Saturday, December 3, 2011

Cowboy Wisdom -- The most dangerous horse

Amigo the paint mare and Roger's mustang Star, Cody, WY (1996)

In an earlier post I wrote about my pard Roger Miller and told you the story about Canadian whiskey and the paint mare.  See:

Roger knew that for many years I hadn't been around horses very much, so he took up the role of mentor, offering bits of advice about this and that.  Frankly, at first it was a little annoying because I had grown up with horses.  I just needed a little time to get back to a comfort zone with them.  But then after thinking about it for awhile, I figured I was pretty lucky to have a real working cowboy to instruct me in the proper way to handle horses.

When Roger was in his early 20's, he had worked on the Vail and Vickers Ranch on Santa Rosa Island off the coast of Santa Barbara, California.  He had very fond memories of his youthful escapades on that ranch, and he must have learned plenty from the old California vaqueros that mentored him.

As I explained earlier, Roger and I had put up a barbed wired fence around the pasture for the horses.  One morning during the first week I had the paint mare, Roger carefully explained to me that the horses could be in that pasture and manure was not a problem as long as the clumps were broken up and spread around.  He went on to advise me that a good kick or two from a size 11 cowboy boot would do the job just about right.  I knew precisely whose job the manure-kickin' would be, and I attacked my new duties with grace and aplomb.

Around that time the mare was starting to get used to me, and I was probably showing her a little to much attention when outta the blue Roger says, "The most dangerous horse in the world is someone's pet."  At the time it seemed like a piece of inconsequential information, but I filed it away for later reference.

Roger Miller and Pinto in Yellowstone (1997) courtesy of Gena Lasko

It's funny how things in life come full circle.  In earlier posts I've written about Cash, my "bomb proof" horse, and Kasidy, my "alpha mare".  I completely understand Cash's fear of the mare, and I too surely never want to feel the full force of one of her kicks.  I quickly learned to keep an eye on the mare and to give my geldings plenty of "getta away" room when she's around.

The thing about being around horses--on a daily basis--is you get pretty cavalier and will likely drop your guard when you're busy working.  We have a loafing shed in our corral, a shady place, where the horses hang out on hot summer days.  Cash was trying to sidle up to Kasidy, so he could be in the shade, and I was picking up manure.  Suddenly Cash bolted to get away from Kasidy.  In less than a tenth of a second, he caught my shoe with a front hoof, pinning me to the ground; then as he continued to bolt past, he slammed me into the fence.  From someplace up above, the words "the most dangerous horse in the world is someone's pet," came floating down to me.  Yes, I had some bruises, but no broken bones.  The bigger problem is that Cash somehow thinks if he runs to me I'll protect him.  He's bumped into me several times while escaping the mare.  I just hope the most dangerous horse in the world doesn't eventually kill me.

Could it be my old mentor is now my guardian angel--quien sabe?


Roger passed over the Great Divide in the fall of 1998.  Interestingly "Cowboy Island" (the Vail and Vickers Ranch) died the same year when the last cows were shipped to the mainland and the cowboys were "let go."  (The U. S. National Park Service now controls the island.)

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