You can’t ride that Hoss !
Photo courtesy of The Old Cowboy Archives
”You can’t ride that horse!!”
In his advanced years our hero is a doddering old fat man who is troubled with arthritis and sinus problems and resulting balance problems. In recent times he has been known to fall on his nose while bending over to pull on his boots.
Some days are better than others but to say that riding ability is diminished is a slight understatement.
Back in the day Baby Jim was a rider. A good bit of college was financed by making good horses out of other peoples problems. Now our hero was never an outright bronc rider or rodeo cowboy and he was subject to being rudely deposited upon the ground more than once in his adventures; and it is some of those adventures that no doubt contribute to the particular achy spots enjoyed in doterage.
Even at a tender age, Baby Jim’s own father took particular joy in saying “My boy can ride that Hoss!” Then it was up to our hero to live up to it. Most of these horses were not bad horses but simply spoiled horses that had developed a behavior problem that they were successful in getting away with, and that sometimes took a good seat, a strong will, a strong hand and a little bit of horse savvy to correct.
Over the years we did run into a couple of evil horse and perhaps we will relate those tales at another time. But most of the time it was just unknowing riders and spoiled horses. Sometimes the owners were so perplexed that they could not adequately convey what the bad behavior was. As an example our hero was once presented with a horse that was supposed to be barn sour. He saddled up and climbed aboard and had very little difficulty in riding away. The horse did try to balk and turn back but it was easily directed and Baby Jim was in the midst of wondering what the problem was and had ridden about a half mile away when the problem manifest itself.
This loony mare was not barn sour………….She was a cotton-picking run away. She was an intelligent runaway too. She had learned over the years a lot of methods of relieving herself of her unwanted burdens.
The bridle was of no use. If our hero pulled her head around she just continued to run blind. The braking system had obviously either never been installed or it had failed years ago. This crazy mare had little regard for her own safety and when brushing trees failed to accomplish her goal, she would run into them. Our hero spent time standing in one stirrup off of alternate sides of the horse to avoid mashing and one time she went thru a tight spot and he had to throw both legs up over her croup and ride thru it laid out on her back.
The final obstacle was one she obviously had used before because when she broke out of the wooded patch she made a beeline for a clothesline. Baby Jim saw it coming and tried the brakes and tried the steering again and neither one responded in the slightest. She knew where she was going and what she wanted to happen. So our hero simply laid off to one side with his arm across the seat and hoped that she would clear it and if so he would too. The saddle horn clipped one wire of the clothesline and it almost threw the off balance pair before it popped. But that was the last obstacle and she roared up to the barn and did a sliding stop that any reiner would have been proud of.
By now she had peeved our hero a bit, and he put boot to her and reins across her butt and decided that we needed to run some more. They galloped a couple of more miles this time down a dirt road and gradually the steering came back and eventually the brakes did as well. Once control was restored they quietly walked back to the barn with several reversals of course along the way.
Baby Jim had about ten years of that type of experience under his belt before he took his first cattle job out of college. We should point out here that Baby Jim had some obstacles along the way and managed to cram a four-year course of instruction into eight short years so he graduated a bit older than the typical student. His first job out of college was at a big cow outfit where he was the herdsman for the cowherd. Breeding, calving, fencing, feeding, general cow care and accurate cow records were the primary charge. Our hero took a couple of his personal horses with him and there were three horses at the barn at his residence that were farm horses available for use.
Baby Jim had been told that the previous herdsman had used his own horses, so the farm horses had not been used much. When our hero inquired of some of the guys he worked with about the farm horses, he got some funny looks and not much information. Once he got settled in there came a pretty spring Sunday afternoon and our hero decide it was time to try these broncs. The first was a big appendix bred sorrel QH gelding who was probably better than sixteen hands and who weighed better than 14oo lbs. He was fast and we later learned that a few folk had fallen off of him and so he was tagged as a runaway. But he could just run faster than some of them could ride. With a little work he became the horse that Baby Jim could put most any of his help on to ride. His name was Bourbon and he became the mainstay of the string. When we were doing horse work it was a rare day when Bourbon did not go out.
