Monday, December 26, 2016

Christmas Ride

Christmas Ride

Ice  everywhere.  That is how it has been the last couple of weeks.  We had snow, followed by rain and immediately followed by extreme cold.  That left us with a thick layer of ice turned snow--everywhere.  We couldn’t even step out of the barn with the horses, let alone go on the trail.

Things started to warm up, and slowly the ice began to melt.  On Christmas morning, the driveway was passable.  We had checked the hill on foot the day before, and it still needed a little more melting to be safe.

Ellen didn’t plan to take Dante out.  When he is barn bound for a while, he needs a good, outdoor turnout to get his brain back where it belongs.  The outdoor turnout areas were all ice, so that was out of the question.  We didn’t need him running on divoted ice. I was hopeful that I might be able to get Cole out a little bit.

Ellen and I both worked the horses in the arena while Kevin cleaned his stall.  He wanted to join me on the hill with Starry.  When we were done, I brought Cole out to wait for Kevin.  It was about 40 degrees out, which is very comfortable for December.

We got down the driveway with no problem at all.  There was enough dry patches that we never stepped a foot on ice.  The top of the hill was pretty good, too.  Once we got to the slope, it got a little more difficult.  Ellen led the way on foot to check for the best parts of the trail.  Cole was happy to follow her.  She is his favorite trail companion.

When we got to one narrow part of the trail, the trajectory we usually follow was icy.  Cole needed to go to the other side of the trail--but we absolutely never go there because it is stony.  I told him to move over, and he hesitated.  Ellen scooted over to the side and guided Cole to her with hand signals.  He knew just what she wanted and stepped right where she pointed,  the clear part of the trail was only about a foot wide, but Cole is just a pony, so it was effortless for him.

Behind us, we heard Kevin say he was going to turn around and go back.  Starry is the furthest thing from a pony, and Kevin felt it was too risky for the behemoth to squeeze through the narrow opening on the ice.  

The rest of the trip down the hill was fairly easy.  Ellen and I just guided Cole to the best parts of the trail, and he happily complied.  I think he enjoyed being outside, again.  The shore of the river was still piled up with huge hunks of ice from the quick thaw a few weeks previously--a sight we typically see only during the spring thaw.  There will be no crossing the river unless we get large amounts of rain to flood them all away.  

One trip down the hill was enough for us.  We turned around and looked up--there was Starry--just where we left him.  He didn’t want to go home without Cole, so Kevin let him wait.  Going up the hill was easier than going down because Cole could dig his feet into the ground.  

Our Christmas ride was a success.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Winter has Arrived

Winter has Arrived

We were regularly riding out on the trail and having a great time.  Then, the weather started getting cold.  As is inevitable, the river started to freeze.  Fine, we can just ride on the hill.  Then we had some warm weather mixed with cold weather; causing the driveway to freeze into a sheet of ice.  If that wasn’t bad enough, it got reallly cold, followed by a heat spike which brought a lot of rain on top of all the snow--then the temps plummeted.  We now have an icy driveway, an icy hill and the banks of the river have piles of huge ice chunks that washed up when the flooding broke up the river. The river is freezing over, again, too.

We are officially stuck at the barn.  I can’t even ride out on the loop because of the ice.

It is now time to concentrate on our arena work.  Sigh…

My first 2 rides in the arena with Cole didn’t go very well.  My third ride felt like I was riding a stick of dynamite.  I only trotted a few times because he exploded into the trot.  We just walked about and did tricks.  By the time we were done, I was able to trot a couple controlled steps at a time.  I quit while I was ahead, untacked him and watched him run and jump about.  I guess I should have done that first.

The next time I tried again, I did have him run and play, first.  It paid off.  He felt like a normal horse.We just reviewed where we left off last year.  He seemed to remember it all, and I was very happy with that ride.

I did discover why dressage people love to do shoulder in so often.  Don’t listen to them about suppling.  Remember how I would get nervous on the far end?  When he is hyper, if I trot out of that corner down towards our barn door, he would try to take off for our door.  I tried doing a shoulder in after that corner and it worked like magic.  I felt brave because his head was already bent to the inside--so I could circle him with ease if he tried any shenanigans, and he was focused on the exercise I was asking instead of bad thoughts.  Being a clicker-trained horse, once he knew what I wanted, he had all the more reason to perform it well instead of going of on a literal tangent.  

Since then, he has been fairly well behaved in the arena.  We continue to review old work and try to have as much fun as possible.  Of course, we much prefer to be on the trail.

Ellen lets me ride Dante in the arena a few days a week, too.  I haven’t ridden him regularly in there since she broke her ankle, years ago.  He is so much better, now.  There is nothing to be frightened about riding him, inside.  The worst that he will do is stall out and not want to go forward.  He trots so smooth--it is dreamlike.  Dante is super responsive and very agile.  His legs never get tangled up like Cole’s can at the trot.  He does lack consistent lateral moves, and that is something I can work on with him this winter.

The only thing that can rescue us from the arena right now is a huge thaw or a huge snowstorm to cover up all the ice.  I prefer the thaw, of course.  Until that happens, we will just make the best of it.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Bella’s First Trail Ride in the Snow

Bella’s First Trail Ride in the Snow

We got just about an inch of snow overnight.  Suddenly the bleak December landscape looked just a little bit prettier.  We were going to meet Shari with Bella for a trail ride.  I took Cole to meet her at the trailhead closest to her barn.  We saw her prancing down the driveway and when she reached the street, she slammed on the brakes.  She got startled by going from a white driveway to the black top!  We knew that this was going to be a challenging ride for her.

She pranced over to Cole--and then refused to step onto the trail unless he went first.  Bella was afraid of the snow.  Bella, the horse that insists on being leader, now needed Cole to show her the way.  Shari told me that this was the very first time she rode Bella on the trail in the snow.  Bella thought everything looked different, and it just wasn’t safe.  

We caught up with Kevin on Starry.  They were about halfway down the hill, poking along.  Bellas still followed Cole.

The trail was frozen solid from the day before, and there really wasn’t enough snow to soften it.  There would be no trotting, today.  Our trails freeze like cement, and though we see some people trotting and cantering on them, we are concerned in protecting our horses’ long-term soundness.

There was no ice on the river, so we crossed with ease.  Well, Bella was worried about it, so Cole went first.  Bella was looking at everything.  On the other side of the river, Cole had to lead, too.  It was like some sort of “Twilight Zone” ride.

As we rode along the fence which is right by the road, I told Shari we needed to be on the lookout for snowplows.  If we heard one coming when we were in a bad spot like by the fence, we would need to scurry towards safety.  Between going fast, making noises, spraying snow high into the air and scattering salt--they were just too much for the best of horses.

As soon as we got into the woods, Kevin warned us that a snowplow was coming.  We stopped the horses and waited  The plow was far enough away, but it made a loud noise and all of our horses jumped.  Yes, snowplows are a risk.

Bella gave one big spook when she approached a large boulder that was covered with snow.  Of course, she knew that rock quite well, but it was different now.  It could have been a horse-eating monster.

As we rode along, Bella would walk next to or follow Cole.  Starry was thrilled, because now he could follow his girlfriend without Cole in the way.

About halfway down the trail, I stopped Cole to see if Bella would take the lead.  Not only did she refuse to pass Cole, but she started to go backwards.  Was this really the horse who wouldn’t let any other horse take the lead all summer for more than 30 seconds?

After some disagreement, Shari was able to get Bella to take the lead.  Starry then insisted he follow her.  Cole happily trailed behind.  That lasted for about a minute, and then I found myself leading the pack, again.  When we approached the next river crossing, where we planned to turn towards home, Bella happily took the lead.

We figured she would do better on the way home, and she did.  Most of the time, she was either next to Cole or right ahead of him.  Now, the biggest issue was Starry crowding Cole, so he could get to his girlfriend.

