I have decided that until I have a few things working a bit better in the leading and driving department, and maybe in the riding department, I am going to saddle Mercy over at the barn/arena area. It worked MUCH better this morning. I saddled her and then put her on the high line for a while. She pawed a bit, so she may end up there a bit more this week. Maybe even for a whole afternoon one of the next couple of days. I did lead-bys over a tarp and it was pretty wild for a bit, but getting MUCH better in general. Buck worked with this guy Jerry’s horse on the ground and it was VERY wild for a bit. I can only guess that if he takes a hold of Mercy’s lead rope that it will be similar. Maybe not 100% the same because I have got a few things going finally, but the braces and behaviors seem very similar to that mare of Jerry’s. He didn’t flag them as a herd this morning. He had us put snaffles on and get on and ride. Twenty-five one-rein stops on each side. Mercy weighs like a TON of bricks and more leg helps a little to get her head around, but my shoulders will be sore in the morning. Once we all got those stops and lots of walk-trot transitions done he took up outside to ride in the “meadow” pasture above the barn. We rode out there doing many of the same things and also added in hindquarters and front quarters. He had a few folks go up and gather the cattle from the upper pasture and we brought them through the meadow into the paddock along the arena for use in the afternoon class. Once the cattle were put away we worked a little on a soft feel and backing with town reins and then we were done. We rode back to the arena and put the horses away. Overall, Mercy is still pretty stuck and bracey. The ton of bricks on the mouth and dullness to the leg are slowly, VERY slowly, getting better, but she is so completely not what I am used to with Ariel (who wasn’t connected to her feet) and Buena, who is lighter, but even so a bit duller than she should be because I have made her that way.
Not only will I be sore from bringing Mercy’s head around, but I will be sore from swinging my rope! The cattle were brought into the arena to practice throwing shots on. No dry work on cattle (meaning no cutting or rodearing). Since I had not swung my rope from Buena, I checked with Buck at lunch about the game plan I had in mind. I basically decided that I would work on swinging and throwing my rope from the fence. He said that would be fine and that as soon as I was able, to get on and ride and get some shots thrown. I honestly didn’t think I would get there in one day. For about the first hour I sat on the top of the arena fence working on desensitizing Buena to the rope on her neck and ears and tossing my rope down on the ground. She got pretty darn sweaty for most of it. At first she couldn’t stay sidled up to me on that fence, but once she did stay, I was able to get my hands on her and rub her when she’d cock her ear at the rope coming up towards her shoulder. A few times she’d get kinda bothered about the rope hitting her hindquarters and hind feet, but she eventually settled to that, too. Once she had almost got herself comfortable and dry, I moved to a different spot on a round pen panel when I could actually work on starting and stopping my swing, as well as making complete swings and throws. She got nice and dry finally and then I decided to put my snaffle on and actually ride. I hadn’t planned on even being able to make any shots on the cow that was tethered to the dead man cable in the arena, but within about a half hour, I was feeling MUCH better. Once or twice I did manage to get the rope stuck up under her tail. Buck saw the second one and he coached me through getting her to let it out of her tail. He told me to drop my loop and work on trotting her out in large circles until she relaxed and it fell out. She did fine. I hadn’t don it that way the first time, but it had all worked out. My horse was such a trooper with all those ropes flying around and me making REALLY bad shots at that cow. We’ll be doing more tomorrow. Tonight, my back is starting to stiffen up already. But Buena is content as can be for now.