Saturday, August 27, 2011

Ladies Night #6: Wet Cows and No Riding

We returned to Fiddleback Ranch for Ladies Night #6 on a humid and rainy evening.  Tonight was an evening I'd been looking forward to for many weeks. We'd be working on moving cows, first on foot and then on horseback.  We were a full house tonight with our Ladies Night riders as well as two additional guests.

Gathered in the humid covered arena while the rain dripped outside were a dozen riders on foot.  My Cowgirl Pal, Lisa and I had hauled our horses in my rig.  We were directed to leave our horses in my trailer until it was time to ride.

Looking around I noted two other Cowgirl Pals who have attended sorting events with me.  That made four of us (and our horses) who have previously been exposed to cows.  As for the remaining eight, it would be interesting to see how they and their horses reacted to this new experience.

Cows had been delivered to Fiddleback Ranch, compliments of Rachel's "significant other", Ken.  Owning and operating a stock hauling business with a rodeo bull breeding business on the side, Ken had generously donated the cows for tonight.  Who better to talk to us about moving cows but someone like Ken?

Initially Ken explained the various types of cows (bulls, steers, etc.) and then some of their personality traits including a cow's bubble.  A cow's bubble is the space between you and a cow where your presence prompts him to move forward, sideways or to retreat.  Your presence around the bubble can also halt the cow.  Ultimately it is how you push a cow's bubble that makes the cow react.  In addition, contrary to what some may say - cows are not stupid and can easily outsmart those who try to individually direct (move) them.

Ken demonstrated the bubble and showed us how he could determine which way a cow would move, stop, etc.  We broke into two groups to try it on our own.  I joined Rachel and my team up at the outdoor arena while the other team remained with Ken. 

Moving them on foot was easier said than done!  I'd never had an opportunity to work them on foot; I've always been up on Bob.  I found I had to slow down my motions, if I moved quickly and invaded their bubble I'd move them where I didn't want them to go.  I recognized and appreciated how much easier it is to move them on Bob vs on foot. 

It took a long time for us to all get through moving cows on foot.  As those who had never worked cows before got on their horses, Lisa suggested that tonight we sit this ride out.  She pointed out that we and our horses have had more experience with cows so we should let those who have never been around cows have this night's ride.  Although I was a bit disappointed, I had to agree with her.  I knew I'd get more out of this evening on foot, assisting in moving cows into the arena for the rider and learning how to read their bubbles than I would on Bob's back.

And that's exactly what I did although I have to say as often as I did it, I still didn't do it as well as I would have liked.  Soon there were only two riders left to introduce their horses to cows.  It was dark and raining and Lisa and I found this a good time to make our exit and get our horses home and out of the trailer they'd been in (poor guys)!

I have to admit this night wasn't one of those +10's like I've had before.  I felt strange not riding Bob.  However, I did get more time in on foot than the others so I still consider it a good evening.

Ladies Night #7 is coming up.  It's our last Ladies Night of the season.  We'll be back at Fiddleback Ranch where we will actually be sorting cows.  We've been separated into two groups and will come and ride at separate times.  My group consists of my Cowgirl Pals who have sorted cows before.  We'll be the first group to work the cows.  After a break the second Ladies Night group will haul in to sort.  This group consists of those who haven't sorted cows in the past. 

Knowing we are breaking into two groups for our final Ladies Night means that our nights of riding together are now over.  That makes me sad.  I will miss the special bond with these women and the fun we've had.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Ladies Night #5: Brave Heart

Ladies Night #5 was held at Fiddleback Ranch instead of the barn where we've been meeting in the past.  Our new location, nestled up in the woods of the Cascade Foothills, required hauling the Ladies Night horses over to the ranch.  Those who have their own "rigs" filled their trailers with those who don't so we could get everybody there.

Arriving at Fiddleback I found myself parked alone on the upper circular driveway of the ranch due to the length of my rig while everybody else parked on the lower road.  Parking up there made it easy when I leave because I only need to drive forward to get out onto the road vs trying to back up.  Trust me, backing up this 4-door pickup and 3-horse slant isn't much fun.

This Ladies Night would be focused on trail course obstacles.  The owners of Fiddleback are active in the American Competitive Trail Horse Association (ACTHA).  They had generously set up a trail course which they use for practice.  On this night we'd be exposing our horses to all sorts of different obstacles.  Tonight would challenge the trust between horse and rider, at times to its extreme limit.

As usual unloading Bob and getting him ready went fine until....There was the most horrible sound that came out of the woods behind us.  It was like a terrible scream and was immediately followed by what I recognized as Coyotes howling in the brush, surely not more than just feet from us.

We have Coyotes here at home and they've never harmed the horses; however, their proximity had me concerned.  And that prior was just awful.  It raised the hairs on the back my neck and gave me goosebumps.

I looked wide-eyed at Bob and he looked wide-eyed back at me.  I still chuckle at how we immediately looked at each other.  Bob was checking in with me to see if it was ok and I was looking at him in fright.  So much for being the leader of this team, I was just as scared as Bob!  My fright confirmed to Bob that something was wrong.  He became agitated at the trailer.

I hurried to get us ready and down to the lower driveway where everybody else was gathering.  Tonight I was about to expose Bob to all sorts of unknown obstacles.  I had planned to have our evening start out in an assured atmosphere.  So much for that.

On our way down to join our Ladies Night buddies, Bob spooked at various things he encountered along the way.  The coiled hose was a snake; the big rock was a monster, etc.  I calmly hand walked him around the snakes and monsters until he accepted them and settled down.

Brave Heart

The Ladies broke into two teams.  We would hand walk our horses through the unique trail obstacles to begin with.  My team returned to the upper road.  Bob didn't think that was such a great idea but back we went.

Being in the comfort of others, I felt assured.  I tried my best to exhibit how I felt to Bob.  In the outdoor arena we walked across a wooden bridge and over logs.  Bob had settled down and did fine on those obstacles.

Brave Heart

The last obstacle was a curtain of swimming pool styrofoam noodles which we must walk through.  Bob didn't like the noodles bumping against him as he passed through.  He initially balked and then snorted and rushed through the noodles.

Not so Brave Heart

Each time we passed through I praised him and then turned him around and took him through the curtain again.  We did this multiple times and eventually Bob figured out that it wasn't going to hurt him.

Brave Heart

I grabbed a single noodle and rubbed it all over him.  Bob's eyes got big and his skin twitched but he stood still.  Eventually his eyes quieted and his body relaxed.  I heard the sound I love about Bob, that a big slobbering sigh.

Brave Heart

Changing places with the other team, we now went into the covered arena and exposed our horses to additional challenges.  We came upon a child's pup tent with dried branches in it that rattled.  Bob was curious and lowered his head to smell it and then picked up the tent in his mouth and shook it.  Silly horse!

A large blue tarp on the ground with poles on top was a concern for many of the horses.  Bob calmly walked back and forth over it, carefully stepping over the poles.  He acted as if the tarp wasn't even there.

A passage way that consisted of two walls of tarps was met as if Bob was walking into a stall.  No concern.

The big bouncy ball was rolled in front of Bob.  He was curious about the ball and assumed his cow stance behind it, trying to herd it.  I was concerned he might nip at it but thankfully he didn't.

A huge multi-colored umbrella awaited us.  After letting Bob smell it I opened and closed it and then held it over our heads as if it was raining.  Bob cocked his back leg and let out another slobbering sigh.

Brave Heart

We mounted our horses and meandered around the arena, now approaching the obstacles on horseback.  Suddenly that awful screaming sound came out of the woods again followed by more Coyote howls.

Many of us looked up when we heard that awful sound.  That's when one (savvy) Ladies Night rider calmly remarked, "Mules".  Again the sound came down out of the woods, now followed by hee-haws and then howling.

I calmly remarked, "Coyotes".

There were mules pastured back behind the woods.  As for the Coyotes, they were indeed in the brush, howling back at the mules.  What was so scary earlier to me was now comical and made me grin.  I had to wonder if that's how Bob felt about those noodles.  I wondered if horses can laugh at themselves.  I'm thinking so.

Dusk was quickly falling as we loaded up our horses and headed home.  As I drove home the sky was black with just a tiny speck of bright red on the horizon of the Olympic Mountain range.  A big old full moon was coming up over Mount Rainier and the Cascade Mountains.  It saddened me to know that fall was just around the corner and we only had two more Ladies Nights left. 

I've learned so much!  This night had taught me how important it is to be the leader of you and your horse.  And even if I was afraid I was pleased to see how Bob had turned to me for leadership.  Lastly I was pleased to find he's the kind of horse who checks something out and once confirmed its ok, accepts it and moves on.  That's the kind of horse I had hoped he'd be and I couldn't be more pleased to call him mine.

Brave Heart

Monday, August 15, 2011

Ladies Night #4: Riding to Music

I've been errant on postings.  Life sometimes happens and it pulled me some other directions.  Glad to be back.

Two weeks ago Ladies Night #4 was focused on riding to music.  Each of us had been asked to provide a song for the evening.  It was a lot of fun to hear what each of us had chosen. 

For Bob and I, I'd chosen the song, "You and Tequila" by Kenny Chesney.  It's kinda of a slow song, where one doesn't move much quicker than a trot...just right for Bob and I who haven't gotten our wings yet at the lope.

This warm Ladies Night reminded me of a when I was a teenager.  We used to have sleepovers where we played our favorite songs all night long. 

As with past Ladies Nights, there were a lot of smiles and giggles over songs we'd chosen and those Rachel, our leader, had chosen for us.  No pomp and circumstance with this bunch of ladies.  A true sign of Ladies Night bond are how many of us who sang proudly (and loudly off key) to our favorite songs as we rode.

This Ladies Night found Bob and I a little worn out after almost ten days of hauling some place every other day.  After a few hours of riding this warm night, I found I'd rather stand than sit and I'm sure Bob felt the same.

The Ladies of Night #4:

Since Ladies Night #4 two weeks have passed.  Ladies Night #5 was moved to a drop in trail class.  Bob and I didn't attend, taking some time off from the busy schedule we've had.  However, that hasn't stopped us from having some good rides at home.

Tonight is Ladies Night #6.  We'll be gathering at Fiddleback Ranch to experience their trail class.  Only two more Ladies Nights left after tonight.  I can see such a change in the seasons as darkness comes earlier at each week's gathering.  A sure sign that Fall is on its way.