Today I took a 1/2 day off work and drove three hours to Airdrie. Here I took a private lesson with Calvin Jones of Wales. It was well worth the time and effort. In fact, it was hands down one of the best lessons I've taken. He "got" me. And he "got" my dogs. Calvin was fresh off judging the Worlds in the UK so I'll trust he knows what he's talking about.
I worked Diva first and he gave me some positive and interesting feedback. He showed me a technique to keep her off her sheep. After he demonstrated some things, and I tried them (in teaching we call this modeling and guided practice) I went to grab Ryder. Ryder was his normal lovely little self. And Calvin was very impressed with him. So impressed he was joking about stuffing him (Ryder) in his suitcase. He also encouraged me to reconsider neutering him. He believes that Ryder has the makings of a champion.
Afterwards we chatted. Calvin's a funny man with a great sense of humor. He's the kind of person you can sit and visit with for hours. As we chatted Calvin gave me some advice/feedback around Diva. His suggestion was to either find some "good" farmer to send her to for the winter for some real work or to leave her to grow up. He feels that some of the behaviors on stock I'm seeing are immaturity. He thinks my time will be better spent with Ryder and that by January (January!!!???) Ryder should be ready to trial. He also thought that getting too rough or aggressive with Diva would only result in failure.
It was so interesting for me. I think I learned a lot and above all he gave me something to think about. I liked that his was a different take than the standard herder/stockdog manner where rough or course strategies can be common. As a matter of fact, I liked him so much that next weekend when he's back in the Airdrie area, I'll be driving down for another set of lessons.
If you ever get the chance I highly recommend him.
UPDATE: Calvin will be in the Calgary area (Airdrie) for the following week.
Jason and I met up this afternoon. I dutifully held out my advertising papers and told him what my heart felt. (I totally didn't phrase it like that!) He educated me about bloodlines, prices, gender and expectations. He took me out into the field to show a 2 year old her believed was a future superstar. And I listened. And I learned. He leaves me stunned with his generosity and willingness to share his knowledge.
45 minutes and some time on the Internet we had a price range and plan in place. In December, Jason is driving to Fort Worth, Texas with an empty trailer. In December I'll be flying down on a weekend. From there we'll choose 10 prospect two year olds that fall into my price range. I'll fly home. Jason will buy me a horse. The deal being that anything he buys will be Mr. Right. There will be no settling. He said if Mr. Right does not walk into the ring then we go home empty handed.
The current criteria is: (I'm paraphrasing here...)
Pedigree - dam needs to have earnings - this is the best indication of how much potential talent the horse will have.
Conformation - the horse must have the build that enables it to perform in the cutting world.
Temperament - it must have the attitude to be successful and be kind and quiet enough to pack me around.
Gender - Mare
You might be wondering why Texas?? Well, it's simple. There are 1000s of cutting horses in the area. There are something like 6 major sales over a couple of weeks. This will enable me to get a better bred horse, with more potential, for less money. More bang for my buck if you will. If Jason wasn't planning to be there anyhow - probably not so cost effective. But the fact that my trainer will be there scouting horses - priceless.
Chelsi - still love Hola - and if you email me a flyer I'll pop one up around here. (We have some major fancy reiners in this area.)
With my preoccupation between school and my horse obsession, the dogs have not been forgotten. We had two very productive and satisfying dog days! On Saturday, Diva and Ryder came with me to the dog park... the first time in a very, very long time... and they were awesome!!! Neither got bark happy. Ryder postured a bit when we first started out but I wasn't convinced the other dog we met didn't have something to do with this. Both dogs demonstrated an excellent recall - even when they were playing with other dogs. When we were leaving the park, Diva and Ryder were on leash preparing to exit and were greeted (excessively so) by two dogs. Both dogs ignored the new comers and continued nicely while on leash! This is major!! Diva tucked her tail but didn't get snappy. Of course, I discouraged the other dogs with my leg moving them off of mine.
On sheep, Diva has been working hard at developing a lie down and recall. She tends to want to work on her terms, but a session with Ken last weekend has put us on the right track and we are making great progress. Ryder is very biddable and eager to please on the stock. We're working on stretching out an outrun. Today, Tracy and Jeter came for a stock work. Afterwards Jeter and Ryder had some male bonding and play time.
