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

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

From Filly to Mare

It's been a while! Life's been a little hectic, and this blog has suffered for it. But I promise it'll be back in full swing once things calm down (whenever that will be!), and both Kachina's doing great. She's really coming along in her training -- my trainer thinks she'll progress fast.

Besides that, she's growing like crazy! Well, not so much growing (though she is taller) as transitioning from filly to mare. Here's a picture of her from last week:



Her tail's longer, too! And that missing plug in her mane is almost even now. Pretty big difference from when I got her back in January, isn't it?:

(looking at this picture still makes me grin)

We're going to tackle our first "trail ride" in a few weeks, so keep checking back with us; as long as Kachina's around, this blog will be too!


Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The Apprenticing Life

There was a CCPA (California Cattle Penning Association) penning this past Saturday. Show days means waking up early in order to drive out to La Grange (a two hour drive on a good day), get the horses fed, wash and groom the horses we'll be taking, loading everyone into the trailer, changing into show clothes and hitting the road. This is roughly how my Saturday morning:

- Wake up at 12:30 (I don't usually go to bed until 12:30!)
- Ride with my fellow apprentice two hours to La Grange (he drives, thankfully!)
- Get caught up to speed with my trainer
- Wash four horses (in the dark, mind you)
- Groom up said horses until they shine (still in the dark!)
- Help feed the remaining horses
- Gather all the tack we'll be taking with us and store it in the trailer
- Help load the horses into the trailer (sun's just coming up)
- Check the trailer then hit the road!
- Arrive at the penning and unload horses
- Touch-up grooming and tacking up
- Warm up my trainer's horse
...all before the 9:00 start.

Once the competition started, I helped out by working the gate. If you're planning on competing in any event, I definitely recommend working the gate at least once. It's the best seat in the house, and I learned a lot -- not only from watching the runs, but also from the commentary between teams. They discuss their game plan as they enter the arena, they talk about what they did right as they leave the arena after a good run, and they talk about what went wrong after a bad one. Also, the teams waiting to go into the arena will analyze the run of the team that's in the arena, so there's tons of information milling around that gate. Plus, everyone in the CCPA is extremely friendly, so they were all willing to answer any questions I had about strategy, the cows and the rules.

Besides that, I really liked being able to wish each team good luck as they entered, and congratulate them as they left, no matter how their run went.

After the show, I helped break down all the sponsorship posters, which gave me a chance to talk to the president of the association. Once that was done, it was time to take the tack off of the horses, groom and load everyone in the trailer for the trip back home.

I did get to see Kachina, briefly, and try on her fancy new halter (which I tried to get a picture of her wearing, but it was too dark!). We fed the horses their dinner and, finally, packed up for the two hour drive back home. I was in bed at 11:30 -- long day!

Sunday more than made up for it, though; P and I took a drive to Mt. Tam. It was beautiful and warm and we scored tons of this great, soft, green rock that looked almost like jade. No idea what it is, but I want to do something cool with it eventually.

For those of you who have followed Kachina's twitter, you know that I've been dying to make Cash a rattlesnake skin collar all summer. Well, with Ana's help, I finally got it done on Monday (even though she was freaked out by it). It looks amazing! I can't wait to take tons of pictures of him in it. Now I just have to get him a Good Dog Tag and he'll be all set.

It's been a long, long week, and it's only Wednesday. Expect some pictures of Kachina next week, as well as a little dive into her family history!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Goodbye, Rico

I haven't meant to neglect this blog. Actually, I felt like I couldn't post in it without first closing the chapter on Rico, and I haven't had the heart to do it. But I've had a little time, and it isn't so raw anymore (though still painful), so I think it's time.

First, I wanted to thank you guys for your support and kind words in the last post. I really appreciated every one of them. I'm not going to post about Friday, but I do want you guys to know that Rico went as peacefully as I could hope. The doctors at UC Davis are amazing, and I felt like they really cared about Rico, as well as understood how I felt. I couldn't have asked for kinder people.

When we bought Rico (for $600!), he had been surrendered to the stable because his owner was behind on board and couldn't pay. He had used Rico in illegal races, and Rico had been so abused that he was absolutely terrified of being ridden (he had scars on his sides from being spurred so hard and so often). It took four people holding him, and almost forty-five minutes for me to just get on his back the first time -- he would move around, come up in the front and just try to get away. When I finally mount up, he just froze and trembled and, when I asked him to go, he took off.

To be honest, I was afraid of him, but that was because I didn't understand. I had to learn to let go of my presumptions (like he wasn't just some psycho horse that had it in for me!) and figure out the root of his problem and how to best address it. It took me over a year to get Rico to trust me but, once I did, there was nothing I couldn't ask him to do. Rico would follow me around without a halter or lead; sometimes we would go racing through the stable, but when I'd stop or slow down, he would match my pace.

Rico was never stubborn or disrespectful, he never refused to do anything I asked and he never showed an ounce of aggression. In truth, he loved to work more than anything. I rode in my first parade with him, and when I started doing gymkhanas on him he took to it like a fish to water.


I learned so many lessons from Rico -- lessons that I've applied to all things in life, not just with horses: patience, understanding, trust, and how to let go of the past and start over are just some of the gifts he gave me.

So good bye, Old Man, and thank you. I hope you find endless space to run, and lots and lots of pretty Spanish mares to court until I see you again.


Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Stepping Up, Letting Go

I had this great post planned for this week about how well Kachina's been doing in training, her first interaction with a cow, a practice penning we did on Sunday, the holiday...

But I just found out that Rico -- who in only the span of a month has developed a large growth that is very likely an advanced form of cancer -- will need to be put down. Suddenly the thought of writing a light, fun post flew out the window (just typing the words "put down" just now gave me a sudden wave of nausea).

I got the news yesterday, and was told that an appointment had been made for today, and that a vet from the track would do it, and then..take him away. I knew that the decision was coming up, but I had no idea that it would be so sudden, or that I would have less than a day's worth of time to come to terms with it.

P and I went out to see him yesterday, and feed him lots and treats, let him spend time with Gypsy and just be with him a while. My mother and her boyfriend came out to see him, too, but I noticed that there was something strange about the way they talked around me. Finally, she said to me: "I don't want you coming out here tomorrow. Don't come." I protested that I had already made arrangements to be there, and that I didn't want him to be alone. But she just kept asking me, very adamantly, not to come. "Promise me that you won't come, please." Suspicious, I pressed her until she finally told me: "They're going to take him around the back and shoot him."

After the initial shock, I tried to assure her that our stable manager had arranged for a vet to come out and put him down. She only shook her head and told me that the manager himself had told her that the plan was to take the money, then take him around the back of the stable and shoot him. I was furious. They lied to me, and they lied to my grandmother, who was under the impression that her horse -- a horse who had once belonged to the manager's wife! -- was going to be put down properly and humanely. It wasn't a vet they'd called, but some yahoo with a pistol and a pickup truck.

