Archive » April 30, 2009
ON THE RANCH
By Nancy Crawford-Hall, Publisher
Freezing in Paso
The past five days I have been in Paso Robles at the fairgrounds for another horse show. This time it is the National Reined Cow Horse Association’s Hackamore Classic for four- and five-year-old horses. In the development of the old-time highly trained Western horses, there were specific stages of training that the horse went through to eventually be fully trained to accept the bridle.
These days this process has been stylized for the show format by having three-year-olds show in a snaffle bit, four- and five-year-olds show in the hackamore, six-year-olds show in the two-rein which is a combination of a hackamore and a bridle, and finally the full bridle from then on, as long as the horse continues to be shown.
There are several shows in Paso Robles and usually everyone remarks on how hot it is, particularly the show in June.
Some years, like last year, it was well over 100 degrees up to 113, that was miserable for human and horse alike. This year was quite different as a very cold wind blew everyday and even when the sun was shining, it was at least 15 degrees colder in the arena. Everyone was bundled up like we all were in Idaho.
In fact, I started to have flashbacks to Idaho and how cold it was there for us Californians. I admit it; we are very spoiled with our weather. Although I arrived in rather summer-like attire, during the first morning I came back and changed my clothing to keep from shivering.
The show for us was a mixed bag. We had great results in some areas and not so great results in others. Although both Kiss My Shiney Lips and Sheza Roo had very good scores going into the final event, the cow or fence work, the cows were not going to cooperate and ruined any possibility of finishing up in the money. They are both quite young so they have many years of showing to make up for this lack of good scores.
Bentley (aka Shady Lil Starlight) on the other hand had a fabulous show. He was entered in the Bridle Spectacular, only his second time to show in the bridle. His first show in the bridle was very tentative because he was not comfortable with the bridle and had also been to the breeding barn that morning so his mind was not entirely on his show behavior. As a result he made a less than stellar performance. I was disappointed as he had so far had such a phenomenal career in the past two years that I was really not totally prepared for an average run.
This show was very different. He entered the arena with obvious confidence and went through his reining pattern about the best I had ever seen him do. When it came time to do the fence work, it was anybody’s guess what kind of cow he would get. Would it be fast, would it be slow (can’t make a big score on a slow cow), would it be tricky in its moves or would it be responsive to the horse in front of it?
I quit praying to the cow gods fairly recently as I had discovered that they weren’t listening. All of my horses have had some of the most awful, unreasonable, unresponsive and unruly cows of the entire show recently.
I thought I might do better without the help and just let what was going to happen happen. It worked!
We all witnessed a once in a lifetime run with a tough but honest cow that honored the horse and went where it was told. It was beautiful to watch and was rewarded by the judges with a score that had not been seen before — a 301.5.
Some fellow competitors outside the arena, shortly before the end of the class congratulated me. I told them it wasn’t over yet, but they responded that there had never been a 302 (which would beat Bentley’s score). As a matter of fact none of us had ever heard of a 301 either, so it was pretty sure that Bentley had won the class. In fact he did, and it was particularly special because some of the best bridle horses in the business were in that class and he had had the luck of a good cow. It may be different next time, but for now he was the winner.
Back at the ranch
With the high temperatures last week, the grass in the pastures and the hay in the fields matured quickly. It is haying season and Sergio, our hay manager, starting cutting both the oats and alfalfa this past week.
You may have noticed he and his son out with the swather and rakes, cutting and rolling the rows of cut hay. Very precise knowledge of how to cure hay is required so that it dries just right, not too fast so it becomes brittle and not too slow so that it is attacked by mildew making it suitable only for cattle.
Horses have very sensitive digestive systems so that their hay must be carefully grown, so as to contain just the right amount of protein and no bugs or spoiled parts to upset them.
We raise our hay to feed our animals so that we do not have to buy it from somewhere else. This way we know what has gone into the production of the crop and know that it has nothing artificial added that might harm our animals.
It also is a way to make sure that nothing is imported into our area unwittingly in a delivered crop.
It is a wonderful time of year as the first cutting of alfalfa is always the most pungent. The smell of the freshly cut stems wafts on the breeze to everyone in the vicinity and it is somehow both sweet and earthy.
When it comes time to bale the hay, I enjoy hearing the thump-thump of the baling machine that can be heard all over the ranch late at night when the moisture content has become just right to produce the best hay. It is part of a yearly ritual that we have enjoyed for many years. We are lucky to have Sergio, father and son to oversee our animals’ food supply. We know it’s the best one could have.
SYV Community Plans
We are entering into the public phase of the plan revision for the valley. It is clear to many that the majority of valley residents understand what makes this valley the wonderful place it is to live in. There are at least two other groups who are inputting information to the conversation who have different ideas.
Some of these are new residents who want to remake the valley into their idea of heaven that usually corresponds with some part of where they used to live in an urban area. Others are county employees who are either told to follow a certain agenda or do it on their own.
The result primarily from these last two groups is a sort of micro-meddling in the lives of valley residents. As a result there is a serious lack of common sense.
For example, we need more low-income housing. I don’t think there is much doubt about that. Then why does the county resist every effort to make that happen and instead wants to force it on anyone daring to build any kind of residential structure?
Let me give you a concrete example. On the ranch it would be nice to house all of our employees on site. This approach lessens commuting, lessens the possibilities of accidents, reduces fuel use, and makes it easier for both the employee and the ranch to “live together.” We need people to move irrigation pipe every couple of days.
These people do other types of work on the alternate days and are well paid for their efforts, but do not live on the ranch as we do not have sufficient housing currently available.
It is good to be able to hire people to do these jobs. The alternative is to mechanize the irrigation that (1) would require the removal of very old oak trees that we don’t want to do, and (2) two individuals would lose their jobs. That is not good either.
Although we have spent much time pointing out how the county could make lower income housing for agricultural workers available, we have been systematically ignored. This makes me think they are not serious about fixing the problem.
We need less complicated development guidelines for housing and accessory structures especially in agricultural zones. I believe the current proposed plan spends way too much time on what people want to see from the highway rather than on ideas to make our community continue to function as an agricultural area that provides those nice “viewsheds.” I continue to believe that the county is not truly committed to keeping agriculture viable in any form as every part of the valley is offensive to someone from splitting ranches into different zoning designations to turning our business zones into quasi-residential areas that are already suffering from inadequate parking.
Most of the new regulations make projects more costly, time consuming and accomplish very little positive in the manner of coordinated development. For years the county has tried to hold workshops on streamlining permits only to have that process bog down under its own weight.
Perhaps the approach should take a new tack. Perhaps we could try more common sense regulations like not permitting incompatible projects to be built next to each other. Whoever was there first has the priority need. Could we try some common sense rather than this gobbledygook?
The 3rd District election appeal in underway and for those of you who value your democracy, this issue will be pursued until we know that every one who is entitled to vote has their vote properly counted and those who are not entitled will not be allowed to vote.
If this does not happen, we are no better than any other banana republic. I personally will do whatever I can to restore our district to legitimate voting and representation. I hope that you will stand up for your rights as well — we’re counting on you.