Limited Quota Muley Tags in Western Wyoming

It has recently come to my attention that a number of people and groups are pushing for Western Wyoming mule deer hunting to change from a general area to limited quota for residents. This change would not benefit hunters state-wide, nor would it benefit the mule deer populations we need to protect.

A successful hunt with my dad. My first rifle buck… gross score 184 4/8″

Below is the letter I wrote the G&F Commission regarding the issue.

I am writing regarding the limited quota tag system that has been proposed for Western Wyoming. I do not support this proposal without substantial biological evidence needed to support such a drastic change.

Some hunters believe that after a hard winter, mule deer “need time to recover”. While the population in this area has dropped after an exceptionally brutal winter, limiting tags is not the answer. Mule deer are the answer. The species has survived Wyoming winters before, and they will do it again. If we really want to give the population a rest and “time to recover”, we must continue to hunt the bucks. This will provide additional space and more quality forage for fawns and does to multiply. Populations do not grow if only the elderly males are protected, as the limited quota advocates would have you believe. If the human race were dying out, we would not put our efforts into protecting all 95 year old men. We would pool our resources and ensure the females have adequate nutrition and are able to proliferate. The same applies to mule deer.

Biological evidence shows that buck to doe ratios as low as 9 bucks per 100 doe still result in very high fawn conception rates (around 97%). I had a conversation with a fellow hunter this week, and he was surprised by this data. He thought that buck numbers would need to be much higher to result in those high conception rates and actually quoted 25 bucks to 100 doe as his idea of “a good ratio”. I firmly believe that a large number of mule deer hunters are similarly unfamiliar with the true data, and like my friend, have made up a number in their head that seems logical, but in fact, is not supported by any biological evidence.

My friend did have a valid point, however. Last winter was brutal. History shows that the number one factor affecting population numbers is weather. Extreme winters and droughts can have a huge effect on mule deer numbers. Ideally, we could predict the upcoming weather and adjust hunt tags accordingly, but that luxury does not exist. Instead, some people would ask that we sacrifice buck tags. Unfortunately, this only leaves more bucks to weather the storm. There are more mouths to feed, and quality forage becomes harder to find for the bucks, but more importantly, for the does and fawns. Then, instead of a population increase, the only increase we see is in the number of winter kills. The good news is this: when the weather is right, mule deer populations can grow rapidly- regardless of buck tag numbers.

Additionally, I believe that the difficult terrain found in the Western Wyoming hunt areas is limiting enough all on its own. Anyone that has hunted these areas can attest to the demanding nature of the hunt, and those that have not hunted the western ranges will likely say that the difficulty level has been a key factor in preventing their hunts from venturing further west. Yes, there are difficult areas in other parts of the state as well, but Western Wyoming is in a league of its own.

Those claiming that a limited quota system will improve hunt quality have seemingly never hunted a limited quota area before. Two years ago, I had the luxury of drawing Area 128 (late season Dubois). With only 50 resident tags allotted, it is often a once in a lifetime hunt. The year I drew, I had a 2% chance of drawing that tag. Now, one might think that with less tags, there would be less people, but that was certainly not the case. I, for one, took three people with me to hunt, and a number of my friends that live in the area went out scouting for me. My one tag alone resulted in six people in the area. I personally know a number of other recipients of this tag, and every one of them has taken a number of friends and family along for the ride. Even if the 50 tag holders only bring three friends each, we now have 200 people out in the field, and that does not even include the non-residents!

In contrast, I have never hunted a general mule deer tag with more than my dad at my side. I have done the scouting with him or on my own. I have hunted on my own, and I have killed a deer all on my own. I would never have dreamed for my dad to miss my 128 adventure, and he wouldn’t have been absent for the world. When a person has to wait extended periods of time- or even a lifetime, to draw a tag, I can guarantee they will take that tag more seriously than they otherwise would have. They will hunt it harder. They will hunt it longer, and they will take an army along with them to do it.

Personally, I am much more satisfied with a general area hunt where I can be alone with my dad and spend the day scouting for the perfect buck. I do not want to see 200 other people in my hunt area every time I go out. I do support public land, and I know how to share, but when tag numbers plummet, and people numbers skyrocket, I do get a bit of a rash. There are a number of serious hunters that live for the challenge of a Western Wyoming mule deer hunt. I do not want to push them out of that area because those same hunters will not relent. You will not save a mule deer’s life by limiting those tags. Those same hunters will join the rest of the state and further crowd the remaining general hunt areas. Just because hunt licenses disappear, it does not mean that hunters do. Limiting tag numbers results in crowded limited tag areas and crowded general hunt areas. This is hardly a cause to celebrate.

