Fall Ride

The last few days Rusty has been calling demandingly every time he hears me come out of the house. It’s been a busy week and I haven’t been able to answer his calls. Today I had the chance.

I let him out to graze for awhile, get the craving somewhat fulfilled so we could work without fighting the need for grass. When I came back for him he happily left the grass to play with me.

After some ground work, the children who had been ‘helping’ me went off to ride in the combine. All the kids. That’s our two and one cousin, squeezed into the combine with my husband. Apparently they fit. With everyone occupied I saddled up Rusty. Of course by the time I had the saddle out clouds had come in and it was rapidly cooling. The effort involved in getting the saddle out is always well punished. I saddled up anyway.

Rusty set out at a good walk, with a few small spooks and leaps thrown  in. A cool windy day like this wouldn’t allow for anything different. Each time he went sideways the saddle and I nearly came off the other direction. When I got off to open  the gate into the cow pasture the saddle came clear over with me. I managed to land on  my feet and pushed it back onto his back. We usually ride with a ridiculously loose cinch, but that was a bit much with a hot pony on this cold day. I tightened my cinch.

Through the gate I led him to another gate to get on. Rusty stepped over to the gate nicely for me. He got tired of waiting as I tried and tried to flip my reins over his ears and left. I followed him through the corral calling him a few names, like sweet darling Rusty! What else would I ever call him?

Halfway across the corral he noticed me back there and turned walking up to me as sweet as could be, happy to have someone to visit with.

I put the reins over his head before climbing onto the fence and we rode off through the cows.

The ones that are home already are turned out on wheat stubble from this years wheat crop. They disked it lightly and fall rains brought up nice green grazing that will hold up to the cold weather. The cows are loving it. I asked Rusty to trot with the silly thought of continuing our work on speed control. We’ve been working on differentiating between an extended trot and bringing it down  to a slower speed. This was not the time or place to work on it.

He was very willing to trot, but thought maybe I’d prefer a nice lope? I had nothing against that. He leapt happily into a lope then kept leaping. As he crow hopped along into the wind my hat was trying  to blow away. There wasn’t a spare hand to hold it on as I needed both hands to keep Rusty to controlled leaps. Another thing it was not the time or place for. We came back to a walk.

It’s never a good thing to charge through the middle of the herd anyway. They all looked good. My cows were all there. The calf that had been limping was walking much better.

Through the next gate we kept going into the cold wind. The brown and pink  hues of fall were subtly beautiful under the dark cloudy sky. I was wishing I had brought a hat or gloves. It was no longer warm enough for a sweatshirt. I had gone through the effort of putting a saddle on  though, we were going to ride even if I froze solid.

In  a big loop we circled the alfalfa, passed the grain truck, paused to eat some corn, then back to the yard where we did work on trot transitions out of the wind a little and with less room to tempt long hard gallops. Two or three times of feeling distinct hesitations when I asked him to slow down and we called it good for the day. I turned him out and hurried inside to try to bring some feeling back  to my hands.

The children  all followed shortly behind me. As fun as the combine had been hey were all about to fall asleep so they got out and ran home when a pass brought them near the house.




Words Of Encouragement

I don’t talk  to my dad very often. Not because I don’t love him, I do! He’s a great dad. Neither of us are much at the phone thing though.

We had one of our rare conversations the other day. I said how much I had appreciated that he took me out with him to work on vehicles with him when I was younger. I liked knowing how to change my own oil and check fluid levels, it’s good to have some vague idea what’s going on under there even if I don’t apply that knowledge regularly.

Then he told me something that I guess I knew but  that the actual hearing of meant so much to me. Now I think about it every time life gets hard or I need to do something I’m not sure of.

He said that he had loved taking me out to work with him. That he had wanted me to be capable and confident, an able woman who could take care of herself and do whatever needed done. Now look at me, it had worked. He was proud of me for being able to do what needed done and not dependent on someone else to do everything for me. Not just working on cars, but in  all aspects of life.

I nearly cried.

Now every time I am faced with something I don’t know how to do, times when I don’t know what comes next or how to go about it, times when I don’t think I can do it and am tempted to wait and ask someone to do it for me or just give up, I remember that my dad is proud of me, that he thinks I can do it, and I dig in and do everything I can to get it done.

