Thursday, May 14, 2009

An Old-fashioned Cattle Roundup

I love my horse. I love my horse. I love my horse. Most of the time.
It all started out so innocently. Danish Cowboy on Joe, Tucker Dog, and me and trusty Argo wandering along towards the north pasture where the cattle herd was located. We never (as in this is our 2nd time in 7.5 years) ride together and I was thoroughly enjoying myself. Argo was behaving, it was a beautiful morning and we were off to gather cows so that we might brand the calves. It was all going so well...

until this well-behaved horse showed up. While this picture was taken a bit later in the morning after the cows were pretty much gathered and corraled, the trouble started as soon as our good friend and helper showed up. You see, my horse Argo isn't very well socialized. I think he gets it from me. We tend to typically wander the ranch at a slow walk singing John Denver songs, enjoying the birds chirping, daydreaming about anything and everything, being completely by ourselves. And so Argo decided he needed to try to kill this horse while I was on him. Needless to say, we were shunned away from the socializing roundup time and relegated to clean up duty...
Not that you can really clean up when you are 1/2 a mile behind the herd, but this is MY fantasy world and MY blog. The saddle was falling off, the horse was crazed and I was of absolutely no use to the roundup. Also, my camera had a pretty severe smudge mark in the lower right hand corner, just in case you were wondering if I had noticed that. Once again, while out riding, I had no one to talk to but myself and the horse. It's a good thing we are well practiced in this sort of thing.I was only able to take this picture because Argo stopped to pee. Did you know that a horse can not pee while walking? I suppose most creatures can't, but anyway... Immediately after snapping this picture Argo took off, once again, to try and kill the other horse. (***See Blog Footnote 1)
I asked him to do circles and go in reverse while we waited for the cows to get through the gate. Horsemanship "stall tactics" for those in fear of their life. And their camera's life.
We then took off in our own direction to try and get some enjoyment out of the day. Danish Cowboy and the useful people on horses and or 4-wheelers continued to push the herd towards the corrals where we branded later that afternoon. (Don't worry, those pictures are soon to follow.) We did eventually make it back home without major incident, with an intact camera, and with only a slightly bruised ego.
Argo is not a very good ranch horse. First of all, he's a Tennessee Walker (this is quarter horse country), he's too tall which does not allow for easy mounting, he's slow, he's fat, he eats too much, and he is not a very good team player. But that's okay. I didn't buy him to win any rodeos or rope any cows. I bought him to be my buddy. And he's done a pretty amazing job of it. I love my horse.

***Blog Footnote 1: Regarding the horse/4-wheeler picture: This illustrates so vividly the crossroads that our western ranching culture is quickly arriving at. It was only three or four years ago that our friend on the 4-wheeler rode his horse at branding time. The simplicity and physical ease of motorized vehicles is quickly taking over. While some ranchers still ride every day to complete their work, the vast majority have pensioned their horses to the pasture. Danish Cowboy only rides a few times a year for work and never for pleasure (there just isn't time, although he does thoroughly enjoy the horses). This is just one way that the open range culture which so many (including myself) dreamily envision, is fading away. Society changes, I suppose, and this isn't necessarily good or bad. Just different.

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