WRANGLING ON THE RANGE #33
Sunday August 16th. Left the city under dark clouds and rain,
arrived at the Ranch under part clouds and sunshine. I guided a
ride, along with Kate at 4 pm. We then had supper together and
went by ourselves on the two hour "Fox trail." I showed Kate the
"race track" - she had never been out that far before. She told
me how some of the other young leaders in the camp had said to
her that Keith was probably talking about the "dirt road" out
that way, as the "race track." She said she told them she doubted
that I would race Goldie on a hard dirt road, that in the summer
gets to be like cement.
I said, "You are right Kate, what I mean by the race track
is not the hard dirt road at all."
We got to "the race track" and she then knew it was a wide
grassy path that was perfectly flat, with a slight curve, about a
1/4 mile in length. We loped along nicely, but Goldie was itching
to fly, so for the last 200 yards or so I let her loose. When
Kate got to me at the end of the track she said, "When you shot
by, my horse quickened her lope, but soon said, 'I can't do that,
that is way to fast for me' and stopped trying." Kate had never
seen Goldie in race track mode. I replied, "I know, Goldie would
love to be in 1/4 mile races on the pro track. There's no horse
on this Ranch that can come close to her speed."
"Yes, she certainly is fast," Kate answered.
Further along the trail Kate asked me, "Had you taken
jumping lessons before you started to jump with Goldie?"
"No, well I did when I was 16 for 2 years, back in England,
but that was ages ago. It is something I just can naturally do, a
part of me you might say. I did ride a great deal bare back when
I was in my 20s, maybe that also helped. I do not know really, I
just know how to jump a horse, it is part of me as a horseman."
We continued the trail back to the barn. Before I turned in I saw
the 5 ponies in the corral needing hay. I put a bail out for them using
the Quad to carry it to them. I spread out the flakes. Not sure how long
they were without hay but they sure were glad to see me bringing it to
It was time to call it a day.
Monday, the first day of the last week of 8 week camps. Jess
was with us once more, and a young lady named Cassey. 64 in the
camp for this last week. 11 children in the "pony group" for us.
It started slow, teaching was hard, they did not catch on very
easily, but by home time they were doing much better. At noon I
spotted 5 horses in the "Novice group" (they bring them into barn
"B" where the ponies are for noon lunch break) with throat straps
so tight you could not get even one finger in, and one throat
latch so loose the horse could have put its leg through it (in a
manner of speaking - not literally). I informed the "Novice
leaders" to correct it all and to watch out for mistakes like
that, that the morning people (those on the early shift of
saddling and bridling) make. As humans (with a few "new" early
morning people this year) mistakes are made at times, so we must
always keep our eyes sharp and mentally look over the saddles and
bridles to see if mistakes have been made.
Tom was away so I helped out in the main barn "A" after the
children had left at 3 pm on the two school buses. It was 7 pm
before all the chores and mucking out was done, as well as harrowing
the outdoor arena. I came back at 8 pm to help turn out 3 horses
that had been on a two hour ride (an unguided member ride). I again
gave the ponies in the corral some hay. I watched the 1962 Roy
Rogers and Dale Evens San Francisco Horse Show - Trigger Jr.
doing his amazing routine. You can get this DVD from the
RoyRogers.com Website. Well worth having. Now that website
does not carry Roy's movies, you can get them all from www.moviesunlimited.com
Tuesday. Started out teaching the pony group in barn "B" -
doing large riding circle. The pony called Warren, had been a
good, well behaved pony all summer, but out of the blue today, he
decided to turn and cross the circle in a split second or two.
None of us knew why, it happened so fast. The little girl riding
him ended up riding half way down his side, but she clung to that
saddle horn as if her hands were glued there. She did mighty well
to stay on, and I praised her a number of times for her grit. She
composed herself and I told her how good Warren had been all
summer and she and him would be fine. And it was so. The two of
them had no more trouble all week.
