Thursday, March 25, 2021
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!
Thursday, March 4, 2021
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.