First day with Little Neigh

Yesterday’s Weather:  High of 50.  Low of 30.  A cloudy but pleasant afternoon for getting acquainted with our new pony, Little Neigh.

 

Yesterday On The Ranch:  Beau was gone all day — first to Horse Camp to gather and ship a load of dries (cows that did not breed to calve this year) to the sale barn in Billings.  He and Jacob ate lunch at Horse Camp with Brian and Leesa, then drove over to Butte Camp (about 10 miles southeast of Horse Camp) to grab a few more dries from there, in order to finish out a second load that shipped from Horse Camp about 5 p.m.

Throughout the next couple days (weather pending — the frost is starting to go out of the ground, making roads a little sticky) a few more truckloads of dries will head to Billings for the Thursday sale.  The ranch’s general manager in the last few years has insisted that the ranch keep its dry cows, which can be a hard directive to swallow because not everyone agrees that doing so is a sound management practice.  Since we think of a cow as a factory whose job is to raise a calf each year, dries skip an entire year of productivity.  They often get so fat and sassy during their year off that they’re a pain to handle and hard on facilities to boot.  (A super-fat dry cow actually got herself completely wedged — though standing up and headed in the right direction — in the lead-up alley at the Red Corrals last fall, and the guys had to cut the alley apart to get her out.  Kinda the cow version of two plane tickets for one butt.)  Then, if a dry cow does breed back after her year of vacation (and she often won’t), her milk production never seems to bounce back to where it ought to be — the theory is that her bag is filled with fat.

So, for many reasons, allowing a dry to stay on the ranch can be an insufferable thought for those of us who live with them.  But in a corporate ranch setting like this one, big decisions come from the top.  And for the ranch’s general manager who’s looking at markets more than he’s looking at PV cows, selling a dry cow in a low market is the greater sin.  And that’s why dry cows have been getting free lunch tickets here at the PV the last few years.  This year, though, Beau has permission to get rid of some dries… and he’s hustling to get them out of here before someone higher on the pay scale changes his mind!  Ha!

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As for the kids and me, we caked the cows at the Creek Place yesterday morning.  I think caking cows is probably my dream job.  I really appreciate getting to do it.

The best part of yesterday, though, was the afternoon.  I am so thankful for the chain-link fence that surrounds our big yard — it’s a perfect place for confining kids… and… our new pony!  I set out some safety ground rules for the kids and they spent a couple hours getting acquainted with Little Neigh:

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Eventually Little Neigh let us know — with a quick nip and a little kick — that he’d had enough of us for one day.  So we let him alone to eat a little grass before we put him up for the night.

The kids are totally in love.  Remember, they’re the ones who — despite the full-size horses we have constant access to — beg us for the $5 pony rides at the fair.  I have to admit it:  I’m pretty much sold too.  There’s just something about a tiny critter that’s hard not to hug.  Even 9-year-old Asher had to admit that Little Neigh is better than any toy he’s ever had!  Asher envisions a future for our family in which he starts Little Neigh and then moves up to a bigger pony as Emi finishes Little Neigh.  (You’ll notice from the pictures that, indeed, 80-pound Asher won’t fit Little Neigh for long.)  And then, when Emi’s a little older, she starts a tiny pony and passes it on to Marsi to finish.  And so on… and maybe eventually ponies are sold and money is made and all the kids graduate to full-size colts with a little experience under their belts.

Ha!  Don’t tell Beau, but I actually do see potential in Asher’s business proposition.  How I would love to have a family full of kids ready to start and finish any equine I put before them.  (And I know for a fact that Joe Fox got his start breaking ponies as a boy.)  We’ve got a really safe place for our kids to gain pony-training experience, right here in the front yard on soft grass.  Already yesterday both Asher and Em were practicing jumping on Little Neigh, and God bless him, Little Neigh took it all pretty well.  He did let Asher know with a few short jumps that he’s not a pushover, and it was a good reminder for Asher, who hit the ground a time or two — more sackful-of-potatoes-style than bronc-rider-style.  There’s a possibility that our pony experience will go the way a lot of pony experiences do:  with the pony getting the best of all of us a few months down the road.  But I do know a few ranchy families who have taught their kids how to be successful with ponies.  And right now my idea is that, as soon as we can procure a tiny snaffle bit, the two big kids will be trotting bareback circles around the yard on Little Neigh.  We shall see.

As for almost-2-year-old Muggins, he was the last kid awake last night, giddy with excitement and repeatedly boasting,  “I.  Buck.  Off.”  Which of course he didn’t buck off.  But he was the first one up this morning, too, shattering my warm and steamy shower to insist that we needed to get out and check on Little Neigh.

Lastly, there is 4-year-old Marsi.  She’s the one who begged and prayed for a pony.  But she was decidedly timid around the pony yesterday.  Hmmm.  Kids.  Who can ever tell from one moment to the next?

Ready or not (and I’m never ready), today’s adventure has already begun.  So… until next time.

© Tami Blake

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