Cooler Weather?

After extolling the virtues of a good Japanese bred 4wheeler I was determined to exercise my horses. It was early still, the weather not dreadfully hot. The ride wasn’t long, except for my out of shape horses. It would be good for them. Although, on my way out to catch horses, it was pretty hard not to just jump on a 4wheeler that would be faster and didn’t require saddling.

Then the horses nickered softly from their pen, calling for love and attention. Horses it would be then.

Saddling Rusty brought sweat dripping down my forehead. Here at the buildings, behind the shelter of the windbreak, there was not a drop of breeze and the cool morning was feeling pretty dang hot.

Sunshine was coming along too for the experience. As I lead them both to the first of many gates that needed rearranged Sunshine walked quietly along behind me as Rusty drug me along to the gate. Then my dog jumped out of the back of my pickup. Sunshine tucked his butt and bolted. I stepped away from Rusty trying to get out of his way. He was already going out around me that way and I nearly stepped into his path. He worked hard to avoid me and barely brushed my shoulder as be zipped past. Rusty was confused. Sunshine hit the end of the lead and stopped.
We all took a deep breath and carried on.

Out in the long narrow lane, tree lined on one side and always terrifying to horses, I was mounted and we were off. Until there was a rush of wings from the trees next to us. I dropped Sunshine’s lead. We would catch him again. I needed to get Rusty stopped. He was off too this time.

Sunshine didn’t go far, then turned and came back to us. Rusty was still hyped and wanting to take off by I managed to go back and look closer at what I had caught a glimpse of earlier. Sure enough, there was an owl hung up by a leg, hanging upside down and flopping wildly. We have a pair of owls who I am very fond of, even if they are the most likely culprits in the disappearance of my favorite barn cat. Now here one of them was stuck in a tree. The other had gone and left her as they spooked my horses.

Who does one call to rescue an owl? I thought about firemen being called to get cats out of trees? I could call the sheriff. Maybe they would know who to get a hold of at game and parks? Pondering the logistics there I managed to dismount so I could look closer. Once I was already off my spooking, shying horse, the owl must have twisted just right and the leg came free. She took off to join her mate.

I figured it would be easier to walk to the next gate.

Once we finally made it to the pasture the horses were crazed. Flies were bothering them. Sunshine was excited by the wide open. Rusty was grouchy about ponying and obnoxious youngster. It was tons of fun. We made it to the corner of the pasture without major mishap.

Then they saw the cows.

Ears up, head held high on full alert, their bodies held so tense they vibrated. I thought maybe this would be it. Eventually they settled and we were able to walk to the cows. Who decided they really didn’t feel like moving. We had to push each one. A few steps forward, then on to the next one. They aren’t at all scared. That’s the problem with having a bunch of tame heifers out with the milk cows. They see no reason to move and think maybe they should come visit for cookies and scratches instead. Sunshine thought at first they were going to eat him.

Once we got them moving a little he realized they were fun to chase and got into the game. Which upset Rusty even worse. He was ready to bolt. Head high, reins tight, pacing and fighting to go. Yay.

We made some big slow circles out behind the herd and he calmed enough to get the job done.

The bunch finally got to the corrals and I tied the horses up to wait. Sorting would be easier done on foot the way those two were acting.

With the last of the heifers separated from the steer I was after, there was a huge splash at the tank. One of the extra calves on the milk cow had gotten knocked in? Decided to go swimming? Either way, she got dunked. With much splashing and commotion she came up on the other side of the fence in one of the pens. Now I needed to get the steer out of the way so I could get her through and back with the herd. The morning had no end to the fun and surprises to offer.

Somehow the horses and I made it home, with the steer even. It was with a huge sigh of relief that I turned them back out to their pasture. They were happy and wanted to play some more. I was wondering why I would ever think horses might be better than 4wheelers. Mostly, we just need to do this more often.


4wheelers Or Horses?