In closing, please do not convert the resident mule deer hunt areas to a limited quota system. If, at any point, the biological evidence shows that there is a benefit to limited quota areas, I will be right there supporting it. However, at this time, all evidence points in the opposite direction. Limiting tag numbers does not help mule deer populations. Hunting a Western Wyoming mule deer is a privilege and should not be thrown away without strong science to support that decision. For those concerned with mule deer populations, please take the time to research mule deer habitat, and what we can do to support it. Evidence shows that mule deer will boom in the right habitat- not in a world with imaginary “perfect tag numbers”. 

Thank you for your consideration,

Shallary Guymon

So You Want To Ride Better?

I could write an entire novel on the frustrations of riders that claim they want to get better, but never actually take the initiative to help themselves. But I won’t. Instead, I’ll limit myself to one post.

(For now.)

*Clears throat and steps up onto soapbox*

Suppose a person has a horse that they have deemed as “difficult”. Now I understand that difficult can mean something entirely different to every person reading this, but what I don’t understand, is that if you, and maybe only one or two other people think your horse is difficult, but the REST OF THE WORLD thinks he isn’t… who do we think is probably right? Do we think that three horse people are right, or that maybe 596 horse people are right?

Perhaps you are over-horsed or perhaps you have had a few rough patches with your riding. That’s understandable. We all have those days, and we have all sat on a horse and thought, “I should have never bought this.” But just because the going is uphill, it does not mean your horse is a bad horse or that you are a bad rider. It just means you have things to work on.

So your horse goes on the bit. He goes forward (when you let him). He can take a joke over jumps, and even if you catch him in the mouth and pull on him for let’s say, FIVE YEARS, the horse still wants to jump. He hunts his fences, and if you pull on him, he takes you to the fence by his mouth. No matter what weirdness you are doing up there as a rider, he always does his job. This is what we call a saint, people. Your horse is a freakin’ SAINT!

You do take lessons occasionally, but to no avail. It seems that your bad habits are here to stay, and generally speaking, no progress is to be found. At the end of the day, you feel like you’re letting your horse down. (May I take this time to remind you: your horse has no goals.) So now, you are at your wit’s end and have decided it’s time to sell him. You want him to be used to his full potential. But it’s heartbreaking because you love him, and you desperately want it to work.

So you take him off the market (for the third time this month). You reach out to the horse people in your circle and your extended circles. You have this great speech about how you really want to learn to ride your horse, and you think he is really great. You have no good help with him near your house, your family doesn’t support you, and since money doesn’t grow on trees, you can not afford to send him into training* and can’t even travel to get regular lessons.

*(Even though you were offered a seriously discounted price for someone competent to put some rides on him.)

BUT WAIT!

By the grace of God, a friend of a friend has noticed you! She wants to help you! Praise Jesus! Here is the answer you have been looking for! She has a ton of experience with training baby horses from the ground up. She is a great instructor. She knows all the steps. She can help you become that confident rider you have been wishing you could be. AND SHE HAS OFFERED TO DO IT FOR FREE!?

Holy crap! Did she say free?!

Why yes. Yes, I did. The friend of a friend has decided that your horse is a rockstar, and with a little of her help, you could finally be on the same page as your horse. You could be the rider that allows the horse to go forward. You would even allow him to jump! The horse would be so relieved to not have to drag you over the fences by his mouth anymore, that he would jump everything perfectly and fulfill your every dream! (Or something like that. You at least wouldn’t be at wit’s end every other week.)

BUT NO.

You tell her no! (Gasp in horror!)

You do not actually want help. Apparently.

What you want is attention. It is much easier to sit behind your keyboard and complain about your saintly horse on social media. You continue to list him for sale any time you are feeling emotionally unstable and need some coddling, then proceed to take him off the market as soon as your mood passes. The pile of excuses continues to grow. When a solution is offered, it is promptly ignored, because you don’t actually want a solution.

Insanity!! That’s what it is. Are you reading this and wondering what on earth this person is thinking?! So am I. So is the friend of a friend. This seriously hurts my brain.

The plea for help has to stop. You either want help or you don’t. If you really just want to go trail riding and jump 8″ crossrails on Sundays, then so be it! Your horse does not care. And nobody else does either!

In grade school, we had to stay in from recess one day, because a little girl was feeling left out. We told the teacher that we had tried to include her a number of times, and she never wanted to play with us. So, after awhile, we just stopped inviting her. So, our teacher told us we had to keep inviting her, but that it was the girl’s responsibility to accept the invite and to try to make friends too. The teacher’s instructions to the little girl were this: “Don’t sit out and pout”.

The same goes for those of us in the horse world. I know that motivation comes and goes. Trust me, I know. I sometimes go weeks at a time without so much as lifting a single curry comb, let alone looking at a bridle. But you know what? The motivation comes back. I go take another lesson. I cram in 15 rides on my long weekend and proceed to walk like a penguin for a week. But guess what? I get better because of it. No, I’m probably not progressing as fast as I could, but at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter. I have goals, and I’m working toward them despite all my own excuses.

