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Monday, June 18, 2018

The Chinks in Their Armor

Now that Dante's abscess is fully healed, he is back on the trail.  This spring, when Ellen first started to ride him, he began doing something new.  On the way home, as we crossed the river for the last time, he began rushing out the last 4-5 steps.  In the beginning, he only walked very fast, but before the abscess halted her riding, he was trotting.  She tried spinning him when he got out of the water to no avail.  He would just do it the next time, too.

On our first ride out after the abscess, he did it again.  She really wanted to solve the problem--particularly after Cole and Starry fell in the river.  It was a reminder why they shouldn't rush--the slate is very, very slippery.

We think that he started doing it because the river changed since last year.  He now needs to step up a little to get to the land.  It isn't much at all, but it is different.

Another possible cause, or at least something that encouraged him to rush is that I would wait for them on top of the riverbank; in the shade.  Cole wouldn't be very visible to Dante from there.  Ellen suggested waiting on the shale island where Dante could see him.

On our very first training attempt, I had Cole in position.  Ellen asked Dante to walk, but then she would stop  him every few steps to break his momentum.  She did click him for stopping to encourage his good behavior.  When he got to the spot that he tries to trot, he did anyway,

The chink in Cole's armor is simple.  He doesn't like to be splashed!  We were far enough away that the water wasn't splashing him, but he saw Dante trotting and water spraying all over.  He did what any self-respecting splash-hating horse would do--he spun and tried to take off to get as far away as he could! 

I was able to stop him right away, but not before he caused Dante to expose the chink in his armor.  Dante is frightened whenever a horse does something sudden.  He can't abide a horse swishing at a bug.  A belly kick at a bug is simply not acceptable in his world.  A horse passing him too close can send him flying into the woods.  At this moment, he must have thought that Cole was going to attack him--as Cole was trying to run away from him.

Dante jumped in terror!  Ellen got him under control quickly, and we started to laugh.  We wondered if Cole just solved our problem.

The next day, we set everything up the same way.  Cole was on the island.  Ellen was stopping and clicking Dante as he was crossing the river.  Ellen told me that Cole's expression was hilarious.  He was glaring at Dante--warning him that he better just walk.  When Dante got to the spot where he was used to rushing, Ellen felt him pause--and then he walked out of the river.  She clicked and treated him. 

We tried it again the next day.  This time, Cole didn't have to glare--he just stood there.  Dante did a tiny pause and walked out of the river again.

We believe that Cole did solve the problem--he trained Dante to walk out of the river.  We didn't plan it this way, but it worked.

We will keep doing this for a while, and Ellen will positively reinforce good behavior, and then we will try it with us on top of the bank; in the shade.  At that point, we are hoping the positive reinforcement will be the driving factor.

For once, Cole and Dante's armor chinks worked in our favor.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Book Review: "A Burnt-Out Case" by Graham Greene

I really like Graham Greene.  This is another fine novel.  A famous person gets burnt out on life, love, religion.  He hops on a boat to the furthest reaches of Africa and hides out in a leper colony with  a bunch of priests.  He didn't hide well enough.  The world finds him and problems ensue.

Sad ending.  I wouldn't say predictable, but more like inevitable.  I liked the book.  The dialogue was terrific.  Our main man gets into some wonderful conversation on life, love and religion.

If you like Greene, you will love it.

Garden Update June 2018

Well, everything is in and growing well.  The only thing that hasn't sprouted, yet, is the tomatillos, and that isn't a big deal since I have found some volunteers.

This year I have:
Too many tomatoes
Too many peppers
Way too many beans
Too many lima beans
Butter peas -- a type of lima bean I never tried before
Shell beans
A few eggplant
Too many zuchinni
Some winter squash--plus volunteer winter squash.
Pole green beans--probably too many
Ground cherries

So far, everything looks healthy.  We shall see...

Monday, June 11, 2018

Book Review: "The Cat Who went Underground" by Lilian Jackson

Another fun book about how 2 Siamese cats help solve a murder case.  I have read a few of her books in the past, and I like them.  They take place in a small town.  The star of the show is Koko, who always seems to solve the case without saying a word.  I never suspected this murderer, but Koko knows all.

