WRANGLING ON THE RANGE #23
It had rained all Saturday night, the sky in the
morning did not look too inviting to go to the Ranch. I called
Betty who lives out that way.
"Oh Keith, I have three little ones coming for a lesson on
the ponies, my two young ladies who help me are away this Sunday,
as it is Father's Day. We shall be inside the barn, so the
weather will make no difference. If you could come out that would
be a great help for me."
"Okay Betty, I'll be out there," I answered. And I did get
there about noon. Berry arrived shortly afterwards. She decided
which ponies she would use and went to the boys in the main barn
for two of them, while I brought in the third from the corral
behind the main barn. I also brought in Goldie, gave her the
special mash and she ate away contentedly. We are now in the
second or barn "b" we shall call it.
The little ones arrived, three of them, about 6 or 7 years
old, two girls and one boy. Betty introduced myself to them. This
was their second lesson. We went over brushing their pony and let
them try it, telling them to brush with the flow of the pony's
coat hair. They did pretty good for little ones. We showed them
how to place the blanket on and how we saddle up, naming some of
the parts of the saddle, especially the cinch and latigo. They
watched with rapture and awe. Then we explained how we put on the
bridle and the bit into the pony's mouth.
The main teaching is done at the inside arena at the far end
of barn "b" ... so we now taught the children how to lead their
pony, naming the "halter" and "lead rope." We instructed them to
hold the lead rope about 6" from where it is attached to the
halter, in the right hand, then the rest of the lead rope in
their left hand, never wrapping the lead rope around their hand,
but folding the extra length and then holding the folds in their
left hand. They are taught to walk forward saying "walk" and if
needed a slight pull on the lead rope. We also teach them to keep
their pony in its "space" with the push of the right elbow in its
neck, if the pony is crowding their space. It is really nice to
see how quickly even 6 and 7 years olds, get to know how to lead
We all arrived at the indoor arena, parents also, and set
about teaching the children how to mount up on their pony, and
also how to dis-mount. We do it all three or four times with
them, and once more it is amazing how quickly they get to know
how to do it.
So now they are up. We show them how to correctly sit in the
saddle, how important it is to have heels down and toes out and
up. They are ready for some sitting exercises while we hold the
pony still; things like hands on hips and a twist to the right
and left; reaching high with arms and over-head; and there are
many others that can be useful. We like to lead and walk the pony
while the child keeps hands on their hips and just feel the
rhythm of the pony as it walks. Then we might lead and walk and
turn right, walk and turn left, repeated many times, while the
youngsters still keep their hands on their hips.
With all this completed it time to teach them how to hold
the reins. Then it's time to make the pony go forward. Betty will
usually say: "There are three things to remember in telling your
pony to move forward: first, push your hands slightly forward to
give some slack on the bit in the mouth of your pony; then kiss
or click with your mouth and at the same time a slight kick with
your heels in the side of the pony."
They also at this time need to know how to stop their pony.
Betty will instruct: "Pull back on the reins saying "wwwooo" -
when the pony stops, put hands forward, releasing the pressure
from the bit, then your pony is happy as its stands for you."
With that instruction we then practice starting and
stopping, as we the staff continue to hold the lead rope of the
pony, keeping all things very safe for these little ones, helping
and instructing as we go.
Now it's time to teach them how to hold the reins, one in
each hand. Then how to pull to the right or left to make their
pony go to the right or left. Still holding the lead rope we walk
in front of the pony going in a zig-zag between large barrels,
the children turning their pony to the right or left as we have
just shown them. We may spend 10 minutes or more on this part of
their instruction. After that lesson it's time to put the lead rope
up around the neck of the pony, and with us still walking in front
of the pony the children guide their pony to the right and left
zig-zag-ing around the barrels. Each pony pretty well follows us,
but it does give the children that feeling of guiding their pony
on their own.
We then may do more dismounting and mounting, maybe 4 or
We have an outdoor "round-pen" and weather permitting we
will go to that pen and let the children guide their pony.
That's a darn good second lesson for 6 and 7 year olds. They
will then dismount and lead their pony back to where they stay in
the barn, leading them as we taught them earlier.
One of the little ones, one of the girls, wanted to see
Goldie, so I brought her and her parents around to the stall
where Goldie was and led her out so they could stroke her nose,
she likes the attention.
Paul, who is Betty's full time/part time help was finishing
up teaching a young lady, her first riding session in 10 years.
The young lady is in her early 20s.
"Paul, are you going out on the trail," I inquired.
Yes, we can, if you are coming with us," was the replied.
I'd like to, and so would Michael." Now Michael is Betty's
nephew from Ontario, out for the summer to help Betty with the
summer camp. Michael has not done very much horse riding, so the
boys made sure he was on one of the most reliable horses on the
Ranch, big guy - a part Clidesdale, about 17 hands tall.
Off we went, Goldie behaving herself for a half mile, then
whatever got into her head, she was working herself up into a
lather. The trail goes up one side of a hill, across the top, and down
the other side. We were about half way, and Paul commented about
Goldie acting up and sweating. And she was, it had been a long time
if ever in the four years I've had her that she was acting like this, her
neck and flanks just wet with sweat.
I would say "easy girl, easy," and she would listen for maybe 30
seconds, then back to dancing around. I finally was out of ideas
except to dis-mount and walk with her for the final half of that trail,
maybe half a mile. She calmed right down, walked along as good as
gold; she dried up, no more sweating. Paul did not want to yet go back
to the barn, so after that trail we headed through a gate to go northward.
I opened and closed the gate for all of us, then decided I would mount up again on Goldie. She was calm, perfectly well behaved (as she is 99 per
cent of the time) all the way back to the barn which on that trail is a good mile.
What goes off inside the mind of horses, or I should say, some horses,
can be a mystery at times. Whatever it was, the half mile I walked with
Goldie solved the problem, whatever it was in her mind.
The lesson: One thing solves the problem for one horse,
another thing for another horse, and still something else for yet
a different horse. One thing does not work for all horses, in any
particular time and situation. I have no clue what was in
Goldie's mind to make her lather-up so much, but the half mile
walk alongside her did the job, and when I was up again on her,
it was as if she was a different horse. Just goes to show the
individuality of a horse, even from one time period to another,
all within a relatively short period of time. One thing for sure
with Goldie, you can never complain you are bored. And to tell
you the truth I would not want it any other way, she is a very
personal and interesting horse. I'm learning horsemanship all the
time with her, never bored for sure.
Arriving back at the barn, after un-saddling, I cleaned out
Goldie's feet, put some hoof ointment all over the frog and hoof
in general, then turned her out to join her friends on the
I'll try to get out with her this coming Thursday as I'll be flying
Friday morning to Kelowna, B.C. to visit my Dad for 7 days.
Needless to say it was an interesting day at the Ranch.
To be continued