Once we started heading up the hill, Bella was more than happy to lead, and she got well ahead of us.  She was going home.  I’m sure our next ride in the snow will be back to normal with Bella leading the way the whole time.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Winter Friskiness

Winter Friskiness

The temperatures plummeted into the 30s for both our rides last weekend, but that didn’t stop us.  Each morning all of us went out--Ellen on Dante, Shari on Bella, Kevin on Starry and I was on Cole.  We hadn’t ridden with Bella in a couple weeks.  Shari keeps Bella down the street, and the trail entrance is between our two barns.  As we got to the end of the driveway, we could see Bella prancing down the street towards us.  The boys were just as thrilled to see her as she was to see us.  

On Saturday, when we were getting all mounted and assembled at the trailhead, Bella sniffed Starry’s nose.  Ellen and I both saw a softening in Starry eyes.  It was as if he fell in love with her at that moment.  Over the summer, Starry seldom rode with us when we were with Bella,  so this was his first close encounter.  After that, he forgot all about his bromance with Dante--it was all about Bella.

That did offer a few complications because Cole and Dante feel Bella belongs to them.  They all tried to be the one to follow Bella, but Starry kept working his way up to her.  She didn't seem to care; as long as she had her boys with her, she was happy.

She was also a little wound up about being on the trail for the first time in a while in the cool weather.  Most of the time, she seemed alright, but she did do a fair amount of prancing.  The boys just quietly followed her.

When we trotted, Bella led, as always.  Starry trotted along, right behind.  I usually take that position.  It can be a tricky one.  Ideally, you don't’ want to be too close so that when Bella spooks or misbehaves, we can stay out of the way.  Kevin started to learn that.  She is only disruptive for a few seconds.  Sometimes, we need to stop for her to work it out, but there are a lot of times that we just need to slow down a bit and Shari gets her straightened out in no time.  Kevin was learning how to do it.  Bella was doing lots of spooking this weekend.  Shari seems to have nerves of steel--she literally takes it all in stride.

While all of that was going on in the front, we had a different drama going on in the back of the pack.  Dante has been getting wound up about horses getting too far ahead, and it has been intimidating Ellen.  She isn’t used to it.  She asked me to keep Cole slower so he could be closer to Dante.  Cole, not a slow horse by nature, preferred to be up front.  I told Ellen that he would do it for her, though.  Sometimes it seems like Cole would walk through fire for her if she asked him to.  I told her to keep talking to him and praising him.

What followed was the most amazing thing.  We trotted along.  I asked Cole to slow up his speed, and he reluctantly did.  Then, Ellen started talking to him and telling him how good he was.  Every time he heard her voice, his ears would turn back to listen to her and I would feel him willingly cooperate with my request to stay closer to them then his friends up ahead.  I think he just wanted to be by Ellen.  When she would stop talking, his ears went forward and he picked up the speed--until he heard her voice, again.

On Sunday, Bella got just a little too excited while trotting, and we decided walking would be the smarter gait.  Shari brought Bella back to Dante, and they were able to successfully work with Bella at a walk--following Dante.  Clicker helped, of course.  Next summer, that is going to be our big project--teaching Bella to quietly follow other horses.  We know it won’t be easy, but with clicker, anything is possible; given time and patience.

The rides were cold, of course.  I ended up getting off and leading to stay warm.  Everyone else was tougher than me, but I was warmer than them.  Winter riding offers its challenges, but as long as it isn’t too cold, it is still better than riding in the arena.  And since we have a river that freezes and blocks us from most of the trails for weeks or even months at a time, we have to get out there when we can.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Ranger’s Hoof

Ranger’s Hoof

I wrote some time ago about Ranger’s hoof.  He had a terrible abscess that the vet wasn't able to drain, so she poulticed it and several days later, it drained on its own.

