Post title is in tribute to such wonderful Quarter Horse names like ImaLilLena and HesSmartCutter and such. This past weekend we had two big milestones: For Diego's 8th Birthday he got to go play cow horse. :) And it was LOVE!
Ronda and I, and Ronda's sister in law Chris, all woke up at o'dark thirty on Saturday morning and went down to the Cow Horse 101 Clinic in Granite Bay, CA held at the Roberts' Ranch. It was a wonderful way to introduce horses and/or riders to the basics of working cows. At the beginning of the clinic, after everyone had warmed up, Kathy went over the basics of how cows see, think, and move - i.e. they go where they're heads are pointed, but watch their eyes for where they may be thinking of going next. Move them like a horse in the round-pen in regards to drive lines and how to push, turn, and stop. She explained about how some horses exude more "pressure" than others, so you may need to stay farther back on those horses, and how some cows are more sensitive than others, etc. Really a lot of it is just about becoming familiar and comfortable with the various signs and how to read and interpret those. I had a bit of an advantage, having competed in Team Sorting and a bit of Team Penning in my Junior High and early High School years. Ronda was also very familiar with working cows in the past. It was a TON of fun and something that I wouldn't mind getting back into again.
|The cows enter the arena, Digs is intriqued|
They then brought the 10 cows, all numbered with a neck banner, into the arena and had us take turns riding quietly at a walk in groups of three in and around the cows. First was between the cows and the fence in one direction, then the other, then to make an easy path between the cows so the cows were on both sides and maybe moving around a bit. Diego was very interested in the cows from the beginning, watching them intently but not afraid. He gave them helicopter ears a few times when the cows would move around close to him, but he held his line and continued on nicely.
Next we split into teams of four and took turns moving the herd through various obstacles that had been placed around the arena. For example, between two cones, around the barrel, along the poles, between the last poles, and then back between the cones. Obstacles that would simulate moving a herd between a gate, along a fenceline, around trees, through a wash, etc. We rotated around and worked as several different teams, taking turns being partners with various people and working the cattle through various courses. Our last team was Ronda, Chris, and I with a Sacramento Mounted Police Officer named Mike, and we NAILED our run! Such fun! The hardest part was exactly as Kathy described, getting the herd together and moving in a single direction to start.
Lastly, they put the cattle into two interconnected round-pens to allow us to practice sorting the cattle, like some of the local ranch sorting competitions. A good example of how that works is here:
The cows are numbered zero through nine, in a competition, you have a limited amount of time to sort them numerically from the herd, in an order determined by draw when you start. In other words, they'll call number seven and you need to move seven from one pen to the next, then eight, then nine, and on down the line. When we started, we all just picked the easiest cows first, disregarding their numbers. We kept everything pretty slow, to a walk or trot mostly. It was nearly noon and getting hot and the cows were getting tired. Everyone rotated through with a partner and then went again if they wanted. By this time, Diego had figured out that he LOVED working cattle and had started to pin his ears and attempt to bite them on the butt if they weren't moving fast enough for his liking. :) I went once with Ronda, then with Chris, then Ronda and I went again and worked the cows in numerical order this time. We had one sneak through out of order, which would be a "No Time" and disqualification in competition, but it was great fun and good practice.
Diego says he would most definitely like to do this or some sorting competitions/practice in the future. He had a BALL and can't wait to go back and get some more cows!