Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Two Man Sorting and Early Morning Rides

Two Man Sorting

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.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Finally, The Days are Getting Longer

For the last two months I've been working out from 7:15 to 8:15 four times a week trying to get back into shape. I use a local physical therapy office that has a "health for life" program, so I am trained under the watchful eyes of trainers and PT's who have a real education in the mechanics of the body and will make sure (I hope) that I don't hurt myself. Why? So, when this time of the year came I would be ready to ride. I'm dropping the four-a-week for three-a-week workouts in May so I can ride Dusty (my wife's horse) on Tuesdays and Jessie on Thursdays. After May, I'll take the gym workouts off (I'll find another workout to replace it twice a week) for the summer. It's worked out fairly well. In order to do the workouts and be at work on time I have to get up at 5:30. After doing it for so long, it's not easy, but easier. And, if I'm getting up to spend time on the horse, it's even easier.

My wife, Ranae is taking Dusty to a Richard Winters clinic in July and at 17 we want him to be in good shape.  She wants me to put some miles on him and on Tuesday we worked on loping and long trotting.  Dusty is fairly well-trained and doesn't mind going out by himself.  He spooked at a few things, but after we did some rollbacks around the scary garbage pile, he kept his attention on me.  I ride him in a snaffle, but he neck-reins very well.  We also did a circle shoulder out and he seemed to know it better than I could cue it.  His lope is smooth.  He is not crazy about picking up the right lead so we worked on that.  He's a little lazy in the back up and we spent a few minutes backing both in a circle and straight.
Jessie, from our photo shoot.

It was great to be out early.  The air was cool.  There were some farm machines working near the fields we use and Dusty stayed calm.  We rode for about an hour fifteen and the gps registered a little over four miles.

This morning was Jessie's turn.  Jessie likes to move along and I don't have a problem with that.  When we are out alone, her head is on a swivel trying to check everything out.  We had planned to do the same loop that Dusty had done (We ride to a field about 1 1/2 miles away where the ground is pretty good), but a dog had us take a little detour.  I carry my stock whip and pepper spray, but still think it's best just to avoid them.

We got to our spot more quickly than with Dusty and because Jessie's attention was sometimes off with the fairies and we had this very wide road, we did the serpentine exercise.  That helped a lot and she is getting better.  When we did our lope in the circle she was much better than last Sunday's ride.  Her speed was better and I've been working on laying the rein on her neck to turn the circle.  She was doing that much better as well.  We did a few rollbacks (gawd, she's horrible at them - or is it me?) and then some lead changes through the middle (much improved).  Her stop in the soft stuff is crisp and sharp.  We loped for 10-12 minutes doing different maneuvers throughout that time.  As this was our first time out, I didn't want to do too much.  I'm still formulating what I'm going to work on and where.

We rode for the same hour and fifteen as Tuesday only the gps registered six miles.  She hardly worked up a sweat.  Guess I'm going to have to work on that.  My ass is a bit sore from the riding too.  Back and neck muscle are tight I guess from the loping.  It's lovely riding early.  It's great to ride two different horses so close together.  I think they will help me learn a lot.  I'm just hoping my body and our horses can hold up to it.