to go home, but once I got him moving, he went very quickly away from home.  He had one more tantrum when we got to the flat, center section—and then he behaved like a champ all the way down the hill and back up.

I tried again on Wednesday.  He squawked down the street and the upper part of the hill, and then he was quiet.   We walked to the bottom and turned around.  He stood at the top of the river bank and started crying.  Maybe he thought his friends were on the other side?  I was just glad he didn’t have any more tantrums.

He definitely needs to spend more time on the trail by himself.  I will continue to take him on walks in the evening until I get MerryLegs.  Maybe I’ll even take him for a ride.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Trail Riding--Expect the Unexpected

Trail Riding – Expect the Unexpected

Our trails are fairly close to the street in places and fairly close to the river in others.  There is one spot that it is close to both.  It is so close the river that each year, the trail is washed out—leaving large rocks.  It usually takes months for the park to repair it, so Kevin created a trail that is right to the side of it where the river washed up a lot of sand.  It has small trees on the river side—that can hit your kneecaps if you aren’t careful.  The other side goes literally straight up about 10 feet.  At the top, there is an all-purpose paved trail, a guard rail and the street.  It is at the beginning of a very sharp bend in the road.

This is a tricky spot—since the horses can see what is on the paved trail and hear the traffic very clearly—and then there are the kneecap trees.  Just the same, we will often trot it just because it is soft. 

Kevin and I were out for a ride in the evening.  I was on Cole Train, and Kevin was on Starry, of course.  I was in the lead when we reached this section of the trail.  We were traveling at qa walk, and Cole had just passed the worst of the knee-cap trees.  A car came traveling very fast approaching the bend.  It reminded me of the time that Ellen was riding Ranger by herself in this spot.  The roads were slippery and a car slid into the guardrail.  Ranger had one doozy of a spook.  Fortunately, Ellen managed to stay on.  I often think of that incident when I am riding in this section of the trail and hear a fast car.

The driver of the car hit the brakes and they screeched.  I shortened my reins and braced myself. They were going way too fast.  Just ahead, the car crashed into the guardrail.  Cole started backing up very quickly.  He couldn’t turn because the trail was too narrow—and I was holding him too straight to tempt him to try.  I think he took about 10 steps.  At that point, Starry decided he should spook since Cole was afraid of something.  (Is that horse for real?)

Cole stopped and just stared.  He head was as high as Cruiser’s used to be when he was alarmed—and stuck there—a regular occurrence for Cruiser, but something Cole does rarely.  Kevin said we needed to get to the car to see if anyone needed help.  I asked Cole to go forward, and he went backwards some more.  When he stopped, I asked him to put his head down, first, by jiggling my rein.  (That is something I trained him for.)  He dropped his head, and I told him, “Good boy,” and asked him to go forward.  He took a step, I clicked and gave him a bunch of carrots—then asked  him to trot.  He was hesitant, but he trotted.  About that time, I saw 4 young people get out of the car and they looked all right.  Even if there was someone that wasn’t, I would bet that at least one, if not all, had cell phones.

We went back to a walk, because I didn’t see any reason to ride to the rescue, anymore, and there were some stones I didn’t want to trot over.  We walked over to the accident.  Not only did they hit the guardrail, but they plowed right through it and continued down the all-purpose trail for about 20 feet before they stopped.  The car was totaled, but the fact that they didn’t roll down to our trail, get hurt or even flip the car over was amazing.  We were able to give a little bit of help.  The driver was already on the phone, and wasn’t sure of their location.  We told them and went on our way. 

I was simply so grateful that we weren’t further up the trail where our horses (even Starry) may have panicked terribly and caused us to get into an accident, too.

On the way home, there were 4 police cars, and we were able to give the horses a lesson on blue flashing lights.  It is always good to expose them to odd things when you come across them to prepare you for what might happen in the future.  Not only should we expect the unexpected—but prepare for it when we can.

There was a large piece of plastic from the car laying on the trail.  Cole insisted on sniffing it, and he wanted to pick it up.

One of the rangers saw us as we rode by, and he said, “If more people rode horses, maybe there would be less of this,” and he pointed to the accident. 

I replied, “Maybe, but we don’t have airbags.”

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Where Have I Been?

Where Have I been?

I have been riding Ellen and I took a 3-day weekend, and finally, the river was low enough for her to cross. I have been crossing on low days during the week, but the weekends haven’t been working out until now.

On Saturday, she allowed me to ride Dante across the river for the first time this year. She took Cole. Both horses crossed without a problem. We went on a short, but great ride—mostly trotting on the way out and we walked home. Dante was awesome. We let him lead—where he is happiest. He was excited to be out on the trail, so he went a little faster than I remember from last year. His only mistakes were not wanting to stand still, stopping rather slowly and trying to trot without permission. I credit his excitement for that.

On Sunday, Ellen had no excuse to keep from riding her horse. He was just as good as the day before. She also crossed the river with Ranger on Sunday for the first time of the year. I waited for them on the other side. When he saw me on the river bank, he charged across the water to get to me. He remembered all the rides I walked with him last year. Ranger walked very fast—a good workout for me. She did a couple short stretches of trotting, too. We walked back home. He crossed the river, and I watched from the other side. When he got over there, he realized I was no longer with him. He stopped, looked at me and neighed for me! I was so flattered.

