Sunday, December 29, 2019

Friday, December 27, 2019

Monday, December 16, 2019

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Saturday, November 30, 2019

Cognitive Distortions

Cognitive Distortions

Cognitive distortions are how our mind lies to us.  Our brain gives us inaccurate information that reinforces negative thinking and emotions.  We all experience them to a greater or lesser extent.  They make us feel bad about ourselves, the world around us and life in general.  They can ruin relationships, cause emotional chaos and scare a person so bad that they are afraid to ride their horse.

This is where my sister, Ellen, found herself.

Anyone who has been reading this for a while already knows that Ellen is a very experienced and talented rider, and she has a very quiet, safe horse.  Dante is wonderful.  Part of Ellen sees that and part of her struggles with the reality that Dante is awesome.

There are different types of cognitive distortions, but I won't list them all.  I will just tell you about the ones that we have run into personally.

Ellen is a master of what is called "filtering."  That is where your brain filters out all the good aspects of something and only dwells on the bad aspects--exaggerating them out of proportion.  For instance, we can have a wonderful ride, but Dante rushed across the river on the way home.  Ellen has trouble processing the wonderful ride, and all she thinks about is how Dante raced across the river--even though he only walked fast.  It colors her whole memory, and when she comes out the next day,  crossing the river is a terrifying experience.

Ellen is a master at this one, too.  If Dante rushed across the river once, he is going to rush across it every single time.  It will never get better, either.  If he does do well, it is a fluke.  He will still rush the next time.

Of course, anyone who had been reading about our adventures know that we are constantly training our horses--and they keep getting better.  It doesn't matter that they are 13 years old.  Old horses do learn new tricks.  We don't have to be afraid of something happening forever.  We just need to find a way to teach them to act in a safer manner.

She even latches on to things that Cole does and overgeneralizes that all horses will do the same thing.  The one corner of the trail that Cole is the most likely to take off running is called "Cole Burst Corner."  Knowing that Cole might burst there, she feels like all horses--most particularly Dante--will burst there, too.

There are other ways she has overgeneralized over the years.  Every now and then, Ranger would stumble and fall.  Once he stumbled in a particular spot, she would never trot him there, again.  That was long before Dante joined our lives, so you can see that she has been struggling with this for a long time. 

Also called catastrophizing, it is when a person predicts the worst possible thing will happen.  If Dante rushes across the river, he will fall and get washed down to Lake Erie.  Well that might be a little extreme, but the mind isn't always rational when it does things like this.  Of course, if the river is only a foot deep--no one will get washed down to Lake Erie.  Most horses won't fall if they rush--and Dante can learn to not rush.  And Ellen is capable of teaching him not to rush--we can't forget that part of it.

All of these things get in the way of Ellen enjoying her trail rides--the thing she enjoys more than anything else in the world. 

Cognitive distortions cause suffering!  Unnecessary suffering!

Some will argue that riding horses is a dangerous sport, and her feelings are justified.  Sure, the danger is there, but we need to have a realistic view of the danger.  Otherwise, we suffer too much.

Think of a wild horse.  They have to be alert--there is danger everywhere.  They must run from everything.  Any noise could be a horse-eating monster.  Sounds plausible, but is it really?  If a horse ran from every single noise, they would become exhausted, have no time to eat and would die.  Horses have to learn that sometimes it is just an acorn falling from the tree or a squirrel skittering around.  They need to learn to adjust their reactions to the actual risk; the best that they can.  An acorn might make them jump, but to take off at a mad gallop because it is a life-threatening situation?  That isn't such a good idea.

If a horse can learn, so can a human.  And sometimes, a human can help a horse to learn when they do overreact--as Dante was with airplanes.  Nobody says it is easy, though.  Ellen has come far, and I will write about the things she has done to help herself in the future.

If you are interested in learning more about cognitive distortions, here is a website that will help.  It is very interesting how our minds can lie to us--and make us miserable.  There are many other types that I didn't include because they aren't relevant to what Ellen is going through.

Friday, November 29, 2019



Bus Stop

Bus Stop

Ellen had to work on Thanksgiving, so Dante was all mine.  I got back from a wonderful ride with Kevin and Shari and turned my attention to Dante.  Knowing I wanted to get home to make an apple pie to bring to the feast I was going to, I didn't think I had enough time to make riding worthwhile.  I decided to take him out on a walk.

Immediately upon taking him out of the barn, he looked straight down to the end of the driveway.  That is when I remembered his favorite game, Bus Stop.

Years ago, when I was desensitizing him for traffic, I invented the game of Bus Stop.  I would lead him down the driveway and stand him there.  Whenever a car would come down the street, I would ask him to put his head down and click and treat him for standing quietly. 

It took a bit for him to relax with the game, but soon he understood it.  Each day that we played Bus Stop, we would get closer to the street.  Eventually, we would stand by a huge boulder at the end of the driveway.  Dante learned to love this boulder.  That was his Bus Stop.

The cars would come from the left and from the right.  I would turn his body so that they would approach from the front and from the back.  Each time, he would get him click and treat.  On really productive days, someone would pull their car in the driveway or a really scary vehicle would go by.

Dante is so good with traffic these days, there is no reason to play Bus Stop, but he still loves the game.

On Thanksgiving, as we stood at the end up the driveway, he was holding his head very still with his nose pointed to the ground.  He was begging for a treat by showing me how good could stand with his head down.  That wasn't good enough for me.  He had to wait for a car.  When a car approached, I pointed to the ground, he lowered his head even more and got his click.  Then we would wait for the next car--and there were a lot of them.  Traffic was heavy, and Dante was happy.

He certainly didn't need to play Bus Stop to further his education, but he was so happy to play it.  It was time well spent.

Thursday, November 28, 2019

Update on Ranger

Update on Ranger

As Ranger approaches his thirtieth birthday, (we think), we are happy to report he is doing very well for his age.  Of course, he is retired, but he is as happy in his retirement as I am.  He goes on his walks with us every day.  You should see how excited he gets--or I should say; hear how excited he gets.  It could be because he gets a treat when we put his halter on, but he is still excited.

He still walks at a good speed, and when I feel ambitious, I will jog next to him so he could trot.

His appetite, which was a big problem over the summer, has rebounded.  He eats everything he can, with the exception of any hay that it too fine or too rough.  He has the teeth of a thirty-year-old, after all.  He polishes up his grain and wolfs down his hay cubes.  He has been fussy about eating in the past recent summers, and we were very pleased when his appetite came back; just as it had in the past.

Now that he is eating well, we are sure he is getting his Cushings medicine.  The results?  He has the best winter coat this year.  He probably was having issues with his hormones all along, though up until this spring, he shedded out like a normal horse.  Last year's coat was thick and rough.  This year, he has a thick coat--he always got one--but it is smooth and shimmery--and not as thick as it has been.  Shedding him out in the spring will not be quite the task that it was in the past.