Book Review: "Derby Day" by D.J.Taylor

A horse is picked to be the favorite for the Epsom Derby.  A lot of people pin their hopes on him.  And then things start to happen and the plot begins to thicken.  And that is when the book gets good.  There is crime and duplicity.  Who can we trust?

The author brings 19th century England to life with his attention to details--yet he doesn't get bogged down in the details.  I thought the characters were well drawn and realistic.  I wish the horses were more involved with the story, though.

Will the favorite win?  How will that effect the people involved?

It is a fun book whether you like horses and horse racing or not.



Kevin, Shari and I were having a great ride the other day.  We were on our way home, and Kevin wanted to try to put Starry in the lead.  We worked it out and once Starry was where Kevin wanted him, he wanted to trot.  Shari and I were on the top of a little hill, and we didn't want to trot until we got to the bottom.  We told Kevin to go on and trot.  We talked it over and decided that we would stay walking.  We had some trouble with Bella last time when she kept prancing to catch up with Starry when he was in the lead.  We worked it out that time, and we wanted to see how Bella did this time.

I am glad to say that Bella was great.  We walked a while, and then we did some trotting, too.  Kevin was no where to be seen.  Our horses were acting like they forgot all about Starry.

When we got to the river that we cross to go home, there Kevin and Starry were--standing in the water.  They both seemed so relaxed.  Since Starry was so content to be in the river, Bella crossed.  Starry just stood.  I brought Cole into the water.  We passed up Starry.

I felt one of Cole's back feet start to slide under him.  Before I knew what happened, he lost his balance and down we went.  The water wasn't deep at all, but the bottom of the river there is smooth slate with a layer of algae.  It is very slippery.  As I hit the water, I looked over to Kevin in time to see him doing the same thing!  Unlike me, who slid out of Cole's way, Starry landed on Kevin's leg.  It was awful to see.

Everybody was on their feet, quickly.  I don't even remember standing up.  I just kept Cole in the water as I looked him over.  Every time Cruiser fell in the river, I would have to retrain him to cross.  Cole is a much bolder horse than Cruiser was, but I still wanted him to not associate the fall with water in general.  I don't know if it did one bit of good, but it was the best I could come up with.  Kevin did the same with Starry.

Throughout all of this, Bella just stood and watched.  At least Shari stayed in the saddle.  We were all able to walk out of the river and I breathed a sigh of relief. 

We all walked up the hill.  What a relief we could all walk!  I was completely unscathed.  Other than the fact that I was soaking wet, I would have never known that I fell off.  Kevin was very sore, but he was mobile.  The horses seemed fine.

The next day, Kevin was too sore to ride.  Shari and I went on a ride, even though we saw the storm clouds coming our way.  I wanted to see if Cole would cross the river. 

We got to the water's edge, and he stepped right in!  Not a single bit of hesitation.  I clicked and gave him a bunch of treats.  We went on a fast and fun ride.  Right as we were about to turn around, it started to rain, but it wasn't a bad rain for a warm day.  We trotted most of the way back.  When we crossed the river on the way home, I clicked Cole for going in the water.  He didn't stop for his treat, which told me that he was a little anxious and wanted to get to the other side.  I asked him to stop--and clicked him for that.  He got a handful of treats, again.  We took a few more steps, and I asked for another halt.  He did and got a click.

All is well that ends well.  Since most of our river crossings are short, we decided that we will cross the water one at a time--just in case.  We did this a lot, anyways.  Cole doesn't like a horse behind him--splashing.  Dante is usually slow to get into the water.  It really won't be much of an inconvenience.  On the larger crossings, we will just put a lot of space between us.

We think that Cole just hit a slippery slope in the river, and I will avoid that area in the future.

Friday, June 8, 2018

Garden Update

It is all in and doing well.  I am still waiting for my tomatillos to sprout, and I just planted my herb seeds, but everything else is either just sprouting or thriving.  We had some super warm (90s) weather that really helped kicked things into gear.  I staked to tomatoes today.

I have too much of everything planted.  If it all does well, I will be eating well!