WRANGLING ON THE RANGE #40
I awoke Sunday morning to cloudless skies, a vividly bright
blue sky; I felt good, very good. I was anxious to be out at the
Ranch early today, just had that get up and go feeling. Heading
towards the Ranch the Rockies were a dry brown color, it has not
rained for three weeks, so those majestic Rockies are like the
desert dust, even at a hight of 14,000 feet they are bone dry,
and today the sky being so bright a blue, they reminded you of
the desert. It is the time of year when the leaves on the trees
are beginning to change to the colors of yellow and red, and drop
to the ground in the depth of the winter months yet to come.
I arrived to the now dusty road of about a mile that leadings
to the main barn from where the entrance of the Ranch begins.
I immediately went to the back corral and brought Goldie
in to barn "B." She also seemed up, light, a "let's go" attitude.
Of course she had a special mash as usual. Today I felt like it
was time to put my English jumping saddle on Goldie and do our
figure eight routine for warm-up, and then head for the tire
arena and a two or three rounds of jumps.
There was lots of volunteers out today, must have been half
of the Summer Camp staff here. They are older teens so they must
have all decided it was time as a group to ride out at the Ranch.
English saddle on my horse, it was warm up time around the
two circles of pylons down at the main outdoor arena. I walk
Goldie around first, a few times, then it is trotting time. "Okay
girl, let's ... trot," and away she went, a nice smooth trot she
had today, not wanting to rush. "My you are in good form today
girl," I said encouraging her. I do the figure eight on one lead
and then change the lead, altering back and forth on the leads.
"Well very good girl, let's now ... canter." She hears the
word and with a slight squeezing of my heels, we were doing a
smooth dressage type canter. Around the figure eight, changing
leads each full time around.
"I think we can now head over to the tire arena," I said to
her. We have to go through a gate to get into that range. Knowing
Goldie as I do, just feeling her through the saddle and reins on
the bit, I can tell her feeling. If she is not really in the
"mood" for jumping she will let me know. After going through the
gate on this range she knows where we are heading (to the jumps)
and will want to turn around if she is not feeling up to jumping.
Goldie is not like a trained jumper, we do not do the jumps but
two or three times a month. Ah, today there was no hesitation in
her step, she was moving nicely. I knew she was "in the mood"
this morning to tackle those jumps, and knowing that I knew she
would sail over them as if nothing. Again her and I are not into
anywhere close to the big time fancy shown jumping. It is fun to
jump 3 to 3 and 1/2 feet over different types of jumps I've
built, we do it for fun that's all.
Now let me say, I do wear a protective equestrian helmet
when I jump Goldie. So all you horse kids that want to learn how
to jump a horse or pony, you make mighty sure you wear a helmet
at all times.
I needed to put up most of the rails, as the wind does blow
"All right girl, I know you really want to do this today, I
can feel it, let's go."
I gave her the pace or speed she likes and off we went.
There was one jump I did not bring her into at the correct step
to jump and she pulled around it. "My fault girl, my fault," I
told her. She jumped every fence but that one.
"Okay, let's see if I can get them all correct for you,
let's go again girl."
We did, and I did get them correct, Goldie sailed over all
with ease and smoothness.
"Now that was super good girl, one more go around and we'll
call it a day, for jumping."
This third time was even better, I got them correct, she had
no hesitation. We got to the last but one, and I thought here
comes a clear round (the last one is a cross rail which she never
has trouble with), but she must have caught her back leg on the
rail, just enough for me to hear, as we rode on, a "plop" - on
the ground it went. As we cleared the last fence, with no
problem, I said, "Well you did so well, that's enough for this
time girl, well done, well done," and I patted her on the neck.
I think she was pleased with herself also, and we headed
back to the main barn.
