Sunday, June 9, 2019

Achievement unlocked - cowhorse level 2

Saddled and almost ready, waiting to start the day's adventure.

Buddy finally did it--he officially worked cows. And I mean, we worked all afternoon. First, we rounded up the smaller group (about 100 cow-calf pairs) from the closest pasture. Then, we helped sort cow-calf pairs into small groups to go to different pastures.

There was a point when driving the herd through the gate that they didn't see it open and switched and started back into the pasture. That is one of many aggravations working cows. But with four riders, a pickup, and a ranger, they were caught in time and driven through the gate. I had to keep Buddy back. He got a bit riled at that point as his herdmates did the work with their riders. The energy level was high and this was his first time. He got a bit excited, so I had my hands full trying to keep him calm enough to stop them from darting another direction.

In the herding excitement, we had a couple of difficult moments of him acting up. However, Buddy really likes working cows. It's like he was split between wanting to play with friends and wanting to do a job. I had to correct him a few times after starting to herd the cows, and then he behaved, until we got to the gate where they were trouble.

After following the cows through the aisle to the first lot to get to the other lot where we would sort, he was very riled up. I got off briefly and led him through that lot to the one where the next stage would take place. It was only a few minutes, but it was enough for him to calm down.

I mounted again, and, although he was a bit hyped up throughout everything, he was settled enough from where he had been too difficult to where I felt confident being on his back again. He doesn't usually get that bad, but there's a first time for everything.

In the lot getting ready to start sorting
cow-calf pairs into new groups for new pastures.
Next was a different test for him. Sorting cow-calf pairs is tricky. Getting a single bovine sorted isn't hard, but when you have a pair to keep together, that can be all sorts of headaches. The cows settled into pairs from the move while my sister decided what she wanted sorted, but once a rider goes in, that can change very quickly.

Buddy kept whinnying for his friends who were also in the lot helping sort with their riders, but he mostly kept his head in the game. He started out not sure what was going on but didn't take long to figure out what we were doing. I've said before he's a smart horse. He'd make a great cutting horse. With my legs and seat and our dressage training, I told him how to move his body around to block a cow and move into her to make her go where we wanted. He gained some confidence and just got better and better. He even reached the point where some rough footing didn't bother him as long as he got his cow. Normally, he wouldn't attempt certain footing, but he learned that some things are more important/interesting, and he's pretty surefooted.

And then a storm was building in the west and heading our way. He's sensitive to the weather changes and started getting a bit antsy for his friends again, but we worked as much as we could. When that wind and rain hit, however, he didn't like it. At that point, we quit.

It was time for me to head home, but my sister and her helpers decided to head back to sort one more group. I would have liked to have stayed, but by then, I had his saddle off and he had worked enough. My little Buddy will be sore tomorrow, but he earned an extra helping of grain tonight. He definitely has cow sense. It didn't take long for that to emerge. Now, he just needs to calm down, focus on his work, and not worry about where his herdmates are. Officially, though, I'd say he unlocked a new achievement, as the gaming world would note. He is a cowhorse graduated to the next level. He even nosed a calf lying on the ground without fear.

And we worked all afternoon in our western saddle and I'm very glad we did. However, I was sore. For most of our riding, I'm sticking to our dressage saddle, but for cow work, it definitely pays to be in a western saddle.

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