As in, home to my suburban neighborhood where horses are against the zoning. And I didn't tell my husband what I was doing. Hehe.
I have family visiting from South Africa for a couple weeks, and they wanted to meet Penn. I had Penn out this past weekend for a trip that went sideways, so I found myself with extra time on Sunday. I had the horse out, free time, so I brought him to my house! My parents brought the family over, and we had a meet and greet in the front yard!
My horse brings all my neighbors to the yard... wait, is that not how the song goes? Also, I have an abundance of older neighbors and very few children neighbors... not one child came to see Penn! Everyone was THRILLED to meet him and he even talked one family out of several pounds of carrots.
Nomming the never-been-nommed-before grass. Don't worry blogland, Husband and I don't treat our grass with any chemicals or fertilizer, and neither do our direct neighbors, Penn was safe!
Penn should be an equine model, in my front yard of never been grazed grass. Seriously, how do I sign him up to be a paid model?
Mom held on to him while I got him a bucket of water and shuffled things from the truck to the house. He always kept an eye on me and made sure he knew where I was. He tried numerous times to leave her to come over to me. So cute.
"Mom, I'm coming to see you because this place is weird."
I have to say, I'm pretty stoked. I fulfilled a childhood dream of bringing a horse home to eat my yard. Oh, and no one called the police to tell me Penn wasn't allowed to be there, hahaha!
Both Jenj (here, here, here, and I know there's more but these were easy to find) and Megan have ridden with Alfredo, enjoyed it, and blogged about it. I was STOKED to find out he was coming to a barn a mere 4 hours from me for a 3 day clinic 5/21-23. I wanted to learn his methods for piaffe/passage, he was here on the east coast, and he wasn't stupidly far from me. Jenj described his cool way of getting changes on a horse, which I recreated at home and bam, Penn had changes. I needed to take a turn with him.
Lots of learning happened!
I messaged the trainer organizing it and tried to sign up for 2 of the 3 days. All was well until I asked work for the time off... and they told me no. I could have the first day (a Monday) but not the second day because of an outage test that was being conducted. I had to make a deicison at that point- do I make a crazy plan of drive down Monday, ride, drive home, go to work Tuesday, or do I skip out?
I went, duhhhhhhh!
I got up at 4:30am Monday, met two ladies at the barn who were coming with me to audit, and we were on the road at 7:05am. Alfredo's flights got messed up, so the clinic was shuffled from noon to 6:30pm, no lunch break. We were excited to get there in time to see the first few rides, one of which was a GP horse.
We actually got to see majority of the clinic (I only missed part of the rides before and after me)- we were there for the beginning and stayed until the end... meaning I dropped Penn off at midnight, and got myself home by 1am Tuesday morning, showered, and got way too little sleep for a Tuesday in the office. It was totally worth it, majority of the horses were FEI level horses, or aspiring, and several of the riders were ones I knew about and have seen go at shows.
Some of the things he covered with the other riders:
No hanging on the reins for balance. He made a rider with a "lazy" horse who couldn't be ridden without two whips ride without any whips. He got after the rider to stop hanging on the reins and to sit better (on the back of the pelvis) and to collect the canter using the middle of the thigh. Her horse was beautifully forward with tons of jump in the canter, of which I was quite envious! He made her do her PSG tempi changes on the wall while holding the reins at the buckle, each direction. She struggled, but she did it and she had beautiful smooth changes.
He does not advocate riding with a whip because that is not the kind of rider he is building. He is going to treat you like you want to ride in CDIs and guess what's not allowed? A whip. They aren't allowed at championships either.
To help with getting the changes: trot around the ring, go down the longside and go from shoulder in to renvers to travers to leg yield with the nose on the wall. Continue to flip between those in that order on the long wall until it is smooth as butter. Go to canter, half pass in (more of a haunches in) on the circle, then leg yield out, repeat. On one of the leg yields out, ask for the new lead.
Half pass corner to corner on the diagonal, but before you get to the corner make the haunches lead the half pass, and do a turn on the forehand into the same half pass back down the same diagonal.
