Friday, August 31, 2018

Coming Off the Disabled List

Coming Off the Disabled List

It has been a Bella-less summer, and we haven't seen that much of Archie, either.  Both have been having a tough time.

Towards the end of June, Bella got tender footed.  When Shari described the symptoms to me, alarm bells went off in my head.  It sounded like laminitis.  I told her to stop the carbohydrates, give her bute and get professional help.  Fortunately, she has an awesome farrier, and she didn't need to get a vet out.  He also told her to keep her away from carbohydrates--pointing out to her where Bella had fat pads--a sign of insulin resistance.  The main cause of laminitis is Cushings Disease and insulin resistance.  Arabians and all other easy-keeping breeds are very prone to it.  Bella is a National Show Horse and is half Arabian.'

Her farrier also shod her with pads.  Bella gradually got better and Shari decreased and then eliminated the bute.  She has been riding her at the barn in the soft arenas.  September should see them back on the trail.  Shari is so excited about trail riding, again.  Bella should be a handful, again!

Archie had a more complicated problem.  He became lame in the spring.  Brenda had our vet examine him.  Using a nerve block, she determined it was somewhere above the knee.  It was time for anti-inflammatory medication and rest.  When that didn't help, Brenda called out a specialist.  He did the same thing.  The nerve block gave the same results, but the vet also xrayed, too.  He found a cyst in Archie's hoof on his coffin bone.  He thought that was the problem.

It was now time to get the farrier out to do corrective shoeing with pads.  It didn't work.  They ended up shoeing him normally and that didn't help much, either.  Brenda got a equine massage therapist out and a chireopractor, too.  Still, he seemed lame.  Over time, he slowly improved.  The farrier told her to test him out with some riding.  Maybe, at this point months later, exercise would help.

It seemed to, and she did go on a few trail rides with us.  Then the limp came back--and then it went away.  We aren't really sure what is going on.  It may never have been the cyst causing the lameness since when both vets nerved the hoof, he was still lame. 

I will have to keep you updated on both Bella and Archie.

From Smokin' Cole Train to the Slow Train

From Smokin' Cole Train to the Slow Train

When you ride with another horse, you can lead or you can follow.  That is pretty obvious.  Back in the old days, we usually put Ranger in the lead and Cruiser would reluctantly follow.  Cruise preferred to be the leader, too, but that tended to get Ranger angry.  Innocent Cruiser never learned his lesson.  He would keep on trying to burst past Ranger--only to see the flash of his teeth.

Cole likes to follow, but Dante is slow.  If we are trotting along, I have to give them a head start.  Cole then catches up, we go back to a walk and let Dante trot on.

If Cole is the leader, we go a while until we get too far ahead.  Then we walk until Dante catches up.  Either way we do it, it seems like I don't get to spend much time with Ellen.

I decided to try to work with Cole to slow him down.  It seems that it is as hard to slow Cole as it is to speed Dante up.  Cole, at least, doesn't try to burst past other horses often.  He was intimidated by Ranger on those early rides.  Ranger taught him to stay in place.

I started this way.  Ellen and Dante trot along.  We give them some space, and then I ask Cole to trot slowly.  In the beginning, he just didn't seem to get it.  We would quickly catch up with Dante.  At that point, my challenge was to get him to slow down without stopping.  Most of the time, he would stop.  Sometimes I had a few seconds where he matched Dante's speed.  I gave him a lot of praise.  When he stopped, we just started all over again.

I like a training challenge, and this was a good one.

There is one section on the trail where Dante tends to go a little faster.  One morning, I was riding with Ellen and Kevin.  On the way home, we put Starry in the lead--to get him out of the way.  I then followed Dante.  From beginning to end on the trail, Cole matched Dante's speed.  I praised him all the way.  It did required a certain amount of give and take pressure on the reins.  Whenever he started to get to close, I would take pressure until he dropped back--but not so much that he stopped.  When he did, I relieved the pressure, of course. 

With our clicker training, I have conditioned Cole to understand that if he gets the "good boy" chant, it means to keep doing what he is doing.  At the end, he will get a click and a treat.  We have worked on this so much that I am certain he knows what it means.  He shows it by doing what I am asking.

Needless to say, when we came to a halt, he got a click and a treat.

As luck would have it, not long after that ride we had a lot of rain.  That meant we weren't able to cross the river.  Ellen and I were relegated to riding the loop at the barn.  That is a pretty boring ride--but better than riding in the arena! 

We trot a lot of the loop, so it was a good place to continue with our training project of teaching Cole to slow down on command.  Since he is less enthusiastic about loop riding, it made it a little easier for me.

I started to see improvement.  I still had to ask him to slow down, but when he did, we could trot a little bit with no rein contact.  A few times, we made it up to 3 seconds!  That might not seem like much, but it was a big deal for me.  It showed me that we could do it with more work. 

I started to click him for going with a loose rein behind Dante.  What better way to encourage him?  The only problem with that is that then Dante would get ahead of us, and we would have to catch up.  Still, once I started to do that, it seemed to get easier.

Another thing I noticed is that it took longer for us to catch up with Dante when I gave him a head start.  Cole was going slower, even if it wasn't as slow as Dante.