Money is a problem for me too, and as you all know, Christian has pre-inherited my firstborn child, because I will likely never be able to pay her for all the lessons I have taken. But I don’t let money stop me. I went and got a second job. I take the free horses. I ride the dopey Thoroughbred, who, even though she’s 12, is just figuring out she has four legs.

I luff my dopey stick horse. Just look at that face! 💗

My parents come support me at some events, but if they can’t make it, I don’t tell a sad story about how I’m not supported. I’ve actually never once had a boyfriend come to a horse show with me, and guess what? I still go. He can support me from home, and send me the “Go fast!” text on cross country morning. That’s good enough for me. I don’t need somebody else to make me want my dream.

And I live in the boondocks too. You know how easy it is to lose motivation when you live in the boondocks? Its 90 minutes one way for a riding lesson around here. But I still go (when my truck isn’t sitting in the shop with its innards falling out.)

I don’t sit out and pout. And neither should you.

*Steps off soapbox*

Did this offend you? Good! You probably needed to hear it. <3

A Shallary Farm Update

There. I did it. I started riding again this week. I think I deserve a gold star. Seriously! Did you ride this week too? Gold star for you too, then. ⭐️

Sometimes, it is all I can do to muster up the energy to work two jobs and feed myself. Then I have to try to find the motivation to exercise five horses in 20° weather, on an overcast, breezy day, on a sheet of ice buried in a foot of snow. I mean, seriously. What’s not to love about that?! How could it possibly be hard to find the motivation?! But I did it, and that’s why I get a star. So there.

Of course, with some time off, the minis (Coco and Delilah) have gotten fat(ter), and the skinnies (Charlie Horse, Lottie, and Turbo)… have not. But they are maintaining their weight, which any Thoroughbred owner will tell you, is a win all on its own.

Now ask me how my legs are feeling today. Go ahead. I dare ya !

Jello. My legs are jello. And here’s why.

Coco is so thick, she literally looks like she’s pregnant with twins, which gives the ol’ inner thighs quite the stretch. We have just been doing some walk-trot-canter work and continuing to work her over her back and thinking of putting her front end downhill. Yeah. Downhill, dudes. You want to know what happens if you ask Coco to lighten her front end? It comes off the ground, and we are rearing. Rear-trotting. Rear-cantering. Doesn’t matter. She can do all three gaits without her front legs ever touching the ground. So, whatever you do, do NOT ask Coco to come up in front. It hurts the brain to think about that, doesn’t it? It basically goes against everything I was ever taught.

Christian has me ride Coco like she’s a water wheel. The energy is constantly recycled, and the back of the wheel comes up, the front of the wheel has to go down, and all of the energy is contained by leg and hand. It’s interesting; I had read about the energy being recycled and contained by the aids etc. in articles before, and had it explained in a number of different ways, but you don’t really get a solid appreciation for that feeling until you sit on something as well balanced and freakishly uphill as Coco. Now I get it. The front of the wheel must go down. Or we all die.

Also, Coco has been jumping the jumps in the field in her spare time. Two separate days now, I have witnessed her running around with the herd and jumping the jumps. The others usually run at the jumps but veer around them at the last second. Coco always jumps them. Because why not? She’s Coco.

Then there’s Turbo. I’ve been letting him be a bit lazy during rides because he’s not had any sort of real work in… ever. Probably never in his life, if the truth were told. So, we would do some work then let him recover and eat cookies. However, now he thinks it’s really fun to just walk whenever he wants and flail his head side to side in search of cookies. He requires much convincing with the leg to keep the forward happening. Turbo is perpetually exhausted. (We have that in common.) He says it’s really hard to stand around and eat all day. It really wears him out. Sadly for him, I recently decided it’s time for him to start being a real horse and started carrying a stick. The stick seems to help. I think Turbo is still rather perplexed at his new life.

Oh, also! He spent the night in a stall, which was super adorable. Pretty sure he had never done that before. I was leading him into the stall, and he stepped on the stall mat, which made a weird sound. Gasp! Turbo freezes. He looks around like- what should I do?! He slowwwwly backs his foot off the mat. I show him his alfalfa inside the stall, which he can’t resist. He takes this HUGE, tippy-toe, slow motion step over the width of the mat, and buries his head in his food. Phew! We about had an actual crisis on our hands. Those wild Thoroughbreds…

The most innocent face 😍

Then there’s the rest of the loons. They require a decent amount of leg-seatbelt to not get launched to the next county, which of course, makes my legs even more jello-ey.

Dilly Bean has just been exuberant lately, and I have to remind her that the human is indeed allowed to half halt, and her neck does not need to be 3″ long after said half halt. I should buy a neck extension for the red one. And only ride her in molasses. Solid training plan. A+.

Charlie Horse is jumping allllll the things, AND his stupid human has finally realized it’s okay to help him. I owe Delilah and Coco big time. If you don’t tell them what speed to get to the jump, we jump everything like it’s a steeplechase fence. I think my brain is finally putting it all together and has realized that I can help manage all of the horses- even the babies. (I realize they’re not actually babies anymore, but they have baby-sized eventing records and baby brains, so they get to be “the babies” until I say so.)

