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Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Ranch Horses

So I been thinking the last few days about what I expect in a horse.   Shirley got my mind going when she said she loves how ranch horses take everything so calmly.  I guess because that's how horses have been since I been around them I just assumed every ones horse was like that.  But then I got thinking about what ranchers/cowboys expect their horses to do and there is a lot expected of that horse.  Quite often a trail horse is lumped in the same category but they are not quite the same.

It is just normal for me to have a horse that's easy to catch.  Our horses are in large fields and I don't like walking enough to want to go to the far end of the field and chase my horse around for an hour to catch them.  Most often they will come to me but I'm okay if the don't and just stay where they are. 

I also expect them to just be caught saddled and ready to ride.  I don't want to or have time for a bunch of groundwork on my horse everyday before I ride.  Usually by the time I caught them, walked out the pasture and saddled them and loaded them and unloaded them I expect to get on and go to work.  Maybe its cause they are used more often than pleasure horses that they do this or maybe its just that's always the way its done so its normal.

I have never had a horse that was hard to load.  This concept seems foreign to me even though I hear people complain about it all the time.  I really don't get it.  I have gotten most of my horses as young stock and have never had a problem getting them on a trailer.  Maybe because I expect they will do it and they know it or maybe because when I ask them something I expect a response.  Sure I have had a horse that needs a tap on the butt for motivation and Razz if you even wonder if she will load she will just stand outside the trailer till you think she will load and then she does.  But I travel a lot with my horses and its just a part of life kinda like catching and saddling that's what we do.

And being tied.  Dont know why this is a problem except maybe noone ties for any length of time.  Quite often our horses are tied to the trailer for hours.  This sure creates patience in a horse.  When I got Kali she got bored and pawed while being tied.  Jardi always wanted to hobble her but I found just tying her longer and ignoring her seems to have worked just as good. Its a learning thing its hard for a young horse to stand tied for a long time but sure comes in handy.  Like last summer when we went camping our horses spent the first night tied to the trailer.  I wasn't even concerned, but Charlene was all worried something would happen.  And of course they were fine.  Both horses knew how to stand tied for many hours (and we left them with full hay bags to occupy them).  Sure pays off in situations like that to have a horse that ties good.

There is also an expectation of being able to ride alone or in a group of different horses.  Quite often ranchers ride alone to do a job and if the horse cant do that not much good.  And we all get together for brandings and weaning and our horses see different places and different horses and there usually is no kicking or anything.  Just another day in a ranch horse life.  This spring I picked up my neighbor and his horse and we just threw them together in the trailer and they just tolerated it.  Not all horses can do that, not sure why but just not asked very often.

Also expecting them to rate thier speed.  If I ask them to walk we walk until I ask for something different.  But that all changes when chasing cows cause if the cows walk I walk if the cow trots we trot and if the cow goes the wrong way we turn them back.  Doesn't take long before even a non cowy horse know this and will stop the cows going the wrong way without being asked.  I also expect them to be calm even after a fast chase and excitement.  I don't want a horse that will never calm down after being high.  I also expect them not to get high when trotting or loping outside.  It isn't much of a big deal becuase they do it so often that its not something they look forward to and if they do we cankeep loping for many miles till they do get quiet.  Some days takes 6 or 8 miles on Razz (she hasn't gotten this one down pat yet).

They also have to walk through all kinds of stuff, water, brush, muddy ground, rocks, anything and everything is possible.  Sometimes trees (although not where I live).  They also are used to deer and antelope jumping out of nowhere and birds flying up underneath them.  Not that I don't expect them to get scared, but not to the point where they can't get back to working.  And they have to watch where they are going. I  don't think its my job to make sure they don't step in a hole and since they live on the same type of pasture that they are worked in, this is not a problem.

My horses are also not picky about feed.  They get grass and hay and oats.  I just use plain feed and they seem just fine.  I have boughten other feed for young or hard keepers, but pretty much everyone gets the same feed (although not the same amount).  The also are not picky on water.  In the summer they drink out of a dugout and so when we haul somewhere usually any water is okay and they will drink cause there has been times they were thirsty and there wasn't any water around. 

I think one of the main reasons ranch horses are calm and accepting is they are ridden a lot and not always working.  There is a lot of wet saddle blankets while going somewhere to work.  And even though they are getting ridden they are not constantly being told what to do.  They have to think for themselves and watch where they are walking.  Some of it I think also has to do with they don't know if its gonna be a one hour ride or a 8 hour ride.  Don't want to spend all their energy in the first 15 minutes when they may have to go all day.