Of course, there was no way in hell I was going to let that happen. I immediately called my grandmother, then the manager, and made him cancel the appointment (it's hard to stay professional when you're that angry). I couldn't believe that they would flat-out lie to us, especially in regards to something so important and heartbreaking, knowing how much we love our horses. That stable has never been paradise for horses, but I was ill at the thought of such blatant disregard for not only the treatment of the horses, but the feelings of it's boarders (not to mention that they've known my family for a few decades!). This is why I'd never take Maverick back there.

But, I'll get off my soap box.

I plan to call UC Davis today. Mom said she would help me haul Rico there, and I've made arrangements to take the day off from work. It's strange, in the course of only a few hours, I've gone from not knowing, to being afraid to be present, to spearheading the entire task. But under all the weight and sadness (and there's a lot of it), I feel a little better -- a little lighter -- knowing that I'll be making sure that he has a proper, easy and peaceful sendoff, surrounded by people who love him and with kind, knowledgeable doctors who care.

I owe him that much, at least.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Yosemite

I was invited to join some friends on a camping trip to Yosemite this weekend (well, we were in a "cabin", so I can't really consider it camping). Of course I jumped at the chance, having never been to Yosemite and seriously needing a break from the city and stress I've been under.

It was a little mind-boggling to be among scenery that, until now, I'd only ever seen in pictures. Everywhere you looked was a photo opportunity.

We were planning on hiking up the Half Dome, but it was raining hard so the trail was closed off. Which, really, was for the better, since I don't think I would have been able to make it, but I certainly wouldn't have admitted that front of my friends. Thanks for giving me an out, Mother Nature!

We ended up hiking to the top of a waterfall instead, which was perfectly fine with me. The water and the mist was beautiful, the hike was appropriately challenging, and the rain was actually a very welcomed relief.

Here are some of my favorite pictures from the trip:

A tiny rainbow that marked the beginning of the trip.



I was obsessed with the misty cliffs and trees. Can you tell?


Cybernetic Deer roamed all over the park, coming shockingly close to visitors. These four stags in particular were total hams. (there are three pictured - the other one was off entertaining another photographer)

Halfway to the waterfall we conquered. I've just discovered that I love waterfalls!




A swallow's nest we found back in the town of Groveland.

In town we ate buffalo burgers at the oldest saloon in California, The Iron Door. Everyone was extremely nice.

On the way home, we stopped in Oakdale, "Cowboy Capital of the World," and one of my favorite towns. We found a Native American store and I ohh'd and ahh'd over tons of stuff I couldn't afford (including Kachina dolls!), before picking up a necklace and a few beads.

It was a fantastic trip! Much needed. Though I can't wait to see my pony this weekend.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Long Awaited

Spent the night at my trainer's again this weekend. There was a penning in Modesto on Saturday, where I helped ready and warm up horses. It was the same arena where my grandfather last competed, where had me walk around the arena with him and introduced me to everyone. He'd been so proud then that I was training to follow in his footsteps and compete in team penning. It made the trip a little bittersweet.

Sunday, we had an easy work day around the ranch. The owners of one of his horses in training came out, and he showed off what the horse had learned, then I cooled the horse off. Of all the horses at the ranch, he was probably the horse I liked the least when I first started apprenticing. I was amazed at his progress; this is a horse who, the last time I rode him, reared and threw tantrums. This time I was riding him around on a very loose rein, using mostly leg cues and no stirrups. He's practically a month away from going brideless! The more I work with him, the more I start to find little things to like about him.

After that, we worked with Kachina. We were having such a good day, and Kachina was doing so well, that what started off as just a driving lesson quickly advanced into a riding lesson. We saddled her up and I got on and, even though we had her on a lunge line, it was my job to guide her with the reins and use my legs to drive her. This is the most work we've done with her on the bit, and the first time we've really started to leg cue her.

She took to it so well that, in no time, I was walking, trotting, loping and stopping her around the round pen using mostly leg, voice and rein cues. It was the first time she'd done any of that with someone on her back.

Unfortunately, I only had my phone handy, but we did manage to get some of the long awaited Riding Kachina shots that I've been promising:






As I've mentioned before, I've never started a young horse, or even ridden one so green. It's a challenge to remember that she isn't a finished (or even green broke) horse like I'm used to, and can't be ridden the same way. I'm not refining or tuning up previous training; this is a completely blank slate.

Still, Kachina did amazing! She doesn't fight anything. The most she does is stop when she's confused, and I have to patiently drive her forward again. No hopping, no tossing her head, no rearing or bucking -- just a desire to get it right.

It's amazing, too, realizing just how much your body cues a horse. With a young horse there's no "white noise" between the rider's body and the horse -- every signal comes loud and clear. The first couple of times I moved her into a trot I'd post and, after that, whenever she felt me posting she'd move into a trot (or slow into a trot, if she were loping). If she felt me sit back, she knew that I wanted the lope and would start to extend her trot until I moved her into a trot.

Perhaps the most amazing example was when we were working on "woah." I had stopped her once or twice into the session (she stops very nicely for a colt, by the way!) and, on the third time, my trainer told me to stop her when we passed the gate. So, just as we passed it, I sat back, lifted my reins a little and...she stopped! I sat there surprised and a little dumbfounded.

Did my pony has E.S.P.? Did she understand what my trainer meant when he said "stop her at the gate"..? It took me a minute to realize that Kachina was completely tuned into my body. She felt me sit deep, felt the little shift of the bit as I lifted my hands, and knew what I wanted; my body was telling her stop before I ever got the chance to pull back on the bit and say "woah." It's something I've always read about, but hadn't ever experienced to that level. Riding a colt is truly special!

My trainer was pleased with both of us. He seemed to be really excited about Kachina's progress (he even stroked her more than I've ever seen him do, and gave her a lot of praise). Because my trainer is honest (brutally so, sometimes), and I was curious from a trainer's perspective, I asked him what he thought Kachina's biggest training issue will be in the future. "None," he said, "She does everything I ask, she doesn't fight, she gives to the bit and flexes well...As of right now, I don't anticipate any problems."

He also said that she learns fast, and that she's very strong bodied, so we should be able to put her on cattle sooner rather than later. I can't wait to take some Kachina vs. The Cow shots!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Getting My Feet Wet

Saturday I got my first taste of competition.

We went to a very relaxed Sorting Match in Gilroy, California. For those of you who don't know what Ranch Sorting is, essentially it goes like this: There are ten head of cattle, numbered 0-9 in one pen and that is joined to an empty pen. A number is called (we'll say 3), and a two-person team has 75 seconds to sort the cattle through the gate into the empty pen in sequence (3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 0, 1, 2..) without letting the wrong number get through. One person guards the gate, and one sorts the cattle. Often, you'll see the team members switch off.

