Monday, August 29, 2011

It's Official!!

It's official!!  Guinness' papers came today and his official, registered name is "Single Malt Whiskey" and they've registered him as a bay!  I'm pumped.  It was my first choice name and I love bays!  I'll have to get some fresh pictures of the little monkey.  The only road block being right now I'm confined to sandals as I've had some minor, very minor, toe surgery and can't get a closed toe shoe on.   But I promise you as soon as I can get out there I'll be showing off some fresh pictures!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

What I Learned From Faansie

It was a great clinic.  Even though many of the concepts that he showed were ones I was familiar with, he packaged them differently.  My key learning moments were the following:
  • Work young dogs on fresh sheep, preferably lambs.  This will allow the dog to develop its natural instincts and prevent your dog broke sheep from teaching your young dog bad habits.  I plan to buy some to use this winter.  One of the dogs quirks that was driving me nuts was in part because my dog broke sheep weren't handling like sheep.
  • Watch my angles.  I learned to almost create a triangle with the dog as the point and the sheep in the middle.  I had been circling.  I learned to cut my angles tight to the sheep and walk directly to the dog's hip or rib to get a specific result.
  • Lie down frequently.  I learned to lie my dog down and erratically ask it to go quickly.  This will allow my pups to learn that they don't always get pulled off when put into lie down.  Be unpredictable so the dog has to think.
  • When I lie my dog down, and stand near the sheep the dog must bend around and not step towards the sheep before bending.
  • Use a dog food bag and make a sharp noise to get the dog's attention.  Watch my hand/arm movement.
  • Use the corners and fence to help control the movement of the sheep.  When a dog is too wide or out of context have them push the sheep into the corner and call them in, then have them cover the sheep that pop out.  This will teach the dog to read it's stock and respond to pressure.
  • When I give a correction make it count.  Don't release my pressure too soon.  Don't be afraid to apply pressure.  If a pup tries to leave, call them back, give them a pet, and then put them back to work.  Then when they're hooked, reapply the pressure to get what I want.
  • Use different speeds, get your dog working slow and thoughtful, then speed them up.  This keeps the dog thinking.
  • With Diva give her no quarter.  Work with a purpose and be demanding.
  • Start putting commands into the pups rather than "shhhh" which is what I'd been using to send them.
  • Fine tune my recall.  Recall is the start of a shed.  Teach the babies to recall to me when I'm standing square. 
  • Body language is key.
  • Don't block the sheep!  Let them go and make the dog cover them.  Get some distance between yourself and the sheep and allow the dog room to come around and bring them to you.  This makes it more clear for the dog.
I bought the Faansie Basson DVD and am super keen to watch it.  I learned so much.  More than I thought I would.  It was amazing for the dogs.  Both babies grew a tremendous amount.  Ryder developed so much confidence and Diva developed more respect.  And if nothing else, learning how to better handle Diva's behavior was priceless.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Horse Clinic

After my whirlwind trip to Saskatchewan, I soaked up some horse time.  On my way home I stopped in the small town where I used to live for a quick visit with the rancher I used to ride with.  At the time, I had no idea how lucky I was to learn from him.  His knowledge has given me a leg up and shown up in horse clinic after horse clinic.  At the time, I took what he gave me and used it but I had no real understanding of what major foundational training skills he was giving me.  Now I do.

The next morning I rolled out of bed.  Early, very early to load up the horse and head to a nearby arena where I would be attending day 2 of Geoff Hoar's Working Cow Horse clinic.  I spent the morning watching the "experienced" group ride and listening to Geoff's coaching.  At noon I hopped on my mare for the first time in a week and began to warm up.  I was prepared for a hyper tense horse and was pleasantly surprised with a soft, supple willing partner.