The dogs have mostly been pretty patient with me. Lying at my feet while I work and read. On Friday I'm taking a 1/2 day to head down to Airdrie to take a lesson with Calvin Jones (from Wales). I'm looking forward to this.
I have to admit I had been pondering selling Diva. The whole time and difficult to deal with factor. But, I'm really enjoying her right now. She's been more personable, albeit still challenging. I've learned so much from working with her. Maybe that's why she's in my hands.
I've pretty much decided to follow my gut which says buy young, buy Mr. Right. All that needs to happen now is a conversation with Jason, and some decisions to be made. Of course, like the weather I reserve the right to change my mind...
There's been an internal debate going on inside of me. The long road vs the short road. Mr. Right vs Mr. Right Now. Young vs Old. And on it goes.
Right now, as I type I should be reading the hundreds of pages (no lie - around 450 pages) of material for one of my courses. I should be finishing up the standard September paperwork that bogs things down for work. I should be doing some pre-reading of one of the three other textbooks I need to read over the next few weeks. Instead I'm thinking about horses. At this particular moment in time I'm taking two graduate level courses, working full time, trying to keep my young dogs training up and trying to continue my weight loss battle with healthy eating, sleeping enough and running. Ha! Did you see horses anywhere on this list?? Hmmmm.....
Yes, I know this is crazy talk - but I feel the need to spend some time pondering horses. Here's the deal... there's this huge, massive part of me that wants to have a young horse go through training to become my Mr. Right. The thought pattern around this is time. Even if I buy Mr. Right Now will I have time to ride, enjoy and learn?? I'm on the cusp of formally applying for my graduate program. I think I have it narrowed down to what and where I want. This is a two year process. This process will cost around $15 000.
So here goes...
If, biiiiiiig if, if I buy something young that Jason can train the right way, then that something should hypothetically be ready for me when I'm ready to ride. As a stop gap I have Bacardi to ride and play on. And I'll have the pleasure of knowing the horse's background. No pesky worries about soundness or strange quirks. I'll have been the captain of the ship.
The negative is that then I'd hypothetically have two young horses - pending Guinness and the purchase of something specific to cutting. Lord only knows if Guinness will be too big or suitable.
Cost wise - to purchase a finished cutter I'm looking at $15 000 +, to purchase a young horse and toss in some training it'll work out to... ready for this... $15 000 give or take (to be honest - probably more).
One method is more immediate. I could hypothetically be riding a cutter next summer. One takes more time. I could hypothetically be riding a cutter in 3-4 years.
Patience may be a virtue, but I'm quickly discovering when it comes to getting what I want, one I'm lacking in. I desperately want my cutting horse. And I'll keep tucking money away in my fund. But it's killing me, absolutely killing me to not go out and buy something. Yesterday!
The funny bit is I'm not even able to ride right now. I just don't have the time with too many other commitments. But darn, if I don't want that stinking horse to call my own. (Not that I don't already have 3!) I was thinking back to Chelsi's post on Princess. And here is a classic example where I will buy something even if I don't love it, if it meets my criteria. It needs to be trained, sound and sane. It needs to be something I can ride and learn off of comfortably. To put an exclamation point on it, I would even write a check and send the trainer off to purchase something. Gasp! (So out of character for me!)
But would I love this horse? Want to keep this horse? Bond with this horse? I don't know because at this moment in time, this hypothetical horse is simply a step. A step in the right direction of allowing me to learn at a quicker rate than if I tried to accomplish this goal on a horse without the inherent talent or abilities.
That being said, I do fantasize about having a young horse of mine come up the ranks and compete successfully with me. We shall see which one will be reality first.
This weekend feels as though I'm trying to cram every last bit of fun into it while I can. None of it was really planned though. Saturday, I was up with the birds, taking the dogs out, feeding the horses and sheep. I had planned to have a little sleep in. So after chores were done, I crawled back into bed. When the phone rang. Really? 8 am on a Saturday?? This man begins with "Oh good, you're up!" It was my farrier calling to tell me he was coming early. A lot early. When I asked how far out he was I received a cheerful 2 minutes. Gack!
Hastily rolling out of bed and tossing on some clothes I hit the door just as he pulls in. I always enjoy visiting with Derek. He has great gossip and is funny. Plus he's fabulous with the horses. We decided to trim the horses in the pen. It makes things easier when one of the horses is a mare with foal. While he was trimming Bacardi, Guinness (who was very nosy) began snooting Bacardi in the flank. (This is NOT the mama!) Expecting a mess I nervously suggest he put the foot down and move away. But Bacardi was amazing. She didn't try to kick. In fact she did nothing. She let little Guinness pester her all while she had her feet done.