Open the inside hand instead of pulling it back.
There was also a huge lesson in being tactful. The first 3 lessons were a trainer, her student, then the trainer and one of her GP horses. Both riders had a little attitude, but the student opened up to Alfredo's ideas and ended up with all of the auditors applauding her efforts and finished a very good lesson.
Sunday night, all scrubbed up and clean for the clinic!
The trainer... is not one I want to ride with. I saw her compete a few years ago and was impressed with her canter work but not her trotwork- it was irregular and tense.... and now I know why. She would tell Alfredo how it is, threw her own trainer (who was there watching and hosting the clinic) under the bus, and basically went off about how her GP horse was a huge ass and how he took years to learn things because he was so uncooperative and was prone to rearing. Alfredo immediately told her to pretty much simmer the fuck down because her body language was so aggressive and that she rides this horse very differently than her first horse (he did not use that language,I'm creatively paraphrasing). He tried to tell her in every way imaginable that the reason the horse had a rearing problem is because she has an anger problem (short of outright yelling that at her). He had to tell her to give the horse a moment to think about the piaffe/passage transition and to stop hitting the horse with the whip when he didn't respond immediately. The trainer rode angry and defensive, but eventually she opened her inside hand when the horse would get stuck and the horse would think and move forward instead of rearing.
Alfredo asked to see the trainer and the host trainer work on the piaffe/passage, which the trainer said "it took me 2 months to undo what [the hosting trainer] did", and about 15 seconds into it, Alfredo ripped her off the horse. He was warned, "That horse will rear and run you over" as he set the gelding up in a side rein and prepared to work him in hand. He simply said, "We'll see" and got to work making the horse do a turn on the forehand in hand. The horse's eye immediately softened and got right to work for him. He settled him on the wall and worked him through a few rearing threats with beautiful timing/pressure/release, and don't you know it, that horse piaffed without running anyone over.
Moral of the story? Be fucking nice to your horse. No emotions. Let them think. GP Trainer got that in my head already, but it was nice to see a horse that is wound so tight relax because Alfredo was simply unemotional with it. I learned later that he almost dismissed the trainer from lesson for being so disrespectful to both him and the horse.
Tacked up, waiting for my lesson. Penn decided to rest his face on the wall for the 10 min we stood there.
On to happier things, like my lesson! I'll admit, after watching the lessons before me, I was extremely anxious.
I told him Penn and I finished my bronze medal last year, we're working on making third better, Penn can sometimes be bolty in the changes, but I really wanted to learn how to do the in hand piaffe/passage work. I also told him that Penn had SI injections about a month ago and is getting back into full work. He asked how many days of the clinic I was riding, I said just the one day... he wasn't happy. He told me outright there's a limited amount he can get done in one day because he's getting to know you and the horse, and you can only cover so much in 45 min and you can only push something so far in one day. I told him I understood completely and knew that coming in, and we'd do what we could.
We warmed up with the leg yield on the diagonal exercise, trotted briefly, and moved on to in hand piaffe work! I told him I wanted to learn how he worked it, because I've had hit or miss lessons with it and I'm unable to reproduce the results on my own consistently. He told me flat out, "This horse is ready to piaffe." Ok, awesome. He asked to see how I asked for it, I sucked at it, and he immediately said, "I can see why the horse bolts through you in changes. We can fix that here." Ok, that's even better.
He started by putting the outside side rein on and looping the reins over the head and through the bit (outside rein over the head like a lunge line, and through the inside bit ring) so that way he had both sides of the mouth right there in his hand. Then he asked Penn to move his hindquarters in a leg yield/turn on the forehand by tapping him rather smartly with the whip on the fleshy part above the gaskin. He always gave a light tap to start with, then a sharp tap if the horse didn't respond. If the horse moved away, he'd immediately stop applying pressure for a moment before asking again. He did that until the horse was reaching the inside hind leg under him and moving to the outside rein without pulling on his hand at all. The cue to stop moving was when he'd put the whip vertically up against the shoulder/neck parallel to the slope of the shoulder.
