Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Rested Up and Full of Beans

The Big K, Brockle and Mugs have Gttyup surrounded. Photo by Summersmom
I think I can safely say, the first Big K/Mugs clinic and haycation was a crazy good success.

We had a blast. We all liked each other (how couldn't we? we're awesome). We had a damn fine group of riders, which opened up the parameters of what we could do and so we did it.

Tim thinks the Mugwump bloggers make for a crackerjack clinic and is already talking about next year.

Most, certainly not all, but most of our time was spent on the horses. We had breakfast at 7:00, saddled up and rode until lunch. Then ate, and were back at it again until dinner. Both Friday and Saturday, we were saddled and riding after dinner too. Sunday had people riding until they were dragged off the horses, jammed into a trailer and hauled off.

I'm going to be bold here and say everybody went home happy.

Once they quit screaming, "I don't want to go!"

There was no groundwork, no saddle fitting, no mind melding or massage techniques. If there were any carrot sticks, $90 halters or 60 foot round pens, they were discretely hidden and only brought out to play with in the dark, after hours, in the privacy of your own tent. Ew.

If I'm going to be honest, there may have been a temporary roundpen on the place earlier in the week, but Odin took care of that -- another post for another day.

However, there were plenty of creek crossings, cattle gathers, slide stops, lead changes and departures, and fun in the cattle pen.

Which brings me to the point of this post.

If I want the best relationship I can with my horse, it's going to come from riding.

Rinse and repeat.

If I want the best relationship I can with my horse, it's going to come from riding. Lots and lots of riding.

I watched it happen with one rider after another during the clinic. Confidence grew as fast as the smiles and the stories just flew about how cool our horses were.

This wasn't idle bragging, it was everything from the rush of discovery to the renewal of faith in an equine partner.

Here are some examples of what I heard.

"I could really feel the sweep from side to side when Tim was helping us cross water, I can't wait to try it on a cow!"

"My mare is really trying to put those changes together, I knew she could do it!"

"I can't believe somebody is actually telling me to let him go and speed up. What a rush!"

"I just decided we were going, and she pricked her ears and headed where I told her, happy as could be. We were both happy and excited, instead of scared and worried."

I'm telling you, just typing all those exclamation points makes me tired, and that's truly how the conversations were going.

I found myself smiling again and again, over a steady slide down a teeny, tiny, itsy bitsy rock face, (yep, another post), an eager leap up an embankment with a cow firmly in my horse's sites, the feeling of being bone tired until I was back in the saddle, then ready for anything. Being reminded how all of this vaquero stuff comes together and creates a little bit of magic and can only happen when I'm pushing myself and my horse past our safe little boundaries.

So, Mugwump is off the fence on this one. I want to ride.

I want the feeling I get on a horse I know inside and out that only comes by hours and days and months in the saddle. The feeling that we're a single, six-legged, two-headed unit and we still challenge ourselves every chance we get.

I think you should ride too.

If your horse is turning seven and you're still not on him, invest in a trainer, and get him started. Any one of the Horse Whisperers who tries to tell you a green rider can safely train a green horse is full of crap. There is a reason you keep buying videos instead of riding. Deep in your heart, you know little Foo Foo just might send you to the moon. This tells me you are a smart person who wants to live.
So get him started. Then get on and start riding.

I watched a solid partnership between horse and rider, not only start to form, but unwind and take off running during this clinic. It was incredible. The talking, scratching, bonding moments took place while this team was forming, not before, and definitely not instead of. Horse and rider came to the ranch with the same, "What have I done and who the hell are you?" look in their eyes. When they left, those two were just shiny with their confidence, trust and mutual admiration society.

So here it is. The official proclamation.

 Horses are adventure, horses are a dare, horses keep us moving forward. Turn off the Horse Channel, put down that damn clicker, saddle up and head down the trail.

Heading on out. Kacy and Summer

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Clinic Update

I have been trying to post for three days. New computer, no phone service, time to abandon all technology and go riding.
On the flip side, Tim's land line is 406-323-2255 and it works.
Tim and Dawn suggest you contact us before trying to find the ranch. Once you leave Roundup, your cell service will leave you, so call once you hit town.

Directions to the Valley Spring Ranch are as follows....

Once you hit the main drag through Roundup, turn right on 2nd street. There is construction going on a few blocks down, detour around the block and get back on 2nd.

You will cross Fourth Street, (don't turn here), continue on 2nd Street until you reach  4R. Turn left on 4R for 6 miles or so, turn right on Parrot Creek Rd., 

A few miles down the road, turn right on Bender Rd, marked private te road.. The street sign is buried, you'll only see about 2 feet of it sticking up from the mud.

