Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Ellen Tackles the Loop

Ellen Tackles the Loop

We have had a terrific year of trail riding--which has kept us away from riding at the barn.  Now, as the season winds up, we are adjusting to it by integrating arena riding and loop riding.

The loop is in the back of the property.  It is about a quarter mile.  Riding it is a combination of challenging and boring.  It may seems contradictory, but that’s how it works out.  The horses can be difficult at times because we are so close to the barn--it lures them like a magnet.  Once we work out that, it gets fairly boring--just going around and around.  Still, it gives us an option other than the indoor arena.

The loop is great if your are riding at dusk--or even in the dark.  I used to do that alot.  We now have another reason to ride the loop.  The park tried to fix our trail on the hill down to the river, but they didn’t finish it.  They put down a bunch of clay, that has turned into nasty mud, and in doing that--covered the culverts--causing flooding.  The water has started running right down the center of the trail, and eroded it down to the base stone where it isn’t mud.  In other words, it isn’t much fun to ride on--and it is hard on their hooves.

The loop now looks better than the hill if we can’t cross the river.

Cole is good on the loop because I did it so much when I was still working and didn’t have enough daylight to ride on the trail.  Ellen works different hours, so she can go on the trail most of the time.  Years ago, when she didn’t have anyone to trail ride with, she rode the loop a lot with Dante, and he was very good--but that was a long time ago.

But there is a problem with Dante.  If he hasn’t done something  for a while, he can be very, very bad the first time.  Last year, I tried to ride Dante on the loop when Ellen wasn't’ there.  I didn’t make it very far.  He felt like he was going to explode.  I dismounted--and then he exploded.  He leapt up in the air, jumped about and stomped the ground in a temper tantrum.  The rest of the ride was spent leading him as his tantrums diminished.  It was simply no fun at all for either of us.

I didn’t have an opportunity to try it again, though I am certain that if I did, he would have been much better.  That’s just the way Dante is.

One morning, had a rain storm the left us with two and a half inches of rain--there was no way we could cross the river.  Since the hill was such a mess and it was likely that we could get more rain, any minute, Ellen opted to ride in the arena.  I joined her with Cole, but when she finished with Dante and brought him to his stall, I took Cole out on the loop.  Ellen walked with us.

The next day, we knew the river would still be too high.  This time, Ellen decided to brave the loop.  She knew that Cole would be an angel since she saw how good he was the day before.  We hoped that since Dante is used to going along with Cole on the trail, he will just transfer his behavior to the loop.  It is just a trail, after all.

As we started out, Dante was tossing his head all over the place, but his feet behaved.  Ellen was nervous, and said she didn’t think she would make too many laps.  Whenever she got nervous, we stopped.  I made sure that Cole didn’t get too far ahead.  

Dante had one slow motion protest after the first lap, but it didn't surprise Ellen, and she just dealt with it.  At one point, there was some noisy construction equipment a few doors down.  That made Ellen nervous, but Dante was just fine.

With each lap, Dante relaxed more and Ellen lost a little of her nervousness.  We did six laps at a walk, and Ellen was in the saddle the whole time.  She was so happy that she succeeded in her goal.  I was very proud of her and Dante for doing so well.  We now have another option for the rainy days when we don’t want to go down the hill.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Why I Love to Ride in November

Why I Love to Ride in November

Here in northeast Ohio, November ushers in cold and miserable weather--but not every day is like that.  To Ellen, Kevin and me, the trail riding doesn’t stop when we turn over the October calendar page.

If it is above freezing--and not raining--there is a good chance you will see us out there.  Most of the leaves are off the trees, right now.  Our beautiful trails aren’t that beautiful anymore--but that is an advantage.  Gone are all the sightseers.  The only people out there are the diehards like us.  No more loud motorcycles or hotrods.  In fact, there are hardly any people on the trail except us!  It is wonderful.

There are no bugs!  No bug spray that doesn’t work, anyway!  That does slow Starry down, though.  Just a couple bugs flying around him will make him toss his head around and go faster.  Now, he leisurely plods down the trail.

Our trails are rather hard and dry most of the time.  We don’t have much mud to deal with, which is nice, but that also means they are very hard in the summer.  We get enough rain this time of year, that the trails have some give to them.  The horses appreciate it, and we do, too.

Since there are few leaves on the trees, we can see around the corners.  That way, we know what is ahead of us on the trail.  Also, some horses get upset if their friends go around a corner and then they can’t see them.  That doesn't happen this time of year.  There is also less temptation to reach out and grab a branch.

We don’t have to worry so much that the horses get too hot--meaning we can trot much more when we are close to home.  That helps us keep warm, too.

We do get more days that are rained out or the river is too high to cross.  There is also a chance that snow will keep horses off the trail if they still have shoes, but that doesn’t happen too often.  Sometimes, it is so cold that the trail is frozen--and then we just walk--and freeze.  Most of the time, we still feel it is better than riding in the indoor arena.  We have all winter for that.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

The Same Old Trails

The Same Old Trails

We don't have a horse trailer.  We don't have a truck to pull a horse trailer.  We are stuck riding on the same old trails, ride after ride.

Actually, I’m not complaining.  It may not be as exciting as exploring the world at large, but we do explore the small world around us.  We ride in the Cleveland MetroParks, and we are so grateful to have them.  Here we live in a large urban area--and we can go trail riding whenever we like!  It is awesome.

We never know what we might encounter.  Sometimes, we see nothing of note, at all.  Other times, we can see wild turkeys!  We love the turkeys.  They aren’t much afraid of horses, so we can get pretty close to them.  They are so beautiful.  If we are lucky, we will see them fly up into the trees or across the river.  Usually, they just walk on by.

We see deer all the time, so they are nothing special.  I prefer watching the squirrels more than the deer.  I think squirrels are adorable.  They come in black, gray or red.  We also have fox squirrels.  My favorite are the red squirrels.  The are more skittish than the rest and run so fast that we call them the speed squirrels.

We have a fox that we see on the hill, occasionally.  A few months ago, we followed him up the hill, until he stopped at the side of the trail to let us pass.  There was a pair of foxes that grew up in a horse pasture a few doors down.  We think this might be one of them.  He simply has no fear of horses, at all.

We do see a coyote, now and then.  They seem to make the horses a little nervous.  We know there are plenty out there, but they are rather elusive.

Once or twice a year, we may be lucky enough to see a mink.

Of course, we see lots of birds.  On a good day, we will see one of the bald eagles that live in the area.  There are a lot of Great Blue Herons along the river.  Sometimes we see, but more often hear, a barred owl.  Wood ducks, mallard ducks and geese are always in the river.  They have been known to spook the horses when they splash down.

We will see turtles now and then.  Kevin loves turtles.  One time, Ellen placed a fake turtle close to the trail by a wetlands.  As we rode by, she pointed to it and said to Kevin, “There’s a turtle.”  We have never seen him leap off Starry so fast.  We all had a good laugh when he realized the turtle wasn’t real.

A few weeks ago, we were crossing a river.  I was in the lead, and I saw a dark creature swimming down the center of the river--low in the water.  I pointed it out.  At first, I thought it was a big fish.  My second thought was that it was a snapping turtle.  Kevin had seen one there, recently.  As it got closer--I realized it was a beaver!  It was so cool to see him go by.  We have beavers in the nearby wetlands, but we have never seen one swimming by us in the river.  We watched him as he swam away…

So, though we may be riding the same old trails, there is always a chance of seeing something wonderful.