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.
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.
- Long pants or jeans – I prefer to ride in jeans as they usually do not ride up as much and offer more protection.
- 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.
- Tennis shoe or hiking shoe – The ranch is located on 1100 acres which makes for miles of hiking trails for you to explore.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Raincoat – It is always good to be prepared for all sorts of weather in the Idaho Panhandle.
- 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.
- Sweatshirt or coat – It will cool down in the evenings and usually a sweatshirt or light coat is most comfortable.
- 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.
- 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!
A few ranch vacation tips:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!
- 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.
- And finally, my recommendation for where to go on your next guest ranch adventure is, of course, Western Pleasure Guest Ranch.
Well folks it is official, Western Pleasure Guest Ranch is now open for trail rides for the 2015 season! I took a couple on the first official spring trail ride of the year this morning. It was a beautiful day, temps in the high 40’s, and clear blue sky as far as you could see. This calls for Danielle’s Excited Face:
Part 3 of Winter Arena Exercises is going to be pretty simple. Stand in your stirrups while riding. That’s it. Whether you are out in the pouring rain or lucky enough to be in an indoor arena, take the opportunity to build those leg muscles (yours) and improve your balance at the same time.
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: