This week's Ride of the Week is brought to you by Juanita from It's A Horse Life.
For more than ten years Juanita and her husband, Bill, had dreamt of moving to the mountains and getting horses, after the kids were grown. Well, it finally happened. They purchased The Lodge high in the mountains, settled into their new life and a couple years later became the proud owners of two ‘old’ Mustangs, to which their children informed them that they were soon to be put into new white jackets. You know, the kind with the cute little strings that tie the sleeves in back to keep a person out of trouble?
**A bit of clarification from the GunDiva: I threatened them with the funny farm when they bought the lodge; I kind of forgave them when they bought the horses.**
Shadow's Leading Lesson
Shadow, a 10 year old un-trained grulla Mustang gelding, was attached to the other end of my 15 foot lead rope and standing next to me with his head by my shoulder, peeking at me with his huge brown luminescent eyes. We had come a long way in our current adventure. My husband and I had purchased two matching Mustangs from a wrangler that was not having such a good time with them. We just wanted a couple of horses to mess around with and these guys were really cute (good reason for buying your first horses, huh?). Naïve doesn’t even come close to describing us. So…
Here were Shadow and I educating ourselves in Leading 101. We had come a long way: I could walk into his pen, walk up to him with a lead rope, put a halter on him and brush most parts of him in a reasonable amount of time. Not bad for an ‘older’ wild horse who had never been handled by people until his capture the previous year, and the handling he did get was not pleasant (freeze-branded, shots, gelded). I actually think part of the reason we got along was that in my naïveté, I had no expectations of him. We just did stuff together, so we were walking around the corral getting used to him just following me with no pressure on the rope.
I spotted a softball sized rock ahead of us with a nasty looking sharp edge poking out of the ground in our path. OK, you need to understand that Bill had made considerably more ‘progress’ with his horse, to the point of actually trying to ride him – or buck him out – as the older cowboys told us, and managed to hit the ground a few unplanned times in this exact corral. Thinking that rock would hurt a lot if landed on, I bent down to pick it up, and …. wait, where was my horse? Did I say how quick these guys could be? Shadow was standing at the opposite end of the corral, snorting and staring at me like I had attacked him. Trying to think through some of the new stuff I had been reading, I realized that when I bent down to pick up the rock, I had become the ‘lion’ predator and he made a quick retreat.
I called him back to me (yep, he would come when called once haltered) and let him lean out away from me as I very s-l-o-w-l-y bent down for the rock and threw it over the fence. He let out a sigh and came back in close to me, so we continued walking. Thinking this was a good practice thing, I looked for another rock, we walked to it and again I picked it up, not so slowly this time. This time he didn’t run away, just stepped to the end of the rope. As I straightened up, he closed the gap and stared over the fence. I threw the rock away and we started off walking.
“What, Shadow?” I had walked; he had stopped at the other end of the rope, with a softball sized rock laying between his front feet. He looked at the rock, looked at me, looked at the rock, looked over the fence. By this time, Bill was laughing so hard tears were forming in his eyes. He had been watching us from the side and realized what Shadow was doing. “This is a game, right?” from Shadow. Not believing this was happening, I intentionally walked past another rock and again Shadow stopped. This time he very pointedly stared me in the eye, like he’s trying to train me, then looked at the rock and looked over the fence, until I picked it up and threw it out. Then, he walked ahead of me!
“It’s gonna be a long walk in the mountains, with him wanting to pick up every rock,” laughed Bill. “They don’t call these the Rockies for nothing.” (Stop, dismount, pick up rock, mount-up, walk, stop, dismount…you get the picture. ) He continued to train me in the ways of wild horse humor.