Monday, June 4, 2012

TEAM PENNING!!! We finally did it!

YAY!  Dreamy and I finally went team penning and it was AWESOME!!  I have been dying to try this discipline for years!!  Be prepared for some pretty serious photo spamming in a moment.  LOL!  We are officially members of CMTPA, which is the Central Maine Team Penning Association.  We attended a team penning clinic on May 12, 2012 with two of the higher rated penners in the club, Morgan and Bruce.  You are rated 1-6... obviously I am a ONE!  LOL!  ;-)  The clinicians were awesome and I had a wonderful day!  (Warning, this is long!)


Dreamy is ready to go!






A friend of mine, Angie, came along at the last minute with her horse Smoke.  There was a cancellation opening in the clinic and she jumped at the chance to try her horse on cows.  I also loved having someone to share the day with, as Angie and I get along well.


It was a three hour drive up to the farm where they hold the CMPTA events, which was the only downfall to the entire day.  That is a long ride!  :-(  We left at 5AM to be there and ready for the 8:30AM registration.  We had to be tacked, warmed up, and ready to go by 9:30.  Everyone we met was very friendly and I knew immediately the day would be laid back and fun.  It was nothing like the dressage clinics I have attended, yet I feel like I learned a ton just the same.  No one cared what your horse was or what your experience was.  It was all about having fun and learning new things.


The morning session was great.  Both Bruce and Morgan explained things well, especially for someone like me who literally had NO IDEA what was going on.


The professional photos are from the morning session.  Those photos are here.  Dreamy is the black horse and I am wearing a red jacket (and am one of the few riders wearing a helmet...!!!)  For some help, this is the first one of us in the album.  We are all the way to the left.  Go ahead and take a look.....then come back here if you'd like!  :-)


Warming up was interesting.  We had to go by the cows on the short side of the ring.  Dreamy was pretty sure they were COWS OF DEATH AND DESTRUCTION and she twisted her body in a pretzel every time we had to go by them.  The farm is a working beef farm, so there was lots to see and be spook about.  The only thing that bothered her was the cows.  Whoops....not a good omen for a team penning clinic.  I just prayed we wouldn't look like complete idiots.  I reminded myself that I didn't have to try it again if it totally failed; just giving it a shot was enough for me.


Once the clinic started, we began by practicing rollbacks and sidepasses, which to Dreamy is really just turns on the haunches and leg yields.  Yeah, Mom, I 've got this.  She was happy to do something she was comfortable with, and I put her at the very other side of the large ring so we were no where near the COWS OF DEATH.  There were 20 horses in the clinic, so we had a huge buffer zone and Dreamy was her agreeable self.


As we were happily doing our dressage movements disguised as western maneuvers, I overheard Bruce shout for three cows to be "let in".  I figured there was no way he meant let into the ring, but sure enough, suddenly there were three huge steers bouncing around the ring.  I almost had a heart attack.  I seriously raised my hand.  "Um, Bruce, my horse has never seen cows.  I think we need to leave the ring."  Thankfully we were just next to the gate and I was just about ready to swing off her back.


"No, no, she'll be fine.  We will introduce her to them right now."


AHHHHH!!!  I tried not to crap my pants freak out and just kept her away from the cows.  I knew that I had to be calm and cool.  I trust Dreamy and knew that everything would be fine, but I was still a bit worried.  I have found that if you act like the horse has been doing something all their life, and give them complete confidence, they will follow you and believe that YES, they have been doing this all their life!  Fake it 'til you make it?  Yeah, that's my life motto.  LOL!!!  ;-)


Dreamy obviously figured out the cows were in the ring, but I just let her look at them and tried to stay far enough away to not incite any spins, rears, bucks, or other excitement that might unseat me.  I was happy when Bruce asked how many people needed to introduce their horse to cows and six others besides me raised their hands.  Oh, OK, so I won't be the only one whose horse wants to run to the next county.


We did something that really made a lot of sense.  We put the "green to cow" horses in the middle of the pack and sort of lined up around the ring.  We started to walk around the rail, pushing the cows along ahead of us.  The point was to move the green horses up to the front so they could see that they could push the cows and the cows would run away from them.  It did not take Dreamy much longer than two seconds to catch sight of this.  She immediately locked onto the cows moving along up ahead of the group and power walked her way to the front.  I got up with Morgan and Bruce fairly quickly.  Bruce encouraged me to let her keep walking along.  Suddenly, she broke into a trot on her own accord.  Just as I was about to ask her for a walk, Bruce said, "Let her go!"  So I allowed her to move forward, but it did not take much encouragement.  Dreamy snaked her head down, locked onto a cow, and wanted to chase!  I seriously could not believe it!!!  I was all smiles and laughed.  Bruce yelled something like, "This is going to be fun!!!!"  I put Dreamy back into the middle of the pack so the other green horses could have a turn.  But she was having no part of it.  She wanted to GET THE COWS.  LOL!  It was awesome.  I mean, she was polite and listened to me of course, but she was pretty sure this was the best game ever.  Dreamy is a bully by nature and really does not get along with other horses.  So the opportunity to CHASE things, PUSH them around, and then be REWARDED for it was just fantastic to her.  I truly think that her innate personality helped her be such a good "cow horse".  Forget dressage, this horse wants to chase cows!  LOL!