The bridle set up was like this (picture taken after the fact).
He then took that leg yield to the wall, and used a specific clucking noise (aka, start developing different clucks now), in a trot rhythm while tapping the same spot above the gaskin with the whip with the same gentle/sharp intensity. Penn was confused by what he wanted, and reared a few times (we'll call it levade, lol), before figuring out he was supposed to trot in place.
Alfredo did a few rounds of it, before handing Penn to me to walk once around the ring (the horse works when Alfredo is there, the rider gets to be "the good guy" and walk the horse on a long rein).
Alfredo took him back and asked for piaffe, which was very nice, and then said, "You want to try? Let's see what you learned from watching."
I have to say, I missed the part with the leg yield turn on the forehand and the reasoning behind it. He explained it to me, and off I went. I sucked at it. He took Penn back from me to show me again, and then had me try again, and then schooled me on the ask gently once, then ask sharply. I didn't get anything magical, but I learned a lot on the timing of things. If Penn went to bolt through me, I was to immediately put him on the leg yield/turn on the forehand until he was light in my hand again. I didn't get the excellent response Alfredo got, but it was apparently sufficient because he eventually said, "Ok, that is enough of this for one day. Get on and let's look at the changes."
Penn's best piaffe of the session.
We went back to the trot after the piaffe work, and Penn was immediately more uphill and forward. Alfredo wanted his head a good bit lower with much more contact than I do, but we did it because that's what we were told to do and I am here to learn. Off to the canter!
The first thing he did was encourage me to follow the canter better. GP Trainer has been after me for a long time to sit into the canter and it has been a struggle. He wanted me to pull my pelvis up and down with the motion of the canter, which really forced me to absorb the motion in my core. Thinking about it that way made me realize I completely seize up in my seat when I ask for anything in canter that's not a circle (like half pass, leg yield, flying changes etc).
It took me a while to work out what he was telling me to do with the canter after that. The other riders mostly stuck to the circle and leg yielded and half passed on it, so when he said circle, go to the rail, and leg yield... I tried leg yielding down the rail. Wrong. We had a few communication issues to work out, and then I finally understood he wanted me to leg yield from the corner to X in canter. He then sprung the change on me, and bam, Penn did is very nicely!
The leg yield kept him very straight so I could simply ask for the new lead. I got the one change, and Alfredo said walk... and I couldn't get Penn stopped on the CC. He got bolty and did another flying change. Alfredo immediately said, back to canter! If he's going to run through you, he's going to keep cantering.
He had me repeat the leg yields and changes until we had clean changes, and multiple changes! Penn did his first real set of multiple changes, just two on a long side, but I was super happy!
I would advise anyone who wants to ride with Alfredo to audit him first, to make sure you like his style. He is... quirky. Between quirky, a thick accent, and sometimes he didn't quite finish the instructions, made him difficult to ride for. Once I understood what he wanted, I did it immediately, which made him very happy. That's not to say I didn't enjoy my lesson, because I did enjoy it.
In short, Alfredo is intense and extremely demanding as a clinician. But again, he is building you as if you want to be a CDI rider. He is not someone I would host at home barn, because he's more expensive than most people would do, and he's much more intense than most people I know would be happy with. He is supposed to come back to this host barn every 8 to 10 weeks, so we'll see if I ride again!
Way back in April, on Monday the 23rd, the day after our cow adventure, Penn got SI injections.
I took him to the vet office for it, and I'm really glad I did. After taking him to the office for his lameness exam and for SI injections, I think anytime he needs something like this, I'm just going to take him to the office. I wasn't charged an office fee either, unless I missed something on my bills. Everything was available right there, and the stocks were very useful for keeping Penn contained.
The vet started by doing an ultrasound of the SI area, and she pointed out where the injections go, the bowels are (where she doesn't want them to go, duh), and we found his kidneys because I was curious where they were since everyone always says "if you're saddle is too far back, you're sitting on their kidneys." Umm, not only are they further back than I thought, they're also lower than I thought. If your saddle ends up there, you'll know it's blatantly wrong!
