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Berkshire sow, Lucy, with her 12 babies. who were venturing outside of the barn for the first time. Photo by Stacy Shellington.

PIGS. My friend Stacy was host to our monthly book club gathering last week. None of the members had visited Stacy’s Sky Ranch Boutique Swinery before. After we digested the reading material and a quiche she’d made from eggs laid that morning, we took a tour.

Timing was perfect, because her favorite sow, Lucy, is nursing a litter of 12. I loved hearing the voices of five women in unison, saying, “Oh, they are SO CUTE!” when the black-and-white piglets woke up and ran toward Lucy– and their lunch.

They moved in a single wave, like synchronized swimmers. (Mom is a Berkshire, which is a heritage breed.) One of our book club comrades remarked, “Your pigs are so clean. I always thought they were kind of dirty.” Stacy, who loves and pampers her sows and boar, Bubba, replied, “In the winter they sleep inside in lots of straw: Somehow, they wake up clean every morning even after they’ve spent all day in the pasture wallowing.”

HORSES. A horse trainer friend, Carmen, and I were talking about a recent cutting horse event.  I said, “It was so much fun seeing those little kids compete. What were they, 10 or 11 years old at the most?“ Carmen agreed about the cuteness factor, “It’s my favorite class to watch,” she said. “The cuttin’ horses the kids ride in these cuttings always seem to take such good care of their young riders.”

The horses do their job, turning and holding a cow away from the herd, but they seem especially gentle about the way they move, so they don’t unseat their young riders. Now that’s what I’d call horse sense.

In a cutting horse competition, “horse and rider quietly ride into a group of cattle. The rider controls the horse until a steer or heifer is separated, or cut, from the others. It is then up to the horse to keep the cow from getting back to the herd, thus demonstrating its  in-bred cow sense and training. The best cutting horses do so with relish, savvy and style. A contestant has 2 ½ minutes to demonstrate the horse’s ability.

Cutting is one of the fastest growing equine sports in the world. In 2006, the contestants at the United States National Cutting Horse Association (NCHA) Futurity competed for more than $3.7 million. Total purses at NCHA-approved shows now exceed $39 million annually. The sport began on the range where a cutting horse’s job was to separate cattle for vaccinating, castrating, and sorting. (Source: Wikipedia)

http://joinncha.com/

Tara Gaines riding cutting horse Patrick La Dual in 2010. Photo source Facebook.

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