Horses/ponies are live animals and things can happen,
sometimes out of the blue, even with a horse/pony that has been
perfect for a number of weeks or months. It is just the fact of
horse riding. As any good public horse riding stable will say
(literally on a sign) "Horse riding can be dangerous."
Photo taking time finished (as Tuesday is normally photo
time), we spent the rest of the morning practicing our circles
and turns. After lunch we had a nice trail ride, which the kids
At 4 pm I led out a trial ride. Came back and went to town
to get a few groceries for myself to last me through the rest of
Came back and decided I better take Goldie out and cut some
branches down and remove stones on parts of the a certain trail. We
had gone about 1/2 a mile and Goldie decided she did not want to
go any further, just stopped and wanted to turn around. I had to
take her in circles to the right and then left, round and round
we went. She finally decided going straight was better than going
in circles, and once more behaved herself.
I did what I had set out to do. Coming back to the valley
before the barn, I decided Goldie had earned her right to fly
like the wind, and for about 200 yards she went I think about as
fast as any horse could do in that distance. People are amazed
(so am I) when they see her at full speed, and that's with me
weighing 170 pounds and a 40 pound saddle. Hard to imagine her
speed with a pro jockey on top of her, and serious training, with
a nice level and smooth track to run on. She not only looks like
the original Trigger of Roy Rogers, but is just as fast.
In the evening I watched the movie "The Young Black
Stallion" - a good movie which I do recommend for all horse
lovers. A 2004 Walt Disney release. It has great "Bonus
Wednesday. Started with trotting with the pony group in barn
"B" arena. As I was getting Goldie saddled I discovered my hand
axe was missing from the saddle strings I tie it to. Figured it
must have come loose last evening when I let Goldie run in the
valley. Cassey was leading the pony children on this trail ride
down through the valley, so I told her to keep an eye out for my
axe. And sure enough her sharp eyes did spot it around the area
where I first let Goldie start her run.
We let the pony group trot here and there, which they
thought was great fun. Before we got back to the barn we stopped
and practiced the pony routine for the Friday show - it did not
look good; I thought to myself, "Well sure hope they start to do
better after lunch." And, maybe it was something they all had for
lunch but it was much better in the afternoon practice. I was
pleased to see the progress. We finished the afternoon with "pony
chairs" - each get to ride a different pony for one go around in
the indoor barn "B" round pen.
A while back Betty had put a prize package in a local fair -
worth $100. She told me it would be an hours instruction and an
hours trail ride. The Mother who won the prize was bringing out
two 9 year old girls, and Betty wanted me to look after them for
the two hours. They came at 4 pm and I did pony grooming, naming
parts of the saddle and bridle, showing them how to saddle, and
then basic mounting/dismounting, rein holding and steering their
pony. I took then on the trial we use for the Friday "family
ride" - they had a ball, just loved it. Talked to the two mothers
about the summer camp, which they did not know existed. I told
the Moms that the two girls would just love the summer camp, as
they thought the trail ride was heavenly.
Did a few chores and then put my feet up and watched "The
Cowboy and the Senorita" - the first movie in which Dale Evans
appeared with Roy Rogers. It was the "uncut" version, and can be
obtained from RoyRogers.com - the music is great. It is one of
the movies where the original Trigger is NOT decked out in the
silver saddle Roy often used on him - plain Joe stuff, but still
a great looking horse. can get it now from www.moviesunlimited.com
Thursday. Kate was away today; she had a "school bus"
meeting to attend. She drives a school bus from September to June
and school up here will start August 27th. It seemed very strange
to not have my side kick to help train the pony group children.
Kirt from the "Advanced" group took Kate's place. Jess was also
away, yet will be back tomorrow for the big Friday. Cassey was
with us as she has been all week.
