PostHeaderIcon Five Days with Cisco

Five Day Natural Horsemanship Clinic at First Step Farm in St. Louis

Cisco and I left on Friday noonish to get to destination clinic near Eureka, Missouri.  It takes 4.5 hours to get there.  I don’t think Cisco has ever been in a trailer that long.

First Step Farm is in the mountains southwest of St. Louis.  The roads are narrow and wind around rock formations.  We were in Eureka and when a truck and big horse trailer pulled ahead of me into my road.  Interesting…the trailer made the same turn at the next intersection where I was turning also.  Again at the next intersection, the truck and trailer turned the same way that I was headed.  I knew they were headed for the clinic.  I was certain this was one of my #1 Boyfriends and I would get some help backing my trailer.  Oh the joy.

We arrived and I discovered the truck and trailer belonged to people from Wisconsin, not my long-time #1 Boyfriend.  But  I was hopeful that I would get the driver of the long horse trailer to back my little two horse stock trailer.  John soon had his trailer backed into a spot and I knew he might qualify to be my next #1 Boyfriend.  Sure enough.  He volunteered to back my trailer into the spot where it was meant to be and even unhitched it for me.  John is now a life-long #1 Boyfriend.  He even skipped over the #1 Boyfriend Trainee status!

I had put a hay bale and a hay bag in the trailer.  My plan was for Cisco to eat hay out the bag but Cisco’s plan was to decimate the hay bale.  When I opened the trailer door to get Cisco out, he was standing knee deep in hay.   The hay bale turned into a thick hay carpet.

We found our stall, got Cisco grain and enough hay to last him the night.  We waited for our friend Apryl to arrive.  JR arrived in the trailer and was glad to get into his stall.  Since my truck was unhitched and it was dark and cold, we decided to leave Apryl’s truck and trailer hitched up. We parked it on the grass near my truck.  The rig might have been a little to close to my truck .  Yup, I got stuck in the grass and a small little grassy ditch.  It wasn’t even steep enough to call it a ditch, but my truck decided it was too steep.  We rocked;  We made some headway, turning away from the ditch headed towards the blessed gravel and then there was no movement.  I hopped out of the truck and locked the front tires into four wheel drive.  Got back in and the truck still refused to move forwards or backwards.  It was getting late, it was cold and dinner was calling our names.  What do women do when things go wrong with moving vehicles?  We call a wonderful man.  We called Tony.  He left his warm place with his family and came to our rescue.  He hopped into the truck and had me shine my light at the dashboard.  ”I see this is still in two wheel drive,” he said.  Oh Lordy, I was nearly sick.  He put the dashboard controller in 4 wheel drive and drove right out of the ditch.  I was bent over in the ultra humiliated position ready to throw up.  He hopped out and I slunk into the truck.  I think I was able to say “Thank You.”  As he drove back to his warm house and family, Apryl told me, “You know they will laugh at you.”  Oh yes!  Plus I put mud tracks in Lynette’s beautiful grass.  I wondered if I would be asked to leave the premises the next day when the muddy tire tracks could be seen in the light of day.

Apryl and I then visited our hotel room and were thrilled to find a Cracker Barrel restaurant very near.  Apryl and I got enough Cracker Barrel food to last us the night and we retired to the hotel room. zzzzz

Day One – ground games outdoors in the big pasture that became our clinic playpen.  Riding in afternoon…  the horror of the 360 hindquarter turn.  Cisco lumbered thru the 360 turn.  He moved his back feet.  He moved his front feet.  Sometimes he moved both the front and back at the same time.  My nice soft wonderful hands were too fast and moved far out of position.  Good Lordy!  Finally, Jenny and Tony got through to my brain.  Slow down myself.  Anchor my arm in the right position.  Take calming breaths and go slow.  Magically, finally, it worked.  We got one or two nice 360 hindquarter turns.  Who knew hindquarter turns could be so imperfect after a million tries where I was doing the exact same wrong things for the million tries.  sigh.  We got to relax for the rest of the afternoon seeking out a dog walk, a flat foot walk and a smooth slow fox trot.  I loved that part of the afternoon.  And the best news of all…Lynette valued our friendship much more than her ripped up grass.  Whew!  I got to stay.