Be that encouragement in peoples lives. Tell them when you are proud of them, offer support and encouragement. You could make the difference between success and failure for them.


Clicker Training Cows?

We brought the small bunch of cows home today.  Just twelve pair and a bull a couple of miles from home. All of my cow calf pairs are inn this  bunch. I like to have them in the bunch I keep an eye on, plus I get to play with Poppy over the summer that way.

I’ve received a few sideways glances for my clicker training with Poppy. No one has said anything but I sense some wonder about why. I don’t blame them.I often wonder if there’s any point. I don’t have a goal with here, we’ve done some targeting and manners training. I’m out of ideas after  that, but it’s fun to play with her.

We got to  the pasture bright and early. I drove one fourwheeler with both kids and my husband and his father brought the pickup and trailer with the other two fourwheelers. No horses this time ;( It can be  hard to make them work logistically. Children are easier carried on  fourwheelers too.

There was one calf who has been limping for the last week. We didn’t want to make him try to walk home, so we dropped a rope on him and loaded him in the trailer. He could wait there until we got the herd home then get a ride. As we worked on that the cows took one look at us and headed for the proper corner. They knew it was time and which way to go. That wouldn’t normally be surprising,  cows are very able to learn routine like that, even if it’s only carried out once a year. But this is twelve cows out of a herd of about two hundred. What are the odds of getting the same twelve? Poppy has been there before and one other of mine. The other two are first calf heifers. They had not been there. That leaves eight head that may or may not have done this before and Poppy was not in the lead.

We finished loading the calf and followed the cows to the corner. there was a little gate, very narrow and not in the corner. Also not a gate they’ve ever been out. They usually go into the pasture next door and home with those cows. The pasture was sold though and we don’t have it rented this year. They were going on their own for the first time. We gathered them into the corner and waited. That’s what you do with cows, guide them in the right direction  and wait. Yelling and running around making a fuss  only gets them worked up and less likely to find the way you want them to go and far more likely to go over fences and the opposite direction.

Nobody would step through the gate. A couple looked, stuck their noses through but didn’t want to take that step. We waited, crowding a little closer. Poppy took her turn to sniff the opening.

I had an idea.

Clearing it with my husband before breaking cow moving protocol so thoroughly, I walked around the little herd t the side we wanted them to go to. Searching through the dead dried grass I found a few blades of green, then I stood and called Poppy.

From the other side of the fence she sniffed curiously. We had brought her and ear of corn this morning. I like to bring her special treats and thought it wouldn’t be a bad idea to have her primed to come to us. What great foresight 😉 Stepping through an  unfamiliar gate was scary but she finally took that chance and licked the grass from my hand. That was all it took. As though a great barrier had been broken the other cows flowed through behind her.

I walked out of their way and stepped back over the fence to get my trusty mount.

The rest of the trip home went without indecent despite a whole field of hunters and needing to cross a highway. Now they are home where we can feed them and they have shelter for the snow that’s supposed to start tonight. Only the big bunch left to go. They will be fine in their big pasture with a creek bottom and trees for shelter. They can enjoy being wild a little longer before they come home and domesticate for the winter.


“(A) form of pressure that you exude is when you think you are in a contest of wills and you must always win. On the contrary, I believe we must strive to never fight with a horse. Our predator instincts could unexpectedly trigger inappropriate action – that is,  we might do the wrong thing, and it might harm our future abilities to be with and work with a particular horse. ”   ~ Sharon Wilsie, Horse Speak The Equine-Human Translation Guide

Training with dominance leads us to feel that we need to dominate.

Our actions are guided by our thoughts. If we think of our horses as needing to submit we will treat them differently than if we think of them  as students that we are responsible for instructing carefully and lovingly.


Children and Horses, 3

If training horses is like raising children…
No matter how we raise our children or train our horses it is guaranteed that they will embarrass us if people are looking.
Our horses can have a trick down. Perform it flawlessly time after time. As soon as we try to show someone they will have no clue what we are talking about.
Our children can be perfect little angels. As soon as we take them out in public they will scream and cry and fight.
It’s some kind of law I believe. A requirement for horse and child alike.
It’s important to remember this before we judge. Remember what it’s like when you do things with your horses and children and how very difficult it is, before deciding someone else is failing as a parent or trainer. Life is difficult. We don’t need to make it worse. Offer kindness and consideration before condemnation. Offer help before criticism.


