Tuesday, February 27, 2018

A Muddy Situation

A Muddy Situation

As I have mentioned before, the park tried to fix our rocky, washed out hill trail by dumping a bunch of clay on it--filling in the drainage ditch.  Now, it is a terribly muddy mess where they tried to fix it.  Cole hates mud.

We have been waiting for the river to go down, and it has been a long wait.  There has been so much rain.  Sometimes, if it isn't raining, we ride on the loop behind the barn, and sometimes we try to navigate the mud on the hill.

One day, Kevin and I were riding Starry and Cole up the hill to go home.  They were very excited, and we could feel it.  The worst muddy section just happens to be the the single spot in the entire park where Cole is likely to have a Cole burst.  It is a short, steep part of the hill that is preceeded by corner.  I call it Cole Burst Corner.

As we approached that area, we could feel both horses building up in excitement.  I felt like I was riding a coiled spring, so I hopped off.  I would prefer getting my feet soaked to rocketing up a hill and through the mud.  As I dismounted, I saw Kevin doing the same thing.  Starry was just as excited as Cole.

Well, you couldn't imagine how bad they were.  Both were trying to charge through the mud.  As Cole was circling around me on the muddy incline, I saw Starry nearly push Kevin over in the mud.  Somehow, we made it to the top to the dryer trail.

Seems we had a problem.

The rain kept coming for the next few days; making things all the worse.  When we could, we rode on the loop.

Finally, we had a dry evening.  We were on the loop, but Starry was being Starry.  He didn't want to lead, but he didn't want Cole in the lead.  Sigh...  Kevin suggested riding down the street, down the trail and turning around when we got to the muddy part.  Sounded like a plan.

When we got to the top of the hill to take a look at the mud, Cole spun 180 degrees towards home.  Yes, I had a problem.  Cole's hatred of mud made him refuse to go through it before I even asked.  Kevin suggested we go down the hill, since we were there.  After Cole's display, I wanted to show him that he can't  refuse to go through the mud just because he doesn't like it.

We headed down the hill.  Cole did go, reluctantly--then very quickly--to the bottom of the first little slope where it is dryer.  I praised  him on the way down and clicked him at the bottom.  Starry walked down slow and careful.  We then picked our way through the swamp where the ditch was filled in.  The rest of the way down the hill was uneventful.  We rode back and forth a few times at the bottom.  When they seemed settled down, we decided to go home.

We had a plan.  When we reached the mud, we would do "stop and click" over and over.  That would do 2 things.  It would keep them from getting too much speed and reward them for not getting too much speed. 

They were excited, of course.  They wanted to get home and through the mud as quick as they could.  Starry was in the lead.  Cole thought he went to slow and wanted to pass.  We asked for a "whoa," and I barely got one--yet it was one, so I clicked and treated.  Kevin did, too.  We were working as a team.  We did a few more steps and repeated.  We got through the first stretch of mud.  Cole still wasn't stopping well, but he was stopping.  Starry was doing a little better than Cole.

And now, it was time for Cole Burst Corner.  Remember, he will try to charge up here even on dry days if he is in an energetic mood--and he certainly was on this day.  We stopped and clicked at the bottom of the slope.  Then we took 3 steps and did it again.  It was keeping them under control.  About halfway up, I felt a difference in Cole. He had relaxed.  His head was at his normal height, and he was no longer taking those short, fast steps.  He understood!  We continued in this pattern until we got to the top.  We arrived with great success!!!

On our next scheduled ride, Kevin got to the barn before me and was already on the hill.  I hurried and saddled to get out there to join him.  Cole was very hyper.  We managed the mud quite well, but that was no surprise.  It wasn't going away from home that was the problem. 

Halfway down the hill, he was able to see Starry at the bottom of the hill.  Cole started to bounce and try to trot.  Kevin saw us and waited for us to catch up.  We walked back and forth at the bottom a few times and then started to do some trotting back and forth, too.  Then, we walked up the hill to the muddy section, turned around and went back down the hill.  Cole was still very excited.  Starry was slow and careful.