Another thing we have noticed since he has been on his medication is that he doesn't seem to get as stressed as he was.  He still gets upset if Starry leaves him, but if he is just over in the spare stall for stall cleaning or loose in the indoor arena, he is dealing with it.  When Starry goes in the park, we give him a babysitter.  It is Dante unless Dante is going in the park, too.  Then we get Freckles--the other old guy in the barn.  They seem to be forming a friendship of sorts.  Ranger really loves to bully other horses, and I think that Freckles was put off by him in the beginning.  Now, he tends to play along with him.

And yes, Ranger is as cantankerous as ever--trying to bite at whatever horse he can reach, demanding his door be opened and insisting on being fed promptly.  He has always been the boss of the barn, and he reminds us every day.

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Saturday, November 9, 2019

Friday, November 8, 2019

Friday, November 1, 2019

Thursday, October 31, 2019

Our Successes

Our Successes

The trail riding season is winding down for the year.  Of course, we will still be riding whenever we can, but it gets harder with the weather.  Rain, snow, high rivers, extreme cold, ice, frozen rivers--it gets tough this time of year.  For Shari, it is even tougher because she has to deal with the early sunset.

We have accomplished so much this year.  Thirteen was our lucky number.  Bella, Dante and Cole all turned thirteen this year. 

For Bella, thirteen is the year she matured.  Sure, she still has some "Bella moments," but there are far less than there used to be.  This year, Shari has been able to ride more regularly, and that had really helped Bella.  Her biggest accomplishment was learning to allow other horses to lead.  She never wanted to follow in the past.  If a horse got ahead of her, she would blast past.  We have been working on training her to follow for years--letting other horses take the lead at a walk.  Over time, she got better and better.  This year, she started to let other horses lead at a trot.  Usually, is is Starry in the lead. 

That is the next big success.  Starry is leading whenever we want him to, and it isn't hard for Kevin to get him to take the lead.  Sometimes, he has to circle Starry first, but often they just march right into the lead.  We no longer have to fuss to put him in the lead like we had to in the past.  It is fantastic!

Ellen has got Dante crossing the first river crossing like a dream.  I will never stop appreciating the way he walks right down the bank and crosses the water without a whole lot of fussing.  Sometimes there is no fussing at all!  They are working on the other river crossings to make them as good as the first one.

Ellen has learned a very important thing this year--she has learned to let Dante be a horse.  Horses spook, make mistakes and sometimes misunderstand us.  Ellen has realized that she was expecting too much from Dante--and when there was a hiccup, she blew it all out of proportion in her mind--and would get so disappointed.  Now she is letting Dante be a horse.  If he spooks at something--that is normal--not a crisis.  The best thing about Dante is if something frightens him, he gets over it really fast.  Now, Ellen is doing the same thing.

Ellen spent a lot of time in the last few months working on her riding while on trail.  It is something we all know we should do--but it is hard to focus on our own equitation when there is so much else to focus on out on the trail.  When Ellen rode Ranger, she always posted his trot.  Dante's trot is so much different--it is very easy to sit.  Ellen never learned to ride a sitting trot, before.  She has been trying new things and adjusting here and there.  I saw them riding in the arena--and honestly, Dante never trotted so well and so consistent.  She said it was hard work, but it was hard work that paid off--big time.

And then there is Cole.  What did Cole and I learn--slowness!  We were working on it last year, so it isn't anything new.  What is amazing is how well he did this year.  We want to be able to trot as slow as Dante so we can ride together.  I would position him behind Dante as we trotted.  Sometimes Dante trotted so slow that I thought it was physically impossible for Cole to match his speed.  Well, guess what?  He can do it.  With a lot of praise and some well-timed clicks, he learned to slow his trot down with only light contact on the reins.  I can even sit the trot if I want to. 

When the 4 of us go out for a ride, often Starry is in the lead with Bella close behind.  Way back, Dante trots his slow trot with Cole following him.  A year ago, I would have said this would be impossible  Sometimes I feel like I am in the twilight zone.

It wasn't easy to get to this place, but we are here, and it is a good place to be.



Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Saturday, October 26, 2019

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Monday, October 21, 2019

All Our Ducks in a Row

All Our Ducks in a Row

Ellen, Shari and I were out for a ride on a perfect October morning.  We did a lot of trotting and Ellen even did some cantering to keep up with us.  Everything was going great.  Though Ellen was nervous about the second river crossing, (for no good reason, since Dante has been crossing it so much better,) Dante crossed it very well.  He was a little slow initially stepping into the water, but after that, he walked steadily across.

We rode on the trail on the other side for a while, turned around and came back to the river.  Ellen was nervous, again.  The previous day, Dante rushed up the river bank.  He only trotted, and she got him stopped in a reasonable amount of time.  Knowing he might do it again, she only needed to be prepared.

Bella crossed first.  There was a group of 5 cute, little mallard ducks just downstream.  When they saw Bella, they floated away.

Cole crossed next.  I saw the ducks had turned around and were coming back.

Ellen got Dante down the river bank without him grabbing something to eat--her biggest problem right now.  When they got to the river's edge, she saw the ducks.  She felt they were the size of turkeys, and they would take off as she tried to cross.  Maybe they would even attack.  They looked vicious.

I reassured her they wouldn't.  They weren't that close to her, and when Bella approached them, they only floated away.  They were probably migrators and were too tired to do much.  The ducks were just floating in one place; watching Ellen and Dante.

Ellen was nervous, and as usual, if Dante senses her nervousness, he turns into a statue.  He wouldn't budge.  He just stared at the ducks as they stared at him.  She couldn't get him to step into the water--and she really didn't want him too, either.

Shari decided to help.  She brought Bella back into the water and scared the ducks.  They floated away.  She turned Bella around and headed up the bank.  Bella charged up the bank.  Cole saw and panicked.  As he spun away, I just kept him spinning until he was facing Bella once again.  He immediately settled down.  We looked over at the ducks just to see them floating back to their favorite spot.  They were there to watch the show.  Dante remained frozen in place.  Ellen wanted to cross on the ford.  I didn't offer to go back across to go with her.

Shari decided to try again.  The ducks floated downstream, and Bella tried trotting up the river bank.  Cole didn't get scared this time--he just watched.  This was a wonderful training experience for Cole!

The ducks started to return, but they didn't get as close this time.  Dante was still watching them.  We were yelling out encouragement to Ellen.  I told her to try to turn him.  She turned his head, but the rest of him wouldn't budge--but I think it was enough to break his duck fixation.  She asked him to cross in a more assertive manner, and he finally took a step into the water!  We knew the rest would be easy.  The first few step were slow, but soon the ducks were forgotten.  (At least they were forgotten by us.  I'm sure Ellen was still thinking of them.)

Once they got to the other side, Ellen just told him to walk up the bank, and he did.  We were all so relieved.  Ellen was very shaken by the whole experience.  Bella was feeling very empowered.  She got to herd ducks.  Cole was bored.  We walked a little ways for Bella, Ellen and Dante to calm down.  The rest of the ride was without incident.

I hope those ducks were migrators, and they plan to head south; really soon.

