As a horse crazy farm kid I’m sure I caused my parents a certain amount of grief. I was on the old side when I started riding at age 7 but I gained ground fast as I was so mesmerized by everything about horses.
I’m not sure where I got the idea to jump from one running horse to another but the first time I did I was 14, the last time I was 35. The first time my wife saw me do it she was sure she had married a wild man, through the years I left her no doubt that I was. Still am a bit of a wild man but age has slowed me down some. Jumping from one running horse to another serves no real purpose but it was fun and a bit crazy.
As you can imagine I developed a bit of a reckless reputation with the horses and the crazy part of leaving one horse at a gallop and landing on the back of another one is that I did it bareback. I actually have witness’s but I’m rather unconcerned of how believable it is; I’m a story teller, not a liar.
I did get piled up a a fair amount but nothing serious until about 3 weeks short of my 17th birthday.
We had a couple of colts that were half brothers, same mare different sire. The older one was a Bay and the younger one a Palomino, both geldings. The older one was out of Jack Zundall’s Rowdy Beaver stud and the younger one I don’t recall but both were registered Quarter Horses, bred to work for a living. I owned a colt out of Rowdy Beaver and a grade mare so I was familiar with the blood line; a gelding as well and a couple of years older than the Bay colt.
As a farm kid we didn’t have enough cattle work to help train our horses so I was always riding them just because I wanted to and creating training situations for them to learn from. A lot of desert miles by myself and helping anyone with cows anytime I could which wasn’t often. I read everything and anything I could get my hands on and had 3 Uncles that were pretty fair horsemen. One was a Spaulding, another one a Walker and the last a Jacobsen. Each one of them brought something a little different to the table, all 3 rode in their county mounted posses.
We had a small pasture on the north side of our farm and during the summer we ran the horses there when we weren’t using them. The Palomino colt and an older Buckskin gelding were there and I rode the Bay down to the pasture and cornered the Palomino and got a rope on him, he was a nervous and flighty colt.
Now if imitation is the sincerest form of flattery its also a great way to get hurt. I was off of my horse when I got a rope on the Palomino and had slipped the end of the rope around his neck and tide a bowline knot. He was fidgeting and stepped away from me, unbeknown to me I had dropped my loop on the ground and as I stepped closer to him I stepped in it. He bolted and when he hit the end of my rope I was jerked off of my feet.
Although the pasture wasn’t very large at one spot it had a rock pile about an acre in size that hadn’t been cleared. I had cornered the colt in that part of the pasture. So off he went at a dead run through the rocks and across a small irrigation ditch. The first thing that hit the other side of the ditch was the back of my head.
The older Buckskin horse was spooked and both were in full flight, neither of them was sure what was chasing them but they weren’t sticking around to find out. I was in a hell of a fix needless to say.
That particular view of a running horse is not one that you’ll ever enjoy. I was trying to pull myself up and grab the rope and stand up or somehow slow the colt down but the momentum and the speed was too much for me. I figured that this might be it and my brother would find me a bloody and lifeless mess tied to a runaway colt when he came looking for me to help with chores or changing water on the crops.
The horses ran to the east end of the pasture and then back up to their original starting point and jumped the ditch with a loop through the rocks and over the ditch and back to the east end of the pasture and then back towards the rock pile one more time.
Instead of hitting the rock pile again they stopped where I had tied my saddle horse and I was conscious enough to reach up and get the rope off of my leg. They took off again as soon as I was free and ran around some more, after a bit when they realize I wasn’t chasing them, or what ever Devil was tied to the rope and quit running. Flight or fight, the first thing you need to understand about horses.
I laid there for awhile catching my breath and finally rolled to my stomach and got to my feet. I was within a few feet of my saddle horse and slid the saddle off of him and turned him loose.
My shirt had been pulled up around my shoulders in my runaway trip so it was in pretty good shape. The seat of my pants was gone as well as a lot of skin off of my back and my rump. I had somewhere between a half a mile and a quarter mile to get the house. I was on at the west end of the pasture so closer to a half a mile. I took my shirt off and tied it around my hips to cover my bloody bottom, my back would just have to enjoy the sunshine, bloody mess that it was I was sure I’d be a site if anyone should happen along.
When I got to the house Bruce, one of my older brothers took one look at me and raced me into Doctor Humphreys office, he was our family Doc. Doctor Humphrey looked at me and sent me home to clean up as I was covered in grass stains, horse shit and blood.
Bruce and I were the only two at home at the time as mom and dad were off with their friends fishing and Berry and Bobby where farmed out with the neighbors while they were gone. I don’t recall where Kent, the oldest of us siblings was; possibly Seattle as he worked for Boeing Aircraft for a short time right out of High School.
There wasn’t a lot of skin left on my back and my bottom so I slept face down for a few weeks healing up. Mom and dad were home in a few days and I caught hell from dad; mom was quite a bit more sympathetic and was glad she wasn’t burying a son; I was pretty glad she wasn’t either.
I had had headaches since I was in the second grade but about 3 weeks after my accident they took a change in direction and increased in frequency and intensity. I tried to deal with them as best I could but it was tough. That winter I lost a wrestle off by 2 points for the 144 pound spot on our varsity team coached by none other than Red Halverson. I wasn’t discouraged enough to quit and planned on staying in practice and wrestle off again.
I had an appointment for my physical that afternoon and after Doc Humphreys looked me over he said something to this effect. “Brian I can’t find anything wrong with you to stop you from wrestling but you don’t look like you feel well, why don’t you not wrestle this year and give your body more time to heal’. It wasn’t what I wanted to hear but I took his advice and dropped wrestling. I somewhat regretted that decision but I’m sure it was for the best.
I hadn’t stayed off of the horses for long after my accident and as the Palomino grew he became a good using horse. One of the first things we got resolved when I started riding him was no more flightiness. To this day that is one of the bad habits, amongst others that I will not tolerate in a horse.’ Stand still, trust me I’m not going to hurt you and you are not going to hurt me’.
My big mistake that day was putting the wrong end of my lariat around the horses neck; not a mistake I’ve ever made again.
I saw one of my Uncles do that once and figured it was the way to do things, it wasn’t.
One day several years ago one of our younger sons was walking out of our arena leading his horse with the lead rope coiled around his arm about 3 wraps. I stopped him and got him untangled and took a short piece of rope and had him wrap it around his arm the way he had the lead rope; the horse wasn’t going to be part of this demonstration.
I said to him ‘this is why you never coil a rope around you like that’ and yanked the end of the rope. I felt like an ass afterwards as my demonstration hurt him more than I intended; he never made that mistake again.
Through the years I’ve started a lot of horses that had never been touched until I roped them for the first time. The loop end of a lariat handled from the back of another horse by someone who knows what its purpose is can be a great training tool. Most horses once they realize that they are not in control and you give them a chance to work with you come along fairly fast. That doesn’t mean that they won’t try and stuff you in a Badger hole first ride outside but the loop around their neck is a good start to a great relationship.