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Youth in Action: Developing Horsemen

AQHYA member Calli Kaufman, 13, gets the opportunity of a lifetime to select a foal from Longhorn Cattle Co. and participate in the AQHA Young Horse Development Program.

By Calli Kaufman
The American Quarter Horse Journal
November 25, 2013

AQHYA member Calli Kaufman and LCC Golden Playgirl are participants in the 2013-14 AQHA Ranching Heritage Young Horse Development Program

AQHYA member Calli Kaufman of Olympia, Washington, selected LCC Golden Playgirl from AQHA Ranching Heritage Breeder Longhorn Cattle Co. in Ellensburg, Washington. The duo is participating in the 2013-14 AQHA Ranching Heritage Young Horse Development Program. (Photo courtesy of Calli Kaufman)

I was so absolutely excited when I found out I was accepted to participate in the AQHA Youth Ranching Heritage Young Horse Development Program. I was selected to receive my foal from Longhorn Cattle Co., an AQHA Ranching Heritage Breeder located in Ellensburg, Washington.

Ranch owners Don and Barbara “Buttons” Akehurst have worked on their American Quarter Horse breeding program for more than 50 years, and their son, Greg, wants to see their efforts recognized. I had the wonderful opportunity to meet this family when I went to pick out a foal from their herd.

There were two foals I had to choose from. The first foal was a cremello filly named LCC Cowgirl Chick (Jaz GC Indio-LCC Magesto Barlady by Rawdle Fact Man).  

When I first headed over the Cascade Mountains from my home in Olympia, Washington, to Ellensburg, I had gone thinking that I wanted LCC Cowgirl Chick. From the pictures, I loved her: She has a nice conformation, a cute head and, of course, a unique color that might be attractive in the show ring down the road. I really liked her mother and all her brothers and sisters, too, that Longhorn Cattle Co. showed on their website.

But when I arrived, I immediately fell in love with the other foal, a palomino filly named LCC Golden Playgirl (Jaz GC Indio-LCC Bay Dun Right by Rawdle Fact Man). This filly has a beautiful coat, a very appealing head and one of the nicest dispositions I have ever seen in a foal.  
          
When I got to the ranch, Greg and I weaned all the colts and fillies and separated the two I was supposed to choose from. I was very surprised by how calm all the horses were, especially the foals for not having been handled very much, and how friendly they were.

After I played around with them for a while, I was still having a hard time deciding what foal to choose since they were both so good looking. So we put them each in a stall so I could get a little closer look at each of them.

LCC Golden Playgirl immediately warmed up to me: She let me touch her wherever and however I wanted, and she was genuinely interested in me. LCC Cowgirl Chick was a little more jumpy and was having trouble connecting with and accepting me like LCC Golden Playgirl did. It was a very difficult decision to make in such a short time, however, I finally came to my decision, and I chose LLC Golden Playgirl. She had never been handled before that day, and in just a few hours – and on the same day she was weaned from her dam – we were able to put a halter on her!

Five days later, we went back to the ranch with the truck and horse trailer to pick up my new foal.  

Luckily, she had those five days to hang out with the other weanlings and adjust some to the separation. Four of us cajoled her a little to get her in the horse trailer, and amazingly this little “Golden Girl” let us get her in without much fight.  

We hauled her loose in the trailer with some sawdust down and we checked on her a few times – it was interesting to see how she chose to travel, facing backwards from the direction we traveled. She was slightly sweaty but did not seem to panic too badly. I am guessing, or maybe hoping, this is how she will react to most of her training.

It was about a three-hour drive home with all the traffic. When we got home, we brought her hay and water and let her hang out in the trailer for a while and reward her after the ride home. This was one of many bits of advice we received from Don and Greg Akehurst. I put her halter on, and she unloaded from the trailer and walked pretty quietly to her new paddock and pasture area.
 
It has been about a month now, and LCC Golden Playgirl, aka “Mouse,” and I are doing great. This month we have been working on leading, stopping, backing and picking up her front feet, and I just started on picking up her hind feet. It’s entertaining because she is very good about picking up her front feet, but she is still working on keeping her balance while doing it.

We also have been working on putting the halter on. She has been doing very well with leading and moving away from pressure. I’m so lucky, because she is a very responsive horse. Unfortunately, she was starting to get a little nippy during feeding time after she figured out the schedule, so one day she nipped at me, and I had to discipline her for that. I have learned that a small poke to the side of her muzzle will teach her to respect my space.

When I work her, I usually do it in a gravelly area just outside her pen and field (rather than in her field and paddock, which should be considered her space), and I will occasionally walk her around our farm so she can see all the other horses and look at the chickens. I also take her into the round pen sometimes so she can get accustomed to new things.

Right now, I believe that Mouse is in good health: she has good weight and a good-looking coat. My only health concern this last month was that she had a lot of goopy stuff in her eyes, so when I had the veterinarian out this last month to vaccinate her, I had the vet look at her eyes. The vet said Mouse’s eyes were probably just irritated but advised me to keep a close eye on them. She thought, overall, Mouse looked healthy. I had Mouse vaccinated with the full spectrum of vaccines, and I have also started her on a deworming schedule.

I have set some goals for November, and I’m working on putting together a yearly schedule. Here are the following goals I plan to accomplish in November:

  • Be more efficient at leading, backing and turning
  • Safely pick up all four feet easily (because Mouse will soon get a visit from the farrier)
  • Spend time in the trailer; loading and unloading calmly, and enjoying the trailer
  • Take a halter lesson with performance trainer Tamara “Tammie” Whitt of Olympia, Washington
  • Enjoy play time in the round pen with obstacles
  • Go on leading adventures into the forest, on and off trail, so Mouse can learn to trust me

I would like to give a huge thank you to the Akehurst family for allowing me this wonderful opportunity.  This will forever make an impact on my life with horses and will, most of all, give me a great friend and companion.

Calli was one of 17 AQHYA members selected to participate in the 2013-14 AQHA Ranching Heritage Young Horse Development Program. While caring for and training foals bred by AQHA Ranching Heritage Breeders, these young horsemen and –women chronicle their achievements, with the culmination of the yearlong project being the chance to earn scholarship money and prizes from AQHA corporate partners.

Because opportunities abound for horse-interested kids, the new AQHYA blog, Youth in Action, is going to capture those adventures. Learn more about the endless prospects for young horsemen through AQHYA at www.aqha.com/youth-in-action.