The "dry" part of the clinic left me feeling frustrated with no individual attention from the clinician.  I had a question I wanted to ask, so I circled, and circled, and circled him while he worked with someone else.  By the time he moved on (to the whole group) I had forgotten what I wanted to find out.  We quickly moved onto cattle which is the fun part.  Bacardi worked her cows fairly well, while I tried to figure out what I needed to be doing.  When I asked for clarification he didn't understand what I was asking and didn't answer it.  So I took the time during my second cow work to reframe the question to better get the response I was looking for.  The second work was much, much more useful.  I actually figured out what I need to work on and the direction I'm going to take the horse's training.

In the future, I won't take part of a two day clinic.  I not sure if the disconnect I felt was because I missed bits from the previous day or if the clinician was just not a good fit for my learning style.  Or maybe because the dog clinic the day before was stellar.  I don't know.  It's too bad because this is a person I've always held in high regard as a skilled horseman.  Perhaps a private lesson would be a better plan in the future.

On Sunday, I entered in the Ranch Cutting at the schooling show and had complete blow out rides.  But that's okay because the purpose was to learn.  I had someone tape me while I rode.  This I plan to show Jason and have him help me through some issues.  The clinic made it incredibly clear how lucky I am to have him in my life because I've learned so much from him.  He is truly providing me with a high quality foundation for my cutting aspirations.  I'm somewhat amazed at how much more I understand now, compared to the start of the summer.

Here's a couple of pictures from the clinic.

Not sure why I'm making that face... 

Where To Start??

Last night I sat and tried to gather my thoughts.  There is so much I want to say but don't even know where to begin.  So I thought the best thing to do would be start at the beginning.  It all began in the spring when I felt the need to improve.  Improve myself.  Improve my skills.  Improve my dogs.  So I registered in a clinic put on in Shaunavon Saskatchewan.

A little under 900 kms later I was there.  It's funny how you never know how things are going to turn out. It turns out I learned so much from the people taking the clinic, as much as I learned from the clinician.  Diva has been a challenging dog for me.  She is extremely reactive.  Reactive to the point of being scary and dangerous.  And all the tools I had in my tool box weren't working very well.  I had hit the point where I was seriously considering finding her a home better equipped to deal with her.  At the clinic this fabulous lady from Utah, looked over at me and gave me the hand I so desperately needed.  Without being harsh or cruel, we were able to start to turn Diva's behavior around.  It was simple.  When she gave a "negative" reaction, I calmly take her and lay her on her side.  I keep my hand holding her neck and head down with a steady pressure.  Whatever set her off is allowed to be around her.  She is not allowed up until she is relaxed.  And it's working!!!!  The frequency is significantly reduced and the power of reaction is reducing!  What a relief!  I took her with me to the Working Cow Horse clinic and continued on with her desensitization.  This is something I can consistently do and feel good about doing.

The clinic was amazing for Diva.  I was given the help I needed to get a handle on her behavior.  Plus, we were able to work her on stock and Faansie gave me some great strategies to help make her a better worker.  I was able to improve my timing and ability to apply pressure to create the position needed on stock.  I learned with Ryder to not be afraid of applying pressure.  That I'm not going to wreck him.  I have grown as a person and trainer.  It was a valuable use of my time, energy and money.  Plus there was the great time spent meeting new people, some of whom I'll hold close in my heart for their kindness, generosity, and willingness to bring me into their lives for a couple of days.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Saskatchewan Bound!!

The pre-trip feelings of disorganization and panic have set in.  Tomorrow I load my truck with the two babies and head to Shaunavon Saskatchewan.  As best as I figure I'm looking at a 7-8 hour drive, not including breaks.  We're headed to a Faansie Basson clinic.  I know I'll learn a tremendous amount but I'm more than a little nervous!

Diva has been a handful lately.  She's started snarking at both Ryder and Tessa.  This is not cool.  And because I've been preoccupied with Diva and Reba, Ryder has taken a backseat in his socialization.  Which makes me feel a bit anxious.  That's my ego talking.  I really don't want to be known as the girl with the awful behaved dogs...  I know this is a golden teachable moment and I'll work hard at being patient and helping my dogs through the struggles we're sure to encounter.  On the plus side they both look pretty nice on sheep.

