A friend and I were talking, and she was telling me her planned technique for wrangling a young steer. Farmgirl is using a variant on the Johnson method for horsebreaking, at least as I understand it, to get the steer used to her being on the end of the line, and in time and with gentle handling, she’ll be able to lead him. I think she’ll manage it.
I commented that cows were beyond my ken. I grew up with goats. But… there were cows in my life. And there was a cowpony.
Moke came into our life when I was about six or seven, and he was a part of it until I was ten. He was supposed to be my Dad’s horse. In his twenties, he was a retired cowpony of uncertain antecedents, but was still very active in spite of his emphysema and had been ridden in gymnakhas, which was the plan for my sister and I, until life intervened. Even after we sold him while we were moving to Alaska, my parents kept in touch, and Moke lived to be about 30, being ridden in competitions long after he left us.
I did say he was retired, did I not? Well, you can’t tell a horse. Moke was a great horse, steady as a rock when they put one of us kids up on him. When an adult got on, he’d buck. Just once, and then having established his bonafides, he’d settle. We did a fair amount of trail riding on him, and unlike our friend Jimmy’s white horse Spooky, Moke was phlegmatic about life in general. He was one of the horses we rode in parades, where he’d dance on his toes but in excitement, not fear.
I don’t recall precisely why I was riding alone – it wasn’t unusual for one of us girls to mount up and take off into the pastures, but we were usually together at least – it’s just been too many years. I do remember just how Moke looked and felt when he saw the cows. His ears pricked up tall towards them, and I felt his whole body bunch, then explode into action.
I clung to the saddlehorn, reins loose. He wasn’t listening to me anymore! I was a passenger while he gathered up the half-dozen or so cattle that had been innocently grazing in the pasture, and headed them toward the barn. I can remember my Dad and our friend who boarded the horses laughing as they watched from the fence. One blonde peanut, perched on top a very pleased-with-himself roan who’d gotten put out to pasture, but still had it!
I was always careful to check for cows when I went out on Moke, after that. I’d learned my lesson about telling a horse what to do when he got the bit between his teeth. He didn’t know he was retired, and he was a bit put out that no one was letting him work with the cows!