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.