Off to work!
Getting a chance to cowboy is a dream come true for me. Like a lot of young boys, it’s something I have always wanted to do and now, here in the last half of my life, I get that chance. For me it’s a dream come true, but for the folks I day work for, it’s been their life, and the life of their father and grandfather before them. When you look at ranching thru their eyes you begin to understand how hard it is and the tough decisions they have to make everyday.
We are having a little rain this morning here on the ranch. We have not seen any in a long time and for that reason, many of my neighbors have to sell off some or all of their cattle. You may be thinking, so what’s the big deal? Many, most of them, have been putting together a herd of cattle that know the land that they graze on. You may not know this, but in this country it takes time for a cow to learn where water is, where the best places are to graze etc. That all takes time, a year or two, then to have to let them go cause there is not enough grass to feed them, well, it’s heart breaking to the rancher.
I’ve been helping my neighbor the past couple of days, gather his cattle to take to the sale. For me it’s easy, that’s my job to bring them in and get them sorted. For my boss and friend, it’s not easy.
So tip your hat to the rancher or farmer who has spent his or her life, making sure we have food on our plate. Sure, he does it to make a buck, a living, but there is more to it for them, something hard to explain, and harder to watch.
Just try it!
Becoming a horseman is really all about learning all you can about the horse. I don’t mean that you have to learn the names of all the bones in a horse, how he is made up. It don’t hurt to know that stuff, but I know lots of great horseman who could not answer those questions, and just because you can, would not make you a horseman in the eyes of the horse.
The key is to be willing to learn. Be willing to look at the way someone else does it and determine if that method will work for you. It probably will work for the horse cause, someone has been getting results with it. But, does it fit YOU? Is it something that you can do physically? I have seen folks, in the process of starting a horse, jump up on the back of a horse and lay across the horse and move all over the horses back and then slide of, the Jeffery’s method is what it’s called, although I’m guessing that the native American’s were doing that long before Mr. Jeffery’s. Well guess what? I use to use that method, when I was younger, but I have a hard time getting this fat….. you know what, in the truck sometimes. So, as much as I admire people that can do that, I can’t. So, I have to use a different method, works just as good, it’s just different.
Take a look at your skill level with horses and see where you would like to improve. Then go look for it. There are lots of places to learn online, in books, but the best way I have found is to work with someone you respect, could be a good friend, trainer, a clinician. Ask around and see who’s out there. Remember you can learn a lot from folks that are not that good at their horsemanship yet. You will learn what NOT to do.
Then take what you are learning and practice it on your own horse. He will be the final judge if the method or technique works for HIM. If not just file away what you have learned. It's possible that it will work on another horse in a difference situation.
Great horseman are always learning and will be the first to tell you they don’t have it all figured out. What they have figured out really works, but they are always learning from the horse and from people. We can all improve.
We're both tired!
Ok, Ok! I know I can get a little long winded but it hard for me, at times, to come up with the right word to express what I’m trying to say. Not only for me but say for the horse.
That’s what it is. It’s not a partnership. It’s not an equal relationship. It’s not love, although you may love your horses as I do. It’s horsemanship. When you are able to look at things thru the eyes of your horse. Understand what he needs and wants, and then give that to him you can call yourself a horseman. You don’t have to go to school, or spend years working with someone else developing these skills, but I think you will be better off if you do, and so will your horse, but you DO have to understand what your horse needs and as an owner, trainer, lover of horses be willing to give them that. Not everyone has that ability. Some folks cannot leave their own needs out of the equation. We all want things from our horses. Some of us get that by just being around them. Others want to be able to use their horses to get a job done or to compete, and that’s all well and good, but they need things too, not the same things that you and I need. A real horseman knows that and will do his or her best to make sure it is provided. And, I’m not talking about food and water and a nice fancy barn.
Trainers, clinicians are all trying to set themselves apart from the rest of the clinicians, trainers. So, they use clever words or phrases to try and do that. Some make what they are doing sound so complicated that you just don’t even want to try it, cause you don’t get it. Others make you think that it takes two life times to become a great horseman. In and effort to set themselves apart from everyone else, they make us think that if we don’t do it just the way they do it, we are failures. Let your horse be the judge of that. Not some two legged that thinks they have it all figured out. Your horse will tell you when you have become a horseman, and really, it’s his opinion that really matters.
What does he want?
So if a horse does not understand what a partnership is or, respect, how are we able to communicate with them? Good question. The best way to learn to communicate with the horse, is to watch the horse in his natural surroundings. Now most people, even people who own horses, have never had the chance to watch wild horses. Most of us only have one or two horses and have never seen horses in a true herd. But what we do have is a lot of information on horses in the wild. So, even if you have never had that privilege to watch horses in the wild you can still learn how they act in that environment and from that we can learn how to communicate with the horse.
