Two of us had never worked cattle, four had, and two very experienced trainers to guide.
Keith started by telling us that we would spend the next three hours mostly walking. These bulls were faster than our horses and so rather than chase them, we had to respect their bubble and out maneuver them. If we positioned ourselves at their hip, they would move forward, in front of their shoulder would cause them to turn back or halt. Our goal was to move them around the arena without getting them or our horses too excited.
Ashke trying to chew on the tip of my boot. He does that when he is bored of standing around.
Ashke loved the little bulls. I think he would have taken one home if he could.
There was a group of eight bulls. Keith and Kitty had put vet wrap in green on three and vet wrap in white on three. That was to help mark targets for the riders.
He was so locked on them from the very beginning.
We split the herd into two groups and worked them independently from one another.
Splitting the herd.
At first, Ashke wanted to chase them. It took a couple of hours for him to understand that we wanted to move slow. It was more precise than either of us expected.
More cutting, without the excitement of a western cutting event.
It would have been better if we had increased our communication and had assigned positions.
Or had a clue as to what we were doing.
The little bulls got a bit more feisty as the day went on.
It is almost counterintuitive to think that instead of racing alongside the bull to turn it, you make your bubble bigger. Pulling further away reduces the pressure on them and they slow naturally. Unless they are the smallest of the white wrapped bulls, and they have attitude.
There were times when Ashke and the bull had stand offs.
And then there were times when the bull was not going to be stopped.
Cattle work is as much a timing issue as any type of horse training. Sometimes, one step was all that was necessary to turn the bull, as long as the step was at the exact moment necessary.
At the end of the clinic, we moved all of the bulls into one group, then took turns pulling two of them out - one at a time. The horses that weren't actively working the bulls were in a semi-circle around them, keeping them penned. The sorter would maneuver the bull they picked until it was fairly isolated, and then they and the "gate keeper" would work together to cut them from the herd.
This is really where Ashke demonstrated how much he had learned during the day. He was calm and slow when marking out his bulls to move. He figured out which bull we were after and then singled it out to move away from the herd. If they weren't in a position to isolate, we just moved them in a circle and waited for the next opportunity.
It was a great clinic. I think Ashke was engaged and enthralled by the bulls. I have no doubt that if we have a four phase show in September, doing the cattle work will be both easy and fun.