Fixin’ Fence

Spring is come. The grass has been green for awhile now. Growing as much as it will on a year with no moisture to bring it up. It’s time for the cattle to go out to pasture.

We run on average about a month behind the usual schedule, the one that’s normal for most cattle people in the area. It works for us. The corn gets planted, the cows eat hay, the pastures have a chance to grow. In the fall we leave the cows out later too. There’s still grass to feed them and we don’t have to start feeding every morning until later. It works.

Every spring the fences need gone around. Make sure snow banks haven’t flattened miles of fence line. Repair the damage done by antelope and deer and elk over the winter. Keep up with normal wear and tear from cattle and age. It’s long, hot, boring work. Slowly covering every drop of fence line. Checking each and every post for missing staples. Patching and stretching loose wire as you go.

The pickup growls as we cruise through the pasture. Its big engine wanting to be free and roar down the road instead of idling along. Its impatience with the job builds as it guzzles gas and roots at the bit. A fourwheeler would be easier on the pocket book and get around the pasture with less jarring of my back. The steel posts bouncing in the back clanging against wire, fence stretchers, and the heavy post driver require more carrying capacity.

The ceaseless wind sings as it howls through the wires and cools the sun peaking through fluffy clouds. The clouds hint of possible rain, then laugh as they pass us by to give much needed moisture elsewhere instead.

My dog is happy to accompany me. She rides in back getting out when I do. Laying in the shade under the pickup or sniffing after scents only she recognizes. Like me, there’s no where else she’d rather be. Streaked with dirt and sweat, sore from the work and the rough ride, my muscles ache but the ache is of god use and ability to get the job done. The tired is well earned, the dog and I will both sleep well tonight. We know our worth and our ability. Neither of us is thought any less of for being female. We are simple good, capable workers.

The wide open empty prairie doesn’t care about sex. It only cares about strength. The weak it will smash, blow away with the ceaseless wind and glaring sun. Still happy to push anyone to insanity who can’t take the emptiness and being alone.

Arms straining, using balance to make up for a lack of brute strength I heft the pounder over my head and drive another post. The ground is soft but there is still satisfaction in a blow that drives the post halfway in the first try. Pausing to catch my breath and admire the sweeping views over undulating hills I think that there is nothing I would rather be doing. No cushy job that could take the place of open empty country and good hard work.

Post set, wire clips on, my dog and I climb back into the pickup and creep down the fence to find the next place in need of repair.


Doing Nothing

One of the most important things we can do with our horses during training is absolutely nothing.

Training is fun and can be exciting. Our horses want to be doing things all the time. When they do things they get rewards! Horses like rewards, otherwise it wouldn’t be a ‘reward’ would it. When we go out to work with them they start offering all the things they think might earn them a reward. We want one thing but they are offering kisses, pawing, picking up anything within reach.

It can get frustrating!

In order to avoid this we need to remember that we get more of behaviors that we reward.

When we want our horses to stand quietly and wait for us, we need to reward standing quietly and waiting! This can be hard to remember. We are wired to to look for something that we are doing. How can we reward being still when it isn’t doing something!

Just like treat manners standing quietly manners need to be taught and revisited regularly.

The next time you play with your horse pay attention to what is going on between tricks and be sure to take the time to wait patiently, stand quietly, and reward enthusiastically for doing absolutely nothing.

 

Here Rusty knows what is coming. He wants to get to it and get the job done. Instead we work on doing nothing, standing quietly without offering any behaviors. Just being still. It’s harder than one would think.



Oh Deer

This picture doesn’t look like much. It was a big problem though.

The grass is getting green. This is as green as things are going to get around here. It’s bone dry. The grass wont last long. While it is here there is no point in even trying to work out of the corrals where the horses can hear the sirens call and can’t even begin to focus.

Working with Rusty and Heildorf yesterday they stared high headed and intent off towards these trees.

Because I listen to my horses I asked what they saw over there? They couldn’t tell me, but they could tell me that there was SOMETHING over there. So I went to look. We have huge herds of deer that feed on our corn, wheat, hay ground, and pastures. Don’t let anyone convince you that wildlife and agriculture somehow don’t coexist. It’s no uncommon to count fifty head along our driveway coming home in the evening.

Today they were all here in among the buildings grazing happily in this tree row.

It was more than the horses could handle.

Once I realized what was there I tried to get a picture to show all of them. They were leaving as I got closer, they were smaller then the fence I had to try to get a picture through, and they blend in well with the brush.

You can’t see any deer in the picture. Trust me. I looked really close.

This is the reason I couldn’t get anything accomplished with my horses yesterday. Even if it doesn’t look like anything more than a picture of a fence and some trees.


Rewarding The Wrong Behaviors

My daughter is brilliant. I know all parents think that. You’ll just have to take my word on it.

My son is sweet, and darling, and a bit of a handful. He is emotional and tends towards full blown fits.

I like to think we manage to avoid issues most of the time with preventive maintenance. His sister likes to push his buttons though and is very literal in her interpretations and upset when he isn’t. It leads to meltdowns. I admit to asking her more often than I probably should, why she had to do that! Couldn’t she just let him be?

I admit also that I give him what he wants more than I should just to get him to stop. I know it’s wrong, I know the behavior that is being encouraged. I know better. But the screaming! Sometimes there are things you do to survive.

He’s a great kid, but pointing out the good qualities doesn’t help us to the point of this story.

His sister sits back watching as we try to avert meltdowns, or at least get hi to stop a tantrum. Then she looks at me with her big serious eyes and says “You just reinforced that behavior. Stop giving him what he wants when he cries and whines because that’s reinforcing him to do it”. You don’t know judgement until you’ve seen it from an eight year old who knows better. The horse groups on facebook are nothing in comparison.

With her strong positive punishment I am learning to do a better job of holding out and waiting until he does something that I want repeated and rewarding that.

Who knew this would be so hard. I’ll take horses any day over trying to train children. If only we could turn them out to pasture when we’re done playing. It would make child rearing a LOT easier.


Chewing

Have you ever sat and watched your horse eat?

It’s an amazingly enjoyable activity. Unlike people chewing a horses chewing is soothing and peaceful.

More than that though, it’s amazing to watch how they can sort anything that they don’t want out. First with their sensitive agile lips as the tear pieces of grass from the ground. The if any stray pieces have made it into their mouths they carefully spit it out the side as they chew. Coarse pieces of grass, leaves they don’t want to eat. In the process of chewing they slip out the ides of the lips without effort and seemingly without thought. Most of the time, nothing makes to to a horses belly that they don’t very much mean to make it there.

Watching horses eat can be an educational undertaking in other ways too. We can see what foods they like to eat, which grasses are tastiest. What plants are good. We can tell the basic condition of their teeth, if they are able to get a healthy bits and if the chewing process is efficient.

It never hurts to take the time to sit with your horses and watch them eat.

 

 



Roping

I got on Rusty for the first time today. He’s been feeling so good with his new shoes I thought I’d go ahead and ride him back from his time out to graze the yard.

It was so great to be back I decided we’d do a little roping.

He was willing but didn’t think I had the roping dummy set properly. Once he readjusted the dummy that I had placed badly roping practice went great. He hadn’t lost his touch while he’s been off work.


Single Center Whorl

For the Horse Whorl Page

The single center whorl is the most misunderstood whorl there is.

Most people look at the single whorl and expect to find a dependable, trustworthy horse, uncomplicated and the thing to look for in a horse.

And that is true. Sometimes. Maybe even most of the time.

The whorl only gives us a small piece of the picture though. Especially when it is a whorl that tells us almost nothing. When the whorl is a single center we have to look at the head shape to get any idea of temperament.

When the single center whorl is on a head with a straight profile, large jowls, and wide set ears, then yes, the horse will be everything we expect from a single center whorl.

Sometimes I will talk to people who can’t figure out why their horse with a single center whorl isn’t fitting the expectations. When I see a picture of the horse from the side there are large bumps between the eyes, deeply dished profile, or some other extreme that throws the idea of a single center whorl being quiet and dependable out the window.

While it is good to look for a single center whorl if you are looking for an uncomplicated horse it isn’t the only thing to look for. All parts of the horse need to be taken into consideration.