I'm headed to the barn for a last "cow" ride on Bacardi before she gets a holiday.  I've been riding daily and working with her.  The day after we return I haul her off to a Geoff Hoar clinic.  I'm really looking forward to learning from him.  He's such a great horseman.  I know she's not a superstar but I'm okay with that.  The thing that matters is she's shown a tremendous amount of growth in her training in a very short time.

I'll head to town after I ride to run some errands and then do a few major load of laundry.  Bath time for dogs before bed.  Pack the truck in the morning and we'll be off.  Bound for Saskatchewan!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Little Things

It's the little things in life that count.

Last Wednesday I drove the two hours and change to Reba's new home and dropped her off.  It was hands down one of the hardest things I've ever done - getting in my truck and driving away.  I didn't really believe I was as attached to her as I was/am.  I've been exchanging texts with her new owner (who adores her) and that makes me feel better.  Knowing that I've done the right thing - for both dog and person, is different in theory than practical application.

I've also been driving to help Jason work cows.  There is a big cutting show coming up so a lot of training is occurring.  This has been a golden opportunity for me to learn.  And Jason has been awesome at sharing his knowledge and experience with me.  He even hopped on Bacardi yesterday and worked her on cows.  What a fabulous thing to watch.  I've seen her improve so much, and Jason was able to give me some feedback as to help her even more.

The hours of riding are not only making Bacardi look super fit, but are toning up my muscles!  My legs are getting stronger and my abs are getting tighter!  Can't complain about that!  Plus I love spending the time watching the horses work cows, and I love the time spent in the sunshine.  I find the whole process very relaxing and therapeutic.

Both Ryder and Diva are showing progress in their young dog manners.  They are such characters and so much fun to watch and play with.  One day I'd like to try to do some therapy with Ryder.  He's such a kind and good hearted dog.  The other day my brother had had a fight with his wife and was upset.  I drove into the city and picked him up.  Ryder who normally is not a big man fan crawled over the console and sat in his lap!  (I know very unsafe.)

Ryder has also been my caretaker while I run.  I've been having a lot of trouble keeping my wind and breathing.  When I get too wheezy or choppy he starts to jump up and down beside me, looking at my face.  When I slow down to a walk, he settles down.  Neat isn't it?  Last week my doctor started me on a new med (Singular).  It's an asthma med but is supposed to help with my allergies and breathing.  And it's working!!!  Today, for the first time in a very long time I was able to run 5k (3 miles) in under 35 minutes and that included stopping in the ditch for cars.  It was been ages since it felt so good, easy and free to run like that!  Who knew being able to breathe makes such a difference??  Ryder only bounced a couple of times towards the end of the run!  Major improvement.

I've been busy doing a lot of nothing real fancy or exciting.  But it just doesn't matter, because it's all the little things that are filling my days and putting a smile on my face.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Terrified Tears

Dogs in hand we headed out down the road for our run.  The four Borders and I had traveled just past the neighbors property when I realized Bella was following us.  Turning around I chased her home and continued running in the other direction.  Tessa had stopped at the base of my driveway.  This is not uncommon.  She's hit the point in her life when she doesn't always want to run.  Often she'll sit there and wait or will go back to the house and wait for me there.

I kept watching to see if she'd changed her mind up to the 1/4 mile mark, at which point I figured she decided not to run.  The rest of us went on our merry way.  Right now we're doing a 30 minute run so I knew she wouldn't have to wait for a long time.  Returning home I swung up the driveway, did bathroom duty with the babies, put everything away and returned to the house.  I noticed Tessa wasn't in the yard.  No big deal, she can open the back door and does so as she pleases.  Going into the house - no Tessa.  Going back into the yard, calling and whistling - no Tessa.  Starting to worry, I walked back down to the road, calling and whistling for her.  No sign of a black and white fur ball.

