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We’re here today interviewing renowned junkyard-horse trainer, Pam Burke, to catch up on the world and work of junkyard horses.

Hello, Pam, it’s nice to see you again, looking so tan on the arms … and white on the legs if you don’t mind me saying.

Hi, yeah, I don’t wear shorts much, but it’s been a hot few weeks. Sorry I’m blinding you!

No problem. We’re glad you’re comfortable and we’re happy to catch up with you again. So tell us, have you been doing much riding?

Sadly, not as much as I would like, but there’s junk to be herded and corrals to be wrangled.

So true, but have you been on any rides lately?

As a matter of fact, I went out just this morning on my big mare Xena, the rocket launcher.

And had fun?

I did have fun. The sky was clear, it was early enough that the temps were only in the 70s, my dog Cooper went along, and we got to see a few interesting birds and some deer. Cooper got to play in the creek a bit, but we couldn’t cross because the two dry crossings are washed out and the creek crossings that require you to walk through the water have deep mud that would’ve proven too much for my horse at her stage of training … and for her shoes that would’ve been sucked off her feet. We certainly had plenty of room to roam on the west side of the creek though.

Any excitement other than birds and deer?

[Laughing.] Funny you should ask that. Yeah, cows. There were quite a few cows.

You mean plain ol’ hamburger on the hoof cows caused a problem?

In the world of me, apparently so. Yes. [Laughing.] That Xena horse I was riding is 16.3 hands, plus she is really only green broke, she’s proven her brain will short-circuit during moments of extreme stress and then she’ll thump me soundly into the ground. She isn’t used to being around cows, so they’re a little stressful in general. My dog companion, Cooper, is afraid of a lot of things, too, including cows, and will panic during moments of extreme duress. Like from cows chasing him.

And these cows are particularly worrisome. They are trained to come toward humans and activity rather than run away from it, and the harder you try to move them away, the faster they come at you and in larger numbers. Plus, I heard from the owner that they once chased a dog under a pickup and proceeded to total the brand new truck trying to get at the dog. As if that weren’t enough, I personally saw them gang up on an injured blue heron, kill it and stomp it into the dirt.

So, yep, those cows were a potential problem.

I guess so. What happened with the cows?

Well, they were between us and home, strung out in a line from the fence line down to the creek bottom. I was lucky to have a gap in cows right at the road as I was coming through. I called the dog to heel, and just kept Xena pointed toward home so she would keep going forward, and we managed to get through. One cow took a few romps in our direction, but we’d already broken through the line and had some clear ground ahead of us clear to the gate, so Xena was content just to ignore her and keep focused.

Everything turned out alright then.

I’d say so. Wish my dog would’ve stayed beside me rather than literally at Xena’s heels, and Xe felt a little bit like having my ass strapped to a bottle rocket, but we made it through and there were no mishaps. [Laughing.] Success is measured in many ways.

So, not dying or getting injured is considered a successful training ride on a junkyard horse?

Absolutely! Someone asked me once what all my horse has to know — like correct leads, neck reining and leg yields — before I consider it to be broke. I just said: No, no, no. Those things are a measure of a horse’s training. I consider a horse to be pretty broke when the rides no longer feel like the last act of defiance against death.

There you have it folks. That’s how they do things out in the junkyard.

Thank you for tuning in at pam[at]


I’m just a titch stiff today after working the mini yesterday in the high-80s heat, and a little nostalgic for the days when I was more on top of my training game … and my fitness.

Athletically, I was always more like a souped-up hotrod pickup than a sports car, but these days I’m more like a heavy duty dump truck. I haul a lot of garbage around, but I’m not super-maneuverable, and I won’t break any land speed records as I grind myself up through the gears.

As I started doing some at-liberty work with the mini in the round pen yesterday, I was mentally getting after myself to increase my response time and hustle. I felt like I was getting in the groove and went to switch up direction mid-sprint, but executed my rollback on a scattering of dry, grass stems the mini had rejected from her hay all week. It was slick and shiny as new straw, which is to say it was like spinning out on Zamboni-smoothed ice.

There have been more spectacular falls of this nature, but I was hovering horizontally in the air a bit before landing slightly butt-first on my favorite, weak SI joint, then splatting flat out on my back. All the way to my head. Got dirty, mucky hay in my hair and down my back. Awesome start to the training.

I scrambled up and swiped at the crud while hustling back to work (mentally checking to see if that SI joint was flopping like a bad U-joint). It was all good.

About 60 seconds later, I had to fling the halter toward the mini’s rear end to keep her from ditching work for a coffee break and a little nuzzle with her horse neighbor. I didn’t have a good hold of the lead rope on my anchor hand, so the halter and rope shot like a line drive totally out of my control and straight into the water trough. Score two points for me.

All this in the first two minutes of the training session.

Honestly, I considered that these two mishaps might be ill omens telling me I should not tackle this task that day, but, y’know, I’m rarely smart enough to pay attention to hints of danger, so I pressed on. The good news is that no other mishaps occurred (and no woman parts were harmed that night in the training of this mini).

However, I did come to a better understanding of just how out of shape I am.

I was a red-faced, gasping-for-air, sweat-streaming mess by the end of the training session. Oh, and let’s not forget I also had the mucky particles from my fall plus the horse scum from petting and rubbing down a sweaty mini. At this weakest and tiredest moment, I had to go fetch hay for feeding time and made a further mess out of myself getting itchy, pokey hay chaff stuck to my still sweat-dripping skin because nothing was cooperating. (Yes, I was whining. Duh.)

That’s when my neighbors showed up. Perfect.

Did I mention that I was doing this training session while wearing a teal-colored T-shirt and red with black and white Coca-cola print, light cotton sweats/pajama bottoms?

Oh yeah, I’m all that at pam[at]

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