Yesterday, I made the mistake of setting fences after I caught Charlie, so he had to go around with me (because we still can’t tie the beast without him trying to kill himself). Every time one of the jumps moved or made a sound, he was getting more and more worried. Really, Charles? He gets this worried look in his eye, and his brain goes 9.0 trying to escape the trap I’ve set, which of course is not a trap at all.

So I led him over all the jumps at a walk. (18″! Biggest jumps he has jumped in over a year! Progress is being made.) He stepped over all of them, but still looked a bit worried. So I tacked him up and fed him lots of cookies. Back in the field, he was still looking at the jumps out of the corner of his eye like they were not to be trusted. I told him, “Fine. You don’t have to jump them today. You can do them tomorrow.” And with that agenda off my plate, he returned to normal horse. He was like, “OHHHH. So we get to do dressage today?!😃”

Sure, Charlie. Whatever. I don’t really care. It’s January. We literally have nowhere to be. His attitude was content again, so I thought he should at least do the three walk poles and step over the pile of poles. He walks up to them and stops. He says he can’t do it. He turns to look for a cookie. I pat him between the ears. He whips his head around the other direction. I pat him between the ears again. Still no cookies to be found. Charlie goes through the thought process and decides maybe he should try stepping over the pile of poles. So he does, and then brings his head around again to see if that was the right answer. Good, Boyfriend. 🍪 He is then all proud of himself, and proceeds to canter all the jumps and be ultra civilized. What a weird beast.

Lastly, Lottie jumped all the things too, but it’s not nearly as exciting, because she always jumps the things. What IS exciting, is that there was less flailing around, more listening, and actual good flatwork between jumps. A little heavy in the hand, but we are working on that. Better all the time. The stick-horse likes to jump. And she also likes her new barefoot life. This is her first winter without shoes. Happy wallet, happy horse, happy Shallary.

And with that update done, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go torture some ponies.

Horseback Games

A Coonhound, a Runaway, and Old Man Winter

It sure was cold over Christmas. We had a few days of subzero temperatures and two days of heavy frost. I must say, if it has to be crummy weather, it at least makes it somewhat more tolerable when the snow does fun stuff at night. It makes waking up to -19° just a little bit better when you walk to the barn and have a photoshoot at your fingertips. And without further ado, a frosty morning:

The Great Horned Owls are back, but nobody was home- or they were protesting the weather out of sight. Probably wise.
This is what I see from my couch every morning while drinking tea. It could be worse.

Oh, also. My aunt and uncle got me those signs you see on the barn door. One says “My barn, my rules” – which is accurate. The other says “Barn goddess parking only”- also accurate.

The life of an equestrian in Wyoming winter, summed up in one picture.

The ponies were super frosty too, but still looked cozy in all their fur.

Coco Chanel models her new leggings.
Dilly Bean has really pretty, long lashes.

So that was the adventure to the barn to feed the ponies. It was too cold to ride, but at least it was pretty!

Later, Jared and I thought we should take Prune on a walk. He came to pick us up, and apparently Todd decided that today was the day that he was laying down the law. He saw us getting ready to leave, climbed the chain link fence of his 8′ kennel and weaseled his way through the 5″ hole between the gate and the kennel roof. He ran over to the truck as fast as he could and had jumped into the back of the truck before we could stop him. Then him and Prune just looked at us, daring us to tell Todd he could not come with us.

The score: Hound dogs-1, Humans-0.

So now we are taking both Prune and his runaway friend, Todd, on an adventure. We stopped at my parent’s house to try to take pictures of their creek, but the lighting was terrible, so we took the puppers to the river instead. Right off the bat, we found this:

Mountain kitty!

Since Prune is a failed lion hunter, I caught Todd and stuck his nose in the track. Nothin’. Not even a peep. Todd is rebelling in more ways than one today, apparently.

The river was feeling photogenic today. Pictures like this really make me love my home.
A close up of the icicles, and the river that refuses to be contained. Lately, I have felt this river running through me. It wants to sweep me away to a new adventure. We will see if I’m brave enough to let it.

Todd decided that all of the best smells are on the edge of the ice. And not the thick ice. Only the thin ice that overhangs the river, eagerly awaiting an unsuspecting hound dog as a sacrifice to the river gods.

We yelled at him. He ignored us.

Eventually, he decided to move on. Him and Prune did hound things while Jared and I watched the geese fly in the wrong direction. I have a new fascination with birds, but that’s a story for another time.

As we were leaving, we found more lion tracks going in the opposite direction. Todd still refused to admit he could smell anything. Sometimes, I guess, even hound dogs need a day off. <3

Beginner Lessons

When I first began teaching riding lessons, I had three students who had never been around horses. That was actually a blessing because they came with zero bad habits to break and no false information stored in their grey matter. It did, however, make the whole riding portion of the riding lessons rather small at first. We had to address everything from haltering and leading, to tying, brushing, and tacking up. That alone will take a new horse person 45 minutes, leaving them with just a small teaser of a ride at the end of the lesson.