Backing up a little; I did the "hold up" on the buses this
day. I sang one verse of "The Bandit Song" that Bob Nolan of the
Sons of the Pioneers wrote with a slight change:
Long, long ago in old Wyoming lived a maid,
Fair as the sweetest flower growing in the glade,
She loved a bandit bold who roamed the prairie o'r
And every night shed listen for his call.
Then far to the west his voice come ringing,
Ridin' a wild horse he'd come singing,
I am the black Robin Hood (words actually are: He brings a
token to his love)
Out of the West his voice comes ringing,
Ridin' a wild horse he comes singing.
I asked them some horse/pony questions, and then told them I
needed to take one of their leaders to join my merry men out in
the hills and trees. Each group of kids on the two buses had in
mind who they desired to see taken, and with one big shout, from
one bus it was "Take Kirt, take Kirt," and from the other bus it
was, "Take Hanna, take Hanna."
So they were my catch for this time. Bettyt took a photo of
me off the buses with Kirt's hands up and Hanna's hands together
as praying for mercy; I was dressed in my usual black with
plastic guns. The laws in Canada would never allow me to use
actual real cowboy guns as Roy Rogers used.
It usually takes a few days (today and tomorrow) for them to
figure out it is me as the hold-up man. Some think it's my
brother that I do not have, so they are often asking me "Was that
really you as the black Robin Hood, I think it was." I disguise
my voice when I'm doing all this.
In the morning we went on our long Thursday trail ride. Part way
going through a treed area a large bird flew up from the ground
through the trees, it startled most of the ponies and even Goldie.
They all jumped to the side; the children stayed on and I praised them
all for doing that; told them they just experienced why a good western
sit in the saddle with heels down is so important. We did lots of trotting
and they all rode very well. After lunch we practiced their Friday show
routine and they all did exceptionally well. They had put it all together
as we often say.
Arriving back from the morning trail ride Betty told me she
had lost her "Blackberry" - we tried looking for it at all the
places she had been that morning but it was not to be found. At
the end of the day (after the afternoon practices for Friday) I
asked her if she found it, and she said she had. The story is
quite something. She forgot to look in one place she had been
that morning, the burning barrel. She had taken some garbage to
be burnt. As she threw in the garbage bag out popped her
"blackberry" into the barrel. The barrel is a front door loading,
not a top door loading. Alec at the restaurant came a few minutes
later to throw in some garbage and as he opened the door there
was sitting Diane's "blackberry" inside the burning barrel, which
was not burning, fortunately. So Betty got her important
communication gadget back.
In the evening I harrowed the outdoor arena ready for the
Friday show, picked some stones also from the arena where most of
the riding is done. It was all looking super good, and the
weather man was saying it was to be hot and sunny for Friday.
Then I sat back and watched the 1979 movie "The Black
Stallion" - another one of the great horse movies - produced by
MGM Studio - a Francis For Coppola production. It's a two hour
movie with breathtaking scenes. The horse trainer was Corky
Randal, the son of Glenn Randal (the trainer of the "Triggers"
for Roy Rogers). There is one scene where the "black" (as it is
called by the boy star of the movie) is all caught up in rocks
with his harness type ropes (as both he and the boy lived through
the sinking of the ship they were on and end up on land) and the
boy cuts him free. It is one of those so realistic scenes that I
doubt they would allow to be done today; this movie is 30 years
old; today the animal abuse organizations would probably not
allow such a scene to be undertaken in case the horse would be
seriously injured. Well, it is a great visual movie, beautiful
and spectacular, masterly filmed. It does show the truth that it
takes time and patience for a horse to bond with a human, and
that horses do not like to be all alone, it is the "herd
instinct" they have, they like company; their protection comes
partly because they are "herd animals."
A movie you horse lovers should have.
There is only one day left to go in this summer camp - 8
weeks have come and gone, faster than we'd like. It seems they
fly by every summer.
The last day of the camp turned out to be a bitter sweet day
for me in particular, as you will read about below.
Friday, August 21st. I'd like to finish this chapter on a
positive note, so the bitter first.