I was there warming up my trainer's horses, helping him get ready, observing..the usual. It was great watching all of the competitors, and they were all really good! At the end of the match, they had a pot draw: you pay $5 and get a playing card, and the person who has your matching suit is your partner. My trainer offered the other apprentice and I a chance to play, and I agreed, even though I was extremely nervous (I couldn't, however, back down from the challenge! No way!). I ended up drawing the King of Clubs, which was fortunate for me since Kings go last!

My partner was an extremely nice guy, and one of the best sorters there. Unfortunately, he also didn't speak any English and relied on his partner to call out the numbers for him in Spanish. Ho-boy, I was a complete rookie and we couldn't communicate. Frantically, I went over my high school Spanish lessons in my head (uno, dos, tres..).

I was a bundle of nerves waiting but, once we were in the pen, it was like no one else was there. You just don't have time to be nervous. In the end, the cattle totally ate me alive, but we managed to sort out five before an odd cow got through, which definitely didn't make us the worst run! I thanked my partner profusely, and apologized, to which he only smiled and shrugged and said "Was fun! Good job!"

All in all, it was a great introduction to the sport. I wouldn't mind trying it out again. After some practice.

And, of course, Kachina was well! Since we were at the show, I didn't have much time with her, but she looked happy and healthy and gave me a congratulatory snort when I told her all about it.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Helping The Economy

I found this on the Western Shooting Horse blog and had to share it!:

* * * * * * *

MEMO

TO: President Barack Obama

FROM: Ange Finn

RE: Economic Recovery Stimulus Ideas

Mr. President, it has come to my attention that you're having some challenges with the economy.
If I understand things correctly, we're in a recession, consumer confidence and spending is down, credit is tight, investors are spooked , we need renewable energy, and health care costs are through the roof. Trillions of dollars, not to mention our future, are at stake. Mr. President, I'm just a regular citizen, but I think I have a solution.

Give every American a horse.

My proposal may not make sense to you at first, but let me give you a little background. First of all, horses in the U.S. are a multi-billion dollar industry, and that’s just at my house. I suggest you have your economic advisors do a little research on the spending around horse ownership.

You'd be surprised, Mr. President.

Start by visiting the tack and clothing retailers like State Line or Dover. Look at the variety of goods available there. Now take into account that every horse owner, especially if it’s a woman, is buying not just one or two, but tons of these items. Believe me.

So my thinking is that if you give every American a horse, starting when they reach the horse-receptive age of 10, you're going to do two things: boost consumer confidence and boost spending immediately.

Horses make us feel good, and once Americans all own horses (at the government’s expense, of course), they will all logically fall into the pattern that every horse owner succumbs to: accessorizing. For starters, we need horse-care implements like buckets and muck rakes, hoof picks and curry combs. And we need at least basic tack, halter, leadline, saddle, saddle pad, bridle and bit. But then the fun begins.

Zebra print leg wraps. Neon bright fly masks. An assortment of sheets and blankets for all seasons; you've got your cooler, your lightweight blanket, your medium blanket, your heavy blanket. Then there’s your stable sheet and your pasture sheet. Also your hoodie, and tail wrap items.

And that’s just the clothing for the horse. Don't get me started on the clothing for the rider, even if he or she doesn't show. Since most Americans don't have a basic riding wardrobe, the stores would be swamped for jeans, boots, breeches, T-shirts, dozens of pairs of cute boot socks, and the ubiquitous ball cap. Tell the retailers to get ready. It'll be Christmas all year long.

Now let’s talk about support industries. In addition to the usual veterinarian and farrier expenditures, people also give their horses chiropractic, massage and acupuncture, not to mention buying more beauty products for their horses than they do for themselves. All those professions and industries will benefit. And of course there will be a big spike in hay and grain demand, so the farmers will be happy too.

You see, that’s the secret to jump-starting consumer spending through my stimulus package. People will spend money on their horses when they won't spend money on anything else.

But, your advisors might say, there’s a catch. Aren't we paying the price, in global warming, of the large number of livestock animals we currently have? They produce a all that methane!

Ah, Mr. President, here’s the real beauty of this idea. When you introduce the Methane-Assisted Natural Unrefined Renewable Energy plan (M.A.N.U.R.E. ), you'll be a hero for coming up with an alternative, renewable, home-grown source of clean energy. Just challenge the energy gurus to come up with a methane gas collectio system that can harness all the “natural resource” produced by all those horses to power our cities. Talk about shovel ready-projects:
M.A.N.U.R.E. fits the bill!

And you keep stressing how we need new industries for investment; well, under the M.A.N.U.R.E. plan you can sell Petroleum Offset Opportunity units to investors. By buying these units, investors can help us gradually convert from a petroleum-based economy to one basedon horse P.O.O.

Health care costs will go down, too, as everyone cares for their horses. You can give tax credits based on the amount of time people spend working, riding and hanging out with their horses, which will automatically make them healthier. (Don't tell the docs, but most horse owners already get their own basic healthcare from their vet.)

One more thing: everyone is annoyed by these corporate CEOs and their big bonuses in a down economy. So give the executives, say, one horse for every $100,000 of bonus money they've received. Those bonuses will be plowed back into the economy in no time.

Finally, because you, Mrs. O, and the girls are such role models, you can encourage us all by getting a pony for Sasha and Malia. It will teach them responsibility, help the First Lady plow the garden, and as a bonus: free fertilizer for the Rose Garden.

If you don't believe me that horse ownership stimulates spending, go ahead, Mr. President. Buy that pony for your girls. You'll see.

* * * * * * *

Monday, August 3, 2009

Driving Lessons

If you follow Kachina's Twitter, you'll know that this weekend was my first time staying overnight in La Grange. You'd think this would give me more opportunity to take pictures of Kachina, but it was still more work than leisure time. I got there at 11:00 Friday evening, worked until 5:00 Saturday morning, up at 6:45 and, by the time I got home and in bed Saturday night, it was 11:00. Ah, the apprenticing life!

I did get some shots of Kachina's driving lesson, however! She did really, really well -- it's amazing to watch her learn right there in front of you! I also rode her again, while my trainer drove her, and introduced bit pressure. It was interesting: there were things about the driving, like backing up, that she'd throw a little fight about, but she was noticeably more compliant when I was on her back. Maybe it was the extra weight, or maybe she was tired, but I'd like to think that she may have been reluctant to put me in any danger.

Kachina didn't go to bed until 5:00 Saturday morning, too. I think we were both feeling it!

Starting the driving lesson!



I don't know if you guys can tell how much she's grown from these pictures (they aren't the best by any means), but I notice it. That plug of chopped hair that was so short it practically stood up is now more than a third the length of the rest of her mane, and her tail is now down to her hocks. She's definitely looking more "horse like" -- though she still has that tiny baby mouth!

No pictures of me on her yet, but they will come. Promise!

Friday, July 31, 2009

Sasha: The Matriarch

I've posted about 'The Herd' before, but I've yet to touch on 'The Pack' much; they prefer to stay out of my horse life as much as possible. But, with Kachina gone off to school, I figured it was a good time to introduce the other side of my passion for four-legged critters.

I share my life with six dogs, and I love them all tons, but Sasha is the only one of my little pack that has ever felt truly and wholly mine. She runs the canine portion of our household -- from Anubis, the 125 lb. Pit Bull/Mastiff mix, to Capone, the 4 lb. long-haired Chihuahua -- and it's pretty much an understanding that the hierarchy goes: Humans > Sasha > Everyone Else. And even that line of command is situational (for example, if Sasha wants the couch, and my brother also wants the couch, you can pretty much bet that Sasha's getting that couch).

We found Sasha, along with her two siblings, in a dumpster when I was eleven or twelve. The lid was closed, and we only investigated it because I had to throw something away and heard whining and sounds of movement. I can't even say how old they were, but I'm certain that it was somewhere between 7-10 weeks. So young, and someone just tossed them in the trash to live or die.

The other two went home with friends, but I wanted to keep Sasha. The family already had two dogs -- Cirra: a huge, working stock German Shepherd who I still say was the best dog in the world, and Blossom: a black Labrador who acted nothing like the neurotic, spazzy labs I see now. My mom and I begged my great-grandmother if we could keep Sasha and, after some debate (although I think she only argued out of parental obligation; there's no way she would have turned away an animal in need), she agreed with the understanding that "if she destroys anything, she's sausage" -- hence the name "Sasha."

Sasha and I have been through a lot together: When I was twelve I was convinced that we, alone, would win the Iditarod, and began our "extensive" training (I even ordered an official Iditarod patch in preparation!). We've mourned together over the deaths of her mentors, Cirra and Blossom, my great-grandmother, my cousin and Buffy and Bootsie, her adoptive doggie "aunts." Even recently, when I lost my grandfather, I came to Sasha when I needed to cry. She saved Taco's life when he was attacked by a Blue Heeler/Dingo cross; she earned a very dashing scar across her nose from the fight, which she still wears proudly to this day.

Sasha was the reason I realized that I wanted to train dogs. Which is ironic, since I never had to "train" Sasha. Sasha didn't learn, she understood. It was more like having a partner than having a pet; you asked her to do something and she knew what you wanted (except for walking on a leash; she never did quite grasp the concept restraint, which I have to admit is another reason that I love her). She was immensely intelligent and patient with everyone (except she took no crap from other dogs), and still is.

Sasha's thirteen now. He body's a little more gray and a little frailer than it used to be. Her hips don't work quite as well, and she can't run quite as fast (though don't tell her that) or dash up the back steps, and she might be a little rounder and squatter than she was a few years ago. Still, she's got the same shinning, dark eyes she had when we were both younger, and the same contented, easy smile.

I've learned so much from Sasha, but probably the most important lesson is that love has no expiration date, and it never runs out. I know that she's old, and that we are very possibly reaching the twilight of our years together. However, no matter how tired Sasha's body has gotten, her heart and spirit and ability to love have never once weakened. She still nuzzles me now the same as she did when I climbed into a dumpster and gathered her into my arms for the first time.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Winters Clinic (in Summer!)

..ok, terrible pun.

But! I'm very excited, I'll be going to a Richard Winters clinic in Livermore, California in August! You may remember me posting a bit about meeting him at the HorseExpo this June, and how knowledgeable and (more importantly) friendly and likable he was. I can't wait to go to the clinic. I should find a way to take Maverick - maybe iron out some of his little issues.

Anyway, I was wondering: Is anyone else going to the Livermore clinic? Let me know! I'd love to meet some other bloggers.

If California is not your area, I'd still suggest checking out a clinic near you!

Monday, July 27, 2009

One Door Closes, Another Opens

Saturday was my second ride on Kachina. I was able to introduce some minor leg and rein cues (using the halter and lead rope) and, like the last time, she preformed perfectly. It's great to see how quickly and easily she's coming along. I know that that might change as she ages - I don't want to assume that it'll always be this easy - but, for now, I'm savoring it.

Yesterday was my grandfather's memorial. I was very surprised at the number of people, from all backgrounds and walks of life, who came to pay their respects to my grandfather and share their stories. Generations and generations of people who had known him. There were Drugstore Cowboys and Old Hands and people who had never been on a horse in their life, and they all said that they had learned something from my grandfather. One statement that I heard over and over, no matter what type of person said it, was that Granpa was a real cowboy and a real horsemen. In a time and place where that's swiftly becoming a rare breed, it made me proud to know that others saw him the way I did.

One speaker summed up Granpa pretty well: when asked why he didn't get surgery sooner, she said "Jewell wanted to live, not stay alive."

I met tons of people - some who knew me from my childhood, some who'd heard Granpa talk about me or had seen me with him, and some who had no idea who I was - and all of them were supportive of my commitment to horses. So many offered their advice, and invited me to events and were just genuinely good people. I even met a few who not only knew my grandfather, but are also followers of this blog! (Hey!!) How amazing is that?

They say that the horse community is dwindling, especially among African Americans. But yesterday, I saw it just as strong and diverse and tightly knit as I remembered from my childhood (and how amazing that Granpa was the catalyst for that!). I just wish that it didn't take his passing to make it all happen.

Monday, July 13, 2009

First Ride

Saturday, Kachina carried a rider for the first time!

Her lesson started with saddling. She took the saddle well, but she got a little pushy, so my trainer had to give her a couple of firm nose-bumps to settle her down. She's a nice, smart, friendly little mare, but I see that she has the attitude of a horse who'd be perfectly happy being in charge if she thought she could get away with it - I saw glimpses of this the first day I got her, when she tried to herd Gypsy around the arena! But, she's also perfectly happy not pushing the point if you make it clear that you're the boss. It's like "Let's see what I can get away with. No? Ok then."

My trainer let her pack the saddle for a bit, while we saddled our mounts for the day. My horse was Bandit, a black-and-white paint mare and one of the most gorgeous horses I have ever seen. She's won money in every penning she's been in, has great handle, and is incredibly sweet. She can be a little "woke," and I had a migraine and had never ridden her before, so I was expecting to have a bit of a battle, but she was perfectly calm and patient.

Kachina, however, was running around, bucking (with her nose tipped! I told my trainer that it was amazing to me that she could buck so high with her nose tipped off center and he smiled and replied: "Yeah, it's called agility, and all the best horses seem to have it")

She settled down after my trainer chased her around a bit, but she still followed us at a safe distance, ever curious. After our riding was over, and our mounts were tied and unsaddled, we went into the arena to untie Kachina and mess with her a bit. After a good rubdown, I did a lot of rubbing my knee on her side and belly, patting the saddle and moving it around. Then I leaned across her back, on both sides, while my trainer walked her forward a few steps; all of this without incident.