Monday, October 14, 2019

A Tricky Ride

A Tricky Ride

I was out on a ride with my sister, the other day.  Of course, I was on Cole, and she was on Dante.  She was a bit more nervous than she has been because the weather was very brisk--normal for October, but it had been a very warm month up until this point.  Most horses get a little friskier in the cooler weather.  She was afraid Dante would misbehave.

We rode out to the second river, and though a tiny bit faster, Dante was just fine.  Ellen was all set to turn around there and go home, but it was such a pretty day, I convinced her to cross the river and do another section of trail.  Dante has been crossing at that crossing like a champ for weeks, now.  It really was no big deal at all.

I crossed first and waited for her on the other side.  (Ever since the time that Cole slipped and fell in the water--causing Starry to fall, too, we cross one at a time.)  About half way across the river, Dante started to rush.  He was still walking, but really, really fast.  It scared Ellen, but she did get him to walk before he got to the other side of the water.

We trotted to the bottom of the hill and walked up.  I was about half way up when I heard Ellen trying to stop Dante--he tried running up the hill.  It wouldn't be such a big deal on an ordinary hill, but this hill is very rutted.  We have to guide the horses in between the ruts.  Ellen's biggest worry was that Dante would cause Cole to run up the hill, too.  Though Cole wouldn't stop for me, he did stay at a walk.  Dante stopped well before he reached Cole, but that shook Ellen up, too.

We did some trotting and walking up there, turned around and headed towards home.  She was very nervous about crossing the river, but Dante did it in flying colors; making us both proud.  Once on the other side, we heard sirens.  A park ranger's car was coming our way; fast.  Ellen leaped off Dante; startling him, and he inadvertently stepped on her foot--really bad.  Dante's dancing caused Cole to spook, too.  Then again, he may have spooked at the ranger's car flying over the ford with the lights and siren going.  Dante didn't like the looks of that, either.  It took a bit for them to settle down.

Ellen figured, where there was one, there would be two, so she decided to lead until after the second one.  Sure enough, a couple minutes later another patrol car came tearing down the street.  It was too far away for them to see, but the sirens didn't scare them at all.

Ellen decided to get back on Dante.  She likes to mount with a mounting block or log, but if none is convenient, if I get off and hold her stirrup, she can mount fine.  I have no trouble mounting from the ground--Cole is short.  I helped her get into the saddle and was about to climb aboard Cole when we heard loud engines.  We saw a parade of hot rods and old cars coming our way!  Ellen hopped off, and I stayed on the ground.

It was the old car rally.  We have had trouble with them every year, and I think I write about it each time.  Last time, Dante was fine, Kevin took Starry right up to the street to watch them--and Cole had a meltdown.  I thought our ride was ruined.

We weren't close to the street, so we led them.  Where the trail did get close, we stopped them and waited for that cluster to go by.  Cole would immediately park out when he was waiting.  I was clicking him for it, and when he thought the clicks weren't coming fast enough, he would bow.  We worked our way down the trail this way.  At no time did either horse misbehave!  I was so proud of Cole for redeeming himself.

We made it home safe and sound.

The next day, Ellen was all stressed about crossing the river where Dante rushed.  I am glad to say, Dante was fine.  When Ellen replayed the incident in her mind, she realized that she had gotten nervous in the water and started squeezing her legs.  She did the same on the hill.  Since she has been working with Dante to just move off with a light squeeze of the legs, we think Dante was doing just what he thought she wanted him to do!  He was being a good boy.  Ellen was more careful with her legs, and all went well.

Thursday, October 3, 2019

Dante and the River

Dante and the River

Dante's river crossings were driving us crazy!  He was just so slow.  Some of the problem was caused by Ellen over clicking him.  When she was nervous, she clicked him, and she was very nervous crossing the water.  Dante just started demanding treats.  He wanted treats every step of the way.  She wouldn't give them to him--and then he refused to go.  When she did get him moving, if she felt nervous in the least bit, he sensed it and stopped.  He has learned that he gets a treat when she gets nervous.  The crossings would take forever.

Early this year, she tried to cross him to go home, and he got stuck on the bank.  She got so nervous that we switched horses.  He then crossed immediately for me.  After that, we switched to cross on the way home for a number of rides--and he barely stalled out for me.  He did bolt up the bank on the other side a few times, but we worked through that.

When it was time for Ellen to start riding him across, he just kept getting better and better for her.  We couldn't believe it.  She can now just ride him down the bank and across the water without him stopping.  No longer am I waiting up to 5 minutes for them on the other side.  We are so happy about this, and we both agree that we will never stop being grateful for Dante's wonderful river crossings.

That still left us the next river.  It is wider and much deeper.  Early in the year, the river was too high to cross there, so we were using the ford.  (There is no ford for us for our first crossing.)  We really don't like riding on the ford because we have to share it with the cars.  Eventually, Ellen had to tackle the river.

The first time she tried, Dante was just as bad as ever.  Same with the second time, the third time...   Ellen was still avoiding crossing the river whenever she could get away with it.  She simply hated it.  At first she was afraid, but the fear was replaced with annoyance.  It just took too long.

She tried different things--more treats, less treats, more kicking, less kicking...Would you believe that is what worked?  Less kicking!  In fact, she is best with no kicking at all.  She learned to squeeze her legs and if that didn't work, she tapped him with the whip.  He started crossing faster and faster.  The last few weeks have been outstanding.  He just goes down the bank and steps into the water.  She clicks and treats him for that, then asks him to proceed--and he does!!!  It is amazing!!! 

After years of struggling to cross that river, he is walking right across like a normal horse.  Sure, sometimes he likes to pause to stick his nose in the water.  They all do.  But when he is done, she just squeezes, and he crosses.

Kicking had become a poisoned cue.  (She has been having trouble with getting him to go in the arena, too, if she kicks.)  Poisoned cues are a cue that used to work that the animal associates with something unpleasant and refuses to listen to it.  We don't know what went on in Dante's mind to cause this to happen, but it did.  Once Ellen removed kicking--even though she replaced it with a whip tap which would seem to be worse--Dante progressively improved.

I seriously think that one of the reasons he improved so quickly is because he is now doing what he really wanted to do--get across the river to be with his buddies who are waiting on the other side.  So once he started to get better, the whole process was self reinforcing.

Now her river crossings are a thing of beauty.

Bomb Proofing

Bomb Proofing

The bomb proof horse.  We have all heard of that term, but does that horse really exist? I was reminded of some old friends that adopted a couple retired police horses.  Desensitization to sights and sounds are a big part of their training.  My father was a policeman, and he told me how they would get a bunch of police together to be a crowd--to teach the horses to stay calm in chaos.  Those horses have to learn so much to patrol the streets in the big city.  My friends' horses were afraid of trees, rocks, grass...  (Of course, their horses may do well with bombs.)

We try to expose our horses to all sorts of things and to teach them to stay calm in difficult situations.  It is never ending.  The trails that we ride on are particularly tough because we ride in an urban area and have to share the trails with so many other types of users.  Plus, we are always fairly close to the street, so there is traffic to consider, too.  For all our work, they all will spook at something.

