Scouting on Horseback

A good friend of mine recently asked me to drop down to his ranch on the Minnesota/ Iowa border near the town of Caledonia.  He is a "horse" guy and not a hunter but gave me the go-ahead to hang some stands in probably the most outstanding area of Southern Minnesota you can get.  This is an area of ridges and valleys and I was salivating at the thought.

Ken, the horse guy, asked me to check out the property with him but wanted to do it on horseback.  I haven't been on a horse since 8th grade, so I reluctantly said yes and headed to the stables to learn the ropes.

There is no such thing in Ken's world of just getting on  a horse and riding into the sunset... no way.  There are procedures to follow.  He started me out with brushing my chosen horse down with a giant, commercial brush and gently worked the bristles along every muscle and sinewy joint.  This was the first time for this writer as well. After the brush, I was given a long comb and instructed to comb the horse's mane.  This was another form of "bonding" between the horse and rider.  After the combing we placed the saddle on the horse all the time softly talking  and stroking it's hind quarters.

We started off in a small, circular pen where I rode the horse tight to the fence and began showing the horse the program.  This is where the tussle of personalities came into play as the horse was trying to test my resolve.  He actually reminded me of an unruly teenager who constantly tests you as you try and assert control in a household.  The horse "Buddy" was coming along but still wasn't comfortable with his new rider.  Ken suggested to me this was normal as new riders need to "mini-break" a horse which is just a boiled down version of the major breaking strategy used for the very first saddle experience.

After an hour in the pen, we made our way to the large, open air arena where the true test came.  I was busy scanning the soybeans and corn fields adjacent to the area watching the does and fawns making their way along the tree lines.  They were very relaxed and probably very used to horses on this property.  The larger arena was a bit trickier to control the animal because he kept trying to change directions and basically fight my every command.  I really didn't want to get thrown or get bucked off and hurt two weeks before the bow opener so I ended the horse experiment while I was ahead.  It looks like old Buddy and I will have to have another session before we opt for the ridges and valleys. But just think about it... scouting for Whitetails on horseback! I'm in.

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