My trainer then stopped, regarded Kachina a moment, and said: "Well, I think she's ready. That's what she's telling me," and he asked me how I felt, and if I wanted to try it.

Of course I did!

Pat, my friend and fellow apprentice, gave me a leg up and I slowly eased into the saddle. I expected at least a little hop when I sat down, but Kachina only swiveled her ears back and tipped her head a little so she could see me. She didn't even look frightened, just curious! I patted the saddle, her rump, wiggled around a little and leaned -- everything I could think of, and she stood as still and as patient as a statue.

My trainer acted as the Leader, while Pat stayed at my right side as the Catcher (in case things went bad) and I, of course, was the Rider. My trainer lead Kachina up the arena, as I gently instructed her ("Waaaalk~"), stopped her ("Woooah~"), turned her and backed her up ("Baaaack~"). As we did this up and down the arena a few times, three thoughts were running through my mind:

I'm riding Kachina!

Wow, she's being really, really good..

..Man, he ears look huge from this angle!

Kachina was perfect through the whole thing; not a buck, hop, not even a balk! She did everything we asked and even stood still while I clumsily dismounted (clumsily on purpose mind you!).

I praised her bunches, took the saddle off, and turned her loose to run. But, really, all she wanted to do was stick close to me and be pet more, so we walked around the arena together and I talked to her, and pet her, and thanked her and told her how proud and excited I was.

Then I went over to the fence to talk to my trainer's wife, Kachina coming up at my side with her ears pricked, like she wanted to be part of the conversation too.

"It looks like you two are really bonded," she said as she stroked Kachina's nose, "all she does is watch you."

"Yeah," I replied, feeling pretty good, "I think we are."

My trainer gave Kachina a nice pat on the neck as I lead her to her stall and told me that she'd done very well. "I have a good feeling," he said.

So do I.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

So Far, So Good

It's felt too long since I've updated. Between the funeral and the holiday, I've been too physically, and mentally, drained to post. That, and there was nothing really to post about until now.

Kachina has started her training under saddle, and she's doing really well! My trainer really likes the way she moves both with and without the saddle, and how easily she took to it (I've never saddled her). But what really impressed him was how she carried her head. She drops it very low when working, something he calls "bird dogging." When she was younger, I showed him a short video of her doing it while herding Odin, and he liked it then but said that it may not be consistent once she's working under saddle.

Apparently it is.

He also said that he often let the rope drag when he lunged her, and every time she stepped on it she gave into the pressure on her halter. This may mean that she'll be very soft with the bit. We'll have to wait and see.

I like to think that he was as excited as I am about her potential, but maybe I'm just being an overly proud parent. I don't want to set my expectations too high. Still, he was impressed enough to ask me how much of this stuff I'd done with her before he got his hands on her, to which I assured him that I'd done nothing but sack her out, teach her to flex and disengage her hindquarters. She's just a natural.

Pictures soon, I promise!

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Cows, Mounts and Sunburns

Yesterday my trainer, my friend and fellow apprentice and I went to a big penning competition.

Show days long and exhausting - they usually start at 1am (it's a three-hour drive to my trainer's ranch, and we have to get there early enough to feed all of the horses, cows and various other livestock, groom the horses, load them into the trailer and change) then, once you're at the show, you spend the rest of the day grooming and exercising horses. It sounds simple, but it's hard work, and it doesn't help that you're in direct sunlight all day long and temperatures reached 110° - eek!

I don't burn easily, however I my arms and back are currently an angry red color. Though the tan does make my arms look more toned..

Still, if I was going to get a sunburn this Summer, I would much rather do it at a penning than at the beach! And it was all worth it: my trainer ended up winning both the Open and Pro-Am division, all thanks to our excellent warm-up skills! (well, maybe not all thanks, but even he had to admit that his horses were at the top of their game and perfect because we did a great job of warming them up - long live the lopers of the world)

I would have taken pictures, but I was just too busy to grab the camera. However, it was great to watch the other competitors run and get tips, learn what made the bad runs bad and what made the good runs good, and get more experience reading cows. I got the chance to speak to some of the Novice riders and learn how they deal with the pressure and nerves, I got good advice from the more seasoned riders, and listened to the comments of the spectators. I think a few things about the sport clicked in my mind during this penning, and I walked away with some good ideas to keep in mind.

I also had a chance to ride a Paint mare named Cherokee (not to be confused with Granpa's Paint gelding, also named Cherokee, whom I think I've mentioned before), a former student of my trainer's and a horse that's well known as one of the best penning horses around. She's the dam of Bandit, the mare my trainer's son competes on (and he's killing the competition! He may even go to the World show this year!). She's won a ton of money at the sport, and her get all seem to excell at penning and working cows. My trainer has always spoken very highly of her, and everytime I've heared her name mentioned it is with admiration and fondness. It was great to be able to ride this mare who, at least to me, is sort of a local legend.

When we got home, I turned Kachina out and watched her while we talked about colts - about starting them, how soon you can tell what they may end up like in the future, how you can get an idea of how their training will go - and I asked him how long did he think it would take to start Kachina, judging by what he knew of Kachina right now. He told me that, as long as she doesn't completely switch personalities on us, and going slow and starting her correctly, she should be walking, trotting and loping perfectly under saddle in under two weeks. This is exciting news! Of course, there's no way to tell yet how she will take to training until we actually start it, so I don't want to jinx it.

I also asked if she reminded him of any of the horses he's trained. He watched her for some time while he thought, and Kachina watched him right back, her little black-trimmed ears tuned to him expectantly, almost as if she were also waiting for the answer. Finally, he answered "You know, I have to say that she reminds me a lot of Cherokee at that age."

Kachina has some big horseshoes to fill.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

What's Important

Yesterday my mom, P and I went out to my grandfather's stable to clean out his stuff, organize it and store it safely in our trailer before the vultures out there start grave robbing. It was solemn and heart wrenching work, but I managed not to sniffle - though I might have teared up when I thought no one was looking.

The situation is a mess, but I'll spare you all the ugly details. To summarize: my grandfather left no will, only stated what he wanted to leave to whom verbally (because he was a cowboy, after all, and didn't believe much in legal documentation over his word), so everyone's scrambling to make claims on what is theirs. Even people who aren't related are claiming that he wanted them to have his trailer, or his equipment, or that he agreed to sell his National PTPA Championship saddle (which is a Billy Cook, by the way) to them for $700. It's so frustrating and infuriating, seeing all of these people come out of the woodwork making claims when we haven't even gotten his service squared away yet.