Follow Bender Rd. into the ranch. Rail fencing to the right, black angus wherever they please, small white house, windmill to the right and the barn and arena are just around the bend from the house.

If my stinking new computer would let me download my photos I'd send you some awesome photos. Guess you'll just have to get here and see for yourself.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Wasting Horses

A fellow Horsaii, writer, blogger and friend just got her first horse in many, many years.

First off, lets give a huge Damn Straight! shout out for her and her endless pursuit of the horsaii dream.

This lovely, kind, people oriented gelding turned out to be heavily influenced with Iberian breeding (maybe all). He has an incredible topline, a huge, gorgeous trot and just may be veeeerrrrrry fancy-schmancy. 

This is easy to see, in spite of being in a pasture kept, essentially unused condition. He's the equivalent of a classically trained ballet dancer who's been hanging out on the couch, eating Cheetos, drinking Dr. Pepper and watching MASH reruns for the past few years. 

He is 16.2hh, only 8-years-old, sound, has beautiful bones and a healthy attitude.

So, second, let's give a huge Yeah, Whatever... mutter and get over being envious. Admit it, you are. It's impossible not to be.

There is one teeny, tiny hole in our friends bubble of equine ecstasy. She is freaking out.

You see, all this cool, amazingness is just now becoming reality for her.

She has been in complete denial.

This is what I've been watching, well, reading, unfold.

"I'm being given a horse by a family member."

"Wow, which one?"

"That gray you liked."

"You mean the one I saw a photo of and said, 'What horse is that? Show me more pictures, my goodness, he's awesome,' you're talking about that one?"

"Yeah, that one, at least he's gentle, he'll be good with the kids."

"Wait, that big moving, has training you can feel, but don't understand, beautiful gelding?"

"He has some blindness in one eye.

"He's huge, probably way too big for what I need.

"It's hard to put down my dream horse and just accept this one."


 (That's me, silently screaming).

Slowy, I have gotten to watch her awareness of this horse's awesomeness come alive. In reality, it has always been there, but she has been smashing it waaaaay down. Because somewhere, deep inside, she doesn't believe she deserves to have a dream this big come true.

She's afraid the universe will conspire to wreck it if she's the teeniest bit excited, or happy, or blown away, because she's sure, there was a mistake made somewhere, and she can't have a princess horse. 

Now that he's here, in her care, she's seeing what could possibly unfold.

So, what do I hear?

"What am I going to do with a horse this fancy?
Other than waste it."

There it is. I've heard this one and felt it, so many times.

The horse deserves to be shown, trained, raced, jumped, kept in a stall, blanketed, loved by a ________ (child, woman, rescue, hoarding freak).

This is my reply. 

"I'm going to say this as many times as you want to hear it.
You (as in this person) can't waste a horse. I don't care if he is a $50,000 wonder and he becomes your pasture pet.
All he needs and wants is sunshine, quality feed, room to roam with his horse buddies and regular interactions with you.
He deserves being kept up on proper behavior with people.
My personal list --
Doesn't nudge, rub, or crowd.
Leads quietly and well.
Easy and safe to catch, halter, bridle and saddle.
Allows feet to be handled.
Loads well.
Not reactive to children, dogs, or idiots.

This is our responsibility to prepare them for a life away from us.
Just in case.
Other than that, there is no waste.
The rest is icecream.
You have a lovely horse. 

He's yours Becky, all yours. You get to make friends with him, be silly with him, trail ride, don't ride, whatever you want.
You have the opportunity to learn so much!
It can be dressage, a complicated enough discipline that you need a horse who can teach you, and you have it.
It can be endurance, cattle work, jumping, the Mexican dressage/reining thing, anything you want with this kind, beautiful horse.
In return, give him sunshine, food, equine companionship and attention. It's all he wants, everything he needs and you have the ability and desire to provide it.


Thursday, July 18, 2013

While we're pondering Shy Boy --

 Witnessed Shyboy at Monty's Farm

by Gretchen Wieder

First I want to apologize if my English is not so good because I am German. But I want to tell about the time I visited friends in California and I went to the Monty Roberts farm that he writes about in his book. It is called Flag is Up. I was very much liking this man who listens to horses. I had read his book and was very impressed with everything he wrote and described and he had such a hard life it seemed to me. But I liked about what he said about horses needing great care and love.

I visited his farm two years ago during the winter. I remember it was very rainy and my friends said they were having a very rainy winter. But on one nice day we visited his farm because they said visitors would be welcome.