There’s a lot of friendly debate, mostly friendly, in the farming and ranching worlds as to whether horses are better or 4wheelers when it comes to working cows. Of course we all know horses are better. But, the humble 4wheeler has its place.

After spending the last two miserable hot days out all day working cows and building fence, I’ve come up with the best reason of all why 4wheelers are better, in some circumstances.

The cows were out. Not badly out, not on the road or into the neighbors. Just across the electric fence into grass I was saving for them for later. It was mid 90s. I thought briefly about saddling Rusty and taking him to put them back. Then I thought about the heat and loaded my trusty green mount of Japanese breeding and loaded her in the trailer instead. She panted? maybe she was well lathered if we’re comparing her to a horse. But she gave all she had. The fan running almost constantly and the heat of the engine coming up through the seat as we put the cows back. I let her sit in the shade under a tree and cool whenever I could.

When we got to the tank I tripped the float and drank the cool fresh water straight out of the ground. Soaked my hat and as much of me as I could without getting jeans wet. Even hot is better than wet jeans. Then turned to her and asked what it is a 4wheeler would like to feel better in this heat? If you were my horse I’d soak you down, help you cool off better. She sat, silent. I figured horses and 4wheelers can’t be completely different. Dipped water out of the tank with my cap and soaked her down a bit. Water sizzling as it hit the hot engine.

The cows were back where they belonged, but wouldn’t be staying now that they had discovered the lush grass next door. So it was back the next day to get a new pasture ready for them.

The morning was still cool as we made a quick lap turning on water and checking fence. She zipped along in the morning cool. Carrying my fence stretcher, barbwire, and tools with less difficulty than a horse would. We finished that job then went for the cows as the day warmed up.

She fit under the electric fence that a few of the cows had gone through again. I could goose the throttle a little standing next to her holding the fence up and she went off to the other side where she waited patiently for me to come get her. Then she happily went back again, allowing me to chase cattle on each side of the fence without going up to the gate. Crossing the freshly worked summer fallow she struggled a little in the deep footing. I switched on 4 wheel drive and she felt better. The dust bothered her less than it did me. She didn’t get tired fighting her way through it and had more to give still as the herd balled up at the gate.

With them finally moved I left her standing quietly, waiting patiently, while we went off to lunch.

After lunch the day had reached its full potential. Easily reaching the predicted mid to upper 90 degrees, surpassing that even to reach the low 100s. The seat burnt me through my jeans when I remounted. There were a couple jobs left to do. My fencing pliers burnt my hands as I built the last gate to finish the fencing projects of the day. My pulse beat heavily in me head. The water jug was back in the pickup. She sat quietly. Her only protest the heat of the seat when I got done and wanted to go back.

One more cow moving project and we would be done.

Even after working hard in the heat all day my trusty green mount was fresh and willing. The cows not so much. There was no way to explain that I was taking them to fresh pasture. All they knew was that it was hot and they didn’t want to leave their water tank. It was a hard push. Slowly insisting one cow move at a time. At least we were pushing on grass, not freshly worked dirt. The dust wasn’t awful.

The cows finally got to the gate. The leader perked up and trotted through on her own. The rest followed enthusiastically. They quickly spread down the draw, munching on the fresh selection of grass as they explored the new area. The sight of my cows, happy and content, made the whole day worth it. Yes, we could have waited for a cooler day, but this was when they decided to cause trouble. Cows don’t always wait for more opportune moments. Sometimes they demand things be done when they are ready, not when we are ready.

It’s for these times that a 4wheeler has the most to offer. The times when the work would be so hot and miserable for a horse. A 4wheeler gives us the option to not put a horse through the hot, long, dusty days. Not that those days aren’t important to the development of a really good horse. But, within reason and with out reaching a point of outright cruelty. So, I will be thankful for my trusty green mount and the work she puts in. Then on cool mornings like today, I will go saddle my horse and get less arduous jobs done.

Horse Time

It’s been weeks since I got to do anything with my horses. That final push to get calves worked and fences up so they could go to pasture combined with the frantic rush of activity that accompanies the end of the school year took up every available drop of time and energy.


