Archive for November, 1998

PostHeaderIcon Sage – Cow Pony Part III

11/16/98Sunday morning was “COW EVENT” time. We formed into groups of three. There was a three-sided pen set up in the middle of the 30 acres. Our goal was to get our cow into the pen. My team was made up of a high level PNH certified instructor, who was experienced with cows, and a 13 year old girl. We managed to work together well. The teenager was too much in a hurry. I was too laid back, and the PNH instructor was perfect. We were able to talk together and resolve our differences during cow herding.Our 1st outing was relatively easy. Our 2nd outing was “outrageously hard” and I started thinking about “hamburger”. Our formation during this exercise was head to tail. There was really only one rider getting the cow into the pen. The remaining two riders “backed up” the 1st rider in a strung out nose to tail line. Where ever the 1st rider went.-right or wrong… the team had to follow.Our cow started out by making several sweeps trying to get back to the herd. We got to try galloping right away. Sage cantered really fast…finally. We managed to get the cow away from the herd and took it right to the pen where it… squirted back to the herd!Part of the team thundered and I pattered after the cow and got it turned back. Sage and I were at the end and we got there just in time to stop the cow’s 2nd attempt to get back into the herd.

Team members switched places, and I was in the middle slot. We got our cow to the pen again very carefully and… it squirted back. Two members of the team thundered after it and got it turned back. I arrived at the fast patter just in time to be switched to lead horse and rider.

The cow was successfully turned back from the herd. (Spotted Cow was smarter than our instructor had ever been during his faux cow impersonation.) This cow decided it was tired of that stupid herding game going to the pen. HA! It’s little tail switched and immediately took off galloping down the fencerow. (We had learned that the rider has to gallop after the cow when it runs next to the fence line until the cow turns into the pasture.)

The cow was making tracks and I revved up Sage. She bucked. I used major force and away we went at a gallop. Suddenly, Sage woke up, discovered we were chasing Spotted Cow –her cow now, and WE GALLOPED! (HARD GALLOP- Cowboy Movie Gallop!).

I was thinking about how fast Spotted Cow could run, the rough pasture ground and my impending death, but managed not to rein Sage back. I heard cheers from my team mates who were galloping far behind me, “GO SUSAN!”

I heard some raggedy cheers flying in the wind from the onlookers far behind us. Sage managed to almost catch up and we followed Spotted Cow thundering down the entire length of the huge pasture. I told Sage to slow down at the corner, expecting Spotted Cow to give up on this fencerow hardship and squirt away from the fence.

BUT NO! Spotted Cow turned at the corner and kept pelting down the new fence line. I gave Sage a slight body signal to run. This time she knew her responsibility and flew back into our death-defying gallop. Finally about half way down the fence line, the cow turned in and we all stopped to rest. I slowly pushed the cow to the pen. We were at the pen looking in. Spotted Cow had his head in the pen. I knew he was going in this time. Poor little Spotted Cow was tired! I pushed slightly by moving forward one step.

 SQUIRT! Away went Spotted Cow! Sage and I, just like all the movie cowboys, took off instantly in our now familiar death-defying gallop in a narrow outrun pattern. The cow ran for the herd. The riders were waiting excitedly in the line to keep Spotted Cow out. Spotted Cow ran straight at a horse and rider. Moments before, Sage and I, having completed our narrow outrun , was running full speed with the intention to place our body in front of the cow’s nose and become the GATE. We galloped full speed two inches in front of the riders’ line and oh so narrowly missed cutting off Spotted Cow. Spotted Cow almost ran smack into a rider in the quest to get into the circle, but the horse held.

Spotted Cow bounced back, not two feet from thundering Sage. The thought, “Death Comes Quickly” ran through my brain. I was certain Spotted Cow was going to bounce right in front of the thundering hooves of Sage, The Impulsive Cow Pony. I expected to be astride both the Spotted Cow and Sage and be dead.

Sage slid to a stop managing to avoid hitting Spotted Cow and the brave horse that turned the cow. Instead, Spotted Cow bounced sideways away from Sage, and cleverly slipped through a hole where its friends were waiting to celebrate Spotted Cow’s endurance and cleverness. (Cow Hands- zero – Spotted Cow- three..