We went all around this very lovely place and I got to see the mustang Shyboy that was featured so strongly in Monty Roberts book. I was very surprised to learn and see how tiny this little horse was, like a pony. He was alone in a very small paddock filled with lots of mud and what little hay there was in it was soaked and padded into the mud. We saw two other tiny mustang horses that were all as small as this Shyboy fellow and I learned that these other mustangs were to be Shyboy's camera stand-ins in case something went wrong with the filming they were doing for Monty Roberts special video that he was selling. They would use these other little horses instead. But as we all know Shyboy was used. Each of these little mustangs were kept in small paddocks all separate from each other, very far apart with big big hedges all around them so that they could not see out at other horses.

I didn't say anything then but I thought how cruel it was to take these little horses who had only known life in a herd which was their sole comfort and security and put them away from one another so that they could not even see another horse.

There was no shelter in any of the little paddocks. It was filled with mud from the rain and I wondered how the little creatures stayed warm without their herd mates.

I found out that each of these mustangs had been left in these paddocks for a whole year that way.

Then, I looked down at their hooves and all of them had hooves that were so long that the front of them looked like those funny Arabian slippers curled up at the toes. I did mention this to the man showing me around and he said they couldn't get near any of the horses to trim their feet.

I thought this was strange because the join-up was supposedly taking place with Shyboy and all that he wrote about. The man also told me that none of the horses were worked or exercised or taken out of the paddocks. This is only because I started asking many questions about what they were doing with the horses.

I felt very sorry for these little creatures. They looked scared and wouldn't come near the gate when called to. They were so small and all alone.

I wondered then how a man who knows so much about horses and says he loves them so much could separate wild mustangs from their herd and not pay any attention to their needs for friendship and comfort from their herd mates. And why didn't they have any shelter if they weren't going to have other horses to which to cuddle against for warmth as they do in the wild or even when put together with others in a pasture?

I saw Monty Roberts that day I visited too. He was being followed all around by a group of camera people (video camera I think they said it was for a television show). He seemed not to care what else was going on around his own farm. He was showing them all how he worked with a race horse afraid of a getting into a gate. Monty Roberts himself was not on the horse. Some other man was in the saddle and Monty Roberts was just bellowing orders to him.

I didn't care about Monty Roberts making his video interview then. All I could think about was the poor little mustangs left all alone in their tiny paddocks for a year and wonder if they are still there all alone and scared.

Then, when his camera people were not looking and he was walking ahead of them, I saw Monty Roberts blow his nose in his hand without benefit of handkerchief. I realized this is a not very refined man. A farm man, yes, but how can such a man have dinner with the Queen of England?

I will always remember Shyboy and those other two nameless mustangs alone, cold, muddy and wet in separate paddocks with no one caring for them, other than to throw hay in over a gate. I was not left with a very good impression of Monty Roberts then and after all I have read about him I know that the impression I received that day was correct. To allow those mustangs to be left in that condition with their feet and their discomfort was high ignorance. I wish they are not still there like that. I just wanted to tell you my experience at the Monty Roberts farm. I know it's a small experience, but when I read him talk about Shyboy, I find it very sad. He acts like he cares about this little horse. He did not care for him when I was there nor for a long time before that.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Blog Bites and My Next Experiment

My mind has been jumping like a jumping bean for days, weeks, whatever.
You don't even want to know how many 1/2 to 3/4 finished posts I have nestled away.
It occurred to me, I need to share these flashing, jumping thoughts with you, because they are almost posts.

Like this one:

I woke up out of a very sound sleep tonight, almost shouting EUREKA!

Instead, I settled for a YIP!

It's because of the new Netflix goody, Wild Horse, Wild Ride.

I started watching and fell asleep. Nothing personal, this is going to be fun, but I'm old.

I was dreaming, dozing, processing about starting wild horses.

First off, they are not wild, they are feral. Which makes them much easier to start than, say, an antelope. They, are wild.

I was thinking about the way we humans like to kid ourselves so we can play cowboy.

First, we call mustangs wild horses. Second, we call round, square, corral work natural. I would put air quotes around the word natural, while rolling my eyes, but I only have one hand and it takes too long to make a set of air quotes. Third we put on a hat which makes a dramatic statement, so non-horse people know we're the real deal.

The premise is, getting the horse to join up, hook on, stick like glue, follow us like a two-year-old screaming for candy.

We do this by trapping the horse in a small pen and working a pressure/release game with the terror stricken beast until it begins to give in and work with us. We call this communication and tell ourselves we talk to the horses spiritually.