As my lesson business grows, I find myself with more and more students who enter my program with a background in horses. This varies from having ridden at least a few times at So-and-so’s house to a few kids that had regular lessons elsewhere. As these new students start to ride with me, I am consistently surprised at the holes in their horse skills.

Now, none of them came to me claiming to be experts, and it is my job to find the areas in which they need help, which I happily do. I am also glad that I do not find myself at a loss of things to teach. So, I am in no way intending to pick on my students. They show up every week and work on whatever it is we have planned. I’m going to make an assumption that they had the same eager-to-learn attitudes in their previous lessons as well, which then makes me wonder what exactly these other instructors were having the kids work on.

Now, I do realize that there are many realms of the horse world out there. Maybe they were practicing for halter and showmanship. Maybe they were learning how to dress a small wound or wrap a swollen leg. Surely, there are valid reasons why the student that had over two years of lessons before coming to me, did not know how to halter or lead a horse. Surely, at least ONE of the students with a “horse background” would know the different names of the brushes or parts of the horse, and could tie a quick release knot. Surely at least a few of these kids, who say they have cantered, can also demonstrate mounted balancing exercises- at least at the walk.

But, oh no.

No they can not.

Like I said. I’m consistently surprised. Are you?!

Literally 2 out of 17 kids have shown up for their first lesson and already knew how to properly tie a horse. And they were sisters, so that likely means that one instructor taught the basics. ONE!

Now not all 17 had been around horses before, so obviously that data is a bit skewed. Regardless, I’m still thoroughly confused by the education, or lack thereof, that some kids are receiving. Did these instructors think they were doing the kids a favor by skipping half the steps?!

I want my kids to know everything from the ground up, and be self sufficient while they’re at it. They have to do every step, because I want them to know what riding horses is really about. It’s not fair to me, and it’s certainly not fair to my students, to have them show up and just climb on the pre-caught/groomed/tacked horse and canter around the rail. Great. Now we have kids roaming the countryside who can apparently canter, but don’t know the horse’s head from its… croup.

Some days, Sophie doesn’t want caught, and we have to wade through the mud (five times) to catch her. It then takes 23 minutes to remove the filth that she rolled in, and then we see that she has a fresh cut we should address. By the time we are ready to ride, we have gotten more than our fair share of exercise, they are covered in mud and horse hair, and before the kids know it, they have to hurry and leave, lest they be late for soccer practice. Such is life. If I had a nickel for every time I wanted to ride, but instead had to cold hose a leg, fill water troughs, and rush off to work, I would have enough money for at least two more horses. At least.

So, no. The kids in my program do not get to ride 60 minutes every Thursday. But what they do get is a realistic glimpse into the world of horses. They get cold. They get muddy. They leave the barn covered in horse hair. Not every kid is going to like it, and that is fine. I feel that I am doing them more of a service by letting them figure that out from the very beginning. The horse crazy kids stay, and the others don’t. And I’m okay with that, because I refuse to do it for them. All of my students that stay at the barn, eventually become functional horse people. They know how to do every step, and the better and more efficient they get, the more time they have to ride. They can do balance games and name parts of the horse. They know how to get the stubborn bridle buckle undone, and how to shove my paddock gate latch closed just right so that the horses are safely tucked away for the night. They understand that horses are a boat-load of work and not for sissies. The ones that are too short to reach things are rather handy with the upside down bucket stool, and even the six year old can do everything from catching Sophie (as long as we have head-lowering bribes for the silly white giraffe) to riding around an entire course of mini cross rails. At the walk. Because at my barn, the kids don’t just show up and canter, for I have nothing to prove.

My mom’s horse demonstrating a thorough mud bath.

Your turn! What are some of your favorite games and activities to have beginners play? Leave me some cool ideas in the comments, lest I become an old hag of an instructor that doesn’t remember how to have fun. Please and thanks!

Turbo Goes To School

12/30/17 Turbo is officially one of the easiest going horses I have ever had the privilege of riding. He is a super quick study and is learning stuff left and right. Look out world, here he comes! Right after he finishes breakfast.

Here’s a list of things Turbo has learned in a mere 11 days at the Shallary Farm:

1) How to wear a blanket and not scoot out from under it when I take it off of him as though he is under attack.

2A) How to wear English tack, and he looks super adorable wearing it, if I do say so myself.

2B) He learned that not everyone throws the tack at him in a heap. He used to duck his back down and away when I would put even the saddle pad on. Now he just sleeps while being clothed.*

*And he has not been cinchy a single time with me. Not once! Happily, he appreciates gentle girth tightening. And girths with elastic on them. And not having to wear a tourniquet.

3) How to use a mounting block and not look so confused when the human doesn’t have to clamber up his side to get in the saddle.

