You can’t tell a horse

I would have been about 7 in this photo. The saddled was rigged for my Dad, when I rode I wore boots, and the stirrups were as short as they could go. 

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! 

4 thoughts on “You can’t tell a horse

  1. Sigh.
    We had a retired parade horse when I was a teenager – Mr. Wilson. He was as steady as a rock, and adjusted to his rider. Mom and Dad bought him from a co-worker; Mr. Wilson had feet issues and couldn’t be fitted with shoes. So he had to be ridden on dirt – and we lived in a place where there was nothing but dirt roads. He lived in our half-acre back yard. Mom and Dad bought him for $100 dollars. We rode him with a cheap pad – no saddle. (Mom to Dad – Yeah, a hundred dollar horse and a $500 dollar saddle? No.)
    But oh – when he was ridden out on the bridle paths along some of the major roads! He pranced along, like a champion. Never turned a hair when some a-hole honked their horn, hoping to panic the horse. A horse-knowledgeable friend of Mom’s looked at him one day and said, “He was SOMEONE, back in the day…”
    We had to sell him when the freeway finally took that house, and we moved to another place. Dad said that he could afford a horse, or the swimming pool. Wilson went to a family who wanted a gentle ride for their kids. We always hope that they treated him well. He was a gentleman of a horse.
    Stopped as soon as you fell off him.

    1. I’m trying to remember which horse I led home with the saddle under… her belly. So it must have been Lady. I was too small to get it either off her, or back on. She was part draft, part mustang, and a big horse. But she was gentle as a lamb, and followed me all the way back to the barn – she knew as well as I did that an adult needed to take care of that saddle!

      A good horse is something else.

  2. Heh. The milk cows had opened the man-gate in the main corral, and were about a quarter mile south in the ditch on the west side of the gravel road, munching the very green grass. The only horses handy were the two work horses, mares old enough to vote! I grabbed the bridle for one of them, removed the long, long harness-length reins, and attached my special hand-brained rein c/w 2 snaps at the ends. I did not like climbing off to retrieve a dropped rein whilst riding bare-back. After using the collar fence to climb aboard, ye workhorse trotted east to the main road, ears forward, enjoying this new experience. When we got to the road _I_ neck-reined to the right, to go south. Too bad, a workhorse steering commands come from the mouth = she turned left. It is a very, very long way down from a work horse’s back – the embaresment was doubled due to my Dad driving over the top of the hill, 200 yards away in time to see me in mid air.
    “What were you doing?”, asked my Dad. The horse was obviously thinking “That’s weird, the saddle horses never said anything about getting off that way!”
    I got up, brushed dust off of my leather jacket, led the horse over to the barbed wire fence to climb on, and rode down to the milk cows, who were already ambling back towards our entrance road!

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