Eventually the horse figures out we aren't going to eat it, then realizes we come with a steady supply of food and BINGO! we have bonded.

Don't get me wrong, I start horses this way, even if the horse isn't a mustang, because it's efficient, safe for everybody and not as stressful for the horse as roping it, throwing it, saddling it and bucking it out. Plus, it's really easy.

But I will never, ever kid myself and claim the horse is choosing to be my friend. He became my friend because he couldn't climb out of my arena.

So could I get a horse to voluntarily make friends with me? Where he wasn't trapped with me behind corral rails?

I woke up with a shout and a plan.

It comes from a game we used to play on the prairie (Mort story alert!), flagging antelope.

On a windy day, in antelope country, you can hook a white pillow case in a bush and let it flap in the wind. It works best if it partially hidden, two or three feet off the ground.

If a herd of antelope pass by and see it, they will do this:

"Whoa, did you see that? What is it?"

Then, they will spook and run, but just for a little bit. The they will turn and look again. Sometimes a couple of bold souls will leave the herd and come closer, closer, closer....their curiosity is bigger than their flight reaction.

Young horses playing in a field will do the same thing. The bravest, most curious colts will move closer and closer to a plastic grocery bag stuck on the fence, spooking, jumping and snorting, until one adventurous soul sniffs the bag and figures out what it is.

Then, he'll usually grab it and chase all his buddies around the field with it.

Plus, has anybody ever watched Clinton Anderson demonstrate desensitizing a spooky horse with a bag on the end of a longe whip? He leads the horse while snapping the whip and bag in front of him. The horse is so interested in the elusive bag they're chasing it forgets to be afraid.

Same theory made into an arena circus act. Which is why he makes the big bucks and I write alone in the middle of the night.  Dang that Clinton Anderson.

Anyway, if I sat in a field in the middle of mustang country, or with a herd of range horses on a giant ranch in Montana, I think I could teach a young horse to follow me -- by attracting him with a flag.

I would be drawing in the most curious, boldest and confident of the youngsters, the one I'd want in the first place. If I started small, showing my flag and immediately withdrawing it when my future victim, er, future life partner pricked his ears and looked, then built on that, I think it would work. It would probably take months to do this, because the horse would be able to leave at any time, but he could eventually choose to hang out with me, if I played my flag right.

This sounds like an incredibly fun experiment, especially for a retired old woman with lots of time on her hands. Well, to me it does. I just have to find the right hat.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Name That Breed!!!

What kind of horses do we have here?
If you already know what's happening here...HUSH!

Tuesday, July 9, 2013


Hi guys,
We're finalizing our head count and deposits for the clinic.
Those of you who are coming, could you please send me an email, ( and give me a Whassup? then a name, if you are auditing or riding and if you sent in your deposit to Dawn?
I'm thinking you might like a map...I'll send each of you when you make contact.
I am getting so excited, this is going to be an awfully good time.

Thanks, Mugs


Becky Bean, OR, Summersmom,OR and Zebradreams, WA are all trying to get to Montana.
Are there horse trailer rentals you could share? Or can you beg, borrow or steal a rig? let's do this thing!

Sunday, July 7, 2013

When I Need a Trainer

My trainer Jim Beinlich, owner of Cool K9's Dog Training, "playing with the puppies."

Trainers, you can love them, you can hate them, you can ignore them.

It's up to you, but I have come to one conclusion. If I am going to invest my time, money, thoughts and love into an animal who is bigger than me, the animal deserves the attention of a professional. By bigger than me, I don't mean by size, I mean ability, brain power, or capacity for trouble.

I admit, by nature, I have "trainer brain." Several years ago, I had a client who gave me that label. We were working on her horse, a chronic head tosser, and I had a huge break through with him. He was staying with me and the client came out twice a week for a lesson.

Cisco was a large, burly quarter horse, he had quite a bit of reining training on him by a well known   trainer, but he had flunked out of the program. He was too combative and not athletic enough to justify the battles needed to make him conform. By the time I got him, he only rode in a running martingale, along with a tight hand, and wore a tight drop noseband to keep his yawing mouth tied shut. He constantly slung his head and really helped me remember to sit back, since a whack in the nose was a constant possibility.

I had thrown away the noseband and martingale. I put him back in a simple ring snaffle and rode him with a lot of loose rein while I thought things through.

When I discovered the cure for his problem, I was so excited I could hardly stand it. By the time his owner, Tammy, came out to ride, I couldn't wait to walk her through my process. It was huge! It would change the way I approached every horse I threw a leg over.