That wasn’t the end of the story.  Over the next few weeks, he improved a lot, but he never completely recovered.  I have had way more experience with abscesses than the average person because of Mingo’s chronic abscess, so I knew this wasn’t normal.

We continued to take him on his walks every day, but he still wasn’t quite right.

About a week before the farrier was supposed to come out to trim him, he took a turn for the worse.  We decided not to call the vet out, again, since she wasn’t much help the last time.  Instead, we waited to see what Ken would say when he trimmed his hoof.

Ellen was at work, so I handled it on my own.  I explained to Ken the problem.  It took him all of 20 seconds to find the cause of Ranger’s discomfort.  Ranger had a pus pocket between the inner sole and the outer sole of his hoof.  Ken trimmed back his outer sole about a half inch and the fluid drained out.  There wasn’t much there.  It probably got caught there when Ranger was abscessing and the pus was trying to find a way out of his hoof.  It busted out the heel, but this bit in his sole didn’t drain out.  This is why we were so disappointed the vet didn’t establish draining out the bottom of the hoof.

Ken said he should be significantly better in a couple of days.  Of course, he would have a tender foot because Ken took so much sole off.  There was actually a slit about 2 inches long between the soles.

Well, Ranger didn't get much better at all.  A hole formed at the tip of his frog that led to the gap between the soles.  That whole area seemed tender.  He got so bad, that we couldn’t take him on any form of a walk.

Ellen didn't know what to do.  Was it another abscess?  It seemed serious enough to be one.  After 2 weeks, she decided it was time to call our farrier and get some advice.

Better than advice, the farrier came out that very morning to look at Ranger’s hoof.  He checked it with hoof testers and ruled out another abscess.  He ended up cutting off all of the outer sole in the sore area; thinking that stepping on that remaining section of hoof was causing the pain.

Ranger was instantly 15% better when they put him back in his stall.  Of course, he sole is now very, very thin in the sore area.  Ellen wrapped it up with vet wrap and a stall boot.  Ken said to call in a week and let him know how he was.

I was out to see the boys that night, and I took Ranger for a short walk in the indoor arena.  To me, he seemed at least 20% better, but 20% better was still pretty bad.  He was walking fast, though, and that was a good sign.

The following morning, Ellen and I took him out of the stall and walked a few laps around the indoor arena.  We saw real improvement!  He wanted to go outside, so we cautiously bought him out on the hard ground.  Yes, he was up to 40%

The next day, we took him outside and walked him about 15 minutes.  Ranger was so excited, he even tried trotting.  This was more than he had done in at least a week.   He only had a slight head bob.

We are going to ease him back into his old program of hand walking every  day, again.  He needs the boot to protect his sole, and he is wearing it in his stall, too.  Eventually, we will only put it on during his walks.

Ellen is thinking of riding, again...

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Second Attempt in the Arena

Second Attempt in the Arena

A few days later, I was out at the barn in the evening.  Originally, I planned to give Cole the day off, but there was nobody there.  Even Kevin wasn’t with me.  Such quiet nights at the barn are rare, so I decided to ride Cole, after all.  I set my goal at only 20 minutes.  I would do 5 laps each direction at a walk.  

The first lap was the worst, of course.  When I got to the far end, Cole raised his head.  Did he hear something I didn’t hear?  Or was he sensing that I was nervous?  On the second lap, he did it again and this time, I couldn’t take it.  I asked him to stop for a few moments so we could both relax.  It worked.  We proceeded without incident.

He lifted his head up on the next lap, too, but I just vibrated one rein; which is his cue to lower his head.  It worked.  I started to feel so much better.

The next lap, the same thing happened.  My confidence started to soar.  This wasn’t going to be bad, after all.

On my fifth and final lap, I could hear that the neighbor on that side had her dogs turned out, and they were barking, as always.  I gave myself a mental pat on the back.  Neither one of us were bothered by the dogs.