With Dante, it is airplanes.  He is getting much better, but he still isn't trustworthy.  We ride very close to the airport, and when the airplanes land, it often looks like they will hit the tops of the trees.  This has caused more than a few Dante spooks.  Ellen has learned to ask him to stand and turn his head to the side.  (Lowering his head was not consistently effective.)  The direction she tells him to turn is head is the opposite from the direction he likes to spin.  This has been working very well, and it seems that Ellen is more nervous than Dante, now.

Cole is most likely to jump when he hear loud cars or motorcycles.  The worst motorcycles are the ones that backfire.  That can set him off running.  When I hear a loud one, I just ask him to stop until it passes--or at least walk.  If we are trotting or cantering, he is much more likely to run off.

Bella seems to be afraid of nearly everything, but not all the time.  It all depends on her mood.  Anything out of the ordinary can really get her going.  One day, I bike with a flag went by, and she spun on a dime.  Good thing Shari spun with her!

Starry seems to be afraid of nothing at all--except turkeys fanning out their feathers.  That strikes terror into his heart!

There is one other thing that spooked Starry, once.  And here is the reason you can't bombproof your horse for everything.  Kevin and I were trotting on the trail in a spot that parallels the street.  The only thing between us was a fence and the all purpose trail.  In the middle of the street was a pizza box.  I was looking that way when a car hit the box.  It flew up 10 feet in the air, spun around and landed.  Cole also flew up 10 feet in the air, spun around and landed.  Unlike the box, though, he hit the ground running.  Inexplicably, when he got to the end of the fence, he went around it and started heading for the street towards the killer box!  I got hem to stop before we reached the pavement.  Starry also jumped when he saw the pizza box go flying.  We just can't prepare for everything.

Friday, September 27, 2019

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Starry's New Trick

Starry's New Trick

Ranger's stall is right next to Starry's, and there are bars between them.  Last spring, when Ranger was shedding, Ellen spent a lot of time in Ranger's stall; grooming him.  Starry wanted attention--whether he wanted attention from Ellen or Ranger, we can't say.  Sometimes he can be a rather annoying horse.

He has a Jolly Ball in his stall.  (You know, those balls that people get horses that they usually never play with.)  One day, he picked up the ball when he was standing by Ellen.  She clicked and treated him.  Of course, to get the treat, he had to drop the ball.  Then, he picked the ball back up.  Ellen clicked him, again, and a game was born.  He kept picking the ball up, over and over again.  If he wasn't annoying enough, before, he was now!

After a while, Ellen wanted him to do more, so she ignored him when he picked it up.  He wanted to get his treat, so he put the ball into his feed dish.  He struggled with this for only a short time before he figured it out.  He would put the ball in his dish, Ellen clicked and treated him and threw the ball back on the floor.  Starry then had to go find the ball and bring it back.  When Ellen was bored with the game, she would throw it to the far end of his stall.  He hasn't figured that out, yet.

Sometimes he would do it for me, too.  Over all these months, we would tell Kevin about Starry putting his ball in his dish, but Kevin never saw it.  Finally, it happened.  Starry did it when Kevin was there.  He put the ball in the dish seven times in a row.  Kevin was elated!

This is a perfect example of how we can train horses with clicker training.  In this case, Starry came up with the behavior and Ellen "captured" it by clicking and treating him.  Once he got good at it, she then stopped clicking him for the initial behavior, and then Starry experimented to see what would get him that click.  Then, by throwing the ball further away from him, the trick got harder for him.  We fear that he will eventually figure out getting the ball when it is on the far end of the stall, too.  Then we will be in trouble!

Thursday, September 5, 2019

All Sorts of Little Things

All Sorts of Little Things

Nothing else happened in August that gave me enough to write about--except for some little things.

First off, Dante and Ellen are struggling with the second river crossing--and success seems to be right around the corner.  His problem has been slowness from the very beginning.  He is reluctant to go down the bank, step in the water and cross.  He stops a lot, and he can be tough to get going.  Ellen thought he was stopping because he wanted treats.  She tried just pushing him through--and he kept getting worse.  Her new idea is that he is pouting because he doesn't like crossing the deeper water and would prefer to go across on the ford.  She tried one trip across where she clicked him for walking and gave him treats.  The next ride--he walked across at least 50 percent better--and the best he has ever crossed that river.  We are looking forward to our next opportunity to cross to see how he does. 

There was one ride that was a little weird.  We were with Bella and Starry.  On the way out, Cole was very fast and kept threatening to pass the other horses.  He doesn't do that very much.  On the way home, he was even worse.  What makes this odd is that on the past few rides, he was fantastic.

He was so bad on the way home, we decided everyone should just walk.  About 20 minutes before the end of the ride, Cole suddenly stopped and urinated!  That is something he just about never does on the trail because he goes before the ride.  He kept going and going and going... Poor Cole, his bladder was bursting.  That is when I remembered that he didn't go before the ride.  After that, he was back to his old self.  He had a reason to rush the ride.

This month, I had the opportunity to ride by myself twice in 8 days.  I used to ride Cole alone all the time when I had 2 horses, but these days, I always have someone to ride with.  I had trouble with him last year when I tried riding alone, so I was ready.  He was really pretty bad the first day.  He was crying as we went down the hill.  Once we crossed the river, he tried to run at every little excuse.  H
e even got scared of a car with a loud radio!  I would just trot him short distances and stop before he got too much momentum.  It always seems to help when he is all wound up.

The next ride--he was significantly better.  We had a nearly normal ride with a "Cole Burst" only once, and that was right before we turned around to go back home.  I am sure that if I continued to ride him alone, he would be back to his old self in just a few rides.

Here is some good news on the Bella front.  That is just the problem--Bella always wants to be in front.  Shari has been encouraging her to follow us at a walk all summer, and that has been going well just as long as we walk fast enough.  When we would try it at a trot, she would try to burst forward.  Well, last weekend, we put her behind Cole and Dante.  Starry was behind her by a very large distance, but she did know he was back there.  It seemed like a miracle when she stayed behind us as we trotted along.  That was a problem that seemed insurmountable.   It may have taken years, but there is now some light at the end of the tunnel.

Friday, August 23, 2019

Thursday, August 22, 2019

Four Days Off for Cole--Mistake

Four Days Off for Cole--Mistake

I ride Cole nearly every day when the weather is good.  We both seem to thrive on our schedule.  Cole really enjoys his time on the trail--as do I.  I do try to give him a day off a week, but things don't always work out that way.  Sometimes he has a day off after 2 weeks--and sometimes I lose count.

Well, when your trails are hard and somewhat rocky, riding that much really wears the shoes down.  Cole also has a little hind leg twist when he moves.  The outside of his rear shoes get so thin that the heads of the nails wear off.  My farrier knows just how to pound the nails in, so if there are still nails in his shoes, they usually stay on.

One thing I just learned is that my farrier goes around to other clients showing them Cole's old shoes--just to see their reaction.  Yes, they are that thin.

Well, 4 days before my farrier's scheduled visit, Cole was in a very hyper mood.  After the ride, I turned him loose in the indoor arena to roll and play.  Play he did--he careened around and around with no urging from me--kicking as high as he could.  Yes, even a horse that is ridden every day sometimes has way too much energy.

