Thursday, May 26, 2016

29 Working Days to Go

29 Working Days to Go

Yes, that is all.  The big day is coming soon.  It is the day I have been looking forward to since—well the first week I started working at my job over 30 years ago.  It’s not that the job is so bad—I just don’t want to work.  Also, when I realized that I would have to drive in rush hour traffic 5 days a week, I knew I had to find a way to retire early.  I hate driving in rush hour.

I picked my date 2 years ago.  Yes, my countdown has been going that long.  Little did I know how fortuitous it would be.  I work in Cleveland—home of the 2016 Republican Convention.  Although I don’t work downtown, I work close enough that I am sure the traffic will be horrendous.  I am retiring 1 week before the convention.  I won’t have to drive in that traffic.  Yes!!!!

The best retirement advise I got from my neighbor who retired a couple years ago.  She was told not to plan anything big for the first year—just get used to it, and then decide what to do.  It worked for her.  It sounds like a good plan for me, too.

I am just going to do more of what I love to do, at a more leisurely pace and I will even sleep in now and then.  I hope Ellen and Kevin don’t get sick of seeing so much more of me.  I know Thunder and Maggie will be thrilled.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Dante’s Dark Side

Dante’s Dark Side

I bet no one knew he had a dark side.  I didn’t expect it.  Let me go back and explain.

Dante had been consistently giving Ellen great rides, weekend after weekend.  She was even taking him on rides with Kevin in the mornings when I was at work.  It was wonderful.

Then one chilly morning, we decided it was time to allow Cole to take lead horse position.  Cole has trouble following Dante because their trotting speeds are mismatched.  Dante loves to lead, and Cole loves to follow—but I have to keep checking Cole’s speed because he gets too close, I have trouble posting the slow speed and he isn’t as smooth as Dante to allow easy sitting of the trot. 

We have spent plenty of rides with Cole in the lead in the past, and Dante never seemed to care.  We would just stop and let them catch up if they got too far behind.  This should have been no big deal.

But it was.  Actually, the problem started to rear its ugly head last fall when we were going on rides with Starry.  I guess having not one, but two horses far ahead of him bothered him.  He started to get feisty back then, but we kind of forgot about it this spring since everything was going so well.

Dante didn’t like following.  He wanted to canter to keep up.  Ellen wouldn’t allow that.  He began to protest by bucking.  Well, it may have been large canter leaps—it is hard to say.  He will do a large leap on a trot transition when he is on trail quite regularly.  We call it the Lambert Leap.  (He is a Lambert Morgan.)  Whatever it was, we knew he was fighting Ellen and misbehaving.  Ellen was very, very upset.

What happened to Dante Dream Horse?

I told her she had to come up with a plan to correct the problem.  We couldn’t just push it under the rug by avoiding it—or tolerating it.  Of course, I would have kept Cole in the following position forever, if it helped her, but that wasn’t the best solution to the problem.  Dante used to behave, he could behave, again.  Besides, if he didn’t like being left behind when Cole trotted faster—he was welcome to trot faster, too.

The next weekend, it rained a lot and the river was too high.  Actually, it snowed, too.  Mother nature didn’t look at the calendar to see it was May.

The following weekend, the weather was great and the river was low.  It was time to see what Ellen’s plan was and how it would work.

We got down the hill and over the river.  Right at the beginning, she said I could put Cole in the lead.  It was a great idea, because Cole starts out slow until he gets all his snorts out.  The longer we ride, the faster he will go.  We went a short distance and Ellen asked us to stop.  She stopped Dante, too.  Then she walked past us, took the lead and trotted.  We went a little way, stopped and switched again.  We kept doing this right down the trail.  Cole went faster the further we went; as expected.  I kept asking Ellen if they were all right, and she kept reassuring me that they were.

I named it “Leap Frog.”

On the trickier parts of the trail where the horses get wound up, she would tell me to trot to that corner or that tree and stop.  I kept praising Cole and sometimes clicking him for the stops, so he didn’t mind.

We had Cole lead for longer distances each time.  Not once, did Dante misbehave.  We were so happy.

Something to keep in mind; when you are training one thing, you are usually training other things at the same time.  It is important to keep that in mind, to insure you are training those other things correctly.

Dante has been nervous when Cole passes him or he passes Cole.  (He has problems with other horses, too.)  This is nothing new, and it goes away the more we trail ride.  Leap Frog gave Dante a lot of time to practice.  Ellen praised him when we passed him with no problems.

Dante has gotten a little sloppy with his downward transitions on the trail, too.  (He is perfect in the arena.)  Ellen insisted that his transitions were precise. 

Overall, it was a great ride.

We were able to take them on a trail ride the next day, too.  It was time to review the lesson.  We had terrific success.  We will continue to review until eventually, I can canter (gallop) off at Cole’s speed and Dante can canter at his slower speed without trouble.  We used to be able to do it—we can do it again.  (The warmer weather will help us with that.)  The final test will be adding Starry and Kevin back in the mix.