And then, it happened.  He bolted at the beginning of the short end of the arena, and he had no intention of stopping.  I bent his head to the inside, and I got no response.  He just kept going like I wasn’t even there.  I then bent his head to the outside, and he fought the bit, but I felt him slow down, a little.  By the time we got to the next corner, he was back to a walk.

The first words out of my mouth were, “Thanks, Cole.  That is just what I needed.”

That meant we had to redo that lap from the beginning.  As we walked around the arena, I played the incident over in my head, and realized that this time, his “bolting” was about 5 huge, out-of-control trott steps, and I was able to get him to stop before he ran off towards his barn door.  He may have been bad, but I handled it--as I should be able to after all these years riding.  Cole isn’t near as bad as Cruiser was in his youth.  The only difference is that Cruiser would spook in all places of the arena.  There was no safe side to retreat.  I just had to deal with it.

That made me feel better.  I then walked the other 5 laps in the opposite direction without any incident at all.  That brought me to about 15 minutes.  There was still some time to do a little trotting.  As in the past, we began by walking through the bad end and then trotting along the wall once I felt safe.  I was clicking him for good transitions in the beginning, and then I started clicking him for maintaining his rhythm.  Finally, I did some clicks for stopping from a trot.  If never did trot the full arena, but did practice some good circles on the safe side.  We quit at 25 minutes.

If things work out the way I want them to, I will be still riding in the arena only sporadically.  That doesn’t help one bit with the confidence, but I don’t want to miss any of the last good trail rides of the year.  At least I know that I am on my way to regaining my arena confidence.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

First Attempt in the Arena After a Long Trail Riding Season

First Attempt in the Arena After a Long Trail Riding Season

If you have been following my stories with Cole for a while, you may recall that we have problems in the arena.  It started when I was initially training him.  Though he is hardly what I would call a spooky horse, he was consistently having huge spooks on the far end of the arena--causing him to bolt back towards the door.  Any little noise would set him off--or no noise at all.

I was training him for the trail on the weekends and working him in the arena during the week.  He barely spooked at all on the trail.  There, my biggest problem was getting him to walk quietly.  He wanted to trot, instead.  We managed to work through that, but the arena was much more difficult.  Not because of Cole, but because of me.  Since the bolting kept occurring in the same area, I was getting nervous whenever I approached it.  I would get so frightened, I would become paralyzed.  I remember trying to ride there on my own, and having to stop and call someone to walk back with me.  Even though he got better, I got worse.  Eventually, I couldn’t even ride on that side of the arena.  I spent most of the first winter riding only one half to the arena.  

That spring, I started trail riding, again.  I still rode a little in the arena in the evenings, but I still stayed on the safe side.  Eventually, I was so determined to vanquish my fear, that I decided to work on attainable goals.  I would ride the full arena at a walk for 5 laps each direction.  If anything caused me to abort the plan, I had to start over at the beginning.  It worked like magic.  By starting my rides like this, I was able to conquer my fears and soon I could trot and canter, too.

That is, until I took the whole following spring and summer off from arena to ride on the trail, exclusively.  When I went back in the fall, the fears came back.  I had to do the 5 laps routine, again.

Same with the following fall…

And the next one.

This year, I was determined that I would just ride like a normal person.  After over 5 years of riding Cole, I didn’t need to go through all that, again.

Ellen and I had our first arena ride on a cold and rainy weekend morning.  I hopped on Cole and rode a few laps--and felt great.  Then I decided to try the other direction.  It was the easier one--piece of cake.

That is, until I got to the far end of the arena and involuntarily broke out into a cold sweat.  It was back.  Sadly, I rode to the safe end and did circles.  After a while, I started to do some trotting--but only short distances.  His arena trot is so dramatically different than his trail trot, that it takes me some time to get used to it.  It is big--really big--and scary, too.  Once I get used to it, I manage pretty well, but if I am too scared to walk to the scary end of the arena, the last thing I am going to do is trot there.

Ellen just glided along on Dante.  He did some of the nicest trotting I ever saw him do.  Eventually, I just had Cole stand so we could watch.