Returning to the yard I walked around to some of her favorite places, calling her.  Bella was laying in the corral where she belongs.  But no Tessa.  By this point I was starting to really freak out.  Hopping in my truck I idled down the road.  One mile north - no Tessa.  Stopping in at neighbors to alert them to watch for her I went south, past my drive 1.5 miles - no Tessa.  Back to searching the yard - no Tessa.  Getting really scared I got on the phone calling neighbors to keep an eye out for her.  I even called the vet because she's microchipped.  No Tessa.

An hour and half after she went missing a neighbor pulled into the drive.  He had spotted her coming down the hill but couldn't get her to come to him.  Hopping back in the truck I flew towards her.  As soon as she heard the diesel she crossed to my side of the road, tail raised in the air.  Slamming on the brakes I leaped out, running towards her.  She happily jumped into the truck.  Sobbing with relief I drove back home.

She doesn't seem the worse for her adventure but it scared the tar outta me!  I have no idea how far she traveled but it was a good distance as she was spotted a mile from the house.  Lesson learned.  No more unsupervised time for my Tessa.  I think I'll be keeping her close to me today.

Sunday, August 7, 2011


A few weeks ago, as I was driving home from Ken's it occurred to me that I'm happy.  I'm bone deep content and happy with my life.  Oh, I still grumble about little things but when I sit down and think about it I am truly filled with joy.  It was a moment of clarity on a Saturday night.

In the past, on a Saturday night I would have felt itchy.  Like I was missing out if I wasn't out and about.  Seeing and being seen.  There I was driving down the freeway, trailer full of sheep, two dogs sleeping in the backseat and Ryder riding shotgun, when I was passed by vehicle after vehicle all speeding into the bright lights of the city.  You could see many of the occupants were ready to party.  And in the past I may have stepped on the gas for a little drive-by flirting.  This time, I reached over and ran my fingers through Ryder's plush fur, feeling peaceful as he leaned his head and neck into my hand.

I wondered why I wasn't feeling like I was missing out, letting everyone pass me by, turning away from the bright city lights into the starlit country night.  I've thought about that night a lot over the last few weeks.  I've thought about it while I've rode my horse.  That feeling of perfect symmetry seeping into my bones while she gathers her muscular body into a perfect stop.  I've thought about it while I ran down the road - dogs panting happily at my side while sweat trickled down my cheek.  I've thought about while I sat and watched the Bobby Ingersol clinic where in the past I would have wanted to be noticed.  Dying for the cute cowboy to notice me, pick me.  But this time I was happy visiting with an older couple, absorbing the knowledge of the people around me, and belly laughing tears with new friends.

It sank in when my dearest friend was pestering me to get out more, meet some new people *cough male people cough* as I half hearted argued with her.  Out of my mouth came the words, but I'm happy right now.  I don't want to go to town to meet people.  If I have to choose between messing with the dogs and going on a date, I choose the dogs.

There was a time not so long ago that this thought would have been foreign to me.  I would have been horrified to want to stay home.  And I do go out and do things, I just don't go out and do things that will result in a beau.  Simply put, because I'm so happy I just don't care.

And isn't that the greatest space to be in??

Down Time

It's been quiet here.  Reba, has sprained her groin and is on "keep her quiet" time.  I took her to see a chiropractor to get adjusted.  I really think it helped her.  She goes for a second treatment next week prior to going to her new home.  Blain (her new owner) and I have been exchanging texts.  I feel good about him as an owner.  I think the two of them will have fun together.

The mosquitoes have been particularly bad in the evenings so I've been hiding out in the house.  I've pretty much decided I'm allergic to bug spray and really avoid using it when possible.  Because my allergies have been so bad this summer I went into both my medical doctor and my optometrist and have a raft of new meds (and a referral to a specialist) to try.  You should have seen the look on my face when the optometrist asked if anyone had ever told me I slept with one eye open.  Apparently my eyes have ugly dry patches that he thinks could be caused by my eyelids not closing properly when sleeping.  Who knew?!?!