Here we are listening to the clinicians while the cows are moving around.  We had just introduced the green horses.  Notice how every other horse is just chilling, but Dreamy is LOCKED ON the cow.  She is right in the center of the photo!  LOL!!!!!!!  
After that, we all had to dismount and practice moving the cows around on foot.  It made sense that they wanted us to see how cows move before we tried it with our horses.  I love the professional pics of us all running around chasing cows.  :-D  We talked a lot about how cows move, how to set up your horse, how to move as a team of three, what your jobs are, etc.  It was fascinating to me.  I love the strategy, teamwork, and luck that goes into team penning.  It is like chess on horseback, except the chess pieces are alive!  I think the hardest part of the day was figuring out how to move a cow.  I definitely need more practice just moving cows around and cutting one out of a herd in order to become a better penner.  Plus, there were times when Dreamy wanted to "take charge" but I wanted to be in charge too.  I have to learn to let her make decisions and not "over-ride" her so that we end up missing a cow or accidentally allowing it back into the herd.  I could have moved those cows around all day.  (The rest of the pics here were taken after lunch on Angie's camera by a friend of hers!  I am happy to have gotten such nice photos!)
Listening and watching others work the herd down at the far right.
We are the black horse/red jacket.  My friend Angie is on Smoke (gray mare)
just to the right of us.
After moving cows around on foot, they had us remount and we started just cutting one cow out of the herd.  There were just ten or twelve cows in the ring at that point.  Dreamy was so funny.  She snorted the entire time we first cut them from the herd.  She loved it.  


Eventually, we moved on to the entire herd of thirty.  In penning, you are given a number as you ride into the ring and those are the cows you need to cut and pen.  The herd is numbered 0-9, so there are three "zero" cows, three "one" cows, and so on.  Once we had practiced cutting out three at a time, they put the pen up at the other end and showed us how to pen them.  At that point, we all left the ring and just the three penners entered at a time, like a real competition would be.  It was pretty cool and Dreamy and I got to go in quite a few times.  


Working with Angie and Smoke to keep the "trash cows" (numbers we don't want) to stay back so Angie can move the cow we want down to the other end.


Here Dreamy and I are working in the "hole" to make sure no cows escape up the side of the pen.  Morgan the clinician looks on. 
BEAST
Waiting as a "turnback" while Angie and Smoke work the herd.



Bruce the clinician was the "sweep" here to put the cows in the pen, while I worked as "wing" to be sure none escaped.  I am not sure why he was pointing at me, but there is a big smile on my face, so I suspect he was praising me for something.
I wish you could see the cow just outside the frame.  Love her expression.  GET THE COW!

Not a great pic, but here I was as "sweeper".  I got to bring the cows down and put them in the pen.  Best feeling!  Once your horse's nose enters the pen, you have to raise your arm for the time to stop.  As soon as I had done so, Dreamy reached out and BIT A COW!  That is what happened here; I am pulling her back away from him.  WHOOPS!  That is bad and considered "roughing" the cow.
Move it, number nine!

Working the herd

To go from afraid of cows to entering a herd of thirty in just a few hours was pretty freaking awesome!!
LOVE THIS!  Her expression is just priceless!


Whoops, a cow got too close.... 

PEN 'EM!
About to enter the herd...



Our faces match!  LOL!!!  We are chasing a cow just outside the frame...  Big loop in the rein so you can see she is just a BEAST about chasing these cows!  

Miss Dressage Diva plays cow pony.  So much fun!
What a day!  What a fun experience!  I cannot wait to go back.  I wish there was another clinic we could try, but the rest of the year is just competitions.  There is a class designed for rookies, so I think we will try that at least once.  I am officially addicted and the week after the clinic was incredibly boring; I tried cavalletti work, lots of canter work, and no stirrup work, but nothing compared to chasing cows!  Overall, it was definitely one of my top five horse experiences ever.  I made a lot of rookie mistakes, but Dreamy blew everyone away.  No one could believe she was a Standardbred, and one woman even commented that she was "showing up the Quarter Horses".  I was told she was very "cowy"...LOL!!  Even if you don't want to chase cows, follow your interests and do something with your horse you have always wanted to try!  That has been my goal this year: have fun!!  And so far, I would say it is working out quite well!  


And here is a video!

Team Penning Clinic 5.12.12 from Elizabeth Tewksbury on Vimeo.

6 comments:

  1. This is so cool!! I am glad you had soo much fun!!

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  2. That's so cool! I just love her ears... a cow pony at heart! The pictures are fabulous!

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  3. OMG!! Dreamy's face!!! So funny!!

    A friend of mine has been bugging me to do this for a while now - on our dressage ponies!! Looks like so much fun!

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  4. Thanks guys! And Lisa, you definitely have to try it! I had so much fun and I cannot wait to go back!! If my dressage horse can do it, anyone can! LOL! :-D

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  5. Awesome! It looks like your horse loved it and you had a great time!

    I've worked with cows before and it's such great fun! I would love the try this with my Standardbred, Digger. He is the boss, so it sounds like he would love it! Now to find some cows...

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  6. That is AWESOME! So cool to watch.

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