Day One was over.  Apryl and I drove to Cracker Barrel for our dinner.  I discovered Cracker Barrel Raspberry Lemonade.  Oh the Joy!  We ate and went to the hotel.  I had not drank but a cup of water all day.  I was dehydrated and it was a good thing.  After I plopped into my bed, I was too tired to get up again.  I was too tired to change into my PJ’s, too tired to for anything.  A couple hours later, I managed to get up and take care of the teeth brushing, PJ change and other things.  Then I was dead until the next rude morning awakens.

Day Two – ground game goal was for Cisco to be moving around me on the circle game and stop when I relaxed and took a deep breath.  Nope.  So if Cisco didn’t stop, I asked for a hindquarter turn for him to face me and then do half circles with hindquarter turns to stop.  Finally Cisco did one stop right where I had asked.  We dwelled with much petting.  We did the circle again and Cisco would not stop until he had passed by me.  I thought he should stop right when I had asked, not go past me and stop.  We tried and tried…failed and failed.  Jenny came over and said, “He stopped.  That is good!”  OH!

Cisco and I did a lot better on our mounted 360 hindquarter turn.  My arm stayed in the correct position and I took it slow.  We will have to practice this quite a bit in the months ahead.  A hindquarter turn is the answer to almost every problem and improvement.

One of our first riding tasks was to ride in a circle that included riding beside the fence, stop, do a 45 degree turn on the forequarters and hurry off on the circle the opposite direction.  Cisco did good at everything except the stop. He hasn’t yet picked up on my body cue to stop.   Our hurry off was a fox trot and it was smooth.

Another riding game was the follow the pretend cow (another horse and rider), do a 360 hindquarter turn and hurray to catch up to our “cow”.   We switched back and forth becoming the cow or the cowgirl and doing our turns.  Since there was no stop involved, Cisco did good in this exercise.  Horses like to follow each other, so the hurry up and follow is easy for them.  It’s nice to have your own partner and follow them around.

Cisco and I went into the indoor arena and cantered around.  The sun was setting, there was some light and dark spots in the arena.  That didn’t bother us at all.  We were cantering around the arena down a long wall and we saw “us”.  There is a large mirror.  I saw us cantering and decided to cut that corner a little shorter so we didn’t come face to face and scare us.  Later when we stayed inside because of rain, Cisco and I checked out that big mirror for a long period of time.  Cisco is fascinated with himself!  Just imagine if you had a long life and had no idea what you looked like.  A magic window appears, you smell it and maybe as you move your head, you realize that it is you in the mirror!

When the day was over, Apryl and I headed to our destination Cracker Barrel and hotel.  Again, I was very tired, but not as bad as the first day.  Every night there-after, I got less tired.  By the time the five days were up, I was a ball of energy!  Fitness is a five day horse clinic!

Day Three is when Mother Nature insulted us.  Mother Nature decided to sleet up on us.  This was not in the forecast.  The sky was looking grey and this frozen white stuff came out of the sky.  We all had forgotten the meaning of the word sleet…and then we remembered!  I was feeling pretty cocky about the sleet because sleet is frozen.  I was thinking Mother Nature wasn’t so bad after all.  I could be comfortable outside, even when the frozen stuff was landing on me.  Whoops!  Then we learned that sleet melts.  Time for some of us to bale into the indoor arena.  Jenny came in to give us some ground game instruction.  We were to teach our horse to side pass towards us and make certain the side pass away game doesn’t get broke.  Jenny came over and proceeded to teach Cisco to side pass towards her in about three seconds.  I was amazed.  He is so sensitive and willing to move.  He tried out moving in many directions when she asked.  She gave the release immediately when he experimented in side passing towards her and rubbed him.  When she asked again, he side passed towards her.  Three seconds!  I am still amazed!