I love to read and have been enjoying my down time with the dogs sprawled out around me while I enjoy a book.  Normally, I prefer nonfiction and feel good happy ending type books, however the other night at the Bookmobile (library in a bus that services rural areas), I drifted over to the good read section.  There I selected a couple of "literary" type reads.  You know the type that Oprah would recommend.  The book I finished last night is a National Book Award Winner and it was awful.  The only reason I read the entire thing was I kept waiting for the plot to become clear.  The story line was muddied, and in places repetitive.  It stank.  The book could have been turned into a short story because there was only plot in the last few chapters.  The rest of the novel was strange meanderings where you had to reread and check back to figure out which character's thoughts you were now following as they didn't have distinct voice.  I must admit I've read romance novels with better writing than this novel.  In fact, I've read textbooks that were easier to follow....

Needless to say I really don't recommend the novel "Lord of Misrule" by Jaimy Gordon.  And here I thought a novel about horses would be right up my alley.  Ye Gads.  Live and learn.  Live and learn.

Today I'm going to do some sheep work with the babies, resume operation "halter Guinness", and with a little luck get a lesson from Jason.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Can't Do It

Today is supposed to be THE DAY.  Today is supposed to be the day I take Tessa in for her big goodbye. And I can't do it.  I've been laying on my bed with Tessa spooned into the nook of my body for the last hour crying.  For the last little while she's been having pretty good days - for her.  There is no doubt in my mind that there will be equally bad days coming.

But she has been happy.  She howled me a morning greeting.  She hopped up on my bed with no assistance!  She went up the stairs - and even alternated most of them!!  Yes, she has also been confused - hence me shrieking at her yesterday as she drove the sheep in the opposite direction of the gate...  but she has also been playful with her tail flagged high in the air.

How can I say goodbye to her??

A friend has said she'll tell me when she's ready to go.  And I'm trying so hard to do the right thing.  I don't want to be the person who holds onto their dog because they are too selfish to say goodbye.  But deep in my heart I believe Tessa is telling me she still has more time.

I realize when she has to go it won't be any easier for me.  I had thought that doing it when she was having some good days would make it easier.  I really tried to tell myself that.  I was wrong.  I think she needs to be closer to rock bottom for me to feel good about this.  I had been resigned to doing this.  Perhaps that's not the best thing.  Resigned.  I think if I were to go forward I would always second guess myself - wondering if I made the right decision.

I need to know it was the right decision.

In this moment in time, I don't know.  For that reason, we will wait, and I will love her like there's no tomorrow.


Today I made the short trek to one of the many fancy stables in the area.  This one is private, one I don't have much opportunity to travel to.  It's one that is owned by a cutter and caters to a select few.  One Jason invited me to come help him work cows at.

You can imagine the look on my face when trailer after trailer pulled in.  Eeeekkk!  There were a lot of big money cutters walking into the pen.  And I wasn't entirely sure what to do.  Normally, I help Jason by keeping the herd centered and push his cow as needed.  But there were so many horses there I didn't know what my role was.  So I sat back and watched, until it was Jason's turn, where I helped him.

Take a moment to visualize the look on my face when the owner of the joint walks his horse up to me and tells me to go cut.  I stumbled over an answer and kept telling him I was just here to help.  He insisted.  So there we were, Bacardi and I had our first "cutting" work.  It's funny.  I spent the weekend watching a Bobby Ingersol clinic (famous cutter-working cow horse guy).  And I watched all these people do things I swore I wouldn't do.  Of course I didn't hold my line.  I didn't make a clean cut.  I didn't stop my horse before turning.  But I also didn't rip my horses face off.  Ugh.  I vow to do better the next time I get onto cows.  I know part of the problem is the cattle were fresh.  Meaning they wanted to run.  I needed a quiet walking cow to help Bacardi figure out her job.  The cool part is she wanted to watch the cow and did some nice turns on her own (with the cow).  Another huge part of the problem is this was my first attempt at trying to cut somewhat properly on a horse that has an unknown background.    It would have been nice to be on a babysitter horse, giving me a fighting chance to think about what I needed to do.  But I'll take the opportunities that have been coming my way and keep working at figuring it out.

It was so much fun!!!  And I can't wait to do it again!!