Thursday, February 28, 2019

Easy Come and Easy Go

Easy Come and Easy Go

The Piaffe is no more.  At least I have decided to stop working on it.  I figured if something went wrong with it, one of two things would happen.  Either he would morph it into something I didn't like or he would decide to do it all the time.

Turns out, both things happened.  I decided to give up for the year.  Since it is nearly time to start trail riding, I would have given up soon, anyways.  After all, I have my priorities.

He started to go too much forward and often he was trying to go sideways.  His legs were going all different directions--he just didn't know what to do  One front leg was going up too high.  I know all this, because not only did I feel it, but I had Ellen take some video of us.

I am pretty sure I know what happened.  I got greedy.  Instead of clicking and treating for a couple correct steps, I let him go longer than that.  If I could have captured the good steps right at the beginning and practice that a lot, he may have known what I wanted. Instead, when I didn't click him right away, he started to try other things--thinking maybe I wanted something different.  Sigh.

Next winter, I can try, again.  Until then, I have some wonderful memories when we hit the pinnacle of loveliness--so much so, that Cole brought tears to my eyes.  Of course, no one was there to see us, those times.

Until I can get on the trail, I will either ride outside--where he acts like a normal horse, or work on him going forward in the arena.  I don't want to lose my forward movement.  That is more important than any other dressage maneuver.  If he does volunteer it--and gets it perfect--he will get clicked.  He just has to be perfect or very close to it.

We are still going to continue working on our line dancing.  He can now do 3-4 moves in a row, and we are both having fun with it.

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Self portrait of Cole and me

 Here we are walking up the hill that leads to the river.

Monday, February 25, 2019


Cruiser was a terrific horse and my riding partner for more than 24 years.  We had so much fun together!

Friday, February 22, 2019

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

What Just Happened or Pinch Me, I Think I'm Dreaming

What Just Happened or Pinch Me, I Think I'm Dreaming

Ellen and I were riding Cole and Dante in the indoor arena.  Cole was frustrating me.  Since he trots much faster than Dante, as we go around the edge of the arena, I keep catching up with them.  Rather than pass, I wanted to make a circle and let them get further ahead.  That way, I wouldn't be disturbing them.

When I would try to circle, he would protest and drop down to a walk--or even stop!  I became determined to keep him going.

One time, I asked him to circle away at a trot from Dante in the corner.  He went in a very small circle, but I still drove him forward with my seat to keep him going.  He did; one slow, reluctant step after another--but he stayed at a trot.  I clicked and treated him for it.

Ellen saw us and said that it almost looked like Cole was trying to do a Piaffe.  Huh?  The Piaffe is trotting in place, and it is a very advanced dressage move.

Those who have seen Cole in action know that he would have made a first class dressage horse.  He has so much natural ability, that it just oozes out of him.  His trot in the arena is extremely powerful with more suspension than we know what to do with.  If ever there was a horse that was born rear-wheel drive, it was him.  I know for certain that he is physically capable of doing a Piaffe with ease, but neither one of us is anywhere near that in training.

But he is my trail horse, and we only work in the arena when we can't get on the trail.

I rode around a bit, thinking about how to try to do it.  I guess, I just use my seat really strong and allow him to lift himself up.

I trotted him around the corner and then did a gentle zigzag to pull him all together--and asked.  I got 3 trot steps and only moved about a foot forward.  Click and treat!  Ellen didn't see it.

I did it 3 more times.  Cole gave me more distance--but he also gave me more impulsion.  He was doing something, but each time, Ellen didn't see it.

Finally, Ellen was going to watch.  I trotted through the same spot with the same zigzag, and nothing happened.  We then went to the wall--and he transformed.   He went a fair distance, but his gait was different.  From what Ellen described, I think he did a Passage.

I could tell that Cole was experimenting.  That's what he does.  He finds a movement and works on it all his own--I just give him treats when he does something great. 

I didn't know if this was a one-time thing or where he would take it.  I didn't even know what any of it looked like.  I couldn't wait to try again the next day.

I was walking on clouds...

The next day, after warming him up, it was time to try it, again.  I had Paula there, this time, to let me know if he was doing anything amazing--and this time, I had the good treats. 

I asked for a shoulder-in and gave him one of the good treats for it.  Now that he knew I didn't only have carrots in my pocket, it was time to see what he could do.

It took a few minutes because I had to figure out what I did, myself, the day before--but I got something, and Paula said it looked good.

More important; I got it more than once.  One time, it was definitely 3 steps in place, but they were very low.  Most of the time, he was stepping high and moving only a short distance.  Kevin said that he never saw Cole lift his back legs so high.  He kept getting better.

Up where I was, I could feel him shift his weight from one hind leg to another--and I could see his front legs hopping, too.  Also, there is no doubt that he was much lower in the hindquarters and higher in the forequarters because it almost felt like he was sitting down.  Everyone who saw it said it was amazing and beautiful, so we will continue to work on it--whatever it is.

I just hope it doesn't backfire on me.  I could just see us. 

"Cole, cross the river."

"No, I will just trot in place, here.  You like when I do that."

Thursday, February 7, 2019

Do the Cole Train

Do the Cole Train

Winter time in the indoor arena--well, it can get pretty boring.  I do ride outside whenever I can, but often, all I have is part of the driveway to walk up and down.   Though it is nice to get outside, that can bet a little boring, too.

I recently had a revelation--Cole can learn how to line dance.  He has all the moves.  I just have to teach him to put them together.  I would be in the saddle, and when he knows how to dance, I will have to teach Ellen or Kevin to do it with him; as I guide him.  Knowing Cole, once we get to that level, he will learn how to follow his dancing partner on the ground, but that is a long way off.

He can do side passing in both directions, forward, (of course,) backwards, (kind of,) turn on the haunches where he rotates around one back leg in either direction--up to 360 degrees and stopping.  He can leg yield, (forward and sideways at the same time,) but that isn't very accurate, and I'm not sure if I want to use it because he sometimes gets it confused with side passing.  He can also do a nice shoulder-in, but I don't know how to integrate that into a dance routine.

He also has 2 forms of bowing--and we can't forget his silly walk.

All of these he will do and get a click/treat after it.  What I need to do with to chain the moves so we don't stop after every one of them, and make going from one move to the next seamless.

It has only been a couple weeks, and we only practice about 10 minutes a ride.  Here is how it has been going.

In the very beginning, I wasn't getting any side passing at all--which was strange, because we had been practicing it this winter.  I kept getting leg yields, instead.  I decided to work with what I had.  My first project was to train sideways right with sideways left.  To do it, I had to put a couple steps of straight in between.  We have done some of this in the past, and he started doing it very well, right away--but it was leg yielding, not side passing. 

I added a spin, (turn on the haunches,) after the second sideways and then clicked him.  He was getting it.

As I hinted above, his backing up has always been less than stellar.  He is very reluctant to take that first step.  The rest of the steps are effortless; with only a shift of my weight as a cue.  If we wanted to dance, he had to be quicker with that first step.

I had to think about what was going on.  If he was only bad on the first step and not the subsequent steps; all I needed to work on was the first step.  I got the good treats out--no boring carrots for this.  Cole always learns the fastest when he really likes the treats.

I asked for the first step in the standard way--ask for forward, but not allow him to go forward with the reins.  Patience.  Finally I got it, clicked and treated.  We did it over and over.  After about 20 times, he wasn't as sticky.  A few more times--and he was stepping back when I had very light rein contact, and I shifted my weight.  Bingo!!! Cole is a genius.  I just needed to explain it to him.

The next ride, he started offering to back up when I didn't want him to.  I had to make my cues clear enough so he knew what I wanted.  If he offered backing up, I immediately told him I wanted forward.  He was able to sort it out.  He is a genius.  After that, when we practiced our dancing, I started rewarding him for more steps than one.  Sometimes, I asked him to step 5 steps back and then do a few forward steps before a click.

After years of struggling with backing up, I was able to fix it in a few lessons.  I just needed to use my most important tool; my brain.

About this time, he replaced the leg yielding with proper side passing.  I knew he would.  A real surprise happened a few lessons later when he, on his own, decided that he no longer needed to put some forward steps between the right and left steps.  It took a little coordination on his part, but he was able to sort it out.  Such a smart pony!  Of course, he got treats and praise for it.

One other maneuver we have been practicing that we started doing last year is spin 180 degrees one way, take a couple steps forward and spin 180 degrees the other way. 

This is where we are at now. 

I have discovered when training horses, that often when you work on one thing, there are other positive things that happen that you never planned.  Well, it happened again, and it really took me by surprise.  The one who is learning something new is me.  The last time we practiced, I noticed that I was timing the commands at the moment that his foot was ready to change directions.  For the first time, I really know where his back legs just by feeling his motion.  I know that we are supposed to know that, but I never could quite learn it--and now I am.  Talk about a tremendous bonus!  If I never get any further than this with our dancing, we have both made real strides.


Here is a picture of my sister's horse, Dante.  Why do I keep picking such hard horse pictures?  

Dante is a funny horse.  With Cole, you get what you see.  If I turn him out to play, he is very energetic--runs and runs--with lots of bucking and calling out like a stallion.  (He was a stallion when I bought him at the age of 4, which is late for a horse.  I had him gelded before he was shipped to me.)  When you ride him, he is all energy and loves to go fast.  If he is excited, he throws in big, scary bucks.  When I let him really run, he is like a race horse.

Dante, on the other hand, doesn't have the speed that Cole has, by a long shot, but he will gallop and do the most amazing and creative bucks, leaps, twists--like you wouldn't believe.  He is so fun to watch.  He is a horse that enjoys playing.

Yet, when you ride him, he becomes slow and careful.  If he does buck on a canter transition, my sister says it is straight, simple and not very high.  When she lets Dante really run--well, if we are in the lead, Cole can trot faster than Dante will gallop.   Granted, Cole can also trot extremely fast--which is near as exciting as his gallop.

Ellen was just complaining this morning that he wouldn't use his energy when she rode him in the arena this morning...

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

A Nice Ride with a Surprise at the End

The weather was a roller coaster for a few weeks.  We had a big snow storm, then it got warm and rainy--suddenly, the polar vortex showed up, and we went into a deep freeze--leaving that hard, icy snow everywhere--and just plain ice in spots.  Then a sudden heat wave showed up, and everything began to melt.

I hadn't had Cole out of the barn in a few weeks.  I don't mind snow; in fact I even like riding in snow, but the driveway was too icy to even get him out to door safely.

After a few warm days, the driveway was thawed, and I really wanted to ride Cole down the hill to see the river--and just to be outside.

Before leaving home, I checked the radar and saw a band of showers headed our way.  If we wanted to stay dry, no time could be wasted.

Kevin was saddling Starry when I got there, and I told him what I wanted to do.  He was worried that there might be ice on the hill, so I told him if it is bad, we could just turn around and come back.

Just as I finished tightening up Cole's girth, it started to rain.  We didn't know what to do!  I said that I would leave his saddle on and start cleaning his stall to kill time.  A few minutes later, the rain let up a little.  I said I was going out, and Kevin decided to come with me.  At first, we thought we would just ride the loop, so we could hurry in if the rain started up, again.  I mounted and started riding around the driveway.  That is when I noticed the mounting block--the snow plow had dumped all the snow on it.  Kevin can't mount from the ground.  I told him we had to do the hill, since there is a mounting block there.

As we were going down the driveway, it quit raining!  Hurray!  Kevin mounted at the mounting block and took the lead down the hill.  Of course, Starry didn't like that--he is a follower, not a leader.  They worked it out, and we headed down.

The hill was icy.  It was the kind of ice you get when snow gets packed down and freezes into a pile of lumpy ice.  Since it was a warm day, the horses were sinking in, and they had some grip--so we proceeded down the hill.  

Cole was very excited and kept rushing up to Starry by walking really fast.  Starry was carefully  and very slowly navigating the trail.  I kept stopping and letting them get ahead.  Then I would ask Cole to walk, and we would catch up in no time.

At the very bottom, I gave up and let Cole go in the lead.  He was so happy--he wanted to run!!!  I made  him walk, though he tried to burst forward several times.  

The river was high, of course, and huge chunks of ice were floating down it.  Since the footing was so bad, we decided to just go back to the barn instead of doing multiple trips on the hill.  It looked like it might rain again, too.

On the way up the hill, Starry was a whole different horse.  He was bounding up with his long-legged walk.  Cole couldn't pass him at a walk if he tried.  In fact, once he decided he would pass him at a trot!  Not on the ice!  I told Kevin to stop Starry and wait for us.  I got Cole under control.  

I call the last slope up the hill "Cole Burst Corner," and I decided it would be in my best interests to dismount and lead him when I got there.  Kevin decided to do the same.  Cole did do some prancing up the slope, but nothing serious.

By the time we got back to the barn, it started drizzling, again.  Kevin decided he was done, but I wanted to ride some more, so I got back on and took Cole to the loop in the back of the property.

I was able to do some trotting, but Cole was very, very excited about it.  He was tossing his head around and trying to accelerate.  We worked on some transitions to get him to settle down--which didn't really work.  When we reached the muddy section, we turned around and headed back the way we came.  

I thought I would ride out to the end of the driveway and turn around at the street.  As I neared the barn, I looked up and saw the prettiest rainbow!  I don't think I ever saw a rainbow in February before.  It was a really good one where I could see both ends of it.

I yelled into the barn to Kevin to come out and see it.  He was amazed, too.  I rode out to the end of the driveway and back to the loop; admiring the rainbow the whole time until it disappeared.  What a wonderful surprise!