After the horses were trimmed Derek helped me *read Derek did all the work* put a halter on Guinness. He is now haltered!! Let the halter breaking begin! I plan to also do some loading work. Get him and Whiskey in the trailer. When Derek left I thought I'd roll the dice and see if Jason was in town. Normally, this time of year on weekends he's off showing. But he sent me back an immediate text asking if I wanted to come out. So I loaded up Bacardi and went and turned back. And Bacardi who has had a few weeks off was amazing. She listened and worked really well.
Once home, a quick shower and into town I went. It was haircut day. That was followed by dinner at my favourite Italian place with my mom. When I returned home it was dog time. They needed to play and get supper. My day closed with some textbook time. Unfortunately, when the dogs don't get enough attention they tend to bug me when I'm trying to work. It's challenging to read and write notes when a dog is climbing on your lap!
My day didn't go as planned but it was still a great way to spend a Saturday.
I had recently read The Adventures of a Horse Crazed Mind's post about her horse. How the horse was not her ideal horse but one that she was really enjoying. I've thought hours about that. I will admit to having had some amazing horses. One's that were truly irreplaceable both in my heart and their discipline. Some stick out so clearly in my mind. Yeller or Two T Rebel Gold - the horse I rode and trained, should have bought but didn't. I've regretted that for years. Here's a horse many didn't get along with but was a perfect "click" for me. Smokey - my old Arabian show horse who died an untimely death. Roo, my first rope horse, who I lost to an untimely death in a flurry of tears. Charger - the horse that was my "make do" horse. He allowed me to build some confidence after a hospital inducing wreck. He also showed me that I had the know how to finish a nice rope horse.
Whiskey, the mare I adore, but at times wasn't sure was the best fit for me. I've been watching her in the pasture and am contemplating having the vet out to take a look at her lame leg. I've been pondering making an attempt at bringing her back to soundness once Guinness gets weaned.
Bacardi, my "trade in", who frustrates the tar outta me, but has allowed me to play and enjoy a taste of the cutting world. I'm actively trying to sell her, simply because she's not where I want to end up. That being said - if she stays here. She stays here. I just may try my hand at roping off her this winter. This is a horse that has grown a tremendous amount in a short time period. I was told she's hard to catch - not hardly! I credit Whiskey's outstanding influence in teaching her what a "balanced" horse acts like.
Guinness, my first foal. The little guy has stolen my heart. I can't wait to see what he turns into. I can touch him all over, lean on him, and move him around. But he's still not halter broke. Sigh.
Whiskey, a fatty pants right now. Guinness, and Bacardi.
Guinness at just under 3 months old. Shedding out his baby coat.
The three musketeers! What's surprised me is how good Bacardi is with Guinness. They're friends - I've even caught her running around with him. (Playing, not chasing.) Being tormented by the sticky flies in this picture.
While I was napping today I had one of those powerful "Ah Ha!" moments. I had gone for a walk with the dogs in the park, and was lying in my bed peaceful and content, Ryder nestled against my legs, Diva squirming against my torso, with Tessa snuggled up in "her" closet. I was giggling as Diva clowned and wiggled, madly trying to lick any available skin she could reach. When she finally gave up and hopped off to find some trouble to get into, Ryder slithered his way up and rested his head on my belly. I lay there feeling the silky softness of his ears and it came to me.
Over the past few weeks it has cemented that Ryder is my dog. I adore him. He has so many quality that I appreciate. I love his sense of play. I really love that when it's quiet time, he's quiet. He's been my faithful shadow as I'm house and couch bound. Laying patiently at my feet while I sit with my foot in the air. I enjoy the fact that he's a bit of a suck and loves to cuddle, placing his head on my lap or knee. And I'm having fun working with him on the stock where he's starting to show some promise.
So as I lay there, thinking about our walk today, stroking his soft fur, the words of Tracy echoing in my head, "Are you going to neuter him?" To be honest I'd planned to leave him intact. Why? Because that's what herders do. Many (not all, but I'd hazard a majority) of working dog people never spay or neuter their animals until they've proven their ability - something that can take upwards 2-3 years to discover completely. So there I lay, petting my pet when it came to me - I can do whatever I want.
