Monthly Archives: January 2011

Winter Cowgirl Fashion

As I was getting dressed to do chores this morning something stuck me funny. I thought I might show you Fashion from a Alberta prairie cowgirl’s winter perspective.

As all fashion divas know we choose our attire based on where we will be going, and who we will be seeing there, but the wise girl also considers the weather and it’s effect on her look.

Of course, shoes are the most fun to pick out. An entire outfit can be built around them. I love to dawn these 60 below Fahrenheit Baffin Rig Boots with the customized dog-chewed strings.

But lets discuss the rest of the wardrobe choices. Aah, nothing like those retro snow-mobile insulated pants and coat to make a girl look svelte and charming, an endearing fashion for the last 15 years, at least.

Sweaters worn over sweaters, worn over plaid flannel shirts, worn over the naughtiest of long underwear.

Now to accessories: new mittens show off delicate hands. Then there is the insulated cap with ear flaps worn under a lovely matching ear warmer and don’t forget the stylish camouflage  face shield for those really cold days.

And last but not least the multipurpose accessory in your favorite colour, the calf sled, being used here to haul hay. How clever and the envy of all your horse friends.

 

 

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Foolishness

It snowed and blowed more since I took this picture. This evening I fed the horses (the sleigh is so nice) but Trouper didn’t come up with the others. It was getting close to dark and I though I could see him, although with his grey fur he’s hard to see in the snow. I called and called but nothing; he didn’t come

He hasn’t looked very perky lately and I couldn’t stand the thought that he was out there by himself, maybe hurt or sick. I thought: if I get a little closer I can see if it’s him, see if he’s alright, or he’ll hear me better and come.

I tried walking out to him. It’s an easy distance in the summer, not so easy in knee-deep snow half crusted when you break through every step. I thought how hard could it be? I’ll follow the horses trail.

I had talked to my cowboy on the phone and he knew that I had headed out to do chores and he was on his way home.

Not good. I got to Trouper who thought I was a boogie man in the low light. He high-tailed it for the yard and the other horses, so no help from him. My cowboy got stuck in the driveway and didn’t know I was out there struggling hard to make it back. To make a long story short, it almost didn’t turn out well for me.

I won’t do that again.

Feeding Horses

Well, that’s it, officially too much snow after today. I will be feeding 3 small square bales a day at least for the next 50 days and our hay stack runs out.

The good news is that I got a new ‘toy’, a calf sled that one bale fits so perfectly in, that will make it easier. I have been just rolling the bales to the horse, but I have to tell you that in knee-deep drifts anything it hard.

The wind blew the snow around again but luckily our driveways isn’t blocked and we can get out. It seems like it’s been such a long winter already.

Good Farriers

Well here I am to let the cat out of the bag. It’s always a worry that the good farrier you found might get so busy, if other folks find out, that they won’t have time to do your own horses so I’ve hesitated to tell anyone what a treasure we have. But, I got his promise that won’t happen; so here goes:

A couple of days ago we took some of the horses over to Ian’s. We both love going there. See, before he got to farriering full time he was a working cowboy, on a couple PFRA (Praire Farm Rehabilitation Assoc.) pastures in Saskatchewan and managed a pasture like we do but further north. So he has bull-in-the-bushes, bucking-horses, working-dog stories galore, along with a pile of pretty good jokes. No wonder we like to go, just so we can visit, swap tales, and have a good chuckle.

He’s the one that helped old GW, the grandkids horse, so much. We were seriously considering putting the old horse down but Ian fixed him. GW isn’t the only horse he’s helped. There’s been lots.

 

(this was a long time after GW’s initial injury when he sliced a big mess on his foot on the tin of a barn at someone else’s place)

He’s a smart guy,  likes a challenge, has a cowboy heart, with a deep respect and love for horses and dogs. We got to talking of how he feels bad that folks have to bring him horses that other farriers have messed up, how he likes to help when vets have said ‘no hope’.