As of now, I'm the only one with keys to his tack room and trailer, but people have broken into tack rooms before, so we decided to squirrel his stuff away in our trailer before it comes up missing. His working saddle, his tack, his supplies, his tools..all of it.

People are squabbling over his saddle, of course, and his expensive show tack, and the rest they disregard as useless junk. In that "Useless Junk" category, however, are some of the items that are most important to me - more important than the show saddles or the trailer - so my mom and I made some claims of our own, and kept those unwanted treasures:

Like his chinks. You'd rarely see Granpa on a horse without them, whether he was working or competing. They aren't fancy - just old, broken in, brown leather - but they suited him. They were like a second skin, as important to him when riding as his saddle and reins and, surprisingly, they fit me.

For my birthday one year, he bought me a beautiful pair of chinks (which, surprisingly, suited me very well, proving that Granpa had great taste). It was the first time I felt like he'd accepted me into the horse world, and here was my badge to prove it. I never wore them because I thought they were too nice, and they meant so much to me, that I didn't want to wreck them. Thinking back, I regret not using them. It feels a little selfish; he probably had hoped to see me use them, but he never said it. I'm determined to break those beautiful chinks in as well as his were.

I also took one of his bridles with matching reins and martingale. They aren't fancy show tack; they were what he's worked every horse I've ever known in, including Maverick. It's the set I used learning how to ride (God, how many times did I hear "Shorten your inside rein!" "Take up your slack!" "What are you doing? Drop your outside rein!"). I remember loving the feel of those reins, and wanting a pair just like them, but I could never find a set that was just right.

I gave Mom his working spurs. Their straps are just plain, simple leather, and there's no decoration on them at all. But he trained many, many horses in them, and took good care of them.

I took his rope. I told him one day that I wanted to learn how to rope, so he tried to show me by roping my legs as I ran away. I never did get the hang of it, but I'm determined to eventually.

Mom took another old bridle that belonged to Jackpot, a white Arabian and probably Granpa's best horse and greatest partner.

I took the Navajo blanket that he had across the seat of his truck. It will go in Calamity as soon as I wash it.

I took his old lunge whip. The one I learned how to lunge horses with (I hated lunging and was never very good at it).

I took his favorite bit, a thin twisted snaffle.

And I took his old, working saddle pad. I don't have much use for it now, but I have fond memories of it; it's what I used on Whisper when I used to ride her.

While no one else can see the value, to me these were the most important treasures in that tackroom.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Honest Scrap

Paint Girl over at Adventures of the Painted Creek Farm gave me this awesome award:


Thank you so much! I love your blog (and Pony Girl's too!), so I'm honored to get an award from you.

The terms that come along with the award are as follows:

1) You have to tell your followers ten things about yourself that they may not already know.
2) You have to tag ten people with the award.
3) You have to let the people who you tagged know that they've been tagged, and..
4) You have to link back to the person who gave the award to you.

Alright! Here we go:


1) I hate dresses. Not just the I-don't-like-dresses-because-I'm-a-tom-boy hate, but dresses fill me with disgust. Probably because, as a child, my family used every holiday as an excuse to dress me up in these flouncy, frilly monstrosities, put ribbons in my hair and parade me around, taking pictures. There are hardly any pictures of me as a kid not wearing one of these nightmares. Even on Ground Hog's Day! Ground Hog's Day for goodness' sake! So I have this deep-rooted dislike for all things lace, pastel-colored and dress-like. Also bows.

3) When I was a kid, we had two ponies, one named Peanut and one named Sally. We kept them both at the stable where we were boarding our horses, and I'd often hang out with them and ride them around. Peanut was my favorite, but I loved how sweet Sally was. My family was planning to breed them, but Sally suddenly got very sick and she would not get better. Finally, they took her to U.C. Davis and it was discovered that Sally had gonorrhea (yeah, you read that right). They put her down and told me that they sold her to a Russian circus. While I eventually figured out that they had put her down, I didn't find out why until I turned fourteen. Mom says the police caught the culprit a week after Sally was put down -- I hope he got all he deserved in prison!

4) I was born at 10:22 pm on 10/22. Also, my first, middle and last name all have seven letters.

5) Everyone thinks that I was named after my grandfather, Jewell, but I was actually named after my great grandfather (my grandmother's father), Julio.

6) I have to sleep with socks on, even on very hot days, or I will wake up with the sniffles.

7) ..I also have to sleep with a stuffed animal (or a real one). I have a bed full of them, and I'm used to them, so if I don't have one I don't sleep well. This means I have to pack a "snugly" every time I travel.

8) I have a phobia of going under water. I actually like being in the water, but once the water goes past my nose I panic. This is because my half-sister purposely put me in a dangerous situation and then allowed me to almost drown (yes, she has issues and, no, we don't talk anymore). Since then, I can't go under the water, even in my own bathtub, without freaking out.

9) I really like Australian accents. Really. I don't know if it stems from my childhood love of Crocodile Dundee and The Man From Snowy River, but I've always thought that Australian accents were really, really cool.

10) I'm not squeamish about rats, snakes or spiders; the things that get me are maggots. I can't stand maggots. Just the sight of them makes me ill. Also, I hate drool. You'd think working with dogs would get me over it, but I can deal with any other bodily fluid that you could imagine coming out of a dog, except drool. It makes me gag just to think about it. And it's not just dogs, but all drool. Especially baby drool, yuck!


Ok, so those are my ten things! So, now I tag:

A Year With Horses
BrownEyed Cowgirls
Live Earth Sky
California Cowgirl
Bush Babe
The Barb Wire
Anapoeland
Highland Hooves
The Mare's Tales
On The Way to Critter Farm...

All great blogs, and definitely worth checking out!

Initiation

Last night, in my post about my grandfather, I mentioned my little mishap with a stallion. So here's the full story:

Hootie is a pretty little three-year-old, sorrel-and-white Paint stallion, and an up-and-coming penning horse. He's a sweet little thing who loves attention, and about as docile as you can expect any young stud to be.

My trainer had me saddle Hootie up and get on. Then he asked me to do some walking exercises with him outside of the arena, and I did, and he was fantastic, even when it came to walking past a few nickering mares. Like I said, he's a good-natured little guy, and he's been started well.

So, then we move into the arena. The sprinkler's going, and that causes him a bit of concern (or maybe I was concerned that he was concerned and that, in turn, made him concerned!), so we kept to one side and worked in circles. When we got the full arena, we worked at a walk, and then a trot.

Then my trainer asked for a lope. No big deal. We loped fine around the arena several times, la-de-da, when suddenly he starts to buck. Now, I don't know if it was as bad as it felt, but up there in the saddle he was bucking. At least, I've been on horses that have bucked before, and this was nothing like that. And not bucking in one spot either, like I'm used to, but bucking down the entire length of the arena.