And then, I noticed it stopped raining, so I suggested we go outside.  Ellen was a little nervous about that, and where I was relieved.  We are riding opposites.  We did go outside and ride on the loop, and both horses were terrific.  I was just very bothered by what happened to me in the arena.  

Monday, November 21, 2016

My First Wintery Trail Ride of the Year

My First Wintery Trail Ride of the Year

It is no secret that I prefer a trail ride over an arena ride any given day of the year.  When the weather gets crummy, I still try to eke out a trail ride.  For that matter, so do Ellen and Kevin.  That is how you would have found us a few days ago--freezing on the trail.

Actually, the temperatures weren’t that bad.  It was in the mid 30s.  The ground was covered with a light snow and though it was windy at the barn, there wasn’t that much wind in the valley.

Ellen and I left before Kevin.  This was the horses’ first day out after the farrier visit.  Cole had his shoes pulled.  Dante is barefoot year round, so he just had a trim.

The ride started out slow.  Once we crossed the river, we were off trotting.  When we got to a decent spot for cantering, I let Cole give it a try.  It could sense the moment he realized he no longer had those worn out, slippery shoes on his feet.  We had been sliding enough on them that we both became cautious.  Cole, realizing he wasn’t slipping, adjusted his gait and moved off with much enthusiasm.

When I slowed him down and let Ellen catch up, I told her we were done cantering for the day.  We would stick to a fast trot.  She understood.  Cole was getting hyper.

We fast trotted all the way to the next river crossing--the spot we planned to turn around to go home.  Dante fast trotted to us.  He did well, but seemed a bit excited.  The cold weather was putting some spring in his step.  I suggested that we might be best to just walk home.  Ellen agreed.

We started with Dante in the lead.  Cole immediately started marching past him at a very fast walk.  I think Dante might have felt threatened by Cole because he jumped in the air and took off running.  Cole thought that was a terrific idea and followed him at top speed.  It didn’t take long for us to get them under control, but it reaffirmed our idea of walking all the way home.

We didn’t walk far when we saw Kevin and Starry trotting our way.  He asked if we would join him to the river, and then he could come home with us.  We turned around.  Cole was in the lead.  I asked him to trot, and he squealed and started trotting airborne.  I heard voices behind me, so I stopped Cole right away.  As it turned out, Starry was pulling his head back and forth; threatening to buck and Dante leapt into the air.  Needless to say, we walked the rest of the way.

The night before had been very windy, so I ended up dismounting to throw some branches off the trail.  I decided to stay on the ground for a while because I knew I would be warmer and that there were a lot of other branches I could clean up.  I probably led about 15 minutes, so when I did mount, I was warm the rest of the way.

That is one of the hardest part of cold weather riding.  We have very spirited horses that can get very excited on those chilly rides.  That usually means we can’t do as much trotting as we like.  Often, it is the trail conditions that keep us at a walk.  We don’t like to trot on frozen ground, and of course, ice is an issue, too.  It is easy to stay warm if you are trotting--impossible to stay warm riding at a walk.  Many of our winter rides are spent leading, but at least we aren’t in the arena.


Thursday, November 17, 2016

Adventures on Flane

Ellen and I went out for a morning ride, and we had a great time--until we got to the turnaround spot.  It is a section of the trail that we call Flane.  It is actually called Falls Lane because there is a small waterfall at the end of it.  The bridle trail doesn’t go to the falls, though.  It turns there and joins up with a paved all-purpose path that goes along a street and under a couple of very scary train bridges and then crosses a busy road and still parallels the road and goes under more scary bridges.  So we use it as a good place to turn around and go home.  Ellen and I used to ride through all that with Cruiser and Ranger about once a year or so, but we have decided it really isn’t worth the hassle, anymore.

The trail got its silly name because Kevin writes on his calendar where he rides, and he would abbreviate it as F. Lane.  It didn’t take long for us to call it Flane.

