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.