Friday, August 31, 2012

I Hope You Can Teach an Old Horse New Tricks

Well yesterday was Mosey's first experience at “working cattle”. I'd say on his first trip out he failed.
He made about a 50 out of 100. It was not pretty. It was not pleasant. It was not fun.

Mosey was already saddled and tied to the fence. He 'looked' pretty good.

First off, six other cowboys, their horses, their barking cow dogs and their rattling trailers showed up, a very typical start to a day of working cattle. Little did I know that this was the beginning of Mosey's first day of inappropriate, lousy, never before seen behavior.

After everyone mounted up, dogs barking and underfoot, we headed out to gather the cattle through the alley of the barn and down the lane. Mosey and I were in back with two other cowboys. One of our ranch horses was lame this morning and was not being ridden and he was in the horse pasture running, thrashing, and trampling through the brush at a high rate of speed and making a terrible racket right next to where we were riding. Mosey was “freaking” out. He was spinning and turning his head in a circle like on the “Exorcist”! I thought, “oh my here we go”. I was right. He was rearing, stomping and just generally throwing a “wall eyed fit” and was just this side of unrideable. I had anticipated he would be nervous, but I had NEVER seen him like this. I had never ridden him like this. I have to admit there was fear in my bones. This horse is big and powerful. If he wanted to throw me he could, without a doubt and in a heartbeat. Guess he didn't want to and I was determine to ride him through it, to the pasture, to gather the cattle and and back to the barn with the rest of the cowboys. And I did. It was by far the worst ride I have ever had on this horse, not any horse, but this one. He pranced and spun and could not stand still. He held his head up and gawked like an idiot. He was...unpleasant...embarrassing.. exhausting.. ”rookieish”... ridiculous!

He finally settled down a little as we got closer to the house. I was able to 'walk' him back and forth behind the cattle, driving them back to the barn. He was decently pleasant for that part of the trip. This was his one right thing for the day.

When we got back to the pens with the cattle I tied him to the fence. He spun and pawed and paced and sweated like never before, for almost two hours. His behavior was unbelievable.

Part of his problem was I had tied him away from everyone, from the action. He could barely see it and could clearly hear it, but was not close enough to be comfortable. That's just part of it. You're tied where your tied and that's just it, like it or not. No other tied horses were spinning and pawing. About an hour into the work the cowboys took a water break and I walked around the pens and over to him. He stopped in his tracks and nickered at me...he was thinking 'thank God, finally a familiar face'. I didn't even speak to him I just slipped back behind some posts where he couldn't see me and videoed his insane activity. It was awful. Could this really be MY horse?

I'm the official cattle work photographer so my job it to sit high enough on the pipe pens to get some good photos. I think I was successful at that.

I sat high enough that I had a good view of his consistent, never ending terrible behavior.

When they were finished working the cattle and the last photo was taken, I walked over to him. He was sweating like I'd never seen him, dripping, shiny, sopping wet! Nasty. 

I walked him into the barn, tightened his saddle and got back on. I rode him around a while as they finished things up in the pens before loading the cattle onto trailers to take them to town to the auction. Several of the cowboys and I then “pushed” the remaining cattle that were to go back to the pastures, out of the pens, up the lane and into the field where they were to go. Then we rode back to the barn. He did all that without a bobble. He was worn out. Well I say that knowing he probably had a bunch more spins in him if I tied him back up under those same conditions again. I didn't. I figured he'd had enough for one day. I unsaddled him, gave him a big drink and put him back out with that one remaining lame horse where he immediately calmed down and began to eat.

Mosey is 13. He needs a lot of wet blankets and a lot of action around him and a lot of cattle work under his belt before he will be comfortable with all this. It was all new to him. Our leisurely rides in the cotton field had not prepared him for this. I hope however, with time, this horse will learn the tricks of cattle working, of being calm in a storm, and being pleasant to ride under any conditions. I am hopeful.

Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see”. Hebrews 11:1

Encourage One Another...continuing the journey on fresh paths.

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