Thursday, March 28, 2024

Hooking On

The fastest way to start a horse is slow and easy. Groundwork pays off, especially hooking on. For most of us, we want to get to the action as quick as we can. The sooner I can get a halter on him, the sooner I can get in the saddle. But if you take the time to get a colt to properly hook on to you, the rest of horse training is a walk in the park. 

Red is pretty friendly, as long as he has you were he wants you. But once you start asking him to obey, he turns brumby. Not being halter broke yet, we had no choice but to work him in our little square pen. Not a bad set up though. Good pipe corral. 

It's best to learn from the experts. Paul Casey is old-hand at starting horses. He's definitely my cowboy teacher of choice. 

To get a horse to pay attention to you, you have to work it. Meaning, lunge it around the pen. In doing so you can steer it's direction and speed, and slowly show your authority. 

The initial goal is to get him to face you. Pointing his butt at you is unacceptable. When that happens, definitely keep him moving. Any change of direction also happens with a turn towards you and not towards the fence. If he stops and faces you, that's a win. 

Eventually you can start to approach him. It's good to not look a horse in the eyes. It's intimidating to them.

Hooking on is the art of getting them to follow you without force. It's not a mysterious moment of bonding, but a science of teaching the horse that you are worth following. As you work them and they stop, then you can start to draw them to yourself. Takes time. 

Let them use all the senses they can to see that you're no threat. Smelling the thing that is driving them is important. In this case it is Paul's hand, which he is always pointing to where he wants the horse to go. Even if there is something in his hand, like this lunging whip, it's ultimately his hand that is the instrument. This use of communication then translates into a lead rope in hand, and eventually a set of reins. 

Petting becomes the reward. When horse does what you want, pet him. It starts to correlate. When he doesn't, work him. That correlates also. 

Eventually it's time to get him to follow. Put your shoulder behind their head and start to draw him with you as you walk. 

Just turning his head and noticing you moving is a step in the right direction. 

Atta boy. Take time to pet them all over. The more hands on him the more he becomes comfortable being around you. Notice the cocked hip, posture of ease. 

We have the tendency to only work from the left side of a horse. It's important to do everything from the right side as well. It's like a horse has two brains. He may be super sound on the left side, but freaks out when the same thing is done on his right. Teach him from both sides. 

Once you got his head to look your way, then walk to his hips and your pressure will break his feet loose. 

Now in motion he'll be more apt to hook on and follow you. 

A friend of mine used to say that the way to a horse's brain is through its feet. Our body language says so much to a horse. In ground work if I want a horse to move his feet, look at them. 

Again, work off both sides. If I have him starting to walk with me in a clockwise motion, do it in counter-clockwise manner as well. 

The moment of hooking on is when a horse voluntarily chooses to follow you. It begins with baby steps, but if done right and routinely, it transfers into true companionship both on the ground and in the saddle. 

Paul has a few horses under his belt. What I like about his style is that is that it is authoritative and respectful. He understands what a horse is thinking, in good moments and bad. Therefore, he is able to exercise an authority that a horse wants to obey. 

When a horse is truly hooked on you don't need anything in your hand to prod him along.

Your actions are like an invisible lead rope. 

Again, reward him with petting. Repetition is key. Get both hands on him. That forms new sensory data in his mind. 

This is a great time to play with his head. Our next step is to get a halter on him. By playing with the pole of a horse's head, you are basically desensitizing him to a halter. 

You always want to end on a good note. Our hope was to get ole Red to hook on today and he did. 

Another trip in the opposite direction and call it good. 


This is how the good in a horse is brought to life. It takes knowledge, but it also takes time. We are in this for the long haul. The progress can seem slow at first. But if you do ground work right, it's all translatable to the saddle. Once a horse learns that you are worth following, then he wants what you want. Hooking on is key. It may not be too mysterious, but it sure is beautiful. 

Fullness of Love

Holy Thursday teaches us that true love is both giving and receiving. 

Saturday, March 23, 2024

Meet Red

I’ve been looking for another horse to start. But, not needing a third horse myself and not being experienced enough to hire out, I called my brother. A good five years ago, Luke bought two gelding colts from Bader Quarter Horses in Thermopolis WY. With time just never working out to get them started, he passed ole Red onto me.

Red is a typical tall, slender quarter horse with good withers. Horses with this kind of white hair speckled throughout their coats are called roan. There are blue roans, which are mostly grey and black; bay roans, which are dark brown and white, and red or strawberry roans like Red that are reddish-brown and white. 

He's a friendly bugger, but never had a halter on him or been messed with much at all. So we haltered a broke horse and jumped them both into the trailer together, then just pulled the old horse back out. Worked fine. Made it less traumatic than having to cowboy him in there. 