I rode him first, and she was on her new horse, a snappy little cowhorse she had bought from our barn. I showed her how willingly he was going to his bit, demonstrated the simple, forward drive into a small, active circle I used as a correction and started to explain the mechanics of how and why it was working.

"He's kind of lazy, so if I ask for two or three times the acceleration into the circle, at the same time gather my reins, lift his inside shoulder and drive him hard until he stops tossing his head...." My client was looking off into the horizon, a day dreamy look on her face and obviously not listening to a word I said. "Uh, Tammy? I really need to show you this."

"Hmm?" She slowly came back to what we were doing."Are you getting him fixed?"

"Well, yeah."

"Good, when you've got him done, then let me know and you can show me how to keep him that way. Let's do some slide stops."

I was pretty irritated. I mean, c'mon, this was earth-shattering.

Tammy gave me a sympathetic smile. "Look, you have trainer brain and I don't. That's why I brought you Cisco."

"Trainer brain?" I was confused.

"Yeah, trainer brain. You're fascinated by why a horse does stuff and want to figure it out. I'm not. I like to ride and I like good horses. So, if you fix him, I'll be happy, and as long as you don't hurt him, I don't really care how it gets done."

Now there was a surprise. I had never heard that one before. Tammy was a kick ass rider and really loved her horses. I had assumed she wanted to know this stuff. I put the thought away until later.

One thing was clear though. Tammy had enough sense to get help for her horse. She knew it wasn't Cisco's fault he acted like a butthead, she had confidence in me to sort him out and I knew she would listen if she was creating his problems. It was a lesson I never forgot. If a problem is bigger than me, I get help from someone who knows more than I do. As far as I'm concerned, a trainer who won't get help when it's needed isn't really a trainer, he or she is a control freak.

So let's fast forward about ten years. I'm retired from the horse biz, but I'm still training my own horses and I have  been lucky enough to have my big, goofy dog, Brockle, enter my life. Boy howdy, does Brockle need training.

Dogs are so tangled in my life I'm not sure where I stop and the dogs begin. I was a weird little kid, living somewhere between the real and imaginary world. I liked my pretend world much better, which makes for a lonely existence. Dogs fit right in. Dogs will run and play with you wherever your head is at. My dogs were my friends, my brothers and sisters, my cohorts in crime.

It's funny, my trainer brain didn't ever kick in with my dogs. We just hung out. I loved watching my dad work with our hunting dog, Jud, but all I ever taught him was to stand on his hind legs when I shouted "Hi Ho Silver!"

My personal dogs were trained, but I didn't actually train them, if that makes sense. We just adapted to each other's needs and a mutual desire to stay out of the pound.

Then along came Brockle. He's a mystery mix, supposedly GSD and collie. Now it's starting to look like he's collie and border collie, with something kind of spicy thrown in. He's 27 inches at the shoulder, but only weighs 50 pounds or so. His fluffy, white, ticked with orange coat is fine, silky, and easily matted. He has giant ears, a great big head and a really long nose. He looks me straight in the eye and busts his butt trying to understand every word I say.

Brockle came with a few aggression issues, severe separation anxiety and a mischievous streak a mile wide. He is an overachiever and then some, out thinks me most days and is incredibly macho.
In very short order I knew Brockle and I needed help. I just needed to figure out what kind of help.

There's a big difference between riding lessons with the local dude string wrangler and private lessons with a working cow horse trainer. It was definitely in my favor that I already knew this. There's not anything wrong with group lessons at Petsmart, but I highly suspect Brockle and I would be miserable failures at a class like this. We would be thrown out with a dishonorable discharge and a Pomeranian dangling from my boy's jaws.

I asked the dog folks who read this blog some questions, irritated a few, but heard everybody, then wandered off and started watching videos. Yes, I watched them all. I watched lots of Cesar and Victoria, got tired of them, and moved on to some of the trainers recommended by you guys. I started reading books on dog psychology, dog's relationship with humans, the power of doggy love and so forth. Boy howdy, there's a bunch of opinions out there.

I came up with a few goals. I wanted to learn more about this positive reinforcement deal. I couldn't however, go with total positive training. For me, there has to be understood consequence between me and the critters I'm working with, we might be best friends, we might be companions, but I am the boss. Period.

I can't stand kids raised with only positive reinforcement. The ones I know have grown up to be unhappy, self-serving adults. Many are under achievers, and spend an awful lot of time waiting for someone to treat them the way they know (think) they deserve. I get that dogs aren't children, but I still want them to be accepted members of society.

