Update on Evening Rides


Remember Cole Train—the horse who became a handful on evening rides?  Well, things have improved immensely.  All I had to do was just keep riding him on the trail in the evening.  Our schedule has us out three nights a week.  Each ride, he gets better.  He has improved so much that I keep forgetting he used to be a problem.


One thing that happened that I didn’t expect—we have a companion on most rides.  Kevin has been riding with us.  We have found that our two horses get along beautifully.  Cole Train slows down when he is with Starry, and Starry speeds up when he is with Cole.  Kevin has learned how much more fun it is to go faster.  He has even discovered cantering.  Sure, he used to canter before, but now, he can go faster if he follows Cole.  He is having great fun.


Consequently, I don’t ride Cole by myself often, anymore, but every now and then, Kevin can’t make it out, and we are on our own.  Last night was one of those evenings. 


When I ride alone, I do more training.  My goal for the evening was the right lead.  Cole’s automatic response when asked to canter on a straightaway is to use his left lead.  Knowing that, I have been cueing his left lead with my right leg and saying the word “canter.”  He is getting quite good at it.  The other day, Ellen was riding him and inadvertently tapped him with her right leg—and he started to canter.


In an arena, to cue a particular lead, you bend him around a corner.  There are corners on a trail, too.  There is one very sharp right bend where I ride that is perfect for the job.  I used to use it with Mingo to teach him the command for right lead.  A couple days ago, when I was riding with Ellen, we did ask for a canter there, and he took the right lead.  I wanted to see if it was a fluke or not.


When I got to the corner, I made sure his body was bent for it, tapped with the left heel (which I am sure he had no idea what that meant) and said the word.  He was off like a rocket—on the right lead.  To make sure, I pushed his long, fluffy mane to the side and saw his right leg was leading.  It wasn’t a fluke.  If I set him up for the right lead, he will take it.  I am glad to report it is very much like the left lead.  When I started riding Cruiser, years ago, there was a huge difference in the way the leads felt.  His left lead was very coordinated and his right lead felt funny.  I never had to visually check which lead he was on—it was so obvious.  Cole Train is just a more balanced and coordinated horse than Cruiser was when he was young.


Cole is also much faster than Cruiser.  I have been working on slowing him down with only minimal success.  I guess some of it is the Kevin Syndrome.  I find I like to go fast, too.


I stopped Cole right before we were going to go through some rocks.  We walked over the rocks, and then he reminded me that we usually pick up the speed right there.  I made him walk for a bit and clicked him for it.  I decided since his memory is getting too good, that we should probably trot and not canter this section.  He really wanted to canter, but I made him stay at a trot—so he did a very fast trot.  (Don’t forget, this little guy is related to Dan Patch—one of the most famous Standardbreds of all time.)


When we got to the river, I turned around to head home.  I really was disappointed that I didn’t get to canter there, so after a few minutes of walking, I turned Cole back around so we could.  He did a lovely transition from a walk, and we cantered to the river.


We had some trouble stopping.  Yes, Cole Train likes this cantering game.  We walked towards home for a few minutes, like before, turned around and—instead of cantering--we trotted to the river.  I don’t want the little guy to think that we will always canter there.


I could have gone back and forth there for the next hour and had a lot of fun while teaching him that he has to go the gait that I wanted and not the gait he wanted, but I had to get back to the barn.  Cruiser was waiting.  I took him on a quiet, relaxed ride to the same spot.  Could it be that 20 years ago, I was teaching the same thing to Cruiser in the same spot?  Where does the time go?

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