Sunday, October 24, 2010

Obstacles for Maddie, and a Lesson in Patience for Kate

Just a quick update on this weekend's activities. (No pictures, as I only knew two people there, and they were riding.)

Hauled Maddie and Kate down to the neighboring city of Yakima ("the Palm Springs of Washington") to a little trail course that is set up at the Queen Bee Ranch. Weren't quite sure if it was going to be just practice time, instruction, or mini-competition. Basically, it ended up being practice time on a great assortment of obstacles, though most were not all that "natural."
Owner Gary required everyone to do plenty of preliminary groundwork before attempting the obstacles in the saddle, so since I haven't done a bloomin' thing with Maddie for almost two months, I started with her, and tied Kate nearby, where she could see all the goings-on, but not be in the way. (Hah!)

Gary subscribes to the tenets of natural horsemanship, and although there was nothing that I found objectionable (some of it I do use), his way isn't quite how my horses are trained. So Gary kept asking me to "send" Maddie through at the end of the leadrope, when she is used to me leading her, and trusts me more when I "set the example" of what I want her to do. If I had gone expecting instruction, maybe I wouldn't have gotten as frustrated with him as I did. At one point I was tempted to just load up and head home. But Gary didn't know me, or my background, so I tried to give him a little leeway to say what he needed to say, and compromise enough to at least give his methods a reasonable try. (One of the other riders from Ellensburg felt like she learned more from him in one day than she has working on her own in quite a while!)
Maddie was giving me lots of good efforts, so after about 45 minutes on the ground I decided to get on and try some of the obstacles where she was getting "stuck": two different "car washes" (one of wide cloth tapes and one of old sections of garden hose), several little "mazes" of irrigation/sewer pipes and barrels, and a "gauntlet" of branches, tires, pipes, railroad ties, plastic 55-gallon-drum-lids, etc. I warmed her up on the obstacles she had completed from the ground, a bridge, some pipes and beams to cross, the stair-step hill, then slowly worked through each of the more challenging ones.
I was really proud of her calmness and her effort!

Kate, on the other hand, was being a snot!
She is usually pretty happy tied at the trailer, but with all the goings-on, I thought she'd be better off at a post just outside the trail area.
Well, she pawed, and she screamed, and she busted the bottom rail of the fence.
The only thing I can figure is that she and Maddie rarely go someplace together, and Kate was just being buddy-sour (even though she could see Maddie the whole time). Gary offered to put her in his high-sided plywood round pen, where she wouldn't be able to see anything (or hurt anything), and I agreed that was what she deserved for her little tantrum.
She called a bunch at first, then seemed to settle down.

When I put Maddie up, probably two hours later, and went to the round pen to retrieve the now-quieter Kate, she had obviously worked up quite a lather, then rolled in the sandy pen. She was cool now, but filthy! I put on my rope halter with the 12-foot training lead, which would be better for ground work. (Gary had also criticized my choice of halters, but I had figured that she didn't need the "training " halter for standing tied.)
I wasn't sure I would even ride her, but we went in and started doing the requisite groundwork. Kate calmly negotiated the bridge, the cloth "car wash," several logs and pipes and the stair-step hill. But when she got "stuck" at the narrow planks, suddenly Gary was on my case again about my timing and my position and what not! I patiently listened to all his criticisms, then, when he turned away to "help" someone else I slung the lead over Kate's neck, tied it off to the halter, and used the bank to slide on to her back. Folks were starting to head back to their trailers and then up to the pot-luck lunch, so Kate and I pretty much had the area to ourselves.
I didn't want to do anything too exciting in just the halter, as I don't feel I have near as much control as in either a bridle or my bosal. I also worry about my balance on very steep hills even in the saddle, so we didn't do the stair steps or a couple of other more challenging obstacles but Kate proceeded to "run the gauntlet," cross the bridge, go through both "car washes," go down the cement paver "creek bed," and over several other wooden plank obstacles. About the only one I couldn't convince her to try was the very narrow teeter-totter (why go over something you can just as easily go around?).
Otherwise, Kate was cooperative and relaxed, so I called it good.

The rain that threatened all day never materialized, and we took the scenic Yakima Canyon Road both ways, for some lovely displays of autumn color. In the end, I'm glad I went (though I'm not sure I'll visit that particular venue again). It was, all-in-all, a good training opportunity for all of us.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Holy Cows!

Well, hellooo there!
Kate and I joined several KVTR's and a few others for a very informal cattle sorting day at the Standing W Ranch, outside of Ellensburg, owned by Eldon and Chloe Weidenbach.
If any of you remember the old Washington Mutual ads with the "Rodeo Grandmas," Chloe Weidenback was one of them, as was her then 82-year-old mother, Lorraine Plass.The idea behind cattle sorting is that a small herd of ten numbered calves is in one pen, and two riders move them to another--starting with the number called out by the judge, and going in order. One rider cuts the calf, while the other "guards" the gate, preventing the wrong calf from leaving. Then the riders switch, trading jobs on each consecutive calf. For today, there was no scoring or time limits--this was just for fun and experience.

