Last Sunday, after a good ride on Saturday morning, we took the horses out for some two-man sorting at Rancho Rio Stables by the Kern River. In this iteration of calf work, the cattle are numbered zero to nine and there are two pens about 40 feet across with an opening between the two. The cows are settled into the far end of one pen. Our job is to go in and, once we cross into the occupied pen we are given a number, then we start with that cow and move them sequentially into the empty pen. We have 90 seconds to move as many as we can (there are 10) and we're disqualified if we go out of order or one of our cattle goes back to the original pen.
The strategy is to have one rider at the "gate" to only allow the desired calf through the opening. The other rider cuts the correct numbered calf and drives it to the opening. The "gate" rider then moves out of the way to allow the calf through and then the two riders switch responsibilities. The "cutter" guards the gate and the "gate" rider becomes the "cutter".
The first couple of cows are the most difficult because some want to go out of order. We need our horses to move laterally and end-to-end quickly to block a cow from entering the catch pen before we want them to. The cutting part was easy and both horses are much better at this. The biggest problem was getting them "off" the cow to go back and get another.
Our first run had Ranae making the first cut and we got all the way to the second to the last calf before the timer called ten seconds and I left the gate to help get the last two calves through. Unfortunately, they went through out of order. The second run (we got three goes for $20 each) I made the first cut, but drove too many calves to Ranae and she couldn't block them all. Oops! Typical guy mistake. The third run, we went back to Ranae making the first cut and we got nine through before time was called.
It is a lot of fun. A little slower than the three man line sorting. Both Ranae and I liked that. You can use a little more horsemanship and your horse doesn't get an opportunity to build much speed and get out of control. The stable is suppose to have a day buckle series starting in June and we hope to participate (this was just a practice).
|"You wanna ride WHEN?!?!"|
Early Morning Rides
While I've only had three early morning rides, I did get to ride a third horse on Saturday and I'm really becoming a believer that riding multiple horses is essential to improving one's horsemanship. Already I'm noticing some techniques that need refining. Even seeing how the different horses react to the most basic exercise - flexing - is very interesting. I know I have to work on using my calf more instead of going to the spur, but I want the horses to respond "right now" and I using that as too much of a crutch. I want Dusty to stop quicker and draw back when he does. I want Jessie to be more supple and take off more collected in her canter departure.
Riding Dusty is helping me a lot because he knows far more than he lets on. He also neck reins. It gives me an opportunity to work on my equitation as well. Dusty's lope is far more comfortable than Jessie's and part of that is because he is just in more control. How do I translate that to Jessie? I'm not sure, but I know if I keep riding them both, I'll have a greater chance at figuring it out.
Dusty and I rode this morning and we did a lot more loping than last week. We averaged 4 1/2 mph over a 75 minute ride and we worked on a lot of 'whoas' and rollbacks. Tomorrow I'll take Jessie out and try and work on the same few exercises and see if what I learn on one horse helps me with the other.