Wednesday, September 2, 2009

First Tomahawk week

I would be posting photos of my first week up in Tomahawk...but I seem to have, uh, misplaced the camera. Last I remember seeing it in my saddlebags, but I am hoping it turns up somewhere soon!

First night "home" Link and I headed into the two quarter sections "home" sits on to check on the cow-calf pairs and bulls sitting about there. At first he was pretty frazzled and I even had to get off, but after a bit I remounted and, although uber high-energy, Link did well. Heck, I even got a calm walk out of him! He's still in the process of figuring out what these fire-breathing cow beasts are all about, but he's getting there! Meanwhile, he's learning how to navigate the lay of the land and is learning that the big bad wilderness is not all bad after all.

First morning out I took my trusty Silver horse out...who promptly deafened me our entire journey/work with his shrill whinnies. No hesitation to leave the other horses, just very very shrill, ear-piercing whinnies. I guess that's what I get for not working with him consistently yet this year! We took off at a trot/canter for a four-km hike to journey out into the unknown to find and gather some missing heifers (the four km was just to get to the starting/meeting point from where we all fanned out to find said heifers). Silver and I worked through some pretty tough bush and swamp before calling it a day...only to have the guys on ATV's skid up with the good news that they had found the heifers! We were only looking for the five we'd seen take off into the bush a few days ago, but lo and behold, we found nine! By some act of God, all nine heifers actually walked down the path back to the front quarter sections (with some help - Silver and I did have to enter the bush a few times, lol), where we locked them in with the other 26 we'd previously counted.

The next day I pulled Silver out again, but he was clearly not feeling up to par. He was a little off here and there, was rough to ride, switched into cross-firing on a straightaway, and just did not feel like he was all together. With the help of Aly pup (who pointed us to the hidden cows), we found the 20 cow-calf pairs and 3 bulls we'd been looking for on the two quarters "home" sat on, and I returned Silver home. We'd wanted to know where they were so as to allow an individual to count them, so when said individual appeared, I saddled up Link to lead the others to the cows. He was pretty excited but did well! Man that horse loves to run though, and I have to admit to letting him out (albeit not fully) once or twice ;) I was actually very proud though that Link handled things as well as he did, particularly the horse-eating-cattle crashing loudly through the bush. Yes, I did have to dismount once, but he worked on the ground well and was very light and responsive.

Next day I figured giving Silver a day off was one of my better ideas, so I took Cody out instead...what I thought might not be one of my better ideas. I actually had resigned myself to a tense (on my part) and frustrating ride on a green horse (but the only horse I felt appropriate to take), but a ride on Cody actually turned out to be the most pleasurable ride I have had in a long while! Worse case scenario, I could always turn around and saddle up Silver instead, but taking out Cody turned out to be one of the best things I could have done! We made the 4km trek to where the heifers were stationed (somewhere...), along road and highway - Cody was great with passing trucks, semi's, etc. Once in the front quarter, by some stroke of luck, we found 15 of the heifers right off. I tied Cody to the fence via a rein (didn't think to leave a halter on underneath) and nervously left him to sneak around the heifers from the other side of the fence and push them through the gate, so that they could be locked in a cross-fenced section of the front section (on the side Cody was tied to). Fortunately, Cody stood calm and relaxed, hind leg cocked, as 15 heifers jogged past him. I shut that gate before commencing our search for the rest of the herd...split into three, as it turns out. 11 were hidden in trees on the other side of the fence but appeared when the 15 ran down their fenceline (on the opposite side). So, Cody and I hit some of the mid-quarter area and searched it out. His fear of things brushing him kicked in when we walked through small saplings, but Cody was ignoring the trees within a few minutes. After that, walking through the brush was amazing with this horse! It was like point and shoot: I point, he goes. No hesitation. Through mud, uneven ground, bog, brush, trees - whatever. We returned from our little trek to find the remaining 10 heifers standing close to the other two groups but separated by the gate I had closed to keep the original 15 in. I expected so little of this horse and got so much!! There were countless times I suggested to him what I wouldn't even suggest to some of our other horses in various situations (or where our other horses would question me), and he always did what was suggested, without so much as an alternate thought. At one point, Cody and I climbed a dirt pile (courtesy of an oil company working in the area - the dirt piles lined the road they put in on either side and are pretty high) to cut off a group of heifers we were bringing down. We came down the other side to find a sheer 'cliff' of about 4' or so...and nowhere else to go down. I didn't figure he'd even take the suggestion, but I just sort of sat there and gave him his head. If he turned away I wouldn't have blamed him - I didn't really expect him to go down a mini cliff! He didn't even seem to consider turning away but instead set about negotiating the footing. Within seconds he was sitting on his haunches and picking his way down the little cliff. At another point, we had to descend a steep bank, to another little drop-off where the footing consisted of deep muck, and up a short drop-off. Again, no expectations. Yet he set about plotting his mission and within moments we were across (courtesy of a quick jump). Second time across the same area (in the reverse direction though), he forged ahead with the same confidence (this time I was ready for the jump!). And in the bush? This horse is brilliant! Not a single trip and he picked his way uber carefully! If ever large branch threatened me or the bush got too thick or narrow, he simply halted, awaiting command. This allowed me time to push away any branches, lift my legs out of the way, etc - as necessary before clucking or squeezing him gently forward. I think that's all I can say to brag about this little 6yo boy, haha. I was just so incredibly impressed, he absolutely blew me away. That he would go out on his own so confident (even out-walking a couple fresh Arabs at the end of our long day), navigate foreign ground and bush, etc etc - man, was I impressed, and proud! He does respond to light leg aids (now!), but no leg yield or such, and no refinement to the bit - he feels like someone's just hauled around on his mouth (for the most part) to get him to go where they want. I am very light on his mouth and he's lightening up already, but he's just not 100 percent responsive yet. We did some trot and even a little canter - he's pretty unconfident (I can feel the uncertainty in his gait and if he doesn't understand what I am asking, he'll simply freeze up) but is coming along, esp at the trot. Anyways. Haha. I just did not expect it - I thought he'd make a good turnover horse, but I'm thinking he's far to good to let go to someone else!! lol ;)

Last day at the ranch (this morning), I woke Silver up early to head on out. He still feels a little rough but worked well - I was so proud of, and grateful to, him. I contemplated taking Cody instead, but I needed a horse who could work cattle. Cody's good with the cattle, but he isn't as quick on his feet yet and hasn't got the hang of working cattle yet. I was def glad to have Silver in a few pinches where only he could have done the job I needed done. From now on though he should be able to rest up a little and not work so hard for me. We got 33 of the 35 heifers we'd moved into the smaller piece of property into our newly-built corrals (Silver was fantastic for me - a little high energy and fidgety with the cattle, his first love - but fantastic) in the little time we had. The missing - psychotic - 2 heifers jumped a fence like deer and hit the marsh where we couldn't follow. I ended up having to jog Silver back home after the long and sticky day by leading him through my truck window (long story) and even there I was grateful of how willingly he responded. He was quiet today and even stood tied with little fuss or pawing (a rarity for such a high-energy boy!) - looks like I am getting my partner back ;)

Off to bed, but tomorrow's a day with Sunny, Gypsy, and Missy. Friday will be the same before I head on back up to Tomahawk. Can't wait to spend more time with my boys out in beautiful country! Remind me to write tomorrow in my sister blog The Perfect Horse about how our horses are our mirrors. I had more learning from my (almost) week in Tomahawk, but cannot recall it all yet (lol).

No comments: