As luck would have it I was second up in the rotation for the day, thanks to being one of the "experienced" folk at the clinic. I got good and warmed up while the first person went and then we were up. The morning boxing didn't go as well as I had hoped, but it was a really good learning experience.
The cows were big, sour and grumpy. They had already been used for the two day advanced clinic and they weren't happy about going another day. The first cow I got was chargy and really pushy. He was not intimidated by us much at all! We usually do alright at boxing, but this cow was just not cooperating. Midori isn't totally comfortable with the cows quite yet and doesn't know what to think when they charge her. She usually ends up skittering out of the way, usually with a good loud snort thrown in for good measure. This cow didn't want to move and when he finally would it wasn't along the wall, it was at us. No matter how much pressure we put on him, he would still fly right past us. At one point I had beat him to the fence and had Midori's shoulder planted on the rail facing the cow. He looked at us and then quite literally shoved us out of the way, squeezing by us on the rail. Midori mostly held her ground on that one, didn't skitter away for once, but that darn cow just pushed right thru us. I'm sure there was something we could have done, but I'm still not entirely sure what it was. It was good experience for us though and Midori felt a little more comfortable with the cows once she learned they weren't going to eat her if they touched her. We tried a few more attempts at boxing that cow and I got some good tips on getting them to move and stop and play the way you want them to. It wasn't the most efficient run, but I feel like I learned a lot.
We got a new cow and had a little more luck boxing it and then quit. While I was doing that I was realizing that Midori is a lot more cowy then I was giving her credit for. When we were practicing on the buffalo last summer I was baby sitting her, managing almost every step she took, trying to make her correct and do what I wanted her to. Once I tried to let her do it on her own a little bit, I was very pleasantly surprised by how much she knows! She had picked up a lot more then I was giving her credit for. Very exciting!
We took a short break to move the panels around so we could have a long wall to take the cows down and drag the arena so it was nice and soft "just in case" and so no one slipped. I got my first run down the wall in before our lunch break and I was up in the clouds when it was done. It wasn't perfect, probably wasn't even decent by Lynn's standards, but I thought it was awesome! Lynn did say that my position driving down the wall was perfect. Wohoo! I wish I had that on tape...Lynn Anderson said my position was perfect! lol I'm sure she mentally added, "for a totally novice beginner," to that, but hey, I'll take what I can get! And I do have to stop and thank the cow gods because the cow I got on that run was really great for us. It was fast enough that I felt like I was flying, but not too fast so we were totally out of control. I got a couple great turns in, really felt like I was doing it the way it was supposed to be done; dirt flying, horse digging in, launching out of the turn to run down for another turn. It was fabulous!
The basic routine of the afternoon runs was to box for just a bit to prove that you could, then drive it down the wall until you could keep it under control driving then practice a few turns each direction, assuming we could get any in, and then try some circling.
We got thru the runs down the wall and then went to circling. The cow was stuck to the wall like glue. I forgot to mention that in my determination and frustration to get a good turn and/or circle the darn cow last year, I ended up pushing it too far back and getting tangled up in the back legs. I was told in no uncertain terms that this is a bad, bad place to be in and had felt it first hand as we got jumbled up and tripped. I was a little traumatized from that and determined to not be stupid and get tangled up in the back legs again. Because of that, I was a little timid in trying to push the cow off the wall to circle. Now looking back, I think it may have been easier to run by and turn the cow then go straight into circling, but that wasn't the exercise so we just had to do what we could to get the cow to come off the wall. Finally, the cow came off the wall, but made an immediate beeline back to the gate. I didn't have time to get around him before he got to the gate, but I ran like hell trying! I learned a couple things, how I was pushing him to turn that hard and to change my position a little bit so I would have a better chance to get around him.
Again, it was a great learning experience, but I never did get the full circles in either direction. It was still really fun and I think I regained a lot of confidence in my riding abilities. I was determined to not be scared, not hold Midori back and do whatever I needed to do to get where I needed to be. That did result in my overriding the cow a couple times, running right past his head when he stopped and ducked around, but ya know, I was up there in the first place, so I was happy. It also resulted in me hauling butt around on Midori and never losing my seat or being afraid I was out of control. I learned to trust Midori to take care of me and not run into walls or fall over. She was all over those cows and had a blast chasing them. I could feel her really getting down in the dirt and I even felt a couple nice lead changes while we were chasing them around. Huh, there's hope for us yet! I also really had to let her know that no, we're done, no more chasing them right now, when it was time. She wanted to keep going. Guess I need to work on installing that "quit" button when we start the cutting this year.
The boyfriend came down to watch our second run of the afternoon, even snapped some pictures of it. It didn't go quite as well as the first one, but it was still fun and I was grinning ear to ear when I was finished. I had a hard time keeping up with the cow when I was driving him so he didn't stay on the wall so I could turn him. Again, good learning experience. It was nice to compare how it was done right (my first run) to what happens when it's not done correctly. I did get a couple decent turns in and had slightly more luck circling on that run, but still didn't get the two full circles in. It is darn hard work! Both Midori and I were about to keel right over we were breathing so hard by the time we finished! Certainly got us warmed up on a very chilly, snowy day!
I would really, really love to get some more experience in this. I really want to learn, because it is frustrating when I can't accomplish something. I think I get the theories and how I'm supposed to do it all, but putting it into practice is hard work! I would really, really like to get better at it.