DIARY OF WRANGLING ON THE RANGE #3
The weather had been anything but pleasant for three weeks,
the Ranch was basically shut down. They had done a few wagon rides
and the few days over the last three weeks, that it was enjoyable
enough to be outside for any length of time sitting on a wagon.
As I left is was mainly overcast, and heading West
it was clear. It was hard to believe all the drab brown of the
Prairies, would be a lush green come April. The sun was beaming
off the snow clad Rockies in the distance; snow clad except old
saddle horn peak, which stood out like a black pin among white
pins in a bowling alley.
Arriving at the Ranch road there was about 6 inches of snow
everywhere, more of course in the drifts. Tom and Bob had the
horses in the barn for those that would be used today. I greeted
them and went into the back corral for my horse. She got her
usual special mix and was glad to have it; it had been three
weeks since she had it the last time I was out.
Paul (a man that lives on the Ranch and works part time,
breaking and training horses) greeted me and asked if I was going
to ride Goldie. I said I probably would, and then said he would
like to ride along, on a young 4 year old mare he had been
"Yes, sure Paul, that would be nice for me also."
"Great Keith," he replied, "we can maybe go up the scenic
trail, lots of snow, will be good for this new horse to plough
"Sound good to me Paul," I answered.
Out on the snowy trail it wasn't long till Paul said,
"Keith, you know Cliff, from south of the border, whose coming up to
the Ranch in May to put on his "Horsemanship Clinic" like he did
last year.Well, he called me this past week to ask if I was
interested in coming to his home for September and October, and I
could be his apprentice, free of charge."
"Wow, Paul, that is terrific," I said.
"Yes I think so. I haven't told anyone yet at the Ranch, nor
have I yet told Betty."
betty is the lady who runs the summer "Horses and Pony Camp"
for kids, well anyone over 8 years old really. Now and again we
have a few adults in the camp. I along with Paul and others, work
for Betty for the camps she puts on. Actually before and after the
camp for a few months, Betty puts on week-end camps, and Paul teaches
"If I go to Cliff's place I wont be able to teach riding for
Betty on the week-ends during September and October."
"Oh that is right. But look, at least on Sundays I can take
your place, so don't worry," I replied, "you can't pass up an
opportunity to go to Cliff's ranch.
"Yes, that is sure. And by the way Cliff is coming this time
for a week to us here on this Ranch, and he was asking me if I
knew a good motel to stay at."
"I thought Cliff had his own mobile home/horse trailer," I
"Ya he does but he's not bringing it this year. He's up in
North putting on a clinic before he comes here. He'll come on
Monday to us, after the clinic in up North, and be with us till
his clinic here is over, as you know the clinic does not start
until Friday. I inquired from Tom if there was anywhere on the
Ranch he could stay. Tom told me he could stay with him."
"Well that is super good, yes Tom has a three bedroom house
and a nice basement, so I can see he would have room for Cliff,"
"Yes, and Tom and Bob get on real good with Cliff," Paul
The "Horsemanship Clinic" is real good for those who are not
that experienced, or are new to the horse world. People register
and can bring their own horses or borrow one from the Ranch. Of
course there is a fee, Paul does this clinic work as a living.
He travels pretty well all over the Western part of North
America. He is looked upon as being one of the best in the
"Horsemanship Clinic" world.
The new young horse Paul was riding was doing very well on
our plodding long in the snow. It was good to see Paul enjoying,
he had been sick for about three weeks. Paul is asthmatic, not
nearly as bad as some have it, in fact he thought he had "outgrown"
it. But two summers ago, during the kids camp, he was really
sick. He was so bad he asked Betty if I could take him to his
doctor. His doctor was in a town about one hour away. I drove
him there and he was in real bad shape. He did not tell me he had
asthma as a kid. I waited outside the doctor's office, oh maybe
45 minutes. The doc had given him a "puffer" immediately. Paul
came out and I was amazed, he was like a new man. Then he told me
the doctor said it was an asthma attack, which he had not had
since a kid. So it was kind of a shock to him to realize it could
come back after 20 years or more, Paul is 37 this year.
As we rode along we talked about the Ranch mares that Paul
had worked on since last Spring, some easy to train, others not
so easy, or had particular odd idiosyncracies, like one that was
great to saddle up and ride, but when you dis-mounted and the
right leg came over she would start to buck some. I told him I
thought I had seen just about everything in horses but that
strange habit I had not encountered. I told Paul there was a
couple of things he could try. First, tie up the horse's left
front leg to the saddle horn, and get up and down quite a few
times, if the horse did act up and wanted to buck when that right
leg came over in dismounting, the horse would not be able to buck
to any degree at all, with its leg tied up, a little hop maybe,
but not much more. If that still was not the answer, then I would
lay the horse down on its right side, have someone sit on its neck,
and then I'd sit on its left side and throw my right leg over, and do
it many times. Between those two ways you should be able to teach
a horse to break the habit (and once they do a bad thing and get
away with it, it's easy for them to think I'll just keep doing it)
of wanting jump or buck around when dis-mounting. When you have a
good horse in all other respects, sometimes what may seem as a
drastic measure, may have to be employed. If you have ever seen the
movie "The Horse Whisperer" with Robert Redford, you'll understand
what I mean. If you have never seen that movie, I encourage all
horse people to rent or buy it.
Paul told me that Tom had said that he learned quite a bit
in handling horses from the Aussie guys that came to the Ranch
for the summer some years back. Those were the first Aussie fellow to
come to the Ranch, the second group were not as good horsemen as the
very first group. So it goes in the horse world, just depends on who
is training who to be horse trainers. Paul talked about Tom liking to tie
the horse's head around to their tails via the halter lead rope, and
leaving them like that for some time. It seems many of the trainers today
like to do that. When I was a young guy breaking and training horses I never
did that, nor was I taught it. I'm still doubtful or not fully convince it
does any good. Yes sure it gets a horse to have a "supple neck" to the right
or left, but it can backfire sometimes. I've seen some new broken horses
just decide to stand still, the rider turns the horse's head to the left
or right and kicks with their heels to get the horse to move, but the horse
has been used to standing with its head turned back to its shoulder, and so it
just says "Okay I'll turn my head for you all the way around to your leg if
you like, but I'm just not wanting to go any further today." A so-called "supple
neck" can with some horses be your undoing.
We arrived back safe and sound. The boys had already turned
out the horse onto the range. We unsaddled ours and sent them
down the back corral alley, the gates being shut so they can only
go one way. Off went my horse Goldie into a lope down the snowy
trail to join the others out on the range. She is most certainly
a herd horse, that's all she's known all her life. The different ranges
on the Ranch are all fenced and have a gate, so the only range they can
go on is the one with the gate open. They all get to know the routine so
it becomes automatic for them in a very short time.
I asked the boys to keep an eye open for a good horse trailer for me,
seeing that Sally (the neighbor to Betty) had sold me her old, still working
well, 1978 Doge truck for $200. Lorel was still using it to haul her horse
out on different trails in the Rockies, but decided if she was going to
go a distance, she better get a newer truck, to be on the safe side. I will
use that old truck just for local this and that. I will get a tune up and it
has to be safety inspected before I can put plates on it. When you look under
the hood of those old trucks it is AMAZING how little is there, it looks like
it has been stripped bare to the bones in comparison to all that is under the
hood of the trucks today, just looks like nothing in comparison.
The drive home was as usual; looked at the other horses and
cattle on the other roadside ranches as I made my way back to home.
To be continued