Well I can’t tell you everything he said but I figured if I helped him a little he could get the word out on some things that might just save folks a lot of grief when, it comes to their horses feet at least. We all want to do what’s best but how do you find out what the best is?

So, I volunteered to help him get a “Web Presence” the only way I know how, by helping him start a blog. It’s brand new today but I would sure like to recommend you  drop over there and hit the the “Follow” button. He’ll be posting lots of good info there in the future.

http://ianzoerbfarrier.blogspot.com/

He really is awesome and I know of folks who regularly drive over 4 hours (one way) to bring their horses to him. He’ll never turn a horse that needs help away either. My cowboy likes him and that enough recommendation for me that he’s a good man.

(He’s a good dog-man too, won the nationals down in the US in 2008)

WAHOOOOOOO!!

A week today and I’ll be with the cows again. My winter boss phoned yesterday to make sure I’m available for the 1st of Feb. Heifers, gotta love em. It’s my favorite part of being a COWgirl. Not all the stories have happy endings but it’s never for my lack of trying. All in all it’s mostly just fun and a good excuse to be outside all day.

Where we used to work, at the ranch, most of the replacement heifers they kept were black. They were born out of the ranches range cows, good mothers (which is a euphamism for a-little-scary). Lots of them were dropped in the snow between March 15 to around the end of May. (Two of the years we were at the ranch there was a huge big blizzard the first week in May).

Many’s the night with the Christmas lights on up at the house (we always kept them on till after calving), I would go out in my pajamas under my snowpants, big coat, etc.  and ride through our girls.

The calving pasture for the heifers went from the barn up the hill; the barn and house were down closer to the creek.

It was all kind of magical feeling. Most nights, up that hill, it felt like there was only a barbwire fence between me and the North Pole.

There’s description of one of those nights here.

So now you know my secret: I’m a died-in-the-wool Romantic. Anyone who’s calved heifers in the middle of the night in the snow will know so.

Buck

We all have our heroes: I’m so lucky to be married to mine. But there is a man  who comes close to having the respect I have for this man I ride with everyday.

There is a documentary coming out on him. Check it out here.

Buc Branaman

He wrote a book too, All the Far Away Horses. It’s not on training horses; it’s his story, why he is what he is. It’s the story of someone who took something bad and turned it into something good, my favorite kind. (Warning: it could make you cry). He’s the kind of man who can change your life, for the better. He sure did ours.

Because of his willingness to share, my cowboy and I were able to gain the knowledge we needed to be are able to do the very thing we dreamed of all our lives. I owe this man (that I have never met, by the way) a great deal. Thank you Buck.

Why they do it

Just a few things I can relate to.

I read somewhere that a horse has vision kind of like someone wearing bifocals so us old folks totally get why a horse lifts  and lowers his head to adjust it’s vision. They say they can judge the height of a jump by doing that. I don’t jump my horses so that’s a new one on me. But doesn’t it make sense to give a horse free use of his head, allowing him to adjust his vision as he needs to? We do, and I think it’s what keeps us safe out here on the treacherous footing we cover everyday.

Then there is those times when we see  something sitting still but the horse spooks at it when it moves. Normal for them, since they don’t see colour quite like us so objects that remain still may not attract their attention till it moves. I know cows are like that, don’t move and they don’t notice you. I have experienced that spooky feeling. Those dang camouflaged pintail ducks that fly up under my horse’s nose and scare the wits out of both of us. I don’t see them before hand and they scare me every time.

We all know horses think, but like lots of folks, only about one thing at a time. I learned to seldom cue our horses unless they are totally going the wrong way because I can’t afford for them to get distracted by correcting them. I, personally, would rather have them keep me safe by paying  attention to their footing or reading the cow we are working than me up there, telling them what to do all the time.

It was a real epiphany for me when I realized that you don’t have to chase a horse that’s hard to catch, just keep them away. They want the safety of the group and really hate being kept from it. So much so that they will let you catch them if you’re the only way back into the herd.

