Then and Now

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Over ten years ago, I decided I would let someone else have the first rides on my two-year-olds. That year, I hired a man to ride two fillies for the first two or three rides. Although I have no complaints about how he did the job, that's the last time I hired the job out. The next year and every year after that, I started my own colts and a few that came to my barn as well. Since I believe the first six rides are so may be the most important rides of the young horse's life and since I take these colts on to become trained reining horses, I wanted to do the work myself.

I've been starting colts all my life, but my methods have changed through the years. My brother just reminded me of that fact. He is reading my book, A Life With Horses, and we had a lively conversation about our childhood, remembering, laughing about some of the thngs we did.He asked me if I remembered the names of certain horses or when they were born. Then we talked a little about how we started colts.

"That was just plain stupid," he said.

He was referring to the practice of climbing on the colt (at least three years old), opening the gate and riding across the prairie hoping we could hold things together. He reminded me of the colt who flat out ran away with him over the hills and holes until he stopped, fortunately with Harold still aboard. He reminded me also of the mare who bucked me off a couple of times and one who "spooked me off"in buck brush and ran.

Things are a little different now. Now we both work the colt on the ground before we get on. We use a corral or enclosed area for the first rides and we don't head out before we have a little handle on the colt and at least a little faith that he won't run away or buck us off.

I'm just starting to ride my two year old filly, Sapphire. She's a pretty little thing, a cross between my cowhorse (Silk) and my stallion, Running With Wolves. Like her mom, she has plenty of "sting". Last winter I saddled her in my barn and lunged her in the snow a few times. A couple of weeks ago I saddled her again, got on her in the stall, then mounted in my old round pen and walked her a few steps. I could not do more because the round pen is really a turn out pen and it was slippery in places. So it was time to graduate to my arena. Maybe not everything has changed about the way I start horses now, because my arena is not fenced, which means if Sapphire spooked or ran, she could leave the arena, run through trees or over various obstacles. I didn't have a choice though. I counted on her trusting me as much as I trusted her and so far that has worked. Here is a photo taken off my video (set on a tripod in the corner of the arena).

No, I didn't want to be bucked off any more than I did when I was sixteen ... or twenty ... or thirty. Now I miminize that possiblity, but it's still there. Taking that chance is worth it - I will have a horse that has been on my program since day one. I assisted in Sapphire's birth, halter trained her and now I'm riding her. What an incredible journey!

Would I go back to pulling a three year old off the range, slapping a saddle on in some fashion and heading out the gate? Nope. In the words of my brother, "That was just plain stupid!"

A Weekend at Wildwood

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This blog is titled, "Reinin', Ridin', and Writin'". There was lots of riding and reining this past weekend, but not a bit of writing. Consequently, I am a day behind on my blog. Here's how the weekend went:

My broodmare, Easter, was due to foal, actually due on April 25th, but since she has had all three of her foals early, I expected this one to be too. She also traditionally does not give me much notice. I attended two of the three births, but I may have been lucky. Since I had to cut the umbilical cord on one, I really wanted to be there when she foaled, so I slept in the tackroom of the barn Thursday night and intended to sleep there every night until the foal arrived.

Easter had picked a busy weekend to keep me up watching her - I was hosting a Vern Sapergia clinic at my facility on Saturday and Sunday, which meant I had to pick up Vern on Friday evening in Williams Lake 100 km away, ready the house for guests and ready the barn and pens for horses. No problem, I thought. It's all about preparation. I cooked ahead, planned ahead, arranged for someone to watch Easter while I made the trip to the airport. Vern and I arrived back (no foal), visited a bit and I walked to barn to spend the night there.

The next morning (no foal), the clinic started and ran nonstop until 7:00 PM. I rode in the clinic of course - that's one thing I was totally prepared for - and checked Easter at regular intervals. Since she was stalled behind the barn, she could have surprised me with a foal at any time, but she didn't. That night I again slept in the barn.

I was seriously sleep deprived by Sunday, but I showed up at 10:30 on Little Wolf for my class of course. Vern had promised to ride him at some point, but we had had such a good ride the day before that I thought maybe I would just let him step on him at the end of the day. I had pulled my mare, Legacy, out of the field so Vern could have a horse to teach on. Apparently, for Little Wolf (3 year old stallion), that changed the dynamics of everything. He saw right away that Vern was not on Wolf, my 5 year old stallion, as he had been the day before. He also remembered Legacy had been cycling only a few days before ... and he turned into a bundle of testosterone! I corrected him, worked him out, corrected him again, but he was stirred up now. A mare on the hill squealed, the yearlings ran down to feed, all things he was used to, but his attention was no longer on me. Worse yet, I was tired enough that I did not have it in me to cope. "This would be a good time to ride him," I said to Vern and he did.

