Saturday, May 14, 2011

Roxie's Corner

Reporting from a horse stall in Chaska, Minnesota
and hoping that the wood shavings don't clog up my computer.  The barn cats are prowling around with evil intentions and I have to keep one eye on them while I type.

We arrived early this evening after two weeks in Sperry, Iowa, which is a great place for horses and dogs.  The humans seemed to be having a good time too. We took walks around the lake, through the woods and down to the shooting range, with occasional dips in the lake.  I can vouch for the quality of the food served, because Bets shared her lunch with me a time or two and it was yummy, although she could have left a bit more.  There is an ugly rumor going around that I hurried home from the shooting range because I was afraid of the gun shots, but don't believe it.  I think the barn cats must have started it, and as I always say, you can't trust cats.  The quality of the walks varied a lot: fast and fun when Arda was there to walk with us, poky and slow when Bets walked alone.  I didn't complain though--another thing I always says is, we dogs live in the moment and any moment spent "in the zone" as Cesar calls it, is good.

Gene parting one out from the rodear.  I was still waiting patiently.
I heard several people comment that the Foundation Horsemanship and Advanced Horsemanship clinics went well and all the humans and horses seemed pleased. Me, I was counting the hours until the Cow Working and Ranch Roping clinics, wondering, would Bob realize how badly he needed me to herd calves. I was holding my breath. Humans can be so unpredictable and illogical that you just can't count on them, but finally, at the end of each day he called me to come help get those ornery critters back in their pen.  Oh delight! Oh joy! Oh what an audience!  They loved me.

First I ambled nonchalantly down the arena until I was within striking distance, and then I went into my dreaded Border Collie Stalking Mode and those babies froze in fear, not knowing which way to turn.  Next they received a dose of "cow dog in your face" which made them take off like a covey of quail.  I was just getting ready for pursuit when he-who-ruins-all-my-fun shouted "DOWN" and I hit the dirt on my belly.  I waited patiently for the "OK" command which means I can get back into the action and it finaly came when the calves slowed down to an insolent crawl.  A few nips at their heels brought them back into line and after that it was just a matter of follwing them up the arena and directing their attention to the open gate of the cow pen.  They looked back over their shoulders once, realized that I was still on duty and went into the pen like good little calves.  Mission accomplished.  Of course Bob and Bets both showered me with GOOD GIRL accolades.

 For your edification I've included a couple pictures of the clinic from my perspective.

What a lovely view.

Bob observing my flawless technique.

UH OH!  Those cats are getting waaaaay too brave.  Time to put a little fear into them.  Bets will show you photos of the rest of the clinic--ho hum, just lots of horses and humans. The ropers are my kind of folks; they understand what is important in life, and they are working hard to get better and better.  Bob was so proud of all of them that he bragged to Bets about how well they did.  Of course he was proud of the horsemanship students also, but if there aren't cows involved just take me for a long walk. 

Friday, May 13, 2011

Wyoming Happenings

The trailer is hooked up, the bags are packed and the cat is hiding somewhere in the house because he knows the signs by now, but a little tuna will lure him out in the morning.  Tomorrow we--Bob and Betty, horses, dog and cat--head out for the clinic at Mark and Cheryl Lieurance's  in Sperry, Iowa.

For the last week and a half we have been at the TA Ranch while Betty got R&R for a cold and, among other things, Bob helped teach a couple of show steers weighing in at about 1150 lbs a piece how to lead.  Cattle can be taught to lead using the same techniques that work with horses, although in this case a good stout post in the pen provided the means to roll the hind quarters and get the steers stepping through.  We snapped a few photos to show how it progressed. Because these guys hadn't been handled and were pretty defensive they were run into the squeeze chute to get the halters on.  After the halters were in place, with long lead ropes, they were turned loose one at a time and --very carefully--the ropes were retrieved and wrapped around a stout post.  Both steers checked out the post and lead ropes pretty thoroughly, giving them their first introduction to breaking over the hindquarters. 
 After they learned to respect the rope they were turned loose in the pen and worked by their youthful owners in a confined space. They learned to yield to the rope, soften and move their hind quarters away by stepping the inside hind leg across and in front of the outside hind leg, just as you would teach a horse. When this happens they turn and follow on a loose lead if they are rewarded with a release of pressure for even a small try.  By the second sessions both steers had gentled down considerably and  their education had begun.  The black steer was even leading up and looking for Cody for head scratches.  The bald faced steer was a little slower to respond, but he had been the quieter of the two in the beginning.
After just two sessions they were progressing well and it will be fun to see how they are doing when we return to Wyoming in a few weeks.  Both the youth and their parents were fast learners which made it easier for the steers to learn.  As you can see there was no ramming or jamming, no dust was raised and no one was hurt.  We will keep you updated on their progress.