If you have ever suffered from a pair of shoes (or a bra) that doesn’t fit you might have a clue how an ill-fitting saddle might feel. Makes me cranky; why wouldn’t it upset a horse?

It has happened (not real often) that my cowboy has been unsure on how to proceed with something. They are the times I hate. I get scared, I balk, and even do stupid things and he gets frustrated with me. Sound familiar? I know I’ve sent those exact signals to my horse with the exact same result.  And then there are the times, I just can’t figure out what he wants and getting told louder just plain doesn’t help.

I’ve never paid for a massage (I have access to two big strong nice hands) but dang a good currying has to feel good if done right. No wonder it helps a horse relax and trust the rider. I love it when I get my back rubbed, even my face. Imagine if our hands meant the same thing to our horses that these ones do to me.

Kate

(Always time to be kind.)

I have a blogfriend (at least I hope she will think of me as such) for whom I have a deep and profound respect. I just finished reading something she posted on her blog A Year With Horses. If you don’t mind I would like to recommend it to you. It is well worth the read for anyone, but especially for those of us who have horses in our lives. It is something that will make us more than better horsemen or horsewomen, understanding it will make us better people.

Click Here

How it all Works

I’ll be so glad when Spring comes.

Ever wonder how cowboying all works especially when they are working  all alone out on the prairie? Here’s mine treating a calf one spring.

First you catch the sick one, in this case the calf. Sneaking is good. Note no one is upset even though this calf already has a rope on it. (he caught it by the neck first, not his usual but sometimes the long grass makes it too hard to pick up a hind leg) then used a second rope to pick up a hind leg. Then you wait to make sure everything is calmed down.

Closer is better so calmly you try to undally and ride up a little closer.  

You calmly and quietly get down.

Now you tie the rope to the horn. Till this point it was only dallied on the horn.

I didn’t get a shot of him tailing down this big calf but essentialy he just pulls sideways on the calf’s tail and because one hind foot is roped the calf tips over. Here, he is pulling on that first rope to encourage the calf to lay down on his side

He makes it all looks so easy but lest you think it is, just consider the proximity of this 1200-1800 pound concerned mother.

It takes a lot of nerve to do this eye level with a cow.

He carried a short (6-8 foot) chunk of soft rope that he uses to tie the 2 top legs (not like calf ropers in rodeos who tie three with a stiff little piggin’ string). He has to get up close and personal to do this, almost sitting on the calf.

He ties a couple of knots after wrapping the rope around the legs to secure everything. ( This turned out to be a pretty nice cow but they aren’t all like that.)

He’s taken the other rope off that was around the calves head and the calf is allowed to sit up if he wants. Note how calm Wilbur is. He’s been doing this since he was 4. He’s 14 now, treated hundreds of cattle, all old hat to him.

Even the dog has laid down while he heads back to his horse to get the needle and drugs to treat the calf. Nice and calm.

He carries what he needs in a small cantle pack on his saddle. I carry extras in a larger saddle bag set-up on my horse for days that we are that busy treating that we might run out.

He puts his knee on the calves neck to keep him from struggling and give him his shot. The picture is a little deceiving because it looks like he’s giving the shot in the shoulder when really it is in a little fleshy triangle shaped spot on the neck, kind of close to the shoulder.

He carefully and calmly puts every thing back in his cantle pack.

This was all going so nice we took the opportunity to let the young horse I was riding have a feel of holding a calf. I think this was his first time.

I have watched him do this for years and I am here to tell you that I have no shortage of  admiration for any man that has the skill and nerve to do what my favorite cowboy does to take care of another man’s cows.

If Wishes Were Horses . . .

. . . then beggars would ride. Do you ever wish you had a million dollars (or two). I don’t very often but I do have my guilty pleasures, things that I would love to have the extra money to buy. At the top of my pretty short list is this: 

or  maybe this one (either with silver overlay):

with this mouthpiece:

made with sweet iron (I know, it will rust)  $620(American Dollars).

It’s all just a frivolity and I’m not quite cowboy enough to be that irresponsible with what money I do get. But, some days. . .