What do horses want? Another good question. I think horses want two things. 1. Food. 2. Comfort. Now having said that, horses need more things then that: water, sleep, etc. But primarily they need these two things. And the second one, comfort, is so important to a horse that he will forgo eating in order to be comfortable. How do horse find comfort in the herd? Horses rely on a leader in a herd. Most of the time this leader is a mare. Not sure why that is but given my own experience in life I can see how that can happen. Being leader in a herd is a very important and serious position. From there the rest of the herd finds it’s place, a pecking order if you will.
How does this horse, the leader, become the leader and why? In order for the horse to survive for thousands of years, as it has, they have perfected this system we call the herd. Horses are survivors. This arrangement has allowed them to continue when others have not. The leader acquires this position out of the need to survive. You will see horses, in the wild, always testing the ability of the leader. How? Well the leader always eats first, drinks first but, it the last to rest. His or her job, it to watch out for the safety of the herd by warning them if there is danger or perceived danger around. The way the horse maintains it dominance as leader is by making other horses move. Move, how? When the dominant horse come to the watering hole and there are other horses in the way, the dominant horse will force the others to move away from the water source. If the horse will not move they will either be bitten or kicked. Here is a key to us becoming the leader in our herd so remember this: The dominate horse makes the other horse move his feet.
The leader or more dominate horse uses the language that horses use. Body language. Not words, not treats, body language. The better we get at speaking the horse’s language the better horseman we will be come and the faster we can teach our horses what we want and what they need to know to survive in the human world.
More tomorrow, but now coffee.
Why does the horse stay?
Horsemanship. Now here is a word that gets tossed around a lot in the world of horses and humans. Around trainers and owners. So what does it mean? A couple dictionaries that I looked up the word in had this for the definition: skill at riding horses.
Now these folks are supposed to know the meaning of words like horsemanship, but I don’t think that they got this one right at all. True, horsemanship has something to do with riding but most of the time has nothing to do with riding. Anyway here is my definition:
Horsemanship: The relationship that is developed between human and horse.
Now the next question is what will we base our relationship on. On what I the human knows and understands or what the horse knows and understands. The answer to this question is very important, cause if we don’t get the answer to this question right we will never be a horseman.
We humans build relationships with other humans, and those relationships are often built on very different things. For example, we may have a business relationship with someone. What is that based on? Could be it is based on business interest, a partnership in business. I have known folks that were business partners, had a business relationship, but never really liked each other on a personal level. Not sure how that happens but I guess it does. My point is, the relationship we develop with our horses can be based on something that works for the human, but does not work for the horse. So we are back to the question, what will we base our relationship with the horse on?
You may be thinking, well, it’s a partnership so it would have to be built on mutual respect for one another. And that would be great if our horse understood what mutual respect was. However he does not know what it means and never will, so how can we build a relationship based on something he does not understand.
If we are going to be horseman and develop our horsemanship (the skill to communicate with a horse) We are going to have to build that relationship on what the horse knows and understands. It’s the reason I think a lot of people have trouble with their horses. Horses that won’t load in a trailer or stand to be tied or stand to be shod. They try to put human emotions and thinking on an animal who is not capable of understanding them and, because they don’t understand what we want, they do what they know and understand. That at times is not what the owner wants at all and here is where the battle begins.
So lets talk about Horsemanship for the next few days and see where it takes us.
Kathy and I are almost home. We have had a nice visit with family but it's time to get back to the house.
We want to thank our vet who lives in Kansas for letting us use is motor home, the Dolphin 3400. After our truck broke down we were not sure where we were going to stay at the festival, but Doctor Bill helped us out. thanks.
We will be getting ready for our clinic at Sue's, which is already full, the first weekend in Oct. hope to have pictures of that and some good lessons to share.
Winfield is over and we will be heading home today. Kathy's show was a big success. Folks loved her work and the Cowboy Man Bar did pretty well too. Have to get the uhaul trailer today and get it packed.
It's always a treat to see friends and family here. Just wish we had more time to see those that could not get down here to see us. Perhaps next year.
Need to get back home to Wally and Kevin and the horses. We have a clinic scheduled the first week in October and am excited about that. Have the new horse Zeb to get started with and may have a couple more horses coming in for training this fall.
Just found out that we have a chance of getting a round pen and trailer loading demo at the Seria County Fair. That would be great.
Time for coffee.
Kathy,s big show starts here in a few hours. She has been working hard to make this happen and I,m pretty proud of her. Will try to get you pictures.
I had a great fiddle lesson with a buddy from up north, Tom Hog. Winfield is not only a great place to listen and play music, but a great place to learn.
I hear that Herb is going to be here with his Sweetie selling man bars (lotion bars). So keep your eyes open for info on his website. Www.herbsbodyshop.com
The weather has made it's September change here in Winfield Kansas as it does every year. Has cooled off but I'm sure the heat will return.
Kathy and I had a great time picking with friends last night and we look forward to more. If you love music and you love to play music this is one place you have to experience.
Will try and keep you updated with info on what the heck I'm doing with horses and music.