I had always heard that moving cows was one of the best things for a horse's brain--especially Arabians who were more accustomed to doing endurance. So I put "moving cows" high on my list of things to do after retirement. I retired on march 3rd.
Not long after that, my friend Regina Rose contacted me to let me know that the local ranchers would be needing some help moving cows not far from where I live on St. Patrick's Day. Soon after daybreak on St. Patty's day, Regina and I showed up with our Arabians at the corrals where the cows had been recently branded.
The cattle drive was an amazing experience--just about every scary thing happening all at the same time, 300 cows and calves, 10-12 horses, about 6 dogs, men on horses with ropes, dogs chasing cows, cows chasing dogs, trucks & trailers following us along, men and women yelling, whistling, men roping calves, men getting bucked off, a loose horse dragging a calf, cows bawling, cows fighting cows, darling little calves--some of them being unable to keep up being roped and put in trailers, men talking on cell phones all the way, little calves that were so tired they were lying down, I was wishing Merri were there to photograph it all.
There was so much scary stuff that my horse, Gil, had to ignore the Wal-Mart bags and traditional scary stuff that usually worry him. He had some good moments and some bad moments. He did very well in the back and really liked nudging the little calves to make them move faster. On the flanks, he was more confused and silly. He was pretty stupid at the start (the general nervous energy reminded me very much of the start of an endurance ride), and when we turned toward "home" (Briar Creek) he got stupid again. But he did get into the idea of moving cows, and the one time that an old cranky cow charged back at him, he didn't freak out. I was more scared than he was.
All the cowboys were super nice even though I'm sure they were amused at my attire (helmet, tights, crash vest)--everyone else had chinks, ropes, and cowboy hats--I saw at least one carrying a pistol. There were times I did feel like Billy Crystal in a real Western movie. I thought it was interesting that no one told any one what to do; everyone just went to work and did a job. Regina and Kris said they would have said something if someone was doing anything wrong. So I guess Gil and I fit in and got our share of the job done. One of the cowboys said something about Gil still having lots of energy at the end of the drive ("Your pony still has alot of Go, don't he?") We covered a distance of about 6 miles, though I am sure Gil and I covered more than twice that.
At the end of the drive we had to wait about 2 hours and keep the cattle bunched up so they could mother up. There was also a problem of water at the destination point (seems the pump wasn't working right). So we were out a total of 8 hours, and I do feel like I just did an endurance ride. It is just that I feel it in my upper body rather than my lower body.