He threw a shoe.

We spent the next few days walking around the arena, doing tricks and grooming.  I finally got his mane and tail combed out.  It has been months since the last time,  He was looking great.

My farrier came and shod him.  We were good to go.

The next day, I rode in the park with Kevin on Starry and Shari on Bella.

Right from the start, I could feel Cole's excitement.  The ride was going to be a challenge.  As we were trotting, his energy kept building and building.  We were in the last position, so whenever I started to have a problem, I just yelled up to Shari and Kevin, and they would walk until Cole settled down.

It wasn't long after we started to trot that Cole felt like he was going to explode.  I took a stronger contact on the reins, and sure enough, he tried to pull his head down to buck.  He did some small hopping things, but I succeeded in preventing a full buck.

After that, he seemed to settle down a bit.  We got to our favorite stretch of trail, and I told them to go ahead and trot.  It was touch and go for me and Cole.  Once, he tried to canter.  I warned everyone, and tried to stop him.  He went slower and slower, but he was intent on cantering.  Finally, it felt like we were cantering in place, and he tucked his hind legs way under him--and stopped suddenly.  I had to use all my strength to keep from flying onto his neck.

We got to the next river crossing and turned around to go home.  Shari's time was short, so we didn't have time to cross.  The problem was that we had to get Cole back in the back.  Recently, we were in this very same spot, and Kevin was in the lead.  He wanted to stay in the lead after we turned around, so that meant Cole had to pass Starry.  Though Kevin made Starry stand still, I think he swished his tail.  For some reason, Starry's tail strikes fear in both Dante and Cole.  This time, Cole took off running just as he passed Starry.

Cole didn't forget that event, so when we tried to do it again--Cole froze with his head up in the air--facing Starry.  I warned Kevin, but Starry wanted to be with Bella--and he wouldn't listen.  He started to walk past Cole--aggressively.

This shouldn't have scared Cole, but it did.  He flew backwards faster than I have ever seen a horse go backwards.  That terrified Bella.  Shari shouted to Kevin to stop Starry.  Kevin was in awe of Cole's reaction, but he did finally get Starry to stop.  As we were going backwards, I bent Cole and that seemed to break him from his panic.  We then went into the woods--far from Starry and had him pass.

The rest of the trip home went really well.  We did have to stop trotting a few times when Cole got excited, but there were no more antics.  When I got back, I let Cole play in the indoor arena, and he ran and bucked and ran and bucked.  (I guess I should have let him do that before the ride.)  He was back to normal the next day.

And that is what happens when Cole gets 4 days off.

Saturday, August 10, 2019

Friday, August 9, 2019

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Thursday, July 25, 2019

The Unexpected

The Unexpected

The other day, I planned to go on a ride with Ellen in the morning, but it was raining.  We waited and waited, and finally, she had to leave because she had to go to work.

I still wanted to ride, and so did Kevin.  We waited together for the rain to stop.  Finally, it did, and we headed out on the trail.

It really didn't rain that much, though some places had rain the night before.  The river was a little higher and muddy; but totally crossable.  We crossed and started trotting out to the next river crossing.

It wasn't that long before I noticed the river looked a little funny.  Our trail goes somewhat parallel to the river.  Most of the time you can see it.  It just seemed a little high.  Kevin didn't notice anything, so I thought I could have been imagining it.  I would just keep an eye on it.

A few minutes later, I was sure of it--the river was going up.  I mentioned it to Kevin, and he agreed.  We continued to trot on down the trail.  I was thinking that it was already too late to turn around, anyway.

By the time we got to the next river crossing, the water was raging.  We had a few choices--all of them involving walking home on the street.  We could cross on the ford we were at and go home that way.  The problem with that was it would mean we didn't have much of a trail ride, and much of the way there were no driveways to duck into if traffic got bad.

The next option was to go to the ford north of us and ride up our street to our barn.  That meant riding up a long, steep road with cars whizzing by.  I didn't want to do that, at all.  We eliminated that option immediately.

Option number 3 gave us the longest trail ride.  We would ride up to the trails by the show ring--out to the street and home on the road that way.  It seemed like the safest way--and we even got the best trail ride that way, too.

We turned around and headed home.  That did mean we had to pass up where we usually cross the river.  Starry was in the lead and refused to pass up the trail to go home.  Kevin had to circle him a few times to get him to go.  I followed along.  Just as we were passing up our river bank, Cole jumped, spun and tried to run down the bank to the water!  It was lunch time at the barn, and he wanted to go home!  I just spun him all the way around until he was facing the right direction.

Reluctantly, Cole followed Starry down the trail.  All went well from then on.  We did have a little trouble when we wanted to go up the very steep hill to get to the show ring trails.  Kevin has to lead Starry up it, and since I still hadn't gone that way this year, I decided that would be the best idea for me and Cole, too.  Well, Starry said he didn't even want to be led up the hill; and he started backing down it.  Cole needed to lead, but he refused to pass Starry because he was being rambunctious.  I showed Cole that he could follow me to get past Starry, and he was happy with that.

The trip on the street was only about 15 minutes, but since I don't like riding on the street, Cole really didn't have much experience with that sort of thing.  Ellen said we did do it once, many years ago, just as a training exercise.  I didn't really remember that, but it could explain why Cole was very good and surprisingly relaxed.

We made it home, safe and sound--and had a nice ride, too.

I guess it must have really rained hard upstream...

Sunday, July 21, 2019

The Vacation Curse Continues...

The Vacation Curse Continues...

Day #3 of Ellen's 4-day weekend went beautifully--as far as riding was concerned.  The weather was incredibly hot, so the ride wasn't that long--but i was a great ride.

The problem that we had was Princess--she was sick.  Princess is the most devoted, loving and temperamental barn cat in existence.  She has stolen our hearts with her very large personality.  Since her person has moved to a different stables down the street, we have been tending to her needs.  Well, that morning, the little cat with the appetite of a large dog, didn't want to eat.  She followed us around a little bit on Ranger's walk, but after that, she just laid on a chair in the "sick cat position.  Her tail was barely flicking, she didn't want to be petted and she didn't attack us or any of the other cats all morning.

We were really, really worried.

We were hopping it was something like a bad hairball--she has long hair--and it is very thick--or she ate a bird that disagreed with her.  We decided to give her 24 hours before we panicked and called her mother.

We both worried the rest of the day.

Day #4 of the 4-day weekend started out with good news.  Princess had her appetite back!  What a relief.

It was still very hot and even more humid, if that was possible.  We were meeting Shari for a ride, but we didn't think it would be wise to go far.

Everything started out well.  We got down the hill and across the river without incident.  Once across, we started trotting right away.  Bella was in the lead, followed by Dante and I came up last with Cole.  A couple of airplanes came over, but Ellen kept Dante trotting and all went well.  Then a really loud airplane approached.  Ellen decided to stop Dante and have him stand quietly.  As the plane passed over us, Dante got frightened and spun.  Ellen kept him spinning until he once again faced the direction we were traveling.  It surprised us all, since at least a dozen planes had flown over us so far on the ride without him caring in the least.

We continued on our way.  A couple minutes later, another plane approached.  Dante stopped and stood like as statue--as if to show Ellen that he wanted to redeem himself.  He was great with planes the rest of the ride.

We turned around and started toward home--keeping the same formation, but there was a lot of distance between each horse.  As we trotted along, Dante started to get a little excited.  Cole tripped.  Dante heard him and that was just the excuse he needed.  He took off running.  Ellen yelled out a warning to Shari--who stopped Bella and positioned her across the trail.  That was all Dante--the horse who is afraid to pass other horses--needed to convince him to stop.

After a walk break so Ellen could calm her nerves down, we did some more trotting without incident.  As we got closer to home, we just walked to cool them down.

Once again, there was a lot of space between us.  Bella was in a hurry because the bugs bothered her.  She was leading.  Cole came next; followed by Dante, who was just relaxing.  I could see a horse go to pass Bella and come our way.  As he passed, he gave out a loud stallion cry.  It was a stallion.  This got Cole's attention.  He was a stallion until I bought him as a 4-year-old.  He knew just what it meant.  Bella was in season.  The stallion was prancing about.  I turned back to give Ellen a warning--remember, Dante is afraid to pass other horses--and a prancing stallion might just be too much for him.

What I didn't know was that Dante heard that neigh, and for whatever reason, he just took off at a gallop towards us.  As he rounded the bend, I turned Cole to block the trail to see if we could stop him.  I didn't know if Cole would hold his ground or want to run, himself.  To my relief, Cole seemed to know it was important to stand still.  He held his ground, and once again, Dante stopped rather than trying to pass another horse.

I warned Ellen that a prancy, neighing stallion was up ahead, and she decided to get off.  The rider of the stallion was simple wonderful.  He took the horse through the trees to the paved trail that was close by to let us get passed him.  By now, Dante settled down, but Cole was wired.  He decided he was a prancy stallion, too.  I felt him start to dance sideways.  I decided my safest bet was to dismount and try to get him to relax.  It did take a few minutes, but once the stallion was well out of the way, Cole became a gelding, once again.

We were close to the river when this happened, so we led them until it was time to cross.  Poor Ellen was quite shaken by the whole experience.  When she went to mount, her muscles just wouldn't obey.  She decided to just lead Dante across the river.  I mounted and rode Cole across.  It felt great to be on the other side.

In all my years of riding, nothing like this has ever happened before.  We have seen stallions, and we have ridden with mares that were in season.  The stallion really didn't do anything wrong except to neigh and prance a bit.  Bella was great.  Dante wasn't even close to the stallion.  It was all very weird.  Since it never happened before, I would conclude that it is unlikely to ever happen again.

Of course, it had to happen on Ellen's vacation.

When we got back to the barn, Princess greeted us.  We were reminded about what was the most important.  We were all safe and healthy.  That is really what counts the most--every day.

Friday, July 19, 2019

The Vacation Curse

The Vacation Curse

It seems that Ellen and I have always had a really tough time with vacations--things just go wrong.  All we want to do is go for a trail ride.  Usually, it isn't anything serious.  The weather plays a big part in the problem.  The park loves to do trail maintenance on our days off.  Sometimes it will be a sick horse.  I don't know how many times Mingo's hoof abscessed on a vacation.  One time, we both took a week off--and we were sick most of the time with some sort of intestinal bug.  (We rode, anyway.)  That's just how our vacations go.  We expect things to go wrong.

Of course, since I retired, every day is a vacation day for me.  Still, when Ellen is off--those days are special. 

She has been having a really tough time getting vacation, this year.  Finally, she got 2 days off.  Though they were in our least favorite month due to heat and bugs, we figured we would make the best of it.

Of course, the weather thought it was funny.  We ended up with the hottest, most humid days in years!   To make matters worse, we had rain right before it, so the river was too high for Ellen to cross on the first day.  She had a very hot arena ride.  I went for a ride with Kevin in the park.

The second day, she could cross the river, but it was still a little muddy--and she just didn't feel like it was a good idea.  There was a project she wanted to work on in the arena, anyway.  Since it never cooled off, over night, the morning was already brutally hot.  She wasn't missing much.

Kevin and I were going to go on an easy trail ride.  A new boarder at our barn, Faith, wanted to join us.  Her horse, JP, still isn't a consistent river crosser, and she wanted to follow us.  (She is only now, as she is reading this, realizing the risk of going on a trail ride with me.)  Her horse is an adorable, Morgan-looking gelding.  JP stands for Jackpot--because she hit the Jackpot with him.

Ellen was going to meet us on the other side of the river to go for a walk when we were riding.

All went well going down the hill.  I did notice tire tracks--and thought that might be a sign of a problem.  Sure enough, as we got toward the bottom of the hill, we discovered a large piece of machinery in the water--the park was finally fixing the river bank!  Ellen's gut was right!  It was a bad day for her to ride in the park!

At that moment, Ellen called Kevin on his cellphone from the other side of the river to tell us what was happening.  We continued down to the bottom.  There were a couple horses ahead of us that had turned around and were heading back.  As they came passed us, one of the horses went sideways into Starry, JP got worried and started backing up--right into Cole.  Cole was troubled by both JP and the woman's horse who was trying to trot past us.  Sigh.  I have had problems with this woman's horse, in the past.  I didn't have the patience for it, again.  I just ordered her to stop her horse so we could get everything sorted out.

She was able to, and we did sort it out.  Then, Starry didn't want to lead anymore.  All we wanted to do was ride to the end of the trail, so we could turn around and do the hill a few times.  And then--the guy on the machine saw us.  He drove it to our side of the river and stopped it to allow us to pass.

He asked us if our horses would go by, and I told him, very confidently, that Cole would.  I really didn't know if he would, but I was sure going to try.  Cole marched down the bank and walked right next to the machine to pass it.  His only hesitation was with the mud that was churned up by the machine.  I was so proud of him.

We got to the other side to wait for Starry and JP.  I wasn't in a position to watch what happened next.  Starry started to cross.  Of course, he didn't have a problem with the machine--the only thing that scares him is turkeys.  Halfway across the water, he changed his mind and started backing up.  Kevin had to circle him in the river to get him to go across.

All of this was too much for JP.  He refused to cross at all, so she took him home.

I called Ellen, who was already back at the barn, and told her to come on down.  We made it.  She was very surprised.  Kevin and I trotted off, happily.  We only went to the next river crossing, turned around and walked home.  After a while, we met Ellen, she joined us, and we all went back together.

When we got back to our river crossing, the man was still working on it.  He saw us and pulled the machine up on the other side--out of the way--and shut it off.  Over the years, the park workers have been absolutely wonderful when they see us.  Not once, has any of them been any less than courteous.

Starry and Cole crossed and walked by the machine with ease.  Everything is less scary when we are going home!

So yes, we had our typical vacation curse--but at least Ellen's intuition was right.  She would have hated to ride Dante through all of that.  (I really don't think Dante would have been scared, though.  He would have just wanted to touch the machine.)

Cole Train

Cole Train

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Update on Ranger

Ranger was sick a few days ago.  Since Ellen was going to have the vet our a few days later, she decided to move the appointment up.  Before the vet even got there, we could see some improvement, but once he had some banamine, he was just fine.

It wasn't colic, but just a lot of discomfort.

The vet took some follow up bloodwork.  He had been on antibiotics for a month to help with his liver issues.  We assumed that was still the problem, and he would have to go back on the antibiotics.  The results from the Cushings test had come in, and he is starting to get it--but the vet said that would have nothing to do with what was making him sick--it was his liver.

She was wrong.  When she got the bloodwork, it showed that his liver was fine.  The antibiotics worked.  What was wrong was his sugar level had skyrocketed--and that would be due to the Cushings.  It is time to get him started on medication.

He is at least 29 years old, so it is no surprise the Cushings caught up with him.  It is very common in older horses.  We will just deal with it.  When you have a horse as special as Ranger, you don't give up easily.

On the bright side, the vet said that for his age, Ranger looks phenomenal. 

I will keep you updated.

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

And Then the Next Day

And Then the Next Day

A big reason that Ellen has had so many anxieties about trail riding this year is because she has gone so sporadically.  Not once, has she ridden 2 days in a row--until now.

I met her in the morning for ride #2.  It was really hot and humid, this time.  We took Ranger on his morning walk, and the sun was so hot--and the bugs were so bad--that we ended up doing at least half of the walk in the indoor arena.  It definitely wasn't going to be as pleasant of a ride, weather wise.

Warmer weather works in our favor, though.  It settles horses down.  Lots of bugs does not.  It makes the horses jittery.  Which would it be for Dante?

She led down the hill to the mounting block, once again.  I started across the river, first--and Dante followed without much trouble at all.  What a delight!  I didn't have to wait, swarmed by bugs, on the other side for them to work out their problems.

As soon as we crossed, we went right into trotting.  Dante was slow and steady.  Cole and I practiced trying to go slow and steady.  Sometimes, I had to correct him for getting too close to Dante, and sometimes he just stopped and walked because they were going to slow for him.  Ellen seemed so relaxed.  She was enjoying it--big time.

We turned at the next river crossing and trotted back much of the way.  We would have done more, but we wanted them to cool down.

Our biggest obstacle, of course, was crossing the river to get home.  Ellen had been to anxious to do it on most of the rides, this year, and we have had to switch horses.  She gathered her 20 seconds of insane courage and headed down the bank.

He stalled out a few times, but she pushed him on.  She didn't want to fall into the trap of him being stuck on the bank, again.  He conceded and walked down the bank like a gentleman; carefully stepping through the very bad mud at the bottom.  She clicked him when he stepped into the water.  As she was giving him a treat, an airplane flew over.  She asked him to stand for it--and he got another click.  Then they proceeded across.

When she got to the other side, she turned him sharp to the right--just like I did--to keep him from bolting up the bank--and then she did something I didn't expect--she continued riding up the bank instead of dismounting like I have been.  (Remember, he bolted 3 times up the bank for us this spring--and tried to bolt a few more times, and I thwarted him.)  Once again, Dante was a gentleman.  She got off at the top of the bank--the ultimate reward.

Dante was awesome--and so was incredibly brave Ellen.

There was a fair amount of planes on the ride, and Ellen just stopped Dante and gave him a treat for standing.  Instead of being frightened like earlier in the year, he just begged for a treat.  He seems to have gotten over his fear--now Ellen needs to, also.

I must mention that Cole was awesome, too.  We couldn't have done any of it without him--being patient and following my instructions to the letter--to make it as easy for Ellen and Dante as possible.

Monday, July 1, 2019

Dante's Big Adventure

Dante's Big Adventure

As I have mentioned, we have had near constant rain from the time the snow melted.  Many days, we couldn't cross the river--and when we could cross, Ellen couldn't because it was still too high for her comfort level.  Though she had ridden him in the park in May a few times, June was even worse.  It has been several weeks since she crossed the river, and she was just as nervous as if she hadn't crossed at all.

Since we cut Dante's food back, he hasn't lost any weight, but his spooking and spinning when he heard loud planes fly overhead has greatly decreased.  Unfortunately, it hasn't completely disappeared.  He did have a couple big spooks when she was leading him in the driveway last week.  That didn't help her confidence at all.

Of course, the river makes her nervous--it always has.  Now, she has a new worry--what if the plane flies over when she is crossing the river!

She could have crossed,yesterday, but the river was still a bit cloudy.  She promised me--and Dante--that she would not ride in the arena, today.

Because, though she has been missing out on trail riding, she has been training in earnest in the arena.  Dante has gotten very sticky--wanting to stop--being unwilling to go--trotting only 5 steps and stopping--and then being unwilling to go...

All of that has improved dramatically.  They still have work to do, but they are on their way.  I joked that the "horse gods" wanted her to solve that problem before she went back on the trail.  She knows that it bleeds into everything.

So, the big day arrived.  She was a bundle of nerves the day before.  Her digestive system was doing flip-flops.  Her heart was racing, and her breathing was shallow.  Did I say anything about her light-headedness?  She had read that to beat horse anxieties, all you need is "twenty seconds of insane courage."  It is so true.  Most everything that can go wrong will only last 20 seconds--probably even less--it is just that time seems to stand still when it happens.  She was working up her courage for those 20 seconds

She didn't know how much she would ride Dante and how much she would ride Cole.  She led Dante down the hill to the mounting block by the river.  On the way down, we could hear a mower on the other side of the river.  It kept getting louder and louder.  I knew that would be one more thing to make the river crossing difficult for her--and then it drove away!  The horse gods were smiling on us!  Ellen started to cry; in relief.  She really, really wanted to do this, and she didn't know if she could with that mower.  It might just be too much.

I was waiting for her to ask to ride Cole across the river, but she marched to the mounting block and got right on Dante.  It was time for those 20 seconds.  She wanted Cole to stand about halfway across the river until she got to it; then we would finish crossing and make room for them.

Dante marched down the bank to the river's edge; and I commenced crossing.  No sooner did I get to the other side, when I heard Dante splashing behind us.  He didn't stall out on the edge!  He didn't stall out in the water!  He didn't rush out!  It was his best river crossing ever!!!

Wow, what a way to start a ride.

We trotted out towards our goal; the next river crossing.  Ellen always relaxes when she can trot.  They led, and Cole was happy to follow.  We turned around and trotted part of the way back.  Dante did spook once.  We think it may have been a squirrel.  All he did was slam on the brakes, take a step back and then proceed down the trail.  That is a good kind of spook; a thinking horse spook.  We had no problems with him spooking at any of the planes.

She wanted me to ride Dante back across the river.  We switched horses, and I went first.  He negotiated the extremely bad mud on the river bank like the good mountain horse that he is.  I was worried that he would rush at the end or try to bolt up as he did with me early in the spring, but he walked a nice, steady speed. I turned him sharply when we got out of the water to prevent him from looking straight up the bank and getting bad ideas, dismounted and gave him a carrot.  He was awesome.  Once again, it was his best river crossing on the way home--ever. 