After a beginning ultrasound, they drugged Penn up, put him in the stocks, and started scrubbing his back. They were happy with how clean I keep him because it takes a lot less scrubbing when the first few rounds of scrub don't come away muddy.
SI injections consist of 4 injections: 2-3" long needles and 2-8" long needles, all are ultrasound guided. Two go in each side, a short and a long. Of course I never asked what was injected, and I continue to forget to ask so we'll never know.
All scrubbed up, it just needed wiped off.
I also learned just how hard they try to keep absolutely everything sterile- the vet put on a set of sterile gloves, the ultrasound head got its own sterile cover, rubbing alcohol was poured over everything every five seconds as they worked to make the ultrasound clear and moving smoothly. The level of sterile they want to keep made me decide that I will never, ever have him injected in the barn. He'll always go to the clinic. I asked, how on earth do you do this in a barn? She said some places are better for it than others, but they always have a dust problem and the environment is never as clean as they want. My barn is one of their more favorite locations for injections, but the office is their favorite.
They started with the right side, which was the less painful side for Penn. They twitched him and started the injection process, which was fascinating. The 8" long needle goes through the back muscles to the "front" of the joint, and 3" long one goes down from above "behind" the joint. The right side went great, and then they started the left...
Needles. Big scary needles.
As soon as the 8" long needle went into the very sore part of his back, he exploded. I was standing on the right side watching, and if it weren't for the stocks, I would have had to go to the hospital for a broken pelvis. He kicked the side of the stocks with his right hind HARD while simultaneously trying to rear and striking out at the tech holding the twitch with his front legs. His eyes got rolling and he managed to break part of the needle set up. He managed to give the vet one hell of a mare glare.
The vet had her tech draw another set of sedatives, and the lady holding the twitch was like, that is A LOT. Great. At that point, I kind of checked out. I was upset that he was so sore, I was worried he'd fall down and hurt himself trying to evade the injections or he'd rear and flip himself over in the stocks and break his back trying to get away, and I was worried that he'd throw a big enough fit that we couldn't go through with the other half of the injections. I had to step away from him and watch from the other side of the room, my energy wasn't good anymore.
You can see the healing rope burn the twitch gave him when he had his fit. :(
She gave the second round of sedatives a few min to kick in while they got a new 8" long needle, before trying again, being as fast as possible since it hurt him so much. He was sedated to the point of his knees trying to buckle, but he still tried to kick with his left hind. It didn't get any further than cocked and a half inch off the ground, but he was trying. By this point, I wanted to cry, which sounds stupid but I love this horse and his pain was immense.
But all was well, the injections got where they needed to go, and all that was left was for him to do was wake up so he could go home. It took him about an hour and a half, and he spent a long time standing splay legged with his head down, so much so that his face swelled like a chipmunk. The vet sent him home with 7 days of muscle relaxers too since he was so sore. My barn owner of course loved that- he refuses to eat them and they don't dissolve well, so syringing them into his mouth was the only option and took a while to do.
He stood like the, snoring, for about an hour. Chipmunk nose was starting.
We did get him home, and he was bright eyed and happy once he was there. He spent 3 days in his stall after that- one day of complete stall rest with no hand walking, then two days with hand walking and hand grazing because the round pen he was being turned out in was too wet. The vet said he could go out if it was dry, but we were getting an insane amount of rain at the time and she didn't want him out there even with a waterproof sheet on.
I did put him out in the round pen Thursday evening since it finally dried, but I put his lightweight sheet on to keep dust off his back if he rolled. He bounced around like crazy, feeling really good, and I'm so glad we have the round pen for stuff like this. He could get moving but then was turned instead of being able to get a head of steam up. It made for some great videos and frame grabs!
I was allowed to ride him Friday, but I opted not to since there's no hurry. He spent Friday in the round pen since it was nice and I walked/trotted lightly on Saturday after doing barn work, in prep for him getting a little more exercise before going back out into the big field. We mostly walked, and he felt really good and even. He wanted to lay on my hands, but that's ok. He felt even and I was really happy.
