Name the Buckskin!

Hi. I am The Horse Wtih No Name. No, I have not been ridden over the desert. Please do not call me "Buck".
Hi. I am The Horse With No Name. No, I have not been ridden in the desert, and I don’t mind being out in the rain. And I can remember my name, if I had one. A little help please…? p.s. I hate “Neil”.

First order of business:

We need a name for the above buckskin.  What should we call The Hunk who also happens to be a knock out? Suggestions?

We knew you’d help.

Second order of business:

Catching up with Bella:

As you know, Phil went home after the trial period.  Hudson had nothing to do with this (If I keep repeating this statement, it might be true?), other than pointing out Phil might be a tad timid for a rope horse.

Bella has shopped for months, while practicing on the spare rope horses that belong to friends.  Somehow, she STILL managed to make it into the national team roping finals.  Without owning a horse, or even roping off the same horse. For us wanna-be dressage queens, that’s a feat equivalent with catch-riding a bunch of different level dressage horses, and qualifying to ride in a National-Level Grand Prix.

She found her horse two weeks before Nationals.  The above buckskin with no name.

Bella is a competitor. With a capital C.

Oh, I'm just a normal cowgirl. Kinda made it to high point call back.  It was fun.
Oh, I’m just a normal cowgirl. Made it to the finals run in Nationals on a horse I barely know. Had a good time.

I asked Bella if there was a live feed, so I could watch the roping.  She said she’d text me her competition numbers, but timing was inexact, since they run one hundred teams an hour.

Pause while Jane tries to process that statement.

“Um. How many teams ARE there?”, I ask.

“Twelve hundred or so, I think, was the last count?”, Bella replies.

Or twelve hours straight of roping. For three days.

2,400 horses and riders? Holy crap! I try to picture this.  Fail. Turn the image into sprinkles on a cake. Much better. Now I can visualize the odds.

Strangely, the odds make me hungry.

Focus, Jane, FOCUS.

She’s doing this on a horse she’s known less than 10 days?

Carlos, Bella’s boyfriend and my adopted brother, texted me the above photo on the last night of competition:

Carlos: “high point entry”

I immediately texted back.

Jane: “Thanks. What does that MEAN?”

Carlos: “finals”

Jane: “Thanks. What does THAT mean?”

Carlos: “Good run, they could win.”

Holy crap. I really really really need to go to the gym.  In this lifetime.

Jane, still not sure I understand: “Uh. So she made it into the elite group that competes to win the whole shebang? The national title?”

Carlos: “Yep”.

Man of few words.

I think about the variables involved: two horses, two people, one random ticked-off steer determined NOT to be caught, and probably around 6 seconds for the two horses, two people, two ropes, and one ticked-off steer to come together at speed.

It feels physically impossible. So much could go wrong. You aren’t relying on only yourself and your horse. Off by a fraction in timing, communication…a rogue steer…partner misses, you miss…it all happens.

Out of 1200 teams, they made it into the elite high point teams, despite a rough first day of competition: all her points were scored on day two. Day three, she’s qualified for a shot at the national title.

(They didn’t win the title, but they did rank very high in the finals!)

We are SO PROUD of you, Bella!

Bella and Carlos, at team roping practice:

Now you can see no name horse in action. What do we call him? He wants to know!
Now you can see no name horse in action. What do we call him? He wants to know!

Comment away!

Let’s hear those “I’m a bad *ss  – but handsome – dude who happens to be a real softie” names…

In Which We Meet Woodrow, and See Bella’s Magic

Woodrow is Bella’s new roping prospect, and Hudson’s new roomate.

Below, Woodrow is right off the trailer.  The photo angle is a bit funny.  A few groceries wouldn’t hurt him, but his real issue is serious lack of muscle tone.  He’s wasn’t as thin as he appears in this picture. Overall, he looks older than his actual age.

Stepping back, before I snapped the pic, I thought: wow, nice lines, it will be interesting to see him after a few months with Bella. He’s going to look younger than his age!

Bella is a genius at bringing horses into bloom and condition. I asked her if she had any tips she’d like to share, and she answered with true good horsemanship: “Sure! Uh. I just do my thing?” Pause. “Whatever they need.”

Translation: each horse is an individual. She starts with quality food, adds any supplements that the horse might need, has him checked by the farrier, and then starts conditioning.  It’s a simple plan.  Stop, Look, Listen, Respond. When pressed for conditioning tips, she says strengthening the back muscles is her number one priority. Her horses have to move out round, lifting their backs. Makes sense to me.

Being at a barn with a lot of Arabians, I rarely see a such a splendid Roman nose!

Only three weeks of specific supplement/food mix and careful exercise later…

He’s a hunk!

The after photos were taken was in mid-January. We’re waiting for his winter coat to blow out before taking the Super Hunk after-photo.

Awesome how the right amount of work and the right kind of feed can put bloom back on a horse. In three weeks.

Conditioning, it’s an art form.

Welcome, Woodrow!

Murphy Monday: Murphy’s Big Adventure

In which Murphy is weaned, and travels to a new home.

Remember the endurance barn we scoped out for a friend? Daisy fell in love with it: deciding it was the best place for Murphy to grow up, turned out with babies close to his age. Acres and acres for him to build strong bones and tendons.

We’re anxious to see how Murphy made his first trip without mom. Dinero was pre-loaded to babysit. No one wanted Murphy scrambling around alone in the trailer.

I imagined Dinero looking over his shoulder at Murphy during loading: “Duuude…here…have some hay.  This is like total awesomeness: Road Trip!”

It worked. Murphy wasn’t even slightly warm, not a damp hair on his body. He wasn’t upset, anxious, or remotely difficult.  A little surprised, but calm.

Bella and Dinero walk Murphy up the hill to his new pasture. (Change is easier when you have company.)

A lot of company. Murphy travels with an entourage. (And paparazzi!)

The fog was so cold. Brrrrrr. We had about ten feet of visibility.

Team Murphy experienced a slight hiccup: the donkey came trotting out of the white stuff to greet him. Murphy got a teensy bit anxious, and asked if he could go back to the trailer now please.

It’s that way, right?  

Dinero stepped in to meet Penelope, modeling normal adult behavior for Murphy.

Poor Murphy.  It was a bit too much Meet and Greet on his first day of boarding school. He didn’t know what Penelope WAS. Plus she brought a young friend she had managed to break out.

With a little hauling around, and Dinero’s unruffled presence, we were soon on our way up the hill again. The loose baby was haltered, and removed, but Penelope had NO intention of being walked away from. Her Supreme Donkeyness was rather insulted.

The higher we went, the thicker and colder the fog became. By the time we got to the top of the hill (which we dubbed Mt. Murphy) you pretty much couldn’t see anything except what was right in front of you. But it does make for a lovely picture.

Murphy meets one of his new pasture mates.

Introductions went very well, with a minimum of posturing. There were a few herd dynamics to sort out, but they did it very politely, no hooves, no teeth. Some short chasing, some mean faces, some welcoming faces, and it settled into us knowing he was safe within ten minutes.

Meanwhile, Penelope is busy proving the long-eared maxim: God made donkeys at pocket height for a reason.

Dinero watched his tyke meld into the herd. He looked questioningly at Bella: Am I gonna have to babysit ALL of them?

You know, I can live with that. Food included?

Murphy was confused, but not panicked. He walked off into the fog for a bit, looking for mom.  Daisy went after him, to make sure he didn’t fall off the planet. (That’s what tule fog feels like.  Fall off the planet fog.)

He came back.  Looked bewildered.  Looked around into the white stuff.  Wondered why he was now on the wrong side of the fence.  All his people were on the other side.

You’re leaving…? Um. I think you forgot something…hellloooooo.

We left. He was quiet, thinking, trying to sort through all his new experiences.

The whole experience was as good as weaning gets.  A little anxiety, but no fear or panic, and no running around screaming.

Murphy knew he was okay.

My heart cracked a little: after all this change, he still knew he was safe.  Maybe uncertain about exactly what was going on, but he trusted his people.

That is a beautiful thing.

Last of the Spring Cattle Drives

Photos from Bella, since we didn’t get to go. Now I know what she meant when she said it’s steep, rocky, and brushy. Thanks, Bella.

The view is awesome. Glad you had your phone, and were high enough for a cell tower!

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(Don’t let Hudson see this, or I will never live it down…those are Dinero’s ears!  I know those ears! Where am I?  How come I’m not there?!?)

Something Funny Happened on the Way to the Dressage Arena…

…I ran into Bella, who said, “Hey, I’ll help, if you want.”

Hudson is over his abscess.  Despite the fact it’s in a terrible site, he’s standing in mud, and conditions are far from optimal, he’s…fine.  It’s healed over enough that a simple cleaning and (needleless) injection of betadine prevents evil bacteria from grabbing hold.

Hudson is sound, energetic, and good to go.  We’ve been working.  In the face of my trainer’s retirement, Bella offering to help me not suck is awesome for the following reasons:

  • I’ve been in deep dressage gloom. How will I ever learn?
  • She trained Hudson. She can look at us and know exactly what’s happening on both sides. She’s felt his evasions and when he’s trying to do it well.
  • She knows dressage, having shown successfully through Grand Prix.
  • I can hear her in a way I haven’t been able to hear other trainers.
  • She doesn’t ride “through” me. I can repeat everything she’s said when I’m not in her presence. It’s a miracle!
  • There is nothing vague about her instructions.  It’s all concrete stuff I can do now.
  • No difficult to grasp metaphors. Yet.  Metaphors are good. But I need a lot of specifics. I always tell trainers I missed some of the basics and need remedial help, but somehow they didn’t see that, and thought it was modesty (?). Bella sees what I missed.  Thank God.
  • After two days of practice, people were stopping us in the arena, and asking me what I did to improve so dramatically.
  • Her help is casual.  It’s short(ish).  It’s huge gift.

A few riders went so far as to claim I could clean up at first level if I’d just enter a dang show. (Doubt this.)  None of my previous training was wrong or badly done.  Good, kind trainers. Maybe I forgot stuff. Maybe I wasn’t ready.  Maybe I was too nervous.  Don’t know.

What I do know?


I had to write that in all caps, because it feels That Big.

Hudson, whom I thought hated dressage, is starting to become very interested.  He has to perform, he has to think.  Performing and thinking are his happy buttons.

He didn’t hate dressage, he hated how I was riding.  It was fine when I was catch riding, because we only did stretchy stuff, and he got his intensity fix from Bella and roping. When that stopped, he didn’t get his adrenaline fix, and was just…bored.

Now he’s extremely interested in what we’re going to do next.

I also get the best possible positive feedback: if he does it wonderfully, it’s because I told him how to do it wonderfully.

“YOU asked him to do that,” Bella says, when I’m awestruck by a result, “He’s just doing what you asked him to do, remember that.

It’s not a miracle.  It’s not rocket science.  It’s what he’s supposed to do when asked.

Really? There’s no secret club? No big revelation? You learn how, do it, and it works?

THAT’S the secret?




In Which We Witness Stewardship, and Riders Move Out

I learned a lot, standing in my barbed wire corner and watching.  The riders had to herd the cattle through a lot of open acreage, then through two narrow (for a herd) gates, after which the land opened up into major open acreage again, just when they needed the  herd to go left.

Not easy.

The first rider brought in a smaller clump of cattle through the first gate, began to push them through the second, then went ahead of them to keep them from veering out into the open acreage again.  I mentally dubbed her the Point person.  (I have no idea what this is in cattle speak. Bella, Kimber…anyone…does this job have a name?)  After turning her cows towards the pens, she came back and took up a position to block cattle from the sea of open land, and push them off to the left.  It was a wait.

Imagine being the person relied upon to quietly turn a hundred cows or so, after they’re pushed through the gates.  Sure, help would be handy…as soon as a rider could get through the rest of the herd without spooking them!

The idea is to walk the cows in quietly, both for their sakes and yours. I’m guessing (despite what we see on TV) dealing with a herd of panicked, running cows would be incredibly difficult.  I often saw the riders stop, quietly reposition their bubbles of space, wait, check everyone else’s position, and then start walking again.

To get a sense of how aware cattle are, and how easily they can be spooked:

These cows were part of the first group coming through gate 1. I was quite far away, using a zoom lens.  Time to move to position #2.  Stopping cows is bad.  Slowly, quietly, I turn my back, pick my way up the hill through gate 2, and move into a far corner, using the point rider as cover.  The minute I stopped looking at them, they started moving forward again. Given the choice, horse and rider is what the cows will register, not person way back against fence post with one giant eye.