Everyone gave Sage and I a cheer as someone went in to get our cow. We were given one more chance. Only this time the team was allowed to form a “U”. We herded “Spotted Hamburger” right to the pen again…and “Spotted Hamburger” squirted back to the herd and got to stay. “Spotted Hamburger” won by four points…but I ended up with a RIP SNORTIN’ COW PONY!

The cow clinic ended. Asked what I learned, I yelled “We learned to be a Cow Pony!”

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PostHeaderIcon Sage becomes a Cow Pony – Part II


Working with real cows was much better. The real cow didn’t yell at us about forgetting our back and hindquarter turn when we got excited about keeping up with the cow.

Our first task was to follow the same cow around for about 15 minutes to give the horse an idea that we were focused on that cow. “What fun! Sage thought, Let’s play with cows every day.” (Although she enjoyed her time in following one cow, she didn’t catch on to the idea that it was her cow).

We spent Saturday and Sunday herding and driving cows in many ways:

Driving with many riders in the “U” shape.

Driving with few riders in the “U” shape

Driving with horses nose to tail. This meant that one horse did the driving and the other horses following in somewhat of a straight line pretending to do the driving.

Driving cows using the “U” shape with the riders split into two teams with each team having their own cow.

We had to drive through each other’s “U” shape.

We had to drive our cow around two barrels in a figure eight pattern while the other team had the same goal but went around the barrels in the opposite direction. We had to keep our cow in and their cow out.

The barrels were placed farther apart and we drove our cow till his nose touched our barrel.

The groups switched barrels. It was a race. We had to drive our cow through the other group and be the 1st to have the cow touch his nose to the barrel.

Riders formed into two touching circles and one rider had to pick a cow out of the herd and drive it into the other herd. Two horses acted as the gate. The gate didn’t open until only one cow was separated from the herd. The gate also had to watch to see that the 2nd circle of cows didn’t manage to sneak back into the 1st circle.

We practiced cutting any cow out and then a specific cow.

Sage did really well during the circle and herding exercises. Her cows didn’t challenge her much, and we managed to get our turns completed in time to stop most of our cows from returning to the herd in the cutting game. The cows didn’t run very far, so we didn’t display our lack of impulsion. We did well in cutting out a cow. One secret is to sidepass into the herd, wait until the cows break apart and then go for the hole to keep them separated. This is repeated until you are left with one cow. Our sidepass is spectacular, so we did really well. We got several compliments from other people Saturday night. Also, several people commented on how interested Sage was in the cows. She always had her ears pricked forward and never took her eyes off the cows. I knew that there was a cow pony in there screaming to get out! One extremely smart friend told me that Sage did the best of all the horses. (The man is now listed in my will)

PostHeaderIcon Sage Becomes a Cow Pony! (Part I)

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Sage the Cow Pony


Cow Clinic was out on 60 acres of landed divided into three pastures.  A herd of unlucky cows were minding their own business when 22 riders showed up.

It was the best clinic that I’ve ever seen or participated. It was 3 days of constant challenge. The 1st two days, we played games and were given tasks to increase those skills needed for working with cows. We played ground games with our horses to get them to get better at backing up and loading the hindquarters so we could begin to get that “cutting horse” spin!. It was a Parelli Cow Clinic with David Ellis the clinician in charge of our lives for 3 days from (9:00 am till dark at 6:00pm)

Our “Ten-Commandment” unbreakable cow rule was handed down from the instructor: “When the cow stops and turns, the horse and rider must back, make a small turn with the hindquarters followed by that cutting horse forequarter turn.” If the cow beat us before we were able to get through with the back and hindquarter turn, we have to continue our maneuver, then run like hell to catch up with the cow.

On the horse, we were given an imaginary cow on our left or right to follow. Our cow turned, stopped, turned the other way and we had to focus on our imaginary cow.

The horses and riders played follow the leader –nose to tail. We walked trotted and galloped to keep up with that tail in front of us.

Our instructor became the cow. He was in the middle of our Calvary charge line and held up a stick so we all could see. Our task was to keep even with the “cow”. He went forward,  circled, went one way and then went another way. The RULE was hard to follow and the cow faked us out a lot. The cow turned and the horses and riders did our backup, hindquarter and forequarter turn. By the time we were done with that, the cow had turned back the original direction and was way ahead of us…and this was at both the walk and then the trot. The cow turned and said, “GOTCHA!!!” We learned to back when the cow did a 180 until we were certain that the little begger was going to stay in that direction. Then we did our quick back, turn and turn.