Since he got his injections, there have been a ton of ups and downs, and I have swung from depression over him not coming back to work and not being able to do this job, to excitement over how great he feels and he's going to be perfectly fine. It has made writing about him really hard and I'm emotionally wrecked from the highs and lows. Some days he feels great, some days he feels like shit. The vet boards with us, she watched me ride him after one particularly bad moving day, and thought he looked sound but weak (he felt a thousand times better when she saw him two days after the really bad ride). We're back to his full work load, but I'm keeping the hard stuff to a minimum because he doesn't feel completely comfortable while warming up (he seems to need a few laps to get comfortable). Instead, I'm opting for gentle hill walks after light rides to build the muscles to hold that area in place.
Most of our show and lesson plans have been canceled. I was finally able to go to one this week, and I'll see GP Trainer this weekend. The one I went to this past Monday was awesome, and I got some great information in a bunch of areas (in hand and flying changes).
Everything I had planned for this year is on stand by as we get him rolling again. We'll see what happens!
If you get a chance to mess with cows with your horses...
Back in December, I saw a Facebook event called, "Intro to Cattle". It was a beginner clinic that introduced horses and riders to cows, and then the basics of working them, with the end goal of competing in sorting. I emailed the organizers and said, "Do you allow English horses to come in? I ride dressage but this looks like fun!" I got an "Absolutely!" as a response, and then found out it was a 4 hour session, all mounted. I was like uhh, nevermind.
Fast forward a few months, they posted there were still two openings in the Sunday morning session and I decided to sign up anyway. I could always get off and stand for a while, or just be done, and then I wouldn't be sitting on Penn for 4 hours. One of the other ladies at my barn signed up for the other spot, so at least I had company!
I just want to insert this here, since we were talking vet in my last post: THIS TRIP WAS VET APPROVED. Since it was mostly walking and standing, she didn't see a reason we shouldn't go. In fact, she brought it up and asked if I was still going. I said I'd only go if she approved it, and she's like, "Yupp, that's fine. You should still go!"
I also got a new bridle for the occasion...
He is very cheeky to ride with the noseband converter! Also, I am on a black and navy roll.
I ended up getting a Berlin Beta Biothane headstall with a Thinline bitless noseband converter and 10' yacht rope reins. I didn't get the headstall from RW, I ended up getting the buckle end version from Ebay. Looking back at the reins though... They didn't send me the scissor clips and apparently they were supposed to (I thought I had misread the item description when it arrived sans clips)... It's a bit late for me to be like "hey! you shorted me my stuff!" when I ended up buying gunmetal black scissor clips that I like more from Amazon and wouldn't have any use for an extra set of clips. I wanted a bitless bridle to trail ride in, and this seemed like an excellent reason to buy all the pieces since I didn't want to use my nice dressage bridle around cows. I did use a bit for the clinic though!
Such stunning beauty... I rode him lightly in this set up the day before the clinic and he was quite foamy and happy with it. Remember, the vet did approve light riding up until his SI injection.
We pulled out of home barn at the dark hour of 5am (meaning I got up at 2:35am that morning). We allotted 3.5 hours to get there (Google said 2.5, but it's all back roads), and it took us about 3.75 hours to make the trip. There was a snafu with Google though... I entered the address, and the maps plopped me out on a dirt road 3 miles off course, not even on the correct road. Eyeroll. Come on Google, I gave you AN ADDRESS. I guess this is why I got into the habit of using coordinates. I'll have to get back into that habit!
