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Thursday, July 19, 2018

Project Squash

Project Squash
I saved some seeds from a few winter squash that I grew last year and planted them in the mountains of manure behind the barn.  They must have cross pollinated with my summer squash, because that is what most of them turned out to be.

In spite of the barn owner recently mowing down more than half of them a few days ago, we are still picking plenty.  We got 15 just today.  We started a week and a half ago, and have already gotten 72.  Of course, I am sharing them with everyone at the barn who wants them.

Most are white, a few are yellow and some a little green.  I like the striped one the best.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Trouble in Paradise, Again

Trouble in Paradise, Again

A few weeks ago, Maggie the dog was chasing a fly.  It flew into the other room where Thunder was.  I wasn't there.  Suddenly, Maggie started growling and barking at Thunder.  All I could think was that Thunder got between her and the fly.

I ran to the room to break it up.  Thunder scurried up to my bedroom--where Maggie can't go.  Maggie got yelled at.

Since then, Maggie has been respectful of Thunder ever since, but Thunder has been very afraid of her.  I have been having trouble getting him to come downstairs.  He will come down and greet me, get something to eat--then he runs back up.

To make things worse--it had to be around the 4th of July.  Maggie barks at fireworks.  Whenever she barks, now, he runs upstairs.  Then it takes hours to get him back down. If the fireworks werent' enough, we have had a lot of thunderstorms.  She barks at thunder, too.

It has been awful for me.  He is happy up there--he has everything a cat should need.  There are 2 rooms--both with great windows, food, water and a litter box.  Every time I would visit him, he would be so happy!  Of course, I sleep up there, too.

Each time he would start to get brave, she would bark at something--and away he would run.

I miss him!  Without him to distract me, I have no excuse.  I have to do housework.

Yesterday, he seemed to want to try hanging out downstairs, again.  I had an idea.  I took the ramp that Ellen gave me that her dog used to us and put it in his favorite room with red blanket--his favorite blanket.  The ramp was for Maggie, but she was afraid of it.  Thunder decided he like to sleep on it.  By moving it to a different room, it attracted him like a magnet!

Maggie was having a quiet day.  He managed to spend all morning and afternoon downstairs--mostly on the dog ramp.

He has been downstairs again today.  He seems to get less skittish with each hour he is down here.  I hope that Maggie doesn't bark...

Conquering the Lagoon, Again

Conquering the Lagoon, Again

Ellen and I finally got to go to the Pig Trail.  Funny name--irrelevant story.  We would have gone earlier, but between Dante's hoof abscess, my torn retina, lots of rain and some very hot weather, we just never made it until now.

Ellen was nervous for her first ride over there, because that is her nature.  Her horse, Dante, is just such a good boy; there just wasn't much justification for it.  I had already gone a few times when Shari when Dante's abscess was happening, so I knew Cole would be pretty good.  Personally, I was just looking forward to riding somewhere we haven't been for a while.

The Pig Trail is really nice.  The tough part is getting there.  We have another river to cross, the very busy Lagoon area to ride through and a huge hill to go up.

To make the long story short, the ride went terrific except for one hiccup.

On the way out, as we were heading through the Lagoon, we had a little trouble.  It can be a tough place to ride.  I have written about it before.  The trail runs parallel to the road.  On the other side of the road is the fisherman's wall.  It is a steep rock wall with the river below it.

There were no fisherman on the wall, no cars in the parking lots between the road and the trail and there wasn't much traffic.  I told Ellen we couldn't have asked for it better morning for our first trip through the Lagoon together of the year.

I took the lead and headed off at a trot.  Cole was pretty excited and wanted to go fast.  I didn't want to get too far ahead of Dante, who naturally trots much slower.  If I did, I would have to stop and walk much sooner so they could catch up.  I asked Cole to slow down and got a little response from him.  I asked him, again--and suddenly we were off and running!

I had trouble stopping, but I must confess that part of the problem is my hand got a bit tangled in his incredibly long, luxurious and very inconvenient mane.  I didn't want to pull his mane out, so he got away from me.  All I could think about was Ellen behind me.  I had to get him under control. 

He wasn't going top speed, so I don't think he was all that frightened, but he still didn't want to stop.  I large truck started to pass us on the street.  That couldn't possibly be the problem.  As it passed us, I could see it was towing a boar.

It wasn't loud or going too fast.  There wasn't any real reason for Cole to take off from it--and then I thought of Dante.  Maybe he spooked at is and that set Cole off.  Maybe Dante was right behind us in a panic!  My big sister feelings kicked in.  I had to take care of Ellen!!!

Once the truck passed us, Cole began to slow down and I was able to get him to stop.  I immediately turned him around to check on Ellen. 

There was Dante, a couple hundred feet away.  He was trotting along nice and slow like nothing even happened.  Why do I worry about them?  Why does Ellen worry about riding him in different places?

