Wednesday, April 7, 2010

A Little View of Ranch Life

I figured I'd give you all a little glimpse into life on the ranch. Robert has been looking for a horse to buy and this one is for sale. Often times in the horse selling business an owner will let you take it home for a few weeks to give it a test drive and see if you want to buy it. But with this horse, she was only halter broke meaning she had never been ridden, so.........the agreement was for Robert to take her and do some training with her and see if he liked her potential. The owner gets a good bargain out of it, free training, and Robert gets to see if he likes her. The thing of it is, she's already 5 years old and has never been ridden. The story is that every time someone tried to work with her she would be really stubborn and badly behaved until they gave up on her. (That's actually kind of smart for a horse) Normally they start to be ridden around 2 years old, 3 at the latest. So, just like a stubborn, strong willed, undisciplined toddler she's never really had any boundaries or structure. Keep in mind, 5 years this has been going on.

The very first day when we went to pick her up she was CRAZY!! She did NOT want a halter put on her and after a 15 minute coaxing session they finally got it on her. Then, she REFUSED to load on the trailer. When Robert tried to put her on she threw herself backward and reared up in the air and when he pulled the rope tight and didn't give in she fell down hard on the ground. Two times of that and she finally decided not to do it again. After about an hour she finally, reluctantly got on. (It didn't help that she had just come in heat and there was a stud horse nearby.) We were thinking, "Oh my word, what have we gotten ourselves into?" But.....Robert was patient and firm with her and gently worked with her on ground exercises for a couple of days and gained her trust. Each day he asked a little more of her and slowly built up to putting a saddle on her. After a week of working with her we took her to the cow pens to have a more confined area where he could attempt riding her. Thus, the following pictures.

First he just let her walk around with the saddle on and get used to the feel of moving with it on.

Then he began to make her work a little more and do some running in the sand and hot sun to wear her out and bring her energy level down.

Coaxing her into a run.

Robert got just as worn out, if not more, than she did!

(I had to throw in the picture below because Halie actually took this one!) : )

After about 20-30 minutes of running her it was time to attempt to get on. I was all set and prepared (and hoping for) some good buckin' pictures. : )

He gave her a few times of just getting used to the mount up without actually getting on her.

Adding a little more weight, not yet getting on. So far, so good.

Finally sitting and no bucking whatsoever. She just stood there like it was no big deal. I was upset. That's twice now that I've been there with a camera when Robert has ridden a horse for it's first time and neither time got any good bucking pictures! I was proud of them both though, more than I was disappointed.

He started with only a halter, no bridle and bit. That would have been too much for her to deal with at once.

She did great for about 10 minutes, but then started to protest and throw her head around a bit.

After this picture was taken, Robert got off of her to see what the problem was and the halter had slipped up and was hitting her in the eye. I'd have thrown my head too! So, problem fixed, back on, and training continued.

After another 10 or 15 minutes of riding she started to get hot and sweaty and began to sole up. That's a cowboy term for just plum giving up when they get too hot. Not a good thing in a Florida horse. So, he had been gentle and coaxing with her up to that point, but when she began to get stubborn he had to get off and give her a little reminder of who was the boss. Not my favorite part, so I wandered off and took pictures elsewhere.

After she decided to listen to the boss again, the training continued without incident. All in all, she did really really great. The next step will be to get her used to having a bit in her mouth. It just amazes me that in 5 years no one could ride her. We had her for 1 week...............

"If your horse says no, you either asked the wrong question, or asked the question wrong." - Pat Parelli

During my wandering off I decided to take some pictures of the cow pens where we were at. I have always wanted to take pictures of the guys in action, but have never had the opportunity. These are the best I can do for now.

Here's my little cheeser. : )

Here's a view of the chute (front right corner) and looking back along the working area. There's a raised walkway all along the lane leading up to the chute so that the cowboys can lean over and prod when necessary.

Here's a better view of the chute. The cows (or calves) run down the lane and end in this with their heads sticking out the end. It sort of traps them in place and the cowboys can then give any shots or medicines that are needed. (This is called "working the cows") When it's marking and branding season they work the calves. The babies get tags in one ear and the other ear gets marked. That means it gets cut with a special design. Each ranch has it's own distinct design. The idea is similar to branding, so that they can be recognized from a distance as to who they belong to.

Here's a view looking down the lane into the chute. This is what the cows run down. Occasionally, a cow gets so worked up and mad they don't slow down at the end they smack their heads right into the chute and break their necks. The buzzards end up with a good meal.

Here's looking at the head end of the chute.

Looking back down the lane the cows run down. They are held in a holding pen at the other end of this and a cowboy has to be in the pen with them separating them out and running them down to the chute 2 or 3 at a time. It's a very tiring job seeing as they usually work at least 100 at a time. Robert usually ends up with that job. He definitely gets his exercise in, but he has also had his fair share of injuries from it too. One time he somehow got tripped up, fell underneath the cows and one stepped on his shirt and had him trapped so he couldn't up. Kind of scary to be stuck underneath a bunch of stomping hooves. He was finally able to break free and jump up on the fence to safety. He always has plenty of bruises and scrapes after a day in the pens.

They don't very often have to actually brand the calves anymore, but when they do this is the modern day branding iron. Gone are the days of sticking the iron in the fire until it's glowing hot. Now days they're electric. This one is a star, one of the brands of this ranch.

This one is triple headed and has numbers on it so they can add the year if needed.

Halie and Rita wandered off exploring and looking for flowers. They're pretty cute together!

"Horses - if God made anything more beautiful, he kept it for himself." - Author Unkown


  1. We love this post! Erica has a show on Saturday. Last show she got 3rd, 2nd and reserve.

  2. This Glenn Ritchey. Don't know if u remember me but out here in the West the cowboys who still do things the old fashioned way still brand with hot irons heated ina wood fire. some also use propane and branding pots when needing to do many head in a shorter time/ Also we rope and wrestle the calves instead of using a chute. either way is fine though. some just stick to the old ways more I guess. Hope all is well.


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