Now, unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how you look at it), I don't have much experience with bucking horses. Like I said, I've ridden out a few bucks, but not that many and not that hard. And I will admit, I froze. I froze wearing spurs. Not good. I knew I should have dropped my feet and snatched up his head, and I heard my trainer shouting instructions, but I just couldn't make my body do what my head was telling it.

However, I was ok with the bucking -- at least, that wasn't what worried me; I was pretty confident that I could ride it out. It was the fact that we were quickly approaching the arena wall, and Hootie wasn't slowing down. We crashed into the wall and Hootie reared up, and I suddenly remembered that I was in Oxbow stirrups. Oxbows are designed to be ridden with your entire foot in, not just the ball, and keep your foot from slipping out. I don't like these stirrups. Maybe it's because, all my life, I've heard "Don't put your foot in! Ride on the ball!". I just haven't gotten the hang of using them.

Anyway, my first reaction is to get my foot out of the stirrups. Then I see the horse tipping over, and I blank. Now, my biggest fear has always been a horse falling over on me. I've heard all sorts of horror stories, I've known people who have broken their leg, back or pelvis that way. So, I'm thinking, crap, I'll get out of this with a broken leg at best.

I hit the ground first, and I'm trying to make my body move, but it won't. Then the horse lands on me. Surprisingly, it didn't hurt -- it actually felt really soft, considering it's a huge freakin' animal. I was positive that I'd be injured, so it was completely shocking to me that I wasn't. I wanted to get up right away and get the horse, but my trainer wouldn't let me. He actually had to push me (gently, of course) back down and make me sit still, even though I kept trying to convince him that I was perfectly fine.

Of course, afterward, I understand why: when your adrenaline's pumping, you can't feel pain, so you may be hurt and not know it. Fortunately, I really was fine.

You'll all be proud to know that I got back on Hootie, and continued loping, and he was fine. I'd be lying if I told you that I wasn't nervous, which was a strange feeling; I can't remember ever feeling nervous about riding. But Hootie was fine, and after a few times around the arena, I was too. And I assured Hootie that there were no hard feelings (in fact, I like him more now).

I was sore by the time I got home, though (we left early, because I got the news about my grandfather right after riding), and really sore yesterday. Today I'm stiff, but not in quite as much pain.

But I've been officially inducted into the Cowgirls of America Association, and I'm not quite so afraid of having a horse fall over on me (although I certainly do not want to tempt fate and let it happen again).

Speaking of initiations, I'm told Kachina finally got a barn name: "Julie" -- after me, of course. I'm disappointed and proud at the same time.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

The Hardest Father's Day Ever

If you've been following this blog for the past couple of weeks, you know that my grandfather has been very I'll, to the point of being hospitalized. I lost him yesterday; he passed while I was away at my trainer's.

My grandfather has always been more like a father to me than my actual father. He encouraged my love of horses, cattle and the cowboy way. He was as good a horseman as any top-name trainer or clinician I could name; his knowledge came from experience, time-tested methods and living a life that some of us only experience in books and movies. Today he would have been the first person that I called.

We had to go into his tack rooms and trailer to see what was in there before we have to clear them out. It was eerie seeing all his tack, some of which he's used since I was a kid, and know that he won't be using it again. I think the most heartbreaking was seeing his trademark chinks, the pair he always worked and competed in, hanging in the tackroom of his trailer.

Granpa was the reason I fell in love with team penning. It was my dream that we'd compete together one day, but I would have been happy just to have him there to watch me.

My trainer, who was frequently my grandfather's partner and one of his best friends, told me that the last memory he had of him was at the last penning that they both competed in. It was my first penning during my apprenticeship and I was riding one of my trainer's young horses. Granpa took me in the arena with him, along with the other competitors; he wanted me to ride alongside of him. I'm trying to hold onto the feeling of that memory, instead of the pain of his passing.

I had a stallion fall over on me yesterday, a few hours before I heard the news (there will probably be a whole other post about that tomorrow). I'm extremely sore, heartbroken and exhausted; right now I'm hurting in all the ways a person can hurt. But I'm slowly getting better, and stronger, although in both cases I wish that experience and growth didn't come at such a high cost.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Cowboy Mounted Shooting

Ok, so about a month ago, at my trainer's, the other apprentice and I were talking about what kind of equine sports we'd like to try after penning that doesn't involve cattle (because I love cattle, and most of the things I want to try next involve cattle, i.e. roping and reining cow horse). Well, I said I'd like to try Versatility Ranch Horse, but what I'd really love to do is Cowboy Mounted Shooting.

Well, at the Horse Expo on Sunday the California Range Riders had a booth and demo (it was a CRR booth, not CMSA -- ignore my Twitter, it doesn't know what it's talking about!). I absolutely fell in love! The gentleman at the booth was extremely friendly, patient and helpful, and I found out that there are classes and such in Navato, about forty-five minutes away from me! He also gave me a free copy of Western Shooting Horse Magazine, which I've been obsessively pouring over since I got my hands on it.

Unfortunately, as much as I really want to try it, the sport looks expensive. Guns alone can cost hundreds of dollars -- then there's ammunition, travel expenses, costumes...eek! As you guys know, the two things I'm shortest on are free time and funds.

The other problem is the horse. I love Maverick to death, and I think he'd be good at it as far as the guns and balloons and the noise -- he doesn't spook at anything! -- but his handle leaves much to be desired, and he's just so lazy! So that leaves Kachina, who will probably be fantastic at it, since she's more inclined to be curious about scary things than afraid. However, the little girl just turned two in May, so I've a long way to go before I can ride her that hard. Besides, she's a cow horse first! Gotta train for one thing at a time!

Still, I'd really like to try it someday. I'm doing all the research I can (yeah, I'm a bit O.C.D.) -- signing up for mailing lists, following blogs, talking to people. I might subscribe to the magazine, too. Also, there's an Old West Gun Shop not far from me. Hmm..I wonder how much a gun safety course will cost..

Poor Kachina, my future cow/roping/shooting/what ever's next horse! She has no idea what she's in for!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Free Gift!

In today's bad economy, who doesn't love a free gift? And because you guys are awesome, and I've been posting about Maverick so much lately, I thought I'd toss out a little love on the blog.

Now, you guys know that P is a great photographer, and a great horse-poop-scooper, but he is also a great singer-song writer. Yep, my friends are extremely talented in many areas (that's why I keep them around).

One day, P was wanted to write a song, but he had no inspiration. Jokingly, I told him that he should write a song about Maverick. I was kidding, but he produced lyrics the very same day and, by the next day, he handed me a CD with a rough recording. Now, it's his best song (no, I'm not biased at all), and definitely one of his most popular.

You can find the CD that the song is on for sale, and more music, on P's MySpace. But, lucky you, you guys get the song Maverick and Juliene for free (yes, you've finally learned my name and, yes, I guest star in the song!).