Kate has lived "next door" to Hank's cattle for her whole life. I have taken her into the pasture a couple of times and walked among the cow-calf pairs, but we have never tried to actually move them anywhere. I was curious to see how she would handle the whole affair.

At first, Kate didn't want to have anything to do with the critters. There was quite a bit of avoidance behavior, including backing up, trying to leave, just not moving.
So I slowed way down: once I got her faced up, I would just let her stand for a few beats, to think about it, then ask for another step forward.
Watch her progress through this sequence (our second go, I think), compared to the red panel in the background. We're after the faded brown calf with the tan muzzle (#4), to the right here.
This was the first time she was willing to reach out and sniff one.
Once she was willing to move forward, we were able to turn to our right and separate out the brown calf and the black and white spotted guy.
Then put some pressure on #4, without pushing the black calf through (not sure where the black and white one went).
And out he goes!Guarding the gate was a different matter! Whether it was the one calf that our teammate was pushing into the other pen, or a couple that we were supposed to stop from sneaking through, as soon as Kate had a burly baby cow headed towards her, she put it into high reverse! I was glad she wanted to keep her eye on them--if she had spun away with the same energy, I would have been in trouble!

This was our best run of the afternoon, with my friend Debby, riding her little mustang, Wendy, (who could be a Kate clone, except that she's a buckskin, not a dun).
(The first time we rode with these two was the trip down to the Tri-Cities for the trail challenge on the Columbia River, back in 2008.)

By now, Kate was much more confident about moving into the little herd.
She split them in half,
...then moved in behind the group huddling in the corner.
Number 2, the smaller black calf on the right, had been a little bugger all day, scooting away just when a rider thought they had him cut out.
But, by golly, we got him where we wanted him!
Kate got a wee bit braver guarding the "gate," and on this run, actually cut off a few would-be escapists.
It was the one run (of five or six) that my partner and I actually got all 10 calves out, one at a time, in the proper order.
Woo Hoo!

Friday, October 8, 2010

Open For Business

Even in the early days of the economic recession, Washington State voters approved funding for the development of a "State Horse Park," on land donated (for write-off purposes, I'm sure) by the owners of a major resort being built outside of the "thriving" metropolis of Cle Elum. The location was centrally located for the whole state, and only about an hour east of the Seattle area, with easy access from both east and west on Interstate 90.

Late this summer, the Washington State Horse Park started hosting a few events, including an Arabian show, cowboy mounted shooters, a trail challenge clinic, and, coming up, a Pony Club clinic and "hunter pace."

The Kittitas Valley Trail Riders caravaned up to go on a "Fun Ride" sponsored by the Park Foundation itself, to let folks explore the area a bit and become familiar with the facitilies.

Here are some of the temporary stalls set up for now. Permanent barns will be constructed as funds are raised. Electric and water lines are already in, and RV hook-ups and nice wash stalls set up.

That's KVTR member Jennifer, with her two horses: her dad was in the registration line.

These pavilions were set up for registration (and later, serving lunch). They had expected perhaps 200-250 riders--total registrations: 519! It may have been the biggest ride of it's kind in the state for this season!
The one large arena that is currently fenced. KVTR member Warren, trying out the footing at the future site of a smaller arena.
On the trail: much of the area is fairly open evergreen woods like this.
[Underneath his chaps, Chuck has buckaroo boots with bright yellow tops that match his "glad rag" scarf!]The woods were thicker, with more deciduous trees, along a creek that will shortly join the Cle Elum River. This was fairly early in the ride, or I think we may have stopped to let the horses drink.
As it was, one rider had an equipment malfunction (his bit broke!), so once we resolved that issue (he borrowed a rope halter and rode his fairly cooperative gelding the rest of the way in that) we decided we needed to keep moving.
Riding a small ridge: we were a little surprised that there were some small hills--from the freeway the area seems to just be flat until you get farther north, towards the Easton Ridge
Kate's ears seem to be trying to compromise between the pink-white-and-blue ribbons that marked the trail, and the back end of Michelle's horse, that she was following.
Back across the flats to the developed area, for a lunch of homemade pulled pork sandwiches or pizza (which was brought in at the last minute as the number of riders multiplied!).
It was a beautiful day, and everyone could see the great potential of this location. If you have a chance to attend an event, be sure and take advantage of it!

Saturday, October 2, 2010

For Jean and Lucy and All Those SWEET Puppies!

I don't as a rule do flowers.I've got two brown thumbs.At our place in Spokane we had some great volunteer daffodils and tulips.As long as they can take care of themselves...But this year I threw some three-year-old seeds on the pile of well-composted manure up by the gate on the road. They came up! I pulled a few weeds (and probably a few flowers, too--that would be typical). They got watered with the pasture.I particularly like the contrast of the orange poppies and the blue bachelor buttons.
If I'm lucky, maybe they'll self-seed for next year.
[Congratulations to Lucy and her mid-wives Jean and Sue, on ten adorable puppies.]