Thursday, January 2, 2020

Pleasantly Surprised - Unicorn in Training

Well I have had Ms. Kitty for three days.  She honestly has amazed me in the fact she learns so fast.  This scares me a little too, I fear she may progress faster than I can remember what to do.  I know all the basics.  I can get her to a point where she will be ready to start, at least I think I can.  I have before, however before was many years ago.  The only thing I have going for me now is back then I did most of it out of instinct.  Meaning I wasn't as knowledgeable, just lucky.  Now I know I know a lot more, have tons more experience, but is that a good thing? 

Feel is something that can't be explained exactly.  It is like explaining to someone what it feels like to to be an empath.  Unless you are one you will never understand.  The world is full of feelings, good, bad, indifferent.  Some of us feel too much so we learn to block out or hide out.  It isn't that we don't like people we just don't always like what they share with us.  It is the same thing with horses.  They are empaths in many ways.  They feel what we feel.  They understand our moods and our intentions. 

I have to make sure I stay in the moment when I am working with Ms. Kitty.  She has some attitude, but not as much as a few days ago.  I have said from day one she is smarter than most people.  She is young so I have to remember that too.   I only have a few days of vacation left.  The days are short so after this I won't get much training in during the week.  Which is fine, I won't send her out until maybe May or June, even later if she does have a growth spurt here soon.  No reason to start her too soon.  She has a whole life in front of her.  I will just keep the ground work going and get as far as I can in that aspect.  I will need to find a trainer I trust.  That in itself will be a major task.  I don't take starting a colt lightly.  That first 60 days can make or break the next five years.  Done correctly it will be a solid foundation for a partnership for life.  Or it can be the beginning of many hours of  trying to fill in the holes.   I have seen horses with great potential ruined by a bad trainer.  I had a horse that was basically ruined by a bad trainer.  My husband sent him out to get some hours on him, he came back a hot mess that took countless hours just to start to build the trust again.  Not this time, this little girl has too much potential.  I am already getting attached, go figure.  The difference is in 20's I could accept poor communication with my horse than I can in my 50's.  I no longer "bounce", I don't break quite yet, but I dent real well. 

Off to strip stalls, then get a few hours in with the horses.  Need to start cleaning my barn.  It is a mess from winter and my husband.  Love him dearly but he is a mess.  Leaves things everywhere.  I have been so busy with the holidays I have just ignored the whole thing.  Now that the holidays are over its time to spend the rest of winter getting ready for spring.  Even when I can't ride I can get the barn in order. 

Happy Trails!  Make today count, one small step in the direction of your dreams each day will get you there in the long term.  You know the saying a journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step!  Step it up my friends, step it up.

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Happy New Year - The Next Steps Moving Forward

Over the years I have fancied my self a trainer of horses, children, dogs and people.  My favorite of the four is horses.  However like many things in life if you don't do it everyday you get a little rusty.  This little mare of mine makes me feel rusty for sure.  Yesterday we got past pissy.  Which is awesome.  We actually made it to willing.  Now honestly I haven't had a horse that is afraid of cattle in so long I can't remember when.  Even in my boarding years we roped, so there were always roping cattle on the ranch.  So needless to say that when I took the little Miss out after for a walk into the pasture it a new adventure to see how afraid of cattle she actually was.  Now for her new life this is something she will have to get past in a hurry.  We have cattle all over the place.  Actually almost everywhere she will being going there are cattle.   The poor little thing has not been exposed to much, she is pretty fearless, but in her defense all of this at one time does test her.

She started our session in her normal fashion, willing, then not.  She is used to being the boss.  Which really isn't going to fly with me.  After a while and a little sweat she decided to comply.  From that point out she was awesome.  Personal space is something she will have to learn.  She likes to crowd you, sometimes it is out of needing some reassurance others is just being pushy.  I have to remind myself she is a baby.  In older horses this behavior is usually directly associated with dominance, in her it is just as much about security.   I need to remember to make her feel secure, just not on top of me.

Last nigh I just went into her stall to spend time with her, something I do not do near enough these days.  My job, this ranch, life in general keeps me at an extended jog most of the time.  My goal for 2020 is to slow down and spend a little more time enjoying what we have and the wonderful people in my life.

