Sunday, November 20, 2011

Cowboy Culture -- First time in a pasture

Ready Cash in "Ground Tied," a painting by Jerry England © 2003

We bought my wife's horse--Ready Cash--from a family in nearby Aqua Dulce, California, where he had been living since he was a colt.  "Cash" has some fantastic lineage that can be traced all the way back to the great foundation stallion Poco Bueno. 

Between the ages or two and four, Cash had been trained as a "reining horse," a western riding competition during which the rider guides the horse through a precise pattern of circles, spins, and stops.

When we got Cash at age seven we brought him to a ranch in Chatsworth, California, owned by Dave Wendler.  Dave had a pasture that opened into a thousand acres of open space.  Dave kept a couple dozen horses in that pasture and supplemented their feed with hay.  Most of those horses stayed close to the gate, but occasionally we'd find a couple more than a mile away.

Before we got Cash I often turned out Sunup (my palomino) into that pasture.  Sunup was from Montana, so being in a pasture was nothing new to him.  I'll never forget the first time I turned him loose in the pasture.  As soon as I slipped the halter off, his tail went up, and he left a trail of dust as he galloped away and disappeared over a distant ridge.  "Holy smokes!" I thought to myself.  How in the h--- am I ever going to get him back? But within a couple of minutes he galloped back into view.

When it was time for Sunup to go to his stall, I lured him to me with either carrots or cookies.  In time, Sunup learned that if I whistled and reached for my pocket, a cookie would soon be his.

When Cash got his first turnout in the pasture, it was a different story.  Sunup was already turned out and was cavorting with a couple of draft horses about two hundred yards away.  I slipped the halter off Cash and expected him to dash away as Sunup had a year earlier, but he just stood there looking petrified.  If I tried to walk away he'd follow me along the fence whinnying.  It was a pathetic sight.

I soon realized he was terrified of the wide open space and strange horses  And he had no idea what to do.  Finally I haltered him and led him out toward his pal Sunup.  As soon as he recognized Sunup, I pulled the halter off and away he galloped--straight to his pard.  It didn't take long for him to learn he was a horse, and that the wide open spaces were where he belonged.

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