After more back and forth at the bottom, it was time to go home.

The first thing I noticed was that Cole was more sensible in the muddy section by the ditch.  He wasn't what I would call good, but he was going where I directed him and stopping more willingly.

When we got to Cole Burst Corner, I really noticed the change.  After about 2 halts, Cole just walked like an ordinary horse.  We continued with our multiple stop/clicks, but it was no longer an "event."  The horses were significantly better, and it was only their second lesson.

Kevin and I plan to continue this training method to instill good behavior.  We will gradually reduce the number of stops and replace them with praise. 

The way I see it, we could suffer with the problem all spring--or take the time to fix it.  I'm glad to say it is already taking less time than I thought it would. 

I sure hope they will fix the hill this spring...

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

A Rambunctious Ride

A Rambunctious Ride

The other day, the driveway at the barn was a sheet of ice.  Since I haven't taught Cole to ice skate, yet, I decided to ride him in the indoor arena.  I have been avoiding it as much as I can by riding out on the loop in the back of the property or down to the river, so it was more than a week since we had been in it.

Christie was riding her Paint, and I thought that might provide me with an interesting challenge.  Except for Dante, I have barely ridden with any other horses in the arena all winter.  Cole needed some exposure to other horses.

The ride started out well, for the first 30 seconds.  Christie rode past us at a trot, and Cole leaped up in the air and tried to chase after them.  I spun him and proceeded down the wall.  That was just the beginning.  Just a minute later, Kevin did something in the barn that made a loud noise.  Cole decided it was time to run from the noise and leaped up in the air.  I spun him, again.  Do you see the pattern?

I told Christie I would stay on one side of the arena and ride him in a circle until he settled down.  I started at a walk and then added some short stretches of trotting.  He managed at least 3 more surges.  I had to yell over to Kevin to stop making so much noise.  Cole isn't a spooky horse--he was just in a spooky mood.  Poor Christie.  I bet she was happy I came out.  I was looking for a more challenging ride, and I got it.

I started to feel Cole settle down and become more focused on me instead of the other horse.  Hooray!  I was hoping to get my full ride in before Christie's other horse came out with the trainer--the one she only had a week--but no such luck.  The trainer led out the other horse.  She is a big, black Quarter Horse mare.  I thought, at first, that he was going to lounge her, but here it turned out that he wanted her to spend time with another horse in the arena.  That was exactly what I wanted to do with the other horse.  It looked like Cole was going to get a much longer lesson on being ridden with other horses in the arena.

I carefully walked and trotted about.  I didn't want Cole to disrupt things.  He was being good, I'm glad to say.

The trainer didn't know what the mare would do, since he had never had her in the arena with another horse.  I was so relieved Cole was behaving much better than before.  He walked the mare around and practiced standing.  At one point, Cole surged forward.  I sighed and spun him, again, to get him under control.  I glanced over at the mare to see her dancing around.  This time, Cole was just reacting to the other horse instead of causing the problems himself.

A little bit later, Cole was at it, again.  I got him under control quite quickly--in time to see the mare rearing way up into the air--twice.  The trainer was so happy that he decided to try this lesson with him on the ground where he was safer instead of in the saddle.

Our ride was over, and I brought Cole back to our barn.  I told the trainer I would close the door.  First, I had to get Cole to his stall.  When I got back to the door, I saw Christie running towards me.  She was trying to get to the door before her mare, who had escaped from the trainer, reached our barn.  I got the door closed before either one got to it.  The trainer later explained that the mare watched me open the door, lead Cole through and then took off for the door--pulling free from him.

It was a challenging session for both of us this time!  Maybe I will ride Dante with them, next time instead of Cole.  As long as he wasn't anywhere near them, he would be a gentleman, I'm sure.  He may even set a good example for the mare.

(If she was close to him, though, he would be terrified.)