Kevin can’t wait.  I think he misses riding with us on the weekends.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Crossing a Raging River

Crossing a Raging River

Cole is a very bold horse—one of the boldest I ever met.  Only two times has he told me he didn’t want to do something.  The first was when I first got him.  He didn’t like being led in the barn door past the evil mare that bears her teeth.  (Dante had the same problem.)  The second thing was crossing the river for the first time.  That’s a pretty normal thing to be worried about.

So it was a surprise when, years later, he found something he was afraid to do.  They recently repaired one of our trails that kept getting washed out.  Unfortunately, they just resurfaced it and didn’t fix the cause—a plugged culvert.  It was only a matter of time before that would cause problems.  Sure enough, heavy rains caused the little stream that is supposed to go under the trail to go over the trail.  There is now a stream that crosses the trail and travels parallel through the center of it until it finds its way into the woods.

I knew that walking over a small stream can be as scary as walking through a large stream for a lot of horses, but Cole?  Seriously?  The first time we saw it, Cole balked.  I didn’t make a big deal about it, I just kept gently urging Cole to step over it.  Eventually, Cole hopped over it.  He was better on the way home, of course.

This went on for a number of rides.  When he crossed it, I praised him and clicked when he got to the other side.  Eventually, things dried out, and he started to lose his fear.  I continued to click him when he would step over the foot wide indentation where the stream previously flowed and he kept getting better and better.  Eventually, he barely even looked at it.

And then it rained, again.  I thought the running water would bother him, but I wasn’t sure.  He walked up to it, I squeezed my legs and he went airborne.  He leapt over it—really high and caught me totally by surprise.  He was reluctant to cross it on the way home, but going home is always easier, so it only took a few seconds.

The next day, I had Ellen ride Dante over it, first.  Dante barely noticed it was even there, but that didn’t help Cole out one bit.  He simply refused to step over it.  I tried and tried and then gave up and dismounted. 

Cruiser was afraid of a lot of things, but would follow me anywhere if I dismounted.  I never had to dismount to lead Cole through or over something, so I didn’t know how he would be.  He was still afraid to cross but I showed him I could cross and asked him to follow me.  It only took 30 second and he cautiously stepped over.  Of course, he got clicked, but instead of a slice of carrot, he got a handful of carrots.  On the way back, he stepped over carefully.  I was glad that he trusted me, too.

The following week, it rained, again.  I was back on that trail with Kevin and Starry.  By now, I was hesitant to try.  This had been going on all spring, and he wasn’t getting better, he was getting worse.  That’s not how Cole is.  He is supposed to be the bold one.

Kevin wanted to put Starry in the lead to help, and I thought it was a great idea.  The only problem was that I had to move Cole over, and that involved stepping over the stream where it went parallel to the edge of the trail just to get out of the way.  Great.

To my utter astonishment, he stepped right over it and waited for Starry to pass.  Then he stepped back when I asked him to.  I was shocked.  I tried it again—success!  I was bewildered.  I rode him to the spot that we crossed last time and he didn’t even hesitate.  My bold Cole was back.  Of course he was clicked for it.  He was perfect when we crossed on the way home, too.

I don’t know if Cole was no longer afraid after I led him across, or if crossing it in a different spot at a different angle made him think it was safe to cross in any spot.  Regardless, I don’t think he will mind doing it anymore.  He’s such a good boy.

Friday, May 6, 2016

Spring Time for Kitties

Spring has finally arrived and the cats are celebrating!
Nothing like the spring time sunshine.  Something no cat takes for granted.
After all, this wasn't that long ago--and we will be back there before we know it.  So enjoy the sunshine, kitties.

Monday, May 2, 2016


Ellen was riding Ranger on the loop this weekend, and I was walking next to them to keep them company.  Our loop has a drainage ditch on 2 sides of it.  as we were walking, I looked down and saw something funny looking on the ground.  Ranger was heading straight for it.  I tried to tell Ellen to move him away, but I was so distracted by what I saw that my words came out in a jumble.

At the very moment I was able to say to watch out, Ranger stepped on it.  I watched as he missed it with his back hoof.  It was the first time I ever saw a spotted salamander, and now it was squished.  It was black and slimy with yellow spots.  I figured it must have crawled out of the ditch where it probably was laying eggs.  So much for that.

I figured I would at least get a good look at it on the next lap—and then I couldn’t find it anywhere.  There was not trace--no tail or leg--nothing.  (They can lose an appendage and still survive to grow a new one.)  Apparently, Ranger didn’t kill it, after all.  It was muddy, and either he just pushed it in the mud or the salamander was within the concave part of his hoof when he stepped on it.  Maybe it was a combination of both.  Anyway, I wasn’t able to get a good look at it, but at least it was still alive.

When I told Kevin about it, he was all excited.  Turns out, in his whole life, he has never, ever seen one, either—and he loves anything reptilian or amphibian.  He would have loved to see it, but he was glad it survived. 

Funny, all the time we spend in the local parks riding and hiking, and we end up seeing a salamander at the barn by a drainage ditch.