Mollie and Chief were pretty excited to see what new critter was coming to see them. 

Good calm demeanor as he scopes out his new digs. 

It's always best to introduce horses gently by separating them with a good steel fence. I'm hopeful that they’ll come around to each other, but definitely don't want to rush the issue. 

This is his first time off the farm, so everything is new. Maybe that'll make me a safe haven for him.

Off to good start. 

Solid horse. Much potential. I'm excited to get to working with him. Why Red? It's a good horse name. Most Reds are reliable. There's Red from Shawshank Redemption. Easygoing guy. Lighthearted, but spirited. I think Red is a fitting name for this strawberry roan. With spring in high gear, we better get started.  

Friday, March 22, 2024

Burning Weeds

Springtime is all about getting ready for the new life to come. Whether it’s calving or planting, the more work you can get done before that new life starts, the better. Burning up last year's weeds ranks hight on the to do list. But once seeds are in the ground and the irrigation begins, spring work is a lost venture. So with a little time and a lot of team work, we burned up some weeds around the fence lines.   

If you're prepared and have enough experience, burning weeds is basically a science. Well, Dad had the experience and I was ready with the water whenever it was necessary. 

First step was to outfit Ranch Truck with our new old sprayer unit. Fit great. 

Then Mom and I pickup all the old sprinkler pipe laying against the fence. 

Every few years, the weeds just get away from us. Last year was such a year. There were also piles of corn stocks lying around that needed to be torched as well. 

We started with them just to get our confidence built up. 

Mom ran the Rhino with the propane tank as Dad walked behind and got fires started. 

Once those were smoldering down, we started on the fence line. Attention to wind is an important detail. Depending on the circumstance, it can be good to burn with the wind so that it gets a good burn on things. Dried grass burns real well. But old, stemmy kochia weeds are hard to burn by themselves. 

When we'd come to a power pole, I'd usually run ahead and douse it with water. 

Then burn all around it. 

And soak it down again. No problems to today. But Dad and I have had to call the fire department out in the past. Lessons learned. 

Great day for burning. Little breeze, but not enough for things to get out of hand. 

After we were pretty well burned up, I ran around and made sure the leading edges of the fire was good and out. 

Not bad.

I do derive a bit of joy watching weeds go up in smoke. It's a win win, the fence lines look better and the natural grasses rebound even greener. Hopefully, with our new spraying rig we can stay on top of the weeds throughout the summer. For now, it's on to planting and calving. Let's ranch. 

Tuesday, March 19, 2024

Full Potential

On the feast of St. Joseph we finished our third annual picnic table for the John Paul II school fundraiser. Hopefully the recipients will enjoy using it as much as we did building it.

This year’s work crew was from the forth and fifth grade classes. Starting at 0900: Baylie Biegler, Sawyer Daly, Micah Blare, Everett Pinkerton, McKenna Underburg, Addie Tate, Grace Morris, Arleena Rourke. 

This is probably the 15th table we’ve built for Catholic school fundraisers over the years.

As always, our key word was potential. This redwood has the potential to become a picnic table or fire wood. It’s up to us to bring out its best or not. It’s no different with our lives. We can become great or waste away. The Good News is that God wants to help us reach our full potential. But, just as this lumber took work to make it great, so with us. We have to cooperate with God’s grace in order to become fully who He has created us to be. 

The first step was to cut the octagon frame. Attention to detail begins at step one. We also don’t want to get in a hurry. That’s when trouble happens. Quality work takes quality time.

Nice and easy. 

Success. Table top completed. That’s worth doing the splits over. 

Next was the undercarriage. Less fun but super crucial. Placing the seats in the right order so that the grain lines up takes some planning out. 

Once that was done, it was time to situate the top. Team work. 

The boys were mainly in charge of the screwing and the girls the sanding. 

Umbrella, baby. 

No sharp edges allowed. 

Then came the day to treat the wood. Linseed oil was our preserver of choice. 

Easy to apply and reapply as time goes on. Sorry parents for the oil stains. The fun overcame the caution. 

The little girls were key in touching up the nooks and crannies. 

Bring it. 

Good stuff. St. Joe would be proud, and so is our Father in Heaven. No one appreciates our cooperation in creation like God the Father, Who gave us dominion over the world. With His help we become co-creators. Just as we saw a potential picnic table in this pile of lumber, so does He see potential greatness in all of us. But it is not magic. For this table to come together we had to work together, follow instructions, and persevere through the ups and downs. So too in life, if we want to be fully who God has created us to be we have follow His commandments and teachings, rely on other members of the Body of Christ, and never give up. If we cooperate with God's grace in this way we will all become the masterpieces He created us to be. Let's ranch. 


 God doesn't call the equipped, He equips the called.