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!