Bourbon’s mother was next. She was alleged to be prone to rearing in her past but had not been ridden in years. She was a sorrel mare but not quite a big as Bourbon. She was not real old but she had some lameness issues and was not useful beyond a walk. She could walk all day and was useful for evening heat checking but she was not handy enough to use for gathers and drives.
The third was a beautiful bulldog type bay mare. She was a bit over 15 hands and stout and you did not have to be around her long to see she had some spirit. She was the third horse Baby Jim rode that afternoon and she was just a prancy high stepping lifey mare who had a lot of energy. But she had a pretty good handle and a smooth ride and Baby Jim enjoyed riding her very much. She had a little foolishness about her and she had a hard time standing still but our hero attributed this to lack of use. These horses had not been used at all in three or four years.
Over the next couple of weeks Baby Jim used his own gelding and Bourbon for routine field checking. Bourbon came around very nicely and got to be a real solid mount. Baby Jim was basically using the Bay mare that he named Spicy to do evening checking and work when he was alone so basically no one even knew he was riding her. Apparently she had a bad reputation.
There came a day when the boss decided that he wanted to move a good sized herd of cows to another part of the farm. These were cows that had calved and they needed to go to larger non-adjoining pasture. Since it was a large group of cows with small baby calves, it was decided that the best way was to drive them down the road. Since they were going down the road it was decided that all hands on the farm were needed to keep the cows out of the few neighbors yards. The boss laid out the plan and made work assignments and then asked Baby Jim if he thought it would be of any benefit and if he would be comfortable to be mounted in case a cow ventured somewhere a vehicle could not go. Baby Jim offered that he thought if he were mounted, he could be useful in the gather and should lead the parade to keep the cows directed and in check.
The appointed day came and Baby Jim went out early mounted on Spicy. He gathered the herd to be moved and had them in part of the pasture near the gate and was riding around them keeping them bunched while waiting for the rest of the crew.
The first guy to arrive sees Baby Jim riding Spicy and says “You can’t ride that hoss!”. Baby Jim became concerned as the owner’s family had some personal horses and he feared that he was confused and was riding one of those horses. So he replied that he had been told that this was a “farm horse”. The response was “It is, but you can’t ride that Hoss!”
When the next guy arrived the same conversation ensued. This was repeated with several arrivals to the scene. The owners two teenage sons arrived on four wheelers and repeated the mantra – “You can’t ride that Horse!” Baby Jim asked them if she was one of their family horses. “No, she is a farm horse but you can’t ride that horse.” The question of “Why not?” generated the response of, “Because you can’t ride that horse.”.
A few moments later the farm manager arrived and Baby Jim rode over to him and related that everyone there had told him he could not ride this mare and that he understood that this was one of the farm using horses and inquired as to why he could not ride this horse.
The boss laughed and said, “Well……….( a long drawn out weeeelllll was one of his speech habits) since you have gathered these cows and have them ready to move, it is pretty plain to me that you can ride that Horse. She has dumped everybody else that has ridden her.
He then asked if all the cows were accounted for. Baby Jim told him that he had not been able to get a good count but that he was certain there were no more down in the woods or elsewhere in this field as he had gathered from all parts of the field and was pretty sure he had made a clean sweep. He also knew he had the cows with the youngest calves which are the most difficult to gather. The boys on the ATVs were sent to make another reconnoiter just to be sure.
The boss sent the blockers to their assigned positions and motioned for Baby Jim to lead em out. The cows galloped out the gate but Baby Jim was well mounted and kept ahead of them and kept them contained and slowed down to a jog. The drive down the road was relatively uneventful except a few yards did get a little trampling as cows tried to venture into them for some spring grass.
The Spicy mare went on to become Baby Jims favorite mount and she learned to cut cows like nobody’s business. She was real tender sided and ticklish which had led to her reputation. She was not a bucker and never threw a buck but she was so quick she could step out from under you. And she seldom stood still while mounted.
This was a northern crew and they took great delight in good natured ribbing, so for a good while after that, when Baby Jim came across one of the rest of the crew while he was mounted on the Spicy mare, he was not above telling them on occasion…..
“You can’t ride this Hoss!”