Friday, May 12, 2006

A Real Cowgirl

My new friends, A&N, reminded me of some horse stories that I thought I would share. If you have ever had horses, you probably have stories.

I wasn’t always a "real cowgirl", but I married a man who was a farmer raised on farms in West TX and Eastern NM whose father raised race horses. My horse experience was much like any kid who spent his summers in the mountains and loved horses. We lived behind the Gallager & Gwynn riding stable in RR. My brother and I spent lots of money and time at the stable. My best friend had four horses that they kept at their cabin in the Upper Valley. We rode quite a bit and chased Johnny Mutz’s cattle all over the valley – and got in lots of trouble. When at home in TX, my Uncle Joe would let me ride his horses. He said I was a "natural rider" (thanks Uncle Joe; I love you for that). All of those horses were the "good as gold" sort – the kind you could just get on and ride off without any fear. My knowledge of horses was "kick to go - pull to whoa". My real horse training would come later.

Then came the day when my husband said, "Let’s buy a horse." Sounded great to me. Our first horse was great – great with the kids and a real babysitter, yet with lots of go in him. He was the beginning of a long list of horses and horse-trading. When we bought a particularly difficult horse, we decided to take a riding class with Marty Martin from Longmont, CO. He was one of those "least resistant" type of trainers. It worked well for me, and it even came in handy when teaching kids in public school.

Now my friend Lynda was a real cowgirl. She was my good friend and neighbor in Questa. We hauled kids and horses all over NM together to 4H horse shows and rodeos. Our families practically lived together in those days. She taught me lots about being a real cowgirl. In fact she had a saying that we used on each other whenever something particularly tough came up. She would say, "A real cowgirl would be able to do…" whatever it was at the time. We may have been best friends, but we were also very competitive. One time, I asked her to bring her four-horse-goose-neck trailer to our pasture to pick up a horse. She said she did not think she could get her trailer turned through our gate. I said, "A real cowgirl could pull that trailer through that gate." She didn’t go for it, but it did irritate her- which is what I meant for it do.

One spring we needed a horse quickly for my son’s 4H project (his horse had broken a bone in his hoof). A friend let us borrow one of his horses. We picked up this little mare that had wintered in a huge pasture over in Carson, NM – grazing along side elk. She looked pretty rough. I took her to Lynda’s because Lynda had a nice round pen. The pen was a little big, but it had tall solid walls slanted out slightly and full of deep sand – in case I hit the ground while trying this horse. I did not want to put my son on this horse until I found out what she was like. I found out pretty quick. The minute I hit the saddle, she took off at a full gallop. Around and around we went. I thought that if she wanted to run in deep sand, I would just ride her down. After all, I had the easy job – she was doing all of the work. Then it happened. I felt the saddle come loose. As fast as the mare was going, the inertia lifted both me and the saddle from the back of the horse. I was helpless as we came away from the horse and slammed into the round pen wall. My son came running over to see if I was all right. Then he said, "Wow Mom! You looked just like a turtle the way you hit that wall and slid down on your back!" Thank you, son, now get me up. The horse was standing quietly, which is a good sign, but I was hurting. I went inside to where Lynda was cooking dinner, and told her what had happened. She said, "Well, did you get back on?" I shook my head (I may have said something more like "hell no!’) Lynda said, "A real cowgirl would get back on." That irritated me, which she meant to do. I had all sorts of excuses why I was not getting back on that evening, but the challenge was there. Lynda always did that for me. She helped make me a real cowgirl.

My son rode that little mare all summer long. It turns out she was one heck of a speed horse. She only had two speeds – standing still and all out. They won all sorts of speed events – barrels being her specialty. Her reining pattern was done a little too fast for the judges. Bo and Sassy became big buddies. We hated giving her back, but we did. She made all of us better riders.

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