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.

Sunday, May 26, 2019

Saturday, May 25, 2019

A Possible Reason?

A Possible Reason?

Why, why, why is Dante acting this way?  It isn't just spooking at the planes.  That is just part of a list.  The last few months, we have had problems with him rushing through doorways--all doorways.  That has gotten better with us leading him more mindfully, practice and praise.  There have been some uncharacteristically huge spooks on the driveway where he takes off running to the barn.  His work in the arena has been less than stellar, too.  It seems like Dante, the good-natured, quiet horse, has changed into someone else.

It took us a while, but we may have figured it out.  When the vet was giving them their spring shots, she was very pleased that Ranger had put on weight.  He was looking much too thin when she saw him last fall.  She felt that Cole was getting too fat, so we decreased his grain.  Dante had gained weight, but she didn't think he needed to go on a diet.

We think she was wrong.

Long ago, we were at a different barn for about an year and a half.  Cruiser and Ranger started acting really strange.  In the indoor arena, Cruiser was spooking at--would you believe--airplanes.  It might not have been the noise from the planes, themselves, but the vortexes they left behind, because he would spook just as the planes went past.

Ranger was so bad in the indoor arena that Ellen couldn't even ride him in there, anymore.

It was spring, and they were terrible on the trail.  We just didn't understand what was going on.  We couldn't trot towards home; they were just that horrible. 

We then were told we had to leave that barn because Mingo, my quiet, gentle horse, was kicking and biting when they were trying to clean his stall.  We cleaned our own stalls in the previous place we were at--it was inexplicable that he could be doing such a thing.  He always was good for us.

The day we left, I looked at the feeding chart and realized the barn owner increased their food, dramatically--probably because we rode so much.  She did it without telling us.  We did notice the horses had put on weight.

We changed the size of their meals, and they immediately transformed into their old selves.  We were trotting towards home with ease.  We were cleaning our own stalls, again, and Mingo behaved like a gentleman.  All was well.

Could this be Dante's problem?

We told the barn manager on Monday.  On Tuesday, we took him for a ride in the park.  He did spook at 2 planes.  The first one, he did a slow spin.  The second one, Ellen braced her right rein--figuring he would spin to the left.  He tried, but she kept him straight.  After that, he walked and trotted through the airplanes with no problems--albeit they weren't as loud the further we rode.

On the way home, I rode him across the river.  He tried to rush up the bank, but I was prepared and was able to stop him.  I then led him up the hill.  There were a few planes, but he just walked next to me.

The next ride was cancelled due to high water.  Ellen rode him in the arena, and she had the best ride with him in many weeks.  I then led him around outside, and he was more relaxed than he has been, and none of the planes bothered him at all.

The next ride was scheduled for the weekend with Shari.  By then, we should really know how he would be...

Friday, May 24, 2019

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Puzzling Dante

Puzzling Dante

Ellen has been having a tough time with Dante, and it is wreaking havoc on her nerves.  Amazingly, she hasn't given up, yet.

The river is still bothering her, but there is a new complication.  He is spooking at airplanes.  Over the years, he has spooked at airplanes periodically, but this year, he has spooked more at the planes in a single month than he has his whole life.  It has been puzzling.

We keep our horses very close to the airport, so the planes are low and loud.  Last fall, they changed their altitude on take off and landing, so they got louder, but he wasn't that worried about them in the fall.  He has spooked enough at them over the years, that Ellen stops and lets them fly over and then asks him to go forward.  He often stops on his own.  Why would he be so frightened, now?

It didn't start out on the trail, but right in our driveway.  He hears them every day, multiple times, in his stall--just feet from where he spooks outside on the driveway.  It doesn't make a lot of sense.

He is spooking by spinning.  He likes to spin to the left, so that means if you are leading him, he spins right into you.  It isn't just for Ellen--we thought her nerves might have been doing it.  We tried it with me holding the lead rope--when I was sure he wouldn't spin; only to be proven wrong.  I know I wasn't giving him a cue--because I didn't think he would do it in the first place.

The other day, I led him down the hill, and there were no planes.  At the bottom, right before I gave him to Ellen, a plane flew over.  I had him standing still--and he spooked.

She rode him across the river.  On the other side, a loud plane came over and spooked him, again  Poor Ellen!  Twice in one ride!  Her nerves started to go downhill--fast.

We went on the ride, came back and had to cross the river to get home.  She was worried that a plane would come over while she was in the water.  She asked him to go down the bank, and he refused.  She kicked and kicked and kicked--and he wouldn't budge.  This went on for about 5 minutes, and she really started stressing; shaking and ready to put a for sale sign on him then and there.  I told her to switch horses with me. 

She took Cole across.  I got on Dante, and he went right down the bank.  It might have been because he wanted to be with Cole.  When he stepped out of the water, he took off running up the bank!  I got him to stop before the top, but I was so disgusted with him with the whole ride.  He was fine the rest of the way home.  Ellen was miserable.  After 6 years, he has transformed into a--I don't know what he has transformed into, but we don't like it.

Thursday, May 16, 2019

And We are Riding, Again

And We are Riding, Again

Well, I have been riding--but now, I am riding with Ellen and that is "really riding," to me.

I love riding with Kevin.  I love riding with Shari.  I love riding by myself, too.  But, what I really love, more than anything else, is riding with Ellen.

It didn't look like it was going to happen, this year.  Her anxieties were worse than ever--and that made the river deeper than ever.  I was getting resigned to the fact that I really was going to have another trail horse to ride this summer.  But I didn't want to ride Dante; I wanted to ride with Dante.

Everybody knows that Ellen is as fine a horsewoman as you will ever meet.  Ranger, in his youth, was not an easy horse to ride--and everything was made even harder when we threw Cruiser in the mix.  Going out on those early spring rides were a challenge, to say the least.

Anxieties are not logical, and if you know anybody that has them, please be patient. 

My patience did pay off.  Finally, there came a day that the river was low, the weather was warm and since it was a weekday, the park was quiet.  Ellen couldn't come up with any excuse.  She realized that as hard as it was to go on that first ride on Dante, it would never be easier than that day.

I am glad to report--that there was nothing to report.  Dante was excited to be out, of course.  He loves going on the trail.  I believe he was made for it.  Ellen was nervous, of course, but she also loves going on the trail.  She also was made for it--she just had to push all of her anxieties out of the way, and do it. 

That is easier said than done, but she did it.  Sure, she was shaking when she crossed the river.  Sure, she worried the whole time she was out on the trail about crossing the river to get back home, but she did it.  We did a bit of trotting and walked all the way home.

Then, it rained and rained and rained.  After a few days, I could cross, but Ellen thought the river was too high for her to cross.  I was worried she was losing her momentum.  It took a whole week before the river was low enough for her--but when it was, she crossed it.

This time, we did a lot of trotting.  Dante doesn't trot that fast, so it certainly isn't scary.  He acted like it was a day in August, not May.  He was wonderful.

Once again, Ellen was worried about crossing the river to get back home.  I asked her if she wanted me to go first or second.  She said I could go first.  Then, I asked her where she wanted me to wait for her.  She said at the bottom of the river bank--maybe it would keep Dante from rushing the last few steps.  Sometimes he did that last summer.

I was about 8 feet from the river's edge, facing the river so I could watch them cross.  Dante was so very, very careful.  Ellen was nervous; shaking, but Dante ignored her and walked across beautifully. 

When she was about 5 feet from the end, she told him he would get a jackpot of treats once he got across.  In fun, I said, "Just don't splash Cole!"  Cole is very sensitive to being splashed by other horses.  It really wasn't worried, because we were too far away for the water to hit him.

Well, Dante did rush the last few steps--and splashed water all over.  Nothing hit Cole, but he didn't want to stick around to find out.  He spun and ran up the bank.  I could hear Dante galloping up behind me.

Well, I flashed back to a similar episode last fall when Cole ran up the bank towards a tree, turned suddenly and I flew into the tree.  In that split second, I decided that wasn't going to happen, again.  Instead of trying to slow him down like last time, I decided to direct him, instead.  At the top of the bank, the trail goes either to the right, up the hill and home or to the left where it dead ends.  I steered him to the left.  Once he was turned, he stopped on his own. 

Dante didn't even make it up the bank before he stopped.  All was well that ended well.  It didn't scare Ellen. She knew that Dante was just reacting off of Cole--like most horses will.  I was happy that Cole and I redeemed ourselves from the fall last fall.  In fact, I have to confess, I felt rather triumphant.

Next time, I will wait at the top of the bank.



Saturday, May 11, 2019

Wednesday, May 1, 2019