Load ‘Em Up, Move ‘Em Out

A couple of weeks ago Richard and I went down to the farm on a Sunday for a marathon day. Our goals were ambitious:

1. Catch riding horses, tack them up and trailer them over to the field that (hopefully) houses the Team Sorters (shock of shocks– they’ve been escaping recently!).

FYI: Team Sorting is a cowboy game we play every Friday at the ranch– it involves moving 10 Highland cows, numbered 1 – 10, from one end of the arena to the other in numerical order in under 4 minutes. It should be noted that teams are frequently unsuccessful, but everyone enjoys trying!

2. Assuming we find the Team Sorters, move them from their pasture by the trout pond through a lush alfalfa field to a pen.

3. Load the Team Sorters in the trailer with plans to take them to the ranch later on in the day.

4. Catch 30 horses, most of them quite young.

5. Convince the young horses that the Semi into which we want to load them really isn’t that scary.

6. Load said young horses into the Semi.

7. Caravan up to the ranch (Richard driving the Semi, I following him with the trailer full of cows). Now when I say “Caravan”, I really mean an actual caravan. You see, our ancient, Volvo semi-truck, indefatigable though he is, does not have the most powerful of engines, and a trailer load of 30 horses is objectively a heavy load. These two realities make for a very slow journey up to the ranch. On the 65 mph highway we average about 45 mph, though we struggle up hills, sometimes wheezing to the top around 25 mph. Even though the highway is not highly trafficked, it is two-lane with limited passing areas, so we manage to acquire quite the line of cars behind us…we look kind of like an odd funeral procession: Richard in a comically large white hearse, crawling down the road with a respectful group of mourners snaking behind. Occasionally, a bold (or desperate) person dashes around the group, passing Richard, inspiring others to do the same, and our caravan disperses.

8. Arrive at the ranch with time to de-worm the horses, set them loose and shower before dinner.

We chose our mounts for the day based on who Tyson, our farrier, had shod. Richard chose Gannet, or as the wranglers call him, Purple, or as Jim calls him, The Grape Ape (either way, you get the picture: he’s a giant, purple beast of a horse!):

I chose Cruiser, a handsome and delightful Quarter horse I had never ridden:

And Bob chose Dandy, a Mustang who belongs to Alex, the former ranch chef who now lives in Wales. Bob has a hilarious habit of calling horses exclusively by their owner’s names, mainly because he has trouble remembering horse names. So, when I asked him who he was riding this morning, he told me, “I think I’ll put my spurs on and go ride Alex.” Gotta love Bob. We also have two horses that belong to Tracy, the former instructor and head wrangler at the ranch, so he calls them both Tracy (Tracy 1 and Tracy 2). We bought an Arab named Farana from a guy named Duward 20 years ago, and he still calls Farana, “Duward”. In fact the only horses we own who have non-human names in Bob’s world are Nevada, a gigantic white Percheron– Bob calls him Tank– Caballero, a Thoroughbred-Andalusian stallion and Bob’s nemesis– Bob calls him Big Grey Stud– Rose and Ruby, two stout Belgian-Morgan sisters– Bob calls them The Wagon Team– and Bucket, a bay Quarter horse gelding with bright blue eyes– Bob calls him Bucket. How and why Bob knows Bucket’s name is one of life’s great mysteries! Here Bob is on Dandy, AKA Alex:

Our band of three set off into the field, but there were no Highlands in sight:

We headed for the pond, and sure enough, we saw a few Highlands on the far side (you would have to have eagle eyes to see them in this picture, but I swear, they were there!):

I, ever the optimist, said, “I bet they are all over there, hiding in the Russian Olive trees.” Bob, ever the pessimist, informed me that there was no way they would all be over there and started grumbling about how he just knew we had cows loose on the neighbor’s place. For once, optimism prevailed! We found all ten Team Sorters by the pond:

And herded them up the fence line:

Until we reached a place so covered by thorny Russian Olive trees that we could not pass….Here Richard and Bob assess the impasse:

And Richard dismounted to saw off the felled trees and overhanging branches– what a trailblazer I married!

We crossed the thorny spot (pun intended!):

And herded the Team Sorters through the alfalfa field (more like ONTO the alfalfa field…getting them off was much harder!). Here they are eating alfalfa and generally ignoring us completely:

At this point, the photographs stop because the cows were going in all directions, eating our precious alfalfa. Bob started cursing, Relaxed Richard became Stern Richard (both because the cows weren’t moving and Gannet kept lunging for a bite of alfalfa every third step), and Photographer Hadley had to put away her phone and turn into Cowgirl Hadley. A few curse words and a lot of laughter later, we had the cows out of the alfalfa field and headed for the pen.

After moving the two pairs to their new pasture (with Garnet!), we loaded the Team Sorters onto the trailer and drove back to headquarters to begin the second phase of the day: Loading Young Horses. Here is our gigantic, Volvo semi-truck, a daunting creature by any standards, but especially to the mind of the young horse:

We had some dicey moments (young horses refusing to get on the trailer, but later being willing) and some down right terrifying moments (Richard getting run over by four horses), but in the end, all the horses were on the trailer, and all humans were still alive and walking. Here is Rabba Rasara, looking cute in the Volvo’s trailer:

With all the horses on the trailer, Richard loaded Gupta into the cab of the Volvo (she likes to sleep in the queen size bed we have in the cab!), I loaded Whistle into Robert RedFord (she likes air conditioning!), and we started to putter back to the ranch.

Did we make it to the ranch? Yes. In time to de-worm the horses and shower? Barely. Did we both age 10 years during the journey because we had a sheriff following us most of the way, who seemed quite displeased by our tortoise-like pace? YES. Richard and I are both terrified of him getting pulled over in the Volvo for a few reasons…namely, there are many gauges in the Volvo that don’t work, and we don’t want to suffer the penalty. Also, it would not be ideal for a trailer load of horses to be stopped on the side of the road, while an angry sheriff took his time inspecting the truck. The horses could easily get injured. Did I consider doing something drastic on the drive to make the sheriff pull me over rather than Richard? ABSOLUTELY. (My best idea was to put on my hazards, swerve a little, pull over to the side of the road and then fake an acute pain in the abdomen when he pulled over to see what was wrong…Pretty good, right?!) Rather than enacting my plan (I was envisioning ambulances, EMTs and hospital bills!), I just kept my fingers crossed and stayed as close to the Volvo as possible, making it impossible for the sheriff to get between the two of us. Eventually the sheriff passed us, and I swear I could hear Richard sighing with relief from the cab of the Volvo! With tired smiles and stiff bodies, we unloaded the horses and cows, showered, changed our de-wormer-covered clothes and walked in just in time for cocktails. It was a good time for a glass of wine!