Monday, the river was a little higher, and it made Ellen nervous—so she got to ride the little horse across. I don’t know why she feels safer on a pony when the water is higher. Dante didn’t care that the water was higher. He gave me no trouble at all. Cole didn’t want to go down the river bank with Ellen and gave her some trouble. She would have been better off wth Dante.

Once we were across, we switched horses. Trotting went well, once again. When we got to the place we like to canter, we asked for a fast trot. Ellen then asked Dante to canter—and he gave her a lovely canter. I remained at a trot—Cole likes to go fast there, and I didn’t want to fight to keep him in the back or pass and ruin Ellen’s canter. Of course, we had no problem keeping up at a trot. Ellen was ecstatic. It looked like rain, so we did trot a little on the way home. The rain still caught up with us, but it was such a nice ride, we didn’t care.

The picture is Ellen’s cat and dog—best buddies.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Still Waiting

Still Waiting

I haven’t blogged because there isn’t very much happening. Ellen and I had a 3-day weekend and couldn’t cross the river a single time. she is still waiting for her maiden voyage of the year. Cole has been across a number of times on weekdays, and he is steady and well behaved—nothing to write about, there. Dante is getting a lot of hill practice and all has gone well except for a mini spook or two. Ellen’s confidence is soaring—and for good reason.

And I am still waiting for MerryLegs. It will be around a month before he gets here. He has had all his shots, but the shipping company wants 30 days for them to be out of his system so he doesn’t slough anything into their trailer that other horses can then pick up. I didn’t even know that could happen. When our vet was out to give our horses their shots, she said that it normal procedure.

Spring has arrived. My patio potted peas are sprouting, my daffodils are blooming, the horses are well into shedding, Thunder is getting plenty of sunshine to lay in and Maggie is getting a lot of long walks.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Maggie aka Dumb Dog

Here is the result of Maggie's photo session on Easter. Really, truly, she isn't fat at all. She is quite thin. It's just that she has so much hair! When she goes swimming--something she does a lot--I am always amazed at what a skinny dog she is--and then she shakes, and looks over-sized again.

I spend a lot of time grooming her, and I never make any inroads. She sheds a lot, but she always has more hair. When we got her, she had normal length fur, except for her white spot. It had very long hair. Well, that all switched. The black hair kept getting longer and thicker until it surpassed her spot.

She is very soft.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Weekend Update

Weekend Update

Thanks to the rain, we were only able to get out across the river once this weekend.  It was a little high on Friday, and Ellen didn’t want to take Dante or Ranger across.  Kevin kindly offered us Starry, so she rode Starry and I rode Cole.  Poor Ellen had to deal with the jarring Starry trot.  She came up with a solution—she would just canter him.  That meant I got to canter Cole out on the trail for the first time this year—and he just flew down the trail.  We did stop once when we heard Ellen yell out that Starry was bucking, but once they got under control, away we went.  Sometimes, Cole just needs to run.  We walked all the way home, and Cole was very relaxed.

We rode Dante and Ranger on the hill.  I rode Dante on Friday.  It was his first trail ride of the year, but you would never know it.  He was no different than his last trail ride back in December.  I really like his consistency.  Ranger didn’t want to trot.  Ellen had tried him on the hill earlier in the week, with the same results.  We were thinking that age might just be catching up with him.  Still, when he is out playing, he trots just fine.  Ellen can also trot him in hand, and he is very willing.  It was puzzling.  I suggested we try a different saddle.  Ranger’s body has changed over the last year—maybe the saddle isn’t fitting him right.
My WWII Japanese military saddle has a different type of seat that distributes the weight over a larger surface—much like a Western saddle.  It is my favorite saddle, but it is too long for Cole’s pony back.  I have used it on Ranger when I’ve ridden him over the years, and he seems to like it.  On Saturday, we switched horses and I used my war saddle.

When we got to the flat section of trail at the bottom of the hill, Ranger tried to take a trot step before I even asked him!  When I did ask for the trot—away we went.  Ellen was in shock.  We did a bunch of trotting back in forth, and Ranger gradually got faster and steadier.  Could it be this simple?

later, I rode Cole by myself on the hill. For the first time this year, I trotted him up the hill a couple of times, and he was great.  That was something we were still struggling with last year.  It is hard for horses to calmly travel up a hill at a faster speed when the barn is right across the street at top of it.

On Sunday, Ellen wanted to ride Ranger to see if he would trot for her and to prove that it wasn’t a fluke.  I got to ride Dante.  Ranger gave Ellen plenty to smile about—he trotted well.  Of course, Dante was a good boy, too.  It looks like Ellen will be using my saddle, now.  She will just have to remember to lift her leg up higher on the dismount.  It has a “horn” in the back that is used to hold a pack down, I think.

I worked Cole on the hill, alone, again.  This involved more trotting uphill.  We also did a bit of cantering at the bottom.  Ellen set up a log for us to trot over. After a few times of that, I couldn’t resist cantering over it, too.  He gave me just a little jump.  Overall, I had a very fun ride, even though the river was too high to cross.

Thunder the Wonder Cat

Ellen and her significant other, John, came over for Easter lasagna, yesterday. Well, John can't resist taking pictures of Thunder, whenever he sees him. The afternoon turned into a photo session. As you can see, John is very talented--and Thunder is very beautiful--a terrific combination.