After working on this a bunch of times, I decided to try putting Cole in the lead and asking him to go slower.  It worked!  Well, it didn't work perfectly.  Dante still got left behind--but he wasn't as far behind as he would have been in the past.  Ellen said Cole got lower and wider in the hindquarters; which he does when he turns on the power to take off quickly.  He just didn't go quickly.  He was using all his energy to go slowly.  I do believe that is the proper definition of collection.

Towards the end of the trotting stretch, to no one's surprise, he started going into his "show trot."  I didn't want that, so I nudged him forward.

Due to the weather being troublesome, we have practiced on the loop a few more times.  Cole is gradually getting control of his body.  What once seemed physically impossible for him--to trot just a little faster than he walks--now seems like a real possibility.  At least it gives me something interesting to work on, and Ellen and I don't spend as much time riding apart when we do this.

Soon, we will be back on the trail to put our training in action.  I will keep you updated.

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Slow and Steady

Slow and Steady

Ellen and I have a horse problem.  In the world of horse problems, this isn't a serious one, but it is somewhat frustrating for us.  Our rides are taking too long.

We don't mind long rides.  We like riding a long distance.  Our problem is that short distances are taking too long.

In our park, we basically have 3 different rides we can go on.  When we cross the river, we can go north or south.  Usually we go south.  It offers the best ride with the best quality trails.  We can do a lot of trotting and cantering, if we so desire  If we only walk, it is very scenic.  Round trip, it is only about 5 miles--which isn't quite long enough.

If we cross the river and ride to the north, the first part isn't as scenic, and we share too much of it with the rest of humanity.  Much of the trail goes along the road, and we have to cross the street three times.  Ellen (not Dante) gets nervous in traffic.  Cole acts up when he hears loud motorcycles.  This part of the trail just isn't very pleasant.

To get to the unpleasant part of the trail, we have to ride up a short hill, down a long one and cross the river.  For some reason, this takes the longest time--particularly for Dante.  We only walk it, and he just walks so slow.  It isn't just him.  Cole also walks very slowly there--just not as slow as Dante.  It think that there are too many stones on the hill for them.

Once we ride up the "big hill," the trails are terrific.  They are secluded, pretty and they are great for trotting.  It just takes us so long the get there--but it isn't very far at all. 

We trot where we can, but since Dante is such a slow trotter, most of the time I am walking while they are catching up.  The rivers were taking a long time to cross, due to Dante's pokiness, but Ellen has worked with him on it.  They cross much faster.  The traffic is so much worse than it used to be that often it takes several minutes before we can get across the streets. 

Our third ride option is when we past the "big hill" and continue down the trail.  It involves crossing the river 2 more times and going through a very busy intersection--then finally you get to the good trails.  The first part of the good trails has so much gravel that we have to do a lot of walking.  Consequently, we haven't gone that way a single time this year. That is the ride that Ellen and I used to do with Ranger and Cruiser both days--every weekend we could. 

We don't quite know what to do.  When Dante doesn't want to go fast, there isn't much we can do.  Ellen isn't the type to beat a horse up going to slow, I am glad to say. 

I went through the same thing back when I had Mingo--which is one of the reasons I usually rode him by myself.  He just couldn't keep up with the big guys.  I did canter him a lot more than Ellen canters Dante.  It helped me keep up, but Mingo never got hyper if I cantered him all over the place.  Dante does--and Ellen isn't comfortable with that.

Ellen is spending time trotting to catch up with us.  She also "pre-trots."  When we are going to trot she starts trotting earlier than us to close up the gap.  Dante used to be a little slow with his trot transitions.  By the time they would get going, we would be way down the trail.  Pre-trotting solved that problem.  She also worked on improving his transitions, so that helped, too.

It is all so frustrating when it takes 45 minutes before we get to the "big hill."  (When I rode Cruiser there by myself, we could make it to the "big hill" and back in 35 minutes--round trip.  We did do some fun cantering.) 

Most of the time, Ellen and I just ride the easy way, because we can just cross the river, and right away we are on the better trails.  We want to ride the other trails, but we keep finding that we aren't having as much fun.

We won't give up.  The cooler weather will help--and we must go to see the beautiful fall wildflowers!  The foliage is so pretty, too.  When it is cooler, there is less traffic--and few motorcycles.  The whole ride is better.

Friday, August 3, 2018

Where Have all the Deerflies Gone?

Where Have all the Deerflies Gone?

First off, I am not complaining--I am just wondering.  We are all wondering.

Usually around the beginning of July, the deerflies explode on population and oh, do they torment us.  It lasts until the middle of August, and then they start to fade away.

Bug spray is no help with them.  The only thing we found that helps is it the crocheted hats that cover their ears and the top of their heads.  The deerflies aim high. Most of them land on the bonnet and can’t bite through it. Before they land, they swarm.  The only thing to do is to trot as much as we can. They make a good ride--not so good.

Sometimes, they will land on out horse’s neck.  We must be vigilant so we can swat them off. Starry will actually stop and bend his head towards Kevin, so Kevin can help him.  

This year, we started getting a few of them in May because it was so hot.  We fiured it would be a bad year. Oddly, we haven’t gotten more than a couple on each ride.

There are deerflies other places--just not where we ride.  It made out July rides so much better! We used our bonnets just once--and realized it was a waste of time.  We still have mosquitoes, but they aren’t as bad this time of year as they are in the late spring.

I hope they don’t come back next year!