Synchronized Riding didn’t happen that day. We did get better. We got better every day.

The riders circled the “cow”and stood pointed into the circle looking at the cow. The “cow” tried to get out between the horses. The “cow” would stare at the hole, point at the hole and try to go through it. The riders were to back, turn the hindquarters, then the fore quarters and then run to meet the neighbor horse nose to nose before the cow could get to the hole. The horses were to form a GATE to block the cow from getting to the outside of the circle. Sage let the “cow” get through her gate plenty of times. Her problem was not the turns, it was the rushing to meet the nose of the other horse. Sage had no thought of rushing anywhere when my “cheeks” smiled and my legs squeezed. My “former” friend made disparaging remarks about detecting a “slowness trend”.


We learned the “outrun.” The “cow” took off straight towards the opposite corner of the large pasture, and two riders on each side galloped off at a 45-degree angle away from the cow. This maneuver fooled the “cow” into thinking we weren’t chasing it. It is forbidden to run all the valuable meat off the cow’s body. Sage, the impulseless, bucked when I gave her my body signs to gallop. She finally managed a slow canter, at first nearly running into the line of horses waiting their turn to be the outrider. She was telling everyone that she didn’t want to leave the herd! We cantered slowly on her 1st outrun while our opposite rider knitted a sweater, waiting for us. After more outruns, Sage managed a slow gallop as her very fastest speed.

sigh again…

PostHeaderIcon One Minute from trailride to Underwater

Back in the early years of Velvet and I is the memory of the back property trail ride.  Oh my goodness

My new best friend, Lanie, brought her horse, Sparkles, and her husband, Tim, over to the house. Husbands went to the shop. Horsewomen got on their horses. We were exploring my 20 acres of forest, creek, glen and glade and then we explored the neighbors acres.   Oh what a marvelous time were Lanie and I having on our horses, Sparkles and Velvet.

We came upon Big Creek running thru north/south thru the property.  We came right down a slight hill to the creek. We could get right in it. We decided the stream was an easy way to get back to my property instead of going back through the forest path.  Boy howdy! We were walking through the stream and came to a bit of a deeper place.  Suddenly, Velvet decided to leap out of the stream up on the bank.  Well, Sparkles decided that was a good idea too. Sparkles leaped up and landed right beside Velvet on the bank of the creek.

Lanie and I were both on our horses.  That was nice.  That was nice until Velvet and Sparkles tried to move.  No moving because their legs had sunk into deep mud…right up to their front knee.

Velvet and Sparkles thrashed without anything happening. They were struggling to get their legs out of the mud.

Velvet decided to give a huge lung upwards.  She reared with a ton and a half of power. She got free of the mud. But physics dictated that my body fly into the air backwards.  I landed in the deep part of the stream.  I submerged!  My head was under water!!!

I worried that Velvet’s body would crush me. Thank God she stayed on her feet and clammored out of the mud.

Oh, I forgot to mention that this day was a chilly 40 degree fall day and I was wet from head to boots.

I managed to fly out of the water to the bank.  Sparkles had toppled over sideways…on Lanie’s leg.  Then Sparkles was free of the mud and got up..without stepping on Lanie.

I asked Lanie laying on the ground, “Are you all right?!” She replied, “HELL NO”!

Turns out Lanie had a car accident earlier in her life and this was the bad leg. She has a titanium knee and this was the leg that was crushed by 1100 lbs of horse.

Lanie drug herself up and dragged herself over to a tree. She clung there for a while telling me about her titanium knee between clenched teeth moans.

Then Lanie got on Sparkles.  I got on Velvet.  Yes, we were tough.

Probably a total of 30 minutes had gone by since we left our lovely husbands playing in the shop.

Here comes the wives, wet and hurting.

Later that evening we went to Jenny’s birthday party at Pine Dell. We got to tell our story.

“What do you do with horses?  I’m just a trail rider!”  When you hear someone say, “I’m just a trail rider.”  Smack them a good one. Trail riding can go from fun to disaster in a blink of an eyelash. 

 Lanie died from lung cancer some years later and she is missed every day.  RIP, Lanie


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