I have to back up three days. On Tuesday the owners of the Ranch
brought home a pony they had bought. It was too much to handle
for the young girl whose family owned it. A bright pony and in
very good shape. I helped the owner put it in a box stall, and he said
to me, "No need to feed it anything Keith." So of course I did not. During
that evening when cleaning out the walk to the box stalls, I talked and
went over and stroked it on its face, a number of times. Obviously the
pony was upset, taken from its home, brought to a strange place and
put in a box stall, with no food, and would be in the dark all night
alone. The next morning, Wednesday, as I'm bringing Goldie out
from the box stall lane (where they put her for me, when they
round up the horses from the range each morning), I again talked
and stroked the pony. All that day it was in the box stall with
no food. That evening, when mucking out, I noticed they did give
it a flake of hay. Thursday, still in the box stall with no food
all day. In the evening I went to talk to it, but it had its back
to me and its stomach was heaving up and down. Something was not
right. No food had been given to it that evening. The next
morning I went for Goldie and of course I went to talk to the
pony. I could not see it. I looked over the box stall wall and it
was laying down. I went in to say hello ... it was DEAD!! Cold as
stone. Sometime in the night it had died!!
I went to the restaurant where Tom and the morning staff
were having breakfast. I walked up to tom and said, "I hope you
did not pay a lot of money for that pony. It is DEAD!" The look
on his face, well you can guess. Walking out and towards the
barn, I said to him, "That pony should have been put with the
others." He replied, "They told us it was a 'founder' pony, so we
only gave it some hay."
I said no more. I was angry! "Founder" does NOT kill a
horse. Founder is the between the wall of the hoof and the
coffin/pedal bone tearing away; as the coffin bone (some old books
may say "pedal bone") goes to a point towards the ground, the bone
can literally come through the sole of the foot, some may call it
"drop sole") and so your horse or pony cannot walk but like
walking on marbles. If it cannot be corrected then there is no
choice but to put the horse down. The horse does not die from
"founder" - it just makes the horse useless and walking is hard
and painful and slow; the kindest thing, if that bad, is to put
the horse to rest, to put it down. There is a detailed
explanation and ways to try and cure "founder" in the old but
excellent book "Magner's Classic Encyclopedia of the Horse"
originally published in 1887.
This pony had no trouble walking, I was there helping the owners
of the Ranch put it in a box stall. "Founder" was NOT evidence at all.
I believe the bottom line was that this pony died from STRESS!
The little bit it was fed may have produced, along with a big
does of stress - colic, which then killed the pony. I was so
upset, I felt like going home, just walking away and going home.
I was angry, so angry I could have spit bullets.
Dan who ran the trail riding barn before the Ranch owners
took over (when Dan left), bought many a horse and pony, from
here and there. He NEVER had one die on him. He knew how to
introduce a new horse or pony to the Ranch.
I am still, Sunday evening as I type this, very angry. I
have so little respect left for the way things are being managed,
I am seriously having to look elsewhere for me and Goldie to bunk
down. I looked at a Stable this evening - very modern, large pro
indoor heated (in winter) riding barn, half for general riding
and the other half for jumping, with pro jumps. They are building
a large outdoor arena. Very clean. English and Western riding.
And the young lady I talked to said there was many hours of trail
riding about 1/4 mile away, down the road. It would mean paying
for board, but I'd have no doing anything for anyone but for
Goldie and I. The young lady gave me the owners (a lady) business
card. I may just set up a time to talk to her personally.
Dan did warn me before he left that things would slide down
hill if the original family took over again. Dan had been on the
Ranch for 25 years, so he spoke from experience. He certainly did
manage things excellently for the 7 years he was manager. He did
not have the greatest personality. He and Betty did not get along.
