A Photogenic Winter on the Ranch

Every season at Western Pleasure Guest Ranch has its special beauty, but I have to admit that winter may be winning out as my favorite season to photograph. Winter photography presents an interesting predicament for me as I am always cold. I can relate to Charlie Brown’s little sister, Sally, when she declares, after trying in vain to apply multiple layers of winter clothes, “I wasn’t made for winter!” Know that while capturing the following photos, I either looked like the Michelin Man, or I was acquiring frostbite.

Becoming a Horseman – Part One

It seems winter may have begun to move in here in the northern panhandle of Idaho. It is a beautiful day from where I sit here at my kitchen table, warm and cozy. My view of the foothills of the Cabinet Mountain Range and the valley full of the ranch pasture land is missing one thing today: the horses. Our herd of 50+ horses just made their last run up the county road from the field to the barn for the winter. They are all tucked away in their winter housing close to the barns and an abundant supply of hay.

Good boy

Groundwork Update: Day 15

Saturday marked the half way point through my 30 days of Clinton Anderson Fundamentals groundwork on my little 3 year old Appaloosa/POA gelding, Zeus.  After a good long session working pretty much entirely on desensitization, I decided he was ready to ride.  It was nice to be in the saddle again.  I will continue with the promised 30 days of groundwork with the addition of a little time under saddle. Here are a few pictures from Saturday’s ride.  They are horribly blurry but you will get the basic idea.

Groundwork Update: Day 14

This week was a bit busier for me so I have only gotten in three days of working with Zeus. I am on day 14 of my 30 days of Clinton Anderson Fundamentals groundwork. Today was the shortest lesson so far, but he was also the most relaxed that I have probably ever seen him. It is warm comfortable sort of day; the kind of day where most of the horses in the dry lot are laying down taking a sun bath. Zeus was no exception, until I walked over and he jumped up. That wasn’t unusual as he has never let me get close to him while he is laying down. He walked over to me which is a new development that I am still getting used to. I used to have to play a little “I am not here to get you but I am not going to let you leave so maybe you might decide that it was actually your idea to come over to me and get caught” game.  As I finished saddling him I realized he was doing two things that I have never seen him do before. He was dropped and he had his hind foot cocked in a relaxed, layed back sort of way.  He has never, ever showed those signs of relaxation at anytime that I have worked with him or at anytime when he is tied in the barn. I declare a breakthrough! Now, I hope I am not speaking too soon, and I am sure tomorrow will tell, but this is a big deal for this horse folks.
I am hoping that tomorrow will give me enough time to add some saddle time to the groundwork. I am looking forward to being horseback again.
Lunging for Respect stage 2

30 Days Grounded with Clinton Anderson

Ground work is not a completely unknown to me.  I have spent time working my horses from the ground (especially the babies). Usually this ground time is broken up by time on my horse’s back riding down the trail, working in the arena, working cows or teaching lessons (yes,I teach horseback). So why am I on the ground? I have been sentenced to 30+ days of groundwork.

Last week, we hosted 2, three day clinics here at Western Pleasure Guest Ranch with Dale Cunningham a Clinton Anderson certified clinician.  The participants in the first three day clinic were the WPGR wranglers plus the bosses (mom and dad). The second three day clinic were other folks interested in the Clinton Anderson Method.  We start most all of our own horses here and we have a system that we think works pretty well. So why get into this Clinton Anderson thing? Well, the main reason is because we felt that the ground work portion of our training program was lacking. So, with the help of a friend,  went in search of a Clinton Anderson certified clinician and we found Dale Cunningham.

I used my three year old gelding, Zeus who I put 40 rides on last year, as my clinic horse.  Zeus might be 14 hands tall if he stands on his tippy toes, is very athletic and very reactive. Lets just say he thinks something is hiding behind every corner ready to eat him.  What, you may ask, is he afraid of? Horse eating buckets, horse eating water bottles, horse eating horses, horse eating ropes, horse eating bags, horse eating people, horse eating barns, horse eating saddle bags, horse eating dogs, anything that makes a crinkly noise is also obviously looking to eat a horse. I figured that this clinic would be the perfect opportunity to put some concentrated time into Zeus.