She said that she saw the boat and stopped Dante.  Dante just stood there as it went by.  She couldn't yell a warning to me because I was already too far ahead, and my old ears wouldn't of heard her. 

The rest of the ride was flawless for both horses, and we really enjoyed ourselves.  They seemed to enjoy the ride, too.  They were both a little more excited than usual, but they behaved lovely. 

I can't wait to do it again.

Monday, July 9, 2018

Time Out on Trail Riding

Time Out on Trail Riding

I haven't been doing much trail riding, lately.  I got a tear in my retina.  When I asked the surgeon who fixed it what restrictions I had, he said I could do anything but horseback riding!  I asked him how he knew that I rode, and he said that he didn't--he just said that--never expecting that was the big question I had to ask.  It was the bouncing that he wanted me to avoid.  I guess I could have ridden just at a walk, but all I needed was one of Cole's Cole bursts.

Ellen had to ride with Kevin for a while.  It sounds like they had nice rides, but Starry really back stepped in his leadership training.

We had an older horse in our barn die who lived next to Starry.  The stall was much better the the stall Dante was in, so we moved him over to the new stall.  I think having Dante by him all the time has made him more reluctant to leave him.

They have been working on placing Starry off to the side when they are trotting with great success.  Starry still fights it, but Kevin can keep him there.  He wants to follow Dante so closely that if Dante suddenly stopped, there could be a collision.  If he is off the the side, the collision can be avoided.

Ellen did take Cole on one trail ride.  I think she had fun.  He was very full of himself since he hadn't been out for a while.  He showed Ellen what a fast he has.  Then she remembered that I have been working with him to slow him down when I want him to, so she tried it.  He listened to her and became much more manageable.

When I was finally able to ride, the weather didn't cooperate.  We have had just enough rain to keep the river uncrossable.  We have just been riding out on the loop behind the barn.  It's not exciting, but when you haven't ridden in a while, it is wonderful!

It was Supposed to be a Boring Ride

It was Supposed to be a Boring Ride

The other day, I wanted to ride Cole.  The river was too high to cross, Starry had thrown a shoe, Ellen was working and unfortunately, Bella was lame.  What was I to do?

The last thing I planned to do was ride in the arena.  That was out of the question.  The hill is still not fixed.  The mud is horrible and there are so many stones.  It isn't worth it to go up and down multiple times and wear out my horse shoes.

It looked like I was going to be riding on the loop in the back of the property.  It isn't the most exciting ride when you are by yourself.

When I got to the barn, there were a bunch of horses loose in the outdoor arena.  It is right by the loop.  If the horses are quiet, that isn't a problem.  These horses were running all around.  I could wait and ride the loop, or I could go down the hill, after all.

I decided on the hill.  We traversed the mud and went to the bottom.  The last section on the bottom is not muddy or stony, and we often trot there.  I decided to trot back and forth.  It only takes about 20 seconds to get to the end.  Once again, this isn't that exciting.

It was the first time Cole had been on trail in a week, though.  Between my torn retina and then rain every day--raising the river, we just couldn't get out on the trail.  When we did ride, we rode the loop.

When I got to the bottom of the hill and asked Cole to trot, he launched into a canter.  Well, that told me how his mood was!  At the end, I asked him to stop, turn on the haunches, click, treat and walk back.  We did this a few times until he settled down.  Then, we trotted both ways.  He was still energetic, so it was fun.  Sometimes when we do this, his heart just isn't in it.  This time, he was genuinely enthusiastic.

At one point, I realized that I kept doing my turn on the haunches in the same direction.  As I was trotting, I decided to move him over to the other side of the trail to set us up to turn the other way.  Instead of just moving over, he did a leg yield!  I was so pleased with him. 

Leg yielding is something I have struggled with him from the beginning.  Cole is such an over achiever, that when I taught him to leg yield, he quickly morphed it into a side pass.  He has a wonderful side pass at a walk.  When I ask him to leg yield at a trot, he tries to side pass, and it just doesn't work.  I ended up putting all my attention to shoulder in, instead.  It is a more useful exercise.

We do practice a leg yield at a walk when I ride the loop.  When we come around the bend and face towards home, he used to want to hurry on home.  I took his forward energy and asked for some sideways--and I get a leg yield.  I click him for it most of the time.  It never transferred into the arena, though.

So, when I got a decent, but sloppy, leg yield at a trot--this was a big moment.  I decided to work on it.  Of course, I clicked him when he did well.

We practiced to the left, and we practiced to the right.  I threw in some good halts, a canter and he even gave me his show trot a few times.  He was all excited because we were doing tricks!  Cole loves tricks!  We still did turn on the haunches whenever we turned around.  By the time I was done, he would side pass one way, go straight for a few steps and then side pass the other way before I would click him.  We had fun.  Before I knew it a half hour went by, and we rode up the hill and home.

I thought it would be a boring ride, but we both had a lot of fun. 

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.