He wanted nothing to do with the "summer camp for kids." He and
Betty did not see eye to eye on some things. But Dan ran a very clean
(wood chipping floor - 8 inches deep) and great smelling horse barn.,
with the horse poop picked up every hour during open times. I cannot
say I found any weakness in his horsemanship - he was a fine horseman,
and never had one single accident in the years he ran the trail riding
side of the Ranch. To be very frank, it is a fact in the horse world that
the "Western" riding stable is looked upon as the bottom of the pile. It
has a bad, very bad reputation (unless you are a 5 star riding ranch,
owned by multi-millionaires) in the horse world. There have been way
way too many rough (in language, appearance, and actions) of cowboys
owning riding ranches, being rough towards their horses, not keeping
them in good shape, and so over the years, the general horse world
has come to look upon "Western horse riding stables" as the "pits" -
the sum of the horse world. Sad to say in many cases it has been true.
Dan did his best to not have that image, to reverse that image of his
Western riding barn. I found no fault in his horsemanship and keeping
things nice and clean. As they say the first impression is very important.
Well, on to more pleasant things. The children arrived
Friday morning all excited about the day ahead - it was warm and
sunny. They were off to practice for the afternoon show. I was
setting up for my noon lunch show of Roy Rogers and the Pioneers
music. It all went very well. We had the "parade" as usual and we
were off to the outdoor arena for the big "show." Five of the
leaders (middle to older teens) were down in the arena (they
would be part of the ground crew) sitting on the barrels
pretending to be doing "yoga" - it was silly kids stuff, and
silly mind-set they were in. Betty is usually the last in the
arena on her horse; she had to tell them in no uncertain way that
NOW was not the time to be silly, but SERIOUS! With 70 or so
horses and ponies in the arena, most of the time in close
quarters with each other, it was no time to be fooling around.
They get paid for their work and it was still work time. I told
her she did right to get on their backs, that it had to come from
her, as the boss, coming from anyone else would not cut it with
them. She fully agreed that it had to come from herself, safety
of the children was MOST important, the very most important
thing, and now was not the time to let down.
I had harrowed the arena Thursday evening and some thanked
me. It looked very good, and the show proceeded. All went smooth
except for two ponies (waiting near the fence, no riders on them)
who for a second or two got disagreeing with each other. I'm on
guard duty on Goldie. People think she is sleeping as she stands
there, head dropped. I tell them don't be fooled, she is awake in
a split second if I need her to be. I heard the two ponies
disagreeing with each other to my right. A slight pull on the
reins and Goldie was instantly awake and moving to my right. The
ponies stopped with a shout from me and I pulled Goldie to a
stop. The rest of the show went without a hitch.
The pony group children did their "pony dance" routine the
last of all the groups, and the hardest part they did perfect,
yes it was the best of any of the pony groups that had done it
all summer long; wow it looked like perfection in motion. Kate
and I were so pleased, just so pleased, and we praised them for a
job so well done. From a group that I had doubts with on Monday,
to perfection in their routine on Friday, now that is very satisfying
The family ride at the close of the activities went fine. I
always lead on Goldie, and she walked some faster than I usually
walk her. The little pony called Bob was right behind me and he
just moved his legs and kept right up.
Back at barn "A" - the last hour of the 8 week camps was
over for 2009.
Betty's staff (all except a few like myself) went on a trail
ride for the fun of it.
They were to be back at the camping/log cabin area of the
Ranch by 6:30 pm. which they were, as that was the evening meal
arranged by Betty for her staff, and it was a great meal, with
organic beef from a long-horn cow on the Ranch - the two dozen or
so of long-horns roam the Ranch freely, and are given no "shots"
or man-made anything, they grow up as organic as you can get. We
had lots of vegetables, salad, beans (oh you can't forget baked
for cowboys) beans - just one super Ranch meal.
We talked, relaxed, and talked some more. We said our
goodbyes to some that may not be back next year, as their young
adult life for them moves on into other areas of living and work.
EIGHT week long camps had come to a close for the year 2009.
To be continued