Tuesday, May 3, 2022
Tuesday, April 12, 2022
Ellen's Second Trail Ride of the Year
Well, not really. We aren't counting the trail rides that she did back in January after the river froze. This was her second ride after the big river crossing ride two days before.
Once again, Kevin and Starry joined us. It was a chilly morning, but the sun was peaking out every now and then. We all marched down to the river, and all three horses ended up at the river's edge. Cole and Starry wanted to drink. Ellen decided that she just wanted Dante to cross--and he did! It was so uneventful. Starry and Cole followed them, and we headed out for our ride.
On this ride, she didn't mind if Cole took the lead for a while so he could stretch out at the trot--something he can't do when he follows Dante. When we got pretty far ahead of them, we did a little cantering, too. Then, we waited for everybody to catch up. It didn't take long because Ellen cantered Dante, too.
What? Cantered him on his second trail ride of spring? Who is this person who looks like my sister? We let her take the lead for the last section of the trail. I followed at a distance, and Starry was behind me. They trotted off, and then I saw it with my own eyes--she cantered him two more times. He did great, too. Cole ended up being able to stretch out at the trot again.
We turned around at the second river crossing. Ellen isn't quite ready for that. On the way home, we did more walking than trotting, but it didn't matter what we did, Ellen and Dante did it well.
She said that she was near zero anxiety on this ride--which is something she doesn't typically say until she has been on the trail for a month or so. It is so wonderful that she is feeling this confident this early in the year. Actually, she has never even been across the river with Dante this early before.
We couldn't wait until the next time...
And then it started to rain and rain...
Monday, April 11, 2022
Sunday, April 10, 2022
Ellen's Extraordinary Ride
It was a perfect day to cross the river, and Ellen was determined to do it. Kevin joined us on Starry. All three of us were at the river's edge. Cole and Starry were drinking, and Dante was blowing bubbles in the water--then he would lift his head up, look at Ellen and ask if he got clicked and treated for it.
Eventually, Ellen lost patience with him and insisted that he cross the river. He would take a few steps and stop, take a few steps and stop. Finally, they were across!!! Hurray!!! Ellen and Dante crossed the river for the first time since mid-January.
From there, the rest of the ride was easy. She walked and trotted him. We let her lead and set the pace, which was a little faster than Dante goes in the summer, but not much faster. His head was up, and he was looking all around, but he couldn't find anything to spook at.
It was a weekday morning, so the park was very quiet.
When we arrived at the second river crossing, we turned to go home. We mostly walked on the way home, but we did do some trotting. Dante handled it all like a pro.
So why did I say it was an extraordinary ride? Because it was just so ordinary. Dante was as good as ever. He didn't do a single thing wrong. He was perfect.
It's going to be a great year for trail riding!
Thursday, April 7, 2022
Virtual Tevis Cup--Here We Come Again!
Making the Best of Riding the Hill
Just because Ellen hasn't crossed the river, it doesn't mean that she hasn't been putting the hill to good use. Dante has come so far with his work in the arena this winter, she is not willing to put it all behind. She is making him work on the hill.
First of all, she isn't letting Dante take advantage of her anxieties--as he has done so often in the past. If he hears a distant noise and wants to stop, Ellen gets him moving as promptly as possible. Since she is being so vigilant, he is not being so reluctant to move. He stops--then he goes right away. It seems like he is already stopping a little less. If she keeps up with it, he will stop less and less, since it isn't getting a break when he does.
Ellen is still a bit nervous when the airplanes come over. We are very close the the airport, and they are very low when they go over the hill. He has spooked at the planes--causing much anxiety for Ellen. To combat it, Ellen taught him to stop and stand as the planes go over. I'm glad to say that he hasn't spooked a single time at a plane this spring. She decided that she will still let him stop, but she is making him walk longer before stopping, and she is asking him to walk before the plane is completely gone. This speeds up the whole process of riding on the hill.
Since Cole has a faster trot than Dante, I often just walk behind them when she trots until they get far away from us. One morning, I watched them trot away, and I noticed a distinct improvement in the way he was trotting. He was striding better, lifting his legs up higher and they had a very steady tempo. When she stopped, there was joy on her face. I asked her what she did, and she replied, "I used my Cole thighs."
One day in the winter, we were riding in the arena together and we thought it would be fun to switch horses. Cole has the exact opposite trot from Dante. Where his is slow and smooth, Cole's is fast with a lot of suspension. Within just a few strides of trotting Cole, Ellen realized she had to work a lot harder. In order to keep from getting thrown off the saddle on to his neck when we post, we have to connect our knees snugly to the saddle and actively engage our thighs. It is hard to explain, but if you ride him, you learn to do it quickly--or else.
Ellen experimented on Dante. She wanted to see what happened when she used "Cole thighs" on him--and the results were beautiful. Dante rounded up, strided further and looked lovely. Who would have thought it would work on the trail, too?
The beauty of it is--if Ellen practices getting longer, prettier strides in the park by using "Cole thighs," she not only can keep up with the other horses better, but she is forming a good habit for riding in the arena next winter.
She has also been sharpening her transitions and making Dante trot longer distances before stopping him. (or letting him stop on her own.)
Riding on the trail can help improve your arena riding and riding in the arena can help improve your trail riding. For that matter, just about everything that you do to improve your horse will help everything else that you do with your horse. Everything is interconnected. The skills Dante and Ellen learned in the arena this year are helping her on the hill--and they will help her when she gets across the river.
Ellen and the Hill
When we go trail riding, we ride along the street to the trail for a bit. The trail goes down a hill for about a quarter mile and then we cross the river.
The river tends to intimidate Ellen. She was able to cross it until the middle of January when it started to freeze. Kevin and I have been crossing for at least a month. Ellen has been content with just riding up and down the hill. That is actually a pretty big thing. Last year, she was very afraid to ride on the hill, too. This year, she is riding it like a champ.
There are parts of it that are flat and very conducive to trotting. Last year, she was hesitant to trot in many of those places. This year, she is trotting everywhere. She even trotted a little going up the hill. She is getting so confident trotting on the hill, that she is able to work on quality and distance. (Dante likes to stop early.)
There were a few days, early on in the spring, where her anxiety levels were high, but today--she had a day with nearly zero anxieties. That is a first, I beleive.
This morning, the river was totally crossable, and she rode down the bank to the water's edge. Dante put both front feet in the water. If Ellen would have asked him, I am sure he would have crossed. If Dante would have crossed on his own, I'm sure she would have let him. Neither one had the initiative, and no matter what I said to coax them to cross, they both just stood there looking at the river.
Ellen just didn't have it in her to do it. Maybe tomorrow...