Friday, December 18, 2020
Just like July
It is often hard to get a good day to ride in the snow over here in Northeast Ohio. We have to contend with ice on the river, ice on the hill, ice on the driveway, ice on the trail, high winds, frigid temps and sometimes rain. It seems like some winters we only get 5 days that we can have a good ride in the snow. Well, Shari and I just had 3 in a row.
The first day was an evening ride. For many possible reasons, Bella and Cole were both a little spunky. It might have been because it was our first evening ride together in a few months, maybe it was the cold and snow and possibly it had something to do with it being close to feeding time. We did some trotting. Bella was bouncy, but not bad. Cole tried to blast past her at one point--which is very rare. Cole doesn't like to pass other horses. Overall, they did all right, but we could tell that we had a lot of horse underneath us, and it demanded caution. We turned back early because it was starting to get dark and walked all the way home.
The next morning, I met Shari at the barn. She works close by, and they allow her some flexibility with her hours. Since she starts so early in the morning, her lunch is right at riding time. She rides and then goes back to finish her day--making up for the time she is spending at the barn.
Our horses transformed over night. We had such a terrific ride. Bella did spook at a rock she has seen many times that had snow on it. That gave us a good laugh. We trotted all the way to the second river crossing, turned around and trotted most of the way back. They were awesome. It was just like riding in July.
The lastg big snowstorm we had lowered a lot of branches, but this time we didn't stop to go under them. We kept trotting and bent low over their necks. Both horses thought that meant to go faster. Duck rush. It was funny.
Just like July, but there were no bugs. Just like July but there was hardly anyone else around. Just like July, but there wasn't even any traffic on the road. Not just like July--better than July!!!
After having that much fun, Shari had to do it again the next morning. We got a little more snow overnight, and it was so pretty out!
The third day was a charm. Well, so was the second day. We trotted out. This time, we let the horses go faster, and they really seemed to enjoy it.
When we turned around to go home, we slowed down the trot and headed home. At one very muddy part, I decided to slow Cole down for a moment to prevent mud rush. He hates mud. We do this often, and just catch up with whoever we are riding with. Well, when we got in the middle of the mud, Cole jumped into a canter. He had a serious case of mud rush, and he wanted to catch up with Bella.
I yelled out, "Problem." Shari stopped Bella and turned her. I couldn't get Cole to stop because I was concentrating on the branches I was ducking. Duck rush didn't help. When Cole saw Bella turn around, he slammed on the brakes. I felt him sitting down under me as we slid up to Bella. It was really quite funny.
We continued on our way home with no other issues except a little hyperness.
It really was just like July, but better.
Tuesday, December 15, 2020
A New Challenge Begins
I may have had Cole for over 10 years, and he might just happen to be a trail horse, extraordinaire, but there are still things that we need to work on. This might sound odd to most of the people reading this, but he was so bad in the outdoor arena at the old barn, that I just gave up trying to ride in it. He always wanted to bolt towards the gate.
Now, I had that problem in the indoor arena, too, but I always had plenty of opportunities to work on it--like all winter. Actually, I had to work on it every single winter. Those first few rides could be rather scary.
The old outdoor arena was not rideable on those rainy, snowy and very cold days. It was sand, and it would just get to sloppy. The days when it was dry, of course I was out riding on the trail.
The arena at the new place has all-weather footing. I really want to be able to ride in it without worrying about Cole misbehaving.
The other day, when I got back from a trail ride, I rode him just 2 laps in the outdoor arena. He tried to bolt twice. It was time to work up a plan. Fortunately, I have had the experience in the old indoor arena to give me guidance.
I decided I would start by riding him 5 laps in each direction at a walk. That is a rather boring thing to do, but I brought Ellen along with me on foot. Her job was to talk to me to help me pass the time. I knew that the first few laps were the critical ones. The rest of the laps were for cementing the good habit of walking like a gentleman. That is when I really needed Ellen--to make sure I really did them. She also was in charge of counting the laps. Sometimes, I forget which lap I am on.
This technique is what worked best with Cole in the old indoor arena. I am glad to say that I have had virtually no problem in the new indoor arena.
Ellen gave me a lot of space in the beginning, so that Cole wouldn't trample her when he bolted. It wasn't necessary. He was really good.