My other goal was to find a job for Brockle. My ranch dogs were always the better for having a job beyond being a good house pet. I had a feeling Brockle would need steady employment or he would create his own. Like becoming a one-dog fighting ring, or a house renovator, a backyard excavator, a survivalist with a shotgun and land mines...

I watched a few dog/owner activities, both on line and in person. First off I looked at Agility, which I think Brockle would love. There's a little to much wild enthusiasm involved for my taste though and there was a heavy smell of politics in the air.

Dog dancing? Can't do it, I'd be worrying to much about my fat poking out of my sequined T-shirt to stay focused.

Sheep herding. Yeah baby, I could do that, Brockle would really get into it...but it takes sheep.

Cattle work, same problem, different critter, and if I have cattle to work, well, I'm going cutting, sorry Brockle.

Then I watched a Schutzund video. A little too military for my taste, but there are three, count'em three, events to train for. It appealed to me the same way cowhorse does. Training involves creating a well rounded animal, the finished product is a dog who knows his job, fits in wherever he lands and is a safe and reliable family member.

I also remembered a brief e-mail conversation I had with a local dog trainer and columnist, Jim Beinlich, for our newspaper. He had written a column about some clients who had come to him for help with their pitbull. The dog had started out by refusing to come for a treat when she was busy barking at a knock on the door. This had escalated into the dog trying to eat her way out the door and kill anybody who tried to enter the house. She was now snapping at her owners when they tried to drag her away.
The owners had been insistent that Jim use only positive reinforcement methods with their dog. He explained he would have used these methods if they hadn't screwed up the dog so bad she was in danger of being destroyed. Now she needed some negative along with the positive. I don't remember how it all shook out, but the point of the column was to get professional help before you create a sociopathic killer, not after, and to think long and hard about dictating your own approach to a pro, especially when it doesn't work. I became a fan.

I remembered he was funny, a little sarcastic and to the point. So I looked him up. He is the owner of Cool K9's Dog Training (look them up on facebook).
Jim, and his wife Bianca, are dog loving, Schutzhund training, obsessively hard working folk. Plus, Jim is a heavy metal musician, band and all, thus the blog name HMT (heavy metal trainer). I had a feeling I had found my trainer.

Dogs who work with HMT are like this.

Then they're like this...

Then back to this, within minutes

Turns out Brockle and I had met our guy. HMT knew my dog's name from day one, I'm not sure he knows mine yet. HMT's teaching approach is a lot like the Big K's, he works with Brockle, I watch, then practice a bit, ask a few questions, usually from the week before and then we go home and practice on our own.

It pays to watch him closely. HMT has a beautiful feel that I envy. I recognize it, because I have the same handle with horses. It takes years, desire and some natural ability to get that feel, lucky Brockle, jealous me. It makes me practice and observe though, I want the same timing, the same soft touch.

HMT makes training FUN, FUN, FUN! It's all a game, and my reserved, somewhat shy dog comes blowing out of his shell and launches into work. He can't resist HMT's wild enthusiasm and gets completely caught up in the game.

Not only that, but I'm completely caught up in it. I want to learn how to train my dog, I am intrigued with the concept and challenges of Schutzhund and am doing my homework like a crazy person.

The Big K taught me well  and I think HMT appreciates it. I promised him no more videos, no reading up on different training approaches, I'm learning from Cool K9's Dog Training and won't muddy up the picture with other dog trainers advice.

It isn't hard to do. I am seeing incredible improvements in Brockle's behavior and our communication. He was so intent during our bite practice he completely blew off the dogs in the dog park so we could play fetch, tug and out. When I threw his stick too far and it hit the opposite bank of Fountain Creek, Brockle tasted the water, sniffed the air and eventually criss-crossed the bank, nose to the ground, until he found it. Pretty huge for a dog who a few short weeks ago only used his eyes to find things. He's riding with me and the horses, off-leash and ignoring hikers, dogs and wild turkeys. All of this comes from HMT and the games he has taught us.

My trainer brain is very happy. This dog thing is pretty awesome. I'm not 100% sure, but I have a feeling it had to do with being willing to go to a pro when I saw I needed help. Finding the right one didn't hurt either.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Clinic's Coming!


                Tim and I are still trying to fill a few more slots for our July 26,27,28 clinic.

Check out the saddles on these cowboys! OK, so these folks are on the moors of England,
you catch my drift.

This is a great chance to work with your horse using the theories and principles you have read about on the Mugwump Chronicles for the last five years.

       We've got cattle to work, and cowhorse to learn, but there's so much more behind it. 

