WRANGLING ON THE RANGE #6
It's starting the second week of April 2009. After a hard
snowy three months, spring has arrived. Only in the foothills
where the Ranch is does the snow linger on, and even out there it
is getting sloshy and muddy.
A couple of days I've had at the Ranch. The first day was
nothing too special, took out a few trail rides, chatting about
this and that along the way. One ride was for two hours, not sure
if they were too thrilled when it was over, two hours in the snow
and mud is a little too much for people who only ride once or
twice a year. But it was they who wanted two hours. The Ranch was
busy with "member" rides. They are people who take out a
membership for $50 a year, and it allows them to ride on their
own, as long as there are two of them, the Insurance Company
demands it; things have changed a lot from years gone by, at
least in Canada they have.
I stopped at the lumber yard and bought some 4x4x8feet and
some 1x4x8 to build more side posts for my jumping fences, which
I started to build two years ago, when Goldie was 7 years old.
She has some pretty good jumping ability, probably extremely good
ability if I could devote full time work with her, but we do what
we can for the fun of it.
The second day ... well it started out pretty normal, quite
a few members out riding once more. A guided ride was to come at
1 p.m. and I was to be their guide, but they never showed up.
So I took Goldie out to see the Long-horn Moms and their new
babies. Sang a few cowboy songs as we rode by and they all took
time to look up and listen. Horses and cows, they like nice
smooth melodies, it really does put them at ease. It's a good
time of the year, when you see all the new born calves, running
and playing, and then gazing at you, probably thinking, now that
is pretty neat, this thing making melody while riding a funny
looking Long-horn, not like my Mom at all.
Came back to the barn and put Goldie through her cues,
"Round girl, round .... good .... now round the other way. Well
done girl." We did some fast circles, spins. "Now ... back,
back, back..." So I back Goldie up about 20 feet. She is voice
trained, she arches her neck and backs up a far as I want her to
back. A horse has to really have confidence in you when you back
them with their head straight in front. They cannot see directly
behind them, so they have to have faith your looking after them
and not backing them over a cliff. I've had to use it a few times
out on a tree filled hillside, and in a tight spot I should not
have allowed myself to be in. Then you really see the faith
Goldie has to have in me when I tell her to back up, and she's
not on the flat and cannot see what maybe behind her. But trust
is developed between horse and rider, when I'm the only one who
ever works with Goldie.
After backing up for a few minutes, I had her side step. She
can do a right side step with ease, opening and closing gates we
side step to the right. Hence her sidestep to the left is just
about not there period. So I've started to teach her the left
side step. I do it by standing at her right side, my right hand
pushes on her neck, while my left hand pushed at her flank, where
my foot will be, when I'm riding her. I say "side" and I push.
She caught on pretty good from the ground, and sidestepped to the
left. I'll do it more from the ground, and then will proceed in
the saddle. Goldie is a pretty smart horse, she catches on very
At 2 p.m. there was two ladies coming out, with a niece and
a young daughter of one of the ladies. The youngster was about 10
years old. It was originally to be a member ride, unguided.
Paul (a part-time Ranch worker, he's about 37 years old) was
going to go out with them. I think he had been in charge of
giving riding lessons to them during the summer. They asked me if
I wanted to tag along. I'm glad I did, as I'll explain shortly.
It was a trail up one side and down the other side of one of the
snow covered hill trails, Paul decided to take them as he was leading
the way at the start. I knew the trail and really did not care
for it that much. After a mile or so I was going to tell Paul I
was heading back to the barn, but something (that little voice
from we know where, the Lord or an angel) said, "No, you need to
stay with them." So I did.
All was going well. Now I was leading for the last mile back
to the barn, but we had one gate to go through, so being in
the lead, I opened the gate on Goldie and held it open for
everyone to pass through. Goldie and I did our think, push the
gate with her nose to start the closing and then side step to
finish the closing.
By the time I had lacked the chain back on to the gate, the
Mom with the little daughter had asked Paul if he, her niece, and
her daughter could go for a lope or chanter. Paul said okay they
would. I was to stay back with the older ladies.
So Paul, the niece and the young daughter head over into
another range, the gate being open and about 50 yards from me.
Paul leads the three of them off into a lope, the little pony is
last in line of the three. I thought the little pony was one of
the older, been around for years, and new the routine. It was a
bay pony, and we have three or four of them, so they get to look
all the same from a distance, and I was not the one to put them
up on their horses, so I really did not see exactly which little
bay pony was used for the little girl.
Well, they are into a lope, and this pony takes a turn to
the left and as the little girl was not in change with the reins,
but holding the saddle horn, this pony changes into high gear,
and flies in the direction of the barn, like as the say, "a bat
out of hell." The little girl is hanging on and crying, hanging
on and crying, of course she is scared stiff.
I'm on the other side of the fence on the road that leads
back to the barn. I give my body que and heel kick, and Goldie
knows what that means .... we are flying. I'm shouting to the
little girl, "Pull back on the reins, pull back." It's too late,
she's holding the saddle horn and staying on but crying. The pony
knows where home is, the barn, and that's where it's going as fast
as it can. There is a fence, but sometimes it is part open, so
I'm flying like a bullet on Goldie, thinking if that fence is
open that pony is up the road to the barn. I'm heading to meet it
and do a "sweep down right arm around pickup" of this young girl,
who can now only sit and hang on to the saddle horn. But the
fence is not down. The pony makes a sudden right turn stop and
off goes the girl just about into the barb-wire fence, face down
into the mud. I make the sharp right and with a second or two I'm
there with the girl but on the other side of the fence.
Oh, she is standing, covered in mud from head to toe. Her
face covered in mud as she went face down into all the mud.
Naturally she is frightened and crying.
"You are okay my dear, your okay I believe. Move your right
leg, good, now your left, good. Move your right arm, good, now
your left one, good. You did super well to stay on. Let's get
some of this mud off your face." I only had my hand to help
remove it, but the mud was nothing per se. I lifted up the barb-
wire fence and helped her through. By this time her Mom was
there, to comfort her.
After we knew nothing was broken and it was mainly the fright of
it all that was the immediate problem, the Mon actually did a
wise thing. She told her daughter she wanted her to get back up
on her horse, the Mom'a horse that is, and she would walk her horse
back to the stable. I help the little scared but brave girl into the
saddle of her Mom's horse.
In the meantime, Paul, on his recently newly broken in small
Mare (that doe not yet have a name) is catching the little pony,
and trying to lead it back to the gateway and road to the barn.
His horse kicks the pony, there is no way that Mare wanted
anything to do with that pony.
"Paul," I shout, "You are on a somewhat new horse, just
wait, I'll come around and get that little pony."
Goldie and I race back to the gate, about one quarter a
mile, and one quarter a mile back to the pony and Mike. Through a
little two or three foot Spring time run-off pond, the pony
probably thinking the way out of all this was across the pond. I
get the halter lead-rope and we all head back to the barn.
"Which pony is this one Paul," I enquire from him.
"It's one of the new ones the boys recently bought.
It's been ridden by them a lot."
"Maybe but they know how to ride and they are in control,
the little girl was not in control for a lope, and the pony knew
it, so feeling free, it's saying I'm heading to the barn as fast
as I can."
We all made it back to the stable without further incident.
After a short while back at the barn, the full force of all
this hit me. When your in it trying to solve the problem with all
stops out, you have no time to think, you react. I'm blessed to
have a horse that is not only fast but seems to sense the
emergency, and acts accordingly. But the nerves start acting
after it is all over. I'm thinking how serious it could have been.
The little girl could have been thrown into the barb-wire fence.
She came off at the fence into lots of mud, no hard surface.
Praise the Lord for his mercy, even in silly mistakes us
humans can and do make - Paul should never have allowed the Mom
to have talked him into giving her daughter and niece a lope,
especially when he knew this was a new pony, that just has not
been through the ropes long enough on a trail riding Ranch.
I let my feelings be known to Tom and Bob and their girl
friends. Not sure how they took it. It was serious and could have
been a terrible hospital accident. I'm not sure how these younger
guys and gals think of this "old guy" telling them how to run
things. They are overall very nice young horsemen and horsewomen,
well spoken, and friendly, but when you have grown up around
horses all your life, you can get very lax, and think all is over
with new horses and ponies, that they have stepped over the
finishing line, got their diploma as a "trail horse" - and out of
the blue they step all over you, telling you it just ain't so.
I know I was meant to be there, I know the angels were
helping out and that the little girl came away with a few bruises
and covered in mud, and I pray nothing more, though her Mom was
going to take her to the Emergency at the Hospital to make sure
all was okay.
It's left me once more wondering about the wisdom of Paul
with trail rides, it's not the first time things have happened to
him or someone in his group.
The young guys are now in charge of this Riding Ranch. Dan,
in his 60s like me, has left to start his own Trail Riding
business. I'd like to stay around here, but a few more close
calls like this one, and I may have to move on also.
The end of a day at the Ranch like this one, you do not want
to see. So take heed you young ones coming up, horses and ponies
are live animals that can at times want to do there own thing.
The safety of you and others is at stake.
To be continued