Of course Little Wolf settled down eventually and the ride ended on a good note. For the last ride of the day, I saddled my five year old stallion, Wolf, for Vern and we traded back and forth during the lesson, ending the day with a fabulous sliding stop on Wolf. (Sorry - no photo - my camera girl said she was too busy watching!)
Still no foal of course and I had decided Easter was waiting until the clinic was over and it was once again quiet. By now, she was waxed and not eating. This time, unlike the others, she was giving notice of her intentions! After dinner, hashing over the weekend's events over wine (with multiple checks on Easter) I walked to the barn at 12:45, dead tired. I set the alarm for 3:00 AM in case I didn't wake up and looked through the window again - she was rolling, positioning the baby. She was going to foal!
So tired I could hardly keep my eyes open and knowing I had to rise at 5:00 to get Vern to the airport, I laid down on the bed to wait it out. I was falling asleep even knowing I would have a foal soon! To keep myself awake, I started visualizing some of the exercises Vern had shown me. I still wanted to doze off! "Hurry up," I thought, "because I need to get a couple of hours of sleep!"
Just before 2:00 AM, the filly arrived, strong and healthy and cute as a button! Her daddy is Wolf the stallion who had laid down the incredible slide in my arena a few hours before. It was another hour before I could sleep. By then baby was up and Easter had dropped the after birth. I left baby and mother alone to work out the logistics of getting something to eat. At 5:00. I watched the filly suck and left for the airport with Vern. What a weekend! I am still recovering.

River Magic

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Yesterday I rode down the hill from my house to check my property gates and fences. It was the first ride of the year for Legacy. I had pulled her out of the herd, saddled her and stepped on. She was all right with all of that, but when we left the buildngs, she missed her buddies. As we wound down the hill to the river field, she whinnied several times. The noise shattered the silence ... and the peace of my solitary ride.

After the fence check, I followed the bank of the river (the Chilcotin) for a stretch before heading home. I looked for the geese who nest there every spring, but didn't see them. Finally, the steady hum and the lapping of waves on two huge rocks in the river, worked its magic. Time slowed ... and stopped. I got off Legacy, tied her to the lone poplar by the river and sat on the bank. I should be living by this river, I thought.

The river has not risen yet, revealing banks strewn with rocks washed by millions of gallons of running water. I couldn't resist. I had to add to the little piles of river rock on the bank, piles I had made on other rides. I really didn't have time to dally by the river (My student would arrive in a half hour), but I did. With Legacy tied to the poplar, I walked along the banks looking for smooth flat ones until my arms were full. I even found a large piece of jade!

As I stumbled through the rocks, I felt like I was being watched. I was. When I looked up, I saw Legacy had company. Whisper and Silk, her pasture buddies, had joined us. All three silently stood on the bank staring down at me. The river had worked its magic on them too. They stood as one, in perfect harmony with nature and themselves.

Clutching the jade in one hand, I reluctantly mounted Legacy and walked away from the river. I'll be back.

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Connecting the the Horse World

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Horse people are all connected in some way - usually through horses. Throughout the years, there have been many examples of this and I am never shocked. In fact, it always gives me an unexpectd lift, kind of confirms who I am.

Take the case of the recipient mare, Ten (named for the number on her halter). The young sorrel mare was one of several mares bought by the veterinarian doing the embryo transfer from my Rooster mare. She was chosen for no other reason than the timing of her cycle to carry my mare's baby.

When I picked up both mares, the vet told me he thought Ten was a registered mare and that he would look into that. I promptly forgot the conversation. sometime in the winter, Ten's papers arrived in the mail. I absentmindedly looked at them . . . then looked again. I knew her grandsire very well - I had put some training on him! And I once owned Ten's great granddam!

Another example...

This past winter a lady contacted me to book her mare for training in the spring. In the course of the conversation, she mentioned she had an old Arabian gelding.

"Nero's a Spanish Arab," she said.

"I trained and showed a Spanish Arabian stallion many years ago," I replied. Then I stopped. I felt the hairs on my arms starting to prickle like the time I realized my cousin was sitting across from me in my own house and neither one of us knew it (a whole other story). Nero?

"Where did you say you got him," I asked. When she told me, I knew. Nero was the son of the stallion I rode. Not only that, I had handled the stallion when his dam was bred, the breeding that resulted in Nero. I had later conditioned Nero for sale , took him to the sale and delivered him to his new owner - the lady my client had bought him from.

I did not know my prospective client, who lived many miles from me. I still have not met her in person, but she said right from the beginning that something had led her to me. Maybe it was an old gelding named Nero, son of Nino Hermoso, the stallion I reined in 1992!

I'm sure many of you have a story like these. I would love it if you shared your story on my blog. Hoping to hear from you...