We were panicking and in a hurry to get the horses off the trailer and tacked since we were supposed to be "tacked up, warmed up, and ready to ride at 9" and we still had horses on the trailer at 8:45. We shouldn't have hurried, the clinic was VERY relaxed. Hell, they said the usual route to the indoor was extra muddy, so just hop through the man door into the arena. Which we totally did, NBD. #prouddressagehorsemom
This barn is gorgeous BTW. And I love the set up. They have a huge indoor with nice footing (standard size ring plus a little length and width I think), hooked up to H-shaped stabling. The vertical part of the "H" has stalls where every stall has a shared run with one other stall. Over each aisle, there's a catwalk with hay storage so hay can be dropped from above. All of the horses go out in regular fields too, which is great. It's a more western oriented barn, but that's ok. Everything was neat and tidy and it had a low key atmosphere. I lifted a few pics from their Facebook page since the barn is newly constructed (and how I found out so much about how its layout):
Anyway, as soon as Penn got into the arena, he was on red alert (he was already on red alert from tacking up with a jumpy/hurried rider at the trailer). He saw the cows in the paneled off section at the end of the ring and was like, "WHAT IS THAT". He was very brave up until about 20' away from them, and thank goodness I decided to go "semi-western" with the clip-on rope reins... I ended up unclipping the right side so I had a 10' long lead rope attached to my horse shaped snorting kite.
I have a lot of pictures like this. Blurry, most of the horse is missing (or all of it), and sometimes without cows. This was one of the best ones.
I wanted to stay on the ground for a little while because Penn was acting semi-feral and snorting up a storm (it was as if he's never traveled before in his life), but the guy who was running it suggested I get on and put him to work and keep him moving, and slowly circle him down the ring until he was working nicely next to the panels. Sure, why not?
I hopped on, using the buddy system with my barn mate that came with us as shield that kept Penn in place, and put him to work. It worked like a charm. I put him on the bit an on my outside aids, and he was worried and distracted but was like, "Ok, let's work."
They eventually put the cows back behind their little "blind pen" and had us ride into the cow enclosure so the 6 horses could sniff and investigate the tarp covered panels that held the cows. The tarp was a bigger issue for the horses than the cows were! Especially when the cows ran into the panels and the whole thing clanged and moved. I did sit a few big spooks, but I am proud to say I stuck them out like a champ in my dressage saddle. Much better than the other riders in their western saddles!
This is literally the only pic I have of the arena and set up. Like, what was I thinking? Oh yea, I had a kite instead of a horse.
We had a baptism by fire moment when two cows busted through the opening in the little pen, and were free to mingle with the horses. The guy running it was like, "Crap, didn't mean for that to happen. OK, we're moving this along a little faster everyone, deal with it!" It worked out great actually, I hooked up with a more confident horse and Penn fed off his confident energy and kept his brain in between his ears. He eventually got bold enough to try and sniff the cow, which ran away, and he immediately was like, "Hey wait, I wasn't done sniffing you!" and chased after. Ice. Broken.
They let out a few more cows so we each had our own, and moved us on to the next step: to "pick a cow and follow it around" so the horses learned the cows would move away from them. Penn thought this was great, and got a bit over excited and tried to trot after his cow (I was then told to keep him at a walk...).
Eventually they let all the cows out of the blind, and we cornered them between the wall and panel by standing in a semi-circle, so we could practice walking through the herd one at a time, and then peeling a single cow out of the herd.
Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde
This brought out an interesting characteristic in Penn... He got all big and macho and became chargey. He also had two settings: ears super forward and watching, or ANGRY DRESSAGE HORSE with his neck arched and ears pinned back. He got so aggressive with the cows that the guy teaching told me that if he goes to charge a cow I haven't locked on to, I need to stop him and reprimand him. He had to get used to the cows walking around him with him just standing passively. He did not like that one bit!
It took about 1.5 hours to get to this point, and Penn finally started to relax. He spent the first bit of the clinic on high alert with super flared nostrils, fast breathing, and his blood vessels popping out. After his initial OMG WHAT IS THAT, he never once felt like he was checking out or wanted to leave.
We did basic sorting moves after that, getting progressively more difficult: get a cow out of the herd and get it outside the semi circle of horses, get a cow and take it to the opposite wall, get a cow out and go to the wall and make the cow change directions once, then twice. Get a cow out and make it walk between two cone 15' apart, then repeat but the cones are only 5' apart. Get a cow out and walk it between the panel and a cone 5' away, go to the wall and turn it once, and go back through the cone and panel back to the herd.
Big bad dressage horse!