He did get distracted and a little worried about things on the first couple laps each direction, but that is all. It took us about 20 minutes to do it. When we were done, I brought him in the center and walked some circles and did a few serpentines. He seemed happy to be doing something less boring--or maybe that was me.
Finally, I asked him to trot a bit. This is when he got excited, again. I didn't do much--that will be for another day.
As a reward for a very good training lesson, I let him do some tricks and he got clicked for them. The whole ride was a success.
Thursday, December 3, 2020
November: An Uneventful Month
Well, as uneventful a month can be for the first one at a new barn. We are still getting used to the routines, meeting new people and acclimating to riding in new areas. Of course, the trails are the same, and that really helps.
We had some bad weather early in the month, but that was followed by a few weeks of fantastic weather. Not only was it good weather for November, but it was so good that we would have taken it any month of the year. We were riding out on the trail nearly every day.
The more trail riding we do, the better the horses behave. I mean we are talking about near perfection. There was one time when I was trotting home with Shari, and I could just hear her giggling with happiness. That got me giggling, too.
Dante did have a big buck and took off cantering, but we know he was just feeling joyful. He settled down after that.
We saw the bald eagles at least twice. The first time, I was riding with Shari and she started making odd noises--like she was trying to say something and the words wouldn’t form. I knew that had to mean she saw a bald eagle. I looked to where she was pointing, and saw him gliding down the river. He landed on a tree, and we watched him until he flew off, again.
A few days later, we saw him again, flying along the river.
There was another time we saw a large bird that didn’t have a white head, but it also didn’t look like a hawk. He was sitting in a tree right on the hill that leads down to the river. We were wondering if it might be an immature eagle. They don’t get the white feathers until later in life. Oh how wonderful it would be if he liked our hill and made a nest in the area!
We did end up with some high river rides. Ellen spent a lot of time riding Dante up and down the hill. Last year, she was afraid to even do that. This year, she confesses that she is getting bored with it.
Ellen had to work a few Saturdays, when the weather was good, so I took advantage of the situation and rode Dante on the trail. He was really good for me, but so slow! What a contrast with Cole. Now I know why we are always waiting for them to catch up. How could she possibly be nervous about riding such a quiet horse? Anxieties are not logical, that is for sure. I still think she is the bravest person I know. It doesn’t matter if a horse is quiet or not. If you have to overcome anxieties to go on a ride, that is bravery.
We like the new indoor arena. It is a quieter place to ride with much less distractions. That really helps Ellen since Dante stops whenever he hears an odd noise. She is spending more time riding during her riding time. Cole is also much less spooky in it. Not once has he bolted--which was a common occurrence in the old arena. Consequently, I am more relaxed when I ride in it. Just the same, I only ride in it when I have to.
The outdoor track is very small compared to the large quarter-mile one we had at the old place. It isn’t as interesting, either. There are no deer, coyotes or turkeys hiding alongside it to scare the horses, either. There is always good and bad with everything.
I have only tried the large, outdoor arena a couple times. Cole got very excited in it and did a pretty big buck. I can see that it will take us a little time for him to settle down out there. Starry did very well, though he got stuck once when he was stepping over the poles. He stepped his front legs over and stopped. Then he wasn’t sure what to do with his hindlegs. He backed up and knocked the pole down. I don’t know if he ever worked with poles before.
Kevin is trying to teach Starry to lunge. We are not allowed to turn the horses loose in the indoor or outdoor arenas, so Kevin can’t just free lunge him like he used to. I taught Starry to lunge a couple times in the past. It was a challenge, but after a half dozen lessons he would understand. Unfortunately, Kevin never kept up at it, and Starry quickly lost the skill.
I showed Kevin how to guide Starry around him at a walk. Since Starry didn’t understand what we were asking of him, Kevin had to be very patient. He would click him when he started doing something right, and that helped. He now tells me that he is ready to start some trotting. I gave him my lunge line to use. When I was able to get him to trot in the past, things fell into place fairly quickly. It will depend on Kevin’s coordination and timing the clicking.
Ellen is thinking of trying to teach Dante to lunge, too, just for the training challenge. She really prefers to ride. I told her she could practice with Cole.
My goal with Cole this winter is to learn how to ride in the arena without creating rub spots on his body where my legs touch his side. His arena trot has a lot of motion to it, and I need to keep my legs away from him. So far, it hasn’t been easy. Maybe it will be a mild winter and I can spend most of my time on the trail like last year.