The problem with Flane is it has woods on one edge of the trail and a road on the other side with houses facing the trail.  There is a section of grass between the trail and the road with a few trees that the park planted.  The road can be pretty busy at times with large trucks coming from the close by water treatment plant. Often, people are doing yardwork in their yards with mowers or blowers or other scary things.  It can be a tough section of trail to ride on.  In other words, if the horses are feeling overly spirited, we often skip this quarter mile trail since we are going to turn around at the end, anyway.

The horses weren't frisky this day, so we definitely wanted to ride Flane so we could go a little further before going home.  We trotted to the end of it, turned  around and started trotting back.

We were about two thirds of the way back when a big buck did something in the woods.  It was literally right next to Dante.  Ellen doesn’t know if it was running toward him, or if it was laying down and leapt up quickly.  There may have  been more than one deer, too.  I never saw a thing, but I heard the commotion that the deer made.

I didn’t see anything because both horses decided to hightail it out of there.  Dante was more startled than Cole, of course, so he really panicked.  When there is a monster in the woods, the logical thing to do is to run for the street, and that is just what they did.

We both started to circle the horses to stop them before they got to it. I would guess the road was about 25 feet from the trail at that spot.  I was able to get my less panicked horse under control, first, which allowed me to watch Ellen and Dante.  She was doing the best to bend him, and he was fighting her with his iron (Morgan) neck.  As the street got nearer, she leaned over to one side in a final attempt to circle him away in time.  He was down to a very slow trot.  Her saddle started to slip to the side, and I watched in horror as she slowly rolled off onto the pavement.

Dante was stopped in the middle of the street.  I yelled to Ellen that I was coming over to help.  She responded with, “I’m all right!”  I sighed with relief.  She quickly stood up, holding her stirrup leather in her hand.  If you have an English saddle, where the stirrup leathers thread through the saddle, there is a safety mechanism that, if it is open, will allow the leathers to slide off in an emergency.  Be sure to make keep yours open for situations like this.  Once, I was trotting down the trail, and a branch somehow hooked my stirrup leather.  It pulled it right off the back, and Cruiser was none the wiser for it.  If it had gotten stuck to the branch, we could have had a panic moment

I hopped off and held Dante while Ellen pulled herself together.  The oncoming traffic was all stopped, and they waited until we got off the street to proceed.  She led Dante back to the trail.  I asked her what she wanted to do, and she said she just wanted to lead for a little bit.  They started marching down the trail, and I said, “Don’t you think you should fix the saddle?  I think it is making Dante upset.”  

She looked back and couldn’t believe the saddle was halfway down the side.  She laughed and replied, “Now I know why I fell off.  I didn’t feel like I was going to fall until it was too late.”  In the excitement, she didn’t realize the saddle was slipping.

She explained that she had been riding with her saddle a little looser lately because she felt sorry for Dante.  I had been guilty of the same thing.  With their winter coats, it seemed like raising it up that last notch was just a little too tight.  Well, that certainly is going to change.

Her worst injury was where her hand hit the pavement.  Good thing it was a cold day, and she  had gloves on.  Since Dante was going so slow and she was halfway down his side when she came off, it made it one of the better falls.  We were very please that Dante settled down and just stood there when she fell.  I think he was puzzled.

Even the best horses will spook at times, and Dante is one of the best.  Not much bothers him, and he seldom over reacts.  Poor guy thought a deer was going to attack him, so we sure don’t blame him.  We were just glad Bella wasn’t there...

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Something Different for a Change

Something Different for a Change

Ellen and I were going out for an early morning ride.  It would be a short one due to time constrictions.  As we were leading the horses down the driveway, a thought popped in my head.  We should switch.  I could ride Dante, and she could ride Cole.

We haven't switched horses in a really long time.  When she first started riding Dante, there were times when she would want me to ride him when we were doing something new.  Dante has turned into a “Seen everything; done everything,” kind of horse.  I don’t even remember the last time I rode him on the trail.