Ellen rode Cole across, gave him to me and led Dante up the hill.  He was flawless the rest of the way home.  What a wonderful, wonderful ride.  He wasn't as good as he was when we quit last fall--he was better. 

Sunday, June 30, 2019

Thursday, June 27, 2019

Rain, Rain, Rain

Rain, Rain, Rain

It has been a near record month for rain.  There have been plenty of days that we couldn't cross the river.  The horses have gotten so good on the hill!  Since they repaired it, we have started to work on trotting up it, again.  Sure, trotting up a hill should be no big deal, at all, but when the barn is at the top of the hill, right across the street, that is a different matter. 

I started by doing short trot stretches up the hill when I was riding by myself.  In the beginning, Cole was very excited.  In time, we increased the distance and went closer and closer to the end of the trail.  Of course, we were trotting on the flat parts away from home, too. 

Kevin was doing the same thing with Starry when he was riding him on the hill by himself.  Finally, it was time to put them together.  Cole initially thought that was great fun.  We had to do short stretches in the beginning--just like when we were alone.  As the days went by, we lengthened the distance and eventually we were able to trot all the way to the top.

And then we noticed them going slower and slower each trip up.  We had succeeded in completely demoralizing them.  They knew they were no longer trotting towards home--and that trotting up hills is  a lot of work. 

The last trip up the hill before going home--we always walk that.  The theory is that the horses will learn they aren't going home unless they walk up the hill.  It seemed to work when we used to do it with Cruiser, Ranger and Mingo, years ago.

We are so grateful that the park fixed the hill.

There are days that we can cross the river, but it is still a bit too high for Ellen to cross.  She only got to ride a few times this month, so her confidence is back to zero for crossing the river.  This has been a terrible year for her as far as trail riding.  She prefers to work in the arena instead of riding up and down the hill, so at least they are able to work on their training issues in there. 

The only bright side of all of this is Cole's shoes had no trouble lasting 8 weeks, this time.

The weather trend seems to be changing to hotter and drier--in other words--more normal for July.  Here come the bugs!!!

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Sunday, June 23, 2019

Friday, June 21, 2019

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Monday, June 17, 2019

Sunday, June 16, 2019

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Thursday, June 6, 2019

All About Ranger

All About Ranger

I don't write much about Ranger, Ellen's retired horse, but that doesn't mean he isn't important!  He has had some things going on.

A couple weeks ago, he got fussy about eating.  This has happened in the past when the weather got warm and just feeding him in a different dish seems to help.  We think it is the flies.  Well, we tried that this time with some success--until one day he decided he wasn't eating anything.  It was time to call the vet.

He wasn't colicking, we could tell that without the vet, but she checked anyway.  He had a slight fever.  She was able to do a blood test that could show within just 10 minutes whether he had an infection--and it was right at the cusp.  She decided to give him a shot of antibiotics and do regular blood work.  Also, after shedding out his winter coat, he seems to be growing a new one.  She sent some blood to the lab to test for Cushings.

The next day, she called Ellen to tell her his liver numbers were very high. Something is going on.  She gave a long explanation, but exactly what the problem is, she couldn't say.  Anyway, she has had success treating this with a month of antibiotics and a low protein diet.  Turns out the grain he simply refused to eat was 40% protein.  When the barn manager gave him the grain with only 14% protein, he wolfed that down.  He was telling us.

A few days later, she came back out to check him--and what a difference.  He is back to eating and being cantankerous.  They had a much more difficult time examining him this time.  She gave Ellen a bunch of pills, and when they are gone, she will test his blood, again.

We are still waiting on the Cushings test.

Now, for his other problem.  This has been going on since for about a year--he hates when Starry leaves him.  He cries and cries.  The problem is, it is getting worse.  We found if we move Dante into Starry's stall, he is fine.

The problem is--what to do if Dante is leaving, too?

We got permission from the barn manager to use Freckles.  Well, all they do is argue.  Ranger doesn't like Freckles at all.  Poor Freckles can't wait to go back to his own stall.

Then, we tried Ari.  Ari ignored Ranger, so he still fretted about Starry, though not as bad.

The other day, Ellen went to get Ari, and he was laying down.  Our friend offered her horse, instead.  Streak is a mare.  We weren't sure how that would go--but she was the best choice.  She liked him!  We saw them nuzzling through the bars.  She was perfect!  Ranger didn't scream at her a single time.  He just admired her.  He just needed a girlfriend.

Things are looking up for Ranger.

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

The Next Ride

The Next Ride

Ellen planned to ride Dante with Bella for the first time of the year.  Adding another horse to the mixture often makes things complicated, so Shari told us to leave 15 minutes before her.  That way, Dante could get across the river without Bella getting in the way.

The time slipped away from us, and by the time we got to the river, Bella caught up with us.  We decided to take advantage of it.  We all know how our boys love Bella!  We would have Dante follow her across the river.

I crossed first and waited on the other side.  Bella went part way into the river.  Dante was definitely more willing to cross.  Once he got into the water, Bella crossed the rest of the way.  Dante then carefully crossed on his own.  It was his easiest river crossing for Ellen of the year!

Once across, we walked a bit and then headed off at a trot.  We had Dante in the middle; following his girlfriend.  When the airplanes came over, he didn't want to stop.  He just happily trotted behind Bella; oblivious.  As long as Bella was leading, he was following.  (Shari later realized Bella was in season!)

We made it out to the next river crossing without one ounce of trouble.  Rather than push our luck and try to go further, we turned around and walked home.  When we were by the fence, Dante did a slow motion spook when a bike approached from the front on the bike trail that is on the other side of the fence.  It wasn't much of a spook.  Ellen felt that if she had kept walking, he wouldn't have spooked at all.

She still didn't feel comfortable crossing the river, so we swapped horses.  She took Cole across.  Bella stopped halfway through the river to lure Dante into the water, and it worked great, again.  After that, he walked slow and careful. 

I was so happy that I made a terrible mistake.  I forgot that he has been rushing out of the water until too late.  As always, my reins were too long.  I scrambled to shorten them, but I ran out of time
.  Dante got out of the water and tried to dash up the bank.  I was able to turn him a little--another mistake--we were now facing a 2-foot incline just downstream of our path.  I could feel Dante was committed to continue up, and rather than fight it, I braced myself and we jumped up it.

Once on top, I was able to stop him and get him to turn around.  I wanted to take him back down to do it again, but I just couldn't get him to budge.  I called him, "A big dummy," and made him stand; facing the river as a punishment.  I don't think it was much of a punishment, but at least I kept him from his buddies.

We walked up the bank, and the first thing Ellen said was, "He was so beautiful!"  I guess he was, but I wasn't very happy.  I know it was my fault he got away.  Next time, Ellen can cross...

Overall, he was perfect for Ellen.  For me, he was horrible.  She can have him.  Give me my good, little Cole back.