Get along, little dogies.

First of all, find out if Mugs can actually stick a horse! Is Madonna real or a carousel pony off a Kmart dime ride? How short is Odin, really? How many minutes does it take for Mugs to get 
"The Look" from the Big K?

What do I think about when I'm cutting? AHHHHHHHHH!

Problems like jigging, head tossing, pulling through the bit, hauling butt down the road like your pony's tail is on fire, all of these issues are connected and correctable. Mugs will walk you through these, no problem.

Dead heads, unresponsive, dull to the bit and heel -- back to Mugs again -- we'll get your horse tuned in and listening. 

Scared? Let's work on courage. No bullying, just quiet, simple techniques to build up your confidence.

These horses are working cattle. Really. You can see how worried it makes them.

Big K will be there to get you started on cattle. He can get you tracking your first cow or out of the herd. He'll cover the finer points of reined cowhorse. Learn about the dry work and going down the fence. For those who have been there done that, be prepared for some fine tuning. Clean up those spins and changes, get a loooonnnnger slide, snap through those turns down the fence.

Here Kitty, Kitty!

This is going to be a great opportunity, beyond the beautiful scenery, trail ride, Bar-B-Que and goofing. It's a unique chance to improve your horse and yourself, no matter what your personal discipline. Tim (Big K) and Janet (Mugs) spent enough years riding and working together to be able to work off each other's strengths, and through our weaknesses. Come have fun and let us do the same for you.

Come solve the mystery of why there are no pictures of Tim and Janet together!

Tuesday, July 2, 2013





It was a typical day at the house.

I had already been out with the sunrise, and had worked the dogs and the horses by 8 a.m.
Don't get me wrong, I am not all that ambitious, it's just that between the drought and the fires, early morning is the only time to get anything done outside.

Susy was puttering around the house, muttering to herself as she worked her way through our old dusty place. She's been a friend for 30 plus years, and lucky for me, is a home health aid too. When it came time for me to admit I couldn't keep up with the house and Jim 24/7, at least in a way that didn't leave our place looking like the oldest trailer in the junkiest trailer park in town, she was willing to take us on.

This leaves me with enough energy to ride, work dogs and write. In other words, a state that keeps me sane and using my fading reserves for what's important. Jim is happier too, he trusts our old friend, so is comfortable with her in the house. He enjoys her company and my healthier mind set.

At the same time, she brings her lab, Mandy, with her. When I'm babysitting the granddog, Dobby, it puts us at six dogs running around the house. I love it, but after a bit, Jim and Susie start looking a little bug-eyed.

Anyway, for the moment, all was peaceful at the house. I was at my computer, the dogs were sprawled out on whichever of the eight dog beds scattered around the house that appealed to them. Jim was following Susie around, offering her his never ending helpful input, and I was able to sink into my writing. I disappeared into a land of creekside trails and mystery, at least until the crazed cacophony of the whole pack in full song came crashing through.

Now what? Freaking dogs. I heard a panicked shrieking that didn't fit in with the rest of the choir--  like the old lady in church who thinks she sings way better than she actually does--a high pitched scream ending with a mad chatter.

It was a squirrel. Wait a minute, the dogs were all in the house. The squirrel singing soprano seemed only inches away. I hit save, put down the computer and looked around the corner. Except for the elderly and deaf Snocone and Dinah, who were still snoozing, the dogs were climbing over each other in a total frenzy. The fricking squirrel was in the house.

"What the hell is going on?" Susie hollered over the din.

"What?" Jim asked. "I can't hear you, the dogs are barking."

"There's a squirrel behind the book case." I yelled.

"What?" Jim yelled a little louder.

"You have a stinking squirrel?" Susie didn't look surprised, just exasperated.


"JANET HAS A SQUIRREL!" she hollered a Jim

"No I don't have a squirrel! It came from outside!"

"What? Did you say squirrel?"


 All our shouting made the dogs even more excited, their barking, snarling and bellowing was reaching new heights and the two with tails wagged them hard enough to stir up a breeze. Dinah stuck her head out from under her chair and Snocone mumbled in her sleep.

Susie waded through the pack and looked in the space behind between the bookcase and the wall.
"It's back here!" she called.

Ya think? I grabbed a broom and a cat carrier and headed on over. The dogs crawled all over Susie, trying to get at the shrieking critter. Jim came up behind me with a poker.

"What's the poker for?"

"Damn squirrel probably has rabies," he muttered. "Maybe plague, or hantavirus. He might have fleas!"

"And you wonder why we don't have a gun in the house," I said.



