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...