Monday, March 29, 2021

Saturday, March 27, 2021

Friday, March 26, 2021

Thursday, March 25, 2021

Looking for a New Challenge


Looking for a New Challenge

Oh what do I write about--the horses are being so good?  I'm glad they are being good, but what do I write about?

We even went out with a new horse who was on his first trail ride with his new owner.  We didn't know what to expect, but he was really good, too.  All I could write about is the huge smile on his new owner's face.  

Ellen hasn't started trail riding yet this year, so she isn't giving me any writing material.  I already know what I'll be writing when she does.  It will sound something like, "Ellen was afraid Dante would misbehave when....but he didn't."  

Shari and I decided to work on something new to give me some writing fodder--and to challenge our training skills.  We were going to let Cole be the leader and Bella be the follower.

All these years, we have just put Bella in the lead.  She is happier there, and Cole always prefers to follow.  In fact, it helps me to have him follow because the lead horse then controls his speed.  I have taught him to match the speed of the horse ahead.  If we are following Dante, he knows how to go really slow.  If we follow Starry, he goes much faster and when he follows Bella, he goes at the speed Shari tells Bella to go.  When she goes really slow, we call it "doing the Dante."  Bella is capable of going very fast, too.

Long ago, we used to try to have Cole lead, and Bella would charge past us.  It just didn't work.  Over the years, we started to put Cole in the lead at a walk, and after a while, Bella didn't mind.  A lot of times, it wouldn't work just because Bella is a naturally faster walker and Cole will slow down and let her pass, but she wasn't charging to get into the lead.

It was time to do it at a trot.

There were times when Shari had Kevin put Starry in the lead at a trot, and Bella learned to tolerate him, but they didn't do too much of that last year, so Bella was a little out of practice.

The day that we decided to try the experiment, Shari and I oddly both thought of it independently.  I was just thinking of suggesting it when Shari beat me to it.  Cole just had his feet trimmed, and his feet were a little tender.  I knew he wouldn't want to go really fast.  You see, our problem is twofold.  Bella wants to be a leader, and when Cole is a leader--he likes to go very fast.  We both had to keep the horses slower than they probably wanted to go to do this, and I that's why doing it after a Cole's trim would help us out.  Shari has worked with Bella on slowing down so much, that we thought that she could manage all right as long as Bella accepted the concept of being the follower.

When we arrived to the part of the trail that we wanted to start our experiment, we ran into an unexpected problem.  Cole didn't want anything to do with the change.  He always follows Bella--and that is just how it was supposed to be.  He knows how to take the lead, since we often do when we ride with Dante or Starry.  

I was firm, and Cole relented and started trotting.  He kept trying to slow down, slower and slower.  My challenge wasn't to keep him slow--but to get him to go faster.  It was a fight the whole way, though I did keep him trotting.  Bella was good, though.  She could have easily passed him--that is what Cole wanted, but she stayed behind him.  In that sense, the experiment was a success.  

When we got to the next section of trail, I figured that Cole would be a different horse.  He always is on that section of trail because I have cantered it so many times.  He really loves to go fast there.  I told Shari to let me know when we were going to fast, and I would try to slow him down. 

When we started out, I could feel the difference in Cole's manner.  Yes, I could keep him going over here with very little trouble.  I knew I could get him up to a speed that Bella would be very comfortable.  I just didn't want her to get excited.

All was going well, and I told Shari I would go a little faster and to let me know when I was too fast.  I could here her chanting to Bella, "Good girl...Good girl..."  As long as I heard that, I knew we were doing well.  I would allow Cole to go a little faster and a little faster.  All was going well until I heard the chant switch to, "Easy...Easy..."  I asked Cole to slow a bit--and then I heard the sound of cantering hooves behind us.

Now, this is not something Cole is accustomed to at all.  When we canter, we are usually far from any other horses, though in the last couple years I have done some cantering behind Bella and Starry.  When we follow a cantering Dante, we just trot really, really fast.  Anyway, I didn't know how Cole would feel--I didn't want him to try to race, so I asked him to stop.  He gladly did, Bella stopped and we restarted them both at a trot.

