I headed to the barn around 2:30 yesterday and did Jenny's stalls. Once Jenny got home, we brought the horses in and got to grooming and tacking. We're currently experiencing the mildest winter in awhile; yesterday's high was 41 degrees. We've had very little snow, and more rain than snow. Everything is muddy, which of course includes the horses. ;)
Jenny's sister Jean pulled up around 5 with her two horse trailer. Jenny loaded her horses on her trailer and Daisy hopped up on Jean's trailer next to Jean's lovely new gelding, Ace. And off we went!
The drive was about an hour and twenty minutes long. We unloaded and brought the horses into the barn. The barn is set up so that the center is the arena, but it doesn't stretch to the walls. There is space left on the outside of the outside of the arena for horse stalls and an aisle between the arena and stalls. We brought them in the aisle and let the horses check out the cows already being worked in the arena. They were all ears; Daisy stretched up high watching, she was twice her size ;). We bridled (and helmeted!) and took them in. They were all stunned at the sight of the cows, and yet as soon as I was on, Daisy seemed to get over it. We were all pleasantly surprised at how quickly they got over it; we thought we'd be spending a lot of time teaching them not to be afraid. We were instructed to pick a cow from the group and follow it around, essentially ;) . The funny thing was that some cows, when you approached them, wouldn't move. You just awkwardly stood there hoping they'd make a move. Daisy and I had some fun chasing cows around, cantering behind them until they'd outsmart us and turn around too fast for Daisy to keep up.
Then we moved to sorting.
We were all complete newbies to the whole experience. We didn't have a clue at all how it worked.
The cows were all at one end of the arena, and three riders would stand facing them. The center rider started by crossing the start line, at which point a number for a cow was called out and the other two people would move in closer. The center person's job was to find that numbered cow and drive it out of the group of cows, over the start line, while the other two riders held the other cows back from crossing over. Once the first cow was sorted out, another rider would sort the cow with the next number up (the whole following numbers thing was a rule I didn't quite catch on to ;)) and the first person to sort became a person holding the cows back, and this cycle continued until all the cows were sorted out one at a time.
The short video clip below is of Daisy and I :)
With each round of us sorting, the man who owned the arena would give us more tips to improve. Even so, we weren't exactly experts by the end of the (almost) two hours. And we were later told that we were practicing on older cows. "We use young cows for real competitions. They're quicker."
Jenny's horse Jordan got really into the sorting, as did Jean's horse Ace (the black and white pinto in the next video), who has cow experience. They knew they were chasing a specific cow and were good at honing in on it and driving it off. Daisy didn't catch on quite as well. For one thing, she was afraid of the end of the arena where the cows were; not the cows themselves, but the strange shadowy areas behind the arena wall. She was a bit difficult to get toward the cows for that reason (however, we had a short break and I spent some time working her down at that end, and she got better). She also wasn't quick to run into the group of cows. The man instructing us said that was usual for a horse that was just starting. He said they generally weren't comfortable with running right into the group of cows right off the bat. I ended up borrowing Jenny's crop and giving Daisy a good smack a few times to get her to just go, as she was very reluctant at times ;).
By the end of the night, once we'd have a cow, she'd kick it into a canter and pin her ears flat back against her head and chase it. I do think she enjoyed that part ;). She did do a lot of snorting in between, so I think she enjoyed herself, and the experience of trying something new.
Jean is on Ace, the black and white pinto, Jenny on Jayda is the chestnut mare with the white saddle pad, and Daisy and I are the liver chestnut team with the gold breast collar.
My apologies for the language of the videographer in the video below ;) :
We rode from about 6:30-8:30, at which point a new group of riders came and we left the arena. We untacked and threw coolers on the horses. Daisy got a good amount of treats, and we loaded up in the rain for the ride home.
I do love coolers. Daisy's sweat was all gone by the time we pulled in at home. She was totally dry.
If and when I go again, I would probably switch to a snaffle bit or tom thumb, as I ended up two-hand reining a lot and that was difficult in the western curb. I'd also definitely bring a crop. Or spurs. Or both!
I had so much fun last night! Daisy wasn't awesome at the sorting, but it wasn't competitive and none of us were spectacular anyway, so it was a lot of fun. Cantering around and chasing cows, like barrel racing, is something Daisy evidently enjoys :)