It really was a great three days.  I learned a lot about the groundwork portion of the Clinton Anderson Fundamentals.  I think that the groundwork portion of this method uses good solid principals based on a correct assessment of horse psychology. I don’t have the same opinion of the riding portion of Clinton’s method, but the groundwork I think is solid.

So why am I grounded? Dale officially labelled Zeus a fruitcake (although I already knew that) and gave me homework of 30 days of groundwork only. Ugh! So here I stand 1 to 2 hours a day swinging a stick around and looking for ways to give my horse a heart attack. My goal in all of this is that I spend so much time desensitizing Zeus that by the end of these 30 days he will have run out of things to be scared of.  Also, I am going to have some buff arms…

Stay tuned for the results of my 30 days of homework and my updates here along the way.

The following photos are of days 8 and 9 of my 30 day challenge.

What to Bring on a Guest Ranch Vacation

We are often asked, “what should I bring with me on a guest ranch vacation?”. So, in response to that question, here is my list of what to bring along with a few tips for making your guest ranch vacation an unforgettable life experience.
  1. Long pants or jeans – I prefer to ride in jeans as they usually do not ride up as much and offer more protection.
  2. Cowboy boots – If you don’t have a pair we have a boot closet full of boots of all shapes and sizes for you to borrow while you are here.
  3. Tennis shoe or hiking shoe – The ranch is located on 1100 acres which makes for miles of hiking trails for you to explore.
  4. A hat – A baseball cap, cowboy hat, or other brimmed hats will help to shade your eyes from the sun on your many outdoor excursions.  If you don’t want to bring a hat, the ranch gift shop has a wide selection of cowboy hats and baseball caps to purchase.
  5. Swimsuit – A dip in the outdoor covered hot tub after a long day in the saddle does a body good. Also, we take a day ride to Grouse Creek Falls and a dip in the crisp waters are refreshing on a hot day.
  6. Water shoes – For that trip to Grouse Creek Falls, it is a good idea to have water shoes as the rocky creek bottom is a challenge to walk in barefoot.
  7. Raincoat – It is always good to be prepared for all sorts of weather in the Idaho Panhandle.
  8. Warm weather clothes (shorts, t-shirts, etc) – The average summer temperatures here in Sandpoint, Idaho, are usually in the mid to low 80’s, although it has been known to be warmer.
  9. Sweatshirt or coat – It will cool down in the evenings and usually a sweatshirt or light coat is most comfortable.
  10. Sunscreen
  11. Bug Spray – In the early summer and early fall, the mosquitoes and gnats come out in the evenings so a little bug spray is a big help.
  12. A Good Book – Take some time to kick back and read that book you have been meaning to get to. Or, borrow one from the ranch library and read a great western while you are experiencing the West!
Pink Cowgirl Boots

A few ranch vacation tips:

  1. Be honest about your riding experience. We ask about your riding experience to best match you with a horse most appropriate for your riding experience and comfort level.
  2. Consider making it a tech-free (or at least tech limited) vacation.  You will get the most out of a western experience when you can free yourself up from technological distractions.
  3. Come with a hearty appetite! While you are on your All Inclusive Guest Ranch Adventure, you will be served 3 delicious meals a day to keep you fueled for your outdoor experience.  We believe that one important adventure fuel is dessert!
  4. You may have other questions about trail ride etiquette of a more personal manner. We think this blog post, Don’t Squat With Your Spurs On…Or Other Places, may leave you feeling a little more prepared for horseback adventures into the outdoors.
  5. And finally, my recommendation for where to go on your next guest ranch adventure is, of course, Western Pleasure Guest Ranch.

How to Row a Boat

While the Northeast part of the U.S. is being covered by a massive snow fall, we here in the Northwest are beginning to wonder if its time to brush up on our nautical skills. If you feel the need to  review your boat rowing, here is an excellent link to show you how: How to Row a Boat

Yesterday was beautiful. As we were driving to Post Falls, Landon kinda reminded me of a happy lab that has been stuck in a dark house for a week straight and then gets taken out into the sunshine for a ride in the pickup with the windows down. He was that excited about the sunshine. Which brings me to this: