Working on Our Little Problems
I have had Cole for nearly two years, now. When I got him, he had had a saddle on his back, but that’s as far as his training went. We have come a long way, and he has given me much to write about. Now that we have accomplished most everything I wanted to, I fear I am going to run out of things to write about and will start to bore my readers.
There are still a few things left that we are working on. One thing that has bothered him from the beginning is having horses walk behind him when he is crossing the water. I don’t think it is the noise that bothers him but the splashing. He doesn’t like when water hits him. Ellen and I decided that we need to tackle this. There are going to be times when horses will be crossing the river behind him, and I sure don’t need him trying to bolt to get away.
He is fine when he is following a horse or walking next to a horse—it is just when the horse is behind him.
We decided to approach this gradually. I ride Cole into the river and stop him. Then Ranger walks pass him. I click him for standing quietly. Once Ranger is past, he is fine, so it is only for a few seconds that he is put under pressure. It doesn’t always work. Sometimes he skitters about. A few times, he has stood, but Ellen says his expression is one of great worry. He really gets upset about this. She judges by his expression how close she passes him. It is great to ride with someone like Ellen. She just understands.
Eventually, I will ask Cole to walk while a horse is following him—stopping him when he gets stressed and letting the horse pass. This might take all summer, but we have all summer, so that doesn’t matter. I’m sure he will eventually figure out that other horses aren’t going to hurt him—even if they do splash him.
Another problem—rain. This is a crazy one because he lived outside at his previous home. When it starts to rain, he wants to go home—the fastest way possible. So far, we have only been caught in light showers. Each time, he does improve a little. Right now, he shakes his head and dances about. I think he doesn’t like it hitting his ears—hence the head shaking. Probably he just needs exposure—something I prefer to avoid, myself. One thing I know, though, if I ride enough, we are going to be caught in plenty of rain.
Cantering is still a project. What I need is a lot more long rides. On our short rides, there are only a few good places to canter. This makes it tough because he will anticipate those spots, so I can’t canter them all the time. He must learn to go at whatever gait I want—not what he wants. Hence, we don’t get enough practice.
He needs to lose the sense of novelty and excitement. The first stride tends to be a huge buck—even though I hold his head up. He wants to go very fast if we are by ourselves. With Ranger, he goes more sensibly. I just need to get him on some long rides with a lot of cantering. I can’t wait to give it a try.
I need Cole to learn to behave for other riders on the trail. My sister is going to help with this starting this weekend. My niece is coming out to ride. She rides Ranger. This time, I will ride Cruiser and Ellen with ride Cole. We will do this enough, and eventually, my older niece will start riding him when she gets home from college and we go out in the evenings. In the past, she has ridden Ranger, Starry and good old Mingo. Time she rides a little horse.
We are also working on ground tying with the help of clicker. It is going excellently at the barn. I am heavily reinforcing it. If the reins are hanging on the ground he must stand—that means no eating grass or even begging for treats. He has to have his head straight ahead and be focused on his task. I haven’t tried it yet on the trail, though. I am going to wait for the habit to be very firmly established.
We are adding little stretches of trotting towards home when we are fairly close. He does very well with Ranger and pretty good alone. I think in no time we will be in good shape, there.
This spring, he is doing excellently walking down hills. Not once has he tried to race down at a trot. What a relief. He was pretty scary at times. The worst hill was the one where the street is at the bottom of the hill. I still click him at least once on the way down, but soon we will be fading that off. I still haven’t ridden him down the huge hill going to the show ring, but he is doing well being led down it.
So though he is doing very well on the trail, we still have our little projects to work on. I will keep you updated on how he does.