This ranch was a quarter horse breeding ranch, which gave me an opportunity I hadn’t had before: Working with and training green and unbroken horses.
Firstly I was given a three year old gelding, called Chief, to work with and was taught all the fundamentals of round penning. Round penning is a training method using body language and herd mentality to gain a horse’s respect and trust. This ranch worked a lot with the ideas of Chris Irwin, a Canadian horse trainer from the local Alberta area. I learnt about blocking, sending forwards, interpreting signals of respect (direction of ears, licking and chewing motions, head bowing) and disrespect (turning with tail towards the centre, focussing on distractions outside of the round pen) and most importantly how to use my centre to send forwards or invite in without blocking forward motion. This last bit took me a couple of days and lots of side-stepping but I got it eventually. The process of round penning teaches the horse to respect and trust you, thereby aiding the next part of the breaking and training process.
I’m using this heading to cover a wide variety of parts of the horse training process, including getting used to the saddle pad, saddle, weight in each stirrup, the bit, pressure on the bit and movement on and around the horses’ body. All of these I got to see in practice and then have a go at myself with a wonderful (and easy!) unbroken horse called Breezy. We also did several sessions with the stallions at the ranch, working on their ground manners and preparing them for normal rising duties in the event that they are gelded or sold.
Anther training method, specifically used to get horses used to turning in reaction to pressure, is the practice of ground driving. This involves using two long reins, one attached to each side of the bit, and then driving the horse forwards while walking behind and maintaining control through pressure on the bit.
Akita and Chow Chow Dogs
As well as breeding quarter horses, this ranch also bred Akita and Chow dogs. So here are some photos of the puppies I helped raise just because they’re too cute to not make it into the blog…
Although there were no cattle at the ranch I was staying on, the community around the ranch was so friendly and supportive of one another that we spent a day helping the neighbour herd his cows. We were actually moving them from one pasture to another due to grizzly bear sightings! Because of the bear sightings however, we stuck to using the quads instead of the horses, but never the less it was one of the most fun days we had! I think I’m getting the hang of this cowgirl thing…