Children and Horses, 2

If training horses is like raising children…
Yes, children who are told no and yelled at often can be just as rotten as those who are raised in a more positive manner. Or worse (https://www.facebook.com/permalink.php?story_fbid=952096658481512&id=309985332692651) They can also be very well behaved though.
One reason for that can be learned helplessness.
Many horses can act scared of nothing, they go about life unaware and uninterested in their surroundings, taking anything their rider has to offer without questioning. This is so often brought on by learned helplessness. They learn there is no escape, no point in fighting, they give up and pull deep into themselves, plowing through anything they are ask to, numb to the fear.
This can happen with children too.
I was talking to a lady who was reminiscing that maybe they shouldn’t have been so hard on their oldest child. He had been spanked regularly for little things like accidentally spilling his milk glass at the dinner table.
I cried inside upon hearing that.
Were their children well behaved? Yes. As long as they were under the parents thumb and the learned helplessness was kept up.
Like horses once the learned helplessness is no longer maintained children can wake up, come out of it with all the resentment and pent up anger that being raised in such an oppressive environment will build. It can lead to rebellion against their parents as soon as they taste freedom, running wild and doing all the things their parents were trying to avoid with their overbearing behavior.
There are abundant stories about horses is sold, from a trainer, who carefully maintains the learned helplessness, to a new owner who was searching for that dead broke, safe, dependable horse they thought they had found. Only for the horse to suddenly start bucking and spooking at everything.
Quiet and well behaved is not worth being forced into submission. Dependability and trust are better earned through other methods.

Raising Our Children/Horses

From the very beginning I thought that raising children must be like training horses. Turns out I was right
I was watching my children at one of the many activities that our lives revolve around. The parents around me were talking about life, children, everything under the sun.
As usually happens one of them was the loudest and most outspoken. It was impossible for me not to hear everything she had to share with the world.
Someone had been trying to tell her how children could be taught in a positive manner. They had said that parents should tell children what they should do instead of yelling at them when they do the wrong thing.
Sound at all familiar?
She was telling her captive audience how silly and pointless that was. She had four children to raise, she didn’t have time for that.
I laughed, on the inside, as I heard that. The child she was there with was running rampant about the area getting into no end of trouble.
It was good to see that her methods worked for her
I’ve noticed much of the same thing about the people who tell me that positive reinforcement wont work for horses either. They tell me that it will create biting monsters. That horses will never behave unless we show them who’s boss and make sure we are dominant. It’s the natural way of the horse world.
So much of the time, as they are saying these things, their horses are doing exactly what they just described, no treats involved.
It can be easy to project our fear of failure and feelings of incompetence onto others. To think that if we can’t get our horse, or children, to listen using the method we are, than there’s no way anyone else could get them to in any other way.
Just because we can’t do something doesn’t mean it can’t be done, just that we don’t know how yet. If what you are doing now isn’t working take a chance, try something new.



It’s been a crazy busy last few weeks and I haven’t gotten anything posted! Things are slowing down a little and I hope to get caught up, there are lots of things going on that I wanted to talk about, just didn’t get a chance. Until then, here’s more time playing with Rusty.
In the Horse Tricks Academy this month we’ve been concentrating on doing less while working with our horses and here I am doing as little as possible to while playing with Rusty.
So often people tend to over cue, offer way more help than needed, and generally muddy up communication with our horses.


Getting the halter on Ghost for the first time.
This one is a little old.
I could have held her still long enough to pull the halter on quick and get it fastened before she could get away. Probably. But I don’t want to do it that way. Not completely. We did end up with a little bit of that once she was more comfortable with the halter.
Instead we worked on letting her get used to it all around her head then eating her treat through the nose piece.
Once the halter was on I did not start pulling on it. if the halter goes on and then lots of fun stuff happens, tricks and treats, then the halter becomes associated with those things and is a great fun thing to put on.