They went right back to trotting beautifully.  Success!  For the rest of the ride, we switched back to our normal positions.

The whole experiment was just too easy!  We will work with it some more, and maybe I will have something to write about it in the future.  If not, hurry up Ellen--we need you to give me something to write about!

Starry and Dante

Starry and Dante



Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Monday, March 22, 2021

Sunday, March 21, 2021

Friday, March 19, 2021

Sunday, March 14, 2021

Saturday, March 13, 2021

Sunday, March 7, 2021

Friday, March 5, 2021

Thursday, March 4, 2021

Update on Ellen and Dante


Update on Ellen and Dante

As well as Ellen and Dante are doing in the arena, she really wants to ride on the trail.  It is hard for her to get back down there because she gets nervous when she hasn't done it in a while.  It has been so cold and snowy, she hasn't even ridden outside for quite a while.

I was out there in the evening when she was working, and I turned Dante out to play.  It was the first day that he was out when there wasn't any snow or ice.  All there was was mud, and I think he liked it.  He ran and ran and ran--around and around and around. The only time he wasn't running was when he was bucking.  

The next morning, I told Ellen she should ride him outside because I knew he would be really tired.  She agreed.  She started her ride in the indoor arena, and he was a slug.  Yes, it was the perfect day for it.

He was excited to be out, and Ellen was nervous, but they both did so well.  His neck was like a giraffe, so she told him "head down."  He remembered his training and lowered his head.  After a while, she even relaxed enough to trot.  Since Dante was tired from the day before, he barely did one of his leaps on his transition.  It was such a perfect day for her first ride out in so long.  Dante couldn't have been better.

Ellen knows how to tame her anxieties, but that doesn't mean it is easy.  She takes small steps and just keeps building on them.  It helps when you have a really great horse like Dante.  He always does his best to take care of her.

First Trail Ride of the Spring


First Trail Ride of the Spring

Kevin checked his calendar, and the last time we crossed the river was January 23.  That is when it got really cold and snowy, and the river started freezing.  I don't mind the snow.  Everything looks much prettier, and the horses seem to like bouncing around it.  Ice is the real enemy.  The ice forms on the river, the ice is on the trail and the driveway.  Of course, some days are just too cold to be out there.

Ellen does have a problem with snow.  It makes her nervous, and if she can't cross the river, it isn't worth tackling her nerves to ride up and down the hill.  She stays at the barn, and rides in the indoor arena, instead.

This year, she has been working really hard on her seat and Dante's training, and the improvements are amazing.  A horse will never perform to their best if the rider isn't doing the same.  For Dante to improve, Ellen had to improve, also. 

And did she ever.  You wouldn't believe the improvements they made this winter.  When she started riding in the arena, Dante, a naturally lazy horse, had trouble trotting more than twenty steps before stopping and refusing to go.  When she did have get him trotting, he would shuffle along with his head low; going as slow as possible.  It was agony for her, and she knew she had to do something.

The new Dante is trotting with self carriage and striding well under himself.  He is even going pretty fast.  Usually Ellen stops him before he stops on his own.  They look so beautiful together.

And all I am doing is riding up and down the hill...wasting time...

There were a few times I rode in the arena.  Some of the days were just too brutally cold to ride outside or there was too much ice.  A couple times it was raining--and then that turned the snow on the hill into ice.

I would work on my problems, and Cole would improve in a few rides--and then the weather would get better, and I would be back on the hill.  The next time I was forced to ride in the arena, he would be right back to where we started.

For the second year in a row, I didn't advance Cole's training one inch--except we did improve our steps for our line-dancing routine.  Ellen did so well, and I just wasted another winter.

A few weeks ago, the weather started to get warmer, and all the snow began to melt.  The ice on the river broke up, and the river got really high.  The weather stayed warm enough for everything to melt away and the river was crossable.  Spring was here.
Kevin and I went out for our first ride of the season in the evening.  The temperature was around 60 degrees, and it was sunny.  Everybody and their brother was out in the park--not the best conditions for our first ride, but that wasn't going to stop us.