In the afternoon of the third day is when I learned that Cisco has impulsion.  Our job was to ride and stop when I let my breathe out and completely relaxed. If slow down with a hindquarter turn.  Cisco has not caught on in the least little bit that my body is telling him to stop.   Cisco is still not stopping on my body cues.  This is somewhat amazing if you consider that I’ve had a horse for the past three years who stops when I take the slightest breath.  Lucky stops at any opportunity. He is a stop horse. Cisco is a go horse.  Cisco thinks he is happier to be moving!

So Cisco and I got to be a demonstration horse.  We got to be in the round pen while everyone was watching.  Tony had me tell Cisco to go faster than a walk, let go of the reins and ride.  When Cisco slowed down to a walk, I was to rub him.  The goal was then for him to slow down to a stop.  If he kept on walking, I sped him up again to a trot.  He slowed down to a stop a few times.  We need to do this a lot more

On the rainy day four morning and the final five day wet/slick day, we did the liberty ground game inside.  We have a certain number of horses in the arena.  We all line up in the center, take off the halters and tell our horses to go out on the wall at a trot.  What the horses do is go different directions, get mired at the arena corners and separate from the herd.  Additionally, each horse has to figure out where they stand in dominance with each horse in the herd.  Occasionally, we have much bickering for lead horse.  Our goal it to get them all going the same direction, no slower than a trot and stay on the wall.  Humans are lined up in the center ready to fix any problem including: horse that walks, or stops; herd gets stopped at corners; horse cuts off the end of the arena and appears to get a little too close to the human at the end; horse that decides to change direction; horse that decides to cut through the middle.  Us humans must be aware of all horses in the arena, especially when the herd separates.  Human heads must swivel back and forth to watch out for a horse running behind you.    When the horses are all in a herd, going nicely down the walls, the last horse gets called into the center by its human.  The human steps out from the lineup, the horse sees the wonderful owner and comes in to rest and be rubbed.  If a horses is not bonded to its human, this can take a while.  I would say that this is our favorite ground game.  Watching all the horses run around the arena is about the most sensational view a cowgirl/cowboy can have.  Cisco is very bonded to me and wanted to come into me before it was decided that we could “have our horse catch its human”.  After all the horses had caught their human, we walked around with the horse still at liberty.  Some of the horses always run off and we deal with that-help the horse find its human again.  This is a great warm up game too.  Once your horse goes thru this game, he/she is usually ready to ride!

We also learned how to lead our horses with their mane.  We went forward, stopped and backed with the pressure on the mane.  Of course Cisco went forward with me easily.  He follows me well.  Backing with the pressure on the mane needed a little help.

Also we had to back with pressure on the trail.  Cisco was not having that!  I pulled his tail and he swung his hips away from me.  We had to isolate the task and work up to it.  It didn’t take too long because we had to back with the tail to leave the arena and have lunch!

Our last morning was a driving day.  I haven’t prepared Cisco to be soft as I would have liked in a halter.  I had two long ropes that are hard to keep control over and it was frustrating.  Jenny had to come and help me at least three times when my temper was starting to heat up to match my hair.  I now hate driving which means Cisco and I will have to go through a lot more driving experiences with halter and long ropes.  sigh….  Sadly, my emotional fitness went off the charts when driving.  I was frustrated, greatly.  I remember the wonderful days of driving Velvet after she was soft and I was adroit with the ropes.  Cisco and I have a way to go before we can equal that.

Which brings me to the final point.  It’s the journey that is fun.  The journey is filled with frustrations and rewards.  Experiencing and overcoming the frustrations using natural horsemanship with the instruction, coaching and encouragement from Tony and Jenny Vaught is what makes this the best journey!  It’s the journey with Cisco and it has become my new life journey!  I love it!

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