4) How to back up. At first we couldn’t even do this from the ground, and definitely not when riding. Halfway there! I don’t think anyone ever told him that backing was an option.

5) How to maneuver consecutive trot poles, and that they trip you if you forget to pick up your legs.

6) That we don’t always just canter one lap and then stop. (Racehorse, much?) Also, the human is allowed to steer while doing said cantering.

7) How to canter over a pile of poles.

8) How to trot three crossrails in a row. We have steering and trotting and thinking. All at once!

9) How to jump a vertical! With an actual jump effort! So cute.

10) How to jump a skinny. What can I say? Most of my jumps were salvaged from a burn pit, and the poles are all rather short.

11) How to have some resemblance of contact and softening to the bit. Although now he has learned that when he lowers his head, he’s a “good boy” and it’s getting a bit out of hand. Now I have to tell him to pick his head UP! Overachiever.

12) How to stand. Why do none of my ponies arrive with this skill? They all insist that they have somewhere to be AT ALL TIMES. Then I have to install Lazy 2.0. Luckily, it’s working. Although, yesterday I did burp while he was standing, which he thought was the cue to start walking. It wasn’t.

13) How to not flail his legs around when I pick them up. And I am proud to report: the farrier did all four feet today, no problem!

And last but not least…

14) Like any good horse, he has learned how to nicker and beg for cookies while we are riding… and pretty much anytime he sees me outside. I’ve become his walking cookie dispenser, and he says he likes that very much.🍪

Buying a Horse: Wyoming Style

We leave Bolt’s house, and I’m pretty excited about Turbo. I call Christian to reenact the last hour. She’s giggling profusely. We decide he seems like a nice boy (Turbo, not Bolt.) (Although, Bolt is nice too.) Christian wants to wait until she watches the videos to make a decision.

Jared kept us in suspense for a good three hours, battling with technology before they could finally be uploaded. So Christian watches them and decides I should buy him. And so I do.

I messaged Bolt to ask when I could pick up Turbo. He says 9 Tuesday morning. I tell him I can’t do 9, but I could do 9:05.

I get to Bolt’s house, and I can’t find a Bolt. There is no movement inside the house. There is no movement outside the house. There is a car idling outside, but I think it may have just been forgotten there overnight. His dog apparently didn’t remember me at all, because it won’t stop growling at me as I poke around the place.

After numerous times of knocking on the door, Bolt finally answers. He looks really sleepy. “WAKE UP!” I yell through the screen door. “Were you sleeping?!?!” I asked, bewildered. He says he was. I simply can not believe this. It’s 9:05 on a Tuesday morning!! Wake up, wake up!!!!! We have horses to catch, papers to sign, money to spend! The day’s a wastin’! Sheesh.

I tell him I am going to go catch Turbo, and I’ll meet him at my horse trailer. I remembered to bring my own halter, which I thought was good, otherwise we would have had to stuff him in the trailer with bailing twine. That is… if I could catch him.

Turbo took one look at me, decided he didn’t want any part of my lunacy that day, and hooves it to the other side of his field. At a slow walk. Like he knew he wasn’t supposed to do this, but as long as he didn’t actually “run away,” I couldn’t be mad. He made sure to stay a few too many steps ahead of me the whole time. I decide I’m not going to chase him. Turbo stops and looks at me, sad I have given up before the fun part.

Bolt arrives with grain. Turbo comes over and happily lets us catch him. Well that was dramatic. I notice Bolt smells like alcohol. Guess that “no alcohol” sign at his house was just a suggestion. We take Turbo to the trailer, and he debates whether or not he wants to go with me. Bolt gives him a tap on the rear. Turbo sighs and gets in. He’s so dramatic.

Now for the paperwork. Bolt has typed up a Bill of Sale, which I look over. He has the horse breed: Bay. He has the horse description: Dark bay. I took the liberty of crossing out and writing things on his Bill of Sale. For example, an actual breed under the breed category, and I added his leg scar and his star under the description. We sign it. Done deal. My brand inspector is scheduled for the next day to finish paperwork.

Right before she was suppose to arrive, I get a text: “Need to reschedule! I’m still shipping calves!” Of course she is. It’s Wyoming. So we reschedule and get her out here to do the papers. Apparently it’s all fancy now, and they print the paperwork on site. This sounds good in theory, but it’s 6° outside. That is not a typo. Six! So her computer and printers are malfunctioning, but they finally print. But my name is misspelled. So now that we are numb, we pick another fight with the computer. We lose. She says she will just print it for me at her house and bring it by in a few days.

It’s been a week. So I just sent her a message asking if it printed. She says: “Yes, and I was going to drop by your house today but the tractor wouldn’t start and the water tank broke so I’m just getting done with my chores.”