I wasn't sure how Cole would be crossing the river.  Last fall, he went through a phase where he didn't want to cross.  I was glad when he stepped into the water willingly.  I clicked and treated him.  Before we knew it, we were on the other side of the river; waiting for Starry and Kevin.

Not far from there, our trail goes along a fence, and right on the other side is the paved all purpose trail.  There was a kid on a skateboard heading to the fence.  Kevin suggested that we wait until he got past the fence.  Wouldn't you know it?  As soon as he got there, he turned around and rolled back--then he went back to the fence and did it again.  Kevin said we should try to get ahead of him.  He trotted Starry and Cole followed.  In just a few steps, Cole tossed his head and his hindquarters sunk down--he wanted to go much faster.  I told Kevin we should just walk.  Cole has always been very sensitive around the fence area.  Just past it, the trail turns into the woods and Cole settles down.  

By now, the skateboarder was ahead of us, and we just followed him.  There is nothing like desensitizing a horse by having him follow the scary creature.

There were lots of motorcycles out--but only noisy ones.  Cole has always had trouble with loud motorcycles.  I find the best thing to do with him is to stop him until they pass.  He will seldom spook when I do that.  I learned this trick from Cruiser.  After he bowed his tendon, I was so afraid of him spooking and tearing it again.  Before the bowed tendon, I used to spin him if he took off, but I was worried that might strain his tendon, too--so we just stopped and stood.  Cole was just as good as Cruiser would have been.

We did some trotting, but we mostly walked because Cole was so hyper.  At one point, Cole thought Starry was walking too slow, so we put him in the lead.  He walked very fast and kept trying to burst into a trot.  I put him back behind Starry for a few minutes.  He settled down, and I tried him in the lead, again.  This time, he just walked.

When we got to the next river crossing, we turned around to walk home.  Well, Cole walked.  Since he was walking so fast, Starry had to trot to catch up.

At one point, Cole took off running when I heard a piece of ice break off one of the small frozen waterfalls on the shale cliffs on the other side of the river.  It caused a little avalanche.  He only went a few strides, and I was able to stop him.  This happens every spring, and it didn't surprise me at all.

We made it across the river and up the hill we went.  On the last slope, Cole took off running, and I had to spin him around on the top.  There is a reason we call this "Cole Burst Corner."  I really thought I had him under control on our way up, but he still got me.  At least I had no trouble stopping him.  Starry was just standing down there; watching us.  In fact, Starry was perfect the whole ride.  You would never know it had been over a month since he was across the river.

By now, I had had enough, and I got off and led him down the street.  He was dancing in the driveway, too.  It was a very exciting ride for Cole, but over all, I thought he did well, and it was just so nice to be back on the trail.

The next morning, the temperatures were in the low 30's.  At least with the cold weather, we knew the park wouldn't be as chaotic.  Kevin thought the trail would be frozen, so he didn't bother to put on Starry's protective boots.  We don't trot on frozen trail.  The trail was soft, so he told me to just trot on.  He would walk with Ellen; who was joining us on foot.  I didn't know how Cole would be.  Sometimes when we are out by ourselves, he acts up--and it was a cold day--and it was only his second ride...

I had trouble getting Cole to leave them.  He doesn't mind leaving Starry--he hates leaving Ellen. They are best friends.  Once I convinced him to go, we had the most marvelous time.  We mostly trotted and I even threw in some cantering.  Though he was very fast, whenever I asked him to stop, he did so promptly.  I think he was enjoying himself as much as I was.

We went to the next river crossing and turned around to walk back to Ellen and Kevin.  When we caught up with them, we walked back to the second river crossing, turned around and walked home.

It was quite a lovely ride.

And that is when I realized that I didn't waste the whole winter riding him on the hill.  I was training him just as much as Ellen was training Dante, and we both were very successful.  Neither one of us wasted the winter at all.

Tuesday, March 2, 2021

Monday, March 1, 2021