Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Baby Season

So..what happened? Was I just teasing you with promises of a comeback? No, no, nothing like that. It's just been really busy up at the ranch. But it's a good kind of busy.

This is officially 'Baby Season'. There are seven little foals out in the pasture -- two fillies and five colts! -- and four calves out in the herd. Which means that most of my weekends thus far were spent riding through the tall pasture grass, searching for hints of black or brown that may or may not be a newborn tucked away. It also means moving the cattle from one pasture to another. All of which I adore, but it leaves little time to spend with my painted pony.

More than I want to learn to be a team penner, or a competitor, I want to learn the life of the rancher. I honestly don't care if I ever win a thing out there in the arenas; to me, getting the chance to gallop across an open pasture to turn a herd, or calmly search for the calves in their secret grassy cradles, or ride a fence line looking for gaps and faults -- that's bliss!

I even crave the parts I don't like (like cutting the horns and castrating the bulls) because I learn so much. And this past weekend, I discovered another part of ranch life that I dislike: stacking hay. Not because it's hard work (I like the hard work, and I've stacked hay plenty of times before), but because when move hay on a ranch, you inevitably run into mice and their nests.

Now, I'm not afraid of mice at all. But I detest moving a bale and uncovering a nest of babies that will need to be moved (if I can move them without the others catching me) or are accidentally brushed aside or, worse, stepped on or crushed by the bales in the process. I hate, hate, hate this, because you can't stop working, and it just can't be helped. My stomach sank every time we disturbed one of these nests, but all I could do was apologize and keep stacking hay ("Forgive us for these tiny lives that were lost..").

It isn't that I can't do the dirty, often difficult tasks when they need to be done. It's when the deaths are pointless and unavoidable. It's situations like these that are my biggest obstacle while working at the ranch. As I've mentioned before, I'm sometimes forced to walk the edge of my own personal morals and beliefs (such as that every life, no matter how small, is precious and should be respected), and "the way things are." Most of the time I can find a way to compromise, but sometimes -- as with the little mice nests -- it's more difficult.

But! I am lucky that the trainer that I'm mentoring under is more compassionate and respectful toward his animals than many I've met in the past. And everyone at the ranch is not only extremely nice, but they genuinely care about the animals, so I'm very fortunate.

Aside from Baby Duty, I've also spent my weekends practicing on cattle. There's another penning this weekend, and I'm hoping to compete. I can feel myself getting better, but I still have a very long way to go.

I will post pictures and names of the babies soon! Right now names are being tossed around, and haven't really settled yet.

As for Kachina, her training is coming along well, and she's getting big! I think she's already as tall as Maverick, and growing still. She's going to tower over her big brother very soon! I probably won't be able to take pictures of her this weekend, due to the penning, but they're coming. Promise.

Oh! And Kachina turned three on May 5th (she was deprived of a birthday party, however I did talk my trainer into giving her a few cookies on our behalf). I can't believe it's been more than a year since I got her (18 months, to be exact), and a whole year since I put her in training. Can't wait to see her progress this year!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Earning Your Salt

I'm sure you've heard the saying more than once. Once upon a time, when it was not the abundant resource it is today, the Roman legions used to be paid in salt, hence the saying "earn your salt." Aside from being an excuse for a history lesson, it's also a favorite of my trainer's ("earn your salt," "worth your salt," "if you've got any salt"...). And Saturday, we definitely earned our share.

My trainer picked up about thirty head of new longhorns last week. We spent all day doctoring on about sixty head -- shots, wormer, antibiotics to those who needed and, in some cases, cutting horns. On days like that, I really start to feel like a ranch hand. It's a thrill, however, when we can all work together smoothly to get such a large task done without any hitches, and keep everyone -- cattle, horses and humans -- safe and relatively calm.