I also think its why my horses are so calm but not necessarily as broke as some show horses.  I think if I can get them to do what I want without a big fuss im okay.  But now taht I am cutting I want them to do more.  Which is not a bad thing, more broke is never bad.  But I dont want to get away from the basic ranch horse charecteristics. I like not having to worry how my horse is going to react to something cause there is ussually a look and kinda questioning it but not freaking out and gotta get out of thier attitude.

And I'm not saying all ranch horses are perfect because there are many ranch horses that a lot of people couldn't ride.  Even my Bailey she is broke broke broke but I am very cautious about who I will put on her because she is very reactive.  I know her and know how to avoid any problems (mostly) and can do anything on her, but she isn't and never will be a beginner horse, she really is a ranch horse.  And if she never had the hours a ranch horse puts in she probly would be a nervous wreck or never ridden.

And in the same regard, all ranch horses are not suitable for all jobs.  I use mine for all jobs, but thats cause I dont ride all the time for the ranch, I want to do other stuff too and we just don't have enough cows to keep more than one horse going.  But there are horses that are good in corrals, some are better for long gathers, and some can do everything.


Country Gal said...

Sounds all perfect to me ! Just wish I could get back into the horse world and have my own again. Papa and I's future is to have a hobbie farm with lots of property and horses to ride ! Awesome post ! Have a winnie of a day !

Shirley said...

Good post Crystal. The more horses are used, the better they are, and using them for lots of different things keeps them mentally balanced, IMHO. If we obsess about their behavior; "but my horse might...." then the horse usually does the bad behavior, and if we increase our expectations of them, it increases their level of compliance.

Laughing Orca Ranch said...

Great post.

I often read the words "Ranch Trained" and "Feedlot Worked" in for sale horses around here. Seems like that's a huge selling point because folks know how hard ranch horses work and are trained.
Of course, I also think it's true testament to the ranchers, cattlemen, and cowboys who cause those wet saddle blankets and put those miles on those horses, too.

I think I'd trust one of those folks to train my horse over one of those big name showy clinicians with all the fancy expensive equipment to sell.


Mikey said...

I like how you think. I also think there's something that happens when you a do a job in partnership with a horse that makes them better all the way around. I think they like to get in the trailer and go do something interesting. I like when we're done, and we've done something tough together, patting my horse is like a high five, job well done, and they know it.

I also agree, not every ranch horse is for everyone. They have their quirks :) But if they help you get a job done, they're good as gold in my book.

BrownEyed Cowgirl said...

"And even though they are getting ridden they are not constantly being told what to do. They have to think for themselves and watch where they are walking. Some of it I think also has to do with they don't know if its gonna be a one hour ride or a 8 hour ride."

OMG...I loved your whole post, but these sentences...PERFECTLY said!

I can honestly say, that sometimes I have a hard time relating to other horse owners because I don't have problems with horses that won't stand tied or load or just saddle and ride off.

Obviously a horse has to learn those things, but they are non-negotiable in my book, so they have to learn all the things you mentioned.

I might add that I have ridden (and helped train) a lot of show horses...most of them I didn't consider 'broke'. They may have been more highly trained to perform certain tasks...but they were certainly not as broke as most ranch colts can get after just a few weeks of actually working.

it was a real shame my buckskin horse missed out on that kind of riding when he was younger because I sure can tell the difference between him and my older horses that were used on the ranch or in feedlots.

lisa said...

Well, girls I sure wish I lived in your world! Since I have owned my very first horse I have had nothing but problem horses and I have not known better until after being thrown from the last one. I finally got my sisters horse and I can still ride Annie with no problems and she will still walk away from me but not like she did when I got her. I never rode or owned a horse until I was 34 and I think after listening to you all I am going to get rid of the ones I have and come out to you and buy one! Is that ok? I am sure glad you wrote this post because it really made me do some serious thinking. The problem I have now is who to trust to get a decent horse that won't have health issues, because out here it seems like the horse that is real reasonable to buy has health issues or they have a very bad habit!!! Or they are so darn expensive you can't afford them! I would just love to be able to go out get my horse saddle up and ride without having to worry about if I will have to jump off after five minutes or micro manage for the whole ride!