I find Cotton is finally at a point he just wants to be with me.  He is my unicorn.  I had no idea 16 years ago when I bought him a the Red Bluff Gelding Sale that I had found such a wonderful, faithful animal.  There is no replacing him.  You never actually replace anything, you just build a new relationship that you hope is as good.  Ms. Kitty, I hope will be as good, I hope I don't make the mistakes I made with Cotton, and if I do, I hope she is as forgiving.  You see I was in a bad relationship for the first eight years I had Cotton.  When my world got out of control I tried to assert control where it was not warranted.  I made a lot of mistakes with him over the years.  Mistakes I would have never made on any other horse.  Yet, he always forgave me.  Not immediately, it took time, it took me being in a better place.  Now I look back and realize he was my sanity when my world was upside down.  The other day someone asked me if I every thought of selling him, without a thought I said, never.  He will be with me until the day he crosses the rainbow bridge.  He has given me his whole heart, he helped me when I didn't even know I needed help, he has been loyal and trustworthy.  For that I will take care of him for the rest of his life.  I will try to give him a back the loyalty he deserves. 

I hope to do right by Ms. Kitty, and in return I hope she repays the favor.  Horses are amazing creatures they teach you so much about yourself.  They give you what you need even when you don't know what you need.  The are a mirror to you soul.  They will reflect the broken pieces and help for put them back together.  They don't ask much in return, only honesty and respect.  Isn't that what every successful relationship is built upon?  Respect.  Pure, simple and honest.   I feel this little mare is honest, she has just been allowed to be disrespectfully like a spoiled child.  She was handled by those who were not aware, and she took control.  I just have to show her that I can be the leader and she need not worry about the rest.

Off to ride.  Have a blessed day, Happy New Year!  Here's to this amazing journey we call life!

Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Searching for Unicorns - Some may be disguised as fire breathing dragons

Have had horses nearly all my life.  Was not born into a "horsie" family.  Over the years I take a pride in my accumulation of knowledge.  I have trained a few, ruined a few and overall spent my life in pursuit of understanding my horses better so that the relationship we have is a positive one for all involved.

My dependable horse is getting up there in years.  I am no spring chicken myself.  Cotton (old
Cotton
dependable) is 21 this year.  Hard to believe.  We have been through so much together.  He is solid citizen and he will be with me until the day he crosses the rainbow bridge.  Realizing how many years it took to build the trust I have with him it was time to go in search of my next unicorn.  However, we had been given an old guy several years ago.  Obe (the old guy) was intended for our grandkids to ride the problem is they don't live close or come to visit often, so he just sat in the pasture.  Now I do not believe that pasture retirement is a fair trade off for a good horse that is still sound.  Horses who give us their lives deserve the same amount of care in their old age as they did when they were young.  My husband wanted me to start marketing him.  For anyone who knows me, you know I just am not a good horse trader.  Sorry to say there are many people in this world who should not own a horse (or a dog, or any other living thing).  Then there are those that are just looking to try it out.  Well  they are the ones that need an old horse, yet that is a crap shoot whether or not it will be a forever home for that horse.  Now I get attached to all my animals.  Which has been a problem over the years.  As a rancher you just can't keep every calf, or adopt every stray dog.  So needless to say Obe wasn't going anywhere fast.  In trying to encourage me, my husband said I could take whatever money I get for Obe and buy a young horse to bring up to one day replace Cotton.  As tempting as that was I only put minimal effort into the endeavor.  Well that is the selling part, I was actively looking for a new prospect.


I was on vacation between Christmas and New Years 2019.  Sitting cruising through Facebook while my husband watched the hunting shows of which I have no interest.  On one of my groups was an advertisement for a black filly.  I liked the way she moved and how she was put together.  As I had done a hundred times I quickly sent my husband the link.  Then I started reading the comments.  Turns out the owner was looking for a broke, safe, kids horse, well heck I have one of those.  I quickly messaged her to ask if the filly was still available.  She said yes so I quickly sent her pictures of Obe.  A lesson horse for small children was the perfect retirement job for this old man of mine.  He loved kids and I felt very confident in my offer.  We messaged back and forth for a while and setup a day and time for me to bring him out and to look at the filly.

Obe at a branding

The stable was located approximately 2.5 hours from our home in Mariposa.  We needed to check cows in Merced and run a few errands so we made it a day.  From Merced it took about an hour and 10 minutes to get to the stable.  The whole time all I could think of is what was I doing.  I am not a horse trader.  This was way out of my comfort zone.

