This week's guest blogger is Bill from It's A Horse Life. Juanita was originally scheduled for this week, but they pulled the ole switcheroo so that she can have time to finish her homework.
Bill remembers his first ride on a "real" horse when he was 4 years old and on a day trip to a small farm owned by family friends. He also remembers being "blindsided" by a billy goat on that trip. That first horseback ride set up a life-long love of horses. Horseback classes in high school and volunteer work at nearby riding stables for ride time deteriorated into annual trail rides. Finally, he and his wife bought "The Lodge", and two mustangs 12 years ago. After almost a year of "No, really. You CAN'T make me" from Ranger the mustang, Bill learned about "least resistance" training techniques from the BLM and assorted trainers. Life is now good for all involved. But Bill still detests goats.
Catch Me If You Can
"Sure are a couple of good looking horses" said Hammond as my wife, Juanita, and I watched our new purchases running around the corral at the livery across the street from our lodge. A beautiful matched pair of 9 and 10 year old grulla mustangs. "So now what, Ham?" I asked.
Ham was a cowboy with better than 30 years experience working ranches. Working cattle, fixing fences, breaking horses... whatever was needed. He had talked my wife and I into buying this pair of unrideable critters from the gentleman that had adopted them from the Bureau of Land Management. The horses didn't work out for the original adopter. At all. Not even slightly. In fact, he sold them to us the day his one year probationary period was up and he got title, and later told us he thought we were nuts for even getting into the pen with them.
"Now, we catch ‘em and get a halter and lead rope on them" says Ham, "You ever thrown a loop?" I thought that sounded suspiciously like throwing a disk out in your back, but could guess what he was talking about.
"No" I said.
"Well, you can borrow my rope, and good luck" says Ham. He gave me a couple pointers, his rope, and lots of space and time. After a few tosses, I got the loop around the running horse's neck. "A few"? Did I say "A few"? I meant QUITE a few. Thirty two misses and finally a catch. Not a great idea really. Now I was attached to a large, scared, PISSED OFF running horse. We did finally get him reeled in and a halter with lead rope on him, so he would drag the lead rope around and "learn to stop" when he stepped on it. It was also supposed to make him a little easier to catch.
I still had to get the rope out, stand in the middle of the corral and sail a loop over the running horse's head to get close enough to grab the lead rope, but day by day, I got better at it. Rope the horse, reel him in, brush and talk to him, work with him for a couple minutes, then cut him loose again. I was getting better at "throwing a loop".
Twenty nine tosses and a catch.
Twenty seven tosses and a catch.
Twenty four tosses and a catch.
By the time I was down to less than ten tosses, I was feeling pretty proud of myself. Right up until the moment when Juanita pointed out that the horse wasn't running and ducking any more, now he was just trotting and stretching out his neck. He seemed to have figured out that bad things didn't happen when he got caught. In fact, kind of GOOD things happened. He finally got to the point where he would stand until I walked up and put the loop over his head. Then he was mine and I could work with him. Just a short while later, I could just swing a lead rope around over my head, and he would walk up to me and let me drop it across his neck. Caught!
Several years later, we had a fairly well known trainer in the area giving a clinic at a nearby ranch. He asked if I would mind if he worked with my horse, as he hadn't spent too much time working with older mustangs. He likes to "round-pen" the horses before he works with them, to establish his "leadership role" with the animals. He climbed into the round-pen with my horse and started swinging a lead rope over his head to drive the horse around the pen. Only the horse didn't try to run away. He headed for the trainer. The trainer was a little apprehensive before climbing into the pen as older mustangs have a "reputation", so when the horse came at him, he bailed out of the pen and into the dirt like Satan himself was after him. "Did you see him come at me?" hollered the trainer. I could barely see anything through the tears of laughter in my eyes, except a very bewildered looking horse hanging his head over the pen.
Had that horse over ten years now, and I still can't halter him unless I drop the lead over his neck and "catch" him. The old guy still has his pride.