Today after spending the morning taking care of the few cows remaining here, tagging my daughters new calf, feeding everyone, and working in the garden, I was determined to get in some horse time. The sun was out, briefly, between rain showers and I thought for sure I could get just a few minutes in.

So of course the horses were on the farthest side of the pen. They happily, slowly, meandered up when I called them. So I left the gate open as I got toys ready in the pen. They followed me in, and went to grazing. In all the time since I last worked them in there the weeds had filled in nicely. The green was more then they could resist, or be drawn away from.

So they ate. I got some pretty pictures before the storm rolled in. Maybe tomorrow we can play.


Ridin’ Fence

Rusty got put to a different type of work today. He’s been complaining about baby calves. They move too slow. He really could get there faster if we just left them behind.

Strangely enough, he complained about this job too. You might almost think he doesn’t want to do anything but tricks.

I needed to check some fence. It would be faster and easier to take a 4wheeler. But, Rusty is under vet’s orders to get exercise. So I saddled him up, threw fence pliers and some staples in a saddle bag, and off we went. It was a beautiful day. The wind wasn’t blowing too bad yet. It was too hot or too cold. Just nice. The fence was in mostly good shape, just had to get off to put a few staples in. There were a few places where the wire was twisted. If he would just stand still next to it I could untwist it without getting off.

If he would just stand still next to it.

He wouldn’t. That was really too much to ask. He pawed, he pranced, he circled, anything but holding still. So we practiced standing still. He needs so much more of this.

Working Horses

Straddling the line between positive reinforcement and ranching, I have an interesting view of ranch or working horses. They have a job that is often very hard and not particularly enjoyable. But at the same time, they become very good at it and can do it almost without the person on board helping out. I’ve  heard so many stories about the dependable old ranch horse babysitting an overly confident child. When the child starts yanking on and ordering the old horse around too much, he dumps the kid off and goes to finish the job without interference.
I know on my own horses there have been plenty of experiences like that. I was riding my old boy Coyote in a blizzard one time. Wind and snow coming down so hard it was impossible to see anything but occasional vague black spots of cows that we were pushing to shelter. I had my head down at one point, blocking the biting snow from my face for a moment. Coyote stopped, turned on his own, gathered a calf that we were about to walk past and pushed him along in the direction he was supposed to be going. I didn’t know the calf was there. I had offered no aid or direction in what needed done. He could have easily walked right past and gotten the miserable work done quicker and back to the shelter of the barn.
He made that decision on his own to work harder. To do the job right.
Today Rusty really only wanted to go back to his friends and their hay bale. He spent the ride out asking if I was sure I didn’t mean we should go the other direction? Can we go home now? But as soon as we got behind the cow he went right to work. Back and forth he pushed her with enthusiasm, ears back, nipping not quite at her side. No more asking to go home, full attention on the job at hand.
Ranch horses work hard and I’m not going to claim they always want to be out there doing the job. But, is it possible that there is some ownership by them of the job being done and enjoyment in the task itself even if there is hard work involved? Much like the people riding them love the job despite it being hard and dirty and sometimes miserable? An intrinsic reward in the job itself.
Yes, it is good to make our horses as comfortable as possible, to work hard ourselves to insure they are happy and lead a good life. But does that have to mean never being uncomfortable? Never working hard or being pushed beyond their comfort zone? A person without a ‘job’ to do, without a purpose to work towards in life is a person who is discontent and constantly pleasure seeking. We all need purpose. We all need hard work so we can appreciate rest. We all need discomfort so that comfort can be appreciated. Without downs there are no ups either.
Just because a horse has a job and works hard doesn’t mean they are mistreated or unhappy.

If You’re Going To Be Weird…

I hear Morgan people complaining a lot about how quarter horse judges wont even look at them in open shows. It’s all because they aren’t riding the right breed!

I’ve also watched a lot of Morgan people trying to show horses with very subpar training  against the Quarter Horses.

Let me tell you, it’s not the breed.

I understand, the horse feels great, to you. There are also a lot of Quarter Horses out there showing with very subpar training. The difference is that we are riding Morgans. We are weird. If you’re going to be weird, you have to be good. People will probably see a few thousand Quarter Horses in their lifetime. If they see a few, or a lot, that aren’t doing a good job they’ll think back to the ones they’ve seen that did do good and dismiss the poor quality ones as a fluke.

People may see one or two Morgans in their lifetime, showing in the western divisions outside of breed shows that is. If that one is bad, they will count all Morgans as not being any good!

We are weird. It isn’t a bad thing. Our breed is wonderful. We need to step up and show the world how wonderful they are, instead of complaining about breed bias.

I’ve seen people out there madly galloping young horses in a circle, head cranked around to the center, outside shoulder heading off into the distance. This isn’t the sort of training that is going to accomplish anything in the show ring. Even if it is a first canter, if that’s how it goes,  maybe the horse wasn’t ready to canter. If you lack the proper facilities to help your horse work well, go slower. Get that foundation better to you can build good form instead of teaching bad habits.

I see people working cows on a tight rein with the horse’s nose in the air, head cranked around with over enthusiastic and ineffective neck reining. That might get the job done, eventually, if you are out trying to move cattle. I’ve seen a lot of ranch horses who ride that way and spend their lives working cattle. But it isn’t going to get the job done smoothly or effectively and it sure isn’t going to get any points in the show ring.

It isn’t the judges.It’s the horse, the rider, and the training.

I have a shelf full of buckles and awards won in cow horse classes on not only a Morgan, but a gaited Morgan. She showed how very possible it is. We didn’t show hugely, but we did beat all the very good local Quarter Horses.

Go get some lesson, in person, watching videos, whatever is possible for you. Take every opportunity to learn more. Lessons are a wonderful thing. Everyone needs lessons. No matter how good you are, you need lessons. Olympic level riders take lessons. There is always room to improve. If we’re going to be weird, we have to be good. Quit hiding behind it being a breed thing and go get better! That isn’t a bad thing, it sure isn’t an insult. Taking responsibility is freeing. It gives you the opportunity to fix the problem, instead of it being out of your hands because it’s someone else’s fault.

There Are No Bad Whorls

“Hate to be a Debbie Downer, but I had an experience where someone walked away from an amazing horse because of the whorls.” And because of that one experience she is sure whorls don’t ‘work’ to tell us anything about horses. I think all of us have run into one of these people.
Are they wrong?
Not necessarily. But that doesn’t mean they are right either.
Lots of people look at whorls and come up with conclusions I would disagree with completely. There are old superstitions calling some whorls bad luck, others death wishes, and of course all double whorls are awful. If people are going by those superstitions and pass up a horse because of them then, yes, the whorls aren’t telling anything and are very much causing them to miss out on some very possibly great horses.
On the other hand, if you say that to me and tell me that I am doing horses a disservice by studying whorls, then obviously you don’t know me at all.
There are no bad whorls, just different temperaments that need different treatment. That is my motto that I spend an amazing amount of time repeating. If we actually study whorls we know that double whorl horses are wonderful, for the people who love them. Single whorls are uncomplicated and easier to deal with, sometimes. That people have a type and do best with that type, except when they don’t. Whorls are so much more complicated than a simple good or bad.
Before dismissing the study of whorls based on one person giving poor opinions about them, or a lack of knowledge of the science supporting them, take the time to see what is actually going on with them. Come on over to the whorl side and give it a try. 

Cows, And A Few Horses

It’s been busy with cows lately. Getting them moved and sorted and general stuff done getting ready to ship calves and start calving. Unfortunately the work has been mostly done on foot or fourwheeler.