I had already decided that he'll be with me forever. The thought that I can do what I want seems somewhat astonishing. Because it doesn't really matter. Who care if he's neutered? In fact, I prefer spay/neutered pets. It makes life significantly easier. Ryder is just discovering he's a boy making now the perfect moment.
It seems funny that this hasn't occurred to me before. Perhaps it was when I was looking for a pup (Reba) there were few to be found, whereas now there are a dime a dozen out there. And realistically speaking, I wouldn't consider a pup for at least 4 years. That's 4 more years of keeping an intact dog just for the sake of it. A dog that may not make the cut anyhow. Ridiculous.
**For all of those horrified by the fact that I allowed my dogs to "sleep" with me, understand that at night the two young dogs are crated or in the x-pen in another room, and Tessa is in her closet (loose). I had long ago decided having a snug with them well worth having them on the bed.**
Having spent the better part of the last week recovering from a minor toe surgery I've literally been chomping at the bit to get out and DO something - anything! Thursday - day seven - brought my feet back into closed toe shoes. I can't describe the joy this gave me. Closed toe shoes meant I was one step closer to being able to do things with the horses and dogs. My poor animals had been consigned into the care of my parents. I couldn't even properly play with they dogs, they, unfortunately, are boisterous players. And sandals are a classic no-no around horses. With an open wound already on my foot, I really didn't want to create another...
Yesterday, quivering with excitement (me, the dogs, everyone!), I carefully adjusted my bandage, stretched out a sock, slid it ever so cautiously over my foot and made my first attempt at getting my foot into my hiking boot. I figured this would be the easiest to try with its big toe area and foot support. With some careful, careful wiggling it slid in. Tentatively I took some test steps. It wasn't the most comfortable feeling but if I was gentle and took it easy, manageable.
Pumped I grabbed my treat bag, leashes, dog whistle and dogs. We were going to the Grazing Reserve! I figured giving the dogs some freedom to run would make up for my slow pace and neglect the previous week. Taking my time I stutter stepped, having discovered the hard way if I stepped funny on the uneven ground my toe would catch on the boot causing a leaking sensation and increased ouch factor. We meandered our way through the field. Taking the time for frequent recall practice. (Ryder is amazing - Diva, well, we'll keep working...) We had began looping back towards the staging area, and I was cautiously navigating the huge and rugged hills, tying to stick to the cow paths. The dogs were streamed out in front, sniffing and running, having a grand time.
When I heard a bark behind me. Jolting I did a quick visual. One, two, three black bodies all in the opposite direction of the bark! Swinging around I looked behind me. There on the hill I had just descended stood a coyote. Barking and trotting towards me. Gulp.
Now, as a country kid and resident I've frequently heard the "Don't be scared of it, it's more scared of you." adage. May I say horse hockey!! I clapped my hands, blew my dog whistle in the most shrill annoying sound I could get it to produce, hollered, and gestured. What did the coyote do? Why, it came closer! Still barking. Picture this - at this point I'm still a good hilly mile from the staging area. It's me, my three dogs and an assertive coyote. Trying to look confident I sped up. Flinching every time my toe met an unyielding bunch of grass I began taking the most direct route away from the coyote. At this point the coyote starts to howl!
The hair stood up on my arms and neck. The dogs finally notice our companion and start to run towards it. Tessa leading the way barking ferociously. The coyote continues towards us, barking once again. Calling the dogs off I began to really gimp it. One leg doing a big stride, the other doing a hobble hop. I tried clapping and yelling, gesturing towards it. All of which earned me another howl. Keeping my dogs close, we kept a steady pace. Ryder, who is so sensitive to me, began doing his jump and look me in the face routine which means I need to chill out and slow down. He kept himself by my side until my wheezing stopped. He didn't leave until we lost sight of the coyote and I had relaxed.
That bloody coyote followed us for close to a 1/2 mile, gradually distancing itself as we continued. Because I was taking the most direct route away, I was off course for the staging area (having traveled West instead of South West.) Adding to the distance was my sudden need to stay on high ground. Nothing like feeling like prey to keep you from loosing the sight advantage. Every clump of grass became a vicious coyote out to get me!
Needless to say, I'm not feeling too keen on another relaxing hike with the dogs. Perhaps the dog park would be a better option...