Sounds about right. Winter in Wyoming ain’t for weenies, that’s for sure. Hopefully I will have all of the paperwork in my possession before long. In the meantime, Turbo and I have been hard at work. Want to see everything he has learned so far? Then go here:

Turbo Goes To School

Trying A Horse: Wyoming Style

We all have them. Those friends that are very bad influences and try to get you to spend money when you both know you shouldn’t. They’re the same friends that know you already own six horses, when you can actually only afford about three, and they still insist on sending you horse ads. Just because. I mean, maybe I really do need seven horses. One never knows for sure…

So Christian sends me an ad. The horse is adorable. I know what you’re thinking. “Shallary, you think every horse is adorable.” Now that may or may not be true, but I don’t want to buy every horse. I’m rather disinterested in the horses that appear to be falling down a hill and are forever stuck in the downward dog yoga position. They’re cute enough, but I just don’t need to own one.

So now that I have clarified, the horse in the ad was obviously REALLY cute, or else I wouldn’t have wanted to try him out. Obviously. The ad says he is a 10 yr old Thoroughbred that has been used in the mountains to round up cows. Seems legit. I messaged the owner, Bolton* and asked if I could come try him out today or first thing tomorrow. (I mean, why wait?)

*Names have been changed to protect the innocent.

Bolt replies, “Sure, what time tomorrow?” I suggest 9:15 a.m. Bolt says he can’t do it at 9:15 and asks if I can come at 9:20 instead.

I said, “Sure. Also, I guess I should ask… is he lame?” Bolton assures me he has all four legs and is indeed sound. He got cut last year but it healed fine. I ask where. “Just a back leg,” Bolt says. Oh okay, just his back leg. Well that’s not really important or anything.

So Jared and I go out to Bolton’s first thing in the morning. On the way out, Jared told me he already knew I was going to buy the horse, unless it had something really wrong with it, like only three legs. I told him that if it has three legs, we should definitely buy it, because it would probably be pretty kid friendly.😃

It’s 19° when we arrive… so not too chilly. We pull in and see a sign that reads, “No alcohol or persons under the influence of alcohol allowed on the premises.” Phew! Good thing it was only 9:20 on a Sunday morning or else I might have been hammered!

Bolton comes out of the house with some bailing twine. We go to the field, and amongst the broken down cars, piles of cinder blocks, and piles of wood with nails in it, he catches the horse. Bolt informs me that he calls the horse Turbo. Turbo is a bit on the skinny side, is hairy as a yak, covered in a sheet of ice, and has his bottom lip hanging down. I think to myself, “Turbo doesn’t look very fast, but maybe Bolt knows somethin’ I don’t.”

I’ll admit I was expecting a halter to arrive on the scene at any moment, but Bolt just led him with the twine over to the round pen and started raking the ice off him with a metal curry. Turbo stands there, unimpressed. Bolt gets him de-iced while I feel Turbo’s legs. Nice and cold. The cut on his “just a back leg” seems fine. It did scar, but not in a bad spot. I suspect Turbo just uses it now as a conversation starter with the ladies. I asked Bolt if we could use his tack to ride since I only brought my helmet. Bolt disappears inside the house. He leaves the pasture gate wide open. His other horses look at it unenthusiastically. They aren’t stupid. There’s only more snow and ice in his yard. Why leave the field? I clip my helmet to the fence while we wait. Turbo checks it for treats. This is a good sign. I know how to train the ones that like cookies. I check Turbo’s lip. No tattoo from what I can tell. Of course, I couldn’t hold him overly still since he was still not wearing anything on his head and obviously not tied.

Bolt comes back with a western saddle that has seen a thing or two in its day. Now, I’m not a western saddle connoisseur or anything, but I’m fairly certain that the flappy part near the front where you tie things on… is not supposed to be hanging off the saddle with about 6 nails sticking out of it. Good motivation to keep my butt in the saddle at least.

Bolt gets the saddle on. Turbo is still just standing there, chillin’. Bolt says, “Just to tell you, he’s a bit cinchy,” and proceeds to nearly pull Turbo off his feet in the process of tightening the cinch. Turbo puts his ears back in alarm. Bolt tightens it some more. Turbo gasps for air. Bolt tightens it some more. I mean, I have never seen a cinch so tight before! It literally could have been used as a tourniquet if the need should arise. Bolt climbs on. Like- before I even knew what was happening!

Sometimes I’ll have a horse that seems a little cinchy or sore, so I do the rational thing and tighten the girth slowly and walk them around a bit before mounting. But not Bolt. He’s more of a manly man than me. So he climbs on, and tells me that Turbo used to do Indian relay races with his cousin, and he even did the one last year at the 4th of July rodeo. How exciting! A real live OTTB… sorta.

If you don’t know what Indian relay racing is, you should go here for an explanation and pictures: Relay Racing Championship

The purse is $50,000 for that championship. Apparently Turbo once won $800. So I was wrong. He’s basically like lightning. ⚡️Also, I found a bunch of fun relay race videos on Instagram. Just search #indianrelayrace and you will not be sorry you did.