Rusty came up foot sore after the cold spell in early January. I didn’t work with him while it was cold, because it was cold! Then with his feet hurting again he continued to be out of work. The farrier came and put some shoes on him. Hopefully the shoes will help keep him from stretching those toes out and prevent further damage. Rusty has found yet another way to be difficult by enjoying bouts of winter laminates. That means he founders in a dry lot, on grass hay, in the middle of winter 🙄

It’s been awhile since he;s done this and his feet were getting to be in really good shape. So of course he had to go and ruin that.

Sunshine has been getting big and pretty. Starting to look like a grown up, so I’ve been spending the time with him instead. Working on getting him ready to ride, maybe this summer.

I got the best Christmas gift and have been meaning to say something about it ever since. Just haven’t quite gotten to it.

A dear friend of mine in CA sent me two framed photos. One of Harvey, who we lost a year ago, and one of me and Ghost with our Guinness World Record plaque. The frames were beautiful, hand made, and thoughtful. As much as I loved them, they still couldn’t hold a candle to the note she sent with them. That meant more to me than anything else could. There are so many truly great people out there. Social media gets it’s fair share of rightfully deserved complaints. It can also do a world of good. It’s all in how you use it. I love getting to know wonderful people, people I will only ever meet online. Does that somehow lessen out relationships? I don’t believe it in any way does. Without all this ‘evil’ social media I would never get to know people like her and I am grateful.

That note was one of the best Christmas presents I’ve ever gotten.

Left Brain Extrovert

Today’s post is by guest rider Tammie Ellingson. She translated horse for me until I was able to hear them speak for myself.
What is a left brain extrovert horse like?
We have had one, Smoke. An orphan, he was brought up away from other horses. He did not learn to be a ‘horse’. This may have contributed to his disrespect for humans, but as a true left brained horse, he was always sure he was smarter than humans and required proof that people were good enough to tell him what to do.
Smoke became ours by the time he was a yearling. This, not because we wanted him, but only because our gelding had taken him under his wing and cared for Smoke. No matter what silly jokes Smoke played on Skip, Skip forgave him. Smoke was good at thinking of jokes, whether it was causing Skips knee to collapse by biting the back of it, or grabbing Skips tail. Smoke was always thinking of funny things to do.
When he was old enough to start riding, he was sent to a trainer who said he was the most difficult horse she had trained. She felt perhaps we should find a different horse. But no, we wanted Smoke. He was a fun horse for our family.
As time went by he played his tricks on anyone we rode next to. Grabbing their reins and refusing to let go, or reaching out and nipping a horses back leg if he could get close enough. Smoke had a great sense of humor. He started life with little respect for people and that lack of respect stayed with him forever.
He seemed to know who could really ride and who just thought they could ride. Woe to those who only thought they knew how to ride, he had a way of showing them they were not as smart as they thought. But if someone really did not know how, he was careful and trustworthy, although he might just go find some grass and refuse to move. For those of us who had some how been judged worthy, Smoke was a great ride. Never afraid, willing to go anywhere, able to learn pretty much anything.
Left brain extroverts are smart, funny, and great companions. I’d say, if you want a funny, smart aleck who is not afraid to let you know how he feels and is capable of giving you his all, a left brain horse is the one for you! Just make sure you get their approval first.

Sunshiny Weather

It’s been a sunshiny couple of days.
Rusty’s feet are ouchie after the cold spell. He’s feeling better, but is still not working, no matter how much he begs.
Sunshine is getting big!
Which has been reminding me that I need to work on getting him ready to ride! He’s going to be old enough for a light start this coming summer. I need some beautiful tack for him…
His tail is dragging in the mud, so it got braided. He’s loosing baby teeth! One of those bottom front teeth fell out in just the last couple of days. It was there last time I looked. He is learning to fetch, but only the curry comb handle. The dang cat was determined to be underfoot. So I put him on my shoulder to ‘help’ so he didn’t get run over. Sunshine took his second saddling, with a real saddle, very well! Even with the wind and cat. 🤦🏼‍♀️ He’s doing very nicely.
We’re working on giving to pressure, from reins and on his sides. As well as just getting used to the saddle.