We are trailing the cattle. Letting our horses hook on so they learn to shape themselves and stay with the cow. My horse tries a couple of times. “Don’t PULL on your horse!” I can hear it but I can’t stop myself from doing it.
High hands make for a high head . . . as seen below. In the red shirt are day 2 photos but unfortunately, that stayed with me.
Eventually I can stay out of Royal’s way enough he catches a piece of it, shapes to the cow and follows. If only I could have relaxed enough to put my hands down and trust my horse. That’s huge, you know. Trust.
Most of us in the cattle working clinic are just here to learn better horsemanship. A tiny few of us work with cattle as part of everyday life, another small more play with them in sport.
The rest of us? We don’t see a cow except the ones breathing fire in a nearby field. We are here to learn how to shape our horses, to ride them in a different type of environment, acquire a new skill.
It’s because Peter taught me how to get Royal to look at a thing he feared I was able to survive years two and three parking cars on him. Shaping his body as if we were mirroring a cow on lonely trail ride after trail ride helped prepare us both how to control his feet when he wanted to spin and bolt some other way.
Just as most of what Peter teaches in horsemanship applies to life, what he teaches us in cattle working applies to horsemanship in whatever endeavor we wish to pursue.
I am becoming aware of how much I pull on Royal’s mouth. It’s one of my very pet peeves when I am with a group of riders and someone tries to send their horse forward only to rock backward and pull them up the moment they try to comply. Here I find me; doing things I really hate to see in others. Go figure.
I am also becoming aware that what I was thinking of taking him on the corner (that means one rein operating a quarter but not necessarily to a stop) is pretty different from what I have actually been doing. Perception not the same as reality? You don’t say.
Getting it straight in my head maybe the first time ever how to move his hind in order for his front to come through, how to set the outside front foot over to make room for the hind. I know you guys have heard me talk about this stuff before, it just all fell into place in a rather magical way for us. We were ready.
Position for the transition. Again, not just for horses.
Backing in circles, half circles, spending the afternoon figuring out how to be a partner has affected a change in Royal and I both. It’s easier to get us thinking now. I ask for a foot whether it’s on the ground or in either saddle and it’s where I want it to be without a lot of static attached.
We did an exercise in which we proceeded down the rail, made a half circle, leg yielded to the rail and loped a small circle the other direction. Most of us have been trained to cue for the canter by putting back our outside leg. I have always hated that cue, felt awkward and off balance with it. Peter wants us to cue with both legs. If the horse is set up correctly to take the proper lead, has been gotten READY, then lope off on the right lead he will.
Again, things are to be done smoothly. You are not to drag your horse by the reins, not allow him to cut in or push through your leg. If the hind is set up correctly, the shoulder does not drop.
First time, I cue the way I always do. It’s a habit. Awkward, but we lope around in some semblance of a circle. We can do that.
I try to configure my body to be able to sit deep, leg yield and prepare to lope off. It takes some tries, mostly we do lope a circle, only once or twice did I get in Royal’s way enough to get him cross firing or on the wrong lead.
Finally I am ready. Both legs. I set them to my horse with vigor! Bam, he about leaps out from under me in surprise and we have a little gallop about. Okay, do less next time.
I prepare again. Less. I breathe the energy into my legs after a rather pretty leg yield and Royal lopes elegantly in a nice even circle.
What does this have to do with cows, you might ask? They were over there, waiting for us. All day.
I had the days mixed up in my earlier blog, the long day was the third day. I was having a pretty good time and an extra long day with Peter teaching is frosting on a really good cake.
When we finally get around to the cattle working class, I am still pretty happy about the whole two legged balanced loping circles thing.
We are not so good at cows. None of us. Peter tries again and again to help us not lose our cow back into the herd. A few of the riders can hold theirs for a couple turns, most of us not so much.
Finally, exasperated Peter sends the cows away. Uh oh, we have lost our cows . . . He gathers the riders in group in the middle, selects me (rather spectacularly unhandy at this, speedily losing our cow) and a fellow who is one of the better hands. Wha?
A how and how not to exercise coming up, I wonder?
Peter explains as to how he is going to be the clinic rider, one of us will be the cow.
“Terri, you be the cow.” He says. (I do know there is nothing personal behind this, he just knows I can lope my horse and probably not die.)
Really? I look down at my spotted horse, over at the cattle . . . hmm, I can see the resemblance. A gleeful imp of naughtiness grows behind my eyes.
Peter will ride an inside circle around the group, keeping his “cow” from rejoining the herd. The other gentleman will be the hazer and prevent the cow from escaping off into the arena.
?Oh yeah? says the cow.
I do swear I heard Peter say “ok get ready, set and lope.” I swear upon all that is holy I thought that is what he said.
With a big, bovine grin on my face I set Royal into a spanking lope and off we go. I look back, they are left in the shadow of my cowy dust.
I suspicion they will soon be upon us and like any good cow who suspects capture, I pick up the pace. I click up Royal who is with me in joy. We sail about the group in a very merry chase all by our onesies, much to the amusement of my on looking herd.
“Okayyy, that’s enough.” As I ride by, Peter catches my eye, shaking his head. Knowing when it’s time to stop being a naughty cow is an important survival skill and we stop immediately.
Peter straightens his face but I can see the laughter in those eyes and Trina pointedly avoids looking at me, I am pretty sure we’d have busted out in giggles unbecoming to the moment . . .
We get back to business but ya know, if ya gotta be a cow, be a NAUGHTY cow!