Betty had 6 children coming out today at 1 pm for pony
lessons, all were new, from age 6 to 8. Five of them came, the
6th one never did show up for whatever reason. Most of the 5
children had never done any pony riding or had any instruction,
they were indeed new to this sport. Kate, Dave, Kelsey, Betty,
and myself made five of us, so it was one on one instruction. It
was right "from the start" instruction; how to work around
ponies, the safety issues, the talking and walking up to them
from the side, the going around them from the back with hand on
their rump. Then it was brushing time, we shown them that you
brush in the flow of their hair lay, the saddle area and under
where the cinch goes is the important part to brush, so no dirt
is under the saddle blanket or cinch.
We had the ponies tied up to the hitching rail. The little
girl I was instructing, before I could blink when I said we would
now do the right side, went under the halter lead rope. I told
her, "Now we never go under the halter lead rope to move to the
other side of your pony, you must always go around the back of
your pony with your hand on its rump, so its knows you are there
as you move around it. You see many horses and ponies could pull
back or get upset and move quickly, if you go under the lead
rope; it is never safe to do that, okay." She nodded that she
understood. Small children can forget instruction very easy, they
are excited to be with a pony. Fortunately the pony she had
(called "Merry Legs) did not move a muscle when she went under
the lead rope to the other side.
Brushing all done, we went over the parts of the saddle and
they watched as we showed them how to saddle a pony. Then we
showed them how we put a bridle and bit on their pony. Oh, yes,
the parents are watching also. One Mom obviously had horse
training in her life at some time, she knew exactly how it should
Kate then instructed on how to lead their pony with the
lead rope from the halter, and how to push over the pony with
their right arm into the neck saying, "over" if the pony was
moving into their walking space. All then walked their pony down
to the indoor arena at the far end of barn "B" as we walked by
their side. We have them walk around the arena leading their
pony, then leading in and out of the barrels that are put down
the west and east side of the arena. As Betty explained to the
parents, ground work is a first important teaching.
It was now time get their stirrups the correct length, so we
just lift them up onto their saddle seat. Once the stirrups are
adjusted, instruction begins on dis-mounting and mounting, which
we then do 3 or 4 times, till we are satisfied they can do it
What we like to do is have the children sit in the saddle,
hands on hips, legs and feet in correct riding position, sitting
up straight but not stiff, and we lead their pony around the
arena. This is to get the children used to the feel and balance
of their walking pony. We'll walk them in a circle at first and
then weaving in and out through the barrels, in various patterns.
That it is for lesson one. An hour and one half has gone by.
The children get to give a piece of apple or carrot to their pony
after they have led them back to the hitching rail.
Betty told us all after the families had left that they were
all very impressed with our quality of teaching. The Mom who knew
about horses, told Betty that she was so pleased, just thought we
were terrific. Naturally such compliments made us all feel good
about what we do and the way we do it.
It was now time for me to get Goldie into her "western"
saddle ready to lead the 4 pm ride, which was about 16 - adults
and a few children nine or ten years old.
I brought Goldie over to the main barn and did some backward
walking and side-stepping with her. As I've said we had all kinds
of young people out today, the Summer Camp teens and some of
their friends, and some young ladies related to the Ranch family.
One of those young ladies, seeing Goldie walk backwards
for 40 feet or so, with nice arched neck, said, "You have a fine
horse there I can see."
"Yes, she is doing well," I replied with a smile.
The 4 pm ride was more casual this time, in not all walking
in one line all the time. My friend "Willy-Rock" the horse was
with us. I've told you how I trained him 5 years ago, and I still
have a soft spot for him. We actually split up the 4 pm riders as
there was so many of them. Half the group went out on another
trail with other staff leaders. All had a great time, and all
arrived back safely.
It was the end of our day. All staff pitched in to unsaddle
and turn out the horses, and away they went to the range in the
valley to the north, to enjoy the rest of the evening in the sun
and to graze for the night.
Betty took home with her, tiny little "Rowdy" pony who needs
to be in a nice safe corral until next spring. The open ranges
are from now till spring, no safe place for little ponies like
Rowdy, he would not stand a chance at all with the wolves that
can come through the foothills during the winter months, he is
not much bigger than a wolf. I told Betty I was pleased to see
she was taking Rowdy home for the winter.
Another four days of teaching begins for me on Monday. I may not
get out to the Ranch until Friday next.
To be continued