The days when we doctor are some of the hardest at the ranch for me. Not because of the physical work, which is hard but enjoyable, but because it forces me to balance my own beliefs and ethics with what's necessary on a ranch. Sometimes it's a razor edge. However, I can say that my trainer and those that work with us treat the animals' welfare as a top priority. He has a lot of respect for his cattle. Still, it isn't always easy. I can't imagine the strength of character of a person who can watch the birth of an animal, raise it with care and respect, and sell it for slaughter, or even slaughter it themselves. I'm not sure that, at this point, it's something I could do.

On a lighter side, after the work was finished I was able to take Kachina for a walk and do a little bonding. It was a beautiful, sunny day, and the grass is tall and green. Luckily, I had my phone on me so I was able to snap a few shots.

Kachina looks perfectly content munching on the grass, watching the cows we'd just spent the day doctoring on as they relaxed in the pasture:

Tuesday, March 30, 2010


First, let me say that I'm really, really sorry for not updating for such a long time. I received a lot of inquires about Kachina -- was she alright, did I still own her, is she still in training -- and I want to thank you all for your concern for my little painted pony and I! (I got a few scoldings, too, even from my fellow apprentice who sees Kachina just as often as I do!)

Yes, I still own Kachina, and we're both fine, and we're both still in training. The hiatus was due to my computer dying, troubles with my ISP and life just generally getting all crazy and hectic. I'm sure that if Kachina had known that I'd been disappointing her friends and fans she'd be mortified.

Now that things have begun to settle back into a more manageable rhythm, I hope to get back to updating this blog more. And there's a lot to update!

Spring is the season of change, rebirth and rejuvenation. I can think of no better time to rejuvenate this blog, and catch up on all of Kachina's changes and growth. Like the fact that she has a tail! I can hardly believe it, it's down to her hocks already. And how big she's gotten! She's not much smaller than Maverick now (who isn't that big, granted), and growing still.

Kachina is progressing very well with her training. Already she knows more than a lot of adult, "finished" horses that I've grown up around. I'm constantly amazed with what she knows, and how quickly she learns.

For example: Saturday was our first trail ride in the pasture beyond the ranch. It included tall grass, a small ravine (ok, more like a ditch I suppose...), and a pond. She took to her first splash in the water better than I expected, and seemed to enjoy splashing around and getting me extra wet.

After the ride, we went to the annual Escalon Longhorn Auction (which, unfortunately, I didn't get pictures of), and then to a huge annual sale at Oakdale Feed where I bought Kachina a beautiful saddle pad, and a cinch to fit her. Look for pictures Kachina all dressed up soon!

As for me, I've been growing too. I've finally started competing in Team Penning; I've ridden in two competitions so far. It means a lot to me to be able to compete in the same association, and the same arenas, that my grandfather competed in. This is been a goal of mine for a very long time.

I can't wait for the day when I can compete on Kachina and show off what I know she's capable of.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Not Dead Yet

*blows the dust off the blog*

Eek. Where did the time go? I knew it had been a while since I've updated, but I had no idea it's been this long!

No worries, Kachina and I are both healthy and well. Which is more than I can say for my computer, which died a few months back, along with my internet (double-whammy!). I've been living off of my smart phone since the last you all have heard from me. But! I have a new computer, and new internet, so I'm back in action.

And I just couldn't let the year end without sending long overdue love to all of Kachina's internet family.

As for Kachina, she continues to do well in her training. She's growing taller, too. The popular theory is that she'll reach about 15hh. It's still hard to imagine that the little filly I saw a year ago is turning into a real horse.

She is moving very well under saddle, and is turning out to be very willing to work the "human cow." She's definitely showing that she is a cow horse, as that Jesse James blood starts to boil to the surface. I've also taken her on a few rides outside of the ranch, and I'm very pleased to see that she's more curious about the unknown than she is afraid of it. It's so exciting to watch her progress.

Me, I'm progressing too. Although, sometimes, it feels frustratingly slower than Kachina! But when I think of all of the things I can do now -- not just while riding horses, but also while handling them and working on the ranch -- I'm truly amazed at how far I've come. I hope to only get better in the new year!

So, from Kachina and I, happy holidays! I hope that the new year brings you even more joy, love and adventures than the last one!

