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Tuesday, October 27, 2009

JJ: Not a Cowboy

I didn't go for the Old West gear except for the hat and spurs. I didn't go the traditional route with Dani either. When we reached the point where she was quite rideable, she graduated from being ridden with a heavy lead rope (that worked as reins) snapped to a heavy halter, to a nice nylon headset with nylon reins that could double as a lead rope. I never used or needed a bit with her, which saved us both a lot of hassle. Later on, when we did some riding in the mountains, I added a breast strap and crupper to the saddle to hold it in place when we were navigating steep hillsides. It took her a while to get used to the indignity of the crupper, and she'd hunch up when I lifted her tail to slide it under. Saddle bags were needed for lunch, water, binoculars and horse treats, and I added a slicker for rainy days afield. Rather than cowboy boots, I wore a pair of wellington-style roping boots. I always figured I had a 50/50 of having to walk home whenever I ventured out on horseback and cowboy boots are the world's worst hiking boots. I added spurs as an easy way to get Dani's attention when we were chasing cows. They worked like adding an afterburner to a jet. I didn't keep up the cowboy tradition with the hat either. I bought it at the western wear store at the old mall, and the very first thing I did when I walked out was drop it on the grass and stomp it into a shapeless mass, then I twisted it back into shape and wore it. The ranch at Star Meadows where Dani ended up staying was a working ranch, and Paul, the owner, was meticulous in the care of his hat and I think I always offended him when I showed up in my shapeless brown wad of felt. Then again, when his hat came off and got tramped by a horse, I never offered much sympathy. When that happened to mine I'd just slap the dirt off and cram it back on. When it happened to his, he'd fuss at it and poke it back into shape. Dani's training was a little unconventional, too. I taught her to let me mount her from either side, but when I did mount from the right side it made the real cowboys that saw me wince. The first time I used her up at the Meadows I had to listen to some complaining about high-strung Arabs and how they were not suited to ranch work, especially from Paul's father, Fred. The first time I unloaded her from a trailer and saddled her up to go chase cows, Fred went over, braced himself in front of her, grabbed her headset in a death grip and told me he'd hold her down till I got aboard. His Arab re-education started when she never even twitched a muscle as I clambered on. A year or so later, Dani was Fred's favorite riding horse. He could sit astride her with no pain in his hips and she was gentle to handle and ride. TBC (Me)