I kicked back the dogs and peeked at our intruder. He looked like he was wishing he had rethought his morning. I gave Susie the broom and tried to position the cat crate in an appealing, this will take you out of hell, kind of way.

She eased the broom down the wall. As soon as the squirrel felt the bristles, he spun around, shot up the broom, across Susie's arm, hit the wall and pushed off over the dogs heads.
It was Rocket J. Squirrel doing Mission Impossible.
Susie screeched and started cussing.
He raced around the house, the pack in hot pursuit, Susie ran behind them, waving her broom in the air, I followed with the carrier and Jim came behind me, poker at the ready.

Rocket J. buried himself in the closet. The dogs crowded in, shoes and office supplies began flying out. Susie whacked at the dogs, the squirrel came out over their backs and was gone. Dinah came halfway out from under her chair, her little nose quivering.

"Wait a minute," I said. "We are not going to catch that frigging squirrel, and Jim's right, we do have plague, hantavirus and rabies going around this year."

"Don't forget the fleas," he said. "If I had my gun I could take care of that squirrel."

"No guns," I said.



"Quit yelling at me!"

I kicked out every dog that wasn't Charlie or Dinah -- my long retired vermin control team. Charlie is still capable, but Dinah at 14, is deaf as a post and just about blind. Gotta work with what you've got though.

After a minute or two, Dinah decided the rest of the dogs weren't coming back and she emerged from her den. Charlie bounced around her, his stub tail was wagging like crazy. Dinah is gray and heavy with age, she's looks a lot like a footstool, but she stood square on her arthritic little legs and tested the air with her nose, then tasted it, just like the old days. She snuffled around until she found the squirrel hiding under the fish tank stand, then she left Charlie on guard and began to backtrack the trail

She followed her nose, lifting her head and carefully tasting the air every time she hit a spot where Rocket J. was either airborne or running across my counters. She ended up under the dining room table, snuffling and snorting the floor and trotting a small circle. Satisfied, she lay down and looked over to Charlie, ears on the alert and an excited glow in her cloudy eyes.


"What?" Jim asked.

"Not you, Susie!"

"What?" she asked.

"You might want to step out of the way, this might be gross."

Susie backed down the hall and covered her eyes.

Charlie was trotting back and forth in front of the fish tank, his excited whine told me the squirrel was still holed up.

I opened the screen door and a few more windows, just to give the poor varmint a fair shot and said,"Get the mousie (code word for kill anything moving), Charlie!"

He went nuts. Barking whining, scratching, he tried his best to jam himself under the fish tank.

Rocket J. trilled back, then fell to cussing him as only a squirrel can.

Right when I thought I'd have to get the broom and help my dog, the squirrel came blasting out and made a run for it.

Charlie was right on his heels, his little yelps rolling steady as he called the chase, the dogs locked outside started barking and howling. Jim was running around the house, waving the poker and yelling,"Where is it? Where is it?" Man, my neighbors must just love us.

The squirrel ran over the couch, jumped to a bench against the wall and tried to scramble to the ceiling. Charlie had his nose on Rocket J's tail and sent couch cushions flying, knocked a stack of books off the bench and scrabbled some long scratched in the paint as he tried to follow up to the ceiling.

The squirrel hit the floor running, shot through the kitchen and landed in the water bowl. Water splashed across the tile and Charlies feet shot out from under him as he came around the corner. His legs spun like a paddle wheel until he was up and running again, but his wavery little howl never skipped a beat. The squirrel tore into the family room and under the dining room table. There lay Dinah, her gray head on her paws and an intent shine behind her clouded eyes.

SNAP!!! She had him, and one hard shake spelled out the end of Rocket J. Squirrel.

She paraded around with her prize for a bit, just wiggling with joy. Charlie jumped around her pulling at the squirrels fuzzy tail, but not hard enough to take it from her.

"How did she know where to go?" Susie asked.

"What?" Jim  said.

"HOW DID SHE...oh never mind," she said.

"When Dinah and Charlie used to hunt rabbit, ground squirrels, prairie dogs and the like, they would spend a couple days just chasing them. Eventually, Dinah would figure out where they holed up when they went to ground and lay there waiting. Once the critter appeared Charlie would run it. Most of the time the animal of the day ran a big circle and back to it's hole. Dinah would be waiting, and well, you saw the result.
   "I'm guessing the open window over the table is where the squirrel came in."

Dinah dropped Rocket J. at my feet and I gave both dogs a cookie, the same trade we had made hundreds of times over the years.

"Good dogs!" I told them. They grinned back.

"What?" Jim asked.