Monday, May 13, 2013

Lessons Learned From A Cutting Pony

I was in high school and my friend, Copper Chadwick, invited me to his uncle's ranch on the Salmon River. We were going to head for the Joseph Plains the next day where his cattle had been ranging all summer, round them up, vaccinate them and bring them down to the ranch for the winter.

Visions of "Bonanza" wandered through my gullible head right up until we unloaded the horses from the trucks after arriving that chilly morning. Dick, Copper's uncle, said, "You're gonna be riding this one today." I should have known by the way the critter looked at me that it was going to turn into a long morning.

The advice I received was to hang on and keep my knees tight to the horse. He told me her name, but I came up with a lot more names before the day was done. He told me she was the best cutting pony of the string and she'd do all of the work.

Firstly, I had no idea what a "cuttin' pony" was or did. Secondly, she didn't respond well to a terrified, screaming rider; and thirdly, she was very good at finding every possible low-lying tree limb in the forest to evict said rider.

In between fits of playing "Dump the Rider," she'd find stray cows and move them back into the slow-moving herd, using her body to lunge and block the wayward beef from escape. That meant she spent a lot of time moving both front hooves back and forth simultaneously.

Her hooves went left; I went right, picked myself up off of the ground, and we repeated often. Needless to say, we brought up the rear. I was bloody and the horse was not. All it could do was whinnie its mirth to all of the other equines, while Uncle Dick just said, "Good job Gary. Let's give these cows their shots and go home."

What did I learn? A horse is not just a horse if they call it a cuttin' pony. Oh yeah, and be sure to hold onto the saddle horn for dear life! You aren't the one doing the driving, anyhow!


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