We arrived a few minutes early and met this wonderful young trainer.  As we talked she told me that the owners of the stable were new to the business.  They had purchased the place two years before and had been fixing it up.  It was clean and I was impressed to be honest.  Now I ran a boarding facility for 15 years.  It is no easy task, and not one for the faint at heart.  I took Obe out of the trailer.  As the gentleman he is he just walked out and looked around.   The young trainer wanted to turn him out into a large arena so he could roll.  I had no issues with that, while personally I thought it was a waste of time, I am sure she had a purpose.  So we turned him out.  He rolled and trotted around a bit, nothing major.  She suggested we go over and take a look at the filly.

Well from the moment I set eyes on her I knew she would be a handful.  She was playing nippy bite with the horse in the next pen.  Part of her mane was gone from this practice and she had a few places on her face from hitting the rail.  All normal things for a baby.  She was jet black as the advertised, and put together well.  The only downside was she was small.  But she was not even two, so there was hope she would grow into herself.  Her ground manners were bad.  She was pushy, invaded your space and did not respect people.  From the moment we met I could tell she was smart, really smart.  She had figured out her people right away.  Which was good and bad all at one time.  Now I have only owned one mare that I will say was a unicorn.  I have owned several that were fire breathing dragons.  At this point it was a 50/50 guess how this one will end up.

We turned her out in a small covered arena.  She bucked, farted and was generally a kid.  Then she came back over to us and began playing with a trash can.  I clipped the lead back to her halter, then asked her to move.  That is when the she ratted out her owners, trainers and anyone else who had been handling her - she was a spoiled brat.  She leaded over to nip me for which she got the end of the lead rope.  Her "people" had taught her how to not do what they wanted.  I messed with her a little more satisfied I knew what I was getting.  I was willing to give this a go.  She moved beautifully.  She was grade, which I was more than a little annoyed about.  The ad stated that her mothers papers had been lost, not that she did not have any.  Now I have no intention of breeding, but that just made me feel as if I wasn't getting the whole truth.  Now her daddy is registered with great breeding.  In horse trading you have to be prepared for the truth to be stretched and that is why I hate it so much.   I was satisfied so when went to get Obe so she could try him out.
Obe and our Grandson

I am not Obe's person.  We will leave it at that, he loves our grandson, my daughter or just about everyone but me.  It is not that we had a bad relationship, however given two choices I would always be number 2.  First the young trainer when in to get him.  He walked away, then I went in, he trotted away.  While I was trying to collect him the owner of the ranch and the one looking for the lesson horse walked into the arena.  Just like that he had a new person.  He trotted up to her put his head in her arms and that was that.  Now in all my years of buying and selling horses I have only seen this happen three times.  Which in my book means it was meant to be.  It was honestly love at first sight on both their parts.  They took him to the back of the property and saddled him up.  Now he hadn't been ridden in over a year, and I did not ride him ahead of time on purpose.  The is what he is, period.  If they wanted him fine, if not that was ok also.  Mostly because I know he was worth more than the filly.  After 10 or 15 minutes they decided he was perfect.  In between these happenings I find that the stable owner wanted him for her to ride.  There was a trail head close by and she wanted a horse she could trust.

During this phase the filly was tied to hitch post.  She started to throw a fit, but just a mild one.  After she realized that was that, she just stood there.  I was encouraged.  She was smart enough to know when enough was enough.

We did the paperwork, I felt good about Obe finding a forever home where he will be loved.  He will be able to make a positive impact on the lives of many children.  He will get the attention he deserves for all his years of hard work and loyalty.  That alone was worth the trade.

Ms.Kitty meeting her
new brothers
Ms. Kitty checking out her
new home.
They told me the filly's name was Catalina.  Well not anyone.  Her name was promptly changed to Ms. Kitty.  We loaded her in the stock trailer and off we went.  She threw the same fit as at the tie block, again only until she realized she wasn't going to get her way.  It was a rainy miserable ride home over the Pacheco Pass.  We got home well after dark.  She was surprising good in her new surroundings.  Pushy but know freaked out.  Put her in her new stall fed and called it a night.  Now comes the hard part.  Not just training but several months of untraining those bad habits.  We were told she is not quite two yet.  The paperwork given us with her says she is two and few months. 

Either way she is young enough and smart enough to figure it out.