Monday, September 03, 2012

Gettin a Moove On

I was all set to ride Laredo today. I even hiked way way out into the pasture to get him, and worked on hurrying his walk while leading (he can be a bit pokey) all the way back, which meant I was pretty hot and sweaty by the time I got him tied up. I hadn't even had a chance to take off his fly mask when Sylvia (the 9 year old daughter of the barn owners) stepped out of the barn and said, "Do you want to help us move the cattle?"

As I may or may not have mentioned before, there is a small herd of 20-30 cattle that belong to our barn. Most of the time they are over in a nearby pasture, but for a month or two each year they join our herd in its big pasture. We told Cathi a couple days ago that if she ever needs help moving the herd to just let us know. Not that we have any experience moving cattle. But we have decent control over our horses and we can follow directions.

While I was up for helping with the cattle drive, I wasn't going to do it on Laredo. So I hauled him back to the pasture, grabbed Steen and took him back to the barn. We got tacked up and ready to go. I used my snaffle bridle for this outing.

Our cowboy crew was comical. It consisted of me on Steen, Brian on Bear, Sylvia on her pony, and Sylvia's friend Grace (who is in eighth grade) on an old, quiet gelding named Jasper. Cathi accompanied us on her golf cart, and we had the barn dog, Chase. Chase is a blue-heeler/kelpie cross and he's highly enthusiastic participant in this sort of job.

We headed out into the big pasture and up the hill to find the cattle tucked in the far corner of the lot. Sylvia rode towards them on Sassy while Grace, Brian and I arranged ourselves in a line to keep them from coming off the fence. These cattle are pretty willing to move, so it didn't take a lot for Sassy to get them going. A group split off and hurried up the fence, so Brian and I kept pace with them until they stopped.

Steen was a little antsy about everything, but I was able to keep him facing the cattle and in position as they looked at us, assessing whether or not they could go through us to the open pasture behind us. They didn't try to go through me and Steen, but they did try to outrun Brian and Bear and escape up the fenceline. Fortunately that was exactly where we wanted them to go, so it was fine.

When the first group ran off, Steen got pretty excited and wanted to go too. I had to bring his head around and spin a few circles. He calmed down in time to be of some help when the second half of the herd caught up, and we moved those along the fence as well.

Eventually that group of cattle charged off after the first, and I let Steen lope briefly to catch up. He was all power and energy. I had to bend him to get him to stop again, but when we regrouped to follow the cattle up into the tree lot he calmed down. He only had one more other minor spasm when we went through the gate.

The rest was uneventful. Cathi opened the gate that led to the pasture the cattle will now be occupying, and Chase finally got to help and encourage the last stragglers through. So it just goes to show even a motley assortment of temporary cowboys can get a little something done.

After the herding, Sylvia treated us to a tour of a wooded lot up the road that's recently been cleared enough to ride in. Steen was an utter champ for the rest of the ride. In spite of passing all sorts of scary things, he never even started to get agitated. I guess after the cattle the rest of the day just struck him as mundane.

Ride Time: 1:20
Horseback hours YTD: 107:05

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