Anyways, Bolt says he’s done “mostly hand work” with Turbo. I like to think I know a thing or two about horses, and I have never heard of “hand work.” Bolt shows me. In case you don’t know about hand work either, it’s like leg work, except all reins. Not to be confused with neck reining. Bolt has his hands wayyyyy up above Turbo’s ears, moving them alllll around, and shows me how well Turbo can turn. He trots him a few steps, and dismounts. I look at Bolt. “Ummm. You have to make him lope too. I refuse to die today.” Bolt laughs and says, “Well I like to have his head to lope,” and proceeds to put a training fork on him. Seems logical. Now we have minimal use of the reins. That should come in handy.

We leave the round pen. Bolt takes off trotting, turns Turbo 90° and asks him to lope. Turbo slips on some hidden ice under all the snow, catches himself, and lopes a few steps. Bolt dismounts.

Well, okay. This has not exactly been the demonstration I was hoping for, but I figured that if Bolt was still alive, Turbo must be a good boy. I asked Bolt what his cue to canter was. Bolt said, “just more kicking.” So I put on my brain bucket and walk-trot-cantered both ways. I even avoided collisions with the other horses, the rock mound, the patch of hidden ice, and the innocent bystanders. We tried with and without the training fork and with and without some form of contact, which was basically me just holding the reins tighter and Turbo ignoring me. Turbo is thoroughly unimpressed with the silly white girl.

Before we go, we thought we should ask him to jump. We fished through the scrap wood pile and found two poles with only a couple nails in them, and rigged up a cross rail with fire wood and spare tires for jump standards. I made the jump small because I didn’t want to impale myself on the saddle horn, and because Bolt said Turbo had never done anything like this before.

I walked Turbo up to it. He sniffs it. Steps over it. Rolls his eyes. So we walk to it again. He sniffs it again.

One of us is more excited about the jump than the other…

Still no drama. So we trot to it. He trots until the very last second, then slowwwwly steps over it at a walk, and trots away, all proud of himself for having figured it out. Adorable. I managed to make him trot over it after a few tries and more kicking.

With enough video evidence to send to Christian, we thanked Bolt for his time. I told him I would let him know if I would take him after Christian watched the videos. Bolt and Turbo were very tolerant of my weirdness, which I appreciate. I dismounted from Turbo, and he just stood there, wondering who on earth these idiots were. Little did he know…

Up next! Buying A Horse: Wyoming Style

An Appaloosa and a Fresian Walk Into a Bar…

Today, Megan and I decided to avoid our adult responsibilities and took the ponies on a new adventure. I took a bunch of subpar pictures for everyone’s enjoyment.

As we loaded the horses, I warned Megan that we may or may not die today because I need to rebuild the transfer case on my truck, and there is no guarantee it won’t give out on us while we are driving. But, hey. We like to live on the edge, so we trapped the ponies in their box on wheels, and off we went like a herd of turtles.

And I’m so glad we did! It was such a glorious day! The temperature was perfect. The snow wasn’t melting or slippery, and there wasn’t even a breeze! (Truly a Christmas miracle when you live in Wyoming.) And Coco Chanel was perfect in every way, per usual.

Of course, Ricco couldn’t let Megan off the hook entirely, so he refused to stand still for pictures and chomped on the bit pretty much the entire time. But apparently Megan didn’t care too much. (That, or she’s a really good actress.)

Megan clearly has a high tolerance for Spotaloosa shinanigans. 

We did see 15 mule deer, bunny tracks, coyote tracks, and possibly a bobcat track, but it was too old to tell. More on that later. 

The ride overlooks some pretty fantastic views.

Exhibit A

Ricco must have been feeling pretty regal at this point too, because he let us get an actual standing picture!

Coco, of course, took the opportunity to inform me that one measly cookie was hardly enough, and I better not let this happen again.

“Stupid human. How am I supposed to haul you back up this hill without cookies for sustenance?!” 🍪🍪🍪🍪🍪🍪

Ricco built his confidence on the footing after just a short while and refused to walk behind (or near) Coco. I got a lot of pictures like this:

Appaloosa butt.

As we were coming back out, we met some guy who said he was having a hard time catching a bobcat in his trap. (Um, yes. Trapping bobcats is not for the faint of heart, dude. We tried all last winter and didn’t get a single one. We also tracked a few with the dogs and still couldn’t get one. They are ultra elusive!! Like ninjas of the cat world.)

Anyway, I was pretty proud of the ponies. They were good sports and tried to be quite careful with us when they were unsure of the footing. Megan’s Fitbit told her we went four miles. (My butt agrees. Somehow, I’ve gotten out of riding shape.) There was some decent elevation change, combined with a few inches of snow for footing, so I think the ponies got a decent workout.

Some people would never dream of taking their fancy event horse into the mountain with snow-covered slab rocks and uneven footing, but I would highly advise it. It helps them become more careful and take ownership of their own legs, and besides. It’s not just good for their body. It’s good for their soul.

Even the parking lot was pretty today!