Friday, November 6, 2009

OT: New Blog

News of Kachina will be coming this weekend, promise!

In the meantime, I've created a brand new blog for my personal use/my adventures as an aspiring dog trainer. Check it out!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Going for the Gold

This past Saturday was a very important day for me. My fellow apprentice and I entered our first Ranch Sorting competition.

To say I was nervous was a serious understatement. Not only was it a spur-of-the-moment decision to enter, or that I only had a day to practice, or that I hadn't worked cows in at least a month, but it was my first competition. Ever. I was never into sports as a kid, so I was never in any games or matches.

Well, that's not true. I went to a martial arts tournament as a kid, and I've done some play days on Rico, but none of those were serious. Not where I paid an entry fee, or where the competition was packed, or where the winning prize was a very beautiful buckle. Eek.

Now, I tried Ranch Sorting back in August, but it wasn't a real competition. We paid $5 to do a random sorting, more a "fun game" than anything. This time, every one was good, and they all came ready to win that buckle. Some of the runs were so amazingly fast, and the horses moved so well, I couldn't believe it!

I spent most of the day warming up horses, watching the other competitors and talking my poor partner's ear off. See, the only way I can combat nervousness is by feeling prepared. And since I didn't feel prepared, I had to settle myself down by dissecting every scenario in my head, making tons of plans, noting things about the cows or about other teams' runs. Would I remember any of it when I got in the pen? Most likely not, but talking about it made me feel like I was doing something. Fortunately, I had a great partner who just listened and nodded his head, even though I was probably getting on his nerves! (Sorry!)

It's funny how you can spend all day nervous but, once you're up, it just goes away. It's like you don't have time to be worried. Suddenly, it's just you, your partner, your horse and the cows; you can hear the people calling to you outside, but you can't hear them.

Even more amazing was how the horse I was riding felt so ready the minute we got in front of cattle. I've been riding this mare a lot, and I feel like we work well together and have a good relationship, but in that moment we suddenly felt like partners, like we were 'on a wire'. It was a really powerful feeling.

So, how did we do? Out of twenty-two teams, we came in second place. We were so close to winning the buckle -- we lost it at the last minute by four cows -- but I'm still extremely excited and happy with what we got. I have a great trainer, a great partner, and I was riding a great horse. Plus, my mom was there to see it. More importantly, I'm doing what I promised my grandfather that I'd do: following in his footsteps.

Besides, how many people can say they got second place on their first go?

I got a $101 for second place, which is going toward a new pair of nice spurs. I love my spurs because my grandfather bought them for me, but they're super light, 'learning spurs' and I think it's time for an upgrade.

Now that I've got the bug, I can't wait to compete again. It's a sport that I think Kachina would excel in, and I think it'd be a good competition for a young horse once they have more training of them (not as much running or turning in Sorting as there is in Team Penning). We'll see!

Next time, I'm getting that buckle!

Besides all that, Kachina's doing fine, and I did take a picture of her for you guys:

Just before I gave her a bath (which she hates). She looks all awkward and teenager-y in this photo. Definitely not a baby anymore!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

OT: The Animal Rescue Site

You may have noticed a new button on the right side of this blog (if not, now you will). Clicking on this button will take you to The Animal Rescue Site where, by clicking another button, you can help to feed a rescued animal without paying a dime. This is how it works:

You click, and their corporate sponsors/advertisers use the number of daily visits to donate food to abandoned, neglected and abused animals in exchange for advertising. Currently, their having trouble getting enough people to click on it daily so that they can meet their quota of FREE FOOD (have I mention that you don't have to pay anything?) donated every day to these animals in need.

Hey, you're browsing through blogs all the time anyway, right? So while you're looking, click on the link, click on the big purple button on the website and, boom, you've just fed a little kitten that was found abandoned along with its littermates on the side of a highway, or a puppy that was abused and left for dead in a junk yard, or a starving horse that was rescued from some tiny, mucky, bare pen in someone's backyard.

And it doesn't cost you anything but fifteen seconds of your day. How awesome is that?

The Animal Rescue Site