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What to do with a Versatile Horse on a Winter’s day…

It was -3c and we’d had a fall of about 6 inches of snow overnight. Winter had been kind to us so far and, it being the off season, we’d been doing a fair bit of schooling in between rides out.

But this particular Sunday morning, none of that was possible. The main arena was just covered in snow and the road away, being on a hill, wasn’t somewhere we wanted to negotiate in these conditions.

However, Stuart and Lesley never accept that it’s not just another day and the horses need their exercise – rain, snow or blow. And the cows could do with a bit of a stretch too and with the ranch sorting pens still set up from a recent clinic at the Bar –S-, we could all just get on and do a bit of work on our Ranch Sorting skills.

Stuart’s new herd is a bit over 6 months old and arrived at the Bar –S- last November. They’ve been getting a bit of attention from the horses with the occasional quiet work out in the round pen: just walking the horses quietly amongst and around them and a bit of gentle cutting. Nothing to overwork or frighten them and they’re already getting the idea that there’s a game to be played once there’s a horse about.

And so, on this morning, they arrive in the pen full of fun: leaping and high kicking all over the place and looking thoroughly up for a bit of a frolic with the horses. Everyone quickly forgot the cold and started concentrating on the job at hand. The cow glue had frozen solid and so we did without numbers, Lesley just calling from the other side of the pen which cow to cut next (always, of course, the one deepest in the herd!)

We had a few howlers with cows getting to where they weren’t supposed to be but we’re also getting to the point where the action can move fast enough for the riders simply to take it in turns to cut the next cow without one having to sit in the “gate” all the time to look after  the sorted cows. If you can get it moving smoothly enough, the constant arrival of a new cow in the sorted pen tends to discourage those already there from rejoining their chums.

We didn’t do it for too long because these youngsters need their rest and so it was all over too soon. But what a way to forget the weather: riders, cows and horses all got some real exercise and went away from the pens with smiles on their faces. Well the riders anyway. It was all in a day’s work for the horses and the cows just enjoyed the dance!

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