Continue reading “In Which We Witness Stewardship, and Riders Move Out”

Git Along, Little Doggies: Cattle Drive

From the shouts, bellowing, mooing and general commotion, it sounds like the cows are being driven in from the right side of the property.  The riders turned off to the right through the gate, going out.  I kept staring in that direction, looking for cows.

The fog lifts momentarily, and I see…a  yellow tractor.  No cattle.  Huh.

I’d been keeping my eye on a far away hilltop on the left.  Some cattle were nicely silhouetted on the very top of the hill against the lightening sky.  I am waiting for the moment when the light volume turns up enough to make the silhouettes pop.  That might be a nice picture.

I check the far away left hill-top again.  Ugh.  Foggy, gray, uninteresting.

Waiting for “the moment” is the sucky part of photography.  It’s easy to miss when you have the attention span of a single cell organism.

I accidentally shoot my toe in a clump of grass and throw in a blurry shot of barbed wire.  Great. Jane: Photographer.  I check the mountain top again.  I know!  I’ll shoot the mud.  I wait.

I can vaguely make out a horse and rider on top of the above mountain, and I wonder if it’s still the same ranch, or a different one.  The group definitely turned right, not left, at the bottom of the hill.

I click.  The light has upped to a sepia tone.  I like the itty bitty horse.  Bonus, when I get home, I realize it’s Hudson and Alice!

The bellowing is getting closer, and the human shouts clearer.  I think I hear “H” noises. Like hit hit hit, hey hey hey, and hup hup hup. This makes me think of little league and kids behind home plate calling out: “HEYYYYYY  Batter batter batter…heyyyyy batter batter batter!

Figures are appearing and disappearing in the patchy fog.

This where 20 pictures are worth 20,000 words:

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There’s still more!  Tomorrow….

Into the White: Cattle Drive

Something large and dark sweeps over my head, completely silent.  A great horned owl! HUGE.  Too dark to get a photo.  Drat.

There’s a glimmer of light behind the hills.  I wonder how long it will take the sun to rise above the crest.

Bella’s high-tech method of packing-in water:

The fog is shifting.  A few tendrils circle the colder areas around the barn.  The sun rises, illuminating the fog from below, behind the hills.

For a few minutes, before the fog shifts again, we have incredible light.

Dinero, waiting:

I hear familiar jingling and creaking behind me. People are starting to mount up. Someone is ribbing Alice about the hearts on Hudson’s butt.  She says cheerfully, “I’m the token Hippie!   Peace and Love to cows, dude.”  Everyone cracks up.

Behind the barn, the fog is starting to move back in with a vengeance.

When I remarked later how well the horses worked in plain snaffles, Bella explained.  A cattle round-up isn’t the controlled (!) environment of a roping arena, where curb bits are appropriate.  You can get into iffy situations with a jumble of full-sized cows very quickly. “Sometimes you have to get on their {the horses} faces, when a situation is developing, and you need to get out immediately.  A curb would be very painful. Kinder to use a plain snaffle.”

Practical.  The rider is going to be processing a very big picture, while the horse might be focused on an entirely different piece.  In an emergency, you’d have to grab them: even the best trained horse is excited, and might not instantly respond.  You need that attention NOW to be safe.  Thoughtful horsemanship.

It had been cold, but not bone chilling.  With the fog dropping again, it’s incredibly damp-cold.  I’m glad for my 16 Michelin Man layers.  Out they go:

Continue reading “Into the White: Cattle Drive”

O Dark Hundred

I’m just starting my lesson with Jane Savoie, after a perfect warm up, when an electronic rooster crows horribly in my left ear drum.  My eyes fly open, and it’s pitch dark.

Aw, c’mon.  Who set the stupid alarm?  And why the horrifically annoying electronic rooster that crows loud enough to scare the neighbors?

I wanted that lesson with Jane Savoie.

I roll over, close my eyes, and climb back on Hudson.

Hudson…Hudson….?  CRAP.  I leap out of bed, grabbing my jeans in the dark, bang into the dresser, and trip over my shoes.

It’s five am. On a Saturday.  The Saturday.

Today is the cattle drive!

Continue reading “O Dark Hundred”