Here I sit, 38,000′ above sea level, in route to Portland OR for a clinic this weekend in Vancouver WA. I love going to the Pacific NW—it’s one of my favorite parts of the country and I have lots of friends there. I hear it’s cold and rainy there, but as my father reminded me, it’s not really summer yet. As they say in CO, summer is from July 1st to July 4th!
If I don’t finish up on the last day of the C Lazy U VRH event, I may never be able to go on with my life, so it is my intention to put this incredibly good time to rest with this installment of my blog. When I left off last time, half of the competition day was complete at lunch time, with all 38 riders having completed Conformation, Ranch Cutting and Ranch Riding. The only remaining classes were Ranch Trail and Working Ranch Horse– the nemesis of all VRH competitors.
BTW, I might mention that for me, this day started at about 5:30 am when I went down to feed the horses. Dually, a normally finicky eater, did not touch a bite of his breakfast. I thought that was odd, seeing’s how I couldn’t eat breakfast either, feeling sick to my stomach with the thought of the Working Ranch class. In fact, neither one of us ate much all day—both of us nibbling on a few pieces of hay during the lunch break.
It’s a long, grueling day to complete this competition—your horse has to be warmed up and ready to go by 8:00a. If you’re riding in the advanced class, as Rich and I were, and you have to do cutting first, that requires a lot of warm up. And if you are riding an over-zealous cow-eating monster like Dually, it requires even more. Finding the right amount of warm up for your horse to be ready and focused is an individual thing and something you have to learn by trail and error. I was really happy that at this show, I figured out the complicated timing between classes, the right amount of loping I needed to do to keep Dually both warmed up and focused and I was able to think my way through the hard classes without that “deer in the headlights” look n my face.
For Rich and I, the trail class was first. It was a pretty simple pattern—gate opening, bridge, trot poles (more like telephone poles), log drag in a figure eight (a little tricky when you circle left and the rope goes behind your horse’s tail), side pass, de-bridle, ground tie. This stuff is pretty easy for Dually and we got through the pattern almost flawlessly. Then it was time to sit and wait as my stomach turned for the challenging Working Ranch Horse class. Naturally, I was one of the last riders to go SYMBOL 76 f “Wingdings” s 10
Working ranch horse is a timed class in which you have 6 minutes to complete all four phases of the class. It requires you to first ride a reining pattern, then you call for your cow and a single cow is let into the arena; then you “box” the cow at the end of the arena (which means you try to keep him at the center of the rail and show that your horse can control the cow); then you take the cow down the long rail, past the center marker, turn him around, pass the center marker again and turn him back—making two turns at a fairly high speed. Finally, when your fence work is done, you get your rope out, build a loop and rope him and stop him. There‘s a LOT going on in this one class and you really have to think your way through.
For Dually and I, the reining pattern is easy. Actually, for Dually, it’s all easy—I’m the one that’s a little green on some of the cow work. Dually was a little worked up about being one of the last horses to go and started off a little hot on the reining but then settled into his job. Once the cow was let in, he was all business. We had a cow that was just right (there‘s a little bit of luck of the draw here)—he gave us a challenge but was not a wild thing. We did a fine job of boxing and putting into play what I had learned from Sandy Collier the day before, I executed perfect strategy and got my cow lined up to go down the rail nicely, turning him back in two quick turns. I had plenty of time and could‘ve showed my horse a little more but I didn‘t want to get too fancy and take unnecessary risks.
After the second turn, I backed off the cow as I got my rope down to build a loop. I had set up my rope perfectly so in short order I had the loop I needed and was ready to throw. When I looked up, I was approaching the sweet spot in the arena where Merrit had showed me was the perfect place to throw. As I started swinging, the loop caught on my arm so I had to swing a extra time. Then I let it fly and the loop settled perfectly over the cow‘s head.
Momentarily, I was SHOCKED I had actually caught, but my instincts kicked in and I kicked up Dually and rode to the cow, gathering up the slack in the rope so that I could dally. Dually had me in perfect position the whole time and he knows his job so well that it made it easy for me. We dallied and stopped the cow to the cheers of the crowd (all eight of whom were my friends 😉
What fun! My first cow in competition and we rode the whole working ranch horse class with strategy and thoughtfulness. By roping the cow I feel like a huge monkey has been lifted off my back.
As I said, because this schooling competition did not have an open division, my scores did not count for anything other than letting me know where I am at. If we had counted, I think we would‘ve done pretty well, especially since we did well in halter. So I have to be happy with that.
After the awards ceremony, where our group picked up LOTS of ribbons, we all jumped in a can and headed to Grand Lake for a lovely dinner and many toasts. The next morning we hit the road and headed home with the horses, tired, but with lots of wonderful memories. It took several days before we were all rested back to normal.
Rich and I head to a cutting clinic in a couple weeks then we‘ll try to get in another event. I have almost all of July and August to focus on riding and training and showing and I am really looking forward to that. Finally I have the story finished!
Until next time,
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