Not to keep you in suspense--it was a completely uneventful ride.  That certainly wasn’t a surprise to either one of us.  It was simply a chance for us to enjoy the greener grass on the other side of the fence.  I was able to have a relaxing, lovely ride, and she got to ride a faster, more exciting ride.

Ellen would trot on ahead of me and wait for me to catch up with them--just like I always do with her.  I would just relax on Dante’s slow, but very smooth trot.  We looked at the scenery and enjoyed the weather.

When we got to the section of the trail that we like to canter, they took off at a swift trot.  We went a little faster.  By the time we got around the first corner, they were long out of sight.  I asked Dante to canter.  I have only cantered him a few times, so I really didn’t know what to expect.  He gave me a fairly fast, but quiet canter.  It was lovely.  I wasn't’ able to get him to keep it up very far, and I couldn’t get him to pick it back up, so I just enjoyed a moderate trot from there.

I caught up with Ellen at the next river crossing.  I think she had been waiting for me for a while.  She said she did a mix of fast trotting and cantering, and she thought it was so much fun.  She kept telling him to go faster and faster.  Cole was very hot from his exertion as it was a warm morning and they have thick winter coats.  We walked most of the way home.  Cole tried doing silly walk and side passing to extort treats from Ellen with little success.  He tried giving me “the look” to extort treats from me, too.  Now I know why it is so hard for Ellen and Kevin to resist when he does that.  I had to stop looking at him.

I got to experience a Lambert Leap from Dante.  He does it often with Ellen, but it caught me by surprise.  If he is excited, his first step of a trot transition is a big leap.  Then he proceeds with his slow, quiet trot.

When we were nearly back to the river, we did trot the short section of trail by the fence.  This time, Dante kept up with Cole.  He is even super smooth when he is going faster.

We both had great rides, and I am sure we will do it again in the future.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

A Wild Ride

A Wild Ride

I guess I should really title it “A Wildlife Ride.”  Ellen, Kevin and I went out on an early morning ride.  It was one of those brisk, sunny days that you get in October--made all the better by the lovely fall foliage.

As we started down the hill, I saw something up ahead on the trail.  It was the fox!  We have been seeing one on the hill in the last few weeks.  A woman a few houses down said that a pair of baby fox grew up in her backyard, and they used to play out in the horse pasture.  Consequently, they are not one bit afraid of horses.  Instead of running away from us, the fox will actually approach us, and one day he even followed Kevin when he was on Starry.  This only started a few weeks ago, so seeing the fox is still a very special event.

No sooner did the fox trot out of sight, but the flock of turkeys strutted over the trail.  We see turkey often enough, but it is still neat to see them, too.  I think they are just so beautiful, and I sure can understand why Benjamin Franklin wanted to make them the national bird instead of the eagle.

Not a minute later, a few deer crossed the trail, too.  Deer are as common as robins, so that wasn’t such a big deal.  As soon as they were out of sight, we saw a fox squirrel followed by a black squirrel.  This was all before we even crossed the river.

We were only going to be out for about an hour because Ellen had to go to work, so when we crossed the river, we went right off in a trot.  The horses were feeling frisky because of the weather.  At one point, Ellen spotted more turkeys on the other side of the river.  We seldom see more than one group on our rides, so that was a surprise!

We did a little cantering, and when we got to the section of trail that we usually canter, we galloped, instead.  It was quite a gallop, too.  

We did some trotting on the way home, and then we slowed it down to a walk.  Good thing we did, because Ellen spotted a blue heron very close to us sitting on the bank of our side of the river.  Because we were so close, the heron took off to fly to the other side of the river.  We love the herons.

If that wasn’t good enough, on the way back up the hill, we saw the fox trotting right towards us on the trail!  He went off to the side of the hill and sat there for a few minutes while we exclaimed how pretty he was.

We don’t know if our little fox friend is going to stick around this winter or move on, but in the meantime, we will thrill every time we see him.