Enjoy!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Belonging

Busy weekend. Went to my trainer on Saturday to work, ride and see Kachina, then hit up the Western States Horse Expo Sunday.

First off, Kachina looks great. She's just as sweet and good-natured as she was three weeks ago, when she was here, and no one at the ranch had any bad things to say about her. I made it a point to not handle her too much, because I wanted to see how she behaved with others, and she didn't disappoint. Even walking next to a flirting stallion, she remained focused on the handler and calm. I was very proud of her.

My trainer explained a little more of her anatomy to me, what he liked about her, and his predictions for what she'll look like when she's older. He says that she'll be close to fifteen hands, if not fifteen solid, and that she looks like she'll be a strong horse. His opinion is that she'll have good hindquarters, but her real strength will be in her shoulders, which will allow her back end to do some nice things that it ordinarily couldn't. He says her back legs look solid, and can get under her quickly, that her chest is nice and wide, and that she has a good amount of space between the ears (which he likes, personally). He also explained that her neck is already very strong, which is another clue that she'll have a good, strong front end for quick pivots.

I think the highest compliment, however, is one I got from a fellow apprentice: "she looks like she belongs here."

Going into the barn and seeing her, I had the same feeling. My little feedlot pony with her hacked off tail, who was only a couple of days from slaughter, was stabled right next to a daughter of Freckle Face Smoke and an own son of Genuine Doc and she looked like she belonged.

Any person walking through that barn could never tell that she wasn't a Freckle Face Smoke baby, or a Powder River Playboy baby. And it wasn't just her look, or her build, but also her attitude; she behaved like the daughter of a champion. Watching her there, holding her own next to those well bred horses, I couldn't help but swell with pride.

I'm hoping to start her official training next week. I can't wait to see her bloom into a genuine performance horse.

But Kachina wasn't the only one fitting in: at the Western States Horse Expo, I had a chance to rub elbows with people I've only ever seen in magazines and, to my surprise, I was able to hold my own in a conversation with men like C.J. Murphy and Russel Dilday. I could talk cowhorse, knew my lingo, and could ask questions.

Kachina's not the only one getting her feet wet in a new pond.

The rest of the Expo was great, too. I got to talk to all of the trainers. I really liked Richard Winters; he was extremely friendly and knowledgeable, and I felt like he'd talk to me for hours if I needed it. I liked Tommy Garland a lot, too; he gave me some really good tips on helping Maverick with his neck reining that I can't wait to try (the boy's a little dull at it). Stacy Westfall is a personal hero of mine, so it was great to have a conversation with her about training, and especially about riding bareback. And, of course, I grew up with John Lyons, so it was great to see him in person.

While I was at the Expo, I had the pleasure of sitting in a McDaniel saddle. I'd never heard of them, but I gotta say, it's the best saddle I've ever sat in, and I've had the opportunity to ride in big name saddles, like Billy Cook and Martin (up until now, Martin was my favorite). I visited his booth three times! Unfortunately, I don't have the spare $5,500 (spare? I don't even have $5,500!), but if you do I'd definitely recommend checking them out. The man I met was Ron McDaniel, who was extremely nice. The saddles are made by him, his son and his father, which is something that I really liked.

I'll probably dream about that saddle for the next few years, but I did walk away from the booth with a pair of awesome reins!

Friday, June 12, 2009

My Other Boy

While it's obvious that I love horses, that adoration is rivaled only by my love of dogs - I am a dog trainer, after all - and I'm surrounded by dogs almost 24/7 (in fact, the only time I'm not is usually when I'm with horses).

Currently I own five dogs of my own: Sasha - a German Shepherd/Husky mix I've owned since I was twelve, Taco - a rather large Chihuahua, Anubis - an overweight Pit Bull/Bull Mastiff mix, Zorra and Capone - both long-haired Chichuahuas.

Then there's Cash - an almost 80 lbs. Beauceron Shepherd/Rottweiler mix that I co-own with my friend, and boss, Kelli. Cash lives at my work, acting as a sort of canine peer councilor as well as security. He's an awesome dog, with a personality similar to Maverick's, which could be why I love him so much.


Cash spent three of his four years living in a garage in Richmond, California, with the name "Pequito." The name alone was probably torturous enough but, worse, he had almost no training and had spent his life locked away from dirt, deer scat, muddy water - you know, nature. So P and I make it a point to take Cash out into nature when we can.

Usually we go to the dog park (despite how much I, as a trainer, hate the dog park, it's still a relatively safe and enclosed area where dogs can run and swim, which has its value), but yesterday I though it'd be fun to take Cash to my new favorite spot, the Serpentine Prairie, and let him run while I checked out the trails.

Cash had a total blast! You'd think he'd never seen an open field before (which is possible, I suppose); he tore up and down the hills, through the tall grass and trees, rolled in something I can only guess was bobcat or fox scat, then rolled in dried horse poop, then rolled in a fresh gopher hole. It was great to take him out there, follow him off the trail to go exploring, and just watch him be a dog until he was about ready to collapse.


I really do believe that there are some things you can only notice or experience when you're with a dog (or riding a horse, for that matter). They draw your attention to places you never would have looked had you been alone, and keep you from doing distracting human things, like talking on the cell phone or listening to your iPod.

I saw so many plants and flowers that I might not have noticed had Cash not gone over to sniff them. There were crazy tree formations and very cool, hidden deer trails, and the aforementioned wild animal poop. This is probably my favorite flower discovery so far (does anyone know what it is?):


We also saw a California Alligator Lizard. Unfortunately, we did not get a picture because, just as we were pulling out the camera, Cash promptly came over and flopped down on top of it.

I guess there are things dogs don't notice either.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Serpentine Prairie

I've been having a rough time lately so, to combat this, I've been trying to hang out with my friends a lot more - both two-legged and four. With Kachina being with my trainer in La Grange, I have a lot more time spend with Maverick, and we've just recently discovered what is quickly becoming my favorite spot (so far) in the hills: the Serpentine Prairie.

It's this great, winding trail uphill, with the backdrop of beautiful green forest. In some places, you can look at it and not see any sign of buildings, streets or man made structures, which is rare here in the city. Also, riding bareback up those hills (some of which are pretty steep) is great practice for your balance!

It was very relaxing, spending the day with Maverick again, exploring and letting him graze while P took pictures (mostly pictures of flowers):



Did I ever mention that P's obsessed with taking pictures of flowers? Especially yellow flowers. Not that I blame him, this yellow flower was really beautiful, although I have no idea what it is. Maverick seemed to enjoy it, however!

Further up the hill, we reached this plateau of golden fields. It was beautiful, blowing in the wind, overlooking the hills. Of course, Maverick didn't appreciate any of the scenery; he just wanted to snack.