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….

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”

Meet Hudson and Bella

HudsonMeet Hudson in his day job regalia.

I hope to snag someone into taking a photo of him in dressage-ish mode so you can see him in both gear.  After you see his second photo, I’ll surprise you with a little known Hudson fact.

Bella had to drop out of the early competition this year due to Hudson’s eating accident.  Horses, like people, have glass-is-half full or glass-is-half empty attitudes as well.  At least, I think they do.

For Hudson, the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.  Being athletic, this has posed little problem.  Hudson may be the only horse in the world able to reach through  a hot-wired, horse-proof, non-climb fenced paddock in such a way as to actually  reach the greener grass.

He’s VERY athletic.

Continue reading “Meet Hudson and Bella”

Cowboy Dressage

Uh-huh.   Put down the rotten tomatoes.  I can already feel everyone getting heated up on both sides.  A discussion has been bouncing back and forth on my classical dressage listserv regarding cowboy dressage.  Eitan, I believe, is the most well known, having been invited to ride at the Dressage World Cup Opening ceremonies in Aachen.  Watch, and come to your own conclusions.

To mis-quote a famous personage (isn’t that a nice way to cover up I can’t remember who the heck said the original?): Dressage is dressage is dressage.

I’m not going to comment on the video at all. It’s only up to as an A/V aid for those who haven’t seen it performed before.

Overall, my personal response to ‘cowboy dressage’ (in general, not specific to this video) is positive. The tack doesn’t matter as long as it doesn’t contradict what you are asking the horse to do, or impede the movement and ease of communication. (Heaven knows, plenty of mis-fitted dressage saddles and mis-used weymouths do just that.)

Good horsemanship is good horsemanship. Period.  If someone wants to work towards that in a properly seated and fitted western saddle, why not?  If it brings up the gaits, collection, and heads of WP horses, I’d say Amen.  (Hey, I said put down the tomatoes!  Ow!  Ewwww.  Yuck.  It’s just my opinion!)

Sure, it may or may not be dressage…but I’m not sure a training level test I perform would be considered dressage either, if you were to open your fingers and watch it.

My point is, if the goal is comfort and relaxation for the horse, correct building up of muscle and balance, and good horsemanship…why not?

Your thoughts?

An Independent Seat: Western or English, Good Riding is Good Riding

This is Stacey Westfall.

I’m sure everyone in the horse world has seen this video – probably at least 10 times; it went viral in 2006.  Maybe the people in your life haven’t though…might be nice to share what you’re working toward (also can’t hurt on the “You Still Need Lessons??” front…sure you do…you’re still using a saddle and bridle, right?!).
Dressage enthusiasts, note her horse licking and chewing -without a bit – after one of the later canter segments.  I have to admit, it made me laugh she was not allowed to take her horse out of the arena until she put a bridle on him.  I understand why, it’s just ironic!

The following video is almost more (!) impressive.  Watch her teach, talking to the audience, using hand gestures etc, all while using her seat to guide the horse through the movements, no bridle, no saddle.

For the uninitiated…there are no secret handsignals, no verbal commands.