We did all of that! And did it well! We actually did better than a few people who have worked cows before. Cows work off of the same shoulder/hind pressure that horses work off of, and to get them moving you kind of aim the horse across the cow's spine. The trick to to keep the horse's nose pointed at the cow so you can turn either direction quickly, and not get head on with it. One thing I had to get used to was when the cow is going straight along the wall, to kind of run across the ring with the cow, but not towards the cow. Cows also work off the energy your horse brings to the party- walking is low energy and they'll react with a slow moving response. A lot of the other riders were kicking and yanking and flinging their horse around, so the cows were really moving, and it got a little annoying because they would get close to running into the other horses (one actually ran into my barn mate).
Around the 2 hour mark, I hopped off and took Penn out of the cow area to give him a break. He didn't feel bad, but I wanted to give him a break from me sitting on him. We stood outside the panels for about 20 min, and he went back to being a semi-kite. Funny, he's ok when he can actually touch the cows, but they're a bit scary when they aren't responding to him from the other side of the panels!
The video was during a "break" about 2.5 hours in. I can tell because the cows aren't stuck in their semi circle.
After doing individual sorting, we started working on moving the herd as a group. The first thing was to use the horses to put all of the cows back in their blind pen, then one horse goes into the pen along the panels and pushes the whole herd back out. Penn wasn't quite brave enough to go in with all the cows in a compressed space, but he followed a brave horse in.
After that, the exercise became put all the cows away, then bring them back out, and take all the cows out to the big ring, down the long side, around the short side, and down the next long side and put them away again... I don't have video of that but it was more of a figure 8 the first few times we tried it, haha! It took all 6 of us to move the 15 or so cows, which is apparently overkill for 15 cows... #totalbeginners
We finished up with an exercise where we took one cow at a time out of the cow area and pushed it to their overnight holding area, which wasn't too hard. The hard part was taking one cow at a time OUT of the overnight holding area and back to the paneled area in the indoor. It took 25 min for 6 of us to move the 15ish cows one at a time to the indoor... Yea, we sucked at it, haha.
The cows were pretty dead to us by this point- as they get used to the horses and exercises, they become less responsive. There was one long horn in particular that got chest bumped a few times and just wouldn't move. They had been worked for 8 hours the day before, and we were almost through our 4 hour session.
Penn REALLY liked chasing the cows around. He hated when it wasn't our turn and he had to stand still. He got way too confident and aggressive though. By the end of the clinic he was trying to bite and kick the cows. That's why in the videos I'm keeping a contact with his mouth- it's so he can't bite the cows. The guy who ran the clinic said it's always fun watching the horses progress, and sometimes the most afraid horses in the morning are among the most confident by the end since they're a bit intense to begin with.
My barn mate gave me the biggest compliment, and I just wanted to share: "It was very cool to see how your dressage horse being able to move any part of his body in any direction become a "dressage cutting horse". The other participants used brute force to their reins or by kicking their horse to move them - you were able to move Penn by more subtly using your legs and seat." I was just so moved by that, it was so nice. I did get in touch with our dressage side when we did longer distance work, his ability to half pass and leg yield made it very easy to keep his eye on the cows and ready to go at any moment while still encouraging the cow forward where we wanted it to go. Dressage training also made working the cow on the wall much easier, he responded so quickly to what I wanted. I wish I had video of us doing that!
Everyone seemed to enjoy Penn. They called him Slick, because he was so freaking clean and shiny (yes, I did give him a bath the day before, lol). They also called him "the big horse" because apparently at barely 16 hands, he's taller than everything they have, hahaha.
I have to say, the guy who ran the clinic and instructed (I actually never caught his name, wtf), was incredible. He's done this so many times and was just very very chill about everything. It made it easy to trust his suggestions and get better at moving the cows. He kept everything very low key.
He was SO PROUD of himself.
Aww poor guy. All the adrenaline wore off, haha.
We're totally down to come back, and I think more of our barn will come with us next time. We'll sign up a bit sooner so we can basically take over an entire session. I'm looking forward to playing with cows again!